Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Ongoing Tragedy of New York Chess

New York City is the richest city in the world. It's also, I think, the strongest single chess city in the world, too - home to grandmasters and international masters from all over the world. Paul Morphy made his shining debut there in 1857. Steinitz, Lasker and Capablanca all lived in New York for part of their lives. It was home to Frank Marshall, Sammy Reshevsky and of course, Bobby Fischer.

Further, New York chess wasn't just about the people; it was about the institutions as well. There's the Marshall Chess Club, the Manhattan Chess Club, the New York Open, the New York Masters, and the list goes on and on.

Yet while money and talent remain in abundance in the Big Apple, the institutions have not. Jose Cuchi's great series of New York Open tournaments ceased in the late 90s, the venerable Manhattan Chess Club closed its doors in 2002, and now the New York Masters is gone, too.

The New York Masters was a weekly rapid event open to players with ratings of 2200 and above (with some minor allowances for juniors), and from its onset in 2002 until its cessation a couple of weeks ago, it was an important part of the American chess calendar. Titled players from Central America, Africa, Europe and Asia all participated in this event, to say nothing of players from around the U.S. and of course New York. It offered GMs a chance to get in some practice between larger events and make some money, and it offered the rest of us a chance to play the GMs.

The event had plenty of sponsors, was generally pretty well-attended both at the top end (there were usually about 4 GMs each week) and, most encouragingly, at the lower end by hungry young players making their brisk climb up the ladder. It had a well-established site (the Marshall Chess Club every Tuesday evening), a web presence (not just its own web site but very well-attended live broadcasts on the Internet Chess Club), and was such a good idea that it has since found imitators in Los Angeles and elsewhere.

So what happened? Why did it stop? As far as I can tell, there were no scandals, no problems with sponsors or the Marshall club - nothing unseemly or otherwise untoward. Rather, the two individuals (John Fernandez and IM Greg Shahade) who both originated the event and kept it alive every week decided to move on to other projects.

I certainly can't blame them. American chess in general and especially the New York chess community owes them both a real debt of gratitude. Both John and Greg spent a great deal of their time every week making it happen, and without collecting a cent in return, as far as I'm aware.

Let's do better than owe a debt of gratitude, however. I spoke to John for a few minutes earlier tonight, and as far as he knows, the sponsors would still be on board if the series was somehow to continue, and I'm sure chess players and internet spectators would gladly resume their Tuesday night participation as well. What's needed is for someone in New York to step up to the plate and make it happen.

If you live in that area, can afford to give a few hours of your time each week in support of a great chess tradition - one which has helped foster the development of some very talented American juniors over the past three years - then I hope you'll consider doing your part to get the New York Masters back up and running. (Those who are interested can leave comments here and/or utilize the contact information on the New York Masters web site.) And more generally, the moral for all of us is to support our local chess clubs!


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