Thursday, June 09, 2005

A History of the Kenilworth Chess Club

I finally posted "A History of the Kenilworth Chess Club" by former president Mike Wojcio at our site. It is linked off of the Articles page. This may be the best work I've put up so far, and certainly the most difficult to prepare. Mike says that writing the article was like having a second job for a month. I can say that editing it, finding and editing photos, and preparing the game files for display has been the same for me. I think we're both glad that we were able to put it together before memories have faded and materials gone lost, and the final product makes it all worthwhile.

These local histories of chess generally go unwritten, yet they can be valuable not only as the "heritage" for specific communities but as social artifacts that can lend detail to other histories. For example, what Mike writes about the rise and decline of the club through the 70s and 80s says a lot about how Bobby Fischer both positively and negatively impacted chess involvement in the U.S. I look at pieces like "A History of the National High School Chess Championship" by Steve Immitt and I'm glad that somebody took the time to write this down and make it widely available. I'm not sure how it will be useful to us in the future (except perhaps as nostalgia for the participants or facts to compare future championships against), but I sense that it has value. At the very least it "adds to the total sum of shared knowledge," as John S. Hilbert writes. It makes us, as either historians or readers, feel part of something larger than ourselves because we recognize a connection to the past in these stories.

I really enjoy putting together online chess history materials, since it seems to bring together all of my skills at researching, writing, and analyzing. I'm especially proud of my mini-site devoted to The Dimock Theme Tournament, New York 1924, which I prepared as part of my Urusov Gambit website. I have been contemplating similar projects and may also undertake a piece on the tournament held at Lake Hopatcong, NJ in 1926 in anticipation of its 80th anniversary. I have a xerox copy of the original tournament book and have found that most of the games still are not in the databases. But I was disappointed to learn that the exact site where it was held no longer exists. I have also contemplated putting together the games from other classic Theme Tournaments held at the Marshall Chess Club during the Marshall years, but my initial research suggests that none were as good as the 1924 event which I've already done.

I like the classic theme tournaments because it's history you can potentially still use as a player, since sometimes the opening knowledge from these lost events adds significantly to theory. For instance, the lost game Torre-Santasiere, Dimock Theme Tournament 1924, which I unearthed in my research, had a big impact on my thinking about this important line in the Urusov. And games played in the tournament also showed that a line of the Perreux Two Knights long thought better for White is probably roughly equal, but because these games were missing from the databases no one really knew it....

So I'm glad to have this project finished, but it does make me hungry for a new one. I'll keep you posted if I find it.

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