Records of organized chess prior to 1938 are very sketchy, but chess was very popular here and there were many chess clubs around. 1938, however, marked an important date in Peoria chess history. It was then the Kingsmen Chess Club was organized, which spurred activity locally. George Koltanowski gave one of his simultaneous exhibitions here at that time.
Early records on the Peoria Chess Association are still being sought and will be included here when available. Some early officers were: Jess Anderson (former President of the Kingsmen Chess Club), Hank Kramer, who fathered the original plan forming the Peoria Chess Association, and Art Hartwig, who has continued to play organized chess until the early 90's. This group was among the first in the nation to become an affiliate of the United States Chess Federation.
The Peoria Industrial Chess League was formed in October 1943 under the guidance of Art Hartwig of Caterpillar, Hank Cramer of the U.S. Post Office, and Jess Anderson of CILCO.
The Hotel Pere Marquette played host to the US Open in 1945. Co-sponsors were the Peoria Chess Association and the Illinois State Chess Association. Thiry-three players competed. The war was still on, the draft had taken many active players, and transportation was tight. The annual business meeting, held in conjunction with each US Open, was most significant this year, as the rebirth of F.I.D.E. was organized. It had been dormant since the beginning of the war.
The year after the US Open in Peoria was significant for Peoria chess: the Peoria Chess Association united its efforts with the Kingsmen Chess Club, a coalition which existed effectively until 1965 when the officers of the PCA turned the reins over to a newer group of chess enthusiasts. Thus, the Greater Peoria Chess Federation was born.
The first (1943) Peoria Industrial Chess League season saw only four teams
participate with Caterpillar and the Post Office sharing the title. The league
quickly stabilized at six teams with no single member able to dominate play.
Finally in the 1947-48 season, the Northern Regional Laboratory team, named NorLab, won the title for the first time and then proceeded to dominate play, winning four of five championships. Records of the early 50's seem to have been lost, but from discussions with the players active in that era, it appears that enthusiasm for league play waned and only Caterpillar, led by John Roecker, was able to maintain a strong team in contention for the title. As surely as NorLab dominated the pre-Korean War years, Cat dominated the 50's winning at least five championships in the seven year period 1955-61.
The early sixties witnessed the collapse of league play in Peoria, and with it all organized chess play in the area.
The Greater Peoria Chess Federation was formed in the fall of 1965, but it wasn't until the start of the 1967-68 season that league play was resumed. The league was renamed the Peoria Chess League. Ron Millard, who had participated in the last days of the former league and was one of the few players to remain active during the dark age, organized and nurtured the league back to health serving as League Vice President until 1971.
The 1974-75 league season was possibly the strongest league season ever. There were twelve teams; six in the Morphy Division and six in the Fischer Division. There were 6 players per team, making the total league roster a whopping 72 players!
1943-44 Post Office and Caterpillar (tie)
1945-46 Shah-Mate Chess Club
1946-47 Hiram Walker
1949-50 Hiram Walker
1952-54 Winner unknown...
1956-57 Winner unknown...
1959-60 Acme TV
1961-67 No League
1967-68 Acme TV
1968-69 Illinois Furniture
1969-70 First National Bank
1971-72 Bradley University
1972-73 First National Bank
1974-75 Bradley University
1978-79 Metropolitan Life Insurance
1979-80 Manufacturing Development
1980-81 Peoria Data Service
1982-83 Super X Drug
1983-84 Illinois Furniture
1984-85 New England Lobster House
1986-87 Bradley University
1989-90 Bradley University
1991-92 A. C. Gentrol
1992-93 Bradley University
1994-95 Merrill Lynch
1995-96 Young Guns = Bd1 Barney Getz, Bd2 Jim Barthel Bd3 Matt Leali Bd4 Pete Karagianis
1997 The Antichokes = Bd 1 Michael Leali -- Bd2 Michael Latta -- Bd3 Scott Small
1998 Team 5 = Bd 1 Jim Barthel -- Bd2 Peter Chatterton -- Bd3 Michael Calabro -- Bd4 Jon Daker