Knights, kings, bishops to do battle at harbor Team chess finals set for weekend

February 24, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

It'll be high-level chess in a waterfront setting, bankrolled by a wealthy businessman.

A reprise of last year's $5 million match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky that began on an island off the coast of what was once Yugoslavia?

Not quite.

But what it will be is the U.S. Chess Federation's 1993 National Amateur Team Championship finals, to be held Saturday and Sunday at the HarborView Marina and Yacht Club at 500 HarborView Dr. in Baltimore.

The event will bring together four teams, each with four players, who won regional events earlier this month.

It will also mark the first time in the 22-year history of the team championships that all the regional winners have been brought together in one location for the playoffs. Previously, regional team winners competed for the championship by telephone or, more recently, computer.

What made this year's gathering possible was the interest of Dato Tan Chin Nam, the principal of the Singapore-based company that is in partnership with a local group to develop the $600 million waterfront condominium complex on the site of Bethlehem Steel's old Key Highway Shipyard on the south shore of the Inner Harbor.

Mr. Tan Chin Nam, described as an avid and accomplished amateur chess player, contacted a U.S. chess official he knew and expressed interest in sponsoring a major event. The official, Donald Schultz, suggested the national team championships, which he said is the chess federation's "biggest growing event."

Mr. Tan Chin Nam got HarborView to put up $10,000 to cover travel and lodging expenses for the team members, as well as the cost of staging the event.

The event fits in well with HarborView's "ongoing effort to bring in all sorts of cultural and sporting events," said Vicki Loene, the development's director of public relations. HarborView, whose marina is open and whose first residents are expected to move in this spring, has sponsored yacht and sailing races and some charity events, she said.

Although the championships are an amateur event, the level of play promises to be far from casual. The four teams coming here are the best of nearly 400 that competed at four regional sites two weeks ago. And while the average numerical rating of the players on a team must be below the master level of 2,200 to qualify for the championship, only 1 percent of rated players ever achieve the master level, according to chess officials.

The teams combine a sense of humor with seriousness of purpose.

For example, the Midwest representative goes by the name "Among the Lowest Dogs," derived from Mr. Fischer's description of Russian champions Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov at a press conference before his match with Mr. Spassky last fall.

"We figured everybody involved with chess would recognize that," said John Becker, a 34-year-old country club groundskeeper who captains the team, made up of members from the Milwaukee Chess Club.

Matches will be held at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday at the community room on the second floor of HarborView's sales center. Admission is free. Call 528-1122 for more information.

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