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History, written by John McCrary


Periodically, I like to remind new SCCA members of our state’s chess history. The following facts are all authenticated in original historical sources.

1795: Paul Morphy, who became the first true world champion in 1858, was of Charleston lineage. His grandfather, Don Diego Morphy, moved to Charleston to become Spanish Consul in 1795. Paul’s future father was born in Charleston in 1798. Paul’s future uncle, Ernest Morphy, was born in 1807, also in Charleston; he was destined to become a major national figure in chess in his own right before becoming eclipsed by his nephew’s world fame. The family lived on King Street and then Meeting Street, before moving to New Orleans in 1809. The headstone of a Morphy grave still stands in Charleston. It is located in the cemetery of the old Catholic Church on Hasell Street behind the Omni Hotel.

1800-1909: A few of the earliest known women chessplayers in the US were playing each other in Charleston. George Washington’s wife and the wife of Aaron Burr, the third US Vice-President, were also chessplayers. There is a plausible link between one of these Charleston lady players and the Morphy family there at that time.

1814: Alexander B. Meek, who became the first national president in American chess, was born in Columbia. Meek became the president of the First American Chess Congress in 1857. He moved to Alabama as an infant, and became a famous political figure and judge who helped found public education in that state.

1834: The "great chess automaton," billed as the world’s first chessplaying machine, was exhibited in Charleston starting on Dec.1. The "machine" actually had a man hidden inside so cleverly that he was never detected, despite the machine’s interior being opened to public view just before each exhibition. The exhibitor died on a voyage not long thereafter, and was buried at sea somewhere "off Charleston."

1846-1847: South Carolina was first mentioned in chess literature, in a complimentary reference to the growth of chess in our state appearing in The American Chess Magazine.

1859: The first US chess magazine published outside of New York appeared in Charleston. Called The Philidorian, it was a flop after two issues. However, one of its editors went on to found Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. The first recorded tournament in our state was held at Charleston Junior College that same year.

1880: (approximate date) The first recorded SC tournament of more than local significance occurs in Spartanburg. Isaac Orchard, who played in the event, is called "the champion of South Carolina," and later the "champion of the Carolina’s." Orchard was a Columbia native who became nationally prominent, being mentioned in Steinitz’s magazine. A variation of the king’s gambit is briefly dubbed "the Palmetto gambit" (by a Philadelphia columnist) in honor of Orchard’s success with it. Here are the moves of a published “Palmetto Gambit” game by Orchard, played against J.S.R. Thomson of Spartanburg. Orchard was white in the game. 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. g3 fxg3 4. Nf3 gxh2 5. Bc4 Nf6 6. Rxh2 Nxe4 7. Re2 d5 8. Bxd5 Qxd5 9. Nc3 Qh5 10. Nxe4 Qh1+ 11. Kf2 Qxd1 12. Nf6 double check Kd8 13. Re8 mate.

1907: A chess club was formed in June 1907 at the Columbia YMCA. (Not the present building, which has a 1911 cornerstone).

1926: The South Carolina Chess Association was founded on July 26 at the Columbia YMCA, which is still standing and in use. Five of the eight founders had a Spartanburg connection. The first state championship was held on that date, and won by Spartanburg player, W.H. Morton. The organization lasted until 1933.

Early 1940's: The Palmetto Chess Club in Columbia was founded.

1943: SC chess received a major boost when Robert Brand joined the Citadel faculty. Brand was the first vice-president of the NY State Chess Association, and editor of the NYSCA chess publication. He was also First Vice-President of the Correspondence Chess League of America. Brand promptly formed at least two Charleston chess clubs.

1948: The SC Chess Association was re-founded, and has lasted to the present. Robert Brand was instrumental in this re-forming. Also, the first SC Championship of this new SCCA was held June 19-20, 1948, at the Wade Hampton Hotel across the street from the Capitol building. (The hotel has been demolished and replaced by a 26-story office building).

1959: The SCCA starts an uninterrupted series of its magazine, continuing right on to this issue. Around 1977-1978, the SCCA was published as part of a regional magazine, with Georgia and other states. Professor Robert Brand of the Citadel was the first editor and had previously edited the New York State Chess Association periodical. Ironically, the first issue appeared almost on the exact centennial month of The Philodorian mentioned above.

Early 1960's: Columbia was the chess capital of the southern US, as the president and secretary of the Southern Chess Association resided on Greene Street by the University of South Carolina. The Southern Chess Association, which included a number of states, once rivaled the USCF in significance, and one of its tournaments was won by Dr. Hans Berliner of Washington, DC. Dr. Berliner later entered the US Chess Hall of Fame because of his convincing victory in the World Correspondence Championship, and his pioneering work in computer chess. He helped establish the academic lineage of Deep Blue. Lanneau Foster was president, and Professor Shaw secretary, and Vice-President of the Southern Chess Association. Professor Shaw was also one of its champions. Lee Hyder held office in that association as well, and was apparently involved in getting it affiliated with the USCF at the time when USCF was still a tiny organization.

1974: The South Carolina Chess Association co-sponsored, with the USCF, FIDE, and Georgia, the quarter-final match for the World Championship between Korchnoi and Mecking. The match was held in Augusta, but was the result of tireless effort by Dr. M. Lee Hyder and the late Bill Dodgen.

1975: Dr. M. Lee Hyder became the first South Carolina resident to be elected to the USCF Policy Board, as national secretary.

1983: The first correspondence chess championship of South Carolina was held, being the brainchild of David Williams, with support from Don Lemaster and SCCA president Bill Floyd. The tournament was won by John McCrary, just ahead of Wayne Williams, Mickey Bush, and Bill Floyd. David Williams and Wayne Williams published a book of the games of that event; that book is one of only a handful of tournament books ever published of a state chess championship. (According to standard chess bibliographical sources.) Later, Wayne Williams became the first person to hold the state correspondence and OTB titles simultaneously.

1989-1990: The US Women’s Chess Championship was held two consecutive years at Converse College in Spartanburg. Spencer Mathews and David Williams were instrumental in staging this event.

1990: James Hill of Columbia, South Carolina, perennially one of the state's best players, became the first African-American to win the state championship. He finished as co-champion in the 1990 championship tournament.

1998-2001: John McCrary became President of the US Chess Trust in 1998. He became USCF Vice President in 1999, and USCF President in 2001. He is the only person ever to hold all three of those offices. The USCF set its all-time membership record of nearly 98,000 members during McCrary's Presidential term.


South Carolina Chess Champions: 1926-Present

Year Champion
1926: Dr. William H. Morton
1927: James Henry Rice, Jr.
1928: Col. Oliver J. Bond
1929: B.O. Johnson
1930: E.B. Hallman
1931: Edward L. Dashiell
1932: P.J. Walker
1933: Edward L. Dashiell
1948: Harold A. Mouzon, Jr.
1949: Paul L. Cromelin
1950: Harold A. Mouzon, Jr.
1951: Paul L. Cromelin
1952: Alex Edelsburg
1953: Rea B. Hayes
1954: Rea B. Hayes
1955: Ernest E. Hoenck
1956: Lanneau L. Foster, Alex Edelsburg
1957: R. Grady Brown
1958: R. Grady Brown
1959: Harold A. Mouzon, Jr.
1960: Peter Grant, Lanneau Foster, Alex Edelsburg
1961: John G. Wallenburg
1962: Lanneau L. Foster
1963: Dr. Steven Shaw
1964: Lee Hyder
1965: John A. Chalmers, Alex Edelsburg
1966: Lee Hyder
1967: Lee Hyder, Alex Edelsburg
1968: Lee Hyder
1969: Spencer Mathews
1970: Charles Walter
1971: Otto Estenger
1972: Otto Estenger, Charles Walter
1973: Jeff Smeltzer, Charles Walter
1974: Charles Walter
1975: Jeff Smeltzer, Lee Hyder, James Addison
1976: Fred Scott Allsbrook
1977: Paul Tinkler
1978: Lee Hyder
1979: Edward McCauley, Richard Cohen, Patrick Hart
1980: Klaus Pohl
1981: Jeff Smeltzer
1982: Klaus Pohl
1983: Klaus Pohl, David Erb, Joseph Zeimetz
1984: Wayne Williams
1985: Thomas Krause, Klaus Pohl, Wayne Williams
1986: Klaus Pohl
1987: Dennis Fish, Randal Ferguson, Wayne Williams
1988: Klaus Pohl
1989: Wayne Williams, Lee Hyder, Doug Holmes
1990: Charles Walter, Dennis Fish, Mark Brodie, James Hill
1991: Klaus Pohl
1992: Klaus Pohl, Lindsay Blanks
1993: Philip Laren, Klaus Pohl
1994: Lindsay Blanks
1995: Patrick Hart, Wayne Williams
1996: Randal Ferguson
1997: Randal Ferguson
1998: Dr. Miles F. Ardaman
1999: Dr. Miles F. Ardaman
2000: Klaus Pohl
2001: Dr. Miles F. Ardaman
2002: Alex Guetchkov, James Burden
2003: Randal Ferguson
2004: Keith Eubanks, John Curcuru
2005: Klaus Pohl
2006: Timur Aliyev, Klaus Pohl, Wayne Christensen
2007: Timur Aliyev
2008: Dr. Philipp Lamby
2009: Timur Aliyev
2010: Dr. Philipp Lamby
2011: Dr. Alexander Matros
2012: Dr. Edsel Pena, Benjamin Caiello, Gene Nix
2013: Dr. Alexander Matros
2014: Wayne Christensen
2015: Klaus Pohl
2016: Benjamin Caiello
2017: NM Sam Copeland
2018: NM Mike Sailer
2019: NM Mike Sailer
2020: Dr. Alexander Matros
2021: Dr. Alexander Matros
2022: NM Mike Sailer
2023: NM Sam Copeland, NM Mike Sailer, NM Benjamin Caiello