Club History - More Recently

Robert L. Fons                                                                         3,621 Words
3329 South Taylor Avenue                                                       First Publication Rights
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53207                                                   © Robert L. Fons
Tel: 414-744-0392                                                                   Editor: Robin J. Grochowski
February 16, 2006



PART TWO, (2001 - 2005)


Robert L. Fons


Table of Contents




Pass In Review


Winter -- Spring 2001


Thursday Nights at the Club


Official Business


Membership and Tournament Fees


Fallen Flags


The Henry R. Meifert Memorial Library


Information Technology


The Equipment


Special Events


Our Stronger Players


Club Visitors


Roll the Presses


Community Service


Chapter I


            This is a true story about a Wisconsin Chess Club, namely, THE SOUTHWEST CHESS CLUB ("SWCC"), of Hales Corners, Wisconsin, covering the period from January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2005 with some earlier references.

            The information provided herein came from the SWCC newsletters entitled "CHESS FEVER," edited by Newton Barry; its successors commencing in January 2002 known firstly as the "SOUTHWEST CHESS CLUB," then the "SOUTHWEST CHESS CLUB NEWSLETTER," both edited by Allen J. Becker; and from this writer's observations and interviews with others.

            It is a look at our Club's players and their "playground" in a battlefield board game which is international in scope and of record dating back to the 6th Century A.D.


Chapter II

Pass in Review

            In review of the late Fred G. Zeilstra's "HISTORY OF THE SOUTHWEST CHESS CLUB," dated March 29, 2001, which became "Part One" of this ongoing, historical account, it should be recalled that the SWCC was first organized on February 15, 1987 in the W. Ben Hunt room of the Hales Corners Public Library by some two dozen players attending that first meeting.

            The name of the Club was chosen by Mr. Zeilstra, the Club's first treasurer, for its location within Milwaukee County.

            The Club's only charter members who were still active in the Club as of December 31, 2005 were Tom Fogec and David Sagunsky.


Chapter III

Winter -- Spring 2001

            The vice-president of the SWCC, Newton Berry, was editing and cranking out the "CHESS FEVER" Club newsletter such as the Winter -- Spring 2001 edition which included the following headlines, among others:


Patrick Van Dyke, once of the SWCC who was described as our Club's newest expert won first place in the 'KING'S KNIGHT OUT' house tournament with a 4-0 record.  Van Dyke subsequently moved to our country's golden west.


Experts Tim Burton and Bill Rossi tied for first place each with 5-0 records in the Smith-Morra Gambit theme tournament.  Such tournaments with prescribed opening moves were played often in those days.


National Master, Michael Wierzbicki took first place with a 4-0 record in the January 2001 GREATER MILWAUKEE OPEN, which was a SWCC tournament held in the Hales Corners Village Hall.


Three members of the SWCC won first place in their respective classes in the WISCONSIN SENIOR OPEN CHESS TOURNAMENT at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in November 2000.  Raymond Hayes was victorious in the open section; Tom Fogec won the Class B prize; and Mike Fixel captured the Class C honors.


Thanks chiefly to the efforts of Club members David Van Scyoc, Allen Becker, and Don Matthys, the SWCC acquired its own Internet website (  All future submissions were to be e-mailed or submitted to Allen Becker.


Chapter IV

Thursday Nights at the Club

            In January, 2001, the SWCC still met on most Thursday nights, except during holidays and heavy snow storms, in the W. Ben Hunt room of the Hales Corners Public Library at the NW corner of Janesville Road and 116th Street.  The doors opened at 6:00 p.m. and any current Club tournament games commenced about 7:00 p.m.

            Thanks to the efforts of our President, Joe Crothers, after alternating Thursday meetings between the Public Library and the Village Hall, on February 27, 2003, our Club's new Thursday night home became the bigger and brighter lighted James Meadows Room of the Hales Corners Village Hall located at 5635 South New Berlin Road, one level beneath the Police Department with our same hours as before this move.

            When our members began arriving at our meetings, did Gary Wright's wheel chair slow him down?  Not at all.  He was often the first member to arrive at the Club.

            Soon after Tatyana Bratishko or her husband, Oleg, drove their hazel Chrysler Pacifica onto the village hall parking lot, their eleven year old son, Mikhail, who preferred to be called Mike, walked into the chess hall preceded by his dynamic, little, eight year old brother, Eddie, who ran in because that's what he loved to do.

            As the typical Thursday evening developed, other members of our Club arrived, such as: Dr. David Resk, Marvin Schultz, Andrew R. Grochowski and his father, Robin J. Grochowski, Benjamin Levy, Ron Katka, Jorge Morales, Robert Vlach, James Faustmann, Jonathan Ireland, Kaushal J. Malde, Mark Politowski, eight-year old Alexander Velikanov and his father, Peter Velikanov.

            As the Club's librarian/equipment manager, I brought in a box of chess books from which a member could borrow usually one or two for up to a month's free reading.

            Club member Donald R. Madden brought in our Club's VHS tapes and DVD's for renting.  Robin J. Grochowski took over that duty in 2005.

            At the SWCC, under the direction of a member/tournament director, we played many different types of chess tournaments, matches, and time limits throughout the year.  Of course, we also played the leisurely games of chess called "skittles" which did not require a chess clock or score sheet.

            In 2005, at the suggestion of Robin Grochowski, our Club commenced "ladder games," which simply meant opposing players names were moved up or down a list or "ladder" of player's names as they won, lost or drew their chess games.

            Robin's thirteen year old son and Club member, Andrew Grochowski, who often defeated opponents many years his senior, began hauling into the Club meetings a five foot, wooden step ladder, which he had painted with black and white squares for an eye-catching display to list the player's names in the current "ladder game" standings.

            Tournament prizes ranged from a trophy, plague, book, sweat shirt, cash, certificate, and/or recognition in the next newsletter.

            On some non-tournament nights, our masters and experts gave lectures with the aid of a demonstration board with mounted pieces.

            On any chess night, some players at rest and visitors just watched other games in progress.


Chapter V

Official Business

            At our Club's annual, organization meetings (held in March), we elected our officers and directors and dealt with other official business.

            At our meeting of March 17, 2005, held in the James Meadows room, the following Club officers were elected or re-elected.

            President Joe Crothers -- assumed our top post in 1987, when our Club was eight months old, and he was re-elected to it every year thereafter.

            Vice-President Sheldon Gelbart -- was named to and remained in this position since a special board meeting was held in September 2001, soon after the previous and nearly all-purpose, nine year Vice President Newton Berry became inactive in our Club.

            Librarian/Equipment Manager Robert L. Fons -- this writer manned our chess books and inventories since 1998 except for the year 2002 term when Jason Lippert handled the job.  David Sagunsky was elected to this office in 1994 and Sheldon Gelbart in 1997.

            Treasurer/C.F.O. -- Tom Fogec replaced John Demler who cared for our funds since 1999 when Fred Zeilstra, our first treasurer, retired from this task.  In March, 1994, David Sagunsky was elected to this office but withdrew to allow Fred Zeilstra to continue as treasurer, when his plans to move to Arizona were scratched.

            Assistant Treasurer John Demler -- succeeded David Sagunsky who had manned this post since 1999.  Demler also occupied this position from 1996, when it was created, to 1998.

            Secretary Robin J. Grochowski -- stepped into the shoe prints of Fred Zeilstra, Sheldon Gelbart, and Tom Fogec, who preceded him in that order.

            Chief Information Officer Allen J. Becker -- has occupied this office since its inception, March 7, 2002.  At an earlier, special board meeting, this office was originally named the Club Website Manager, which Becker also held.

            At the March 17, 2005 meeting, the following directors were elected or re-elected: Tatyana Bratishko, Don R. Madden, Jorge Morales, Ashish Vaja, and Gary Wright.

            In the March 29, 2001 organizational meeting, the chosen directors were: Allen Becker, Tim Burton, Jorge Morales, Patrick Van Dyke, and Gary Wright.

            On December 31, 2005, our Club had five United States Chess Federation ("USCF") certified tournament directors: Sheldon Gelbart, Tom Fogec, Allen Becker, Gary Wright, and Robin J. Grochowski.

            On January 1, 2001, we had three USCF certified tournament directors: Sheldon Gelbart, Newton Barry, and David Van Scyoc.


            At the March 6, 2003 meeting, Jason Lippert read our Club's new by-laws, which were prepared mostly by Joe Crothers, Jason Lippert, John Demler, and Gary Wright.  Those by-laws were approved as read.


            On December 23, 2000, we had a balance of $1,369.01 in our Club cash bank account.  On December 31, 2005, that amount was $2,504.69.  Our Club's income has always met our needs.

Chapter VI

Membership and Tournament Fees

            The membership fees in the SWCC have not changed from the year 2001 to 2005.  The basic membership fee was $10.00 per person per year except for the following conditions:

            A $5.00 fee for each additional member from the same family.
            A Life-Time membership for a one-time payment of $50.00.
            An honorary membership awarded free to certified chess masters.
            Free membership to applicants under 16 or over 63 years of age.

            Tournament fees in the year 2005 were similar or slightly higher than the amounts charged in 2001.

            A typical Thursday night, regular tournament fee ranged from $5.00 to $7.00 per member and $6.00 to $10.00 per non-member.

            Participation in the annual team tournament was free of entry fees.

            Speed tournament fees in the year 2001 ranged from $1.00 to $2.00 per person for usually a one-night tournament.  In 2005, those fees were $5.00 to $6.00.

            Special, all-in-one weekend tournaments of four to six games in regular time limits had fees ranging from $15.00 to $20.00 in the year 2001.  In 2005, they ranged from $25.00 to $40.00.



Chapter VII

Fallen Flags

            The former members of the Southwest Chess Club have died but we will remember them:

            Frederick Gerhard Zeilstra                    1918 - 2003
            Henry R. Meifert                                  1925 - 1998
            Henry Kunsmann                                  1936 - 2000
            George Rick                                         1937 - 2004
            Thomas R. Mertins                               1976 - 2003

Chapter VIII

The Henry R. Meifert Memorial Library

            On October 9, 1998, after receiving donations of chess books that year from Club members Sheldon Gelbart, Steve Bogdanski, and Don R. Madden, our Club owned a total of 29 books in its free lending library.  But that number was soon to change.

            SWCC member Henry R. Meifert was a U.S. Army Infantryman who was wounded in World War II combat and was awarded a Purple Heart with two Clusters.  Mr. Meifert was also a long-time employee of the Harnischfeger Corporation and Wisconsin's first class master.

            Henry Meifert died on October 13, 1998 at the age of 73.  Soon thereafter, our Vice President, Newton Berry, asked Henry's widow, Mary Alice Meifert, if she would consent to our Club naming our library in honor of the memory of Mr. Meifert.  Mrs. Meifert graciously consented to Newton's request, and by Club Resolution, dated October 15, 1998, the Henry R. Meifert Memorial Library of the Southwest Chess Club was established.

            On November 5, 1998, Mrs. Meifert also generously donated to our library 46 chess books from the estate of Mr. Meifert.

            On January 1, 2001, the Henry R. Meifert Memorial Library owned 153 books.  On December 31, 2005, it owned 240 books, plus the gradually increasing number of magazines, newspapers, and one Fritz disc.



Chapter IX

Information Technology

            Now that chess has marched us well into the Twenty-First Century, learning about the game has many more resources than just watching it being played and reading related books and periodicals.

            In 2005, there were books that taught readers how to use computers to search for and view played games.  The "Links" system on the website and the "Chess Base" software provided for the study of millions of grandmaster games.  "Chess Base and Fritz discs are considered revolutionary sources of chess data," said NM Sheldon Gelbart.

            Many of our Club members, especially the stronger players, avail themselves to this new technology.

Chapter X


            If armies traveled on their stomachs, the SWCC traveled on its equipment boxes.  To efficiently account for our Club's chess equipment and easily locate it where and when needed, we devised a practical system of handling such equipment, as follows:

            Seven Club members each kept one, gray or yellow Plano box which looked like a large tool box or fishing tackle box in which was stored a fixed number of chess sets, boards, clocks, plus some score sheets and writing materials.

            By custodial members each bringing their one, loaded Plano box to our Thursday night chess sessions and/or assigning it to someone else for a special purpose such as a weekend tournament, our equipment was easily controlled despite an occasional missed attendance by a custodial member.

Chapter XI

Special Events

            The SWCC conducted about fourteen chess tournaments of various types annually.  They were played during our Thursday night sessions and two weekends at our home in the James Meadows Room of the village hall.

            Among our Club tournaments was our well respected Club Championship, which usually occupied six or seven Thursday night meetings mostly in June and July.


            The winners of the Southwest Chess Club Championship were:

                        Newton Berry              1993
                        Sheldon Gelbart            1994
                        Sheldon Gelbart            1995
                        Mark Sokolowski         1996
                        Mark Sokolowski         1997
                        David Van Scyoc         1998
                        Mark Sokolowski         1999
                        William Wenz               2000
                        Isaac Gabrilovich          2001
                        David Van Scyoc         2002
                        Allen J. Becker 2003
                        Robert Lee Murphy      2004
                        Kenneth Bastin 2005

            In addition to our SWCC tournaments, our Club had co-operated the following events with other chess Clubs:

            In some inter-Club matches, we loaned a few of our players to the opposing team to fill their ranks.  We also had members who held dual memberships in both opposing clubs.  But these factors never seemed to dampen team spirit.

            The "War Of The Roses" was an inter-Club chess match between the Waukesha Chess Club (WCC) and the SWCC from 1992 to 2002.  It was held one Saturday afternoon every June in the Boerner Botanical Gardens of Whitnall Park during the annual Rose Festival.

            This pleasant, picnic styled, summertime event was the idea come true of former member, the late Henry Kunsmann, a man who loved to play chess and grow roses.

            Each player in this match, which was usually directed by Mr. Kunsmann, would play his opponent twice, once with the white pieces and once with the black.

            The following Sunday would feature a simultaneous match at the same location with one or two experts and/or masters playing the white pieces against all comers.

            Henry Kunsmann died on March 14, 2000.  The War Of The Roses ended with its final games played the weekend of June 22, 2002.

            The winning Clubs in the War Of The Roses were:

                        SWCC             1992 through 1994.
                        WCC               1995 through 1996.
                        SWCC             1997 through 2002.

                        SWCC won nine years.
                        WCC won two years.

            Germanfest was worked by SWCC volunteers from the year 1994 through 2000.  This festival was held on a three-day weekend each July at Milwaukee's downtown festival grounds overlooking Lake Michigan.

            Under the "SCHACH" (CHESS) tent, experts and masters from the SWCC and other clubs played all challengers in simultaneous exhibition games for a $2.00 fee.

            Players names were posted on large display boards, and book prizes were given to any challenger who won or drew their game.

            A free restaurant dinner, abundant with German styled foods, was given for the volunteers usually within the next week following the fest.

            A Russian-American chess club from the Oakland Avenue area on the east side of Milwaukee County had on occasion sent its team tour club to challenge our best players on a Thursday night such as that late fall, 2002, for an unrated, one-round match.

            Although some time restrictions were needed to accommodate player's schedules, the SWCC managed to win this match 5-2.

            On a Thursday night in most Decembers, our Club held a winter holiday party at our chess hall at which casual chess was played and snacks and refreshments were served to all persons in attendance.  During some years, our Club had joined the WCC to alternate hosting this once-a-year event.

Chapter XII

Our Stronger Players

            In the 2001 calendar year, 61 persons became new Club members or renewed their membership.  In the year 2005, that number was 77.

            To understand the playing strength of our Club members, one should know that the United States Chess Federation continually rated each of its members with a performance rating number for both "regular" time limit games of 30 minutes or more per player and a different rating number for "quick" games played in 60 minutes or less per player.

            Most, but not all of our Club members, were also members of the United States Chess Federation (USCF).  Our Club, itself, was an affiliate member.

            The following names of SWCC members are shown with their regular USCF rating effective December 1, 2005.

            Our Club Vice-President and National Master, Sheldon M. Gelbart (2340) had a chess career filled with admirable achievements and constant service to the chess community.

            The following describes Dr. Gelbart's three favorite first place finishes in open competition:

            The 1967 City of Chicago Open Championship, winning the Wamsley Cup.

            The 1972 State of Illinois Championship played at Chicago's Palmer House.

            The 2001 Kenwood Open at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee played in the student union with a 7-0 record.

            Other masters (2200-2399) in our Club were: NMs William Williams (2200) and Jeff Cooper (2200).

            In our Club's expert classification (2000-2199) were: Raymond C. Hayes (2100), Ashish Vaja (2096), Allen J. Becker (2025), and Timothy E. Burton (2003).

            Our members in the "A" rated classification (1800-1999) included 17-year old Derek R. Paitrick (1978), who took first or second place finishes in three different classes, all in national tournaments as he kept improving his rating; also, Robert Lee Murphy (1914), who won our Club Championship in the year 2004.

            Our other Class A rated players were: Souvik Roychoudhury (1959), Jeremy Lynch (1896), Herman Presswood (1850), Jerry Jones (1839) Isaak Gabrilovich (1836), James J. Coons (1818), and Ivan Wijetunge (1810).

            Our Club players with Class B, C, D and E ratings and some with no USCF ratings completed our membership.

Chapter XIII

Club Visitors

            In addition to our regular members, our Club was also visited occasionally by guests who played chess on the basis of the first night free admission and a $1.00 charge for each additional night of attendance without actually becoming a member of our Club.

            One of those guests was a young gentleman named Dimitri Gomon, who was born in Tallin, Estonia, in 1985.  Dimitri was a student at Tallin Technical University in the School of Mechanical Engineering.  But temporarily he was living and working near Milwaukee in August of 2005.  At that time, his chess ratings were: 2095 in the FIDE (Federation Internationale Des Echecs) and 2143 in the Estonian national rating system.

            Our Club was honored to host all of our guests.


Chapter XIV

Roll the Presses

            Occasionally, the SWCC received encouraging attention in the print media for its chess operations.

            Our own SOUTHWEST CHESS CLUB NEWSLETTER and its predecessors were packed with our detailed tournament results, ratings, game descriptions, coming events, and other Club business.

            Among local newspapers complimentary to the SWCC were: the Hales Corners VILLAGE HUB, Greenfield OBSERVER, West Allis STAR, UW-M POST, the Milwaukee JOURNAL SENTINEL, and its predecessors.

            Chess publications included: CHESS LIFE, which was the national, official, monthly magazine of the USCF, and a local, Milwaukee chess report entitled "BADGER CHESS, which is no longer in circulation.

            Arthur Bisguier, a U.S. Senior Chess Champion, from New York City, authored his year 2003 copywrited book entitled, "THE ART OF BISGUIER, VOL I, THE EARLY YEARS (1945-1960)."  In it, he features games he played against such greats as Bobby Fischer, Sam Reshevsky, I.A. Horowitz, and many others.

            For this book effort, Mr. Bisguier enlisted the aid of three SWCC members to assist him.  They were: Newton Berry, as associate author; NM Sheldon M. Gelbart, as technical editor; and Allen J. Becker, as associate technical editor.

Chapter XV

Community Service

            Tatyana Bratishko was our Club's Community Service Director.  She worked diligently to bring chess to children such as the students of the Tess Corners Elementary School with the assistance of other members in our Club.

            Mrs. Bratishko also arranged for children to visit our Club with a parent or guardian on Thursday nights for instruction and games.

            Robin J. Grochowski volunteered at the YMCA in 2004-2005 to teach chess to children.

            Our members also had a tradition of visiting other, area schools and other institutions to help their chess programs such as Dr. Sheldon Gelbart, who coached the Whitnall High School Chess Team.

            And, remember, any respectful person was welcome to visit our meetings and play chess.  For chess players of all ilk, ages, and abilities, the casual game of chess and the good fellowship it fosters was always available at the Southwest Chess Club.