Sunday, December 23, 2012
CHESS Stephen Dann
In 1972, one of the biggest years for chess, this writer worked at the Hartford Courant. One of the largest chess clubs in Connecticut sprang up in Newtown. A key part of the success in Newtown was a New York City executive who retired to Sandy Hook, one of those legendary villages within New England towns, and now made famous for such a sad reason — the senseless deaths of 20 children and six teachers.
Benjamin William McCready, or Ben as he preferred, born in 1903 in New York City, became publisher of Playthings, the wholesale/trade magazine of the toy industry, in 1945, taking over from his father.
Early history can be found at www.giftsanddec.com. McCready retired after Geyer-McAllister Publications bought out his family in 1967. Ben soon moved to Sandy Hook (and later Southbury) and worked part time for the Newtown Bee, doing editing and his beloved chess column, known far and wide because of its unique detail.
Ben taught students of all ages to play chess during that golden age, and was still remembered last week by Bee publisher R. Scitter Smith in a phone call. He didn’t know what his so part-time employee did in his earlier career, but did remember his devotion to chess and the hundreds of lengthy columns he wrote for the paper. He said he would get back to me when things quieted down a bit in Newtown.
This writer also viewed last week’s appeals by NBC’s Ann Curry (reflecting on #26 Acts of Kindness blogs) that we should all do nice gestures to make up for the hateful ones
Why not teach more kids of all ages to play the game that a titan in the 20th-century toy industry viewed as the ultimate lifetime pastime? This writer will never forget how Ben bonded with so many kids and probably bestowed countless acts of kindness in southwest Connecticut. If you cannot be a chess volunteer at your town’s schools, library or senior center, consider MACA’s Living Memorial Chess Fund or the USCF’s Charitable Trust, but volunteers are needed even more than money, to add a human touch and to restore hope to a world shattered by senseless violence.
Last weekend, a six-minute video, “How Chess Can Revolutionize Learning,” by Cody Pomeranz, was posted on www.uschess.org, and is well worth watching, explaining why “chess makes you smart,” not that “only smart people play chess.”
Winners at the 78-player 2nd Spiegel Cup Prelim in Woburn appear on www.masschess.org, along with upcoming events throughout the new year. Dylan McClain’s Dec. 16 New York Times chess column (page 23) gives added perspective to Magnus Carlsen’s victory at the London Chess Classic, as does Lubomir Kavalek’s writings at www.HuffingtonPost.com. We also must mention the dean of American chess columnists, Harold Dondis, 90, of Belmont, whose Boston Globe column, now on Mondays, has become a legend since he began in 1964, and who still competes in open rated events.
Answer to quiz: It’s “Prof.” Joel Johnson again, unleashing 1. Ba4 to short-circuit any chance his opponent might have.
It’ sad to see what happened in Newtown.