The Irrepressible Jude Acers

I first met Jude Acers when he came to Atlanta in the 1970’s to give a simultaneous exhibition at Lenox Square Mall. It opened in 1959 and is the oldest Mall in the South. Back then it was THE place to go, and Jude’s simul was covered by the press. This was during a time when Jude was traveling all over the country performing simultaneous exhibitions. Jude has written about those days and you can find some of the articles he wrote for the Berkeley Barb from 1972-1974 on the wonderful ChessDryad website containing California Chess History: (http://www.chessdryad.com/articles/acers/index.htm) One of his articles is entitled, “Atlanta at Dawn” The Road, Part 1 Berkeley Barb, Vol. 16, No. 23, Dec. 8-14, 1972. Another is, “Adventures in a Greyhound Terminal” The Road, Part XI Berkeley Barb, Aug. 2-8, 1974. I can identify with both of these articles. If Jude had not loved chess so much it is possible he could have been a great writer.
I took one of the boards that evening and admit to being one of Jude’s victims. There can be no doubt Jude helped popularize chess in those days. Jude was strong enough to draw a four game match with Mr. Six-Time, GM Walter Browne, if memory serves.
When Jude had enough of the road he settled in New Orleans, where he has been for decades. Please go to his website, http://classactionfilms.com/, where you will find a short film that captures the quintessential Jude. I promise it will be the best nine minutes of your day. It was one of the best parts of my yesterday. It shows Jude being, well, Jude!
Watching the film brought back memories of the time years ago when I had a job driving vehicles, mostly Bell South, to nine different southeastern states. If there were two or more vehicles they would go on a hauler, but if there was only one, someone would have to drive it, and that someone would be me. Some of the drivers were retired airline personnel and they managed to get home by flying free. I, on the other hand, had to pay to ride a Greyhound bus in order to return home. One of the possible trips was to Lake Charles, Louisiana. None of the other drivers wanted that trip, for various reasons, so I drove there often. I would then make my way back to New Orleans via bus, where I would have a twelve hour layover from seven pm until the Amtrak train left the next morning at 7 am. At that time I was still young enough to handle a night on Bourbon Street. Each and every night I spent there could be a chapter in the book of the Armchair Warrior.
I looked forward to the first trip in hopes of being able to get a chance to play Jude, because I wanted revenge. Every time I left the bus terminal heading for the French Quarter I would walk to the Gazebo, where Jude would be holding court. I do not recall how many times I made the trip, but I know he was always playing someone, and often more than one game was in progress. There always seemed to be ‘victims’ lined up, awaiting their chance for a crack at Jude. I would get something to drink, sit back and listen, while watching the show, for if he is nothing else, Jude is a showman. The show was invariably enjoyable.
The last time I made the trip, as luck would have it, Jude was alone at his table, going over a chess game from some magazine. He quickly put it away when he noticed me. I paid my five bucks and Jude allowed me to move first. I opened with the move known as “best by test,” 1 e4, and it was game on! Jude answered with 1…c6, the Caro-Kann, the opening I started playing after giving up my beloved Najdorf. I played the so-called “Fantasy” variation. My memory will only allow me to tell you I recall Jude bringing his Queen to h4 early in the game, and I somehow won a pawn. We reached an endgame and the place was closing, so I did the gentlemanly thing and offered Jude a draw. “Move,” was his reply. This infuriated me! How dare he turn refuse my offer? Did he think he could outplay me from a pawn down position in an endgame? I fortified myself for the battle to come, knowing that at the conclusion there would be blood spilled over the board, hopefully his! I managed to not blow it and cruised to a victory. “You sure took a lot of time,” was his comment after shaking hands. “What did you expect after turning down my draw offer? What, did you think you could beat me from that pawn down endgame position?” I made my way to the French Quarter ready to celebrate my victory with an adult beverage, while listening to some authentic jazz. I have drawn with dozens of chess masters, but beaten only a couple of handfuls, and that includes only one player who was not technically a NM, my friend the Discman. When I defeated Chris Chambers at the Tennessee Open in 1988 he had just returned from scoring 8 ½ points in the US Open, pushing his rating over the coveted 2200 mark. Anyone who can score 8 ½ out of 12 at the US Open ought to be considered a NM in my book. I have been fortunate enough to beat many players who later became NM’s, but the win over the irrepressible Jude will always have a special place in the book of the Armchair Warrior.
One of my trips driving a Bell South vehicle took me to Asheville, NC, in time for the Land of the Sky chess tournament, considered by many to be the best chess tournament in the South for over two decades. My friend Wilder Wadford is not getting any younger, so I urge you to start making plans to attend his excellent tournament after the first of the year. My friend, The Dude, aka Tim Bond, followed me and, once the mission had been completed, gave me a ride to the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, site of the LOTS, as it is known. On the way I mentioned my win over Jude in the French Quarter. “You beat Jude?” he said. “I played him ten times, drawing the first game, but losing the other nine.” A man does not make a living for decades playing chess by losing many games.
The Legendary Georgia Ironman and I made a trip to play in the Texas State Championship decades ago and Tim wanted to stop in New Orleans for lunch. After eating we walked over, finding Jude alone. Even though he was disappointed to hear we did not have time for a game, we were able to converse with him. I am uncertain when this occurred, but it was around the time when USCF began to rate quick chess. Jude managed to bring this fact into the conversation and it became a soliloquy. Jude was under the impression quick chess was going to revolutionize chess, exuberantly saying things like, “It will put money in every master’s pocket and a chicken in every pot! The future of chess is quick chess and it will bring in thousands, MILLIONS, of new players! It is the dawning of a new age of chess!” Jude was reeling with the feeling and got carried away, I suppose. His soliloquy lasted some time. He had to catch his breath and it was then we were able to take our leave. As we walked toward the car I could not help but notice the Ironman had been unusually quiet. I looked at him, noticing a strange look upon his face. I asked if everything was OK. “No, it’s not OK, Bacon. You do not understand… that man was my childhood hero. I got into chess after playing in one of his simuls, and now I find him a raving lunatic!” Tim had not been around Jude like I had and therefore had little understanding. I thought Tim was being a little harsh and had to stifle a laugh. “Look Tim, that’s just Jude’s shtick. He’s a character, which is what makes him what he is. That’s one of the best things about chess, the different characters one meets.” We walked on quietly until the Ironman said, “I guess you’re right, Bacon.”
When Hurricane Katrina hit and the Bushwhackers did nothing but look on from the window of a plane, my thoughts, like many others, went to Jude, wondering if he had made it. Hearing the first report that Jude was alive caused great relief.
I was elated upon learning Jude was participating in the World Senior Championships in 2008. He has played in each tournament since then and he is always my “horse.” As David Spinks was fond of saying, “It is not fun unless you have someone to pull for.”
I urge you to spend less than ten minutes of your time watching the aforementioned film because Jude is definitely sui generis. Read this article to learn why Jude wears a red beret, and what is buried in GM Arthur Dake’s coffin: http://www.nwchess.com/articles/people/dinner_with_Acers.htm
To learn more about one of the true characters of chess, and a real chess hero, go to Jude’s website: http://judeacers.com/
For the chance of a lifetime, please go here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/304635435/the-man-in-the-red-beret

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One thought on “The Irrepressible Jude Acers

  1. I greatly appreciate your kind words…..May all winds be good ones,behind your back, as long as you live. Jude Acers / New Orleans,Louisiana

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