A Brief History of the Commercial Chess League of New York
The Commercial Chess League of New York (CCLNY) has been in continuous existence since 1923. Originally the League was only open to company or commercial chess teams and their employees. None of the original eight company teams have played in the League in many years. By the late 1940’s the number of teams in CCLNY had grown to 16. When the concept of divisional play was introduced at the start of the 1959-1960 season, teams of lower rated players found they could meet others of similar strength, and CCLNY grew to 43 teams in the 1971-72 season. The A division winner was denoted as the official League Champion and won the League’s rotating trophy for one year, while teams winning the other divisions received a plaque. At the end of the season, the bottom two teams in the A division were dropped into the B division for the next season while the top two teams in the B division were promoted to the A division. This happened throughout all the divisions, and thus winning teams moved up and eventually competed for the League Championship.
In the summer of 1972, Fischer defeated Spassky and became world champion. The interest generated by this match caused the League to grow during the 1972-73 season to 66 teams, playing in 7 divisions. CCLNY reached it zenith during this mid-1970’s “Fischer boom” era. Besides the team tournament winners in the various divisions, the League had introduced in the 1940’s an individual championship tournament and then an individual booster tournament, and in the 1970’s special summer tournaments were held. Individual trophies to the top players in the League were also awarded, and the Arthur Bisguier trophy to the best played game in team competition was introduced. This was followed by the introduction of the Andy Soltis trophy for the best played game in the individual tournament. During these halcyon years, both Mr. Bisguier and Mr. Soltis were frequent guests at CCLNY’s annual dinner where the team and individual awards were given. Matches against other industrial leagues were held, including the Long Island Industrial Chess League and a telephone match with the Chicago Industrial Chess League.
By the 1983-84 season, the Fischer boom had worn off and the League shrunk to 32 teams in 4 divisions. Moreover, social changes in the way people work contributed to the further decline in the number of teams, which by 1997-98 had been reduced to 16 teams in two divisions. The nadir for the League came in 2003-2004 when the League had only 7 teams and had to pay the Marshall Chess Club and the Chess Shop in the Village for playing sites. Fortunately, in recent years the League has again experienced growth because Mutual of America opened its cafeteria to all CCLNY teams to play their matches for twelve seasons, 2004- 2016, and Con Edison followed this happy tradition starting in the autumn of 2016. The current season, 2019-2020, has 18 teams playing in three divisions with 218 chess players listed on CCLNY player rosters. The ratings of the C division players at the beginning of the season where there is a 1900 four player rating cap start at 820 and range to 2290; in the B division the range is from 1047 to 2273; in the A division from 1694 to 2695.
Finally, many strong players have played in CCLNY over its long history. The Jubilee Yearbook from 1973 documents the following (a) “No less than 12 of our players have at one time or another played in the Manhattan Chess Club Championship Tournament, namely: Edward S. Jackson (former U.S. Amateur Champion), Albert Pinkus, Carl Vine, Jim Williams, Abe Turner, Irving Heitner, Victor Guala, Ariel Mengarini (former U.S. Amateur Champion), Arthur Bisguier (former U.S. Champion), Paul Brandts, Arthur Feuerstein and Walter Shipman,” and (b) “Eight of our players have participated in one or more U.S. Championship Tournaments, namely: Albert Pinkus, Weaver Adams, Ariel Mengarini, Abe Turner, Arthur Bisguier, Sven Almgren, Arthur Feuerstein and Walter Shipman. Of all this formidable array of chess masters, only Albert Pinkus has managed to win all of his games played in the Commercial League.”
In the 1990s, a check of ratings shows the following masters graced our League: Beatriz Marinelllo, Dimitry London, Leow Leslie, Konstantin Dolgitser, Brian McCarthy, Mitch Goldberg, Tom Kearns, John Riddell, Boris Zivatov, and David Parsons.
In the 21st century, the following players have competed in CCLNY: Oscar Tan, Patrick Yee, Mitch Goldberg, Arnold Guadagnini, Marlo Micayabas, Konstantin Dolgitser, Paul Jacklyn, IM Renato Naranja, IM Vladimir Romanenko, IM Ivan Gil Biag, IM Joel Banawa, IM Yaacov Norowitz, WIM Dorothy Teasley, GM Mark Paragua, GM Oliver Barbosa, GM Djurakek Khamrakulov, GM Aleksandr Lenderman, and GM Leonid Yudasin who was a World Championship Candidate in 1991 and 1994.
In 2020, after round 10 was played on February 26 and before the next scheduled match, the captains voted 11-7 to postpone matches because of the Covid outbreak. As that summer continued, the remaining 5 rounds of the 2019-20 season were cancelled. Albano Law 1 being two match points in front of Stuy Town A was declared League Champion, the Terminators won the B Division, and Chess Connections 2 won the C Division. There was no League Dinner, trophies for the players on the winning teams were individually distributed, and some of the teams started playing internet chess at Lichess.org. The 2020-21 season had no dues and no prizes. That continued for two more seasons because the League was not able to find an affordable site to play chess. On October 4, 2023, CCLNY returned to playing over the board matches at the 14th street Y near 1st Avenue in NYC. The League has now played chess on Wednesday nights for 100 consecutive years, and 10/4/2023 started our 101st season.
The article CCLNY Covid years, Three Seasons of Online Play written by Danny Linder may be found in the section “Prior Seasons” on this website, which is maintained by Pavel Genkin.