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Monday, April 8, 2013

Uncle Bob Schrivener

       Uncle Bob (1881-1969) was one of those players who is unknown to the chess world at large, but played a large part in promoting chess dating back to the days when it wasn’t popular. He was a pretty good player, too.

      In 1913 he finished fourth in the US Open and in 1920 he finished fifth. He was many times the president of the Western Chess Association which was founded on 1900 and later became known as the American Chess Federation which later merged with the National Chess Federation to become the USCF.
      Schrivener also won the state championships of Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, and Mississippi and in 1957, at the ripe old age of 76, he won the Southern Open. He still wasn’t done; in 1961, at the age of 80, he won the Mississippi State Championship. Schrivener won the St. Louis District Championship in 1936, 1937, and 1940.
      Most of his successes occurred before there was a rating system and in recognition of his achievements, US Chess Federation recognized his achievements by awarding him the title of Master Emeritus in 1963. He was inducted in the Tennessee Chess Hall of Fame in 1990
      Schrivener saw his first chess game in the early 1890s in New Orleans at the Southern Yacht Club where his father had taken him to see a billiard exhibition. While wandering around the club he discovered two men analyzing a position; he didn’t know what they were doing until his father explained they were playing chess. Although Schrivener’s father played, Bob did not learn the moves until about 1900 but really started playing in earnest around 1904 when Pillsbury and Marshall were creating a sensation in US chess.
      His first tournament was the 1904 Memphis Championship where he lost all of his games. After that he came under the tutelage of a Mr. Jefferson whose training was good enough that in the 1905 Memphis Championship Schrivener won it (Mr. Jefferrson didn’t play).
      In 1913 the two of them entered their first really big tournament, the Western Open in Chicago. And Jefferson won the event while Schrivener tied for 5-6 with Einar Michaelson; 18 players participated. Schrivener played in a number of Westerns until about 1929 when he went into the aviation business and dropped out of chess for a number of years.
      In 1935 his Company, the Chicago and Southern Air Lines, (which later was purchased and became part of the present Delta Air Lines) moved to St. Louis where he was persuaded by the local players to get back into chess.
      He played in the St. Louis District Tournament in 1935-6 and won it. The following year a new player, Erich W. Marchand, arrived on the scene and they were to become rivals in St. Louis chess for a number of years.
      Chicago and Southern Air Lines returned to Memphis in 1941 and except for weekly games in the Veterans Hospital during the war years, Schrivener did not play chess for 15 years except a few correspondence games during the war years. Finally, in 1955 Schrivener was persuaded to play in the 1955 Memphis Championship, fifty years after he had won it for the first time, and he again finished first. After retiring from Delta Air Lines Schrivener began studying openings for the first time in his life!
      He was elected President of the Western Chess Association on three occasions, the first in 1913.  Scrivener won the Alabama Open in 1959 and also became Co-Champion (with James Wright) for the Memphis City Championship. Both won all their games and drew their individual encounter. Next year he achieved the highest score (5-2) in the Southern for a resident. The same year he also placed fourth in the first Mid-South at Memphis scoring 4-1 /2. In 1961 he won another state event with the Mississippi State tourney with a 4-1 score. During the same year he also achieved one of his best scores in the Tennessee Open placing 5th with a 4-2 score. He achieved his best score in a Tennessee Open in 1965 when he placed fourth with a 4-2 score.
      One time in the Southern Championship Schrivener dozed off during the game and his opponent let him sleep till his clock ran out; he was 85 at the time.   Link to his games

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