I only knew of my great-grandfather David via the stories my grandmother told about her father (and she has passed on too).

a hand holding an old medal with the name David Gottfried on it, behind is an old cigar box with brown and black chess pieces
2022/365/69 Great Grandfather Chess King flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

My grandmother was one of 6 children, her father David was a single parent as his wife Eva died young. They lived in an apartment in Newark, New Jersey. He worked jobs in a cigar factory and as a maintenance man in a cafe.

What “granny” told me was how clever he was, that he won a chess championship in 1929. She gave me a box containing the medal, a clipped article from a chess club newsletter, and his wooden chess set.  The article reads:

At “Al’s Restaurant,” corner Clinton Place and Hawthorne Avenue, you will find Dave Gottfried, genial night manager. Dave has never lost a match game for the Newark Rice Chess Club — also is the holder of a silver medal for the Brilliancy Prize held at Bradley Beach several summers ago.

The back of the medal has a few more clues:

Special Prize 1929 New Jersey State Championship Hotel La Reine Bradley Beach
My Great Grandfather’s Chess Medal flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

It reads:

Special Prize
New Jersey State
Hotel La Reine
Bradley Beach

I found history on this hotel and the Hotel La Reine  was the site of an International Chess Championship in 1929. Through the internet I am getting closer to finding newspaper articles that mention David Gottfried. I have gotten help from Chess history bloggers and the New Jersey Chess club, all because I just asked for help.

My audio version of this stories includes a clip of my grandmother talking about her father, from some precious audio I recorded with her in 1997.

It is so valuable to have in my home, this wooden chess set that my great grandfather played with. I can touch what he held in his hand. In the photo above, I arranged the chess pieces so the king was standing, like my great grandfather, with the 6 pawns, his children around him.

These objects, and the stories mean so much to me. And I keep digging though the internet for shreds of information I can find about this great man I never knew, but who definitely did shape me.

Download "The Chess King I Never Knew"

Media Description: The story of my great grandfather, David Gottfried, and his chess medal and chess set I have with me.

Shared by: Alan Levine @cogdog

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