San Francisco Chess Institution

The Mechanic’s Institute Newsletter, written by IM John Donaldson, is, quite simply, a treasure-trove. The MIN is one of the chess sites I frequent regularly. It is de rigueur not only for the members of the M.I. but for anyone fortunate enough to have visited the venerable institution. Upon entering the building at 57 Post street the sense of history is palpable. It is as if the contained chess history of the last century or so oozes from the nooks and crannies, seeping into the visitor by osmosis. What IMJD has written will stand the test of time long after he has departed for the awaiting chess board at the next plane of existence.

Imagine my surprise upon reading the latest entry, #692, dated December 12, 2014 (http://www.chessclub.org/news.php), and finding a Georgia connection. IMJD writes, “Many thanks to Jamie Duif Calvin, who recently made a very generous gift of chess books and chess clocks to the Mechanics’ Institute in memory of her chess mentor International Master Boris Kogan, “who believed that an interest in chess should be supported with a strong foundation of technical study as well as an appreciation for the great games of the past.”

Kogan (1940-1993) was the Soviet Junior Champion in 1956 and 1957, but not long after his successes was encouraged to become a trainer and stopped playing seriously. He only became an International Master in 1981, the year he immigrated to the United States. A nine-time Georgia state champion (he settled in Atlanta), Kogan played in three US Championships.

Encouraged to become a trainer at a time when Jewish players in the Soviet Union didn’t always get a fair deal, Kogan became an excellent coach. Upon his arrival in the United States he worked primarily with older players, but also coached Stuart Rachels who tied for first in the 1989 U.S. Championship. Rachels remembers the fantastic notebooks Boris complied of carefully-selected training positions. One wonders what happened to this “gold”, which deserves to be published.”

During an email exchange a decade or so ago with former US Chess Champion Stuart Rachels I asked about the notebook(s) Boris used during lessons. Stuart said that if they are to be found, they are, most probably, with Mike Kogan, a Master level player, who, at last report, was living and working down under in Australia. If anyone in that part of the world knows anything about the whereabouts of Mike Kogan, pass the word the Armchair Warrior would like to get in touch.

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