The One Chess Tournament I have Directed

I have always been a player but never a director at chess tournaments, with one exception:

That was an intercollegiate chess championship at the University of California at Berkeley in the Spring Semester, 1963. It took place in the ASUC Student Union Building, on the Fourth Floor of the Berkeley Campus.

This was a non-USCF event. It was a school tournament. All branches of the California State University System were invited to send a team of two players. Chess was just one of the events. Other events included ping pong and badminton.

This was truly a minor league event. I agreed to direct because no one else was willing to do it, and thereby hangs a tail.

Only six schools sent teams. For example, the University of California at Davis sent a team. Most teams were weak, featuring Class B players at best.

The University of California at Berkeley was a national powerhouse at chess. We tied for the US Intercollegiate Chess Championship that year, even without our two best players, Soules and Ellis. As to this event that I was directing, we would not even have bothered to send a team, had the event not been held on our campus.

UC Berkeley had many strong players. Our two strongest were Richard Ellis and George Soules. Both were masters in the 2200 range. Amazingly, both agreed to play in this rinky-dink event.

To our surprise, another strong team showed up. That was the team from California Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. The team was headed by Steve Matzner, a Hungarian refugee in the 2250-2300 range. Their other player was Medhi Meramadhi from Iran.

We all knew about Matnzer. We knew he was strong. We did not know about this "Ali Baba", to which he was derisively referred. However, it turned out that Medhi Meramadhi was a strong player, about 2100.

It was a five round Swiss, held over two days.

We thought that Soules and Ellis would give Matzner trouble. Ellis had been the trainer for Edmar Mednis, when he had played in the 1955 World Junior Championship, where Mednis had finished second.

However, we were wrong. Matzner beat both Soules and Ellis easily.

Going into the last round, Matzner had won all his games. Ellis and Soules had won all their games, except they had both lost to Matzner. Soules had beaten Medhi Meramadhi, but Ellis had not played him yet. However, Medhi Meramadhi had given up a draw to a much weaker player, and so was down in the field with 2 1/2 - 1 1/2.

So, actually, Cal Poly was in first place with 6 1/2 - 1 1/2, followed by Cal Berkeley with 6-2.

I was both the Berkeley Team Captain and the tournament director. I came out with the last round pairings. I paired Ellis against Meramadhi for the last round.

Matzner was furious. He knew that Ellis was going to beat Medhi Meramadhi. Assuming that everybody else won, this would give Cal Berkeley the championship.

"What a dirty pairing", said Matnzer.

"The pairing is forced", I replied. "There is no other pairing possible."

Matzner did not believe me. Finally, I handed him the pairing cards. "Here are the pairing cards. You make the pairings. There is no other legal pairing possible", I said.

Of course, I was right. Twelve players were playing a five round Swiss. By the fifth round, there would be few legal pairings still possible.

Matzner spent about fifteen minutes shuffling around the pairing cards trying to find another pairing besides pairing Ellis against Medhi Meramadhi. Finally, Matzner gave up and handed the cards back to me. Matzner grumbled a bit and sat down to play his last round game.

Ellis beat Medhi Meramadhi easily and Matzner and Soules won their last round games easily, so Cal. Berkeley won the championship by a half point. It was truly a glorious victory.

It was also the last time I ever directed a chess tournament.

By the way, it was also one of the last times I ever saw George Soules, Richard Elllis, Steve Matzner or Medhi Meramadhi. Does anybody know what happened to them, or even if they are still alive?

Sam Sloan

UPDATE: Dear George Soules,

Thank you so much for your letters. I am so happy to hear from you after all these years.

Yes. There was another event. It was on the UCLA Campus. This was in the Fall Semester 1962, I believe. I was a new arrival on the Berkeley Campus and was not put on the team, which made me unhappy because I was as strong as some of the weaker team players such as Phil Caffino and Ed Bogas, so I hitchhiked all the way from Berkeley to UCLA and got myself put on the team.

The rest of the team members took a school bus from Berkeley to UCLA, except for you, who drove in your car with your beautiful girlfriend, a 19-year-old sophomore. (What ever happened to her?) We were all speculating on whether or not you were sleeping with her. (I think the answer was obvious).

You were regarded as the strongest player in the Berkeley Campus, with Richard Ellis a close number two. I think that Don Sutherland was not yet a Berkeley student. He came the following year. Sutherland was not yet a master and you were regarded as a little bit stronger than he was. (How things change! I just looked up both of you in the USCF Rating list and now you are rated 14 points higher than Sutherland!) We did not yet know that International Master Charles Kalme was on the Berkeley faculty.

A Hungarian player named Peter Kelemen was on the team. He was a 2100 player, short and pudgy. I never heard of him after that. I think you have mixed up Steve Matzner with Kelemen. Both were Hungarian.

At the UCLA Event, I defeated Serge Von Oettingen, who represented Cal Davis. This was a good victory for me, because he was stronger than I was. However, the way I won was that Phil Caffino called his flag down. Then, I lost to a very weak UCLA player named Dave Gimple. I was on the white side of a Moellar Attack of the Guioco Piano. I lost a pawn in the opening and never got it back. For years, it bothered me that I had lost to such a weak player. In any event, I did better than more than half of the Berkeley players and thereby justified my position on the team.

Funny thing is, a few years ago I found an old score sheet among my papers showing that I had drawn you in a game. However, I do not remember playing a game against you. Anyway, I put the game in my computer database. I normally remember my games with strong players and since I do not remember this game, I cannot be sure that it was actually played.

[Event "UCLA Intercollegiate Match"]
[Site "Los Angeles (USA)"]
[Date "1962.??.??"]
[White "Soules,George"]
[Black "Sloan,Sam"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "A16"]

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.cxd5 Nxd5 4.g3 b6 5.Bg2 Bb7 6.Qb3 e6 7.d3
Be7 8.Nxd5 Bxd5 9.Bxd5 Qxd5 10.Qxd5 exd5 11.Bf4 Bb4+ 12.Kf1
c5 13.a3 Ba5 14.Nf3 Nc6 15.Kg2 f6 16.Rhd1 Kf7 17.Rab1 Rhe8
18.Kf1 Ke6 19.Rbc1 Rac8 20.d4 g5 21.Be3 g4 22.Nh4 cxd4 23.Bf4
b5 24.Rc2 Ne5 25.Rdc1 Rxc2 26.Rxc2 Nc4 27.b3 Nxa3 28.Rc6+ Kf7
29.Ra6 Bb4 30.Rxa7+ Re7 31.Rxe7+ Kxe7 32.Nf5+ Kd7 33.Nxd4 Bc5
34.Nf5 Nc2 35.e3 Na1 36.Nh6 Nxb3 37.Nxg4 Ke6 38.f3 Nd2+
39.Ke2 Nc4 40.Nf2 b4 41.Nd3 Be7 42.Kd1 b3 43.e4 d4 44.Bc1 f5
45.exf5+ Kxf5 1/2-1/2
In the Bay Area Chess League, I remember that you were playing on board number one for Berkeley against James Murray, a white-haired almost Albino, who played for the Mechanics. You were black. You had a queen on d5. You could have played Bb5-c6 followed by Qg2 checkmate. Somehow you overlooked this simple checkmate and he won.

Years later, I saw Jim Murray at the New York Chess and Checker Club in New York City ("the Flea House"). I went up to him, but he denied that he was Jim Murray, although he definitely was. Cal Morris, manager of the Flea House, identified him as a master, but I forget the name. I looked up that other name and asked Bill Goichberg about this, and the player under that other name had a 2220 rating, which was exactly the strength of Jim Murray. I am sure that they were both the same person, a split personality, or a fugitive from justice.

I also remember you drawing an exciting game against Rex Wilcox. The game went something like 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e5 6. Nf5 !!

This may not be the exact order but I remember that the knight got to f5. It was a hard fought draw.

Again, thank you so much for writing me.

Sam Sloan

Thank you so much for your letter. Yes, I may have to revise a few of my recollections of the event. It seems that I have mixed up Medhi Meramadhi with Mohammed Aliabadi. This conforms to my recollection that the player was referred to as "Ali Baba". Also, since I am certain that Ellis was paired against the Cal Poly #2 player in the last round and that Matzner protested, this means that Ellis must have played Dave Sullivan. In addition, some schools outside of the UC System were represented.

Your USCF rating is on the Internet. You are rated 2209. Take a look at

Don Sutherland is rated 2195. This is why I said that you are rated 14 points higher than he is. Take a look at

Steve Matzner is not rated by the USCF, but he is rated 2215 by FIDE. Take a look at

It is amazing how all these players are rated about the same as they were 40 years ago.

Richard Laver, surprisingly, is not rated by either the USCF or FIDE. He is known as the first player ever to face the Benko Gambit. Benko played it against Laver in the last round of the 1967 American Open. Laver had beaten Bisguier in the previous round and I had beaten Walter Browne earlier in the same tournament. I watched the game being played. Take a look at Benko's book on the Benko Gambit. The first game in the book is Laver-Benko. Laver's last rating was probably around 2220.

Peter Kelemen is not rated either. I wonder what ever happened to him. In the 1962-63 Bay Area Chess League, Kelemen defeated Val Zimitis when Zimitis played his Latvian Gambit. The game started 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.Nxe5 Qf6 4.d4 d6 5.Nc4 fxe4 6.Be2 Qd8. Kelemen won a piece in 15 moves. I submitted the game to California Chess Reporter and it was published, but I only submitted the first 15 moves of the game and added "and white won". The game had gone on for about 60 moves and I did not think that readers would find it interesting or that the Cal Chess Reporter would publish it. However, Zimitis was upset. Turns out, Zimitis had won back the piece later on, had obtained a winning position and then had blundered and lost. He felt that the entire game should have been published. I wish I had that game now, to see how Kelemen won a piece in 15 moves against an authority on the Latvian Gambit.

I am rated a miserable 1964. I usually have been rated around 2100, over the past 35 years. I was rated 2104 at year end 1998, but had a few bad results and fell down.

I remember your game against Jim Murray very well. Yes, you could have threatened two checkmates, Qg2# and Qh1#, and there would have been no escape. Years later, I used your idea of sacrificing your rook on a8 for his fianchettoed bishop on g2. I beat two strong masters, Rudy Blumenfeld and Robert Gruchacz, with your idea. These were two of my best wins against masters.

I remember that in your game against Murray, you could have played Bc4-d5, threatening the two checkmates. Instead, you played Bc4-b5, with the plan to play Bb5-c6 threatening the same two checkmates. You somehow overlooked that you could play Bc4-d5 directly. After the game, Don Sutherland kept saying over and over again, "Even the old men saw it".

In 1996, I went through all the old scoresheets I could find and entered them into a ChessBase file. I found game scores going back to 1956. It was a lot of work, but well worth it. I then submitted all of my games to the University of Pittsburgh web site, which was a good move, because I later on lost the original disk. Now, all my surviving games are preserved forever at the University of Pittsburgh, which is how I was able to pull down my completely forgettable game against Dave Gimple and send it to you.

Thank you again for your letters.

Sam Sloan

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