Chess comes to Iowa

by Jon R. Edwards

Bob Long of Thinkers’ Press had a vision … bringing chess players to Iowa not to play chess, but to talk about it. To have a chance to hob-knob with famous and infamous chess personalities, to share funny stories and tales about the great players.

If all this sounds a bit like the movie, Field of Dreams, you’ve got the picture. Bob has organized three Chess Festivals in Davenport, and I had the pleasure of coming to two of them as a speaker.

That’s how I got to meet Lubosh Kavelek who, like me, had arrived the day before. It was Friday night, in a small hotel in Molene just across the Mississippi from Davenport. We didn’t have a car, but there was a mall on an island in the river (only in America) and we decided to walk. No sidewalks, of course, but we managed to make it there.

A former Chechoslavakian champion, Kavalek, like many other great over-the-board players, had a disdain for the correspondence game. But also some curiosity. As always, I had a card in my pocket and I hoped to find a mailbox at the mall.

“So tell me about that game.” He said pointing to the card in my pocket.

“Well, I’m not permitted to get help on these so I won’t share the present position, but this one may be of interest to you. It’s a game with the correspondence chess champion of Chechoslavakia, and he made an interesting early blunder. It was a Nimzo-Indian ) 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4) and he played 4.e4. Of course I took the pawn. We're now on move 16. I suspect that he played 4.e4 by mistake thinking that we had reached another position.”

After a long walk, we were in the mall and a mailbox loomed ahead.

Said Lubosh: “Let me write a quick message to my countryman.” He reached out and grabbed the card out of my pocket.

“Whoa,” I replied nervously. “What are you writing?”

“It’s just a friendly message.” He handed me back the card, but the writing was in Chech with his signature at the end.

“Lubosh, there are strict rules against consultation. What did you write?”

“Well, I wrote ‘Next time, learn how to play the Nimzo-Indian.”

Suffice it to say, I did not mail the card, but I gained a wonderful autograph for my chess on stamp collection.