Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Harry, Chess and Me

Harry, Chess, and Me

With the Harry Lyman Memorial happening this Saturday I thought that this would be a good time for you to reflect about the influence Harry Lyman had on you, and I will talk of the influence Harry had on me personally, and Harry's effect on chess in general.

photos: Steve Stepak

In the late 60's I was a high school kid, informally coached by my great Uncle Justin "Ducky" Power (long time member of the BCC) and I stumbled into the YMCU to be taken by the enthusiasm and encouragement of Harry.

I realize looking back it was Harry that could answer my questions and feed my curiosity that made chess the most attractive game to me. At that time I was studying Backgammon and Go with my brother Jay Griffin.

From Harry I learned: to be a chess player was to be part of a society that was older than a millennium; chess could become an individual's vision quest/avocation in/for life; where your individual contributions in turn benefit the collective whole; chess was a metaphor for how a person should deal with living.

A few Harry Lyman stories:

Harry was a very strong checkers player and would beat all comers. Occasionally a real old timer checker player would come by to the YMCU and challenge Harry. I believe most of the checkers/draughts records on acid paper rotted to nothing in the back rooms at Clarendon street. BTW many of the YMCU members played all types of games and were quite good at non-chess, as we well know. This multi game legacy comes from Harry Nelson Pillsbury.

Professor Harry Lyman taught a course of endgames at the Bunker Hill Community College in the 70's based on Keres' Practical Chess Endings - attended by MG. I

n the recession of the late 70's, when the club was full of people unable to find work having time on their hands: Harry proclaimed what the BCC needed was a "club defense" against d4 and created a committee to find it for the BCC. They created a list of requirements and went out and searched. Harry would hold various meetings and the committee found that the Benoni was the best defense for BCC members against d4. They worked and found many special variations to trip up white. All in great fun. To this day, when I see some long time BCF member playing the Benoni I wonder if they were initially influenced by output of Harry's Benoni committee.

Harry and medical science: It's the early 70's one hot summer Tuesday as I walked from Park Street station to the BCC. An hour before noon I noticed the bank across the street posted 101 degrees. There were very few people at the BCC and despite fans blowing the heat was oppressive, there was no real relief. Harry sat quietly to himself, an ashen gray, clearly in a great deal of pain, as he was suffering an angina attack. We wanted to call an ambulance but Harry refused saying would be alright in a few minutes. Harry slowly got better, but given my experience with family members' heart conditions I felt Harry was not in a good way. Yet Harry survived almost 30 more years battling chronic aliments; and chess in the Boston could benefit immensely from those three additional decades beyond 1970.Harry gave everything that he could to the game, and his influence will ripple throughout many generations to come. Thank You Harry.

Do you have any Harry Lyman stories?

Please Comment .

Mike Griffin 12/16/2008

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