1951 Canadian Championship

1951 marked the first time that the Canadian championship was held on the Pacific Coast; following John Ewing's debut in the 1924 event there were plans to hold the 1925 championship in Vancouver, but these never came to fruition. A substantial fundraising drive was undertaken to provide sufficient funds to sponsor the 1951 event, resulting in a final total of just under $1700. Of this, $500 was submitted by John Prentice, one of the first of his many financial donations to the chess community.

Officials: Millar, Stevenson, Douglas, Yanofsky, Russell, Fox, McCharles, Prentice, Taylor
Mrs. Yanofsky, Canon Roy, MacAdam, Bain, Carroll

In the previous championship (held in Arvida, Quebec, in 1949) Maurice Fox had won the national title for a record eighth time (subsequently matched by Yanofsky). He had managed to stave off the challenge of the young Canadian stars Yanofsky (already four-time champion) and Anderson, as well as the immigrant players Vaitonis (Lithuania) and Bohatirchuk (Ukraine, Soviet champion in 1927). The question was, could he repeat his performance?

"Sessions of play will be daily except Sunday, August 26, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., with adjournments being played on the following mornings from 9 o'clock to 12 noon. Registration and directions, 10 a.m., Friday, August 24. Ceremony and luncheon, Hotel Vancouver, 12 noon, August 24.

Defending champion's travelling expenses paid. Accommodations to [sic] all participants paid. First prize, $300; second prize, $200; third prize, $120; fourth prize, $80; fifth prize, $60; sixth prize, $20. Plus bonuses to all remainder for winning points; brilliancy prize and prize for shortest game, etc. Banquet for all guests and open to the public will take place at the Hotel Vancouver Saturday, September 1: $2.50 per plate."

[Daily Province, Saturday, August 25, 1951]

Participants and officials:
Dave Creemer (organizer), Hayes, Ridout, Holowach, Adrian Russell (T.D.), Jursevskis, Millar, Taylor
Yanofsky, Vaitonis, Anderson, Fox, Bohatirchuk, Divinsky
Missing: Yerhoff

24 August - 1 September 19511234567890123
1Vaitonis, Paul (ON)*½1½11½11111110.5
2Anderson, Frank (ON)½*011½1 11111110.0
3Bohatirchuk, Feodor (ON)01*1011 1½1½119.0
4Yanofsky, Abe (MB)½00*1½111011 18.0
5Divinsky, Nathan (MB)0010*1½½11½106.5
6Fox, Maurice (PQ)0½0½0*1½11½016.0
7Jursevskis, M. (BC)½000½0*0111116.0
8Yerhoff, Frank (SK)0000½½1*0½½115.0
9Taylor, Jack (BC)00½00001*½1115.0
10Hayes, Rea (SK)0001000½½*1014.0
11Holowach, Walter (AB)00½0½½0½00*114.0
12Ridout, Howard (ON)00000100010*13.0
13Millar, Charles (BC)000010000000*1.0
Main Mezzanine Floor, Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver

Photos during play, in the possession of Jursevskis

"Final results of the Canadian Chess Championships, held in Hotal Vancouver last week, were announced today. Paul Vaitonis, a cost accountant in Hamilton, Ont., won the title Saturday. The 40-year-old immigrant finished with a total of 10½ points to nose out young Frank Anderson of Toronto by half a game. Dr. Feodor Bohatirchuk of Ottawa was third with 9. Vaitonis' win gave him first prize money of $300 and possession of the Drew Cup, symbol of the championship.

Vaitonis fled Russian rule of his native Lithuania in 1944 because "all the time you're afraid. Even if you don't do anything wrong you never know when they'll arrest you." He was scheduled to go to Sweden in a small boat, but this boat and his proposed companions were blasted by bombs in a raid. Vaitonis managed to get aboard another ship, scheduled to run the high-explosive gauntlet, and successfully reached Sweden. He married there in 1948 and came to Canada the following year. After a year's work on a farm he took up cost accouting. He has played chess since he was five, but has no real love of tournament chess. "I like better to play a good game with my friends," he says."

[Daily Province, Tuesday, September 4, 1951]

"The wind-up of the tournament was a banquet at the hotel in the evening. The visiting players and guests were entertained by the amusing remarks of W.T. Money M.C., followed by a sing-song conducted by R.A. Douglas at the piano. The visiting players expressed their appreciation to the tournament committee for the perfect arrangements and are hoping to return to Vancouver to participate in an International Tournament if it can be arranged."

[Daily Province, Saturday, September 8, 1951]

Cumulative Scores

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13
1 Vaitonis ½ B 1 2 3 4 5 10½ 10.5
2 Anderson ½ 10 10 B 10.0
3 Bohatirchuk 1 2 2 5 6 7 8 B 9 9 9.0
4 Yanofsky 0 0 ½ B ½ 8 8.0
5 Divinsky 0 1 2 2 2 2 3 B 4 5 6.5
6 Fox 1 1 2 4 4 5 B 5 6 6.0
7 Jursevskis B 1 2 3 3 3 3 5 6 6 6.0
8 Yerhoff ½ 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 B 5 5.0
9 Taylor 1 2 2 3 3 B 4 4 5 5.0
10 Hayes 0 0 0 0 1 B 1 2 2 3 3 4 4.0
11 Holowach ½ ½ B 3 4 4 4.0
12 Ridout 0 0 0 0 B 1 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3.0
13 Millar 1 1 1 1 1 1 B 1 1 1 1 1 1 1.0

The championship quickly turned into a race to see if anyone could catch Frank Anderson, who established a substantial lead by scoring 9.5 out of his first 10 games. The only other players in the race were Vaitonis and Bohatirchuk; Yanofsky lost his first two games (to Bohatirchuk and Anderson), and a further loss to Hayes in round 5 eliminated him from contention. However, Yanofsky could be forgiven his lack of concentration - he was on his honeymoon at the time!

The exciting race came right down to the wire, as the championship was not decided until the last adjournment of the final round. In round 11 Anderson drew for only the second time, giving him 10 points and a 1.5 lead over Vaitonis. However, because of the odd number of participants it was necessary for each player to receive a (unscored) bye. Vaitonis had already passed that hurdle and Bohatirchuk had the bye in round 11, but Anderson's bye was in the last round, meaning that he had to amass as many points as he could and then hope nobody could overtake him. In round 12 Bohatirchuk beat Anderson, setting up the decisive last-round encounter between Bohatirchuk and Vaitonis. Vaitonis won, allowing him to pass Anderson by half a point.