Michael Bacon shares memory of  Atlanta's Black chess players

Daaim, I went to San Antonio in 1972 for the Church's Fried Chicken tournament with an exchange student from Yugoslavia. There were weekend tournaments for us lesser lites. The main tournament was held in the Hemisphere, as I recall. I'd been out there for quite some time, put up by Michael Moore and his room-mate, NM John Dunning. Imagine my surprise to see Mr. Scott (pictured right) there before the last round! There had been a tournament sponsored by Church's in Atlanta.

Mr. Scott had tied for first with a young black fellow named
Robert Butler. You've probably never heard of him and I hope this makes you attempt to find out about him. He got real good real fast, then dropped outta chess. He once called me a "free bird" and I think of him every time I hear the song by the same name… Robert needed the cash, so Mr. Scott took a free trip to San Antonio for the last round.

William Alexander Scott III

William A. Scott III

The round was held up in order that none other than new world champion, Bobby Fischer, could make an appearance. There was a crowd of people surrounding Bobby, all asking for his autograph. Mr. Scott, tall and distinguished, among them. Mr. Scott thrust a program at Bobby and asked him to sign it. Bobby shot Mr. Scott a look and took the program. As Bobby was signing, Mr. Scott said, "I played in the U.S. Open in 1956, I believe, but I may be wrong-you'll have to look it up… and finished ahead of you." It was an innocent remark made to fill time and Mr. Scott meant nothing by it, but Bobby didn't see it that way. He shot a look at Mr. Scott as he returned the signed program and said, "Oh yeah. Well what's your rating now?" Mr. Scott, taken aback, mumbled something about being "only an expert." Bobby said, "Um huh," and turned to walk away. I still can't get over it. Here was the guy who had just won the championship of the world saying something a "C" player may say at the center (Atlanta Chess Center) to put down a "D" player!

The last time I saw Mr. Scott, he was the master of ceremonies at a living chess game at underground Atlanta.
George Leite, who had just won the Georgia Championship (1991), played John Smith. It was to publicize the Georgia Renaissance Festival. And then he was gone… he was real nice to me and I won't ever forget him. He took me out to eat in San Antonio and it was great to see someone from back home while at that time, so far from home....... Bacon

Story sent as a personal e-mail from Atlanta's Michael Bacon on 4 February 2003.

Posted by The Chess Drum: 6 February 2003