Helen Warren and the Warren Junior Program

This article was originally published as Bill Brock's "President's Podium" column in a 2006 edition of the Illinois Chess Bulletin.

Most of us think of Helen Warren as the emeritus heart and soul of the Illinois Chess Association. Back in 1961, Helen Hendricks was one of the signers of our Articles of Incorporation (along with our respected friends Jim Brotsos and Frank Skoff, future U.S Women’s Champion Eva Aronson, and Peter Wolf). Along the way (after marrying Jim Warren, an Expert who drew Fischer twice on his 1963 simul tour), she organized umpteen Midwest Masters, the 1989 U.S. Open, a couple of the best U.S. Masters ever, and other events too numerous to mention. She brought World Championship Candidates Viktor Korchnoi and Robert Hübner to Chicago for the 1982 Cloverline International, she founded the wonderful American Postal Chess Tournaments, served for decades in various USCF leadership positions, edited the Illinois Chess Bulletin, and was the voice of the ICA, even in those years when she didn’t officially have the title of President. Even today, on the many occasions that ICA has a problem that I’m not sure how to handle, I call Helen for her wise counsel.

Attentive readers may have figured out that I omitted one of Helen’s biggest accomplishments. She saw that Illinois had many talented junior players who were stalling at a critical level in their development because they weren’t getting the same quality training as the kids from New York and California (let alone the Soviet Union). So she did something about it by starting the ICA Warren Junior Chess Program. Its mission is simple: to identify nationally ranked Illinois boys and girls, and to offer merit-based financial assistance to these students for individual and small group instruction with masters and grandmasters. The goal of the program is to nurture the highest-potential Illinois students so they can be competitive on a national and international stage. Currently, Illinois has more than twenty boys and girls who are nationally ranked in their age group. As talented as our teens are, I’m even more excited about our crop of young players.

Success in chess requires a combination of innate talent and hard work. Intensive mentoring at a young age can propel our talented students to the very top levels of success. We want to produce more grandmasters, but we’re also realistic to understand that not every child will (or even should) reach that goal. I believe that the children who are chosen to participate in the Warren Junior Program will not only become stronger players, but be successful in other professional endeavors later in their lives. The intensive study offered by this program will foster the kind of discipline, hard work, and perseverance that will propel these students to contribute to society at the highest levels as adults. The program works, as evidenced by the results of Warren Junior Chess Program alumni:

    • While still a junior, Yelena Gorlin finished 7th in the 2000U.S. Women’s Invitational Championship.
    • William Aramil won the 2001 Denker Tournament of High School Champions (and a four-year college scholarship)
    • Ex-Chicagoan Zhe Quan finished 12th in the 2004 World Juniors (open to players under 19), at the age of 14!

I thank those of you who have given to the ICA Warren Junior Program in past years for your generous support.