16 July 2013

Early Influences

I learned over the weekend that one of my earliest chess influences died last week: Albert Weissman Obituary. Dr.Weissman was the resident master at my first non-scholastic chess club, located at the time in the YMCA, New London CT.

My first game against him was in a simul. Thanks to a Fred Reinfeld book I had been reading a day or two earlier, I won a piece in an opening trap playing the Black side of the Cambridge Springs Defense. I was rated 1515 at the time -- my first published USCF rating -- but still lost the game in 35 moves. In the following years I lost every game I played against him. It was hard to imagine that I would ever be able to play chess as well as Al Weissman did. Here are some excerpts from the obituary.

Albert Weissman, of Noank, Conn., a retired veteran of Pfizer's Central Nervous System research team, died July 11 after a 20-year battle with Parkinson's disease and prostate cancer. He was 79 years old.

Dr. Weissman, who retired in 1995 from Pfizer's Central Research facility in Groton, was for many years the manager of the neurobehavioral, biochemical and neurological testing groups during the development phases of several important drugs, including Zoloft, Navane, Quantril and Sinequan. [...]

Dr. Weissman was an accomplished chess player, and he won the 1953 U.S. Intercollegiate Chess Championship, beating out Arthur Bisguier, an International Grandmaster who was then the U.S.Champion. He also played frequently with other accomplished chess players, including Bobby Fischer, just prior to Fischer's ascent as Grandmaster. In the mid-1960s, Dr. Weissman ranked third in the United States in correspondence chess. [...]

After leaving the Southeastern Connecticut area, I never met Dr.Weissman again and I never forgot him. His name lives on in an unorthodox variation of Alekhine's Defense, one that I mentioned in a previous post: Allergic to Chess Players.

RIP, Dr.Weissman. Along with your many professional achievements, you made a positive impact on at least one awkward teenager.


Photo from Chess Review, January 1954; 'Albert Weissman of New York University is the dark horse winner of the Intercollegiate Championship.'

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