Thursday, May 23, 2013

Skinning the Woolfe


Long after his last game—long after his passing, even—Samuel W. Bean was remembered among those in the chess clubs he frequented for tournaments and other events.

In 1979, one of his former opponents—Emil Stephen Ladner, a fellow deaf competitor sixteen years Sam’s junior—joined with Juan F. Font to catalog the history of selected members of The Berkeley Chess Club For The Deaf and other chess clubs, which they published in a book.

A segment, posted online and found by A Family Tapestry reader Intense Guy (“Iggy”) reveals Sam’s story as included in that publication. For those of you who enjoy—or even understand—the finer points of chess, the article lists the moves to two of Sam’s games.

The authors explain how, considering his physical limitations, Sam managed to play the game:
Naturally he used a specially constructed board so that he could feel the pieces. Since he had to play slowly, his opponent usually set up another board for his own use while Sam was busy wandering all over his own board. Sam won most of his games and was quick to congratulate anyone who defeated him.
Considering my surprise at reading in Sam’s obituary how he had placed so highly in a “world tournament” of the blind, it was reassuring to read Font and Ladner’s confirmation of at least his participation in that type of occasion:
At chess Sam became an expert player and won club and county championships. He also played in North vs. South matches and in tournaments for the blind of the world.
In one of the games listed in the article, Sam played an opponent listed as “C. Woolfe.” This Mr. Woolfe was considered “one of the best players in Northern California.” Despite that promising reputation, in this case, he had to resign to his opponent—Sam—after his fifty-first move.

Noted the authors, “After this game Sam was heard to chuckle, ‘I skinned the wolf.’”

12 comments:

  1. Oh Sam! That sounds like a headline someone would write today.

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  2. Samuel must have been quite a man to have made such a positive impact 30-some years after his passing. Not many of will be able to say the same.

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    1. That is a thought, Iggy. I'm thankful, also, that that chess organization had members in it who felt that history is important enough to collect those memories and preserve them to pass down to future generations. If it weren't for that book and post on the local club's remembrances, we wouldn't have the benefit of those stories about Sam.

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  3. See I don't think you are done with Sam just yet..where is Hazel lurking? :)

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    1. Oh, Hazel...I'm afraid she will have to wait for A Family Tapestry--"The Next Generation"!

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  4. It sounds like Sam was a veery interesting man!

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    1. Thanks, Terri! He did have quite a story.

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  5. I love this---it shows not only his skill, but his sense of humor.

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    1. Michelle, when I think back to the beginning of Sam's story--with those photographs of him standing so stiff and rigid--it gives me some insight into how much things had to have changed in Sam's own mind. To loosen up and swing with the punches--to be able to let go and have a sense of humor, despite the seriousness of the overarching condition--that is testimony to a long-range maturity of emotion as well as intellect.

      Kind of like being able to dance when you can't even hear the music...

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  6. Ha! Very nice! Sam had a good sense of humor.

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    1. And I can almost imagine hearing him say that!

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