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Friday, July 19, 2013

L. Russell Chauvenet

The following is based on Chauvenet's obituary from the Winston-Salem Journal on 6/26/2003 with additional material from other sources added:

      Mr. Louis Russell Chauvenet "Russ" of Clarebridge/Alterra Winston-Salem died peacefully in his sleep on the night of June 24, 2003. Russ was born in Knoxville, Tenn., Feb. 12, 1920, and was raised near Charlottesville, Va., the oldest of six children of Louis and Caroline Chauvenet. At the age of 10 he became deaf as a result of bacterial meningitis. He graduated from the Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Mass., and attended Harvard University, Boston College and the University of Virginia. He held a bachelor of arts degree in biology and a master's degree in chemistry from the University of Virginia. He worked in the computer field as a civilian employee of the U.S. Defense Department from 1948 until his retirement.
      Outside of work, Russ was well known in several areas. He was a founder of science-fiction fandom as a member of "The Stranger Club" in the Boston area and invented the word "fanzine" since used to describe private fan publications in areas of interest. He was for many years a member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA) and a published poet in the state of Maryland. Chauvenet was a founder of Boston's The Stranger Club (the members of which were guests of honor at the 47th World Science Fiction Convention), and hosted its first meeting at his home in 1940. He also co-founded the National Fantasy Fan Federation, with Damon Knight and Art Widner, and was a member of First Fandom. He coined the word fanzine in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine Detours and was for many years a member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA). He later coined prozine, a term for professionally published magazines containing science fiction stories.
      From an early age Russ took an interest in chess. He was a lifetime member of the U.S. Chess Federation and was the 1959 U.S. Amateur Champion. He won numerous other chess honors and awards and was the several-time champion of Virginia, two-time champion of Maryland and also won the Southern Championship, Delaware Championship and Washington, D.C., Championship.
      He became completely deaf in 1930 at age 10, after suffering cerebro-spinal meningitis. He was the highest-rated deaf player in the U.S. and won the U.S. Deaf Championship every time he entered it, never losing a game in the tournament. He represented the U.S. in the world deaf team and individual competition and was twice the runner-up in the world individual tournament. His rating hovered between that of high expert to low master.
      Chauvent wrote a letter to Chess Life in July 1949 where he offered to print a mimeographed 'Openings Bulletin', which would consist of a 10-20 page publication giving the most up to date theory and opening lines. A central clearing house would be needed to collate all of the relevant material. 4 issues a year were proposed, with the subscription per year being between 50 cents and $1.
      One feature in the early Chess Life quite popular with readers was the “What’s the Best Move?” column. Later this very popular column came under the editorship of GM Larry Evans but at the start of 1956 the column was briefly conducted by Chauvenet. For his January 5, 1956, column, which appeared on the first page of the newspaper, Chauvenet offered the following position:

Black to move
      Curiously, there were no hints or alternative moves given…just the diagram and “Black to move” Readers were asked to send their solutions to Chauvenet’s home address. Later in the year Irwin Sigmond took over the column. The solution to the position was given as: Solution to “What’s the Best Move?” Position Number 176: taken from Crisovan – Naef, Luzerne 1953 1...Nxf1 Incorrect is 1...Nd4 in view of 2.Qxd2 and now Black's winning chances are negligible. 2.Bxd6 Nd4! 3.exd4 To be sure, White can prolong the game by 3.Rxc8 Nxe2+ 4.Kxf1 Rxc8 5.Kxe2 Rc2+ but Black's advantage of the exchange is quite enough to win. 3...Rxc1 4.Qb2 Ng3+ 5.Qxc1 Ne2+ 0-1.

      Russ had a great love of sailing and was devoted to the Windmill Class Sailing Association. He built one of the first Windmills and attended regattas from Maine to Florida. To this day the Rock Hall Yacht Club awards the Russell Chauvenet Perpetual Trophy in its races. He was the high-point Champion of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association in 1975. His activities in the Windmill Class led to his being one of only four people elected to honorary membership in the class association. The Windmill is a two person one-design sailing dinghy designed by Clark Mills in 1953. It was designed to be inexpensive and buildable by amateur woodworkers, such as father-and-son team.
      After his retirement, Russ resumed his college running career with the Montgomery County (Maryland) track club. He was honored in the D.C. area and recognized as a "1000K Man" when he completed his 100th 10K race (all between the ages of 62-75). Russ was devoted to his family. His wife, the former Sarah Jane Barrett, died in June 2001 and Russ died on what would have been their 59th wedding anniversary. They had one child, Allen, a pediatric oncologist at Brenner Children's Hospital/Wake Forest University. Their daughter-in-law, Julia Cruz, is a medical oncologist at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. Their two grandchildren are Nicholas Cruz Chauvenet, a 2003 graduate of Reynolds High School and Christina Anna Chauvenet, a member of the class of 2004 at Reynolds High School. Russ is survived by two of his sisters, Calise Conley of Kansas and Roberta Marie Hopkins of Minnesota. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews. His ancestors included William Bradford (Governor of Plymouth Plantation) and William Chauvenet (the leading American mathematician of the mid-19th century and a founder of the U.S. Naval Academy).
      Russ was a brilliant yet modest man, always fair and honest, who was loved, appreciated and respected by all who had the opportunity to cross paths with him in this life. Burial will be at Riverview Cemetery in Charlottesville, Va., at 11 a.m. Friday, June 27. In lieu of flowers or other gifts, the family would be pleased for contributions in Russ' memory to be made either to: Children's Cancer Fund, c/o Dr. Marcia Wofford, Department of Pediatrics, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-081 or to the Windmill Class Association, 417 Golf Drive, Hoover, AL 35226. (Arrangements by Russell Funeral Home.)
      In the game below Chauvenet wins a difficult and well-played game against veteran master Walter Suesman.

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