Illinois Chess History
First IL High School Chess Champion DeFotis Passes Away
- Written by Bill Feldman Bill Feldman
Back in the 1960's, long before the IHSA team format and before the upsurge in chess popularity from Bobby Fischer, there was something called the Illinois High School Students Chess Championship.
Greg DeFotis was the very first champion of that event in 1966.
Word has reached the ICA that Mr. DeFotis has passed away at the age of 65. He died September 5. Funeral services were held at Yurs Funeral Home in St. Charles on September 9 followed by a private burial service.
Mr. DeFotis won or tied for first in the US Junior Championship three times (according to Chessgames.com). He also tied for first in the 1973 Illinois Open.
Former Illinois Chess Bulletin Editor Ken Marshall writes in that he did not know Mr. DeFotis personally but did get to see him play on occasion. Marshall says that DeFotis was considered a top young Illinois player during the late 60's and early 70's.
According to sources, Mr. DeFotis walked away from competitive chess in the early 1990's as a FIDE Master due to the lack of significant prize funds in chess -- and perhaps out of frustration that midwest GM-norm events were scarce.
Mr. DeFotis was also a world-class backgammon player and superior contract bridge enthusiast -- and excelled at other games as well. According to Marshall, DeFotis was a member of a five-man team that won the 1979 Grand National Team Championship of the American Contract Bridge League.
Despite a prolonged absence from chess he returned to chess briefly in the latter 80's and early 90's and was still a strong player.
His last rated event was the 1994 Billy Colias Open where he went undefeated, winning twice and drawing a Master before withdrawing. His final US Chess rating was 2462 but he was rated over 2500 at times (prior to the MSA history).
The last few years of his USCF / US Chess history are posted here.
Dr. Gary Martin, now Vice Chair of Faculty Affairs at Northwestern Medical School, was a teammate of DeFotis at Lane High School (now known as Lane Tech). He remembers DeFotis as "thoughtful, calm, and an excellent math student."
Dr. Martin recalls DeFotis did not play for Lane in the citywide matches, disappointed he was snubbed by the teacher / sponsor for the role of team captain.
According to Dr. Martin, DeFotis felt that "as the most accomplished player, he should have been chose for that role. But when it was time for the US National High School Tournament (circa 1969) he decided to play with the team -- and Lane won the whole thing! He and the other top three scoring players from Lane were on the cover of Chess Life!"
Former ICA President Hector Hernandez writes in to report that Chessgames.com has 40 DeFotis games posted -- many with insightful commentary. Listed opponents are a veritable "who's who" of chess including Pal Benko, Bent Larsen, I A Horowitz, Larry Evans, Larry Kaufman, Joel Benjamin, Roman Dzindzichashvili and the late Arthur Bisguier.
Our collective condolences to the family and friends.