Jerome B. "Jerry" Hanken
By Joan DuBois   
October 6, 2009
10/04/2009: Jerry Hanken, noted chess journalist and former USCF Policy Board member, dies at 74
Jerry Hanken, one of the most colorful personalities in U.S. Chess, died Thursday, October 1, in Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles - one month before his 75th birthday. He had been hospitalized for about three weeks after surgery and passed away from complications of diabetes.

He was known to tens of thousands of American players as a longtime reporter and interviewer for Chess Life. He was also a USCF life master and served on the federation's Policy Board (now Executive Board) for 10 years between 1978 and 1994. In addition, he was president of the Chess Journalists of America.

Jerome "Jerry" Bernard Hanken was born on October 30, 1934 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated there in 1951 from Walnut Hills High School and later received his bachelors degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. While a resident of Cincinnati, he became the top player in the city's chess club and in 1959 won the second-ever Cincinnati Chess Club Championship. Two years earlier he played in his first U.S. Open in Cleveland, scoring 6-6. He moved to Southern California in the early 1960s and competed in the 1961 Southern California Chess Championship. He went on to become one of the most active tournament players in the country, competing in events from coast to coast. He had a predilection for the English Opening (1. c4) as White and the Robatsch, aka Modern Defense (1...g6) as Black. In 1964, he won the California Open in a very strong field and with it earned the title of USCF life master, awarded to those who maintain a master's rating for 300 consecutive games.

His appearances in New England in the past decade were limited to the Foxwoods Open in Connecticut, where he competed seven times, and to the 2001 U.S. Open in Framingham, Mass., and the 2002 Continental Open in Sturbridge, Mass. The U.S. Opens were by far his most favorite event and he competed in them just about every year from 1957 through 2008, including 1964, 1970 and 1988 in Boston. At the 1990 U.S. Open in Jacksonville, Florida, Hanken initiated a column in the round-by-round game bulletins titled "Hanken's Corner" and they became popular as part of the games bulletins for the next two decades. As a journalist, he won many awards from the Chess Journalists of America. And in 1997, the CJA honored him with the prestigious Cramer Award by naming him Chess Journalist of the Year.

Described by some as a "friendly bear-type" but with a fiery disposition, Hanken worked for 39 years as a deputy probation officer for Los Angeles County until his retirement. He gained the respect and the admiration from his department and the juveniles he mentored. When not working or playing chess, he performed occasionally in amateur theatrical productions in the Los Angeles area. And his knowledge of Shakespeare was extensive, being able to quote passages without hesitation. But chess was Hanken's lasting passion - not only as a player and journalist but also as an organizer. He played a major role in bringing the 1991 and 2003 U.S. Opens to Los Angeles. And in 1990, his organizational skills saved the American Open after the event had lost its corporate sponsorship that year. Decades earlier, he worked with chess philanthropist Louis Statham and Los Angeles Times chess columnist GM Isaac Kashdan in helping organize the successful Lone Pine grandmaster tournaments that were held between 1972 and 1981 in California. It was during those years - in 1977 to be precise - that he played a key role in creating the Southern California Chess Federation, when the state of California was split into two by the USCF for voting purposes, and served on the SCCF board of directors for many years and also a term as its president.

Hanken's last USCF-rated tournament was the 14th Pacific Coast Open, a Continental Chess Association-sponsored tournament in July of this year in Agoura Hills, Calif., where because of health reasons he had to drop out after playing two games out of six.

The U.S. chess community has lost one of its finest, most knowledgeable and most passionate promoters of chess. He was unique in the annals of U.S. Chess. He is survived by his former wife, Barbara (Kirschner) Hanken, and their children, Andrea and Dan.

Obituary provided by George Mirijanian - Publications Coordinator for MACA. 

Jerome B. "Jerry" Hanken - May you rest in peace.