Chess

     My family has been very active in organized chess in the United States since the early 1900's when my great-grand father Dr. Leo Stein (later changed to Stone) immigrated from Germany. He was an organic chemist and avid chess player who taught his son, my grandfather Donald how to play while he was very young.
     Donald was an active chess player and member of the U.S. Chess Federation for over 70 years. In addition to his more than 7 decades of international tournament play and chess appreciation, he also held various political positions with the state and national chess federations, as well as acted as beneficiary to many upcoming players and teams needing financial assistance. Both he and his father were long-time benefactors to the late, great Bobby Fischer during his younger years in NYC. He even accompanied him to Iceland during his World Championship match versus Boris Spassky in 1972. Donald was also a sponsor of the U.S. Blind Chess Team, enabling them to travel to international competitions.



Donald Stone, c. 1975


     My grandfather was very active in my chess education even though he lived in Florida and I lived in Texas. I attended weekly chess lessons and traveled throughout Texas to the tournaments he had selected for me to play. My grandfather would anxiously await my chess coach's feedback on my progress and tournament results each week. I liked chess, but was generally more interested in the social aspect of it and was not motivated to do the enormous amount of study required to become a top player. I also did not have the passion necessary for chess and as a successful athlete all throughout school, I was much more interested in playing basketball. I was also a ball-girl for the NBA Champion Houston Rockets; shooting around with household names of the NBA was a lot more fun than studying chess!
      I spent a lot of time in summer sports camps throughout my youth and during my freshman year at UT Dallas, I decided to organize a summer chess camp for kids. Knowing how chess had been such a positive part of my life and understanding how the skills I'd learned had helped me in other areas, I decided to try and create a chess camp that was fun...one that kids would love going to just as much as the basketball camps I myself had attended only a few years earlier. Chess camps were not a typical summer-time activity for kids and they were rare - I was aware of a few advanced chess camps in other parts of the country that were for competitive tournament players. There were no programs however for the beginner or recreational scholastic player who wanted to learn the game in a fun way while extracting its cognitive benefits.
That one week camp during my freshman year turned into six weeks of chess camps the following summer, followed by twelve weeks and six cities the summer after that. USA Chess was very successful very quickly and by the time I sold the majority of my shares in the company in 2004, it had become the premier chess camp organization for children in the country holding summer chess camps in more than 100 U.S. cities.
       I am humbled by the impact USA Chess has had on hundreds of thousands of children over the past decade all across the country. USA Chess has made chess a summertime activity. I don't think that my grandfather could have ever imagined that by passing on his love of the game of chess to me, that he would actually be passing it on to hundreds of thousands of children across the United States. I am sure that if he were alive today he would be pleased.
      After the sale of my company, I had a lot of time on my hands. I had a few options that would keep me involved in the chess world, but a new game had caught my eye and my heart; this is when I decided to learn how to play poker...