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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lisa Lane

   Marianne Elizabeth Lane (born April 25, 1938), better known as Lisa Lane, met Philadelphia master Arnold Chertkof around 1957 or ‘58  at a coffeehouse they both frequented called the Artist's Hut.  Chertkof was a member of the Franklin-Mercantile Chess Club and took her to the club and eventually got the strong master Attilio Di Camillo to work with her.
     Her father was a skilled laborer who was more interested in horseracing than in his family and disappeared before she was two.  Her mother had a great deal of difficulty raising two children alone and Lisa and her sister spent much of their childhood boarding with different families and their grandmother.
     She was a good student but exhibited “strange behavior” at school and dropped out of high school, a year before graduating. A few years later she became a special student at Temple University trying to complete her high school curriculum while taking some college level courses.  During that time she was involved in an accident in which the car she was driving struck and killed an elderly pedestrian who stepped out in front of her.  She was never charged, but shortly after she dropped out of college and started hanging around coffee shops all night playing chess.
     Around that time she invested her savings with a partner and opened a bookstore that specialized in poetry; it soon went out of business.  It was after that she met Di Camillo and worked 8 to 12 hours a day on chess. She studied with Di Camillo mornings and played at the club all afternoon and evening then the next morning Di Camillo would go over the games and he would point out her mistakes.
     Lane, accompanied by Chertkof and Di Camillo, went to New York to visit the US Championship where she witnessed 14-year-old Bobby Fischer win the US championship. Inspired by Fischer, she won the Philadelphia women's championship a few months later and the following year in U.S. Amateur Championship, she captured the women’s championship.  Two years later, in 1959, she won the US Women's title.
     A few days after winning the championship she married Walter Rich, a Philadelphia designer whom she had met in a coffeehouse.  They were married less than two years and during that time she abandoned chess, but after their separation,  went into full-time training. 
     To support herself she started giving simuls and moved from Philadelphia to New York to prepare for the World Women's Candidates Tournament.  She practically became a recluse, living in a small apartment with minimal furniture, no television or radio, two cats and a lot of chess books.
     Lane, along with Gisela Gresser (former US women's champion), had been invited to participate in the women’s world championship to determine who would challenge Elizabeta Bykova.
     Her performance was poor.  The tournament was played in Vrnjacka Banja, Yugoslavia and her performance was disappointing.  She tied for 13th-14th place (out of 18) along with Gresser.
     At the end of 1961 she participated in the Hastings Reserve tournament and withdrew after scoring +0 -2 =1 with one adjournment.  She was, it was claimed, homesick and in love with her future husband, Neil Hickey. More likely it was her poor performance in Vrnjacka Banja and Hastings that made her decide to withdraw.  She said, "I don't care how well I play if I lose, I have to win."  In 1962 she married Hickey, editor-at-large of the Columbia Journalism Review.
     Her misfortune continued.  In 1964 she lost the US Women's Championship to Sonja Graf-Stevenson (who died the next year ). Then she came in 12th out of 18 in the next women’s candidate tournament but finished a half point ahead of Gresser.
     In 1964 Lane opened her own chess studio, the Queen's Pawn Chess Emporium, in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Chess lessons were given by Sonja Graf who at the tiem was United States women's champion. While in New York Lisa played at the Marshall Club or Rossolimo's Chess Studio.
     Finally, in 1966, she became co-US women's champion, sharing the title with Gisela Gresser.  Booby Fischer said of Lisa Lane, “Lisa, you might say, is the best of the American fish."  That was Booby...Lisa and her husband were friends of Fischer and assisted him in writing some chess articles; despite their friendship Fischer was still snide and condescending.   
     And so ended her chess career.  She and her husband opened a shop in Carmel, New York, called Amber Waves of Grain that specialized in vitamins, Yoga and meditation, etc. The store was later renamed Earth Love and was located in Pawling, New York.
     Jennifer Shahade in her book Chess Bitch, says Lane quit partly because she was annoyed with being identified as a chess player.  

     The following game features a nice back rank mate.



  1. I remember her from an article in either Life or Look magazine. Back in the day she was considered drop-dead gorgeous!

  2. Anthony Cantone (anthony_cantone@yahoo.com)September 7, 2016 at 1:02 AM

    At diCamillo's request I spent months at the chessboard helping her train while she lived in Philadelphia. I was a rated Expert at that time. She was not a very good player, but she worked hard at it.

  3. "She practically became a recluse, living in a small apartment with minimal furniture, no television or radio, two cats and a lot of chess books."

    So sad... Unfortunately there's not much money to be made for chess players in training. Someone has to support you financially. I imagine most people quit and get regular jobs. She was married less than two years. That was hard hit too.