Chess in Vancouver, 1948

Like many places in Canada, Vancouver experienced a boom following the cessation of hostilities in 1945. Not surprisingly this prosperity spilled over into leisure activities, including chess. Apart from a thriving economy, returnees from the war and immigrants help fuel the post-war growth of chess in Vancouver: within the next ten years Miervaldis Jursevskis, Gerhard Neufahrt, and Elod Macskasy would all move to the West coast, to name but three. Another important factor was the chess column written by Dave Creemer in the Vancouver Province; this ran from 1947-1957, and did much to promote and popularize chess within B.C.

In those days chess life in Vancouver was predominately centred around the chess clubs. There were three main clubs, the Vancouver Chess Club, the City Chess Club, and the Vancouver Jewish Chess Club; it is indicative of the post-war popularity of chess that two of these clubs had arisen since the end of the war. The senior club was the Vancouver CC, founded in 1913; originally the club rooms were at various locations downtown, but in 1946 it moved to the Peretz Institute at 1173 West Broadway, sharing accommodations with the Vancouver Jewish CC. This site was also often home to the B.C. Championship in the late 1940s and 1950s.

The Vancouver Chess Club in session at 1173 West Broadway (one might think the players were dressed up for the photographer, but apparently this was standard attire at the time):

According to Maurice Pratt, nearest the camera is George Panton, while his opponent is Matheson. City of Vancouver Archives AM1184-S1-: CVA 1184-2330, Jack Lindsay (photographer)

Seated under the wall photos is R.A. Douglas, in front of him Jacobsen(?), standing at the rear is Canon Roy with Nelson seated in front of him. City of Vancouver Archives AM1184-S1-: CVA 1184-2331, Jack Lindsay (photographer)

When the Vancouver CC moved in 1946, a number of its members thought it was a mistake to leave the downtown area and instead formed the City Chess Club; in 1948 they occupied rooms in the Fairfield Building at Granville and Pender. The majority of Vancouver's stronger players eventually gravitated to the City CC, the predecessor of the club which now meets at the YMCA on Burrard Street. The third club, the Vancouver Jewish CC, was a direct result of immigration, in this case from Winnipeg. The Winnipeg Jewish Chess Club was one of the strongest clubs in the West; even Abe Yanofsky only managed to win its championship once. Two former members of the Winnipeg club, Dave Creemer and Frank Atnikov, were already living in Vancouver when a third member, Abe Helman, arrived in 1945. They formed the Vancouver Jewish CC in November 1945, presumably using the Winnipeg club as a model; one of the club's first official events was a match against visiting Soviet naval officers in December 1945.

Nearly all the chess activity in Vancouver in those years was club oriented; with the exception of the B.C. and Vancouver championships almost all the tournaments were organized by the clubs (the independant open Swiss did not appear until the 1960s). The chess season paralleled the school year. The club championships generally took place in the autumn, along with the Vancouver individual championship; the interclub championships took place from January to March, followed by the B.C. championship at Easter and the B.C. - Washington match (contested over 50 or 60 boards!) during the summer. Interspersed between these events would be various club tournaments, sometimes restricted to club members, at other times invitational or open to all. The City CC held a thematic gambit tournament one year, while handicap events (the giving of odds to players of lower strength) and informal team matches were also popular. In 1948 the Vancouver Jewish CC won the interclub championship after a playoff with the City CC, Abe Helman repeated as B.C. Champion, B.C. retained the international match trophy it had won the previous year, and George Panton won the Vancouver championship.

Abe Helman playing Charles Joachim on board 1 in the 1948 B.C. Washington match, held August 8 in the Stanley Park pavilion. Vancouver Public Library 41928