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Monday, July 3, 2017

Eliot S. Hearst

Hearst in 1962
     Hearst (born July 7, 1932) is a psychologist with a Ph. D. from Columbia University and a USCF Senior Master. In the 1960s he wrote a very popular Chess Life column titled Chess Kaleidoscope in which he covered a wide variety of subjects. 
     Hearst won the New York State Championship in 1950 and went on to become one of the best players in the US in the 50s and was participant in the US Championship tournaments in 1954 and 1961. 
     His 1977 contribution Man and machine: Chess achievements and chess thinking in Peter W. Frey's Chess Skill in Man and Machine evaluates the status of computer chess at that time from the perspective of someone very knowledgeable with the game. 
     His book, along with co-author John Knott on blindfold chess was the winner of the Fred Cramer Award for the Best Chess Book of 2009. 
     Hearst's first appearance in the US Championship was is 1954. The USCF planned a "candidates tournament" for Philadelphia that was open to anyone with an Expert (2000 Elo) rating and who was willing to part with the entry fee of $25. That's the equivalent of about $225 these days. The whole idea was unpopular, but that meant little to the USCF.
     Because there was 23 players the event had to be a Swiss and worst of all according to the players, the first prize was only $250. That was offset by the fact that for those who did play in Philadelphia there were six places in the 1954 championship up for grabs. The main player showing up was Arthur Bisguier who was 23 years old and just out of the Army. Bisguier had been an up-and-comer a few years before when he won the 1950 U.S. Open and his first international tournament, at Southsea, England. 
     As things turned out, USCF didn't have the money to hold the championship tournament! As a last resort the Marshall Chess Club offered its rooms to the 14 players. Bisguier, who attended college classes during the day, ended up sleeping at night in one of the Marshall's upstairs apartments. 
     Rating-wise the tournament wasn't particularly strong. Bisguier was eighth on latest rating list and Evans, the defending champion, was only tenth. The top five top rated players, Reshevsky, Robert Byrne, Kramer, Donald Byrne and Denker declined their invitations. Still, recent French emigre GM Nicolas Rossolimo, Manhattan Chess Club champion Max Pavey and the Marshall Chess Club junior star, 20-year-old James T. Sherwin, ranked only 24th in the country, plus members of the old guard, Sidney Bernstein and Herbert Seidman, could hardly be considered weak. Bisguier won undefeated. Evans finished a point back, losing only one game...to Hearst who scored +5 -6 =2 to finish in tenth place. 
     Hearst's next US Championship was in 1961 and even without Fischer and Reshevsky it was a strong one. The favorites were Evans and the most recent US Open winners, Robert Byrne (winner in 1960) and Pal Benko (1961). The remaining field had a few players who had been largely inactive. For example, Hearst, who hadn't played since 1954 because of school work, Geroge Kramer and Donald Byrne, whose recent absences from the championship were no doubt due to his declining health. By this time Evans was approaching 30 and claimed he was playing chess "for the spirit of competition…And sometimes because I run short of cash." When it was all over Evens finished an undefeated first and Robert Byrne, also undefeated, was a half point back. Hearst finished in 7th place with a score of +2 -2 =7. 
     Although Hearst is a Life Member of the USCF their web site lists him as a National Master, but he is listed as unrated with the comment, "This member is not present in the Rating Supplements since January 1, 1991,"

Sadly, Hearst passed away January 30, 2018 in Tucson, Arizona. Obituary

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