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MACA Chess Horizons Magazine Article
 Dondis on Chess Writing
 Nathan Smolensky
  November 2014
Harold Dondis is, remarkably, both the oldest active chess players in Massachusetts and one of the most prolific. He is also in his 50th year of writing the Boston Globe’s excellent chess column, and I spoke to Mr. Dondis about his column and the state of chess in the mainstream press.
NS: This is now the 50th year of your column in the Boston Globe. Is that correct?
HD: I believe so, yes. I filled in as the Globe columnist at the death of Jim Burgess in 1964 and continued as a permanent columnist because I felt there was no one available to write the column week after week. I had met Jim Burgess at a poetry club, and he introduced me to Harry Lyman and chess circles.
NS: When, exactly, was your first Globe column? Do you remember what it covered?
HD: I’m afraid I have mislaid a folder with my original columns, so I can’t remember the exact date. However, I think it was just before the U.S. Open in Boston in 1964. I recall the first column was not well written, though I learned to improve.
NS: Are there any editions of the column from throughout the years that you're particularly proud of? That stand out as especially memorable?
HD: For me the most interesting columns I wrote were on the Fischer v. Spassky match. I followed Fischer’s career with great excitement, hoping that he would play for the World Championship. My editor was Peter Hotton, who was in a small chess club at the house of Herb Kenney (literary editor of the Globe), and was very supportive, even in the writing of provocative headlines. I wrote an article stating that the Cold War was about to be continued between America and Russia on 64 squares, through the sublimated war game of chess. Peter put it on the front page, and the Globe was ahead of the New York Times on this news by a few days. I flew to Iceland in the hope that Bobby Fischer would play, and even functioned for a day as attorney for Fischer’s helper Fred Cramer, when Fischer refused to play. I held the phone to the stadium during the day of default, and sent reports back on the first games of the match. The attendance of many prominent people at the match was spectacular.
NS: What makes a good chess column?
HD: A good chess column in my eyes presents the current news as well as interesting chess games with capable analysis. A little witticism helps, if it is not too obscure, and an explanation of the drama and the excitement of chess is also a goal. Many times a chess column is welcome on particular subjects such as the careers of particular chess players, and the scope of chess currently and in history. I have to say that chess for me is a marvel not only for recreation but also for its aura of intellectual activity, which has taught me lessons in my own private life and profession. If a column can convey that mystique, then it has done its job.
NS: Recently, both Stephen Dann's Worcester Telegram column and Dylan McClain's long-running Times blog ended. What is your reaction? Is it indicative of a trend? Why do you think it is?
HD: I don’t know much about the Telegram happenings. I believe that the Times column will be restored if there is a strong public response, but I am not sure who will lead it. Recall that my column was terminated once for a short time, but my editor was an avid player and the players in New England sent in a wave of objections after a notice was placed on the bulletin board of Metrowest.