Thursday, March 23, 2017

Philip R. Geffe: A Chess Story

y John S. Hilbert and IM John Donaldson

The first United States Chess Federation sponsored tournament was held in New York and was won by Sammy Reshevsky. There were 17 competitors. The last player living from that tournament - is not even listed on cross-table of the tournament.

Let me explain.

Philip Reinhold Geffe was born on Oct. 22, 1920 in Napa, Cal. He was an only child. His parents moved to Seattle and divorced when he was still an infant. His father was a veteran of WWI, contracted tuberculosis during the war and died when Philip was 9 years old.

Somehow, Philip's last name was changed to his mother's maiden name of 'Woliston' when he started school.

The young Woliston came to chess relatively late in life, learning in Seattle's Franklin High School. "I learned quickly and was playing at the Seattle Chess Club by summer vacation in 1935. His playing strength was hastened by his playing partner and friend Olaf Ulvestad.

Although Olaf was 8 years Philip's senior, they became friends and playing partners. Olaf had already won the Washington State Championship two years running.

Not surprising; the young Woliston's play quickly developed. Philip states, "I moved up the Seattle Chess Club rating board from last to second in 4 months. Actually, they had two boards and I was 5th on the blindfold rankings."

Philip and his mother moved to California in 1936 but not before he played a match with J. Leonard Sheets - the nine time Washington State Champion. Woliston won the match 5 - 3 with one draw.

In 1937 Woliston visited the Exposition Park Chess Club in Los Angeles and won that club's championship with an impressive 14 - 2 score with 4 draws. That summer he finished 3rd in the Southern California Championship. In 1938, he won the Los Angeles City Championship with an impressive 11-0 score.

Woliston then won the California State Championship with a 7 - 1 score. Behind him in order was Harry Borochow, Herman Steiner and 4th was George Koltanowski!. That is how strong the field was.

 To be continued:

No comments:

Post a Comment