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"The Gentleman of Idaho Chess"
Mel Schubert (left) vs. Glen Buckendorf (right) at 1960 Idaho State Chess Championship
by Barry Eacker
May 16, 2012
"Thank You for the game; Good Luck with the rest of your games." If one played tournament chess against Glen Buckendorf for the last, oh... twenty, thirty, forty years, this is the post game discourse that would be delivered from the classy player revered as "The Gentleman of Idaho Chess". It is a moniker indicative of the respect that the ten-time Idaho chess champion carried not only among his peers, but by those who hoped they one day may be. In a modern chess culture seemingly steeped with disrespect, accusations of cheating and unprofessional display, Glen's respect for the game of chess and its players was unparalleled and genuine. He was easily identifiable, dressed in a suit and tie, carrying a chess bag with clock, board and pieces, always ready to push the best pawn forward. In defeat, as well as victory, Mr. Buckendorf was always gracious. If he felt that a win by his opponent was especially brilliant, the response was "Nicely done."
Circa 1946 found Glen honing his skills with such players as Dr. Mel Drake, schoolmate Dean Blair, George Likeness, Bob Coad, Everett Martin and others in the rotating house syndrome until the Twin Falls club started meeting in the Rogerson Hotel basement where Glen found the edge of serious competition sharp, competing against super organizer and soft spoken gentleman Mel Schubert along with Magic Valley players LaVerl and Lloyd Kimpton, Clarence and Gene Rambo, T.C. Hartwell, Barney Graff and many other players as well as the first official Idaho champion and correspondence chess legend C.H. Stewart of Boise.
The game of chess, sometimes associated with warlike violence where players seek to destroy their opponents' minds, is sometimes overrun by brash behavior and self loathing. Example: At the 1992 Idaho Open played at the no longer existing University Inn in Boise, Idaho, a player who shall remain nameless was winning their final round game and was preparing to collect a monetary prize, except the "blunder" reared it's ugly head, causing the player to drop a piece (i.e. lose it for no compensation) resulting in an uncontrolled show of anger. After sweeping all the pieces off the board onto the floor, the said player grabbed the king and threw it the length of the room, missing Mr. Buckendorf's head by a couple of inches. In a chess tournament atmosphere that would make a library or church service seem loud by comparison, the chess piece made a resounding thump against the drywall. Without missing a beat, Glen calmly reached down and picked up the king, gently placing it on the table beside his score sheet while never losing focus on his own game. Glen thematically drew his expert opponent and finished the event in second place.
This was not the first time Mr. B. was involved in high level stress management at the end of an event. From 1950 to 1955, Glen won the first ever Correspondence Chess League of America Junior Chess Championship, an event that saw him playing up to 500 games at one time. He won the Idaho Chess Championship ten times while performing the unprecedented accomplishment of winning the event fifty years apart (1951-2001). Glen also won many local club and Idaho state events. In addition, he played in hundreds of tournaments in seventeen U.S. states as well as Alberta and British Columbia, Canada with his dedicated Chess Mate Annette by his side, she imposing death by Scrabble while he imposed his will over the chess board.
Glen Buckendorf imposed his chess will in different ways and under different circumstances with the myriad of players that crossed his path, especially in the Idaho arena. Chess can be a brutal game emotionally at times. There have been instances of a new player, well motivated and confident, playing in an event for the first time, with visions of brilliant combinations and whirlwind tactics dancing in their head, only to have lofty aspirations turned to dust, ground down by a powerful endgame proponent, never to play another game of over the board chess. To these opponents, Glen would offer sincere and heartfelt encouragement, ever attempting to push them onward and upward, all the time assuring them that he knew exactly how they felt. During the last years of his chess career, Glen pulled books from his own chess library and gave instructions that they were intended for those players who played very well, but not well enough to garner one of the top prizes. These books were intended for encouragement, to propel the player to a better result the following tournament. The prize is now officially known in Idaho chess circles as "The Buckendorf Award", a coveted and sought after piece of Idaho chess history and possibly a connection with the gentleman who autographed it.
In 2001, perhaps the most exciting game in Idaho chess history took place in Twin Falls during the Idaho Closed State Chess Championship. Glen was playing a brash, young, talented chess player coming up through the ranks. He was already the owner of three Idaho State Scholastic championships and had become quite a rival of the experienced nine time champion. Years before in games between the two players, Glen unmercifully beat the young talent game after game, always telling him "I will never let you beat me. One day you will be the victor, but you will earn it." In this particular game, a position arose that Glen claimed he could win, while the younger player claimed a draw would be the result. It was the last game of the event and all the remaining players gathered around to see what would be the outcome of the fierce battle. Glen won the game at the last allowable moment, winning his tenth and final Idaho Championship. In the years that followed, the two players fought many battles, with the younger player gaining the upper hand and then eventually dominating the old master. In recent years, the young chess talent who went on to become Idaho Chess Champion has reflected on the gentlemanly figure who drove him to achieve one of his goals and understands that there will probably never be another man in Idaho chess like Glen Buckendorf. It has been reported that when he is playing tournament chess, after the game there is only one response that is acceptable: "Thank You for the game; Good Luck with the rest of your games".
Glen Buckendorf passed peacefully in September of 2011, leaving a noticeable void in the Idaho Chess scene. Idaho chess historian, Jeff Roland, has been busy transferring all of Glen's available games and results onto the Idaho Chess Association website in order to preserve this invaluable piece of Idaho chess history. There are also several individuals taking part in the project known as "The Buckendorf Memorial Chess Library". Please view the ever updated website at http://www.idahochessassociation.org/otherresults-buckendorfremembered.asp.