Illinois Chess History
Illinois Chess Loses Strong Supporter; Jim Warren, 81
- Written by Bill Brock Bill Brock
James E. Warren of Lombard, Illinois, died earlier today, , at the age of 81.
Jim's contribution to Illinois chess as a player, organizer, patron, and volunteer is truly unparalleled. He is survived by his wife Helen, a co-founder of the Illinois Chess Association.
For more than three decades, Jim worked for Western Electric (later AT&T Technologies, the forerunner of today's Alcatel-Lucent) until a 1989 heart attack forced him to take an early retirement.
Playing in the Chicago Industrial Chess League a couple years after its founding in 1957, Jim was the CICL's first Expert player at a time when most teams were happy to have one Class A player on their team.
In competition, he dominated, in Jim Brotsos' words, like "Rocky Marciano among a bunch of midgets." Even as the CICL got stronger, Jim always remained among the top players in his division.
Jim was one of only two players to play Bobby Fischer more than once on his 1964 simultaneous tour without losing a game. He drew Fischer on March 22, 1964 (Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago) and May 20, 1964 (at Western Electric's Albright Gym, 49th and Cermak, in Cicero).
But despite his considerable skill as a player, it's in his off-the-board contributions to chess that Jim made his mark.
After Professor Arpad Elo of Marquette created his eponymous rating system, Jim was instrumental to its 1960 implementation by the U.S. Chess Federation. He served as USCF's Rating Statistician, wrote a computer program for calculating self-consistent ratings, and he suggested to Elo that the Harkness System's class distinctions (Master, Expert, Class A, Class B, Class C....) over to the new Elo System. It's hard to imagine modern Swiss tournaments without class prizes! By 1970, the Elo system had been adopted by FIDE, the World Chess Federation.
In addition to being a chess bookseller, tournament organizer, and Illinois Chess Association officer, Jim Warren made Helen Warren's singular contribution to Illinois chess possible. Helen said, "Jim supported me in whatever I did."
Helen provided the leadership, but without Jim's support, there would have been no APCT, no Warren Junior Program, no Midwest Masters.
Fred Gruenberg recalls that Helen characterized Jim as "one of the last good guys": honest, hardworking, dependable. I had the pleasure of playing over-the-board and correspondence games with Jim and kibitizing with him at master events. I found Jim modest to the point of self-effacement, but passionate about what he loved: his wife and family, the game of chess, and sharing this love with other people.
Please join us in offering our deepest condolences to Helen and to the entire Warren family. Special thanks to Tim Just, Jim Brotsos, and Fred Gruenberg for their assistance.