Denis J. Barry
June 2, 1929 ~ December 20, 2003
Denis Barry, former President of the USCF (1994-1996), passed away on December 20, 2003, after a short illness. Funeral services were held December 24th in Arizona.
During his tenure as President, USCF membership increased from 73,500 to over 84,000. He also helped to establish many new national events, regionalizing the Amateur and Amateur team competitions.
It was his presentation at the U.S. Open in 1979 that led to the Tournament Director Certification Committee (TDCC) becoming an integral part of the USCF infrastructure.
He was the chief organizer or chief tournament director for dozens of national events, including the U.S. Open in 1972 (Atlantic City) and 1986 (Somerset, NJ). Undoubtedly he will be remembered most for establishing the U.S. Amateur Team East as one of the USCF’s most popular annual events. He will also be remembered for being the captain and guide for the U.S. Blind Team in three Blind Chess Olympiads. Denis also organized the first USCF Blind Championship in 1977. Innovative as always, it was the first time braille wall charts were used.
He firmly believed the local chess clubs were the backbone of the USCF. After a stint in the Navy (1950-1952, serving as a cryptographer), he went to work at Westinghouse in Edison, NJ. During a lunch break one day, he found two guys playing chess, a game his grandfather taught Denis when he contracted rheumatic fever as a child.
From that chance encounter, Denis founded the Raritan Valley Industrial Chess League, which eventually expanded to an 18 team league, the largest in New Jersey. During the early 1960s, he worked with clubs in Manville, Perth Amboy, East Brunswick, and Plainfield. When the hosts of the Plainfield club made their displeasure known (the club champion was Jewish), within two weeks Denis had relocated the club to Westfield. By providing activity at all levels, from rank beginner to seasoned veteran, Denis was able to grow the Westfield club to over 200 members. The club earned a reputation as a meeting place for most of the strongest players in the state.
A good portion of the activity in that era was league competition, and the club participated in the North Jersey, Central Jersey, and the Raritan Valley Chess Leagues. It was a proving ground for the younger talents: Robert Wachtel, John Fedorowicz, Mark Pinto, Richie Bauer, and countless others.
As a leader at the state and national levels, he had one simple philosophy: Friendship comes first. No matter how much your views differ from someone else’s, friendship came first in the chess world. And sometimes it was the simplest of acts that made a difference. During a memorial tournament for a beloved club member, Denis asked a youngster to ask an elderly gentleman for his autograph. Master Paul Robey, a veteran of the New York City chess scene, later said with tears in his eyes, that was his proudest moment in his long chess career.
If Denis had a mantra as an organizer and tournament director, it might have been this: The players come first. He followed that dictate when directing, organizing, and when serving on various USCF committees.
He will be remembered for that alone..
I’m Paul Gold, a friend of Denis and Doris Barry. Here are some words as best I could devise, about Denis and Doris. Thank you for posting the thread on the NJSCF web site. It is a fine way to share the paying of homage and best regards.
Denis Barry is gone – I can hardly believe it.
In past years I have taken to watching the obituaries in the local paper here in Tucson. No morbid intent, just the realization that these words are often a person’s parting shot; words that are often not even close to descriptive enough; much less the final verse in a person’s life. Fortunate authors leave their own printed legacy, maybe something lesser if written instead about them. Denis has both words written by him and about him, but it is not published information for which I will remember him.
Denis had charisma and sagacity and a lot of chutzpah all at once. He was sometimes impatient yet generous, insightful and gregarious and once in a while really angry. He was one of the most alive people I ever knew. It was his energy that drew me to him. It would be easier and hackneyed to replace this writing with a catalog of his accomplishments, but that would not distinguish this man’s gift. More than anything else, Denis had the touch. Being around him got my blood going. He talked me into more chess organizing than I ever could have imagined, the real point being the secret he bestowed upon me – that the pleasure of giving, of helping someone, of making people happy, was (and is) a return beyond measure. And I ran events not at all like he did (no one will), but with a common goal – with the player’s interests first. It was so much damn fun watching the delight in a 1400-rated player’s eyes seeing his game on a demo board, one being attended by a rated master! My tournament organizing standard was about the details – like the pleasantry of more than adequate square footage and good lightin in the playing area, or the care in selecting original-looking trophies. All of these things and many more attributable to the Barry influence.
Doris Barry was also Denis Barry. The perfect foil for him, his support system, confidante, yes. But also the careful voice when he might feel rambunctious, the logical when he became theoretical, and the gentle speaker when Denis’ words came with force. Where there was Denis there was often Doris, too, to my delight. She understood him like she might after 53 years of marriage. I love her, too. After years of knowing Denis and Doris I finally had the recent pleasure of meeting their children, college professor daughter and cardiologist son. Never mind their smarts and success – how they look like their parents! Especially their son, what a surprise that he should look so much like a young Denis, complete with the Barry idiosyncratic behavior. Really nice people they are, as you would expect from such parents.
I miss Denis and can’t imagine anyone who knew him feeling otherwise. That voice, the one that would exclaim I haven’t seen you in dawg years!
For those that knew and loved him, Denis Barry never died – and he never will.
I was saddened by the news of the death of Denis Barry in Arizona. Although I did not know Denis very well, I remember clearly the first time I met him. It was at the 1975 U.S. Open in Lincoln, Nebraska. Before the start of the delegates’ meeting, Denis spotted me and came up to me and wanted to show me a whole bunch of photos he had taken at various tournaments and other events. I was impressed by the variety of candid shots that Denis had taken. Denis also took time to tell me a lot about the state of chess affairs in New Jersey. We compared notes on how New Jersey and Massachusetts were faring chesswise in the mid-1970s – at the start of what was to be the post-Fischer era. I got to see Denis regularly at subsequent U.S. Opens and always found time to chat with him about chess politics. I will miss him very much. He was one of the Garden State’s great chess pioneers.
Denis Barry should be remembered for his contributions to chess, which were many, more than for his politics. While neither Rachel nor I always agreed with his political positions, he had a number of creative ideas, a sincere concern for chess and players, and an understanding of how to get things accomplished. He always fought hard for what he thought was right.
He was an International Arbiter for FIDE and a USCF National Tournament Director. He was an architect of the USCF’s Tournament Director Certification Program, which paved the way for setting tournament standards.
An ardent advocate of players’ rights, he was an excellent organizer of chess events and a tireless volunteer for chess.
He was considered to be the father of American team chess, having founded the US Team Championship, which became the US Amateur Team Championship. The event is still one of the most popular chess events in the US. It eventually became so popular that it had to be split into regional sections with a final playoff. The US Amateur Team East, which is, in essence, the original event, is run in New Jersey every President’s Day weekend through the continuing efforts of Steve Doyle. It still has an aura that other regional US Amateur Team sections have not yet developed. Denis Barry also promoted other team events on a national and local level.
He was also the driving force behind the US Blind Championship and an excellent chess journalist. His SACA was one of the best local chess publications that I can remember in Arizona.
As for his work with FIDE, The 1996 World Championship match between Anatoly Karpov and Gata Kamsky would not have taken place without Denis Barry’s efforts.
I also concur with John McCrary’s comments about Dr. M. Lee Hyder. Dr. Hyder served as an excellent role model for me when I succeeded him as USCF Secretary in 1978. He was always helpful and polite.
Denis Barry and Lee Hyder had different styles and strengths, but they were both effective and they will both be missed (as will Dr. James Rachels who also passed away recently).
The chess world has lost one of its true icons. Denis along with his wife Doris were always at the forefront in their efforts to promote and expand this royal game called chess. I have served on the NJSCF board for about twenty years, and during that time everyone has had the experience of working with him. He was firm in his beliefs but always a gentleman as he went about promoting the game he loved so much, He will be sorely missed.
God Bless you my friend, may you rest in peace.
Herm Drenth, President, NJSCF
In the summer of 1972, when I first really became involved in Chess , Denis Barry was the first name I found, after looking in the phone book and finding the New Jersey Chess Federation listed. I can still remember his old home address showing in the phone book…..10 Safran Avenue. He was then I believe, the President of the New Jersey Chess Federation. He, at the time, was connected with the East Brunswick Chess Club, which was run by Gerry Kirzner.
I became a member of the East Brunswick Chess Club in 1972, and years later, a member of the Westfield Chess Club as well, back in 1978. Back then, he also played with us on the East Brunswick Chess Team for the wonderful Raritan Valley Chess League, (which many of you may remember) when we were short a man, or we needed a strong player to play on the higher boards.
Outside of the great achievements in chess on the official level, (which are many), International Arbiter, Policy Board member etc., I can relate to him on a more personal level with clubs and local events.
I always remembered Denis being so friendly and helpful in chess. He always had a big smile on his face when greeting a friend, an acquaintance, or someone new to the game. What I especially remember, is, Denis always, and I mean always, having a story about chess, or a story about George Koltanowski, or someone else. Oh, how I looked forward to those stories. I also remember that he usually had a wonderful chess position or puzzle to share with us. One cannot forget the jokes he would often bring to the club as well.
Denis had moved to Arizona, I believe for health reasons, many years ago. I do know that I really missed his visits to the chess clubs. He would on occasion, visit the US Amateur Team which he started in the first place . What an achievement that was !! It was always so good to see him. Even if it was just for a few minutes. He always came to the events and clubs well dressed and for some reason, he always stood out among the rest.
I love Denis Barry, as I am sure many many of us did and still do, and always will. I miss him dearly. He was one of a kind.
My heart goes out to his Wife Doris and family.
God Bless You Denis
We all love you.
From Pete Tamburro,
At the recent January meeting of the NJSCF Board of Directors, everyone took their turn sharing their memories of Denis. A tribute in itself, it took a while.
My own thoughts expressed at the meeting was that if there was one thing Denis Barry could teach today’s chess politicians it was class.
Back in the 70s, Denis appointed me to the NJ delegation. When I didn’t prove to be the team player he wanted, he unappointed me. There was a huge meeting in Westfield once with a fierce debate over the editorial independence of the Atlantic Chess News that Glenn Petersen and I had started back then. Denis on one side. Pete on the other. I have fond memories of that! Why? Well, we fought like cats and dogs, but as I wrote to Denis the month before he died, he was the only guy who could yell at you and happily slap you on the back at the same time. He didn’t make it personal as with so many personal attacks that seem to go with arguing in today’s chess. He had his principles. He fought for them. You can’t ask much more of a man. We became friends because he shared stories with me, chess problems with me, gave me opportunities at his club and made a point of making sure I got to meet his wife and children, of whom I have fond memories as well. He did not parade his intelligence, but he was a very intelligent man. He was warm and funny and ever so concerned about how others felt. As the years went by, Denis and I came to agree on more and more things and I looked forward to meeting him at the USOpen or NJSCF get togethers. I almost wish we had something to disagree upon! He was a model for what a chess organizer should be: visionary, hard working, infectious and replete with grace. US chess is in great need of the likes of Denis Barry…a whole bunch of Denis Barrys. None of us were quite ready to say goodbye, so thank you, Denis, from the bottom of our hearts.
From Roger Brownell
I have known and worked with Denis only in this century. His legacy goes well before that, and will stretch even greater into the future because of his heartfelt desire to encourage children in their pursuit of chess. In my role as Assistant Scholastic Director for the local chess club (SACA) here in Tucson, Arizona, I want all his past associates and friends to know that up to the end, Denis continued to provide enthusiasm and support to all levels of our chess community. If it is possible for a great man to be humble, it happened in Denis’s life. He was an inspiration to me–and what a role model. A true hero. I was blessed to have known him. I write these words to honor this man, who truly lived his life as a King among those in the game of chess and of life.
I did not know Denis as well as the previous posters, but I knew him in a fashion that I suspect many of you had known Denis … as a startling and always interesting conversationalist whom always remembered your name and his last conversation with you despite how many years it had been since you last saw him.
I first met Denis at the Westfield Chess Club during the early 80′s when he made me feel right at home with his Irish wit and charm. Come to think of it, that same day was the one I first met Edgar McCormack, another legendary NJ chess icon. That was a great day, a day in which I met two of the most considerate and cleverly funny individuals that I’ll ever expect to meet in my lifetime.
Denis had a penchant for telling a good story (deliver it better than his peers) with what the Irish used to call a brilliant (their highest accolade) personality. Most will agree that we all had more fun when Denis was around the club and at the major NJ tourneys.
My last encounter with Denis was many years ago when he let me know he was retiring to Arizona. I recall telling him then how unfortunate that would be for the rest of us in NJ and how sincerely he received those words.
Well, Edgar’s gone a long while now and now Denis too.
As those of us, now on the far side of fifty, lament that they’re making adults much younger these days … we can only hope that we can live the rest of our lives with the grace of a Denis and or Edgar.
Slainte’ Abhaile’ (May our Lord watch over you during your travels) on the way to heaven Denis Barry! I’m looking forward to your greeting at those gates someday, just as you always had at the door!