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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mystery Man

     Little is known about Philip Woliston though I believe IM John Donaldson and John Hilbert wrote an article on him for Chess Life back on 2003. Woliston was born in 1920 and first came to the attention of the chess world when he won the 1939 California State Championship. 
     In the December 1939 issue of Chess Review there was a brief article stating, “Philip Woliston, 19-year-old Los Angeles youth, scored a smashing victory in his conquest of the California State Championship tournament which concluded 23 November. Losing only one of his eight games, he outranked a field which included Harry Borochow, state titlist since 1930, Herman Steiner of the 1931 American international team, and George Koltanowski, better known for his exploits sans voir. Woliston, youngest competitor in the field of nine, and the youngest state champion ever to win El Dorado’s crown, has made an auspicious entry in this, his first important tournament.”

The final standings were:
1. Woliston 7.0
2-3. Borochow and Steiner 6.0
4. Koltanowski 4.5
5. Kovacs 4.0
6. Fink 3.0
7. Patterson 2.5
8. Bazad 2.0
9. Gibbs 0.0

     Later in 1939 Woliston lost a match to Herman Steiner and the following year he played in the US Championship and Ventnor City, New Jersey. In Reshevsky's Best Games of Chess Reshevsky published his win over Woliston in the 1940 Championship (see the previous post).

Final standings at Ventnor City 1940
1-2 Bernstein & Hanauer 8.0
3- Adams 7.5
4-6- Donovan, Santasiere & Ulvestad 6.5
7- Seidman 6.0
8- Woliston 5.5
9- Morris 4.0
10-11- Burge & McCormack
12- Stephens

     After Ventnor City name of Philip Woliston disappears. It is known that he lived in Seattle, Washington during his high school years and attended the same high school as Olaf Ulvestad only a few years after Ulvestad.  Supposedly Woliston and Ulvestad played chess 16 hours a day during that period.  During the mid 1930s, Woliston and his mother moved to the Los Angeles area and while there he played in a quadrangular tournament against Reuben Fine, Herman Steiner, and Harry Borochow.
     At some point Woliston changed his name to Philip Geffe and in 1972 he was still good enough to defeat a former World Junior Champion.  In 1975, playing under the name Geffe, he took second place in the Reno-Sparks tournament in Nevada.  According to the USCF his last published rating was in 2002 and he was rated 2230.
     According to Fred Reinfeld, "Woliston and Littman were quite outclassed, lacking the necessary experience for so formidable a contest." One of Woliston's losses was to 22-year-old George Shainswit. Also according to Reinfeld, this game “produced the most amazing position of the whole tournament!" Here is that strange game.

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