A History of the Kenilworth Chess Club

by Michael David Wojcio

1972-1980 | 1980-1990 | The Club Championship | Exhibitions | The Future


Service to the Club

When I was president our policy was free membership for that year to those who did a lot of extra work for the club. Vinnie Smith, who was the true founder of our club in 1972 and who kept us going during those early years with many tournaments and matches, and Irving Ellner, who kept the club going with me between 1979 and 1989, had free memberships. Without Irving coming from the Elizabeth Club our club could have fallen apart. Irving did such a wonderful job and he was truly a major player in keeping the club going in that decade. Scott Massey, Richard Lewis, and myself also were given free memberships. Scott did a lot for our club by donating his money after a lecture and simulanteous exhibitions. In my opinion, Scott was also one of the reasons why the Kenilworth Chess Club was a successful club through the 90s and into today. Richard Lewis donated his money too and he brought in new members here like Yaacov Norowitz. Yaacov played as a junior at our club and we all knew that he would be an outstanding player some day. Yaacov is a master now living in South Jersey. He might have played more games on the Internet than anyone in the USA. Yaacov has played more than 50,000 competitive games and that number is still going up. He also brought some juniors like Sriranga Dattatreya who sometimes could come and play (when he didn’t have school work). Scott brought juniors like Kazuyuki Saegusa and Steve Soris. Kaz became an expert but has moved away from the club. He always wanted to be a professional football player and play for the Jets, but I found out that his real potential might be golf. Kaz is in his early 20’s and while visiting him and his parents in San Franciso I played golf with him and he can hit the ball 300 yards!

In the 90’s Conrad Salvador did well in the under 1400 section of some of our tournaments. He occasionally played in some of our Simulaneous Exhibitions. Conrad died suddenly in the late 1990’s and his wife donated all of his chess books to the club. We used them as awards in many of our tournaments and simuls. Everyone contributed and now Mike Goeller is putting us on the Internet and is bringing many new innovations including Fritz to the club to analyze games. The creative innovations that people like Howard Osterman started bringing to our tournaments in the 1990’s. Also to Scott again for helping buy more tables for the club and bringing them to Kenilworth with me. Finally to Ed Selling who fixed many of our clocks. Ed is a "Mr. Fix It" like Bob and Scott. As far as my own contributions go I did like the Kenilworth Kibitzer and all the simultaneous exhibitons that I organized. If everyone does their part, it not only helps things run more smoothly but helps build a sense of community at the club.

Keeping the Fun in Chess

I have always tried my best to contribute to the club, but the thing I’m most proud of contributing was fun events. On several occasions we tried the major/minor tournaments where you would only play with your pawns, kings, knights and bishops (minor game) and the other game with only your pawns, kings and queen and rooks (major). Though this tournament never gained any popularity, I stuck with it once a year for about five years before giving it up. In my opinion, it does have some value, since it can bring you into many endgame situations you may not normally experience.

I also brought the handicapped partner tournament. I hope it continues once a year during the holiday months. They started the same kind of event in a few other chess clubs around the USA, but I really believe it might have started at the Kenilworth Chess Club in Kenilworth, New Jersey. The rules are that you pick a partner and alternate moves, but you cannot tell him where to move. You can talk about the clock, since it is a five-minute tournament and you can say “Watch Out” before he moves if there is some immediate danger (such as mate or a piece hanging), but that’s about it. The hardest thing is moving when it is your turn. However, I always enjoyed that fun Handicapped Partner Tournament every year. There was also the Bug House Championship where usually Greg Tomkovich and Bob Sherry won. We even used to play bullet tournaments where each player would get one minute on their clocks. The strongest players in bullet chess where usually Greg Tomkovich and National Master Scott Massey.

I have three ideas for making chess popular, and I’ve mentioned these things through the years at the Club:

1) In my opinion, chess clubs throughout the US should have very low membership rates. Therefore the members could have more money to play in more of the events at their club and other tournaments. In the mid-1990’s the membership went up to $10.00 and now it is $15.00. Hopefully, it won’t go up anymore. As they have found in the U.S.C.F., when you raise the rates the number of paying members drops and overall involvement drops as well.

2) Chess could be made more popular on TV. Everyone has been saying that since the famous Shelby Lyman televised matches of Fischer vs. Spassky in 1972. Today, the way to do it on a major TV station is via Bullet Chess. One-minute each Bullet Chess would in my opinion make it work. It could be a ½ hour show and two good players or several players would play a match. Every so often rules and moves and strategy and tactics could be explained to the audience. Audiences want fast action and they wouldn’t be bored. I really believe this would work since it would amaze audiences (including myself) how fast and sometimes accurately humans can play the game. Jeopardy ratings have shot up for TV, since Ken Jennings came on the scene after they lifted the 5-day limit. He won 74 days in a row which stretched out for many months. Bullet Chess could give us action. People love hockey and football because of the action. We could set up Bullet Chess and maybe have the winner stay for the nest opponents challenge. If the money were right, maybe Gary Kasparov would come out of retirement. This ultimate speed chess on a major TV station would in my opinion make chess more popular.

3) The third point I mentioned to several people and even to GM Arthur Bisguier. It's to add one rule to chess: that Pawns could move backwards one square at a turn. Never to the first rank, but as much as all the way back to their original ranks (if necessary). Chess is a game modeled on warfare, and the pawns should be able to retreat just like infantry men sometimes have to retreat in battle. At the very least, we should give this a try as a Chess Variant and see how it works. Who knows, it might help to reinvigorate chess by making a lot of opening theory invalid.


History in the Making

In writing this history and dwelling upon the past, I began to wonder if all of the best times were in the past. But then this year's club championship reminded me that there will be many more things to come. After all, I was able to beat FM Steve Stoyko in our game and was the only person to beat or draw him on his way to the championship. That's worth remembering for me.


Pirc DefenseB07

Mike Wojcio
Steve Stoyko

2005 Kenilworth Chess Club Championship (2)
Kenilworth, NJ, 2005

1. e4 d6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nd2 Nc6 4. Ngf3 e5!? 5. c3 Bg4 6. dxe5 dxe5 7. Be2 Bc5!? 8. O-O O-O 9. h3 Bxf3! 10. Bxf3[] a5! 11. Nc4 Qe7 12. Bg5 h6 13. Bxf6 Qxf6 14. Qe2 b5 15. Ne3 Bxe3! 16. Qxe3 b4 17. Rfd1 Rfd8 18. Be2 bxc3 19. bxc3 Rxd1+ 20. Rxd1 Rd8 21. Qc5! Rxd1+ 22. Bxd1 Qd6!? 23. Qxd6 cxd6 24. Kf1 Nd8! 25. Ke2 Ne6 26. g3? 26. Bb3 Nf4+ 27. Kf3 g5~~ 26... Nc5? 26... Ng5!-/+ 27. f3 Kf8 28. Kd2 Ke7 29. Bb3! f6 30. Bd5 I offered a draw at this point, but Steve declined. 30... Kd7 31. h4 Kc7 32. Bf7 Kb6 33. Be8 Na6 34. Kd3 Kc5 35. Bf7 Nc7 36. Bg8 g5 37. hxg5 fxg5!? 38. Bf7 Nb5 39. g4 Nc7 40. Bg8 Ne8 41. Bf7 Nf6 42. Kc2 Kb6 43. Kb2 Kb5 44. Kb3 a4+? Creating a weakness that White later exploits. 45. Kc2 Ka5 46. Kb2 Nd7 47. Kc2 Nc5 48. Bg8 Nd7 49. Bf7 Nb6 50. Kd3 Kb5 51. Bg8 Kc6 52. Bf7 Kc7 53. Bg8 Kd7? 54. Bf7 Ke7? 55. Bg8 55. Bc4! 55... Kf6? 56. Bc4! Kg6 56... Nxc4?? 57. Kxc4+- 57. Bb5-+ White is now winning. 57... Kf6 58. c4! Making way for the King to get to the dark squares. 58... Ke7 59. Kc3 Kd8 60. Kb4 the a-pawn was doomed as soon as the Bishop got behind it. Now it is lost, as is the game. 60... Kc7 61. Bxa4 Nc8 62. Be8 Ne7 63. a4 Ng8 64. a5 Nf6 65. Bf7 Nd7 66. Kb5! Kb7 Black cannot go after the f-pawn with 66... Nc5?! 67. Bd5 Nd3 68. a6 and the pawn cannot be stopped. 67. a6+ Ka7 68. Kc6! Nc5 69. Kxd6! Nxa6 70. c5 Kb8 71. c6 Kc8 72. Bd5 Kd8 73. Kxe5 Ke7 74. Kf5 Kd6 75. Kg6 Ke5 76. Kxh6 Kf4 77. Kg6 Nc7 78. Kf6 Ne8+ 79. Ke7 and Black resigned. 1-0 [Mike Wojcio]



Thanks for the Friendships...

I want to sincerely thank Vinny Smith, Irving Ellner, Scott Massey, and Richard Lewis for their many contributions to this club throughout the years. Writing this history reminds me of all that they have done, and I hope it helps to memorialize their hard work. I also want to thank Richard Falcetano, who was an officer and started the club championship back in 1991, and Bill Cohen, who directed many tournaments with me at the club--including some on Saturdays. Bill did a fine job announcing the winners of each trophy and was good at adding some anecdotes during the presentations.

Greg Tomkovich, who was our president for two years and continued the Kenilworth Kibitzer, also deserves recognition. Greg organized many rated tournaments, 5-minute events and lectures, and simultaneous exhibitons. Former president Bob Pelican was also a great organizer.

The Club's direction now is very positive. Current president Mike Stallings is doing a good job. Member Bill Sokolosky’s idea of making teams at this year's U.S. Amateur Teams with the Kenilworth Club name is to be applauded. Joe Demetrick has started to make some important contributions like arranging matches with the West Orange Chess Club. Thank God he was able to get out of the Twin Towers alive September 11, 2001! Mike Goeller’s use of Fritz and putting us in "cyberspace" is great. Masters Scott Massey, Steve Stoyko (who recently joined again after about 25 years away), and Mark Kernigham have taught us all a lot--especially over the board! And members Geoff McAuliffe, Bob Pelican, Pat Mazzillo, Ed Selling, Howard Osterman, Tedd Mann, Ziggy Bliznikas, Pete Cavaliere, Pete Flisak, Sy Fish, Glen Hart, Leon Hrebinka, Ari Minkov, Jeff Olson, Bob Sherry, Caesar Sorto, Andy Wolman, Ray Massey, and yours truly make a fun and social atmosphere for our club.

We’ve had three anniversary parties celebrating the 20th, 25th, and 30th years of our club. See you at the 35th in 2007. Incidentally, that will be the 100th anniversary of the town of Kenilworth, New Jersey. Here is the picture from the 25th a decade ago. We have lost several of the people pictured here, including Manfred Kramer (in red, left of center). Click the photo to enlarge.

The club in 1997 for the 25th reunion photo. (Left to Right) Scott Massey, James Falcetano, Ray Massey, Richard Falcetano, Manfred Kramer, Greg Tomkovich, Dennis Perry, Mike Wojcio (rear), George Zayat, Joe Walyus, Andy Wolman, Frank Lamantino, Sy Fish, Barry Jaffe, Mark Shoengold, Bill Cohen, Pat Mazzillo, and Irving Ellner.

Bob Hope once said.... "thanks for the memories."  I would like to say that chess told me...."thanks for the friendships."

Friendships and knowledge are more important than winning.  Chess helps kids learn a plethora of educational skills, since it relates to history, geography, memory, spatial relations, theory versus practice, and good sportsmanship. It also gives them an opportunity to meet and talk to people of all generations and all nationalities. Where else do you find young kids so ready to talk with old timers? Chess can bridge the gap between all people. The former World Champion from Holland Max Euwe (1901-1981) once said, "Whoever sees no aim in the game than that of giving checkmate to one's opponent will never become a good chess player."  For many years I put up this quote next to our four boards when the "Chessaholics" played in the US Amateur Team.  I have met many people through chess and have always liked best those who lived according to that maxim.

Here is the honor roll to those members who have passed on from the Kenilworth Chess Club in Kenilworth, New Jersey. May they make all the right moves in Heaven.

  • Vinnie Smith
  • Ed Hoag
  • Joe Laskowski
  • Manfred Kramer
  • Conrad Salvador
  • Joe Waln


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Updated June 08, 2005