100 years of Vibrant Chess History in St. Louis
By Mike Wilmering
Obviously the most recent developments at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center and the World Chess Hall of Fame have firmly planted St. Louis as a major player in the chess world, but countless organizers and enthusiasts have helped maintain the interest in St. Louis over the years.
World’s Fair and Wolbrecht
The 1904 World’s Fair featured some of the country’s best players at the invitation-only 7th American Chess Congress, but in conjunction with that event, the Missouri Athletic Club also played host to the U.S. Open. This marked the first time this event (second only to the U.S. Championships in terms of prestige) was held in St. Louis.
The U.S. Open, originally referred to as the Western Chess Association Championship, has been held in St. Louis four times: 1904, 1929, 1941 and 1960. A St. Louisan named George H. Wolbrecht captured the Western Chess Association title in 1906. Wolbrecht studied civil engineering at Washington University.
According to an article from the Pittsburgh Gazette Times dated Sept. 18, 1910, Wolbrecht didn’t start playing chess until he was 26. He worked on the Panama Canal in 1908, conducting simultaneous exhibitions and teaching many of the workers how to play chess.
Wolbrecht also played in the Western in 1907 and 1909 and won the event again in 1910 at the age of 39.
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– GM Susan Polgar