Friday, 19 April 2013

Is there chess in Walla Walla?

While flicking through Walter Browne's autobiographical work "The Stress of Chess", I came across a description of his time in Australia. For those not familiar with his background, he was born in Sydney but moved to the US at the age of three. As his mother was Australian, he retained his Australian citizenship, and returned to Australia to play, and win, the 1969 Australian Championship. He then went as the Australian representative to the 1969 Zonal, where he earned his IM title, shortly afterwards he became a Grandmaster, and went on the represent Australia at the 1970 and 1972 Olympiads.
In his book he talked about his time in Australia after the Australian Championships. He says he played a simul in Walla Walla, where he faced some 'talented aborigines'. Now I am somewhat sceptical of this tale, especially given  the number of factual errors picked up by other readers. Walla Walla is a small town near Culcairn in southern NSW, between Albury and Wagga. Now I am not familiar with the chess scene in the Riverina in the late 60's but I'm guessing it wasn't so thriving to support village based chess clubs. A simul in Albury or Wagga might be plausible, but not Walla Walla.
Well, not Walla Walla, Australia. While doing some research on this post I did discover that there is a chess club in Walla Walla, Washington, USA. I'm not sure how big the club is, but it is listed on the Washington Chess Association website. Maybe it was simply the case that Brown got confused between Walla Walla and Wagga Wagga and no one picked up the mistake,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That book is full of dodgy anecdotes and errors of fact like that one. Browne's stories of how he won his two Olympiad silver medals are the most amazing since he never won any Olympiad silver medals! If you can't find half a dozen mistakes in the section of the book when he is in Australia then you are not trying, e.g. his claimed score in the Australian Championship.