California Chess History

California Chess Honor Roll

by Kerry Lawless



ChessDryadThese inductees into the California Chess Honor Roll have been honored because (in my opinion) they have given 5+ years of extreme service or 10+ years of very good service to California chess. Corrections to posted material are gladly accepted.






HARRY BOROCHOW (1898-1993): In the period between the two World Wars he was one of the strongest of the Southern California Masters. After arriving in California in 1919, he won the state chess championship three years in a row; 1930, 1931, and 1932. In 1932, of course, the championship was held concurrently with the Pasadena Chess Congress and he won because he was the highest scoring Californian. He also won 1st place in the Masters Reserve Section of the Pan-American Chess Congress in Hollywood 1945. He was USCF California State Membership chairman in 1960. During his later years, besides helping direct both Piatigorsky tournaments, the USCF awarded him the title of Master Emeritus.

FRITZ LEIBER (1910-1992): World renowned fantasy writer by day, Southern California chess expert by night. Settling in Santa Monica around 1958, he enriched the California chess scene by creating literary masterpieces about it. His chess stories were 'The Dreams of Albert Moreland' (1945), 'The Moriarty Gambit' (1962), 'Midnight in the Mirror World (1964) and 'The 64-Square Madhouse' (1966). The '64 Square Madhouse' has been getting a lot of press lately because it's about a chess playing computer that wins the World Chess Championship. In 1969 he moved to San Francisco and wrote his most famous chess story, which not surprisingly was set in that fair city, 'Midnight by the Morphy Watch' (1974). (See article about the Paul Morphy's watch, http://www.chessdryad.com/articles/ep/art_05.htm).

JOHN LARKINS (1929- 2006): In late 1974 and early 1975, Chess Voice, one of the best magazines to emerge from Northern California, was floundering. John stepped up, took it over, and produced an award winning magazine. At the same time, he became the Director of the Berkeley Chess Club, one three newly elected trustees of the San Leandro Chess Club, and the Director of a new club called the Oakland Chess Group. In early 1976 he accepted the position of Vice-Chairman of the Central California Chess Association. He also wrote a chess column for the Richmond Independant & Gazette during 1978. In mid-1979, he handed the reins of Chess Voice over to his successor and near the end of the year, resigned all his offices and quit chess. The five years he gave to Northern California chess were golden; he was professional to the core.

ROBERT PELLERIN (1935 - present): He was the co-founder (along with Hans Poschmann) of the Fremont Chess Club in 1968. He became a Richard Shorman student about that time and acquired a very rare 5,000+ chess book and magazine collection; used primarily by Richard as a source for chess lessons and Hayward Daily Review chess columns (RS was given the key to the condo and had use of the library, any time of the day or night.) He also helped fund Richard Shorman lessons and travel expenses for the Fremont Chess Club's star prodigy, Kenny Fong (NM at 13 years old - 1981). He arranged for meeting rooms at the Fremont Library and convinced the Fremont Police Association (he was a Fremont Police Detective) to fund RS lessons and computer equipment for the award winning Blue Knights scholastic chess team. Starting in the early 1990's, he sponsored unrated tournaments at his Fremont condo primarily as training for Vinay Bhat. Some of the invited players were Chris Mavraedis, Dave Brooks and Kerry Lawless.

RICHARD 'S' LEE (1941 - present): Richard became a chess book and magazine collector during the 1950's and generously donated a large number of rare California chess magazines and ephemera to ChessDryad. He held numerous elected and volunteer positions; including Oakland Chess Club Treasurer (1966-70), Central California Chess Association East Bay Publicity Director (1968) and East Bay Assistant Publicity Director (1969-70), 'En Passant' Chess Problems Columnist (1966-1968), and 'Scacchic Voice' Chess Problems Columnist (1968-1970). Along with R. Ng, he started the 'Chess Press' initially to publish the Oakland CC magazine 'En Passant'; and ended up publishing Richard Shorman's "The Magic Way to Mate with Knight and Bishop, Simplified Through Pictures" in 1970. He also organized and directed the Oakland Chess Club's entry into the Oakland Hobby Show from 1967 through 1971. The Oakland CC's exhibit had Oakland CC's stronger members playing all comers, as well as exhibits of rare chess sets and memorabilia. The yearly event drew hundreds of players and their families from all over the San Francisco Bay Area.

IGM ROBERT J. FISCHER (1943-2008): As a former World Champion (1972-1975) and eight-time US champion, he doesn't need an introduction. But, the USCF annual rating lists for the years 1970-1973 show him to be a California resident and as such, he must be included on this list. Because his sister lived in Pasadena and his 1982 pamphlet "I was tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!", I believe we can assume that he was living in the area. If even a small percentage of the urban legends surrounding him are true (chessplayers meeting him on BART trains or at IGM Peter Biyiasas's house), then he ranged up and down the state during and after his World Championship days. He didn't play much official chess in California except for the 1957 US Junior Championship (San Francisco), the 1961 Fischer-Reshevsky match (Los Angeles), the 1964 Simultaneous Exhibitions (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, Davis, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Ventura), and the 1966 Piatigorsky Cup (Santa Monica). The excitement, euphoria, and hope created by his winning of the World Chess Championship, started an unprecedented California chess boom that lasted throughout his championship years.

JUDE ACERS (1944-present): A Senior Master who won the World's record, twice, for playing the most opponents in a simultaneous exhibition, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. He was second only to Kolty in the number of simultaneous exhibitions he gave in California; and like Kolty, was a great showman who gave electrifying performances. Over the years, he has received some criticism over how he achieved his senior master rating, but recent results in several senior opens have silenced his critics. From 1972-1975 he wrote his chess column, Chess Barbs, in the Berkeley Barb; occasionally throwing in a juicy chapter of his as-yet unpublished book, On The Road. Without a doubt, the most interesting, non-technical, chess book ever written. In 1975 and 1976, he wrote a chess column for the City Magazine (Published in San Francisco by Francis Ford Coppola.) He also has a website devoted to him, http://judeacers.com/.

JOSEPH LONSDALE (1947-present): Joe Lonsdale started the MSJE (Mission San Jose Elementary School, Fremont) chess team in 1990 when his oldest son was a third grader at MSJE. From 1991 to 1994, Joe along with Alan Kirshner, ran the North-South scholastic chess matches. In addition to his three sons (Joe, Jeffrey, and Jonathan), there were Micah and Tov Kirshner, Vinay and Harish Bhat, Adam Laschinsky, Jennie Frenklakh, Jordy Mont-Reynaud, and many other scholastic players played on the north team. When the South team travelled to the north, they would stay at Joe's home. MSJE has won more Northern, CA scholastic chess championships than any other school. MSJE won two grade level National Championships, grade five in 1992 and grade six in 1993. The MSJE Chess team has been the most successful elementary school chess team west of the island of New York City. They won the overall National Elementary School Championship in both 2009 and in 2013. At the 2012 Elementary School Nationals MSJE was the only team in the country to finish in the top four in every Elementary school championship section (K-1, K-3, K-5, & K-6). Recently, Joe was instrumental in having a group of his players and coaches meet with IGM Gary Kasparov, former world chess champion. Joe has served several terms on the board of CalChess.

TOM LANGLAND (1960-present): President of CalChess from 2007 to present, Tom committed to the completion the non-profit (501c3) status for the organization. Tom also took on the duties of being the Tournament Clearinghouse for Northern California as well as a complete redesign the CalChess website in 2009. The new CalChess website has won the best USCF affiliate website in 2010, 2011 and 2012. By helping to bring several national championships to Northern California, he has earned the USCF National TD certification as well as FA, IA and IO titles with FIDE. Tom has been a director for literally hundreds of tournaments in California, including numerous State Championships. In California, he has been a director at the 2010 US Open, 2011-2013 US G/60, 2011-2013 US G/30, 2011-2013 US Junior Congress, 2010-2013 US Amateur Team Championships, 2011 US Youth Action, including several US Elementary, Junior High and High School championships and two SuperNationals for 2009 and 2013. He mentors several kids and has coached a team to a top 10 result at the US Junior High Nationals. Awarded the Volunteer of the Year 2010 at his children’s School for his efforts, he has also received the county Golden Apple award and was recognized as the USCF Volunteer of the Month for July 2010. Tom keeps his skills fresh by playing correspondence chess, maintaining a top 100 rating in the US, has achieved the Expert Problem Solver title, and is a member of the USCF Tournament Director Certification Committee.

FRISCO DEL ROSARIO (1963-present): Chess Expert and popular San Francisco Bay Area chess teacher, lecturer, writer and USCF Director was the only chess teacher, ever, to win the San Jose Mercury News award as teacher of the week. He was Editor of the chess column for the Redwood City Weekly News from May 3, 1989 to June 19, 1991, Editor of the newsletter, 'Burlingame Chess Club Game of the Week', published from January 31 to May 30, 1991 Editor of the official magazine of CalChess, 'California Chess Journal', from January 2001 to December 2003 and the Spring 2010, and Editor of 'SCS Dragon' from Fall 2004 to Spring 2005 (published by the Success Chess School in Fremont.) His 'A First Book of Morphy', published in 2004, was the first and only expository of Richard Shorman's School of Chess. Won the National Chess Journalist of the Year for 2005. In 2010, he published his second book, 'Capablanca: A Primer of Checkmate'. Recently he was Editor of the online San Francisco Examiner chess column from March 3, 2010 to July 31, 2012.

Dr. SALMAN AZHAR (1967- present): A USCF Senior TD, he started a parent volunteer chess teaching program at Granada Islamic School in 2005. It became so popular that he formed the non-profit organization, Bay Area Chess, in 2006. Being a Professor at the University of San Francisco at the time, he decided to organize and direct his first tournament there. Currently Bay Area Chess (www.BayAreaChess.com) has programs in over 50 schools. Since March 2006, he has been one of the most prolific organizers in CalChess history with about 400 tournaments to his credit; with 7% topping 200 players. Among the many scholastic and adult tournaments he has organized, 9 have been national tournaments; 2 U.S. Amateur Team West, 3 U.S. Junior Congresses, 2 Game/60 and 2 Game/30. Bay Area Chess is the only USCF Gold Affiliate on the West Coast!

ERIC HICKS (1969-present): A chess player, award winning writer and highly innovative scholastic chess teacher since his high school days, he first began his official career under the tutelage of Elizabeth Shaughnessy and her 'Chess in the Schools' program. Later, in 1994, he hooked up with IM Marc Leski, moved to Southern California and started his 'Academic Chess' program. His project, the largest scholastic chess organization in the history of California chess, spans 4 states, 1000 schools, and has created over 100,000 successful beginning chess players. Starting in 1994, he found time to serve on the board of CalChess for several years, and was the "calchess.org" site webmaster. His own site, "academicchess.com", is one of the most popular scholastic sites on the web. But, that's not all. He, together with his wife Liina, is also involved in coaching several super-talented children and has produce more than a couple of young USCF top ten champions.

MICHAEL AIGNER (1974-present): A National Master and USCF Life Master, has been a California chess player since 1992. During his tournament career he has won the club championships at Davis, Sacramento, Burlingame and the Mechanics' Institute. He was a member of the Stanford University chess team from 1997-2001, won the Stamer Memorial chess tournament in 2002 and 2006, and the CalChess Masters in 2007. He also found the time to become one of the best coaches and teachers in Northern California; with dozens of top 20 USA students to his credit. Besides coaching multiple CalChess K-6, K-8 and K-12 champions; his kids have won several Nationals, including US Junior, US Cadet and the Denker. The Saratoga High School team, which he coached, won the K-12 States for six consecutive years. His students have, also, won two gold medals at the World Youth, in U12 and U18. Eight of his students broke the USCF 2200 barrier before turning 18, and 4 went on to break USCF 2400. Not being content with these achievements, he shares his teaching methods on his website fpawn.com and local news on his blog fpawn.blogspt.com.

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