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Friday, September 8, 2017

George Sturgis, First USCF President

Reuben Fine-George Sturgis-L. Walter Stephens in 1941
     George Sturgis (May 31, 1891, Boston, Massachusetts - December 20, 1944) was a founder of the US Chess Federation and served as its first president from its formation in 1939 until his passing in 1944. He was also president of the Massachusetts State Chess Association in 1932. The George Sturgis Memorial Trophy was donated in his honor, for the US Open from 1945-1963. He was an early promoter of scholastic chess and brought chess to the Boston City Club, a center of high society in the early to mid-1900's. Sturgis was a nephew of the Spanish philosopher George Santayana and worked as an investment broker in Boston.
     He died shortly after returning from his honeymoon on Thursday, December 20, 1944 in Boston. The previous day he had been at his desk all day, spent the evening with friends and seemed in good health when he retired for the evening, but was discovered the following morning having died of a heart attack. He was cremated at the Story Chapel, Mount Auburn Cemetary in Cambridge, Massachusetts and his ashes were sent to Gray Ledges Farm and Christian Conference Center in Grantham, New Hampshire, which was owned and operated by his widow, Carol A. Sturgis, until 1977 when the Conference Center was sold.
     It's hard to say exactly how strong Sturgis was because there was no rating system in effect at the time. As for his opponent, Dr. Bela Rosa, he won the Oklahoma championship 10 tomes between 1946 and 1963 and on the 1955 USCF rating list he was rated 2101.
     Sturgis played in four US Opens: 1940 in Dallas, Texas; 1941 in St. Louis, Missouri (This was a bad tournament. He qualified for the round-robin finals and finished dead last with a single draw and 8 losses); 1942 in Dallas, Texas and 1943 in Syracuse, New York. 
     He did better in the 1942 US Open. Due to the war and conflicting tournaments the US Open drew only 18 players that year. Herman Steiner beat Al Horowitz, Horowitz beat Abe Yanofsky, Yanofsky beat Steiner and nobody else was even close to being in contention. The only exception was when local master J.C. Thompson nicked Horowitz for a draw which resulted in Horowitz failing to tie for first with Yanofsky and Steiner.

1-2) D.A.Yanofsky and Herman Steiner 16-1
3) I.A.Horowitz 15.5-1.5
4) John C. Thompson 13-4
5) Erich W. Marchand 12-5
6-7) William H. Janes and Al Lipton 11-6
8) George Sturgis 9.5-7.5
9) Frank H McKee 8.5-8.5
10) Robert Potter 8-9
11) Ted Rozsa 6.5-10.5
12-13) Don Kilgore and Dr. Bela Rozsa 6-11 
  14) Jack Hudson 5.5-11.5
15) Lee Roy Norton 4-13
16) Keller Watson 2.5-14.5
17) James A Creighton 2-15
18) Clarence Rosenfield 0-17.  Rosenfield withdrew after 7 rounds and all of his games were counted as forfeits, including a win against Potter.

Sturgis' opponent in the following game, Bela Rozsa, was born in Hungary in 1905, was a concert pianist, composer, and professor of music theory at several southwestern United States universities, primarily the University of Tulsa (Oklahoma). A relative latecomer to chess who did not learn how to play until 1939, he progressed rapidly by winning the North Texas Championship in 1940 and twice (1942 and 1948) tying for first place in the prestigious Southwestern Open. In 1952 won the Tenth Grand National Correspondence Chess Tournament, a ten year event in which over 1,000 players competed. He passed away in 1977.

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