In considering blind and deaf Samuel W. Bean and his later-life fascination with the game of chess, some reader comments brought to my mind one character quality I had observed in the Bean family. Keep in mind that I’ve never had the opportunity and privilege to meet Sam—I’ve never even met either of his two sons—but I did know his twin brother, William S. Bean, and their sister, Leona Bean Grant.
From this association, the one feature I’d say was prevalent in each of their personalities—and even in Sam’s grandchildren—was that of intensity. Bill Bean took that intensity and focused it on his business dealings, becoming in his prime quite successful. Although quite eccentric in her old age, Leona had that same headstrong manner and colorful personality.
Keeping that in mind, it is no surprise that Sam poured all his energy into his newfound interest: the game of chess. Although it was an avocation for him—in addition to his family responsibilities, Sam did hold down a job, as well as pursue various business opportunities on the side—even as a hobby, chess is simply an activity that requires a great deal of attention if one is to develop any skill in its pursuit.
In the July 5, 1948, Oakland Tribune article we’ve been discussing, perhaps reporter Elinor Hayes saw a blind and deaf chess player as an anomaly. She certainly took enough time in the piece to discuss his chess-playing prowess. Of course, as she noted, “He does other things also.”
His life and position toward it possibly is given its best example in his prime hobby—chess.Bean not only plays chess. He is a champion. He ranks fourth or fifth always among the 100 players of the Oakland Chess Club, they report.When Northern California played Southern in a test at Atascadero recently, Bean took his special raised board into No. 24 spot, which indicated he ranked in that place among the 50 boards in play.He won his match after a grueling four-hour heat.Fellow players regard him as an excellent team player.One of them discussed his attitude toward the game thus:“He plays chess as he does everything, wholeheartedly. Although he is so limited actually, he isn’t fanatically, preclusively engrossed in it, or anything. He does other things also.”