In 1934 Chess Clubs were murky places where the smells
of cigar smoke, pipe tobacco and possibly even brandy and whiskey mingled with
the distinctive odor of men's sweat. They were austere and morgue-like in the
playing area while the social room was filled with talk of chess, politics,
business and women. Men stuff. Women seldom breached those walls. It wasn't so
much that women, those chatty, frivolous creatures, were prohibited - though
they were in no way encouraged - but more that the atmosphere was distinctly
non-feminine and unappealing to the well-bred ladies capable of affording the
membership fee. Besides, women were known to play inferior chess and really
didn't belong there.
Here, as with most things, there were
exceptions to the rules. The exception's name was Marjorie Seaman.
Mrs. William I. Seaman, as she was customarily called, hailed from Boston where
she was born probably in 1881. She and her husband lived in the Stapleton
waterfront neighborhood of Staten Island. Mrs. Seaman was the first and, at the
time, only woman member of both the Staten Island Chess Club and the Marshall
Chess Club. She was also an unusually strong player.
Caroline Marshall took it upon herself to organize a
dozen local women for a chess tournament. These were women with disparate
interest and abilities in the game and, while some would drop off along the
wayside, many would hang on for the ride through the ensuing years. The
tournament was given good publicity and, since it was hosted by the Marshall
Chess Club and Frank Marshall himself acted as referee, it reached a certain
level of respectability.
Besides Mrs. William I. Seaman, the
participants included Mrs. Adele Rivero of Manhattan, Mrs. B. W. McCready of
Orange, N. J., Mrs. Harriet Broughton of Manhattan, Miss Adele S. Raettig of
Hoboken, Miss Helen White of Manhattan, Miss Hilde Grau of Manhattan, Miss Edith
Weart of Jackson Heights, Miss Vera Angus of Brooklyn, Miss Hazel Allen of Kew
Gardens, Miss M. J. Smith and Mrs. Leeds.
Marjorie Seaman breezed through
with a perfect 11-0 score. But close on her heels were Mrs. Broughton and Mrs.
Rivero both with 9-2 scores. Mrs. B. W. McCready came in next with a
6½-4½ score. Miss Hazel Allen, who withdrew from the contest had donated
the silver trophy, from that point on called the "Hazel Allen Trophy,"
the custody of which would remain the main prize for all the Marshall Chess Club
women's tournaments. Broughton and Rivero each won a
copy of Chess Potpourri with the compliments of the author, Alfred C. Klahre.
Klahre and Mrs. McCready won magnetic chess board provided by Alvin C. Cass (a
chess referee and one-time trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art).
The tournament was an instant
success and the idea of offering special Marshall Chess Club membership rates
for the ladies to meet one night a week, or on a Sunday afternoon, was kicked
around, but nothing seems to have ever come of it. This was Mrs. Seaman's first
and last Marshall Club tournament.
A 1934 game between Mrs. Harriett Broughton and Mrs. B. W. McCready
The plan was to hold these
tournaments on an annual basis. The "1935" tournament being planned for the Fall
didn't get underway until the Spring of 1936. Before the second tournament was
played, it seems that Adele Rivero, one of the second place winners, joined the
Marshall Chess Club. In December of 1935 she took part in two inter-club team
matches that, with the exception of Mrs. Rivero, involved only men. The first
was a 26 board match pitting the Marshall Club against the Suburban Chess League
of New Jersey. The Marshall Club won 21-5 and Mrs. Rivero won her individual
game played against J. P. Alpaugh. The second was a 9 board match against the
Elizabeth, N. J. Chess Club. The Marshall Club won 5½-3½ but Mrs. Rivero lost
her individual game to L. Neidich.
The 1936 tournament featured some of the same ladies that played in the first
one. Unfortunately, the very promising Harriet Brighton wasn't among them. Adele
Rivero, who had tied with Brighton for second place did play in the second
annual Women's Tournament. In 1934 Rivero trailed behind Mrs. Seaman by a point
until the last game in which the two faced off. Seaman was 10-0 and Rivero was
9-1. A win by Rivero would have catapulted her into a first place tie; her loss
put her in a second place tie. With both Seaman and Brighton out of the picture,
Rivero's chances in the second tournament were excellent.
A qualifying tourney was held among
the 20 participants with the idea of narrowing down the official tournament to
The original 20 players were:
Mrs. Raphael McCready, Mrs. Adele Rivero, Mrs. Milton,
Mrs. Wm. Slater, Miss Harrison, Mrs. Mary Bain,
Miss Edith Weart, Miss Helen White, Miss Adele Raettig,
Mrs. Rogosin, Miss Fawns, Miss Hilde Grau, Miss Rae,
Miss Pfister, Miss Helen Allen, Miss Tillinghast, Mrs. Cobb, Mrs. Clark, Mrs.
Everet Marshall, Mrs. Stelert.
The six left standing after the qualifying rounds were Adele Rivero, Mary Bain
and Mrs. Raphael E. McCready who had tied for first place, Edith Weart and Helen
White, who had tied for second place and Mrs. Wm. Slater. These six women played
for the Club title. Adele Rivero won easily with a perfect 5-0 score.
Mary Bain and Edith Weart tied for second with a score of 3½-1½.
February 2, 1936
The six participants in the
final tournament of 1936 would be exempt from qualifying for the 1937
tournament, "and it is hoped that the winner this year will be officially
recognized as the leading American woman player and sent to represent this
country in the International Ladies Tournament to be held in Stockholm next
Summer in conjunction with the International Team Tournament."
In a highly interesting side note,
the March 31, 1936 issue of The NY Times reported:
WOMAN IS VICTOR
IN U.S. CHESS PLAY
Miss Raettig Beats Cinton,
Puerto Rican Champion, in
Games Lasting 50 Moves.
Adele S. Raettig of Hoboken, N. J., the only women competitor of the
forty-eight who started play last night in the United States championship
preliminaries, carried off the honors of Group A at the Manhattan Chess
Club, where she was the first to finish a game. She defeated Rafael
Cintron of San Juan, the Puerto Rico champion, in a queen's pawn opening
lasting fifty moves.
Miss Raettig, conducting the white pieces, played very
fast and with great confidence and soon reached an ending in which she
succeeded in outmanoeuvring her rival.
Adele Raettig had finished 6th in the 1934 Marshall
Club women's tournament and was eliminated in the preliminaries for the 1936
Potpourri by Alfred C. Klahre was Published in 1931 was a 55 page
illustrated book with the following:
Little of This and A Little of That" (a mixture of chess information), "Morals
of Chess," by Dr. Benjamin Franklin "Chess in Hades," by Willard Fiske,
"Anecdotes, Witticisms, etc." as well as a selection of unusual chess-problems,
concluding with "Various References to Chess."
Klahre was born in Union, N.J. in
1872, the son of Prussian immigrants. At the time of the tournament, he was
living at lived at 922 Albemarle Rd. Brooklyn, NY. The same year as the
tournament, he had published a 20 page booklet entitled, Early Chess in
2. It should be
noted that there seems to be two distinct Mrs. McCready's. The 1934 tournament
Mrs. B. W. McCready, the wife of chess player B. W. McCready
of of Orange, N. J. The 1936 tournament listed
Mrs. Raphael McCready of Hackensack, N.J.
However, the NY Times on February 3, 1936 reports:
McCready [i.e. Raphael McCready] and Mrs. Rivero were among the prize winners
in the first tournament last year, which was captured by Mrs. W. I. Seaman of
proving the two names refer to the same person.
more McCready's (both male) had their names in the
Chess Review during those years: B. McCready who
played for the Suburban Chess League of New Jersey and D. McCready, who playing in the qualifying tournament
U. S. Championship held at Marshall's Chess Club.
3. In 1934 Virginia Sheffield won
the Women's Western Tournament (the U. S. Open) in Chicago.
Original source articles:
Marshall Chess Club