Chess Missing Persons Bureau

by admin on August 9, 2016

Are there any people whom you used to see regularly at chess tournaments or chess club, but don’t see any more? Of course, when somebody vanishes from the chess scene, it’s not necessarily a big deal. Lots of players decide that chess isn’t for them. Even very good players like Stuart Rachels or Ken Rogoff sometimes decide that they want to accomplish other things in their lives, and they walk away from tournament chess. Often they come back years later. In the meantime, at least some of their old chess friends know what has become of them.

So, in the belief that somebody on the Internet knows something about everything, here’s an experiment. Call it the Chess Missing Persons Bureau. Let us know the name of somebody you don’t see any more, along with any information about them you want to share. Then we’ll see if someone out there knows what became of them.

The first name on the list is Doug Brown, whom readers Dave Gertler and Hal Bogner have talked about in a couple of recent comment threads. He was one of what they call the “South Jersey Seven,” a group of seven players who all became masters at around the same time. He was the first board of the 1979 U.S. Amateur Team champions, Mahko Ornst, and gave the team their unusual name. Later he moved to Tennessee and (although I didn’t know him) he played a major role in my first tournament victory (1988 Georgia Congress), by drawing with GM Boris Kogan in the last round and enabling me to take sole first place at 5-0. His last USCF tournament activity was in the early 1990s. Dave and Hal don’t know what he is doing or where he is now. Can anybody enlighten us?

Now it’s your turn! Fill in the missing name and any other information you want: “Whatever became of… ?”

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Kuhner August 9, 2016 at 10:25 pm

Baraka Shabazz. When I was first playing in tournaments in Anchorage, Alaska, she was also–she worked very hard and was much better than me, but seemed not to enjoy the game as much. I think she may have been under a lot of pressure to succeed, not only for herself but for black women in general.

Eventually, like most Alaskans, she moved away. I’ve seen newspaper clippings saying she became a strong Expert but then dropped out of sight. After that, nothing.

I think she was a year or two younger than me, so might be about 50 now.


Dave Gertler August 10, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Dana – Someone else who dropped out of chess is our former schoolmate, IM Steve Odendahl. I wasn’t sure what had become of him (his last rated event was in 1999), but I just searched online and found that he’s a lawyer for the EPA. Not what I would have guessed he’d do, but it sounds like a great gig.

(That’s a nice thing about “Steve Odendahl” – it’s easy to track down someone with that name. Not nearly as easy to find a “Doug Brown”! Kind of like when I decided to contact my two best friends from high school, Bill Johnson and Steve Jones. Only about 100,000 people have each of those names!)


Dave Gertler August 10, 2016 at 1:12 pm

P.S. For the sake of accuracy: Doug Brown was on TWO Mahko Ornst teams that won the US Amateur Team. The first time was in 1977.


admin August 11, 2016 at 8:56 pm

Here is one from Richard Robinson, who e-mailed his comment to me instead of posting it here.

I will throw in the name of Robert Pearson. He was on my high school team (in CA) and we continued to play in tournaments together well into the 1980’s. He worked for Borland a while. He married and had a kid or three. He was normally in the high A, low expert range. His folks lived In Nevada. There is another chess player from Nevada with the same name but apparently not related. His background is software. He went to Cal Poly SLO for college. I have looked and looked and can not find him. He would be in his late 50’s now.


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