MCC History / Raw Transcripts of Interviews (all conducted from Feb 2003 – April 2003)
Interviewer: Fred Harvey
Transcription: Mary Murphy / Harvey Reed
Copy Editor: Fred Harvey
Hi Jack, this is
Fred Harvey, we are trying to piece together a history of the club.
Harvey tells me that you were right in at the beginning of the club. He has 8
questions that I am supposed to ask you, and just about anybody else that you
can lead me too.
1. When did you start playing chess?
Hmmm, rated chess,
or chess, chess?
There are three
parts to this question: when or where did you start playing chess and at a
regular club and if so which one.
I started playing
chess when I was in high school which was about 35 years ago. I played in
a league, and I grew up in Weymouth. We played teams; we played in Framingham,
or Wellesley, and that area. We played in a couple of scholastic tournaments in
the late 60’s and the 70’s. This was all before the Fischer boom.
The Fischer boom,
before Fischer made it into the world championship. It was pretty different,
there was not much rated chess. Except for the New England Open, any rated
chess tournament was played in Boston, the Boylston street club. There was
no chess tournaments and chess clubs in the area.
I did see Bobby Fischer in ’54 when I was 12, when I was in Pittsburgh. There was a club there but that was far away. Then I went to college.
But the Boylston
Club was the only club in the area. It goes way back doesn’t it.
Yeah, that was it;
it goes back about 100 years. It has been in different sites. It has been
around for at least 100 years.
The next question is
when and why did you start playing at chess club. I don’t understand the “why”
part. Why don’t we deal with when. When did you start to play at the Framingham
I started playing
about a year and a half after the club had started. I had been an organizer and
also an officer at the Sudbury club, which started in 1973.
So, the Sudbury club
predated this one (Framingham / MetroWest)
Sudbury predates this club. There was a chess studio started in 1973 right after Bobby Fischer. Some guy by the name of Mike Hesser started the chess studio. I played there in the summer when I was home from school. After about a year the club ended because the boom subsided. Yet, he donated the tables to the Sudbury chess club, which was right across the street from the Sudbury library.
And when I came home
from college, that chess club was about 6 months old, and that club ran until
1982. I would say about 40 percent of it’s members go to the MetroWest club
now. I would say they have about 25 members. They lost the site due to
Proposition 2 ½. They started putting local tax on everything, so they lost
I was telling Harvey, when Warren Pinches first started the club in June of 1983, eight to ten of the original members were from the Sudbury club. That was the start of the Framingham chess club.
That was June of
1983 that would be the MetroWest.
It actually was the
start of the Framingham chess club. Of course, the first couple of months they
only had about 20 to 25 people. The Sudbury club had basically ceased function
about 6 months earlier maybe at the end of 82 or the beginning of 83. So there
were still some people at the club. Still a good bit, maybe 30 to 40 percent of
the people from the Sudbury club showed up. People still played. People
like Menno Koning and Bill Michaels played, and Bill Michael’s father Sidney. Sid
played in the Natick and Framingham chess club. He was well into his nineties.
He recently passed away.
And there were some other players.
Fred: Let me jot down that name, I know Koning.
Jack: I was telling Harvey, the reason the Framingham club subsided, and it was a good organization. One of the reasons it took off was because right after the Fischer boom there was a lot of interest in chess. After the Fischer boom a lot interest in chess, disappeared around the country and around the region. Before Fischer the USCF only had about 12,000 members, after Fischer their membership jumped to over 50,000.
So, within a year or two the USCF membership grew by about 5times.
Fischer himself disappeared.
Yes, he disappeared.
When Fischer was champion there were chess studios, and clubs. There was one in
Sudbury and one in Ashland, they only lasted a year or two after 1972. There
was the Sudbury chess club, and also there was the Framingham Four [Square 64]
club. I think Mark Kaprielian was actually a member of that club. That was about
in 77. When that chess club shut down they all moved to a chess club run by
Carl Garfield who lived in Natick. . He ran a chess club out of his house on Saturdays.
That club ran for about 6, 7, 8 or 9 years.
So the interest was kind of high. So, when Warren Pinches started the club and called there were still people who were interested in the club and had been playing for over 10 years, going back to 1972. I think that kind of helped keep the club going.
I was busy and I was actually living in Boston, when the Framingham chess club started in 1983. But, I did finally start playing about a year and a half later in 1985.
And have you been
playing continuous in clubs, or played just sporadically?
No, I did not play
between 1991 and 2000. I did not play. I basically took eight years off because
it was just too much; between family and work, and travel. I was out of the
area for a while. And I did not play.
But in 1985 thru 1990 I was playing. I know that for about 2or 3 years I was President of the Framingham chess club. And Warren was program director, Warren Pinches. And when Warren got out in 1988, Warren stopped participating in everyday activities at the club. He was still doing work for the club, yet every once in a while. He was no longer involved in the running of the club. I was involved for a couple of years.
Then I left, it was taken over by Tom Powers, and Bill McAllister. They did a good job. And they kept it going, one way or another and the rent kept going up. So they would move, and every time you would move you would lose membership. And Tommy Markim(?) got involved.
In the 80’s, I would say it is about 70 percent of the size that the club is now. The club is getting very big now. It may have up to 80 people now.
Are you going to be
playing there regularly?
Yes, well no. I have
problems on Tuesdays. I have played there regularly for about two or three
years, but not well, I know. Tuesdays tends to be a bad day for me. It tends to
be a really long workday. I work in Rhode Island. If I can get back
and take a nap, then I can play. If I can’t, then I won’t. Sometimes,
I play anyway, so it looks like I am half asleep. My play is not very good.
Harvey wants to
know; why did you start to play here? I would guess that the answer to that is
because it is the only game in town.
Well, I do like
chess clubs. In the 70’s besides being involved in the Sudbury chess club, I
also was involved in the Waltham chess club. Well the Boylston chess club the
first club that started weeknight rated play, with a Thursday night Swiss. They
started that in 1973. The Sudbury chess club also had weeknight rated chess.
That was around 1973 and 1974, and that was an unusual thing. Now, it has
become regularly common.
Is there any
interesting events that you remember, any stand outs?
Well, I will try to
remember - Pinches, this is kind of funny, he would always try to keep
5or 6 nights a year for special events. If there were five weeks, he would try
to have something special. He did have a Spassky simul in the 80’s. And
Paul did something like that in the Framingham club. And Susan Polger had a
simul. He would do chess movies. He had old films about chess. We would
also do classes, or simuls, lecture nights, or teaching nights. With the
exception of the simuls, it generally would not draw very well. I mean if
we had 40 people for a tournament, the teaching night would only draw about 60
percent or maybe only 30 percent. That was his idea to try to make it not
just a tournament but try to make it more of a playing site.
I know that Harvey is pleased that Howard Goldowsky is using the Thursday night for end game book courses. He likes the study sessions that Chamberlain runs from 6:30 to 7pm. Because it extends it beyond just a running tournament but makes it more of a club. And of course certainly all the work that Mark has done on the web site, makes it more of a club.
That was always Warren’s intention to make it not just a tournament site, but also a club. It is difficult because the tournament thing is so popular. It is a chance for people that don’t have a lot of time on the weekends to play rated chess. It is hard to get away from that.
Who are the key
people that you can remember, the ones that kept things going?
Jack: Let’s see, certainly, Tom Powers, who is still a member. Also, Bill McAllister became treasurer in 1988. He still lives in Framingham. He actually played at the club. I saw him at the club last year. Bill did a very good job. He is the one that took a look at finances. He put it all into an accounting database. And I think, without Bill, I don’t think the club would have survived long enough until Mark came along. Mark was able to get involved and do the web site, and find the good site in Natick. Bill was able to keep it alive as the Legion raised the rent. Bill was able to do some fiscal management.
I left for California in 1990, or 1993, I think the club would have lapsed without Bill.
And he is still in
Yes, he is still in
I will have to look
him up. Is there anybody else you can think of?
Well, certainly Tom,
could tell you about that era.
I know Donna Alarie.
It went from myself, to Tom Zuppa. At the time Tom Zuppa worked for the
MetroWest News, back then it was called the Middlesex News. Tom would write a
column every Sunday, a chess column.
Z u p p a
Z u p p a
Is he still around?
I think Tom works
for the Lowell sun now. He lives in the Billerica area. Actually Tom was
awarded a lifetime membership at the club. I need to tell this to Tom. I know
there were three people, two in 1990 that were awarded lifetime memberships at
the MetroWest chess club or Framingham chess club. Tom Zuppa, John
Curdo, and oddly enough, Mark Bond. You don’t know Mark Bond is.
Well, if there was
no Mark Bond, there would be no chess club. The reason I say that is that
Mark Bond was Warren Pinches’ boss.
B o n d
B o n d, He was
Mark Bond lived in
the Framingham area. Mark wanted to get back into chess. Warren was a very good
organizer. Warren lived in Boston. Warren said, “Well I have always
wanted to get back into chess…” So, Warren is the one that started the
chess club, so his boss could play chess, again. I don’t think that his boss
showed up after the first 6 months. I think his boss got another job. He
got transferred out of the area. His boss was not after 83.
That is the story. In essence the Stanley Crowe Memorial used to be called the Mark Bond Tournament. It was an inside joke, because there was no Mark Bond at the chess club.
And Warren Pinches
still around, where could I find him.
Well, I think Harvey
could give you his number, his wife is in Stoughton.
Warren was very good
in terms of organization. For the first two or three years when I started
helping, he would get there at 5:30 spending an hour and half setting things
up. He was the one who started the library, posting world events, and things
about dues on the boards.
This was what year?
Jack: 1983, 1984, 85. I started helping in 1986. Warren also helped by setting up membership databases. He did all kinds of things. Under Warren, it really helped, there was a whole transition where he left the club and I came into the club, and I left, and a new person would come in, at least there was a strong foundation to keep it going. This way when one key figure left, it did not completely collapse.
It sounds like we
were very fortunate because there was always somebody to pick up the slack,
rather than nobody there to just let it drop.
certainly, what Mark did was truly extraordinary getting the web site up. That
is great, but sometimes it is important to have somebody there that helps you
get by from year to year. And if someone comes along with a good idea
that works, that is why I mentioned Bill McAllister, and Tom Powers. What
Warren had done was create enough infrastructures to keep it together. It
became a very hard chess club to kill.
I mean, I know, I think that back in 1985 the rent was 15 to20 a night, then it went up to 30 dollars a night, then it went up to 35, then to 50 , and then when I left, it was going up to 75 dollars and then it went up to 100 at the old American Legion. It just broke the chess club and they eventually had to leave. They at least had enough of a membership to move. Anytime you move you lose at least 30 percent of your membership. I don’t care if you move from a dump to the Taj Mahal, you are going to lose about 30 percent of your membership. If you move you lose some of your membership. They had to move a couple of times because of rent. They took some hits; at least the club was good enough.
It looks like we
have never been stronger.
No, no, never.
I think in 1990 I promoted the heck out of one tournament. We hit the 60’s. That was, the old record, I think was 63 people in 1990. Generally tournaments would be in the 40’sor 50’s. We hit 60 or 61, that was that one time. Now, we always hit at least 60, sometime 70, or even 80.
Jack: Certainly, this is good. Mark’s thing, Mark’s best thing is the web site. People come in, and hear about the club from the web site.
Right, and it is a
good web site.
Twenty years ago, of
course, when there was no internet, Tom Zuppa’s column was working because Tom
used to write about it every week. Every week, Tom would write about games from
the chess club. Warren would run beginners tournaments. One weekend a
month, people would go in, and of course that would be highlighted in Tom
Zuppa’s column. This would bring in two or three new people a month. This was
very important in getting new people into the club, people who had heard about
the club from Tom’s column. This was very important in bring in new people
twenty years ago. Now, we get new people from the web site.
Yes. Well Jack, I
really appreciate this, is it okay if I call you back about this? You have
giving me plenty of jumping off points. I will try to get in touch with Bill.
And of course Tom, I will see at the club.
Sure, talk to Menno
about Carl Garfield. Carl used to run a club from the basement of his
house; it was right off of Rt. 135. I never played at his house, yet I
know Menno used to play at his club, and John Chamberlain played. John was
still in high school when he used to play at this club. Bill Michaels
used to play at that club. Jeff Gibson played at the club. There are a
bunch of people who still play at the club who used to play at this club, not
far from where the present site is.
It is kind of interesting I think this a decendent of the Square 64 Fischer club that rose and shut down within one year back in the ‘72 & ‘73. But one guy said, what the heck do you still want to play we can play in my house on Saturday mornings. I guess we have been pretty fortunate; this is a pretty good area.
Yes, very fortunate.
Once you get
something going, the fact that we are located kind of centrally. When I was a
kid, growing up in this area, I thought we were a long way from everything. We
were like 30 minutes from anywhere. But, now I realize we are only 30 minutes
I will be there on Tuesday, if you have any questions.
Okay, great talking to you. I will see you Tuesday.