THE HISTORY OF MONTREAL CHAMPIONSHIPS

 

OVERVIEW

According to the archives of Mr. Hugh Brodie, the first official Montreal Championship dates back to the year 1923.  Three years earlier there had been an attempt, but only six competitors showed up.  "The lack of strong players is unfortunate”, Lorenzo Prince wrote in his chess column (La Presse).  The tournament was quietly abandoned after the second round.  In 1923 therefore, for the first time, twelve players contended for the title in a round-robin tournament. H. Rombach emerged the victor (9½ -1½).

During the first half of the twentieth century, the championships were a round-robin affair, disputed at the rate of one game per week.  The champions of those days had to battle for ten games or more over several months before they could claim the title.  With the increasing popularity of Swiss tournaments, championships gradually came to be decided by only five or six games over a weekend session.

It is not always clear whether the competition was open to all or by invitation only.  Sometimes, both formats took place only a few months apart.  A number of Closed Championships actually featured several separate sections of play with players assigned to sections by rating.  In 1950, for example, the Montreal Chess Club hosted a large open tournament in order to qualify three players to the top section of the subsequent City Championship.

Whether Swiss or round-robin, open or closed, few championships featured only one section of play.  The archives list some of the section names in use at the time : First or Major or Premier, Challenger, Reserve, Juvenile and even "Minor" which must have been hard on the ego!   

In 1938 a women’s club, "Le Cercle FEMINA," was born.   With its yearly club championship tournaments, it was dynamic enough to give birth to distinct Women’s Championship events from 1949 through 1952 when it stopped.  It was shortly revived in 1964 and 1966, after which there are no records of any subsequent events until last year, when the tradition was revived. Jean Hébert and Salome Melia were respectively crowned as 2009 King and Queen of the City.

The year 1954 marked the launch of no fewer than three different Championship events !  First, the City Championship started in February with 22 players.  That one ended in May 1954 with the victory of Mr. Heinz Matthai (8½ -1½).  Next, in November, Lionel Joyner won the Open Championship (7½ -1½).  Before the month ended, a new invitational Championship began with this rule: all residents of the island of Montreal were eligible, subject to approval by a selection committee.  Sixteen participants vied for the title in a round-robin tournament that ran until May of the following year.  Eventually the supremacy of Mr. Matthai (12-3) was reconfirmed.


THE RECORD

Who won the coveted title more often than anyone else ?

The record title holder is Montreal-born grandmaster Kevin Spraggett, who now lives in Portugal.  He won eight times, either alone or tied with others : 1973 to 1976 inclusive, 1979 (twice that year), 1982 and 1986.

Chasing after him with six titles are Messrs. Laszlo Witt (1959, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1979) and Jean Hébert (1981, 1982, 1984, 1989, 1990, 2009).  Next with five titles are Boris Blumin, Maurice Fox and Klaus Pohl.  Of all these gentlemen, only Jean Hébert is still active in Quebec.  U.S.-born Klaus Pohl now lives in South Carolina, where he still plays on occasion. The others are deceased.

 

TIE BREAK

Unfortunately, we cannot always identify a single champion.  The convention of sharing prize monies in the event of multiple ties has often left behind the question of who among the tied leaders was the most deserving.

There are only two recorded instances of tie breaks in the archives.  In 1933 a playoff match to break a 12-2 deadlock was organised between Boris Blumin and Louis Richard.  Mr. Blumin won 3½- 2½.  In 1960 Ireneus Suchorski narrowly prevailed over N. Williams and Nicolas Engalicev. However the tie break method used was not documented.

In regard to the Montreal Championship of 2010, a tie for first place in Section A will be broken by the following methods, in order: (1) Direct encounter (2) Sum of progressive scores (3) Solkoff (4) Games played with Black.

Direct encounter
If there are two players tied and they played each other and the result was not a draw, the winner of that game will be declared Champion.

Sum of progressive scores

After each round a player has a certain tournament score. These scores are totalled to determine the Sum of Progressive Scores.  It is assumed that a player who drops points early in a tournament has faced weaker opposition during the entire competition.  For example, if two players finish tied 4-1, the first one losing in the first round and the second one losing in the fifth round, they will score in the first case 0+1+2+3+4 = 10 break points and in the second case 1+2+3+4+4 = 14 break points. The higher score wins the title.

Solkoff
This is the sum of the final scores of opponents faced.  For each unplayed game of an opponent met, for whatever reason (bye, forfeit, withdrawal from the tournament), the opponent is deemed to have drawn against himself. The highest number decides the title winner.

Games played with Black
The player having played the most games with the black pieces is declared Champion.

 
TRIVIA

It should be said that there have been other styles of City Championship events.  From 1949 until the 70s with a few interruptions there were quite official Montreal Speed Championships.  The early ones featured a gong sounding at every 10-second interval.  There also were a few tennis-style Championships in 1956, 1957 and 1965. A player who lost was eliminated outright from the tournament.

The winners of these tournaments are not listed in the table that closes this article.

TABLE OF MONTREAL CHAMPIONS

Here is the best list that we could reconstruct of the valiant past Montreal chess champions.  Hail to them !


 

AnnéeYear

Champion

Participants

1923

H. Rombach (9½-1½)

12

1924

Dudley D. LeDain (7½-1½)

10

1925

Léopold Blanchard

21

1926

Alexis Cartier (8-3) trophée La Presse

46

1927

B. W. Moncur

?

1928

Maurice Fox (9-1)

11

1929

Maurice Fox (5½-½)

15

1930

M. Dardel (9-1)

30

1931

----- no information available -----

 

1932

Louis Richard (12½-1½)

> 15

1933

Boris Blumin (12-2, after tie break match)

41

1934

Boris Blumin (12½-1½)

16

1935

Maurice Fox (15-0)

47

1936

Boris Blumin (13-1)

15

1937

Boris Blumin (13-1)

> 16

1938

A. Weiner  (6½-1½)

11

1939

Boris Blumin (7½-1½)

> 12

1940

Joseph Rauch

?

1941

Joseph Rauch (4½-½)

10

1942

Joseph Rauch trophée la Patrie

10

1943

Charles Smith (7-2)

?

1944-6

----- No tournament -----

 

1947

J. Rauch,  W. Tannenbaum

36

1948

Maurice Fox (14-2)

65

1949

Maurice Fox (12-2) / Firma Bone (4-1) Women’s champion

65 / 5

1950

Ignas Zalys  (12½-2½) / Firma Bone (6-1) Women’s champion

16 / 8

1951

M. Cohen (12½-1½) / Firma Bone (4-0) Women’s champion

15 / 5

1952

N. Williams (11½-1½) / Doris Robertson (4-0) Women’s champion

46 / 5

1953

N. Williams (12-4) 

19 

1954

Heinz Matthai  (8½-1½) ; Lionel Joyner (« Open », 7½-1½)

22 ; ?

1955

H. Matthai (12-3) ;  J. Engel, Dudley D. LeDain (« Open »,7-1)

16 ; 28

1956

Lionel Joyner (17-0)

18

1957

Lionel Joyner (18½-½)

20

1958

Allan Reither (10-2)

80

1959

Lionel Joyner (9½-½) ; Lionel Joyner (« Open », 11-3)

104

1960

Ron Hirsh ; Ireneus Suchorski (« Open » after tie breah)

22 ; 68

1961

Ignas Zalys (6½-1½) ;  Laszlo Witt (« Open », 10½-1½)

40 ; 54

1962

Emil Schlosser, Laszlo Witt (9-2)

54

1963

Heinz Matthai  (9-1)

48

1964

Gerry Rubin (9-2) ; Susan Prokopenko (7-0) Women’s champion

44 ; 8

1965

Laszlo Witt (9½-1½)

62

1966

L. Witt (10-0);  A. Michaely (« Open »,7-1); S. Prokopenko (5½-½)

58 ; 67 ; 7

1967

Jacques Fontaine (7-1) ; Klaus Pohl,  Gerry Rubin (« Open »,7-1)

25+ ; 46

1968

Klaus Pohl (5½-1½) ; Klaus Pohl (« Open », 7-1)

104 ; 59

1969

Klaus Pohl (6-2) ; Klaus Pohl (« Open », 7½-½)

57 ;  29 

1970

Jack Gersho, Gilles Brodeur (6-2)

23

1971

Adrian Michaely

58

1972

Edward Formanek

222

1973

Kevin Spraggett, Leo Williams (6-0)

270

1974

Kevin Spraggett (5½-½)

198

1975

Delva-Kafadarow-Grant & K Spraggett-Vardi, Wihl, Williams (5-1)

310

1976

Kevin Spraggett (5½-½)

255

1977

Bill Goichberg (5½-½)

292

1978

Camille Coudari (5½-½)

273

1979

K. Spraggett, L. Witt (5½-2½) ; K. Spraggett (« Open », 5½-½)

16 ; 258

1980

George Levtchouk, Jean-Jacques Rousseau

265

1981

Jean Hébert

137

1982

J. Hébert, K. Spraggett, J-J Rousseau, R. Billyard

204

1983

Anthony Ibrahim

121

1984

Jean Hébert

158

1985

Kiril Georgiev

175

1986

Kevin Spraggett

142

1987

Igor Ivanov

129

1988

Sylvain Barbeau, Steve Bolduc, Stéphane Dupuis

162

1989

Jean Hébert

189

1990

Barbeau, M. Cazelais, T.N. Duong, A. Gaudreau, Hébert, Léveillé

166

1991

Sylvain Barbeau, Jeff Reeve

175

1992

Alexandre Lesiège

199

1993

Jeff Reeve, Jose Abreu Cordero

219

1994

Alexandre Lesiège, G. Levtchouk

192

1995

Alexandre Lesiège, Oleg Linskiy

177

1996

Oleg Linskiy, Robin Girard

110

1997

S. Fillion, M. Gagnon, Girard, M. Khassanov,Lesiège,   N. Rashev

164

1998

Martial Larochelle

179

1999

Jeff Reeve

186

2000

Oleg Linskiy, Goran Mikanovic

152

2001

Lefong Hua, Oleg Linskiy

132

2002

Michel Gagnon, Igor Ivanov, Michael Schleifer

137

2003

Steve Bolduc, Alexandre Lesiège

125

2004-7

----- No tournament -----

 

2008

S. Barbeau, R. Chabot, M. Larochelle, H. Massé, A. Rainfray

126

2009

Jean Hébert (4½-½) ; Salome Melia (4-1) Women’s champion

191

2010

?

 

 

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