A Hall of Fame display at the chess center honored individual achievements in Kentucky chess, preserved chess history in the state, enhanced public knowledge and appreciation of chess, and served as an education resource regarding the game's heritage and contributors. Below were the enshrinees:
main organizer of Lexington chess in 1990s and 2000s; state champion 1999
organizer & coach of scholastic chess in Kentucky
organizer & coach of scholastic chess in Kentucky; state champion 1994
state champion eight times between 1974-1986
state champion in 1949, 1966
Louisville Chess Club’s top player, and one of Midwest’s best, in late 1800s and early 1900s
most prolific director of adult & scholastic tournaments in Kentucky history
Courier-Journal’s chess columnist from 1945-1976
main organizer of Louisville Chess Club in 1960s-1970s;
state champion in 1967
state champion in 1948, 1957
five-time US Open champ in late 1800s, early 1900s
main organizer of Louisville Chess Club in late 1800s and early 1900s
Baker's chess career started as a senior in high school at a Murray State University tournament run by Wayne Bell in 1986. He was instantly hooked and soon left for college where he organized his first club with great input from Bell. Baker’s Kentucky State University team won the first two Ky. Collegiate Team Championships before he transferred to the University of Kentucky. Finding no organized club, he quickly built a UK team that won a regional and qualified for the National Collegiate Recreational Games competition. Individually, he won his first Ky. Action Championship in 1991 and repeated that title in 2007, 2014, and 2016, thus winning an adult state title in three different decades. He also finished first at the Ky. Open on three occasions: 1994, 1996, and 1999. However, his most notable win was the Ky. Closed Championship in 1999. Living in Lexington afforded him the benefit of learning from Billy Woodward on how to run a more effective club when Billy handed him the reigns to the Bluegrass Chess Club. With Billy's direction and the many tips and suggestions he received from Steve Dillard, he has been able to organize almost 200 separate events while still being able to compete in nearly 400 chess tournaments, all while keeping his rating near expert level for 20+ years.
Bell began organizing scholastic chess tournaments in 1987 and has coached sixteen state champions at Garden Springs Elementary, Beaumont Middle, Lexington Traditional, Dunbar High School and Sayre School. At the 1992 Middle School Nationals, he coached Lexington Traditional to a third-place finish. He has coached seven kids who progressed to become state individual champions. Larry hosted, at Steve Dillard's request, the first consolidated State Team Championship at Garden Springs Elementary School in 1987, and he worked with longtime friends Dillard and Wayne Bell to create the scholastic chess state championship series that is still utilized today in Kentucky. In 1992 Larry was co-organizer of the High School National Championships, which was the first national championship tournament to break the 1,000-player barrier (and brought in then-reigning world champion Gary Kasparov as a special guest). Two years later, Larry helped organize the 1994 Lexington Winter Scholastic, which was the largest non-championship scholastic tournament held in Kentucky (474 entries from nine states). Larry gives all the credit to the work ethic and passion of the kids. His best “feel good moments” are those when he can see the light come on for a youngster. As a player, Larry won the 1987 Amateur State Championship and achieved a top rating of 1906.
Bell was a founder of the Murray State University Chess Club and extensively promoted chess in West Kentucky. In 1986 he was one of the founders of the Kentucky Chess Association’s scholastic chess program, advocating a regional system and more formality in KCA’s scholastic structure. He was the KCA’s first Scholastic Coordinator and later served as President and Treasurer. In 1990 he became Kentucky’s first National Tournament Director. Bell was the Kentucky Open Champion in 1988 and the Kentucky State Champion in 1994. His favorite chess role was that of teacher/coach in Murray. For Bell, the appreciative awe on parents’ faces when they first see a large room full of quiet children thinking about their next chess move was exceeded only by the exhilaration on a child’s face when the right move was found.
Bostrom won the Kentucky state chess championship eight times between 1974 and 1986, in addition to many other tournaments throughout the southeast. His last rated game was in 1987 when he retired from active chess to concentrate on his career and his family. Rob’s chess career started in Athens, Ohio, at age 14 (1969). After one year of playing he won the Ohio High School championship as a sophomore. When his family moved to Lexington, Ky., he won the Kentucky High School championship. Another high school highlight was finishing second in the Southern High School championship as a senior and 12th in the country at the national high school championship. Shortly after high school he obtained a masters rating at age 18 in a Chicago tournament and, for a while, was 12th in the country under 21. He started the Lexington chess club in the late 1970s and directed many tournaments in Lexington during a two-year period in that time, in addition to writing a chess column for the Herald-Leader.
Cohen was an expert-level player for decades and considered among the most gentlemanly players in Louisville. He described himself as an attacking tactical player as a young man, and more of a positional player in what he referred to as his second chess career. Cohen also was a master bridge player, practiced law for fifty years, and served in the US Air Force in Korea.
Conen joined the Louisville Chess Club in 1892 and dominated. Conen owned wins over Harry Pillsbury, Jackson Showalter, and David Janowski. In a 1946 article, Courier-Journal chess columnist Merrill Dowden remarked, “During his long reign as one of the dominant masters of the Midwest, Conen produced many games remarkable for their sheer poetic beauty.”
Steve Dillard learned chess from his father as an eight-year-old, then was introduced to tournament chess in 1974 by Allen Erlebacher, a student teacher at Atherton High School who also encouraged Dillard to direct his first few events in 1977. Dillard subsequently served as chief director for 1,285 events and worked a total of 3,979 sections, directing tournaments in 31 states. He was the organizer of the Jefferson County Public Schools Chess League starting in 1982, the Sports Chairman of chess for the Blue Grass State Games for many years, and the chief director for the Academic Sweet Sixteen tournament for four years. Dillard was selected for a meritorious service award in 2013 by the U.S. Chess Federation and awarded its tournament director Lifetime Achievement award in 2014. Dillard served as Treasurer, Secretary, Vice President and President of the Kentucky Chess Association in addition to being Secretary and President of the Louisville Chess Club. Dillard’s expert-level rating placed him in the state’s top 40 for most of his career.
In many respects, the viability of the Louisville Chess Club and the organization of the annual Kentucky Opens in the 1960s and ‘70s resulted from Fulkerson’s efforts and enthusiasm. A formidable player, he was accomplished at simultaneous exhibitions.
In 1945, at age 42, Dowden began a series of weekly chess columns—entitled “The King’s Men”—in the Courier-Journal’s sports section. Dowden discussed chess with charm, wit, and a reverence for the game. A mere four months after his column’s debut, Dowden trumpeted a tournament to determine a state champion; the tourney owed its existence to Dowden and a handful of other local players. Dowden celebrated his column’s 30th anniversary in 1975, and a few months later in February 1976 the last of his “King’s Men” pieces appeared in the Courier. Dowden died at age 88 in 1991.
Dowden’s obituary of Shields in 1968 says it all: “Shields death leaves a void in the chess fraternity that will be felt for years to come. This is true because Shields was more than a gifted player. He used his talents to promote the royal game and develop new players. Never did I know a man to work with more energy or influence in popularizing the game which was so dear to his heart. He was ever magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat. A player of national stature, he scored victories over some of the nation’s leading masters. And for some years it was his custom to give simultaneous exhibitions in Central Park, taking on all comers.”
Showalter, a five-time U.S. Champion, was one of the top players in the entire country in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Oxford Companion to Chess wrote that Showalter was "known as the Kentucky Lion after his birthplace and his mane of hair, but also perhaps on account of his playing strength." His games were known for sparkling combinative play and sacrifices. When Harry Pillsbury once was asked what success American players would have if they played internationally he responded, "Jackson Showalter would make a good score in any company."
Theiss was the driving force behind the Louisville Chess Club in its formative decades of the late 19th century. A medical doctor who later became principal of a local elementary school, Theiss derived much pleasure from reading Dickens but spent most of his leisure time practicing chess. Theiss was not the strongest player in town but he was the most respected ambassador of the game, lecturing less experienced players on strategies as well as the origins of the game. Some family members’ most vivid memories of Theiss concern giving him rides to and from Club meetings during his later years in the 1930s and ‘40s. Theiss died in 1945 at age 97.
state champion eleven times since 2006
Davis learned to play chess at age 7 from the Stonewall Elementary chess club in Lexington. It was here that he was taught by two coaches, John Kubis and Byron Kast, who heavily emphasized tactics. He also received lessons from Grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov, as well as others. He was on the LTMS team which was coached by Larry Bell to multiple middle school state championships. In 2004 and 2005, Davis won the high school championship. His first of ten Kentucky closed state championships was in 2006. He became a National Master in 2008.
Davis has instructed and coached at different schools throughout Lexington, Louisville, and Chicago and has taught many children how to play. He frequently attends the Bluegrass Chess Club in Lexington. He attributes his success to good teachers and coaches, devoted parents, hard work, and of course, luck.
dominant player in the Kentuckiana region from 1970s-1990s
A Master with a peak rating of 2460, Dennis was six-time Indiana state champion. But his participation in—and dominance of—Kentucky tournaments qualifies Dennis (a southern Indiana resident from just across the river) for a spot in our state’s Hall of Fame. Over a span of several decades, Dennis won multiple Kentucky Opens and topped countless other tournaments throughout the state. Simply, a stronger player could not be found in this area from the 1970s-1990s. He has a winning record (often lopsided in his favor by a wide margin) against every great player who’s competed in the Kentuckiana region. Dennis is a legend of the game in this part of the country, admired and respected for truly monumental skill across the board.