Dana at the chess board

Photo by Bill Lovejoy for the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

As you might be able to guess from the above picture, my number one interest besides writing and science is chess. I began playing chess around age seven. I started playing tournament chess during the “Fischer boom” of 1971 and 1972, a unique era in American chess history when the membership of the United States Chess Federation (USCF) doubled in one year.

Most of the people who joined the USCF in those crazy days dropped out within a year or two. But I kept going. I have been a continuous member of the USCF since 1972, and the only prolonged period when I did not play tournament chess was when I was in graduate school (roughly 1980 to 1982).

After I got my Ph.D., I moved to North Carolina and became very active in chess again. During those years I rose from class A to National Master and won two state championships, in 1985 and 1987. The Triangle area had a great chess scene back then. I learned a lot from playing with people like Bernie Schmidt (who has passed away), Robin Cunningham, Matt Noble, Greg Samsa, Alan Patrick, Steve Tarin, Glenn Fleming, Ron Simpson, Michael Feinstein, Bill Mason, and many others whom I should mention, but I can’t mention everyone.

After North Carolina I moved to Ohio and hit my rating peak, 2257, in 1994. Ironically, I feel as if I know more about chess now than I did then, but age does funny things to chess players. My greatest accomplishments in Ohio were probably winning the Roosevelt Open in Dayton twice, in 1989 and 1993. The latter was in fact the last time I won an open USCF-rated tournament. It’s been a long dry spell!

nov 23 2011

In 1996 I moved to California. Even though I have never managed the same sustained success here that I enjoyed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the California years have been the most rewarding time of my chess career. Most memorable was a game that I played against International Master David Pruess in Reno in 2006. Can you imagine what it feels like for an artist to know that you are creating your lifetime masterpiece as you are doing it? That’s what the Pruess game was like. The game was published in Chess Life, Chess Informant, and named as Game of the Day at on November 23, 2011 (an accolade normally given only to games played by famous players). Jesse Kraai (who was then a International Master and later became a Grandmaster) watched the game and was so impressed that he invited me to lecture on it for ChessLecture ( I have gone on to give more than 100 lectures on that website.

Ever since I moved to Santa Cruz, I have run a chess club for kids at the Aptos Public Library. If you know any kids under 18 who want to play chess and live in the Santa Cruz area, tell them to come to the library on Tuesday at 3:30!

In 2009 I received the greatest honor of my chess career, a Life Master certificate from the USCF. And finally, in 2007 I started my blog, dana blogs chess, which has been recognized as one of the leading chess blogs on the Internet and earned a Google PageRank of 5. If you’re a chess fan and you’ve actually read this whole page, what are you waiting for? You should go to “dana blogs chess” right now. Hint, hint!  8-)

Print Friendly