I have played a few games and talked with both Brian McNiece and Cesar Guevarra but never really knew either one of them as more than an acquaintance. However, I count Lloyd Gustafson as one of my good friends. I probably played over a thousand games and had hundreds of talks with Lloyd. As the New Mexico Memorial tournament approaches I thought I would share some of my memories with one of our chess originals.
Many of you probably never met Lloyd and maybe only knew him from his entry in our Distinguished Service Registry. I met Lloyd one Thursday morning in July back in 1984. I had just gotten a job as an Engineer at Sperry Flight Systems. I was talking to a co-worker about hobbies and chess inevitably came up and he told me I had to meet Lloyd down in the Print Shop. Lloyd was the resident player and was all things chess for the company, even going so far as to help organize intra-company tournaments. I went down and met Lloyd that morning and was playing chess at his house that evening and most Thursday nights for the next seven years. Lloyd anchored our Sperry (and later Honeywell) team for many years along with myself, Brad Peterson and Mitch Robison. We played matches against Digital, Sygnetics, and even Sandia. We also played a number of team tournaments at NMCO. One of Lloyd’s endearing traits was his amazing memory. He would often ponder for days and even weeks a particularly heartbreaking loss in exacting detail of what moves he should have made and what strategies he should have employed.
Lloyd would always regale us with tales from his youth back in NY where he played in the 50s and 60s. His Dad was a strong master (probably has at least a dozen games in the Mega-Database) and they would play at the legendary Hawthorne Chess Club with Jack Collins. Lloyd was also fond of giving chess advice. He often quoted Savielly Tartakower, and his favorite was probably: “The winner is the one who makes the next-to-last mistake.” One year the “Sperry Chess Team” decided to play at the World Open, so the four of us flew to Philadelphia and checked into the now defunct Adam’s Mark Hotel for a week of fun and chess. I remember rooming with Lloyd and the following morning after celebrating our arrival in Philly with late-night partying in Mitch and Brad’s room I found out that he was a very early riser! At 5:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time, Lloyd greeted the world by throwing open the blinds and shouting “Good Morning” and then he went swimming at the hotel pool. I don’t think I played very well that day with my ensuing hangover but I did convince him to be quieter the rest of the week. The only other incident I recall that trip was him patiently explaining to Brad that his next opponent wasn’t just some old guy (Brad had decided to play in the Open and was paired against Sammy Reshevsky).
Over the years I tried to keep in touch with Lloyd, going to his retirement party and his 50th wedding anniversary but as the years passed I saw him less and less often. I will always remember him keeping a cold beer (always Schaeffer) in the fridge for us and his wonderful wife Lucielle providing endless snacks. I found out years later that he had even taught my girlfriend’s kids to play chess when he taught at Desert Ridge. Though my father taught me chess many years ago when I was just a kid, I will always consider Lloyd my “Chess Dad”. You will be missed old friend!