The Tennessee Chess Association proudly honors individuals who have made a significant contribution to chess in Tennessee either through their accomplishments over the board, or through their efforts at organizing, and/or promoting chess activity in Tennessee. If you know of someone you would like to nominate to the Hall of Fame, please contact the TCA Board of Directors. TCA Hall of Fame Procedures
Tennessee Chess Hall of Fame
2020 Joe Curtis “Curt” Jones III
Curt was the strongest chess player in the state for many years. He was taught by his father, Joe Jones and made himself known at an early age by winning the 1974 Tennessee State High School Championship (while he was only in the 7th grade). He was Co-Champion for the same tourney in 1976 and 1977, Champion in 1978 with a perfect 5-0 score, and Co-Champion in 1979. He was also Co-Champion at the Southern High School Championship in Atlanta in 1977. Moving up to his Open career, Curt was Nashville City Champion in 1977 and 1978, TN State Champion in 1978, TN State Co-Champion in 1981, and 1990 TN State Champion. He played board one for the first place team in the 1987 Southeastern Amateur Team Championship, and he was the Memphis City Champion in 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993. There’s too many to list them all but a few of his other tournament victories include such prestigious wins as the Mid-South Open in Memphis, the New Year’s Open in Chattanooga, the Fairfield Glade Open in Crossville, the Knoxville Summer Swiss, the Cookeville Summer Open, and the Music City Grand Prix Open in Nashville. Curt also excelled in Postal Chess winning clear first in the Maurice Ellis Greater Postal Open, which was the Tennessee State Postal Chess Championship for both 1977 and 1978 combined into one tourney. Curt not only made USCF Postal Master, but he achieved a 6-0-0 score in all three rounds (Preliminary, Semi-Final, and Final) of the 1988 USCF Golden Knights Postal Tournament. He scored wins over many of the best players not only in Tennessee, but also nationally. Curt first became a Master in 1979, then USCF Senior Master in December 1983 with a peak USCF rating of 2469. On top of his phenomanal playing career, Curt also gave back to Tennessee Chess as an organizer and leader. He served on the Board of Directors for the Tennessee Chess Association as Scholastic Coordinator from 1987 to 1990, then West Tennessee Scholastic Director from 1990 to 1991. He was an outstanding coach and teacher (like his father, Joe) helping his students achieve their own remarkable successes and benefits from chess. His superb skills made his contemporaries better, as they strove to study and compete with him. Curt’s chess career greatly contributed to the quality of Tennessee Chess.
2019 Leonard Dickerson
Since his chess career began in 1978, Leonard has always been one of the most likable of all Tennessee Chess players. He is well-known for his good sportsmanship, his sense of humor and most importantly, his skill on the board. He rose in the ranks rapidly from being an unrated player to USCF Expert in just two years time. Leonard reached a peak rating of 2267 and earned his USCF Master’s Certificate in 1988, the very first African-American Tennessean to do so. He went on to be awarded USCF Life Master in 1992. Some of his greatest tournament victories include winning the 1979 Cumberland County Open, the 1980, ’84, and ’98 TN Open State Championships, the 1988 Mid-South Open and more recently, the 2010 TN Senior Open. Aside from his individual successes, he was also one of four members on the 1st place team in the Southeastern Amateur Team Championships in ’87,’90 and ’91. Aside from his tournament successes and his educational accomplishments (he earned his B.S in Chemical Engineering in ’83 cum laude and his Masters Degree in Chemical Engineering in ’94), it’s Leonard’s generosity that sets him above as a true example of a TN Volunteer. Residing in East Tennessee, Leonard has been coaching and teaching chess in the schools and communities there and in surrounding states for over 40 years and still going strong. He worked as a Tournament Director from 1980-2015, served on the TCA Board of Directors in various capacities for over 20 years and continues his over 30 year service to the Greater Knoxville Chess Club. Leonard is also a Chess author. He published Basics for Scholastic Chess Players: A Guide for Players and Coaches in 2000 and has another book finished and awaiting publication: A Universal Opening Defense: The Caro-Kann/Slav System.
2019 Bradford B. Jefferson (1875-1963)
It was on August 24, 1913 that Bradford B. (“B.B.”) Jefferson, a Memphis real-estate businessman, stepped out of the shadows to assume his rightful place in the national chess limelight. With a score of 13.5 – 3.5, Jefferson claimed the championship of the Western Chess Association. The tournament was the forerunner of the U.S. Open. At the time, the Western Chess Association encompassed basically the entire nation south and west of New York, including part of Canada. The winner was immediately acknowledged as one of the premier players in the nation. For years, B.B. had been well known in Memphis and throughout the South as a great player, dominating all visitors to the Memphis Chess Club. He also had an enviable record against top grandmasters in simultaneous exhibitions, twice defeating Harry Nelson Pillsbury, beating and drawing Geza Maroczy, and even drawing with World Champion Emanuel Lasker. In 1907, he acted as Referee for the three games of the World Chess Championship match that were played in Memphis between Emanuel Lasker and Frank Marshall. Until his 1913 Western Championship victory, however, B.B. had apparently never ventured outside of Memphis to test himself against the best. He defended his championship the next year, when the Western Chess Association Tournament came to Memphis. The Association especially invited B.B and another Tennessee legend, Robert Scrivener back to the event every year after that for over two decades. The trophy that Mr. Jefferson won in 1914 was commissioned in 1907 by Frank B. Cornell, an association member. The cup itself is sterling silver and was to be presented to the first person to win the Western Open Championship two years in a row. The Western Open cup also known as “The Cornell Cup” was later handed down to the Memphis Chess Club Incorporated where it has been until 2018 when the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis, MO contacted Mr. Dwight Weaver, the keeper and curator of antiques for the Memphis Chess Club. They wanted to borrow what Bradford Jefferson won in that 1914 event for one of their displays. B.B. joins the Tennessee Chess Hall of Fame a year after the induction of his sister, Rosa. Interesting side note, the siblings were the distant descendants of President Thomas Jefferson who was also an avid chess player.
Harry D. Sabine (1941-2019)
Harry Sabine’s elevating service to the Tennessee chess community began sometime around 1974 when he began caring for the Cumberland County Chess Club in Crossville. It was a short time later in 1977 that he joined the Tennessee Chess Association Board of Directors. He held the role of Secretary/Treasurer for over fifteen distinguished years until 1992 when he assumed a new role for the association. He became Tennessee’s first Scholastic Coordinator and held the position until his retirement in 2018. Harry was a giant of Tennessee Scholastic Chess working as a Tournament Director and Organizer of the Tennessee Scholastic Championships for decades. In his life-long home of Cumberland County, he also organized a scholastic chess program in Cumberland County Schools which brought home twenty-five High School Championships and two National Junior High Championships for Martin Elementary. He organized countless events over the years including a much-loved tournament known as the Fairfield Glade Open attended by eighty-two players in just its inaugural year in 1977. It went on to continue for over twenty years. Harry held leadership roles on a national level as well for the US Chess Federation. He was instrumental in the US Chess Headquarters move to Crossville from New York in 1995, and it was his big idea to create SuperNationals, a quadrennial spectacle bringing all the US Scholastic National Chess Championships together for the first time in Knoxville in 1997. Aside from chess, Harry worked as a lawyer and lived a life of service and volunteering through his other works as a Captain in the Marine Corps including one tour in Vietnam, his positions with the Cumberland County Commission, Cumberland County Chamber of Commerce, Uplands Retirement Village, and Chairman of the Boy Scouts Troop #172.
2018 Rosa Jefferson (1876-1962)
Rosa Jefferson wrote a chess column for over thirty years for the Memphis Commercial Appeal publication. She is known to have won exhibition games against several of the world’s top players of her time including Pillsbury, Lasker, Marshall, and Maroczy. She was widely regarded as Women’s World Champion and competed in America’s first-ever Women’s Chess Tournament in 1906. Rosa spent much of her life advocating for chess to be taught as a study in the schools believing “once tried, it will prove it is all that is claimed for it, the best possible organizer of the mental forces.” Much of Rosa’s story had remained unknown to even the most serious chess players until long after her death, but we honor her now as the first woman ever to be inducted into the Tennessee Chess Hall of Fame.
2018 R O Mitchell (1971-2007)
R O Mitchell, native of Nashville, was Tennessee High School Champion and United States Junior Champion. He won the 1990 US Junior Open Championship, becoming the first black man to hold the title, and he is one of only four Tennesseans to compete in the US Junior Closed to date. Around that same time, he became Tennessee’s 2nd-ever African American Chess Master. After graduating from Hume-Fogg High School, R O attended the University of Memphis where he earned his Bachelor’s and two Master’s degree. He had passions for both Spanish and chess and spent his life as a teacher, promoter of chess and coach to kids.
2018 William “Bill” Hall (1969-2016)
Bill Hall is best known in the chess community for his service as the United States Chess Federation Executive Director from 2005-2013. Locally, Bill is known as a champion. He won the Cumberland County Open Chess Championship ten times in his chess career. Those titles are just toppings on a childhood full of Tennessee Scholastic Chess titles and National Team title with the Martin Junior High School Chess Team where he graduated as valedictorian. Bill took the lead role for USCF when it moved from New York to find its new home in Crossville, Tennessee where Bill was teaching high school. Bill navigated the USCF professionally and successfully even through the troubled times of lawsuits and financial insecurity to stability and new growth.
2018 William “Bill” Orgain
Bill Orgain served as a Board Member for the Tennessee Chess Association for many years. He also founded and ran the Dickson County Chess Club and worked as a tournament director for countless open and scholastic events in Tennessee. Bill began his service for TCA as Middle Tennessee Director in 1984 and was elected President the next year. He continued his service through 1990s helping to grow Tennessee Scholastics three-fold. He brought financial security to the red budget he had inherited and brought Tennessee into the national spotlight by helping bring in US chess events. Perhaps one of his greatest contributions to our organization is his founding of this Tennessee Chess Hall of Fame in 1990. Twenty-eight years later, Bill Orgain takes his rightful place in the honored history of Tennessee Chess.
2018 Patricia “Pat” Knight Smith
Pat Knight Smith gave many years in service to Tennessee Chess as a Board Member, tournament director and organizer. She volunteered in many capacities throughout the 1990s-00s including her positions as President, East Tennessee Director/Scholastic Coordinator and Internet Chess Coordinator. She was the creator of the very first website for the Tennessee Chess Association. Later, Pat spent nine years with the United States Chess Federation. Her roles there included but weren’t limited to Director of National Events, Assistant Executive Director, Chief Operating Officer, and acting Executive Director. She helped put on some of the largest rated chess events in history including the very first Super Nationals in Knoxville in 1997 and the 2013 Super Nationals in Nashville.
2018 Michael “Mike” Barton (1959-2002)
Mike Barton was a a great chess player, a president, and teacher. He moved to Jackson, Tennessee as a child and spent many years as an active member of the Jackson Chess Club there before moving to Memphis. Even though he had a form of Muscular Dystrophy causing physical limitations, Mike rose steadily in the ranks at chess tournaments often defeating much higher-rated opponents. He competed avidly as a strong 1st Category player for many years and represented Tennessee well as he played in many other states and national tournaments. He competed in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Nevada, and Texas throughout his chess career. He was the 1979 Mid-South Open Amateur Champion. Mike also served as President of the Memphis Chess Club in 1993 and gave his time as a chess teacher for the Girls Club of Memphis.
2005 Albert Hodges
2003 David E. Burris (1944-2001)
David Burris was a United States Chess Federation Absolute Postal Chess Champion and the Director of the Greater Knoxville Chess Club’s Community Outreach Program. Dave founded, funded and directed the program as an initiative to teach chess to children and senior citizens. Before all this, Dave had a lifelong interest in chess. A member of the Knoxville Chess Club since he was in high school, Dave won many Knoxville City Championships throughout his career as well as Tennessee State Open Championships in 1965, 66 and 67. He was also a writer for the Atlantic Chess News for which he won several awards and an avid collector of chess art, stamps, software, and sets which he allotted to be donated to the University of Tennessee.
2002 Dr. Martin Katahn
Dr. Martin Katahn is the founder of the Nashville Chess Center, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit charitable organization and supporting organization of the Tennessee Chess Association. His visits to the Marshall Chess Club in New York inspired Dr. Katahn to create a place to serve as the focal meeting point for the Nashville chess community. In 1995, his vision came to fruition at great personal expense. He had bought and restored a beautiful three-story house in a central, historical location and furnished and supplied it to meet the needs and comforts of chess-players. Then, as an additional crowning, Dr. Katahn contacted and arranged for a “Grandmaster in Residence” to serve as teacher and organizer of the NCC. The finality of Dr. Katahn’s dream came in 2001 with the creation of The Foundation for Tennessee Chess. Dr. Katahn donated the house to the Foundation and set up an endowment fund to keep the club going strong on its own.
1998 James A. Wright (1920-2003)
James A. Wright earned the nickname “Iron Jim” for the skill he displayed at the Memphis Chess Club. Rightly so, he was five-time Memphis City Champion. He won in the years 1960, 1968-70, and 1981 (with 1970 being a 3-way tie between Wright, Robert Churchill and Mark Gilley). James was one of Tennessee’s best, winning State Championships in 1964 and 1970 and the Mid-South Open in 1972. Alongside his chess career, James was also a farmer in Millington, TN and a WWII veteran.
1997 Rea B. Hayes (1915-2001)
Rea B. Hayes learned the moves at the age of 11 from a neighbor his same age and then played in his first tournaments in Canada in 1934. He had already made quite a name for himself in the chess world before settling down in Chattanooga in 1990 and becoming an active player for the Chattanooga Chess Club. He had won South Carolina Championships in 1953 and 54, the Southern Championship in 1955, as well as many other state and regional championships throughout his career including tying for first in the First Senior Open held in Michigan in 1988. During his time in Chattanooga in the ’90s, he won the ’92 TN Open at the age of 77 and fulfilled the role of “Chessmen of the Area” serving in almost every club capacity from President to News Editor for the Chattanooga Chess Club. His accomplishments and contributions prompted the Chattanooga Chess Club to hold a tournament in his name each year honoring him for as they called him then “a living legend.” The tournament started in 1996, continued after his death and to this day. The 24th Annual Rea Hayes Open Chess Tournament was played in June 2019. Games and more of Rea Hayes can be found in the Newsletter Archive here and here and over on the Chattanooga Chess Club Tribute page.
1993 James Sweets
1992 John F. Hurt (1915-1993)
John F. Hurt came to Memphis in 1960. From then on, he became known as “Godfather of Chess” from his work as President of the Memphis Chess Club, setting up a High School Chess League through the Optimist Club, and creating large weekend tournaments like the Mid-South Open. John was a master chess player and had many first place victories in tournaments throughout his chess career beginning as early as 1934 including TN State Champion in 1965 and eleven Memphis City Championship titles.
1990 L. Hunter Weaks (1925-1973)
Leslie Hunter Weaks learned to play chess when he was ten years old. He attended one of Tennessee’s finest prep schools of the time, Webb School and then Vanderbilt University for college. Weaks left Vanderbilt in the middle of World War II to serve in the US Army. Throughout all his life, no matter where he was, he was playing chess at any opportunity. After leaving the army, chess became his primary interest in life alongside poetry and philosophy. He traveled all over for chess, playing in the 1954 US Open, before settling in Memphis in the mid 1950s. His apartment there, and later his home on Graham Street quickly became the local chess meeting places. His personal library held an extensive collection of chess literature, and he had an array of chess boards and materials throughout for his visitors to use. During two periods, his home was also the site of the Pillsbury Chess Club. He reached a rating of 1851 and won the very first Mid-South Open held in 1960. He had several top ten finishes in the Tennessee Open throughout his chess career but was never able to win the title before his untimely death to cancer. Many people in Memphis and other places remember Weaks as “a philosopher of chess.” Selected Games Of Hunter Weaks Book
1990 Joseph “Jerry” Sullivan
1990 Martin Southern
1990 Robert Scrivener (1881-1969)
Robert “Uncle Bob” Scrivener of Memphis was President many times of the Western Chess Association. In 1913, he placed 4th in the US Open, and later in 1920 he finished 5th. Throughout his remarkable chess career, he won the state chess championships of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. In 1961, at the age of 80, Robert won the Mississippi State Championship making him possibly the oldest state champion in US history. The United States Chess Federation recognized his achievements in 1963 awarding Robert the title of Master Emeritus.
1990 Peter Lahde
Peter Lahde played in his first TN Open State Championship in 1956. With his growing interest in organized chess, he started the Tennessee Chess News in 1959 and was the editor for eighteen years. When Peter handed the News down to other chess players, he continued his service to the Tennessee Chess Association as either President or Vice President for the next twenty years. Peter was an active tournament director for decades, a chess teacher, 3-time Nashville City Champion and the author of many chess books. In 1996, he wrote the book A History of Tennessee Chess with all earnings going towards the future of Tennessee Scholastics.
1990 Thomas Finucane
1990 Robert Coveyou (1915-1996)
Robert Coveyou was the winner of the very first Tennessee Open State Championship in 1947, then went on to win seven more times throughout his chess career. He was one of the early presidents of the Tennessee Chess Association and helped to create and organize many tournaments including the 1948 US Junior Championship held in Oak Ridge, TN. Robert was a true “Tennessee Volunteer” with his service to education and chess over the years lasting until his retirement in 1977, but his early efforts still show and continue on through the growth of Scholastics in Tennessee chess.
Leonard Dickerson w/ Paul Semmes, 2019