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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ross Siemms

Ross Siemms, a recent photo
     The USCF organized the National Junior Chess Championship in July, 1946 at the Lawson YMCA in Chicago, Illinois. The winner was 16-year-old Larry Friedman of Cleveland, Ohio. Friedman turned out to be a phantom of sorts. 
     The year before Friedman, then a sophomore at Shaw High School in Cleveland, took 4th place in the Ohio State Championship and was the 1945 Junior Champion of Cleveland. Friedman also won the National Junior in 1947, held in Cleveland. James B. Cross and Larry Evans tied for 2nd-3rd place. 
     On the July 1950 USCF rating list Friedman had a master's rating of 2284 and that was in a day when there was only a thimble full of masters in the whole country. After that he disappeared from the chess world and didn't turn up again until 1958 when he played in the New Jersey Open and though the event was won by Tibor Weinberger, Friedman was awarded first place as the top New Jersey resident. After that he disappeared again, this time permanently. 
     Of interest in the 1947 National Junior was the youngest player in the event, 11-year old Ross Siemms of Toronto. He was playing because the USCF had opened the event to Canadian players. 
     In 1950 James Cross of Glendale, California won the US Junior Championship, held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on tiebreaks over Siemms. In 1957, Cross also won the California State Championship, but abandoned chess a few years later. 
     In 1951 Siemms won the Ontario Junior Championship with a 5-0 score, but lost a match with Montreal’s Lionel Joyner to represent Canada at the first World Junior in England. In 1953 he was Canada’s representative to the world junior championship in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Finally, in 1954, he succeeded in winning the US Junior Championship held in Long Beach, California, scoring 8.5 out of 10. 
     1958 saw Siemms as a member of the Canadian Olympiad team. It was at this Olympiad that Frank Anderson (1928-1980), a two-time gold medalist on board two for Canada in the 1954 and 1958 Olympiads, missed the Grandmaster title only because he did not play his last game. He had the necessary number of points but had not played the necessary number of games. Today, FIDE allows a norm-seeker to take a loss on paper in such situations, but this was not the case at that time. 
     In the last round Anderson was extremely ill and unable to play. Anderson, who was bed-ridden for much of his youth with arthritis, had developed a bad case of the flu during the last few rounds but continued to play for the benefit of the team. Before the last round one of the Russian doctors checked him out and determined he was too sick to play. 
     By 1959 Siemms had retired from OTB chess, but at some point took up postal chess and finished second in the Canadian Correspondence Championship in 1994. 
     As far as I was able to determine, Seimms retired from IBM and lives in Gravenhurst, Ontario, Canada where is is active in the local Rotary Club and initiated a “Chess in the Schools” program and supplied local schools with chess sets. He also donated over sixty chess books to the local library.
     While looking over some of Siemms' games, I came across this one against Raaphi Persitz (26 July 1934 – 4 February 2009) featuring a Brentano's Defense against the Ruy Lopez. I posted on this odd defense a short while back HERE.   Persitz got a horrible position, but defended well and ALMOST equalized, but then made a tactical blunder and his position collapsed. 
     Persitz was an English–Israeli–Swiss master, financial analyst, financial journalist, and chess writer.  He won Israeli Junior Champion in 1951. He was born in Tel Aviv, Israel, then British Mandate of Palestine. He studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and represented Oxford University in the annual match against Cambridge University on three occasions (1954, 1955 and 1956). In 1954 he won his individual game in the Oxford-Cambridge match in the morning, playing very quickly in order to be able to travel by train to Swindon (some 75 miles away) in time to play top board for his county (Oxfordshire) against Gloucestershire in the afternoon. Persitz played three times for England in the World Student Team Chess Championship. He moved from the UK to Israel, and then to Switzerland. He played for Israel at fourth board in 14th Chess Olympiad at Leipzig 1960. He was also a prolific and entertaining chess writer, contributing articles to a long-running column in the British Chess Magazine entitled The Student's Corner.

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