Friday, March 2, 2012

The World Chess Hall of Fame is in St. Louis, Missouri …..for Now.

Although founded in 1984 by USCF President Steven Doyle and supported by the US Chess Trust, the charitable arm of the US Chess Federation, it relies today on the generousness of someone for the location. It started out in New Windsor, NY.

Opened in 1988 in the basement of the USCF’s then-headquarters the small museum contained a modest collection, including a book of chess openings signed by Bobby Fischer a silver set awarded to Paul Morphy, American chess player and unofficial World Champion; and cardboard plaques honoring past grandmasters.

Cardboard? Really?

In 1992, the U.S. Chess Trust purchased the museum and moved its contents to Washington D.C. location from 1992 to 2001, the hall featured America's "big four" chess players: Paul Morphy, Frank Marshall, Samuel Reshevsky and Bobby Fischer.

It displayed the World Chess Championship trophy won by the United States team in 1993 as well as numerous chess boards and chess pieces. The museum also gave visitors the opportunity to play against a chess computer. That was quite an honor at that time.

By 2001, the collection had grown to include numerous chess sets and boards and plaques commemorating inductees to the U.S. and World halls of fame.

In the late 1990s, Sidney Samole, former owner of Excalibur Electronics, proposed to move the hall of fame to Miami, where it would be located in a rook-shaped building constructed by Excalibur.

Although Samole died in 2000, the U.S. Chess Trust accepted the proposal the following year. Reopened in 2001, it was renamed the World Chess Hall of Fame and Sidney Samole Museum. The museum continued collecting chess sets, books, tournament memorabilia, advertisements, photographs, furniture, medals, trophies, and journals until it closed in 2009.

Rex Sinquefield soon afterward agreed to pay for moving the museum to the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center and renovating its new building.

I wonder if that chess club is wealthier than LCCC? It is located at 4652 Maryland Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108.

The website is now on our site list.

The World Chess Hall of Fame is located across the street from the club in St. Louis’ vibrant Central West End neighborhood. It displays artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection and temporary exhibitions highlighting the great players, historic games, and rich cultural history of chess as well as the U.S. and World Chess Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame collaborates with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center to provide programming, instruction, and outreach to an international audience of novices and experts alike. Its collection includes pieces such as a 500-year-old piece from an Egyptian game called Senet, the earliest known board game; a custom-made set of chess furniture that belonged to Bobby Fischer, and the first commercial chess computer.

Rotating exhibitions feature items from the permanent collection; the museum also mounts two temporary exhibitions per year. The Hall of Fame also commemorates the careers of its members.

So you now know of a must-see stop if you are ever in St. Louis. Donations must be needed. Paul Morphy deserves better than a cardboard plaque.

1 comment:

  1. The problem is that chess doesn't have a following with the general public. Even people who play chess casually don't have much interest in chess news, watching high level chess games, or a chess museum. The Chess Hall of Fame will never make enough from admission charges to support itself, so it will continue to be subject to the whims of the latest wealthy benefactor.

    Moving it to St. Louis does make sense since that city recently has become the focal point for serious chess in the U.S. It doesn't sound like the museum has enough exibits to be a destination in and of itself, but it is likely a lot of chessplayers visiting St. Louis will stop in while they are in the neighborhood.

    I'm amazed at all the St. Louis Chess Club has accomplished in recent years. Where are they getting the funds to do all this? Did some wealthy person leave the club a lot of money?