New Jersey Champions from the 19th century to World War II:
By Pete Tamburro
This is always a work in progress. Many of the champions were found in The World Almanac. There was a chess page in that venerable journal going back to the 19th century. Herman Helms at some point took over the page. The first time his name appeared was in the 1904 World Almanac. He continued this in the almanac until his death in 1963. The 1964 WA attribution is to just American Chess Bulletin. After that the USCF took over, and now it’s just a brief mention. Back in the day, Helms sometimes went to a second page with chess news! He even managed to squeeze two Alekhine games in (vs. Capablanca and Euwe). Some years in the 1930s had no entries at all, but by and large it is a treasure trove of chess history and results, especially for New York area chess. The NJ Open got mentioned in 1957 because You Know Who won it and again in 1958 and 1959, but since the kid wasn’t coming back, I guess Helms lost interest. He never lost interest with New York chess, though.
Here is our current best guess, based on our research. We have more places to go, and definitely have to get back to the Firestone Library at Princeton University to go through more of the Cook Collection.
We have found a variety of last name spellings for the same person. We have left the different spellings and initials as they were in the particular source for that year. Some periods of NJ chess history are very vague. The important thing to remember is that from the 19th century on, Washington’s Birthday was used as the day to hold a New Jersey Chess Association tournament to determine the state champion. That may help searching in NJ newspapers. For some reason, it turned into a giant team match on that day. We’re still working on that.
If anyone has any contributions or corrections to this list, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
1886: First meeting of the New Jersey Chess Association, February 23rd. Edward Casper Stokes, of Millville, later governor of NJ, was NJ’s first official chess champion.
1887: Edward Casper Stokes, Millville
1888: R.B. Keyes, Plainfield
1889: C. L. Murphy
1890: R.B. Keyes of Plainfield and N. Hymes of Newark were co-champions. May have been playoff with Keyes winning.
1891: Either S.L. Lissner or A. Vorath…still working on this, Probably Vorath.
1892: S. Lissner, Hoboken
1893: N. Hymes, Newark
1894: L. Sternberg, Newark
1895: A. Vorath and C. Hymes (playoff, result unknown) or H. Stapfer (conflicting reports)
1896: L. Sternberg, Newark
1897: Dr. B. Herstein of Elizabeth (played in Bayonne, 64 players)
1898: B. Herstein, H. Stapfer
1899: H. E. Higgins
1900: J. H. White
1901: Dr. Herstein
1902: Dr. B. Herstein
1903: George J. Benner
1905: Dr. B. Herstein
1906: E.M. Roche or Jean Gunzelman (conflicting reports)
1907: Gustav Koehler, E.N. Olly
1908: E.N. Olly
1909: G. H. Koehler
1912: J.H. Stapfer of Hoboken and D.W. Field of Hackensack
1913: T.F. Hattfield of Hoboken and C. H. Armstrong of East Orange
1914: F. Sager defeated C.E. Armstrong 2-1 in Newark
1915: E.E. Cobb of Paterson
1916: M.W. Schor of Newark
1917: Otto G. Horster
1918: W. Rissmiller of Paterson, 8.5-1.5 (an unusual number of games, generally less played)
1919: M.W. Shor
1921 J.W. Brunnemer
1922 J.W. Brunnemer
1923 J.W. Brunnemer and C.H. Armstrong (playoff result unknown, but mentioned)
1924 J.W. Brunnemer and Jack Cohen (playoff result unknown, but mentioned)
1925-1933? J.W. Brunnemer (or Brunnemar in some citations.) This era is a mystery; however, Brunnemer was clearly the best player of this time. Still looking for information here. The next bit of news was from the 1935 World Almanac. See next entry.
1934: Bill Ruth of Camden defeated Harold Pump of East Orange, 4-1.
1938: Harold Burdge (South Jersey champ) defeated Edgar McCormick (North Jersey Champ) 3.5-0.5
1939: Harold Burdge (inconclusive as 1939 match went into 1940!)
1940: J. DuBois was leading J.D. Neuss 2.5-1.5, no further knowledge.
Our next information starts after WWII with the “modern” NJ Champions list from 1946 to the present. Whether WWII had a role in all this, we do not know for sure.