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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Herbert Avram

Avram dressed for battle!
     Herbert Avram was born in New York City on January 24, 1913. A decorated World War II veteran, Government Analyst, pioneer in the development of the digital court reporting industry and chess master, Avram died January 15, 2006 at age 92 at his home in California, Maryland. 
     Avram's long-time relationship with both the chess and backgammon communities began at the age of 6 when he learned the game of chess from his uncle. He was soon a regular at the Manhattan Chess Club and went on to play at both national and international tournaments, with many tournament championships. In 1974, he was awarded a Life Master title. 
     He won the Virginia State Championship three straight times from 1952 to 1954. He also won the Maryland Open becoming Maryland State Champion in 1955 and 1979. 
     Avram attended St. Lawrence College in Canton, New York his freshman year. When his father was awarded an engineering commission in Istanbul, Turkey, Avram accompanied his parents and transferred to Robert College in Istanbul which is the college from which he earned his degree. 
     Avram was very proud of his US Navy career. His decorations included the American Theater Ribbon, American Defense Ribbon, European-African-Middle Eastern Ribbon with Two Stars, Asiatic-Pacific Ribbon with Five Stars, Victory Medal World War II-Occupation of Japan, and Philippine Liberation Ribbon. 
     His Navy career as a Lt. Commander during World War II included key assignments in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters. From 1941 to 1942, he was assigned to the USS New York and BB-34 and the Amphibious Force from 1942 to 1943. He was part of the Amphibious Force Pacific Attack, Transport Ships, from 1943-1945. 
     In 1951 Avram moved to Arlington, Virginia, to work as an Analyst with the National Security Agency and after his service with NSA, he went on to work with the Central Intelligence Agency. During and after World War II, because he worked at NSA and the CIA the sensitive nature of his intelligence work meant he could never be alone with Soviet players in tournaments or at chess clubs. 
     He left government service to follow his interests in the burgeoning digital court reporting market in the early 60s. A pioneer in this business, Avram and several others founded Stenocomp Corporation in Falls Church, Virginia. In the 70s, Stenocomp was acquired by Translation Systems, Inc. Today, a practical application of his early pioneering work is Closed Captions as seen on television. 
     Avram was a Mensa member and any conversation with him could end up growing into a major discussion. Politics were off-limits unless one was ready for an emotional debate. Personally, he was known for his quick smile and easy-going personality, optimistic attitude and love of life that made lifelong friends everywhere he went. Avram was passionate about the Redskins football team and the Republican Party. 
     As a player, Avram was noted for his materialism and his tough defense, although he was also quite capable of launching sparkling attacks.. His chess activity tended to be marked by intervals of great activity followed by periods away from the game. 
     After his death, his wife of 64 years, Henriette, a computer programmer, succumbed to cancer three months later. They had three children. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. 
     One of his most memorable wins is the following game where he absolutely crushed Bobby Fischer in the 1957 US Open held in West Orange, New Jersey. It can't be claimed that Fischer was just a 14-year-old kid so Avram's win wasn't a big deal. At the time Fischer was the US Junior Champion and shortly before this game was played had defeated Donald Byrne in the US Championship in The Game of the Century.

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