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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

1960 Ohio Valley Open

      Looking through an old issue of the West Virginia Chess Bulletin, May 1961 to be exact, I came across the crosstable for the 1960 Ohio Valley Open (5 rounds). The standings were: 1-G.W. Baylor (4.5) 2-3-H.Landis Marks and William Byland (4.0) 4-5-Anthony Cantone and Walter Grombacher (3.5) followed by six players at 3.0. There were 25 entrants.
      A couple of names jumped out at me. One was that of roving Walter Grombacher of Chicago, Illinois. Grombacher was a Class A player and a real character who worked at a Chicago haberdashery and who was likely to pop up at a weekend Swiss anywhere in the country. I met him once at very small tournament held in Avon Lake, Ohio. Grombacher showed up with another player from Chicago and was so disgusted with the turnout of about a 12-15 fairly low rated players that he was having a hissy fit in the ‘coffee room’ and wanted to go home, but the guy he had traveled to the tournament with (an Expert, if I remember) convinced him to stay, telling Grombacher one of them could likely win it and a pick up a few dollars prize money. I don’t remember who won the tournament, but remember my dad dropping me and a non-playing friend off at an inn that was within walking distance to the venue, the basement of the public library, where we stayed overnight by ourselves. (At the inn, not the library!)  I went into the last round with a 2-2 score and had figured a win would net me a (very) small prize and maybe, just maybe, put me into Class A. My opponent was an old Russian player with a Class C, or maybe it was a B rating, and I was up two Pawns in a won N and P ending when disaster struck! Somehow I blundered away 3 (!) Pawns and lost. I’d show you the game, but the shoe box that held all those old games and my notebook filled with ‘analysis’ has long since disappeared. Another thing I remember was there was a picture of the tournament that appeared in Chess Review magazine and I was in it.  Well, sort of in it...you could see my entire left arm in the photo.
      The other name was that of George W. Baylor whom I believe was rated an Expert. When I was just getting into tournament chess, his name was pretty prominent in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area as one of the better players in the area and a prominent junior player. Then he just disappeared from the chess scene.
      It turns out that Baylor is a retired professor of psychology from University of Montreal and the author of a number of papers on dreams and is a consulting editor for the ASD journal, Dreaming. He did clinical training in psychosynthesis. Baylor was also a student and friend of Herbert Simon. As chess player and student at Carnegie Mellon University, Baylor was hired by Simon to work on his chess programs and he wrote a mating combinations program, dubbed Mater, which was subject of his masters thesis; he later focused on cognitive psychology.
      Herbert Simon was a strong influence and determining force in Baylor’s life. They met in 1959-60 while Baylor was as a sophomore at Carnegie Institute of Technology. Simon and Allen Newell were programming computers to play chess and Simon hired Baylor as a summer research assistant to work on chess programs. Shortly after that he sent Baylor to Amsterdam to help translate Adriaan de Groot's book on the thought processes of chessplayers. When Baylor returned, Simon helped him with his masters thesis on the mating combinations program and helped Baylor become a cognitive psychologist.
      By then it was 1967-68 and the war in Vietnam was raging so Baylor bailed out on the prospect of getting drafted and went to Canada. Thirty years later, in 1997-98, Baylor returned to Carnegie-Mellon University to do a sabbatical with Simon.
      Here’s the deciding game from that Ohio Valley tournament. There was a whole gaggle of spectators to watch the hair raising finish. Both flags were dropped at the end (the time control was at 45 moves), but nobody was paying any attention to the clocks and it took the players about an hour to reconstruct the scoresheets! Obviously, the players can be excused for the seesaw of errors late in the game.

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