In what has been a spate of misfortunes for the U.S. chess community, Issac Braswell became the most recent tragedy. The affable Chicago player allegedly took his own life on March 2nd, only a day after playing in a match in the Chicago Industrial Chess League (CICL). There was a confirmed eyewitness account reported.
Teammate and friend Bill Brock shared the details in an commemorative essay titled, “Love Supreme” after John Coltrane’s title jazz classic. Braswell was an “Expert” (with a final rating of 2075), loved to discuss chess on Facebook and was a regular poster here on The Chess Drum blog. Ironically, he sent his condolences to the family of Quinton Smith after the scholastic player died from a fall.
In this essay, Brock described Braswell’s gentle spirit and passion for chess. He even shared touching e-mail that lead up to his last days. One month ago, Braswell had notified Brock that he needed to take a break from league play. He cited, “social issues”. However he played in the U.S. Amateur Team two weeks later.
After a successful team tournament, he decided to continue his league play. He would play his last game on Thursday, March 1st… a win.
Isaac was one of the kindest and most good-natured people I’ve ever known. He “struggled daily with the demons of his past,” as a friend wrote, but he made other people smile. He was enthusiastic in his passions, whether mastery of chess or tyro at classical guitar, and he was enthusiastic about the success of his friends, always ready with smiles, laughs, and compliments.
Posing with GM Susan Polgar.
Issac in action at 2012 U.S. Amateur Team.
While it is painful and perhaps uncomfortable to mention such a demise, we have been seeing more occurrences following the 2006 death (by apparent suicide) of Jessie Gilbert of England. More recently the chess community saw Quinton Smith’s mysterious fall from a hotel tower ruled a “suicide” (although there are still doubts in that case). On February 29th, Dana Hannibal’s took her own life as a result of bullying in an Oregon high school.
Issac helping to direct a tournament at Muhammad University of Islam.
Photo by Kareem Abdullah.
While one may draw a negative connection, it is easy to understand that chess provided an outlet for these individuals who may have died under decidedly different circumstances. In Braswell’s case, he had lived a very tough life filled with health issues, destitution and despair. However, chess was one of his main outlets and he often signed his e-mail, “checkmate you later”. This playful jab was a testament to the joy he found in the game, but mostly the people he encountered.
The Lawson YMCA, where he lived, is having a memorial service this Tuesday March 13th at 30 W. Chicago Avenue at 11:00 a.m. The family is having a memorial service for Isaac on Thursday at 3:30pm. The location is A.A. Rayner Funeral Home 318 East 71st Chicago, Illinois 60619.
Bill Brock’s Tribute: http://www.chicagochess.blogspot.com/2012/03/love-supreme.html