Allan Cunningham Retires from Leading Wyoming Chess
In September of 2009, Allan Cunningham announced his retirement from Chess and his work for the Wyoming Chess Association. Internet records only go back to 1991 but a look at Allan's player history on the United States Chess Federation page reveals a long, action packed chess career. Allan has played in over 109 events starting in 1977. He learned to play chess in grade school but really got serious as a result of the Fischer - Spassky World Championship Match in 1972. Allan joined the USCF in 1972 and by 1977 was playing tournament chess. The other facet of chess that Allan enjoyed was playing postal chess though the USCF Golden Knights from 1977 to 2005. He started playing postal chess through the Correspondence Chess League of America in 2005 and still plays. His chess career was marked with high ratings of 1623 for regular chess and 1859 for correspondence chess.
The 1990's saw Allan along with George Lundy, Michael Miller, Tony Laird, and others playing chess at the Laramie County Public Library. This group honed their skills and went on to challenge others. The Cheyenne Chess Club under Allan's leadership grew and moved on to a local book store and finally to Laramie County Community College. Allan and others worked together to keep the club alive by holding tournaments, purchasing chess equipment so anyone could play, and maintaining the Cheyenne Chess Club membership in the United States Chess Federation. Allan spent 15 years lugging the "club tub" out to the college so that there would be sets, chess boards, and clocks for anyone who needed them. One year the club won a chess clock for the affiliate with the most membership renewals from the Chess Federation. The Cheyenne Chess Club was famous for sayings like "I can play without pieces" and "you cannot make a move your opponent hasn't thought of." All of this followed by Allan's chorus of how much was that pawn in the window.
Allan became President of the Wyoming Chess Association in 1995 succeeding Charlie Musselman who was transferred to Chicago by the United States Air Force and continued to serve until this past fall. Under his leadership, scholastic, closed and open statewide tournaments were held annually in Casper and Cheyenne. Allan directed 32 events and 71 sections himself. The Wyoming Closed was played for many years as a part of the Wyoming Open but later became a tournament of its own. Jon Fortune played his first chess tournament game with Allan Cunningham as so many other new Wyoming players had. Allan encouraged the development of the Fred Reinfield Foundation by becoming an officer of it but by also having scholastic sections at the regular Wyoming Tournaments. He either represented Wyoming himself or made sure Wyoming was represented at the Annual Meeting of the United States Chess Federation. Allan encouraged everyone to play more chess by organizing expeditions to Colorado Tournaments, finding tournament locations, and covering expenses himself when the Association coffers were low. He mailed out tournament announcements himself and encouraged the development of the Wyoming Chess Page on the web.
Wyoming has a long and rich history of chess ranging from ranchers who used to watch for the train to stop in a nearby town so they could look for a game from a traveling player, to guys who would telegraph Grandmasters such as Samuel Reshevsky and arrange to have them get off the train for an evening of chess and then drive madly to catch the train in a distant city. Jude Acers, famous New Orleans chess player challenged all takers for awhile in Jackson Hole. Wyoming Chess has so far produced Grandmaster Alexander Fishbein, the three times high school Denker tournament participant and national G60 and Wyoming Champion chess expert Andrew M. Smith, and the relentless fifteen times chess Wyoming Chess Champion Dan E. Joelson. Allan Cunningham has played a strong role in enriching Wyoming Chess history through his leadership and encouragement. He will be missed.