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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

1955 Chess Life...all 12 issues

     I discovered this fascinating download of all 12 issues of Chess Life magazine consisting of 204 pages in pdf format at Simard Artizan Farm. The magazine can be downloaded from the site HERE Be aware that it will take some time to download the entire package as it's 509,465 kb, but it's worth it!
    In those days, if my memory is correct, it was printed on newsprint and came out every two weeks. Each issue was chocked full of local news, national and international news, games plus the regular columns. Personally, I like this format far better than the slick monthly they put out today.  
    The Spring 1955 rating list (page 68) listed Masters Emeritus the following players: Jacob Bernstein, Roy T. Black, Adolph Fink, Herman Hahlbohm, Hermann Helms, Lewis J. Isaacs, Charles S. Jacobs, Abraham Kupchik, Edward Lasker, W.R. Lovegrove, Frank Perkins, Harold M. Phillips, William Ruth, Morris Shapiro and I.S. Turover, 

Grandmaster (over 2700) – Samuel Reshevsky (2766) 
Senior Masters (2500-2699) – Arthur Bisguier (2587), Donald Byrne (2587), Robert Byrne (2621), Larry Evans (2629) and Herman Steiner (2507) 

There were 36 masters (2300-2499). Some of the best known names were: Hans Berliner (2300), Arthur Dake (2400), I.A. Horowitz (2394), William Lombardy (2302), Edmar Mednis (2350) and Nicholas Rossolimo (2462) and  Norman T. Whitaker (2313). 

     Whitaker deserves special mention because there was a note stating he was included because his rating was earned prior to his expulsion from the USCF and adding that his name would not appear on any future rating lists. 
     What Nefarious Norman did to warrant such an action was not specified, but I suspect it involved the cantankerous and difficult to deal with Dickensian character Montgomery Major who was the editor at the time. His fights during the middle 1950s included an ongoing heated and uncompromising battle with Whitaker. 
     Major was strong willed and opinionated and had a knack for making enemies as well as friends. For the first ten years Chess Life was largely his creation, but during his last few years with the newspaper his job was always in jeopardy. 
     Major’s associations with chess were mostly of an organizational nature, rather than as a player for such organizations as the Chicago City Chess League, the Illinois State Chess Association, one of the organizing directors of the American Chess Federation (a fore-runner of the U.S. Chess Federation) and the Correspondence Chess League of America where he managed to alienate a lot of people before being forced out. In addition to being the editor of Chess Life he also wrote columns under pseudonyms like “William Rojam,” which is Major spelled backwards. 
     In the January 5, 1956 issue he wrote a column slamming everybody who was trying influence policy decisions for the magazine in what he called a conspiracy to gag Chess Life and their “futile and clandestine attempt to replace the Editor with someone more subservient to their mandates.” Major was forced to resign at the end of 1956 because USCF members were sick of him and the bickering and infighting he was causing.


  1. Montgomery Major sounds like a cantankerous old cuss, doesn't he? But Norman Tweed Whitaker (what a great pair of names!) was a pretty reprehensible character: Thief, con man, all around fraudster. Most famous for his attempt to extort money from Charles Lindberg by pretending he could help get Lindberg's son back from his kidnappers, his many other criminal offenses included sending morphine through the mails and sexual molestation of a minor!

  2. Great download! Thanks for the link as it brings back a lot of memories.

  3. I discovered what the rift was concerning Whitaker. It's on page 36 under “Text of Resolution Submitted to USCF Board of Directors. It seems Whitaker made a “vicious attack” on the USCF and its management.

  4. More on the Whitaker Affair. On page 102 of the July 5th issue there was an article which stated Whitaker was suing the USCF and several of its officers EACH for $100,000 (about $884,000 today) because of their mention of his name in connection with the Lindberg baby kidnapping.

  5. The USCF sells a $39 DVD that contains pdf scans of old issues of Chess Life (and Chess Life and Review). This archive from 1955 is one of the files on that DVD. I know this because I bought the DVD. It's the exact same file. I wonder why it's available on that web site, which appears to be about a farm, and has nothing to do with chess.

  6. Thank you for the info! I ordered it today. For anyone interested it is a 4 DVD set is a gold mine that contains over 500 issues of:

    Chess Life Magazine 1946-1969
    Chess Review 1933-1969
    Chess Life & Review 1969-1975