Northwest Chess

This is a Northwest Chess archival page. For current information and links, click on Home.
NWC: Home > Articles > People > Wise

IN MEMORIAM John Keith Wise, January 16, 1953 - February 17, 2006

Article by Kate Taylor

John Wise was just that, a very wise man. A visionary in chess in the Vancouver area since 1988, and so much more. John and I communicated mainly via email but also had many long chats between rounds at chess events over the last several years. His strength of spirit, vast and wide-raging knowledge, commitment to children and impish twinkle will be sorely missed.

John was born in Roswell, New Mexico right around the time that aliens supposedly landed there. Many say it was just a coincidence ... but I think otherwise. He had a sense of humor that was out of this world!

John enjoyed chess from a young age and accidentally met his wife, Pam, while trying to avoid playing a game of chess with a very determined and resourceful young lady, named Martha, when he inadvertently ran into the girls bathroom at a church event. John didn't realize he'd met his wife until several years later, while retelling his very embarrassing story to a group of fellow Brigham Young University students, when Pam said "I was in there!" John received his degree in journalism and eventually married Pam in October of 1974. He worked hard to support his wife, six children and eventually 13 grandchildren. A few months ago, John sent me an email that took us both on a trip down memory lane and I thought you would be interested in it as well:

Hi Kate! I recently had to give up my chess organizing for health reasons (blindness issues, and kidney dialysis). But I always enjoy reading your newsy e-mails. I was worried about the status of chess when I left, but I feel grateful knowing that there are others out there.

I just finished reading the little news e-mail you recently sent out, talking about agreed draws, etc., and I came across your statement about how Oregon and Washington have enjoyed long and productive tournaments for kids.

When I first came in 1988, there were 28 players at the SW Washington Regional. And State had a small number I'm sure it was under 200. That first year, if I remember, the tournament was in Onalaska just south of Centralia/Chehalis. After that, my wife and I began organizing tournaments, and the numbers began jumping. When John Palm came on, sometime in 1991 or 1992, things really exploded. John directed and I was in the back room, doing pairings on cards! In 1994 we hosted the Washington State Elementary tournament here in Vancouver and had 490 players I remember the K-3 section was won that year by little Curt Collyer, who is now a very gifted master! John Palm ordered the finest trophies he could find, and that year the trophies were far more numerous, and beautiful than at any time before. People came up to us and said, "You've raised the bar now, and from here on out, no one will be able to order anything less." Curt's trophy was bigger than he was!

As time went by, John Palm and I just ran the local tournaments, and just here in Clark County we began to draw up to 400 kids for our major tournaments. About that same time we got the pairing program on computer and it made it possible to conduct such large tournaments.

Oregon, however, really struggled. There were some small tournaments run by OCF, and the winners from the small local tournaments were allowed to come to the once-yearly OMSI tournament. The tournament was run by adult players who ran things the old fashioned way always pairing by cards (eschewing the new computer program!) It was natural that Clark County would do well when coming to the OMSI tournament. Every year we would walk away with the championship of Oregon. So one year they said we could come down, but we couldn't take the title if we won. Many Clark County teams got offended and some refused to come any more.

Nowadays, Oregon has such a healthy chess scene for schools! I'm just tickled to see it. I mean, here we have a city that rivals Seattle in size and potential, and why shouldn't there be a huge program for kids?? I'm only saddened that I can no longer participate in it I loved going to big tournaments and being out on the floor, acting as a judge. I taught Georgi Orlov's chess camps, I tutored individual students, and ran the computer pairing system on dozens of occasions. So it has been a letdown that I just can't put it all together anymore. But I still have those memories ... and they are great.

Anyway, your article got me thinking about all this.

Thanks for everything ... John Wise.

We're the ones who should be thanking him. John Wise helped shape scholastic chess as we know it today. I'm so thankful to have known him. I'll miss him.