A SHORT HISTORY OF THE PORTLAND CHESS CLUB

(Contributed by Casey Bush)

Established in 1911, for the last century the Portland Chess Club has provided a place for chess players to congregate while hosting world champions and national tournaments.

Portland Chess Club circa 1914

In 1913 and again in 1915 American Champion Frank Marshall conducted simultaneous exhibitions in Portland, facing 43 boards the first time and 92 upon his return. Built upon the success of those events other champions came to the Rose City for simultaneous exhibitions including Jose Capablanca (1916), Alexander Alekhine (1924) and Emanuel Lasker (1926). In 1921, nine year old prodigy, Sammy Reshevsky, played the PCC’s 30 best players before an audience of over a thousand.

One of the founding members of the PCC, E. Glenn Short (1890-1985), devised a rating system that pre-dated Elo by twenty years. Short’s system was adopted up and down the West Coast and is still in use today in Portland and at San Francisco’s Mechanics Institute Chess Club. In 1919 a PCC team that included Short briefly claimed title to West Coast supremacy after defeating both the Seattle Chess Club and Mechanics Institute in matches conducted by telegraph.

In the late 1920s, one of Short’s students, Arthur Dake (1910-2000), took everything he had learned at the PCC to New York City where he quickly established himself as one of the best players in the country. Dake played on the victorious US Olympic teams in Prague (1931), Folkestone (1933) and Warsaw (1935). Dake was Marshall Chess Club Champion (1931) and defeated reigning World Champion Alekhine at Pasadena (1932). Unable to support his wife and daughter pushing pawns during the height of the Great Depression, Dake retired from professional chess in 1937 and moved back to Portland where he worked most of his life for the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles.

After the Second World War, the PCC expanded its activities and organized tournaments that became long standing traditions including the PCC Championship, the Oregon State Championship, and the Oregon Open. Two players who captured many of those early titles were Portlander Clark Harmon (1942-2007) and Latvian born Ivars Dahlberg (1934-2002). Harmon and Dahlberg were not just champions but also contributed to the organization of the PCC and the Oregon Chess Federation. The traditions of the PCC were furthered by many others including two chess playing siblings, Cal Burham (1912-2001) and Cinthia McBride (1916-2010). The Fischer era witnessed yet another surge of chess talent in Portland, including, among others, PCC champions chess masters Richard Wood (1958-2003) and Carl Haessler.

Portland Chess Club today

Under the leadership of Ralph Hall (1930-2011), the PCC hosted the 1987 U.S. Chess Open that was attended by over 500 participants. Arthur Dake played in the tournament and served as master of ceremonies. Dake was inducted into the Chess Hall of Fame in 1991 while still playing at a master level. The PCC sponsored Dake’s 90th birthday party in 2000, a month before he passed away. In 2002, the PCC partnered with Chess for Success to host the U.S. Elementary School Championships which featured 2000 children from 40 states. For over one hundred years, now a decade into the Twenty-First Century, the PCC continues to provide the premier site for Oregon chess players to meet and compete.

Click here for a longer version of Casey Bush’s history of the club

Click here too see the results of most PCC sponsored tournaments that were US Chess rated since late 1991