Gone but not forgotten

by admin on May 7, 2012

I’d like to start a new chess week (and month) out with a little photo quiz.

Where Am I?

I discovered this old photo on my computer when I was updating my website. Old-timers on the Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay chess scene should be able to figure out where the picture was taken. Any guesses before I reveal the answer?

(Space provided for people who want to think about it.)

While you’re thinking, let me apologize to anybody who came to visit this blog over the weekend and got a message saying “Internal Server Error.” I contacted my Internet service provider this morning and they fixed the problem. It was related to the server migration that took place last month when I updated my main website. I hope that this will be the last glitch, but I can’t promise it.

Okay, are you done thinking? The photo was taken in Ted Yudacufski’s old chess emporium, the Monterey Chess Center. I don’t remember the exact date, but it must have been around 2001 or 2002, when Ted was still running his monthly tournaments and I was playing in them semi-regularly. I don’t even remember posing for the picture, so it was quite a surprise to find it in my old computer files.

The Monterey Chess Center was a wonderful place, and it’s sad that it no longer exists. With old photos of world champions and yellowing newspaper clippings on the walls, it was a place where time seemed to be suspended. I recall that one wall had a list of the world’s top players that hadn’t been updated since the 1970s. That “World Chess News” bulletin board behind me in the photo probably doesn’t have any news younger than ten years old on it!

Yet for all that, it was comfortable as an old shoe. The chess center occupied the second and third floors of a building that had a movie theater on the first floor. The second floor had a little shop with chess books and equipment and darts paraphernalia for sale (darts being Ted’s other hobby). There were tables for skittles chess and several dartboards on the walls. The third floor, where the photograph above was taken, had a mostly empty room that Ted used for his monthly chess tournaments.

I don’t know the exact story behind the closing of the chess center, but the approximate version is that the whole building with the movie theater was sold to a new owner, and either they raised the rent or Ted was simply asked to leave.

Unfortunately, I never saw Ted again after that. He passed away on the day before Christmas in 2011. According to his obituary, he died while doing what he loved best: playing chess with his grandson. I did not know about his death at the time; I found out about it just now, when I did a web search to see if I could find any more recent news about him for this blog entry.

Chess is so dependent on people like Ted, who are willing to put forth herculean individual efforts to keep the game alive and get new generations of players excited. He was so modest that he never really spoke much (to me, at least) about his accomplishments, either over the chessboard or away from the board. If you know any more details about his life or his chess career, please add your comments below.

Anyway, Ted was an inspiration to me, and I’ll miss him.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

jello May 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm

Thank you. Seen photographs of the it before and as a nor cal’er wondered about the place’s history. Sounds like Ted created a little chess haven there while it existed.


Naomi December 18, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I just saw your post as I was researching my father on the internet. Thank you for your kind words. I hope you are still having fun playing chess.


Nels Henderson December 29, 2012 at 7:24 am

Thanks for posting this. I used to take a bus from Carmel Valley to Monterey and hike up Alvarado Street to play chess at the MCC in the early 80s as a junior high and high school student. Prepping for a trip over the New Year, I wondered whether it still existed. I owe a big debt to Ted for encouraging me to play chess…it’s a big loss for young people on the Monterey Peninsula.


Robert March 29, 2014 at 10:38 am

I frequently attended the Monterey Chess Center in 1999-2000. Having just relocated to the area and not knowing a soul, I spent many hours in the chess center, and had many good conversations with Ted. I had never seriously played darts in my life up to that point, but Ted taught me the basics of the game. I remember Ted as being extremely articulate and sharp-minded, but also very even-keeled, he never seemed to be in a hurry and I never heard him raise his voice.

Ted is definitely missed by many people, thanks for this tribute.


Jason July 8, 2016 at 11:49 pm

Thank you Dana for posting this blog. I recently retired from the Air Force, and came across your blog while reminiscing about the places I’ve played chess during my military career. During 1994 and 1995, I was a regular at the Monterey Chess Center playing in the monthly and weekly tournaments. It was the one place for me to escape from my arduous studies at the nearby Defense Language Institute. I didn’t own a car, so I had to walk down the long, unforgiving hill from the presidio and hike it back up every week, but it was so worth it. The Monterey Chess Center allowed me to meet several interesting and wonderful people to include Ted. Ted was a great guy who dedicated his time supporting chess/dart players in the local and surrounding communities. This wan’t surprising as he loved to play chess and darts. He was skillful at chess, but much stronger at darts as I was thoroughly schooled on more than one occasion. He was a gracious host, welcoming all to his quaint domain, and was quiet and unassuming with a sly sense of humor. I always enjoyed playing relaxing coffee house games with him during non-tourney days. Ted sold me a unique wooden chess set from his center’s merchandise, and it’s my favorite to this very day. Each time I dust off the pieces, it rushes me back to memory lane along Alvarado Street. It was a pleasure knowing him and a privilege playing in his now historical chess club. Both were unique in their own way and perfectly complimented each other. Many thanks to Ted for his service and friendship.


Sean Pfost July 3, 2023 at 5:17 pm

thanks for posting this! Ted was a wonderful friend and mentor to young military folks like me looking to play chess on the weekends…Ted charged only $5 monthly membership to military when I played there in 1986-87. Wonderful man, great sense of humor and super-generous with his wisdom and wit.


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