PDA

View Full Version : Reminiscences of players past



peterjansen
02-07-2020, 01:17 PM
The site: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-215084438/listen has an interesting interview with Bela Berger.

Quote:
"Berger, international chess master, speaks about learning to play chess as a child in Hungary; becoming a professional chess player; coming to Australia in 1957; becoming an international master in 1963; playing in Philippines, 1967; correspondence, blitz and blindfold chess; preparing for tournaments; personality of chess players; and the future of chess."

Berger played in an Interzonal.
Has any Australian player ever played in a tournament with the current world champ plus four former world champs?
What an experience it must have been!
He had the upper hand in his game against Tal but faltered against the Riga wizard.

I first met Bela Berger in the late 70's through Serge Rubanraut.
Serge and I shared accomodation around Darlinghurst/Kings Cross and often strolled up Darlinghurst Rd for a meal or a coffee.
One day we were passing a small real estate office in Darlinghurst Rd, "Berger Real Estate", and Serge said lets go in and say hello to Mr Berger, he's got an IM title but mostly plays bridge these days.

We used to drop in for a coffee with Mr Berger now and then, we always deferred to him and called him Mr Berger.
He did not particularly like the real estate business but shrugged his shoulders, what to do?, I arrived in Australia as a Hungarian refugee and my profession in Europe was as a professional chessplayer....?

He became a professional in Hungary to save his father.
His politically active father was under threat of a death sentence from the Stalinist regime, to have it commuted Bela (already an established chess master) had to agree to stay in Hungary and to play chess as a state employee.

Serge's father had a similar lament arriving here from Russia via China via France with high qualifications that were not recognized here and he ended up working in real estate for L J Hooker.

One day Mr Berger opined: Boys, you should buy a house!

Serge and I looked at each other in disbelief then back to Mr Berger: Yes, maybe, but we have next to no money!
Unflappable, Mr Berger retorted he would arrange that.
I have a "thing" in Newtown, the cheapest property on his books.
He did not even dignify the real estate with the name "house".

Off we went to check out the "thing" in Kent St Newtown.
Those with geographic smarts will know this is the "St Peters end of Newtown" in those days less desirable, close to the industrial suburb of St Peters.
We found a small, small is an exaggeration, free standing house, what agents call a "fixer upper" or sometimes a "renovate or detonate" job.
The price appealed to us: $13500, (True!)

On returning to Mr Berger's office Serge, ever the hustler, said we offer $13000 to which Mr Berger looked pittyingly at us admonished with a sigh ......boys... now... please!
Ok 13500 it is.
Mr Berger then directed us to a solicitor in Elizabeth St who organized what was referred to as "solicitor's finance" something we knew nothing about.
Except that it magically appeared on long lists of computer paper, remember the old tractor feed churned out by noisy printers.
We noted that the long lists of names of lenders were in one column with an adjacent column of amounts.
The solicitor scanned down to find the matching amount we wanted, nodded and we filled in some paperwork.
I was curious and asked why nearly all the lender's names were like Mr Smith or Mrs Jones.
He did not reply just smiled.

Mr Berger took a fatherly interest in our property portfolio and had much useful advice, most of which we were stupid enough to ignore.
He was mightily pleased however when we sold the place less that three years later for $42000.
We thought we were financial genius's but looking at what real estate prices in Newtown became we were idiots to have sold.
Mr Berger was a wonderful intelligent representative of Hungarian culture and wisdom.
When in the Cross I often make a point of walking past the little office, Mr Berger long gone of course, but still a real estate business.

Frank
02-07-2020, 02:06 PM
The site: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-215084438/listen has an interesting interview with Bela Berger.


A wonderful memory

ER
02-07-2020, 03:16 PM
Not that I knock Peterjansen's interesting post, but I also liked John Curtis's memories of Sydney chess legends, (including Berger's) as published in the most recent ACF newsletter!

peterjansen
02-07-2020, 03:52 PM
Not that I knock Peterjansen's interesting post, but I also liked John Curtis's memories of Sydney chess legends, (including Berger's) as published in the most recent ACF newsletter!

Thanks for the heads up ER I will check it out!

I remember JC, is he still in Sydney?
I ask because he had some interesting stories about the old days and the legendary Forbes Club.
A friend of mine is putting together a film script with a journalist and Court Reporter based on the illegal casinos around Sydney back in the day.
JC if you're on this list, touch base.
We always had a laugh when Star City casino opened and it was billed as "Sydney's first casino" ha ha any half-aware taxi driver could take you to at least half a dozen. There were three within walking distance of where I lived, some you got free coffee and a snack, far cry from today's legal cheapskates.

antichrist
02-07-2020, 05:00 PM
Thanks for the heads up ER I will check it out!

I remember JC, is he still in Sydney?
I ask because he had some interesting stories about the old days and the legendary Forbes Club.
A friend of mine is putting together a film script with a journalist and Court Reporter based on the illegal casinos around Sydney back in the day.
JC if you're on this list, touch base.
We always had a laugh when Star City casino opened and it was billed as "Sydney's first casino" ha ha any half-aware taxi driver could take you to at least half a dozen. There were three within walking distance of where I lived, some you got free coffee and a snack, far cry from today's legal cheapskates.

Thommo's Two Up School was the well known one.

peterjansen
02-07-2020, 05:06 PM
Back from checking out your ACF Newsletter link, thank you for drawing it to my attention!

Frank Low has done a superb job!

John Curtis article brought back some memories too!

The puzzle king he writes about we knew him as Freddy Huggison, JC calls him Eddy de Groot

He asked about the real name of Taffy: it was Bernie Hopton.

He was always besuited and tied and spoke proper Queens' English, correcting those who did not.
His daily ritual was: stock exchange in O'Connel St for the opening then afternoon would find him at the Hyde Park chess tables.
He seemed to have retired early flush with money after some stock market success.
He told me he worked as a teleprinter technician (remember them?) and one day a gig took him to repair the machines at the stock exchange.
He came across some chatter on a machine about a promising nickel prospect and some assay reports.
Intrigued, he told he bought a slew of the shares which were cheap as.
Some of you are already ahead of the story .... yes they were Poseidon.
He said he had palpitations as they started to zoom up. Palpitations he shared with his stockbroker who advised him to sell quickly before the price crashed.
Taffy sold out at something like $28, then spent years moaning about the crook advice he got as the shares merrily increased to over $300!

Noel Henderson who JC mentions was a Kiwi, one of those strong players who rarely if ever played, preferring to kibitz.
He owned a property in Thomson St Darlinghurst.
Glenn Devine and I went to visit him once as he had not been sighted for a while and there was concern for his welfare.
We found his terrace house and also Noel. He had rigged up a bedroll and slept on his front porch. I saw why when I looked through the open front door: it was inaccessible, he had a serious hoarding condition and the house was impenetrable with junk.
There ensued altercations with neighbours re rat infestation and they had harrassed Noel with reports to the Council health inspector. Noel coped by sleeping elsewhere wherever he could, at the Wayside Chapel, Matthew Talbot, on trains etc.

As they aged both Bernie and Noel showed increasing signs of paranoia and secretiveness but coped with the exigencies of life.
Serge Rubanraut had hung out at the chess tables of Hyde Park since he was a schoolboy. With an absent father and no mother some of the chess players like Taffy and Noel became his surrogate family: he wrote in one of his journal how he loved hanging out with them.
As he aged, Serge did not fare so well. He was apprehended and sectioned in 1985 and eventually was diagnosed and treated for paranoid schizophrenia in New Zealand (another story). A persistent delusion he had was that Noel worked for ASIO and that he was being recruited by him for some obscure purpose.

ER
02-07-2020, 08:09 PM
He asked about the real name of Taffy: it was Bernie Hopton.


He was always besuited and tied and spoke proper Queens' English, correcting those who did not.

Don't forget the indispensable (fedora?) hat! :D Was Taffy bald? George the gentle Hungarian claimed that Taffy had a full head of hair.


Noel Henderson who JC mentions was a Kiwi, one of those strong players who rarely if ever played, preferring to kibitz.

Biblical Noel, with his flannelette shirts and (the also indispensable) beach hat on. Nice, red haired, gentle person with a rather defeated and pessimistic look.


Glenn Devine short, athletic, stocky tower of strength. Swimming trunk and t-shirt throughout the year. Piercing glance slightly cross - eyed, he looked threatening but wasn't really. Cynical and sarcastic always loved a sledge.
Also always called a Bishop a "Bishoff" Sad to know he died refusing medical treatment!


Wayside Chapel, Officially no overnight staying at the Chapel was allowed, however, Ted had a soft attitude to down and outs.


Matthew Talbot, you had to be really tough to survive a night there. Noel must have suffered.


on trains etc. much more likely



Serge Rubanraut had hung out at the chess tables of Hyde Park since he was a schoolboy.

One of the most likeable characters I have ever met. Only met him a couple of times in Sydney, but in Melbourne I stayed late with him many a time at MCC, (then in Peel Street - North Melbourne)
where he frequented with his friend Peter Daly (another remarkable character). Serge although a heavy drinker was polite, friendly, soft spoken, always smiling, with a great sense of humour and happy to discuss chess history, his participation in the Aussie Olympic team in the Haifa Olympiad, willing to show anyone interested funny gambit lines and tactical endings. He was muscular and very athletic but I never expected he could also be violent and could hurt people like he did, his victim being another prominent player and author. (another story


As he aged, Serge did not fare so well. He was apprehended and sectioned in 1985 and eventually was diagnosed and treated for paranoid schizophrenia in New Zealand (another story).

Sad. There's a thread on Serge's passing somewhere here.

Thanks for the memories Peterjansen.

blackbishop
10-08-2020, 01:59 PM
From the Sydney Morning Herald. September 2 2013

by Lucy Cormack.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/peter-parr-mr-chess-was-every-players-mate-20130901-2sylx.html

blackbishop
17-08-2020, 03:58 PM
http://www.chesschat.org/archive/index.php/t-6043.html

antichrist
10-12-2020, 11:29 PM
http://www.chesschat.org/archive/index.php/t-6043.html



From Archive
chessonaleg
30-03-2012, 10:02 PM
So many players. So many memories. So much chess talent and achievement.

But there can only be two winners. So, let us announce the male and female winners of "Australia's greatest ever chess player".

First of all, this man makes Bush Tucker man look like an amateur. He lived in a tent in the Australian champs. He is controversial and always full of opinions that nobody else wants to hear. He is the one, the only...drum roll...

JOHNNY BOLENS.


machomortensen
31-03-2012, 04:45 PM
I'm sorry but the joke about Johnny Bolens is beyond my horizon...
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
AC
Of all the players I have encountered OTB in Australia Johnny was the only that made me wonder "what is this guy doing?" helter skelter - a champ in that category.
Maybe have missed an occasional shower from camping out - a champ in that category.
Most argumentive when arguing with the ref, pushing all boundaries - a champ in that category.
Turning up late, no entry fees but promising to pay out of his expected prizemoney - a champ in that category.
No entry fees but performing manual draw to compensate - a champ in that category.
Knocking numerous opponents pieces off board, replacing incorrectly and inadequately yet intensive argument - a champ in that category.
Walked out of a state championship after losing in first round - a champ in that category.