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Remembering Robert Feldstein [VIDEO] Print E-mail
December 5, 2011
Debbie Rothman remembers her husband, Robert Alan Feldstein (December 15, 1956 – October 18, 2011)  at the 2011 National Chess Congress in Philadelphia, where she held a memorial service for Feldstein. Watch the video and also read eulogies below.


Robert Alan Feldstein (December 15, 1956 – October 18, 2011) by Debbie Rothman  
Born, raised and educated in the Bronx, Robert Feldstein was taught to play chess by his father at the age of seven and continued to play at Bronx House, a youth program for Bronx preteens and teens.  By the time he was in high school (Christopher Columbus High School), Robert was already a tournament player and frequently hitch-hiked to tournaments throughout the East Coast, and sometimes further away, on Friday afternoons.   Robert played on the Lehman College Chess Team and represented Lehman College at the Pan-American tournament throughout his college years and as an alumnus for several years after his graduation.  No matter what his health or employment situation, chess has been the constant in his adult life as well.
Robert is best known in the chess world for his extensive chess-related travel.  He has played tournament games in every US State and in every Canadian province and territory (except for Nunavut, which was created after Robert had completed this record). He has also played at chess tournaments in England, Spain, Australia, Israel, Peru, and Mexico, and probably other countries I have forgotten to mention.  In addition to formal tournaments, as long as his health permitted, he participated in a self-sponsored traveling tournament called “County Seat Chess Fever,” where he played rated games with opponents he brought with him or found locally.  Games were played in coffee shops, small motels, fast food restaurants, parks, zoos, and even a (legal) brothel in Nevada.   In recent years, his health did not permit him to travel abroad nor for long periods of time, but he still managed to keep busy playing in tournaments throughout the East Coast and occasionally as far away as Chicago.

In addition to chess, Robert’s passions included politics (he was most concerned about issues of individual rights and civil liberties), popular music (he knew the tunes, lyrics, and songwriters of virtually every song between 1955 and 1995 and created a personally narrated collection of music from this era), and animals (he loved animals of all species and sizes and in all settings).  He worked in various civil service jobs, as a substitute teacher, and occasionally as a criminal lawyer (he held a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan and was licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania).

Since 1981, except for his law school years in Michigan, Robert lived in Brooklyn, New York.  He is survived by his wife, Debra (Debbie) Rothman and our three cats, who still live in the Brooklyn apartment, as well as his father, Jerry Feldstein, and his sister, Ellen (Feldstein) Friedman---Debbie Rothman  11/5/11

In Loving Memory of Robert Feldstein
by Scott Goldstein

A very interesting man passed on October 18. My cousin saw more of this country in the first half of his 54- year life than the vast majority of us will ever see! Admittedly all of my memories are from that time in his life--as we were not in contact much at all in the second half of his life. The stories are many, unbelievable, funny, and truly incredible. I don't know what the final tally was--I hope someone does--but at one point in the mid 1980's my cousin Robert was sneaking up on the World Record holder for most miles hitchhiked! At the time he was a distant second with 280,000 miles logged! He took the pursuit seriously, traveling the country playing in United Chess Federation tournaments, and following both the New York Rangers and New York Islanders hockey teams. He hitchhiked to Alaska and came home with an adult Malamute. He said it turned out that rides were easier with the dog!

Robert was a good chess player--I believe he earned the rank of Expert, just under Master.  He was determined to coach me and my brother to win an under 13 years old tournament--it was as if our victory would be his own! Neither of us ever did. We weren’t bad ourselves--a couple of close calls--but no cigar for the Goldstein boys. I say he was good--not necessarily great--but there was an aspect to his game no one will likely ever match! He knew absolutely every letter of the rulebook--he knew local exclusions and exceptions that no one else knew. Tournament directors would have to dig through books-always to confirm that he was right (unless he was bluffing of course!)

He was a MASTER of psychology. One of his favorite moves was to wait for his opponent to make a move--hit the clock, and as soon as the clock was ticking on his side--he would leave the table. It made his opponents crazy! They assumed he was cheating--going to a phone or a friend in the lobby to get advice. The reality was--he played better under time pressure and had no fears of putting himself into that pressure.  In fact, he often entered two different sections at once.  But his main reasoning was to throw his opponents off. He beat many a better player by getting into their heads that way! Sheer genius! I would finish my game and then go watch his--it was hilarious to watch his opponents squirm when he would get up and walk away as soon as it became his move. Only Robert! It never dawned on me once I started playing tournament poker to seek his advice--even if he didn't know the game--I guarantee he could have armed me with psychological warfare that would be invaluable in the highly mental game of No Limit Texas Holdem!

He went to law school-earned a degree-and despite failing the New York Bar (notoriously difficult)--eventually passed the PA bar with bulldogged determination.

When we were just teens--he showed us how to put tape on a specific washer and how it would work in vending machines as a dime. He was a New Yorker and proud of it!

He was a very large man--making it all that more impressive that he could be so successful putting his thumb out and getting rides. He was right on the tails of the world record. Only a dozen or so people--all but two of them well after Robert retired-have exceeded what he did! In other words--he was top two or three in his era. Strange but impressive. If my numbers are off--it is only slightly. He was my senior by six years and the only male cousin in our lives--four years my brother’s senior--so to a degree he represented a strange freedom that perhaps influenced my own hippy gypsy like lifestyle, and my brother's as well. I didn't travel anywhere close to what Robert did--but I sure dug listening to his adventures.  He was always a very kind man to me.  I will miss him.   R.I.P. Robert!