02 April 2021

The First USCF Awards

In last week's post, U.S. Chess Service Awards (March 2021), I signed off saying,

Since it's not immediately obvious what differentiates the first three awards -- Distinguished, Meritorious, and Special -- I'll look at those in another post.

Where to start? The beginning is often an excellent place. Thanks to the US Chess CL Archive (November 2019), we have a documented record of early awards. The first service awards were made in 1979, and they began at the same time as the Koltanowski awards, which I listed in The USCF Awards (May 2015). From the October 1979 Chess Life:-

Kolty Awards • The first Koltanowski medals, for outstanding contributions to or support of chess, have been awarded to three long-time patrons of American chess. Bill Church. sponsor of the San Antonio 1972 tournament, the Grand Prix. and the Master Tours; Jacqueline Piatigorsky, whose support of American chess dates back to the Piatigorsky Challenge Cup tournaments of the 1950s and early 1960s; and Louis Statham, originator of the famous Lone Pine tournaments, were presented with the medals at the U.S. Open in Chicago.

As for the 'Distinguished Service Award', the first year it was awarded it carried the name 'Meritorious Service Award'. From the same issue of Chess Life:-

Awards for Meritorious Service • Four long-time USCF supporters have been honored with the first Meritorious Service Awards, presented for unique and outstanding service to the USCF. Arpad Elo, creator of the USCF rating system, and George Koltanowski, a past USCF President whose service to American chess spans more than three decades, were guests of honor at a special banquet during the U.S. Open in Chicago. Burt Hochberg. departing editor of Chess Life & Review. and George Cunningham, USCF Treasurer and volunteer Interim Director of the USCF business office, also received the awards at the Chicago gathering. [...]

From this we learn that the awards were announced at the annual U.S. Open, a tradition which has held until now. Let's skip ahead to 1980, the second year of the awards. Here we get a divergence from the official record as published in subsequent USCF Yearbooks. The 2013 Yearbook, the version I initially used to compile the list, said,

Koltanowski award; 1980 Gold: Thomas Emery, Lessing Rosenwald

The January 1981 Chess Life had the following report by Tim Redman, USCF Vice President at that time. Although it confirms the award to Thomas Emery, it doesn't mention Lessing Rosenwald. It also mentions silver medals for Richard Fauber and Harry Lyman.

Winners of Koltanowski Medals, Service Awards Announced • This year's winners of the coveted gold and silver Koltanowski medals Were announced at the U S Open banquet in Atlanta. The gold medal, for significant contribution to national and international chess, was awarded posthumously to Thomas Emery. Emery was the principal benefactor of the American Chess Foundation, and he was chosen not only on his own merits. but in order to highlight the achievement of the foundation its officers and board of directors. The ACF in many ways Over the years has significantly aided the advancement of chess in this country.

Thomas Emery, of New York City, was a wealthy man with a passion for chess. He was a friend ol many of this country's finest players. including Frank Marshall, Al Horowitz and Arthur Bisguier A member of the Marine Corps during World War I. Emery had an enduring interest in armed forces chess. He sponsored the first Armed Forces Championship in 1960 and continued to sponsor the event until his death.

I had a long post about Emery, adapted from the June 1957 issue of Chess Review, in Thomas Emery (June 2017). Continuing with the January 1981 Chess Life:-

The silver Koltanowski medals, for significant contribution to local and regional chess, were awarded to Richard Fauber, of California, and Harry Lyman, of Massachusetts. Fauber was cited for his support for master tournaments in the San Francisco Bay area, while Lyman's medal was awarded for his contributions to chess in another bay area -- Boston's. He was specifically commended for his help for the New England Chess Association, the Boylston Chess Club and Junior and scholastic chess in Massachusetts.

Nominations for next year's Koltanowski medals should be sent before June 1 to the Koltanowski Committee, in care of the USCF office. The committee consists of George and Leah Koltanowski, Tim Redman, Gerry Dullea and previous winners.

The report went on to cover the 1980 Distinguished Service Awards, but said nothing about a Meritorious Service Award, which the 2013 Yearbook assigned to Robert Tanner.

The winners of this year's Distinguished Service Awards were also announced at the Atlanta banquet by USCF Executive Director Gerry Dullea. Chosen by the Policy Board, these men are honored for a lifetime of service to USCF. They are Ed Edmondson, Isaac Kashdan and Paul Webb. None of them needs any introduction to our readership. [...]

Perhaps it was true in 1981 that 'None of them needs any introduction', but in 2021, we could use some help. As for Tanner, the only significant contemporary mention I could find was in the November 1980 Chess Life. It started,

Chess in the Desert • The hard work and dedication of USCF Regional Vice President Robert B. Tanner makes the first Salt Lake City Futurity a huge success.

The first subsequent Meritorious Service Award listed by the 2013 Yearbook was made in 1985, after which it was made annually. Are there other divergences between the announcements of the early awards and the official record? I'll continue to research this in another post.

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