Big Time chess returns to Cleveland
By Jerry Hanken   
June 13, 2008
The Cleveland Library boasts the biggest chess library in the World, the John G. White collection. Photo Courtesy Cleveland Library
Cleveland is at the far northeast corner of Ohio. In the mid 20th century, it was the center of chess activity in the Ohio. The city had a number of ethnic enclaves where the European and Slavic culture, in which chess has a strong part, were prevalent. Ohio state Champions such as Ross Sprague and Richard Kause had a strangle hold on the title from the mid 50s thru the 70s. The important tournaments of that era were invariably set in “The Plum City.” (That name came from an attempt to imitate the New York nickname “the Big Apple.”)
       However, in recent years, in spite of the fact that GMs such as Anatoly Lein and one of the most creative IMs in America, Calvin Blocker, made the city on the Cuyahoga river home, chess emphasis has moved south and west to the Cincinnati area.
        The Continental Chess Association has decided to try to even things out by creating a new tournament, The Cleveland Open (June 13-15). Play will start this Friday in seven sections with an overall guaranteed Prize fund of $16000 ($20000 projected). 
It's about time to bring big time chess back to Cleveland, where Bobby Fischer won the U.S. Open in 1957. He tied with Art Bisguier who left with the trophy on tiebreaks. Then a protest broke out.  An odd gentleman claimed that his 8th round opponent had cheated and had taken a move back. Even though he had won the game, he insisted that it be scored a forfeit!!  He found two witnesses who backed him up. The organizers, unable to talk him out of this madness, reluctantly gave in to him. This caused the tiebreaks to be recalculated, taking the trophy out of Bisguier's hands and into Bobby's. Fischer never played in another US Open. It was my first US Open and I have fond memories of that event, the only one Cleveland ever hosted. This summer's U.S. Open in Dallas will be my 42nd!
     If you can take time, visit the legendary John G. White collection in the Cleveland Library, which has the largest chess book collection in America. This is where chess historians go to study chess history and culture.
      This may not be a plus for the older folk, but Cleveland does have a rich and active school program, so you may expect a number of chess urchins to show up. Young chess journalist Joe Fogarty will report on the event for Chess Life Online. Mark Schein, who blogged from the National Elementary Championship, will also contribute thoughts on the event for CLO.