Highest Level with Modest Participation
Report by Michael Negele on the San Francisco Meeting 2009 (05/01/2010)
A Personal Experience Report of an "Old" European from the "Wide West" of the USA
I was immediately enthused when at the excellently attended KWA meeting in New York in September 2007 the suggestion was accepted to meet in the fine rooms of the Mechanics’ Institute at San Francisco in autumn 2009. Though it would not be new territory for me as in July 2004 on a business trip to Berkeley (CA) I had already had the chance to visit the chess club there together with my friends Andy Ansel and John Donaldson. [See On the Gold Rush's track.]
But nobody could suspect that after the fine meeting at Dresden 2008 where our future host had cordially invited us (>> Dresden 2008) a worldwide banking crisis would shake even the committed chess collectors.
So the lecture program from Friday, 9 October to Sunday, 11 October, prepared by John, our chairman (and former sunny state boy) Andy and other Californian members like Kerry Lawless and Yakov Zusmanovich, sounded very promising and – with the potential participation of GM Ian Rogers from Australia – of high quality.
But unfortunately there was a volley of refusals from Europe, moreover an Oracle event taking place simultaneously from Monday onwards boosted the hotel prices to prohibitive amounts at that weekend which also unfavorably influenced the interest in the USA.
Unperturbed by all bad news from stock markets and banks (and by additional job-related duties) I arranged for my participation.
The booking of a favorable BA flight via Düsseldorf and London was quickly done, the so accepted "Coach Class" a sacrifice to the "collector’s budget".
Finally I can only say: It was a convenient flight with an astonishing good service, only a little boring ...
On Thursday afternoon (for me of course 1 am) I was received at the SFO with a short delay by my friend and local organizer John Donaldson who in the meantime had also picked up Jurgen Stigter - flown in from Amsterdam but coming from Delaware, i.e. Dale Brandreth with plenty of luggage.
By the - due to the last visit familiar - BART (Bay Area Rapid Transport) we went to Powell Station in Downtown SF where Jurgen and I – after a lengthy consultancy with John via e-mail – had found accommodation in the Handlery Union Square Hotel. (Scan on the right, click to enlarge.)
Super centrally located, for me the first stay "at the heart" of one of the most beautiful cities of the world.
That it was then too "lively" overnight from Friday to Saturday which gave cause for a complaint, was exemplarily dealt with as well, just "US customer service like": the last night was for 80 US$ less without grumbling, my room mate – blessed with a better sleep at night (as jet lag-free) – was mighty happy about that, for me the morning session of our KWA meeting was very "exhausting" as some pictures will show.
There was still nothing to notice about all that at Thursday night as after a nice dinner with John and Jurgen I could anyway only fall asleep after a day of 28 hours.
Then on Friday morning in great defogged weather the intended tour with Jurgen:
Through Chinatown and Little Italy to Coit Tower where in bright weather it was indispensable to record incomparable views of the Bay (and naturally of the former jail island of Alcatraz) as well as of the city with the dominating Transamerica Pyramid.
This web site (in German only) informs about the origins of the Coit Tower.
In addition a gallery with own snapshots (10 photos).
Then onwards via Telegraph Hill along the whole Lombard Street – just typical "Streets of San Francisco" with an enjoyable morning break at an artist café. Across the "flower hill", the famous section of Lombard Street, then across Russian Hill down to Fisherman's Wharf.
From there the obligatory Cable Car tour back to Union Square, of course standing "undaunted by death" outside on the footboard.
Refreshment in the artist café –
on the right Jurgen Stigter flanked by two "Neanderthals"
(Click on pictures to enlarge)
The following gallery offers further (25) photos of San Francisco.
Actually that would already do for two days, but at 3 pm we had an appointment with John at the Mechanics’ Institute where soon afterwards Andy Ansel and other US participants joined us.
Further pictures of the Mechanics’ Institute are waiting for you in this gallery (with 25 photos).
After a short tour of the chess club rooms we started out to Chinatown for dinner, afterwards Jurgen and I could – in company of Kerry Lawless – have a look at some "night life" in downtown. That the sleep was finally suboptimal – see above ...
However on Saturday morning I was quite astonished what an interesting group of participants had come about.
Indeed the participation of members was far below the numbers of NYC and Dresden, even still lower than at the comparably unfavorable KWA annual meeting 2006 at La Tour-de-Peiltz on Lake Geneva. But to my surprise Myron Samsin from Ottawa was present, with whom we discussed the book projects of the KWA.
Moreover the CA boys Kerry, John and Yakov as well as Andy Ansel. Unfortunately Phil McCready from Seattle had to cancel at short notice because of a family matter, hence his lecture on Nikolai Minew (and self publication of chess books) was omitted. Lawrence Totaro from Las Vegas was missed as well, from the East Coast not a single chess friend came apart from Andy Ansel.
Nevertheless there were numerous illustrious guests, such as Ian and Cathy Rogers who had made a stopover in San Francisco on their way back from China to Australia. On Sunday Ian had still given a training for the youth of the MI chess club. Besides IM Dr Anthony Saidy from LA who could tell a lot about Bobby Fischer and the US chess scene of the sixties to the eighties. Then the legendary but quite silent IM Walter Shipman, the Morphy book author Frisco Del Rosario and Robert Moore (formerly Anchorage, Alaska) who presented to the participants his nice elaboration on "Alaska’s First Chess Champion", William Andrews Dickey (*20/10/1862 in Manchester, †Dec. 1939 in Seattle). A particular specialty as you will search in vain for W.A. Dickey in the "Gaige" volume.
We link an online contribution about the U.S. Senior Open 2007 with some information on Walter Shipman.
The young Andrew Smith (photo right) recorded the complete event by means of the latest technology, an appealing contrast to Richard Shorman (picture below) who shot his photos in the conventional way, printed them on the spot and delighted the participants with them. Very original. (According to Andy: Long-time columnist for the Hayward paper and fixture in the SF Bay Area chess scene.)
More about Richard Shorman at www.norcalchess.org/.
In addition: Richard Shorman Lectures at ChessDryad.Com.
The program of Saturday was so intensive that I had to postpone my presentation of the Lasker project to Sunday morning.
Saturday, 10 October
Tour of Mechanics' Chess Club and Library by IM John Donaldson.
Opening of the KWA meeting by Andy Ansel.
11.30 am – 12.45 pm
Major lecture by GM Ian Rogers on Cecil Purdy (a brilliant entertaining talk on Purdy’s life which was totally devoted to chess. Presented very perceptively and very comprehensibly, a real highlight for the KWA. There were numerous questions and discussions.)
Lunch at Taylor's Automat (hamburger restaurant at the piers).
Yakov Zusmanovich’s talk on Feodor Bohatirchuk (most interesting due to the many original documents shown, but maybe a little too copious. Yakov is just very enthusiastic about this partly also political project.)
Talk by IM Anthony Saidy about "My battles with Fischer" (Naturally very diverting and funny. There were many questions, unfortunately Tony Saidy didn’t join us in the evening.)
From 5.30 pm by BART to Berkeley.
7.00 pm Dinner in Udupi Palace (Indian restaurant).
Sunday, 11 October
Book market (Turned out to be a more disappointing affair as scarcely anything was offered. At least I found some customers, so I lost a little "weight". But that was more than once overcompensated by the books I received from the MI offered for sale ...)
Talk by the world's soon to be youngest author, 13-year-old FM Daniel Naroditsky (publisher New in Chess).
(A really memorable presentation as the father of the boy was naturally present as well, and he extensively paid attention to the favorable impression. For me it was rather unreal that a youngster reflects so earnestly in public on chess and his career as an author.)
11.30 am – 12.15 pm
As already mentioned, the intended talk by Phil McCready on Nikolay Minev and self publishing had to be cancelled.
Instead my (usual) Lasker presentation which was well received.
Then due to lack of time: perhaps too short appreciated the nice compilation of Kerry Lawless, quite a few were already "on tenterhooks" for departure.
Talk by Kerry Lawless on
Chessdryad.com and California Periodicals.
In "time-trouble" the contribution of IM John Donaldson about the longest running regional periodical in the world (Northwest Chess 1947 to the present) had also to be cancelled.
Thereafter time was short for the closing comments of Andy who appeared a little disappointed about the humble participation (both US and Europe). It remains to be seen if a majority will argue again for a 2011 event in the USA (Cleveland). Perhaps the interview with Lissa Waite is an opportunity to promote it a little.
After the rapid closing of the session I had the logistic problem to return to the airport with three pieces of luggage (and two hands), without arranging for a horrendous expensive taxi. It worked out and I could make another dream come true:
To drive by rental car in a southward direction along the world’s dream-road, California Highway No. 1 from Monterey (Carmel) via Big Sur to Sanct Simeon (and Hearst Castle). But this is a different story completely faraway from chess.