History of the MI Chess Room


Ranking Systems Appear

We tend to think of Chess Life and USCF ratings as having been around forever but in fact both only go back around 50 years or so. Chess Life started as a newspaper in 1946 and didn't adopt a magazine format until around 1960. The rating system started in the early 1950s, but was so slow, that many area around the country developed there own regional rankings. Some of these hung around for a long time with Northwest Ratings only disappearing in the 1980s!

Here are the top Bay Area players as of May 1, 1951, on the Northern California Chess Ratings system.

International Master George Koltanowski

National Master A.J. Fink

Masters: Charles Bagby, Leslie Boyette, Carroll Capps, Neil Falconer, J.B. Gee, Henry Gross, Wade Hendricks, W.G. McClain, Vladimir "Walter" Pafnutieff, Earl Pruner and H.J. Ralston

Veteran Master

71-year-old National Master Eugene Levin of San Jose has been an active Bay Area player for many years, but he first developed as a chess player in the Los Angeles. An article by Jim Cross in the January 1950 issue of George Koltanowski's short-lived Chess Digest tells the story.

At the age of nineteen Eugene Levin is already one of the strongest players in the Southland area. He has a swashbuckling style of play, preferring wide-open positions which provide a full range for his first-class ability with combinations. Often reviving "worn-out" opening lines, with surprising success, Eugene has terminated many a game with a sharp, well-calculated tactical onslaught.

Having learned the game at the age of six from his father, Jacob Levin, he didn't start studying the game seriously until 1944. His first tournament victory came in  '45 when he won first prize in the Scholastic Division of the famous Pan American Tournament. In 1946 he won the State Junior Championship and a trip to Chicago where he competed in the National Junior Championship and added another trophy to his shelf by winning first prize in the Consolation Division. Right after that he traveled to Pittsburgh along with Herman Steiner and myself to play in the US Open Tournament where he played excellent chess against some of the strongest players in the country.  Eugene was a member of the victorious Metropolitan Team Champions in 1948, the Hollywood Chess Group, and still plays one of the top boards in all of their matches.  At present he is President and Club Champion of the UCLA Chess Club where he has done much to further the cause of chess by promoting matches with other school and local clubs.


The following appreciation was written by Dr. "Bip" Ralston who was instrumental in helping to get the California Chess Reporter started.

Dr. W.R. Lovegrove by Dr. H.J. Ralston

Dr. Walter Romaine Lovegrove, emeritus master of the United States, died in San Francisco on July 18, 1956, He was 86 years old.

For over 60 years Dr. Lovegrove was one of San Francisco's leading players. Born October 24, 1869, he learned the game of chess at the age of 16 by studying the article on chess in the Encyclopedia Britannica. During the period 1886-1890 he strengthened his game by playing at the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club in San Francisco, finally becoming so strong that in one tournament he gave odds to all the other contestants, yet still won the tournament.

Dr. Lovegrove was the winner of the final Pillsbury National Correspondence Tournament. In 1891 he won a match from Joseph Redding, who claimed the championship of the Pacific Coast, by a score of 7-1. Max Judd, who was prominent in national chess circles, visited San Francisco about the same time, and Dr. Lovegrove won six out of seven games in casual play. The American champion, J.W. Showalter, also visited San Francisco, and although he had the edge over Dr. Lovegrove in casual play, lost no less than 12 games to him out of about 30 played.

In 1893 Dr. Lovegrove visited Los Angeles, where he met and conquered Simon Lipshutz by a score of 3 1/2 - 1/2. The American Championship was in a rather foggy state in those days, but technically, the present writer believes, Lipshutz was still the champion, by virtue of his decisive win over Showalter, in their match of 1892. However, one must admit that Dr. Lovegrove's victory over Lipshutz must be weighed with caution because of the very uncertain nature of the champion's health. Lipshutz was a chronic sufferer from tuberculosis, which caused his premature death at the age of 42.

Dr. Lovegrove beat Van Vliet in London, 1912, in the only game played; he beat Taubenhaus in Paris in the same year, 10-1. In Vienna, 1922, playing as usual for a dollar a game, he won one and lost one to Dr. Tartakover - who said he did not care to play Lovegrove any more because he couldn't make a living that way. In 1902 he played Dr. Emanuel Lasker a stake game in San Francisco; the champion of the world tried to win a drawn game, and lost. Again in 1904, an exhibition game was won by Dr. Lovegrove against the American Champion, Harry Pillsbury. Pillsbury grabbed a pawn, allowing Dr. Lovegrove to obtain a crushing kingside attack."

California Chess Reporter 1956