By Isaac Schrantz
During the U.S. Championship, we see many fans come into the Chess Club to enjoy the coverage of the event. However, none seem to enjoy the Championships as much as Ed Gonsalves. Ed could be seen at the Club during every round—getting as many signatures and pictures with the competitors as possible. He was the first member to get a signature from Garry Kasparov, and I’d reckon he was the only person to get boards signed by every player without buying it from the Q Boutique at the World Chess Hall of Fame.
To honor his commitment to the Chess Club, we took the time to ask this superfan a few questions.
Q: How’d you get the nickname chess superfan?
A: It was actually somebody who used to work at the Club; Mike Wilmering gave it to me. And I think he was right. I think I am the biggest chess fan.
Q: How long have you been coming to the U.S. Championship?
A: Well I’ve been to every one that’s been in Saint Louis since 2009, but my first one was in Seattle in 2003.
Q: What has been your favorite moments from both this year’s tournament and those of years past?
A: In years past, some of the playoffs have been really intense. Either two or three years ago there were two three way ties in both the men’s and women’s and I thought that was really cool. It made it to an armageddon game in both and that was amazing. This year I’m really impressed with how the young people are playing. Of course Carissa Yip lives near me in Rhode Island so I’m rooting for her.
Q: Do you have a favorite player, either in this field or overall?
A: I’ve gotten to know a few of them pretty well. I’m good friends with Varuzhan Akobian and have gotten to know Irina Krush over the years.
Q: Would you say you’re a bigger player or fan?
A: Well, I don’t have as much time to play anymore having a full time job and I don’t have the energy like the young guns do, but I do make a point to take vacation every year to come to the Championships.
Q: When did you first get into chess?
A: I got involved probably during the Fischer boom. In 1972, I was a young kid and people told me this guy Fischer on the front of the paper was a big deal.
Q: What do you think of the Saint Louis Chess Club’s coverage of the event?
A: Oh man, it’s top notch. I’ve never seen anything like it. Even when I’m not here at the Club for the other events, I can always watch on my laptop. If you miss any part of it you can always roll back the tape.
Q: Are there any ways you could see the coverage being improved?
A: I don’t think so. The interviews are great. Maybe some more special guests. But overall it’s flawless.
Q: You seem to be a big fan of memorabilia. Do you have a favorite piece?
A: It’s probably one of my autographed boards that are framed. The first one I got was in 2003—the first year I attended. That one had 56 players, and I had to track them all down by myself. I bet I’m the only one who has a complete autographed board.
Q: What do you think young players should take out of watching the championship?
A: I think just being in the presence of these players is incredible. The players are all very friendly with the youngsters. We like to roll out the red carpet for them because they’re the future of chess. It’s more popular now than it’s been since the Fischer boom.