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The Boston Globe

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Chess Notes

Weekly chess column

We have a chess legend in Massachusetts and he is John Curdo of Auburn. He has just reached 890 clear or shared first places in his chess career. He has published four volumes of brevities and near brevities titled “Chess Caviar,” “More Chess Caviar,” and “Still More Chess Caviar” and “Forty Years at the Top.” The volume “Chess” was originally published in descriptive notation and John has now changed the text from descriptive to algebraic, courtesy of Lou Jacques of Worcester, and now offers the works as a package.

For a great many years, Curdo was the exclusive leader of New England Chess. His chess life began when, at the age of 14, he was entitled as a salesman to an item in a seed catalog. His mother said “no” to his first choice of a hunting knife. He settled for a small chess set and when he got it he began to scour the libraries looking for books to explain the game.

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He found two books, proceeded to teach himself and sheepishly joined a local Lynn chess club. He soon became the No. 1 board on its chess team participating in the then flourishing Metropolitan Chess League. But there was scant additional chess activity in those days. John graduated high school and joined the Army. He was shipped in the opposite direction of the Korean War and found his future wife in England.

On his return to civilian life he returned to the chess wars, raised a family, and used the GI Bill to acquire training as a watch mechanic. By the time he took a job at Honeywell he had become a chess master. He was essentially a tactical player and his victims included the great Weaver Adams, Harry Lyman, Harlow Daly, Robert Byrne, Pal Benko, and others whose names are not so well remembered: Boris Siff, Julian Keilson, and Kazys Merkis (once a World Correspondence Champion). He chalked up 18 Massachusetts Open and seven New England Open championships.

After an encounter in Providence he agreed to do the annotations for this column. Thus began a very long association with your first named columnist. We attended tournaments together, and, in a sense, became “brothers.” He blames chess for the breakup of his first marriage, as his wife had had no interest in his chess career. John’s second marriage, with Carol Curdo, has been a very successful one.

We have referred to his 890 victories. We believe that figure would have been doubled had there not been a diaspora of émigrés from Russia: players such as Alexander Ivanov and Boris Gulko, who were virtually raised on chess and gradually appropriated leadership in New England. John was a child of poverty, who found standing and self-respect as a quiet and amiable chess player. His career is a saga, a legend.

Brevity: J. Curdo vs. M. Petrella (1992) 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Qe7 5.0–0 Nd4 6.Nxd4 exd4 7.e5 Ng8 8.Nd5 Qd8 9.Re1 Bc5 10.b4 Ne7 11.Nf6+ gxf6 12.exf6 0–0 13.Rxe7 d5 14.Qh5 Kh8 15.Bd3; 1-0

Winners: Boylston Grand Prix: 1st, Siddharth Arun, 4.0, 2d, Yang Dai, 3.5, 3d-5th, Eric Godin, Carissa Yip, William Ravn, 2.5; 1st Spiegel Cup Series “14 and Under”: 1st-3d, Rahul Krishnan, Anton Barash, and Alan Sikarov, 3-1

Coming Events: 38th N.H. Amateur Championship, Nov. 2, Comfort Inn, 298 Queen City Ave., Manchester relyea@operamail.com; Spiegel Cup Series, Nov. 3, Center Makor, 1845 Commonwealth Ave., Brighton, fridachessclub
@gmail.com
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