Originally published Dec. 26, 2013
LEGENDARY AMERICAN CHESS SHADOW AND US CHESS CHAMPION JOHN GREFE DIES
Dallas, Texas … this just in from Dallas … “The Chief” of Fat Katz International chess promotions … the here-there-and-everywhere shadow … international chess master and U.S. chess Co-Champion (with the great Kavalek) in 70’s El Paso, Texas long ago … has died … NO FURTHER DETAILS YET… Mr. Grefe … LONG SERIOUSLY ILL … was an awestruck, early and often, eyewitness to the entire SAN FRANCISCO flower child scene … 1968-1977 ACERS- MOTORCYCLE MAX BURKETT-ADDISON-GREFE-THE GREAT RADAIKEN, WILCOX, BLOHM, SHORMAN [editor’s note: here’s a link to Richard Shorman’s 1973 interview with Grefe], WATERMAN, BURGERMEISTER-CITY OF SAN FRANCISO MAGAZINE (WARREN HINCKLE), THE GREAT BENDIT, FRITZ THE POET-COPPOLA-KOLTANOWSKI HALF CENTURY PLUS CHRONICLE CHESS COLUMN-RUSSELL MILLER-HERB CAEN-BAGBY, BROWNE, TARJAN, BILL GRAHAM, JANIS JOPLIN, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE, CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL, ENRICO’s, THE COFFEE GALLERY, THE CLEVELAND JONES THREE (SGT.PEPPERS MUSIC CLUB), FILMORE WEST, MECHANICS INSTITUTE, GOLDEN GATE PARK, THE NO NAME BAR/SAUSALITO, SILMAN, THE PRESIDIO CHESS CLUB, FERLINGHETTI-BENSON-BUFF-McCLAIN (CALIFORNIA CHESS REPORTER)-RAMIREZ-KANE- MAX SHEER, THE BERKELEY BARB-MARY LASHER in the frenetic chess and roadrunner era … strangely, there are things in life ONE RECALLS ABOUT GREFE like no other person … probably John Grefe’s break of a lifetime was his meeting by pure happenstance … in a rush to the San Francisco Mechanics Institute Chess Club Masters Chess Championship … the stunning, elegant, cultured INDEED world class lady… Mary Lasher (herself later translator of the classic chess endgame text PAWN ENDINGS) … Grefe was so amazed, completely overwhelmed by the fabulous Mary that he instantly lost his game to advertising executive Robert Burger (Burgermeister ) in 11 moves! (Yes, THAT GUY … the very same player that defeated Fischer in 14 moves/simul in 1964!) Their meeting was nuclear … fiery … and for but a few years … dramatically changed their lives forever. I always thought of them both as a real treasure … a wonder in a time capsule … gone in a heartbeat of time but … just classy personified …
ONE OTHER GREFE MEMORY STANDS OUT … on a rare delightful one-time-only Grefe/Mary/Fritz the poet visit to my place at 2000 Broadway when I was a veritable coast to coast road chess machine on top of the world … he stated that El Paso US chess championship tourney chess spectators were few but this seemed good as spectators were good for causing commotion and little else! When I mentioned possible commercial mall chess simultaneous exhibitions for US chess champion Grefe he dismissed them instantly with, “These people just want to be entertained!” I was effortlessly ready for this: “Sir John … the spectator entertainment is simply having John Grefe, chess champion of the United States in your living room, mall, kitchen.” Wonder woman author Mary nodded, smiled, understood perfectly … Grefe never did.
— Jude Acers