History of the MI Chess Room


Lasker at the MI (December 1902)

Many Newsletters ago, World Champion Emmanuel Lasker's December 1902 visit to the MI, including his famous lost to Dr. Lovegrove, were written up. The impression was that Lasker was just in town for a few days. Now, indefatigable researcher Steve Brandwein has unearthed a great deal more about Lasker's visit, which in fact lasted almost two weeks. The pages of the San Francisco Chronicle report that during Lasker's stay he was a regular at the MI (then located a few feet east at 31 Post and only a three story building), but also gave simuls at the Western Addition Chess, Checker and Whist Club and the SF Whist and Chess Club. The fruits of Steve's research will appear in the next few Newsletters.

Lasker's Blindfold Simul at the MI (December 27)

Champion Lasker yesterday afternoon at the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club, played five blindfold chess games, winning four and losing one. The players who opposed him were T.D. Black, Dr. B. Marshall, Harvey Dana, Richard Ott and J.J. Dolan. The game the champion lost was won by Dr. B. Marshall, the well-known local player. In his game with Dolan, Dr. Lasker, after the twenty-third move, announced mate in four moves.

Considering that he does not claim to be a great blindfold player this remarkable man nevertheless gave a splendid exhibition, and demonstrated to a large crowd that he is a genius.

Friday night (December 26) last Champion Lasker in a simultaneous exhibition at the Western Addition Chess, Checker and Whist Club, faced the largest number and the strongest combination of chess players since opening up his engagement here. He had twenty-two-players arrayed against him and after the smoke of battle had cleared away he had defeated sixteen, drawn four and lost two. George Halwegan and I. Schonfeld won from the champion and Dr. W.R. Lovegrove, Oscar Samuels, E.V. Gage and Dr. Franklin drew. Halwegan, who has been away from the city for some time, showed that he can still put up a good game. Schoenfeld, the other player to win from Lasker, is a member of the Western Addition Chess Club, and formerly played on the University of California chess team.

The following are the players who took part against Lasker : C.W. Moores, Dr. W.R. Lovegrove, E.V. Gage, L.S. Schoenfeld, D.C. deLong, M.Ettinger, G.R. Thompson, G.P. Woodward, Dr. B. Marshall, Dr. J.D. McKee, Oscar Samuels, Dr. W.S. Franklin, Mr. Winter, E.E. Perley, L. Woodworth, N.J. Manson, M.J. Kuhl, J. Firebaugh, L.S. Adams, Gilbert Griffith and George Halwegan. A large crowd watched the contest which lasted until after midnight.

Lasker,E - Schoenfeld,L [D35]

Simul San Francisco, 26.12.1902

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 Nc6 5.f4 Bb4 6.Bd3 h6 7.Nf3 Ne7 8.0–0 Bxc3 9.bxc3 c6 10.Ba3 Nf5 11.Qe2 dxc4 12.Bxc4 Ne4 13.Qd3 Ned6 14.Bb3 Nb5 15.Bb2 0–0 16.Bc2 Nbd6 17.g4 b5 18.gxf5 exf5 19.Ba3 Re8 20.Ne5 Ne4 21.Qe2 Be6 22.Bxe4 fxe4 23.f5 Qg5+ 24.Qg2 Qxe3+ 25.Kh1 Bd5 26.Rae1 Qxc3 27.Ng4 Qxa3 28.Nf6+ Kh8 29.Rg1 Rg8 30.Nxd5 cxd5 31.Rgf1 Rac8 32.Rf4 Rc1 33.Qf1 Rgc8 34.Kg2 R8c2+ 35.Rf2 Rxf2+ 36.Qxf2 Rxe1 37.Qxe1 Qf3+ 38.Kg1 e3 39.Qh4 e2 0–1

Chess in San Francisco in 1888

San Francisco, May 21, 1888

By G.H. D. Gossip

Sir: On the 18th of last month I left Sydney, per steamship "Alameda", reaching this city on the 12th, where I first set foot on my native soil after an absence of over forty years, and I have played here more games of chess in a week than I contested during the last six months in Sydney. There are two leading Chess resorts here, viz: the Mercantile Library and the Mechanics' Institute (in Post Street), which have large and commodious rooms for the accommodation of chess players - twice as large as any chess club or chess room in Australia. In fact nearly everything here is on a grander, more civilized and cosmopolitan scale than in Great Britain, although the streets of Adelaide and Melbourne are wider than those of San Francisco. The last named chess resort (MI) is crowded with chessplayers every afternoon, both rooms being open daily, Sundays included. I met here M. Montgomery - a French amateur - with whom I had the pleasure of playing in days gone by at the Cafe de la Regence, more than twenty years ago. Mr. Piper, one of the Vizayanagaram Tourney prizewinners, formerly of Greenwich and Sydney, is also here.

…Of five games played over the board played over the board on even terms between Messrs. Zukertort and Redding, the former won 3 and lost 2, and Mr. Redding also defeated him in his blindfold exhibition. Besides being a strong chess player and an enthusiast, Mr. Redding is also a splendid billiard player (the best, I believe, in "Frisco") and an accomplished musician. The other strong players here are Dr. Marshall, who won 2 out of 5 games of Baron Heydebrand Von Der Lasa, lately and Mr. Heinemann. Of 28 games I have played here I have won 19, drawn 2 and lost 7. I was fortunate enough to win a considerable majority of games of Dr. Marshall, and to make even games with Dr. Heinemann, but have been so far worsted by Mr. Redding, having lost five and only won three games of him. Curiously enough, although there are many more chess players in San Francisco than in Sydney or Melbourne, there is not a single chess column in any San Francisco newspaper. Formerly there was one in the "Argonaut" but it has long since been discontinued. A tournament, however, among the leading players, is to be started this week.

The International Chess Magazine  June 1888, page 170-171

Redding, J - Gossip, G [C47]

San Francisco, 1888

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.d4 exd4 5.Nxd4 Bb4 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.Bd3 d5 8.exd5 cxd5 9.0-0 Bxc3 10.bxc3 0-0 11.Bg5 h6 12.Bh4 Qd6 13.Re1 Bd7 14.Bg3 Qc5 15.Qd2 Rfe8 16.h3 Re6 17.Be5 Rae8 18.Bd4 Qa3 19.Rxe6 Rxe6 20.Qf4 Ne8 21.Qf5 Nf6 22.Bxf6 gxf6 23.Qh7+ Kf8 24.Qxh6+ Ke7 25.Qd2 Qb2 26.Rd1 Qxa2 27.c4 a5 28.Bf5 Re5 29.Bxd7 Kxd7 30.cxd5 Kd6 31.Qf4 Ke7 32.c4 Qb3 33.Qd2 Qa3 34.Qd4 Kd6 35.Ra1 Qb4 36.Kf1 a4 37.f4 The International Chess Magazine August 1888, page 251. 1-0

Redding, J - Gossip, G [C55]

San Francisco, 1888

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Bc4 Nxe4 5.Bxf7+ Kxf7 6.Nxe4 d5 7.Neg5+ Kg8 8.d4 h6 9.Nh3 Bxh3 10.gxh3 exd4 11.Nxd4 Qd7 12.Nxc6 Re8+ 13.Be3 bxc6 14.Qf3 Bc5 15.0-0 Bxe3 16.fxe3 Qe6 17.Rae1 Kh7 18.Qf5+ Qxf5 19.Rxf5 Re7 20.c3 Rhe8 21.Kf2 Re4 22.Rf7 R4e7 23.Rxe7 Rxe7 24.Rg1 Re4 25.Rg4 g5 26.Kf3 Re8 27.Ra4 Rf8+ 28.Ke2 Rb8 29.b3 Rb7 30.Ra6 c5 31.Rc6 c4 32.b4 a5 33.a3 axb4 34.axb4 Ra7 35.e4 dxe4 36.Rxc4 Ra2+ 37.Ke3 Rxh2 38.Rxc7+ Kg6 39.Kxe4 Rxh3 40.b5 Rh1 41.b6 Rb1 42.Rc6+ Kg7 43.c4 h5 44.c5 g4 45.Rc7+ Kg6 46.b7 g3 47.Rc6+ Kg7 48.Rc7+ [48.Rb6] 48...Kg6 49.Kf3 Rb3+ 50.Kg2 Kg5 51.c6 h4 52.Rg7+ Kf4 53.Kh3 Rb1 54.Rf7+ The International Chess Magazine, July 1888, page 217-18. 1-0

MI Chess History Mystery

The two giants of early Mechanics History, NMs Walter Lovegrove and A.J. Fink, must have played many times, but surprisingly enough not a single game between the two players is to be found in the comprehensive Cal Chess database (www.chessdryad.com), which has recently been edited by Sam Sloan.

The following game appears in George Koltanowski's Chess Chats without a date. This book was published in 1950, but the game would appear to have been played much earlier as Lovegrove, who died in 1956 (the same year as Fink), played little the last few decades of his life. Can anybody pin down a date for this game?

Lovegrove - Fink

San Francisco ???

1.d4 f5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 Be7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.e3 b6 7.Bd3 Bb7 8.Rc1 Kh8 9.Bf4

Nh5 10.0-0 Nxf4 11.exf4 g5 12.fxg5 Bxg5 13.Nxg5 Qxg5 14.f3 Nc6 15.f4 Qf6 16.d5 Ne7 17.Be2 Rg8 18.Kh1 Rg7 19.Bf3 Rag8 20.Ne2 exd5 21.cxd5 Nxd5 22.Bxd5 Rxg2 23.Bxg2 Rxg2  0-1

MI member Frank Ruys submits the following game played in a simul against Grandmaster-to-be Arthur Dake. Frank, who  was a 16-year-old, just starting his chess career when this game was played, notes that Dake could have won early and that he (F.R.) had chances to win later on.

Dake - Ruys

San Francisco (simul) 1937

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bf4 a6 8.Nxd6+ Bxd6 9.Bxd6 Bd7 10.e5 Ng8 11.Qg4 g6 12.Ne4 Qa5+ 13.c3 Nxe5 14.Qg5

14.Qf4 Nc6 15.Bc7 Qd5 16.Nd6+ wins- Ruys.

14...Nc6 15.Nf6+ Nxf6 16.Qxf6 Rg8 17.Be2 Qd5 18.Rd1 Qf5 19.Qxf5 gxf5 20.Bf3 0-0-0 21.0-0 e5 22.Bd5 Rg7 23.Rfe1 f6 24.f4 e4 25.Rd2 Re8 26.Re3 Nd8 27.c4 Bc6 28.Bb4 Ne6 29.Bd6 Nc7 30.Bxc7 Kxc7 31.Bxc6 bxc6 32.Rg3 Rxg3 33.hxg3 Rd8

33...e3! 34.Re2 Kd6 35.b4 (35.Kf1 Kc5 36.Re1 a5 37.b3 Kb4 38.Rc1 Ka3 39.Rc2 Rg8) 35...c5 36.a3 Re4  winning - Ruys.

34.Rxd8 Kxd8 35.Kf2 Ke7 36.Ke3 h5 37.c5 a5 38.Kd4 Ke6 39.Kc4 Ke7 40.a3 Kd7 41.Kd4 Ke6 42.a4 e3 43.Kxe3 Kd5 44.Kd3 Kxc5 45.Kc3 Kd5 46.Kd3 Kc5 ½-½


To the Editor, "British Chess Magazine."

Dear Sir, - You and readers of the "B.C.M." have no doubt read about the anonymous donor giving 30,000 dollars to erect an enclosure in New York Central Park to enable chess fans to play regardless of rain and cold. A leading New York newspaper devoted a long column, printing the photo of the "home of chess," and as a clever contrast a peculiar pair, a young negro boy playing an old man whose face somehow indicated that there was nothing else left to him, but chess. Whether it was on purpose or accidental, it conveyed to me the idea of the universality of chess beyond all boundaries, irrespective of countries. I have previously had the opportunity of observing chess-players of all nationalities, when I was taking part in the chess olympics at Prague, 1931, Warsaw, 1935, and Munich, 1936. It was a still greater thrill when I undertook to visit the country of sunshine as California might be called.

I believe for many of us (like myself) California has a unique appeal. To the romantic mind Los Angeles conveys the movie stars with its "Hollywood," which is a district incorporated into the town. The soul of Hollywood chess is Herman Steiner, who runs the Hollywood Chess Club. At the back of his house there is a fine building which accommodates the club. The chess room itself is made spectacular by the photos hanging round the walls. There we see most of the famous actors and actresses photographed "playing chess." Though I may say on good authority that except for Humphrey Bogart none of them excels at the game, but by the expressions on their faces and their posture they convey to the onlooker the "real chess fan." Perhaps chess masters should not only try to learn chess, but learn to act in order to be more successful.

The club is made up of a mixture of all nationalities. I once heard Alistair Cooke say in his "American Commentary" that most of the newcomers to Los Angeles came with the secret idea of settling down in the "movies," but were stranded in all kinds of curious professions. Though he mentioned some peculiar ways of making one's living, he did not mention "chess professional." And if Herman Steiner is called one even by himself, this does not convey the right notion. The work he puts in to keep up the activity of the club, the difficulties that must be overcome to organize mere1y a simultaneous display or a tournament cannot be understood by one who is not familiar with the structure of the city. It is spread out, with inadequate bus service. It is not adequate because it is not a commercial success, since nearly everybody in Los Angeles seems to have a car. I cannot forget the feeling of loneliness when I walked in the street under the blazing sun to find myself by myself, and only the passing cars indicated that the town was not "dead." Because an American, even if he wants to buy a stamp ten yards away, uses his car. But possessing a car is not considered a sign of wealth, and in the evenings the quiet residential district where Steiner lives is swarming with cars.

When I arrived in Los Angeles the County Championship was in progress and I was surprised by the high level of chess, since, like many Europeans, I thought that the Americans have no flair for the game. Their enthusiasm is unbounded. I once overheard Steiner reproaching a player for having turned up late when his opponent had to come 100 miles away. The conquest of distances is here the main problem. I used to think in European distances and only later realized that the State of California is one thousand miles long, just one state and not the biggest one. To organize a tournament or even a simultaneous display means drawing players from a radius of 150 miles. When one considers that one has to keep up a car and a club as well, one will understand that besides being an idealist, one has to be a rich man to be a chess professional in Los Angeles.

Even the smaller towns have chess clubs, and it was in Long Beach, twenty-two miles from Los Angeles, where I gave my first simultaneous exhibition. I was going down with the idea of having a "walk over" but I met with stiff opposition. This small town of 60,000 inhabitants has a fine club. It has a room provided for it by the municipal authorities. This it shares with the draught players.

Women's chess is well represented in Los Angeles. Mrs. Stevenson (formerly Sonja Graf) is here, though not active. Also here is Mrs. Nancy Roos, former Belgian Lady Chess Champion. The most interesting woman player is Mrs. G. Piatigorsky, who is of French extraction. She took up chess only one-and-half years ago and her grasp of the game is great. A pupil of Steiner, she embarrasses one with her questions on intricate opening problems, and I had to study the Richter Attack to be able to answer them. The game below, played in the County Championship, will give a good example of her intrinsic play.

The continuous sunshine deceives one's sense about time, and seasons seem to be non-existent. Except for the falling leaves and the cool evenings, one would hardly perceive that it was winter.

Only a short distance away, 500 miles means a casual trip in America, is San Francisco. The ten-hours' travel on the coast is most impressive, the train winding along its way in the mountains, and forming a semicircle so that one can see the two locomotives and the tail of the train at the same time. On the left the Pacific Ocean glitters. San Francisco itself is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. One may imagine how impressive is an immense one-span bridge painted red, under which ocean-going steamers pass by and in the distance the islands and mountains of California showing up. This is the famous "Golden Gate Bridge." San Francisco is the most cosmopolitan city in the USA, one out of six is said to be foreign born. The largest chess club is situated in the "Mechanics' Institute." (An English idea; it was once established as a king of working men's club, I remember having visited one in Nottingham.) It is one of the oldest if not the oldest chess club in the USA, supposed to have been founded in 1855. Here chess fans battle from 10 a.m. till 10 p.m.-to see twenty to thirty players is not unusual. They run a perpetual tournament with a kind of ladder system, but with an involved point system, to make up for the differences in the player's strength. The main organizers in Northern California are Guthrie McClain, Neil T.Austin, and Dr. H. J. Ralston. The latter is editor of the California Chess Reporter, the official organ of the California State Chess Organization. George Koltanowski has set up an organization of his own called "The Chess Friends of Northern California Inc.," a corporation for promoting chess. in the names of towns like San Jose, Modesto, Sacramento. On Sunday afternoon, going by car to Modesto (about sixty miles from San Francisco), I was able to watch the final of the Central California Chess League matches, where about eighty players participated.

Though there are many chess clubs one curious thing should be mentioned: open air chess. In MacArthur Park, in Los Angeles, and in Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco, there is great chess activity until sunset. Unlike players in New York, they have no enclosure.

I expected to have lots of rain when I arrived in San Francisco but a spell of six weeks sunshine waited for me. They say it is unprecedented in the history of the city. By the time this letter is printed I hope all my English friends, too, will be enjoying sunshine more than it is appreciated here, because in England they do not take it for granted.

Best regards to all my chess friends in England and to you.

Yours truly, Imre König.

April 1953