Most of us think of Helen Warren as the emeritus heart and soul of the Illinois Chess Association. Back in 1961, Helen Hendricks was one of the signers of our Articles of Incorporation (along with our respected friends Jim Brotsos and the late Frank Skoff, future U.S Women’s Champion Eva Aronson, and Peter Wolf). Along the way (after marrying Jim Warren, an Expert who drew Fischer twice on his 1963 simul tour), she organized umpteen Midwest Masters, the 1989 U.S. Open, a couple of the best U.S. Masters ever, and other events too numerous to mention, she brought World Championship Candidates Viktor Korchnoi and Robert Hübner to Chicago for the 1982 Cloverline International, she founded the wonderful American Postal Chess Tournaments, served for decades in various USCF leadership positions, edited the Illinois Chess Bulletin, and, not least (my apologies for the unavoidable runon sentence), she was the voice of the ICA, even in those years when she didn’t officially have the title of President.
Life's simple pleasures: blitz chess and beer
Helen Warren vs. Ed Radavicius
1973 Chicago Industrial Chess League Banquet Blitz Championship
You may not realize that Helen also loves to play chess, and is pretty good at the game, as I discovered at the inaugural Master Challenge in 1979. Even though the wallchart said my rating was about 450 points higher, I was the one on the run:
Bill Brock—Helen Warren
1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. Bd3 Nf6 5. c3
Almost a decade after the famous Fischer-Petrosian game in Belgrade, everyone in Illinois from senior master to patzer was still playing this line against the Caro-Kann. Larry Chachere and Allen Kornfeld were among its partisans in the early 1980s, while Dr. Eugene Martinovsky never hesitated to defend the line. Kornfeld beat the good Doctor in a 1981 Palmer House battle royal after 5...Nc6 6.Bf4 Bg4 7.Qb3 Qd7. Then-current theory said that 7...Qc8 was a better choice, but fashions change.....
5...e6 6. Bf4 Bd6 7. Bxd6 Qxd6 8. Nf3 O-O 9. Nbd2 Nbd7 10. O-O Re8 11. Qa4 Nb6 12. Qb3 Bd7 13. Ne5?!
Threatening to tickle the Nb6 with 13. a4 would have been better.
Bam! Fritz thinks the position is equal, but I think this is one of those positions that humans understand better than Fritz.... Helen looked both happy and determined.
14. Qb4 Qxb4 15. cxb4 Rac8 16. Rac1 Red8 17. b3
If I were to play 17.b5 here, Black looks good after 17...Ne4. Jim’s visits to the board were becoming more frequent, and I was getting nervous.
17... Be8 18. a4 Nbd7 19. f4 Nxe5 20. fxe5 Nd7 21. Bb5
Black would have retained a slight pull after 21...Nb8!
I played 22.Bxd7 with relief and ground out a slightly superior ending. After Helen resigned, I started to explain her missed opportunity, but she cut me off quickly: “Good knight against bad bishop, I understand.”
Attentive readers may have figured out that I omitted one of Helen’s biggest accomplishments. She saw that Illinois had many talented junor players who were stalling at a critical level in their development because they weren’t getting the same quality training as the kids from New York and California (let alone the Soviet Union).
So she did something about it by starting the ICA Warren Junior Chess Program. Its mission is simple: to identify nationally ranked Illinois boys and girls, and to offer merit-based financial assistance to these students for individual and small group instruction with masters and grandmasters. The goal of the program is to nurture the highest-potential Illinois students so they can be competitive on a national and international stage.
Currently, Illinois has several dozen boys and girls who are nationally ranked in their age group. As talented as our teens are, I’m even more excited about our crop of young players. Success in chess requires a combination of innate talent and hard work. Intensive mentoring at a young age can propel our talented students to the very top levels of success. The program works, as evidenced by the results of Warren Junior Chess Program alumni. For the past four years, Andi Rosen has continued the work that Helen began, maintaining her tradition of excellence.
On November 7, 2010, the Illinois Chess Association will do its darndest to honor Helen Warren's five decades of service. Please join us at Buca di Beppo, 90 Yorktown Road, in Lombard, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Please follow this link to view your invitation!
And you can purchase banquet tickets here!
(Part of this blog entry was adapted from an article that appeared in the January-February 2006 Illinois Chess Bulletin)