The Portland Chess Club in 1914, above the Circle Theater, with spitoons.

Twenty-five years ago, lawyer and chess expert, Michael Morris, tried to mediate the eviction of the Portland Chess Club (PCC) for keeping late hours at its headquarters in Southeast Portland. He lost the case, but since that time has been instrumental in housing and maintaining a cultural institution which dates back to 1861 when another legal mind, federal judge Matthew Deady, was the first president of the PCC. Deady was interested in bringing Eastern culture to the Wild West and is also credited with being the founder the Multnomah County Library. In 1913, another lawyer, G.T. Woodlaw, secured PCC’s first “permanent” quarters above the Circle Theater on SW 4th next to the Dekum Building. After several decades, the stability provided by Colonel Woodlaw eventually spawned a champion who was sent out to conquer the world.

The link between education and chess dates back to Goethe who called it the “gymnasium of the mind.” In recent years, the royal game has been used as an educational tool by organizations like Portland-based Chess for Success. Oregonians may never see another Arthur Dake, but two local Portland players, who honed their skills at the PCC, have recently received scholarships to play on chess teams at two Texas colleges. In 2011, Clackamas High School sophomore Alexandra Botez won the National Girl’s Chess Championship in Chicago and was awarded a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Dallas. More recently, Oregon state champion, twenty-year-old Steven Breckenridge, received a scholarship to another Lone Star chess power, Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Read about Oregon’s forgotten chess grandmaster Arthur Dake

Casey Bush
Contributing writer | + posts