History is the essence of innumerable biographies. — Thomas Carlyle
What follows is the listing of past champions of the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club, as best we can determine. Those in the know are encouraged to contact us and let us know more details on the champions (and to correct the inevitable mistakes). Technically speaking, the current incarnation of the club arose in the late 1970s, as the original Chadwick club went dormant for over a decade. One day I would like to have time to visit the Poughkeepsie library and scour the historical records to fill out the details.
1934 Stanley Chadwick (the founder of the club)
1935-1936 E. Sterling Carter (Cannot find much information on this multiple winner, except that he was at one time president of the Princeton Chess Club).
1937 Charles Laister (born 1898, died July 1974)
1938-1940 E. Sterling Carter
1941-1942 Charles Laister
1943-1946 E. Sterling Carter
1947 Victor Bohm
Information from his obituary (Poughkeepsie Journal 1955):
Victor C. Bohm, 66, of 4 Whitehouse avenue, died yesterday in Presbyterian Medical center, New York City, of a heart seizure.
Mr. Bohm, who had an international reputation as a manufacturer and consultant to the hatting industry, was a native of Vienna, Austria. He and his brothers owned the Bruder Bohm hat factories in Austria and Czechoslovakia. He had served as a technical consultant on dyeing and felting problems with many concerns in this country. At his death, he was director of research of the Merrimac Hat Corp., Amesbury, Mass.
IN HIS STUDIES, Mr. Bohm specialized in textile chemistry with emphasis on dyeing of wool and fur. He had many patents in these fields and in hat manufacturing processes. One of his major achievements was the development of a superior nonmercuric carroting agent for the fur felting process.
Mr. Bohm was a member of Christ church, this city, and was active in the Chadwick Chess club, here, being club champion on several occasions. He also was a member of the Foreign Policy association and the Adirondack Mountain club. He was an accomplished skier who had found much pleasure in touring the Swiss and Austrian Alps.
1948 Dan Meyerson
1949-1950 Victor Bohm
1951 E. Sterling Carter
1952 Dr. Symon
1953 Dick Meyerson (see him mentioned as the 1989 Vassar-Chadwick champion, below)
1954 Victor Bohm
1955-1957 E. Sterling Carter
1958 Earl Yohnell
1959 George Swift
1960 Dick Meyerson
1961 Earl Yohnell
Below is the list of Dutchess County Chess Champs (the winner of our club championship, held every year) since 1979. Unless noted otherwise, details on selected winners have been provided by our former president (and long-time TD) Michael O’Connor. Others are welcome to provide information on other players or anecdotes they wish to share.
1979 Ron Nichols
1980 Ron Nichols
1981 John Lang
John was already in his late ‘60s or older when I met him, at the Knights Out Chess Club in the early 1970s. He had been a strong player, at least an expert and probably a master, for decades. He was one of the strongest players that I ever scored a win against, even though it was just a skittles game. He was worn down by playing persons of my caliber, including myself, and didn’t notice that I had lined up Bishop and Queen to be able to mate by Qxh2. He had promised to pay my bill for playing that afternoon at the Knights Out club if I won so much as a single game, and kept his word.
Another time he showed me that he could beat me even by giving me 6 moves head start – or maybe he wanted to show me that I would not know what to do with that kind of advantage. His first 6 moves were Nf6-g8-f6-g8-f6-g8. He wound up winning that game somehow, and all the other games I ever played with him, except the one which ended with mate on h2.
If you look on the back cover of an old issue of Chess Life, such as the November 1998 issue, you will see an ad for Chessmaster 6000. A feature of this product is that you can select a personality to play against, such as a youngster like Dylan, with a rating of 650, and a playing style of “neglects king safety”. Or you could play Buck, rated 1306, who plays unorthodox openings. I always thought of John Lang when I would consider Frederick, an older gentleman rated 2257, whose style is “strong positional, prefers older openings.”
1982 Ken Evans
Ken has been a pillar of the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club for many years, serving the club in many capacities: as historian, as one of the strongest players, as one of its most frequent players, and as the conscience of the club. More often than I would like to admit, Ken has been able to point out some way in which the operation of the club could be improved. He has also led the way in a very important task, essential to the preservation of the club: he has brought in many players, especially many if not most of our younger players, to the club.
1983 Rob Sulman
Rob Sulman was one of the strongest playersto ever play regularly at the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club. I heard he used to go to New York City, to Bryant and Washington Square Parks, and out-hustle the chess hustlers there. His years in Poughkeepsie are known by many as the Golden Age of the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club, primarily just because his playing strength brought out the best in everyone else. And one of the most amazing aspects was his youth. He was probably still a teenager when he won the Dutchess County Championship in 1983.
Years after he left Poughkeepsie to go off to college, he returned for one summer, probably about 1997, and I was able to have him teach chess at a summer program for gifted high school students on the Vassar campus. This was my only chance to get to know him as a person, and to find out that his chess strength did not go to his head: he was a soft spoken, humble young man. You would never know how good a chessplayer he was just by talking to him; it would only become evident over a chess board, after he had made a few moves.
1984 Rob Sulman
1985 Ron Nichols
1986 Peter Prochaska
Peter was an imposing figure, with his large build, stentorian voice and strong play. He was a central figure in the club in the late 1980s through the mid 1990s, running the club and winning many tournaments in it. He had high aspirations for himself, wanting to be not only be the club president but its dictator for life. He wanted to be not only a Candidate Master but to become an International Master. In the meantime, he volunteered his time in not only running the club but preparing and giving a series of chess lectures on Monday nights before formal play began. He also made himself available for private chess lessons.One of my most memorable nights in chess was June 3, 1996, when I scored a win against Peter in what was for him a rare off night. The strongest player I have ever beaten in a rated game. [See also his bio page]
1987 Peter Prochaska
1988 Wes Crick and Eric Horsboll
Eric Horsboll was another one of those players occupying the top echelon of a strong club for many years. He brought not only his strong chess, but also his irresistible personality, to the club. He would make sure his opponent would do his best on every move, by offering a postmortem with withering but instructive comments.
His specialty was rook and pawn endgames. The clever player would strive mightily to trade off the rooks early, or at least to keep other pieces on the board, to avoid a situation where Eric would be able to show off his prowess with the rooks and pawns.
1989 Dick Meyerson
I first met Dick when he gave a simultaneous exhibition at a chess club I frequented at the YMCA on Market Street in Poughkeepsie. One of the challenges there was that everyone brought their own non standard chess club. Playing on my Renaissance set didn’t seem to bother Dick – he beat me, and I believe everyone else, rather handily.
The rumor about Dick was that he didn’t study chess much. But he didn’t have to. He had an innate grasp of tactics that served him well and made him always a difficult game for players of any skill level at the club.
Dick had interests besides chess. He spent many Monday nights playing bridge with his wife instead of chess with us. Go figure. He also had a natural talent at the piano. When we played in Coldenham, in Ernie’s church, he would dazzle all ears with a song or two before and after formal chess play.
Editor’s note: Richard was also an Executive Director of the USCF in 1978.
1990 Mark Andrews
Mark was – and still is – a French teacher par excellance at Vassar. His diplomatic manner and European accent made it impossible to imagine being ill at ease around him. He continues to compete on a high level, unfortunately for us not at chess any more. But he is one of the fastest runners in his age group or otherwise in any 5K foot race he chooses to enter.
1991 Eric Horsboll
1992 Alan Erlich
1993 John Detrich
1994 Eric Horsboll
1995 Alan Kantor and Craig Fisher
Alan Kantor was one of the best things to happen to the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club – and to chess in the Hudson Valley generally – as a result of the headquarters of the United States Chess Federation being in nearby Newburgh, New York for so many years. Sadly, when the USCF moved to Tennessee, Alan moved with it. He is listed in the masthead of Chess Life as the “clubs and membership associate” of the USCF. He has the distinction of being the only player to appear on the cover of Chess Life who has had the experience of losing a game to me.
Craig Fisher is the cornerstone of the Vassar Chadwick Chess Club. No other individual – indeed, no other combination of individuals – has done as much for chess in the Mid-Hudson Valley in general and for the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club as Craig. The club would have surely floundered many times in the 25+ years of his involvement in it had it not been for him. One example: when Vassar began to find other uses for our home on the basement floor of Rockefeller Hall during the summer, Craig promptly lined up Marist College’s Lowell Thomas Building to be its summer home. There are many other ways, large and small, far too numerous to mention, of the ways Craig has kept the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club alive and healthy.
1996 Mark Courtney, Alan Kantor, Richard Meyerson and Raed Sheriff
Mark was the tournament director of the Dutchess County Championship for several years. He left the chess club several years ago to pursue other hobbies, such as taking part in a musical theater production which required his attendance at practice on Monday nights.
Raed Sheriff was a strong player at the club in the late 1990s. He was also active in tournament play during that time in New York City and Westchester County. Unfortunately for us, he moved to California about the turn of the century. Although he played in over a dozen tournaments a year when he lived in New York State, he played in only 5 or 6 tournaments in California after his move, and none after 2002. His USCF membership expired in 2004. I hope he is all right.
1997 Alan Kantor
1998 Alan Kantor
1999 Eric Horsboll
2000 Ernest Johnson
Ernie has been the strongest player in most of the tournaments he has played in at the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club for the past several years. He served as the president of the club, and has also served the club as its secretary for many years, continuing to date. He has helped organizing tournaments with our closest neighbor club, the Middletown Chess Club, offering the use of his church as a playing space. He has given simultaneous exhibitions in Highland and Gardiner to promote chess in the Hudson Valley and the Vassar-Chadwick Chess Club.
2001 Ernest Johnson
2002 David Levine
Vassar student. Unfortunately, I believe he only found out about the club in his senior year
2003 Shawn Pealer
Shawn has been playing chess from about the age of 4. His first and most influential teacher was his father. Although he grew up in the relatively less active chess state of Vermont, by now he is a veteran of tournaments with a rating of just over 2100. His chess accomplishments include high school champion of Vermont in 1993, Dutchess County (NY) champion in 2003 and 2004 and co-national champion of bughouse chess at the 2002 US Open. From 2002 to 2004, he worked for the United States Chess Federation in their books and equipment division. Besides chess, he has enjoyed a variety of activities over the years including high school and collegiate athletics, reading, other games of strategy and playing a modest guitar. He has a Bachelor of Arts in English and is currently employed with the United States Census Bureau. Most important of all, however, are his wife and two children. [From his official bio]
2004 Shawn Pealer
2005 Ernest Johnson
2006 Robert Apgar
Bob was a fierce competitor in the club for several years. Having mastered traditional chess, he experimented with Fischer Random Chess, where the pieces are arranged randomly on the first rank at the beginning of the game. Although still an occasional visitor to the club, for the most part we have lost him to poker.
2007 Ernest Johnson
2008 Ernest Johnson
2009 Rudolf van Dommele
Rudy is a perennial contender at our biggest tournaments. He has won both the Dutchess County Championship and the Memorial Tournament.
2010 Ernest Johnson
2011 Scott Strattner
Scott has been playing strong chess at the club for several years now, and it was a thrill for those of us in the trenches to see him break through and win the Dutchess County Championship in 2011. He is also active in helping to run the club, continually updating and improving its web presence. He directed his first tournament in 2011, the Dutchess County National Chess Day Tournament, on October 8. He is slowly but surely gaining the confidence of club membership and officers, which initially doubted his good sense and judgment because he is such a big Green Bay Packers fan.
2012 Scott Strattner
2013 Ernest Johnson
2014 Chris Brooks
Chris is a newcomer to the club, joining us from the city. He is definitely not a newcomer to chess, quickly establishing himself as one of the strongest members of the club. We do not yet have enough information to give a biographic sketch of Chris, but I’m sure we’ll soon learn enough to fill pages – which may be required, as he might just be winning this title for many years.
2015 William Fisher
2016 Mark Courtney
2017 Colin Denniston
Colin is most likely the youngest champion in club history, and he earned his victory by beating 2014 champion Chris Brooks in the final round to take the crown. An impressive performance from the young man.