Chess People

The best of chess are the people. I am devoting this area of my web site to some human interest stories about well known people from the of chess (Anecdotal tales, obituaries, eulogies etc.) I invite others to contribute “human interest pieces” of this nature. Please send the contributions to: [email protected].

Click on the names shown below to get the stories or click on silly quiz and see how well you know some of our “well known” chess people.

Fan Adams

Eulogy given by Don Schultz

NYC  April 1, 1999

I wish to say a few words in memory of a very wonderful man — Fan Adams.

During the last ten years I worked with Fan both on the Policy Board of the United States Chess Federation and in representing US Chess to the international chess community. I learned a great deal about Fan and would like to share some of that with you.

Fan Adams was a man of few words. But when Fan spoke, we all listened. At an emergency Policy Board meeting of the United States Chess Federation, we were there to select a new Executive Director. There were five highly qualified candidates to consider. Each Board Member spoke in turn, Fan went last. He made his points in less than five minutes while each of the other Board members spoke fifteen minutes or more. Fan’s choice was different from that of any other Board Member. He gave us in very concise and succinct fashion the reasons for his choice. When he finished and discussion reopened, it was clear that all seven of us on the Board now favored as our first choice the man whom, only moments before . . . Fan had, as his first choice. We may have spoken longer than Fan but his few words were the decisive ones.

Fan Adams was a man of integrity. When he was the delegate of the United States Chess Federation to the infamous 1994 FIDE Congress at Moscow his integrity shone through. At that Congress, Fan led the battle against the heavy handed and illegal tactics employed by the World Chess Federation’s leadership in order for them to stay in power. That evening, before the crucial vote, I was with Fan. We received a phone call from a member of the US Chess Federation Board. He informed us that the Board had voted and that Fan must change his position and support the group that in fact he had been campaigning against. Rather than go against his principles, Fan resigned on the spot from a job he cherished. History would prove him correct. Within a year after his resignation, he was completely vindicated when public outrage resulted in his overwhelming election to the very Board that caused him to resign as US Delegate to the World Chess organization.

Fan Adams was a humble man. I remember Fan receiving many awards and accolades for his chess contributions. Each time he seemed embarrassed and he always tried to shift and share the honor.

Fan Adams was a man of steel. Whether in meetings or face to face, Fan always asked the tough questions. But he always separated the issues from the personalities and those whom he fought vehemently on issues were often those whose company he preferred to have dinner, conversation and a glass of red wine.

Fan Adams nevertheless was a Teddy Bear. He could not bear to see his friends and associates treated unfairly or suffer in any way. I recall once a staff manager being severely criticized for deficiencies. Fan saw the man’s pain and despite agreeing that much of the criticism was valid, he gave the employee every benefit of the doubt. Fan went against his own instincts. The heart of the man of steel would always melt when personal suffering or embarrassment were at stake.

I will always cherish the friendship I had with Fan. In my many discussions with him, I learned a great deal about Fan and the Adams family. I learned of a great love between two wonderful people, Fan and Emiko. Fan loved Emiko and Emiko loved Fan. You are both so lucky to have each other.

Dear Emiko, Becky and Susannah, thank you so much for sharing a little of Fan with us. We in the chess community will be forever thankful.

Don Schultz


Gary Kasparov

by Don Schultz

I remember in a major tournament, one of his games was being considered for the best game award. At that time he was the world champion. What he did was unheard of; he lobbied with the committee for his game pointing out deficiencies in his opponents game. I can’t imagine another world champion doing such a thing – but that is Gary. He never hides his feelings. What you see is what you get. I remember a CNN news show. It was during the time that Gorbachev was under house arrest and an infamous hard-line communist committee seemed to have taken control of the Soviet Union. The CNN show featured brilliant foreign affairs scholars including  US delegate to the UN Jean Kirkpatrick. World Champion Garry Kasparov was on that panel. Everyone but Garry predicted the demise of Gorbachev and a return to a hard line Soviet Union Regime. Garry said: “Absolutely not” and went on to predict exactly what happened. They scoffed at Garry but he was unequivocal and spoke his mind. This is the Kasparov I have seen most of the time – confident and open, two very admirable traits.


Arnold Denker or The Andrew I Knew

by Don Schultz

The Andrew I knew went by the name of Arnold. His real name was Andrew, but an Uncle kept calling him Arnold and it stuck. Family, the chess world and everyone always called him Arnold and few knew that was not his name.

“Hello Don, this is Arnold” – Over the last quarter century, Arnold would call me at every few days and these were the words I first heard. I’ll never hear them again and, each time my telephone rings, I will think of Arnold.

Yes, I will miss him, but I will also look back with pleasure at the fun time of the past, how fortunate I was to have as my friend: “The Man Chess Loved”

When I think of Arnold, I think of the press rooms of the great world championships of the eighties. Typically you would see, surrounded by journalists, Arnold and a few of his friends such as Tal and Najdorf  holding court. There were no computers to help the press, only the candid discussion among these giants of the chess world.

At chess meetings, Arnold had a little trick that few ever realized. It was always pre-planned and always worked though used sparingly for just the right debates. Here is how it worked. During the debate, Arnold would remain quiet. Then suddenly he would jump up, rush to the mike, pay no addition to those waiting to be recognized and bypassed them in line. He would shout in the microphone: “This is a disgrace, I can’t believe you are even thinking of doing this; I’m getting out of here.” He would then turn and head for the door. Always, before he reached the door someone from the opposition would say” “Wait Arnold, don’t leave, we will work this out, how about . . .”

When I think of Arnold, I think of Gabriel Schartzman whom we both met at the chess Olymiad in Thessalonika, Greece in 1988. Gabriel, then 12 years old, came to us and said: “Hello, my name is Gabriel Schwartzman and I am a chessplayer, Would you like to see some of my games.” “Sure,” we said. Well we were so impressed that we arranged for a match between Gabriel and Arnold in Florida. Gabriel and his family later became lifelong friends of ours. Gabriel also became the youngest grandmaster in the world, He went to the U of Florida, studied business administration and has achieved great success as an American businessman. He and his parents are now enjoying a life in Florida they would never have realized had they stayed in Romania. Both Arnold and I take great satisfaction in having had something to do with that.

Another time, Rhona Petroysan, widow of former world champion Tigran Petroysan asked Arnold if he could help her move to the states. Arnold and I discussed this and decided the easiest way was to find an American chessplayer for Rhona to marry. We decided our friend Donald Stone was the perfect person. “What are you nuts?” were Stone’s immediate reply to our request. We were a bit taken back by this since Donald , who was in his late seventies, always responded to a call for help when it involved the game he loved. Nevertheless, we weren’t about to be put off so easily. Stone continued: “I’m only a B player. I’ve been married before and vowed I’d never do it again. I’m too old.” We listened to all these attempts by Stone to avoid his responsibility but remained undeterred. Finally our persistence succeeded: “Okay” he said, “Is she pretty?” We gave Rhona and Donald the information they needed in order to get in touch with each other.

But, the marriage never took place as Rhona found a way to enter the U.S. through more conventional means.

Arnold’s second passion was going to the race track. He and I would sit indoors watching the odds change, suddenly he would jump up and rush away to place his bet. He’d return and say in a loud voice to me: “I bet ten big ones on number five,” heads would turn to see who the big bettor was. What they didn’t realize was ten big ones meant ten bucks which is what Arnold and I generally would bet on any race.

Upon leaving the track, I’d generally drop Arnold off at his apartment and head home. Arnold would call Teresa to let her know I’m on my way. When Teresa answered, she would immediately say: “Okay Arnold, how much money did you almost win today?” You see Arnold would never lose; he would win or almost win.

Another time as I was about to leave my seat, Arnold said to me: “Don, I was up all night handicapping this race and number six can’t lose, take my word for it.” Now Arnold was an excellent handicapper, so I left and bet on six. I returned to my seat and looked over at Arnold still studying the race. He turned and said: “Gosh, how did I miss this look at that four horse, I’m betting big bucks on him.” Arnold jumped up, left and bet on the four horse. Of course the four horse won and the six horse came in last.

In many ways, Arnold was the most impatient man I ever knew. He would never wait for a red light. Whether in Buenos Aires, New York or Paris, Arnold would rush across the street weaving left and right dodging cars like any football star rushing downfield on a hundred yard run.

Arnold and I didn’t always agree. One time we had a serious argument. Finally Arnold got up, left my hotel room and slammed the door. I rushed to the door opened it up and called to Arnold; “Okay, we will do it your way.” He turned, smiled and said: “See it always works!”


Alexander Wojtkiewicz


by Steve Immitt

One of my many fond memories of “Wojo” is the scene immediately after the final decisive  “money” game had concluded (pick the tournament), it was the same scenario for all of them). No sooner had the two players stopped their clock then Wojo was already in the TD room, where he would invariably stride confidently to the head of the long prize line, blithely unaware of the “lower-rateds” already assembled there (much to their astonishment and chagrin), and announce, “cash?”

I am going to miss having the honor of writing more prize checks to Wojo, and being able to cash them for him.

Alex often played in the all-night, overnight, Game/30 “Insanity”  tournaments I ran at the Marshall Chess Club, which the more “sensible” GMs roundly eschewed.  But not Wojo– I could swear that he appeared to actually look forward to the all-night festivities!

In one of the early Saturday night tournaments a few years ago, Wojo, playing White (in the days before time delay clocks were common), had built up a formidable attacking position against his Expert opponent.  Half-in-jest (I guess), the opponent, himself a veteran competitor in the overnight niche, and true to the spirit of the Insanity, made a claim of “Insufficient Losing Chances.”   Wojo didn’t understand what was going on, and when I explained, trying to keep a straight face, that his opponent was requesting that the game be declared a draw, Wojo, in a half-laughing, half-scolding tone, began to loudly lecture his clownish opponent in the tournament room.

“I have Knights on f5 and d5, I control the f-file, I sack on g7 and you are mated!.  Black is absolutely lost!”

I then proceeded to deduct a minute off the opponent’s clock (the penalty for a draw claim of that type being denied), but Wojo stopped me.  “Let’s just finish the game,” he insisted.  The opponent, duly chastened, proceeded to succumb to Wojo’s barrage, and sheepishly resigned prior to Alex indignantly mating him anyway.

Wojo played in the NY State Action Championship in Saratoga Springs on Friday night of Labor Day Weekend some years ago.  After crushing the field, I expected that he would also follow-up by entering the 3-Day Schedule of the NY State Championship the next day.

But Wojo, studying his Chess Life, noticed that the prize fund in the Southern California Open which the Continental Chess Association was running that year was quite a bit larger.  No matter that the field would undoubtedly be quite a bit stronger than the players in the Saratoga tournament, or that the tournament was on the other side of the country and started in a few hours!  Promptly after collecting his First Place prize at about 1 am, Alex then drove to Albany, waiting at the airport for the first flight to LA the next morning, and arrived at LAX just in time to phone Bill Goichberg with the familiar instructions “Please pair me for Round 1!”  He rushed into the tournament room easily in time for his 11 am Round 1 game (with at least several minutes to spare!), and ended up tying for tying for first with one or two other GMs, I think.  It’s not clear if his net profit, minus the round-trip airfare, amounted to a much bigger payday than the one he would have had in Saratoga. But Alex, one of the most-traveled GMs on the tournament circuit, may have taken the opportunity to cash in some of his frequent flyer miles.


Silly Quiz

The quiz questions were derived during middle of the night IM discussions between Glenn Petersen and me. The official correct answers (not necessarily the correct answers) were determined from the responses and information provided by GM Yasser Seirawan, Harold Winston or from the Glenn/me discussions.

Below are the Questions and Answers: The winner of the quiz is GM Yasser Seirawan who also easily got the most votes for nicest US Champion. Note where there is an “or” we didn’t know and accepted both answers. It is possible that new information will arrive causing us to change an answer here and there. Although  Anand got only one vote and Jim Rachels only a couple for example got very few votes but knowing them both, I exercised my self-given rights as quiz chair and designated Anand as the nicest World Champion (Spassky came in first in votes)

In some cases we such as tallest world champion, we could not decide on the correct answer so we marked the answer correct so long as one of the possibilities was chosen.

World Champions

1)  Tallest? Smyslov or Euwe

2)  Shortest? Steinitz or Morphy

3)  Heaviest? Petroysan or Smyslov

4)  Oldest? E. Lasker* History is not clear if he resigned his title years before playing Capablanca

5)  Youngest Karpov

6)  Nicest Anand

USCF Presidents

7)    Tallest? Edmondson and Spann

8    Shortest? Denis Barry, Fred Cramer second

9)    Heaviest? Sperling or Doyle

10)    Oldest? Koltanowski

11)   Youngest? Dlugy or Doyle

12)  Nicest? Kolty

US Champions

13)   Tallest? Christiansen or Marshall

14)   Shortest? Reshevsky

15)   Heaviest? Dzinzi

16)   Oldest? Marshall

17)   Youngest? Fischer, Nakamura second youngest

18)   Nicest? Yasser Seirawan

USCF Executive (Policy) Board

19)   Tallest? Harry Sabine

20)   Shortest? Doris Barry

21)   Heaviest? Woody Harris

22)   Oldest? Arnold Denker, Kolty second, Schultz third

23)   Youngest? Dlugy or Doyle

24)   Nicest? Jim Rachels,

5/5 - (1 vote)