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.’”