A Guest Column by Dr. Richard Beckwith
Joe Schwartz has been on the checker scene for decades. In addition to always having plenty of stories to tell, Joe interacted with many of the checker greats of the past. For example, Joe's father even once arranged a checker lesson for Joe from the great Willie Ryan, who was from Bronx, NY at the time. Mr. Ryan explained to a young Joe why certain moves were made in various openings. Willie Ryan had come down for a day to put on an exhibition at the YMCA. Joe has a picture of this day (with him in it) hanging in his home. Men typically wore suits and neckties in those days.
In the 8th International Match Book, Joe mentioned one of his biggest thrills was winning his first tournament as a teenager in Poughkeepsie, NY, the city where Joe was born. There were about 30 players, and Joe was the youngest. Joe only played GAYP back in those days, as there wasn't any three-move restriction activity around him until later in life.
Tom Wiswell lived in Brooklyn. Wiswell came to an exhibition for chess and checkers, where Joe got a book from him. Joe last saw Wiswell at central Park. Tom Wiswell once commented to Joe that the checker position looks different if you get up from your chair and go look at the board from the other side. Joe also mentioned that New York City had a checkers academy on 42nd street where good players met to play for money.
A checker friend Bill Wallace was with Joe during a Florida break and took Joe to a park, some 50 years ago. This is where Joe encountered Richard Hallett again. (Mr. Hallett also lived in Poughkeepsie, NY and fed Joe's cat whenever Joe was away. Later in life, Richard lived in Joe's Florida residence high-rise building.) The three players drove together to the St. Petersburg tournament, where Joe first met Marion Tinsley. Joe asked Tinsley his opinion of what is the better defensive move in the Switcher: 30-25 or 17-14 (from the run-up of 11-15 21-17 9-13 25-21 8-11 and now white to play). Tinsley replied, "30-25 is the better move."
Joe Schwartz moved to Florida in 1991, living with Bill Wallace a few months before locating to Hallandale, Florida (still his place of residence today). Joe's tradition of housing visiting checker players for the night goes back to his New York days, where he hosted the likes of Norm Wexler, Ed Bruch and Harold Freyer. Over the years, Joe sponsored matches between Richard Hallett with both Derek Oldbury and with Elbert Lowder, putting up Lowder and Oldbury (in wheelchair) for the match duration. Joe recalls Derek Oldbury being a very intellectual man who liked classical music, but was not into watching television. His wife Joan was also in a wheelchair.
Harold Freyer once lost a game to Bill Levine at a tournament in Joe's home. In the second game, Freyer eagerly sought revenge and had Levine in a troublesome ending. Mr. Freyer suggested to his opponent that he resign the position in view of the caliber of his opponent. Bill Levine grabbed a pencil, pointed it at Harold, and said, "I have a right to play this game out." Harold snatched the pencil out of his hand. Tempers started to flare, and Joe had to come over to diffuse the situation. Harold shot back at Joe, "I've been thrown out of better houses than yours!"
Joe recalls two other incidents that led to checkers flying off the board. One was Al DuBois vs. Charles Walker. After some apparent ribbing, Mr. Dubois threw the checkers, one of which hit Mr. Walker's wife around the eye and required medical attention. The other was the last game of the National Tournament between Elbert Lowder and Ron King. Elbert appeared to have the tournament won with an apparent even ending on the last game of the tournament that most players would quickly call a draw. But Suki, needing a win, wanted to play the position out further. After some fast moving, Elbert allowed a trade that allowed his remaining pieces to get trapped with the move, which resulted in checkers flying across the table. A position on a nearby non-Master game was disturbed, and they weren't recording their moves to allow reconstruction of their position.
In additional to having several lunches with Marion Tinsley, Joe had dinner with Asa Long ("a very humble man") and even helped take Mr. Long to the hospital after his health issue that occurred shortly after the start of the 1988 U.S. National in Danville, Virginia.
One time Joe Schwartz was playing Elbert Lowder in a tournament on a Single Corner opening. Joe encountered some difficulty with his current game and remarked to Elbert, "I wish I had time to analyze this position." Mr. Lowder proceeded to grab the analog time clock and wound it back to give Joe an additional 30 minutes! Joe concluded the story with, "Lowder beat me anyway."
So, what was Joe's other greatest checker thrill? It occurred in one of Joe's favorite cities to visit --- Las Vegas. This personal achievement came at the 2005 USA-U.K. & Ireland International Match held in Las Vegas, where Joe had the best record of anyone present with 10 wins, no losses and 10 draws.
In addition, here's a problem position arising from one of Joe's games in the aforementioned 2005 match.
Game from 2005 USA vs. U.K & Ireland 8th International Match, Las Vegas
Black: Joe Schwartz
White: Garrett Owens
11-15 21-17 8-11 17-13 9-14 25-21 11-16 29-25 16-20 24-19 15x24 28x19 4-8 22-17 14-18 23x14 8-11 26-23 11-15 25-22 15x24 22-18---A,B 24-28 (see diagram below).
A---While this move does draw, 30-25 is the computer's choice.
B---32-28 loses. Try it out!
As always, you can click on Read More to check your solutions to these problems.
The Checker Maven extends its warmest thanks to Richard Beckwith for providing us with this fascinating article.
Solution to Beginner Problem: 18-22 17-26 27-31 30-25 31-29 White Wins.
In the 2005 match game, the drawing line is as follows.
14-9 5x14 18x9 10-15 9-5 15-19 23x16 12x19 etc., to a draw.
The actual game went on as follows, with Joe winning.
23-19 10-15 18x11 7x23 27x18 12-16 18-15 16-19 15-11 19-24 11-7 2x11 30-26 11-16 26-22 3-8 13-9 6x13 14-9 5x14 17x10 16-19 31-26 8-12 Black Wins.