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♙ ♟ ♙ Wachusett Chess Club History ♙ ♟ ♙

From George Mirijanian:

Here's some early Wachusett CC history, which I gleaned from news accounts in the Fitchburg Sentinel in the mid-1960s. It's a composite and doesn't reflect any one write-up. I got it from bits and pieces from various stories.

In February 1960, the present Wachusett Chess Club was formed at the Lt. Laurence S. Ayer Post, Veterans of Foreign Wars headquarters, on Pleasant Street in Fitchburg. The original officers were Rocco Pasquale, president; Edward Goguen, vice president; Russell Niles, secretary-treasurer; Raymond Fortin, official scorer; Frank Hacker, librarian; and Roger Robillard, executive member.

At that time the membership was small and the players inexperienced. However, as the membership grew the players improved and the club remained at the VFW site until 1963. In that year, the club moved to the First Parish Church hall at the Upper Common in Fitchburg and enjoyed an increase in membership - peaking at about 45 active members.
The club remained at First Parish Church until September 1965, when it moved to the Fitchburg YMCA on Wallace Avenue.

I would like to expand on this history, giving you what happened from 1965 to the present. The club relocated from the Fitchburg "Y"  to the St. Joseph Club in the Cleghorn section of Fitchburg in September 1980 and then in the mid-1990s for a brief time to the Birchwood Care Center on John Fitch Highway and then to the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center before moving to First Church Unitarian Universalist in Leominster, I think, in 1996.  I am happy that we are back to where our roots are - Fitchburg - thanks to Ernest Fandreyer procuring Fitchburg State College for us.

I would like to point out that in the stories that I read in the Fitchburg Sentinel, it said that the first person to organize a chess club in Fitchburg was a Kenneth H. Wilson Jr., who supposedly organized a chess club at the former Jewish Community Center on Day Street in the late 1940s or early 1950s. I can confirm that there was a chess club at the Jewish Community Center - Dr. Levinger told me that he had played there - but that club disbanded after a few successful seasons. But I cannot confirm that Kenneth H. Wilson Jr. was the first person to organize a chess club locally. I started playing at the VFW on Pleasant Street in the late 1950s. It didn't acquire the name of Wachusett Chess Club until February 1960. I don't remember what the club was called before then. It might have been known as the Fitchburg Chess Club, I don't know for sure. I have the feeling that there was a chess club in Fitchburg during the Depression or perhaps earlier than that. The only way I can confirm that is to check through the microfilm of the Sentinel from many years ago. I would love to know whether Harry Nelson Pillsbury ever gave a simul in Fitchburg. I know he gave several in Worcester in the late 1890s and early 1900s, but if he ever came to Fitchburg or the area, I would love to know that.

Wachusett Chess Club Sponsored Tournaments

The Wachusett Chess Club used to sponsor major weekend tournaments in the 1960s, '70s and '80s that drew top players from around the country. The club sponsored its first major tournament, the First Central New England Open, in 1961 at the VFW hall on Pleasant Street in Fitchburg. It held subsequent tournaments at the First Parish Church hall, the Fitchburg YMCA and the Hotel Raymond in the city. The tournaments grew so large that we had to move to a bigger playing site. And that playing site was the former Holiday Inn in Leominster, at the intersection of routes 2 and 12. One of the clippings that Lester Garbicz loaned me was the story about the 11th annual Central New England Open that was played in June 1971 at the Holiday Inn. It was a memorable event for me because I gained the headline in the newspaper: Here's the story that was published in the Fitchburg Sentinel in June 1971. I don't know the exact date.

"LEOMINSTER - George Mirijanian of the host Wachusett Chess Club won first place in the Class A competition in the 11th annual Central New England Open Championship tournament held at the Holiday Inn here.

Mirijanian was narrowly defeated in the opening round by USCF expert John Peters [now an international master and chess columnist for the Los Angeles Times], but the local player then picked up two points apiece from his higher-ranked opponents in the second and third rounds. Mirijanian battled to a draw with former U.S. master Harry Lyman of Lynn, and then soundly defeated USCF expert Tim Taylor [now an international master] in the final round.

Canadians Bruce Amos and Ian Hambleton, both from Toronto, emerged as co-champions in the rough Open section competition, which included four master-rated players and nine experts in a field of 33 contestants.

Both Amos and Hambleton finished with four wins and a draw and split the prize money for first and second place. John Curdo of Chelmsford finished third with a score of three wins and two draws.

U.S. master Stephen Jones, who is ranked 21st in the nation and was listed as a pre-tournament favorite in the Open section, was defeated by Amos. He missed out on the prize money despite his final score of three wins, one draw and one loss.

In the 30-player Class B reserve division, Slavomir Zoric of Kingston, R.I., tied with Massachusetts junior titleholder Alan Trefler of Brookline for the top spot. The two players, each with a 4-1 record, split the prize money for the top two places. William Kelleher of Marlboro was third with a record of four wins and one loss.

Phil Goduti of Arlington swept the 66-player Booster division with five straight wins, while Jon Edwards of West Acton and Edward Lupienski of Jefferson split the prizes for second and third. Both players had records of four wins and a lone draw.

The two-day tournament was held in three sections, directed by Stephan Gerzadowicz of the host WCC. Cash prizes totaling $1500 were presented to the top 11 players in their individual brackets."

Central New England Open Tournament Statistics
1st 1961 VFW Hall, Fitchburg 16 (John Curdo)?
2nd 1962 VFW Hall, Fitchburg David Lees
3rd 1963 June 22 & 23 VFW Hall, Fitchburg (David Lees & John Ducharme jr.)?
4th 1964 June 27 & 28 First Parish Church Hall, Fitchburg 82 William Addison
5th 1965 June 26 & 27 Hotel Raymond, Fitchburg
6th 1966 Hotel Raymond, Fitchburg
7th 1967 John Curdo
8th 1968 July 13 & 14 YMCA, Fitchburg ,= John Curdo & Camille Coudari of Montreal
11th 1971 June ?? & ?? Holiday Inn, Leominster 33, 30, 66 = 129 Bruce Amos & Ian Hambleton; Mirijanian 1st Class A
12th 1972 ??; Stephen Brudno, Jon Edwards
16th 1976 June 19 & 20 Holiday Inn, Leominster 28,14,24,36,30=132 Champ: John Curdo, 16-yr-old Girome Bono, & GM Leonid Shamkovich
Am: Walter Trice, John Sylvia, & Joel Johnson
17th 1977 June 11 &12 Holiday Inn, Leominster 5rd, 5sec
21st 1981 May 23, 24, & 25 Holiday Inn, Leominster
26th 1986 May 24, 25, & 26 Holiday Inn, Leominster

Wachusett Chess Club Sponsored Simultaneous Exhibitions

Tigran Petrosian (June 17, 1929 - August 13, 1984) 32-board Simul @ St. Joseph's Club, Fitchburg:
27 wins, [lost to Imre Toth & Michael Hart] [draws w/ Roland Booker, Larry Gladding, Bryant Hopkins III]

Simultaneous Exhibitions At The Wachusett Chess Club
Date Title Exhibitor Location Boards Score
March 2, 1964 World Champ GM Bobby Fischer First Parish Hall, Fitchburg 56 49 =2 -5
1964-5? 8-Time US Champ GM Sammy Reshevsky First Parish Hall, Fitchburg 40? ??
1964 Septuagenarian Chess Expert Hannes Taavela First Parish Church Hall, Fitchburg 20? ??
December 9,1964 Mass Open Champ John Curdo First Parish Church Hall, Fitchburg 30? ??
1965? et al 17-Time Mass Champ FM John Curdo First Parish Hall, Fitchburg 30? ??
1967? 1960 WCC Champ Frank Hacker Fitchburg ?? ??
1970? 5-Time US Champ GM Larry Evans YMCA, Fitchburg ?? ??
July 29, 1972 6-Time WCC Champ Phil Leasure Caldwell Park, Fitchburg 25? ??
February 26, 1982 Former World Champion GM Tigran Petrosian St. Joseph's Club, Fitchburg 32 27 =3 -2
????, ?? 3 Time US Champion GM Yasser Seirawan St. Joseph's Club, Fitchburg 20+ ??