On March 2, 2012, we lost our chess friend Isaac Braswell to suicide. All who knew him were very sad. His cheerful good humor and ability to instantly light up a room were greatly missed. In response to this, we decided to hold a blitz tournament in Isaac’s honor and use the proceeds to benefit young black chess players in some way.


Evanston Chess Club held Braswell Memorial Blitz Tournaments in 2012, 2013 and 2014. We charged our usual $5 entry fee and encouraged additional donations above and beyond that. A few people gave small additional cash amounts. Special mention goes to Ted Moon, who donated a bunch of school chess supplies; these were sold to school chess clubs and the proceeds also went into what we called the “Braswell Fund.” Other in-kind donors included Penny Rosemont and Dan Leroy. We gave small prizes, most of which were donated, at the tournaments.

Thanks go to Evanston Chess Club Blitz director Michael Matek who took charge of collecting, tracking and disbursing the donations.
Over three years, we collected a total of $969.00.

  • In 2013, we gave an award in Isaac’s honor to the highest-rated senior-year African-American high school chess player according to IHSA ratings. The award was a $300 scholarship. Coverage on the award is here.
  • In 2014, IHSA stopped compiling ratings, and we were unable to give that year’s scholarship award. We couldn’t identify and locate a recipient.
  • In 2015, we decided to give the remaining funds we had raised to the Chicago Chess Center ($257.50) and to Holsten Human Capital Development/HHCD ($411.50).

Why these two organizations?

Chicago Chess Center is a nonprofit looking to open a permanent chess center somewhere in Chicago. We figure this is exactly the kind of place where Isaac would have been a regular. He would have been a star at their blitz tournaments.

Holsten Human Capital Development is the nonprofit that runs resident programming at Lawson House, the SRO housing building in downtown Chicago where Isaac lived. When I attended the memorial service for Isaac at Lawson House, I was deeply moved by how active, involved and loved Isaac was there and by what a vibrant, supportive community Lawson House provides.

Note that all other expenses – small prizes, tournament rating fees, a plaque for the scholarship award given in 2013 -- were paid for by Evanston Chess Club. Thus, the entire $969.00 we raised went to good causes with no overhead or expenses coming out of donations.

And with that, the Isaac Braswell fund and our fundraising come to an end. As we tried to put together the scholarship – our original idea – we realized what a challenge in terms of time and publicity it is to identify a winner and run that kind of program. Beyond that, Evanston Chess Club is not set up to take tax-deductible donations, and do all those great things that organized charities do. In short, Michael and I realized we were in over our heads and not keeping up with the task we had set ourselves.

Having brought this to an end, I have encouraged Bill Brock at Chicago Chess Center to consider running future events in Isaac’s honor.
I’m never going to forget Isaac M. Braswell, nor will I ever forget NM Jon Burgess, who we also lost that same year. I think of the two of them every year when the USAT-N is played and at many other times. They were great guys, each in his own way, and we miss them both.

I also encourage any of you who would like to remember Isaac or Jon to make donations in their honor to either organization:

  • Chicago Chess Center, chichess.org, or payable to Chicago Chess Center NFP Inc., and mailed to P.O. Box 180095, Chicago, IL 60618.
  • Holsten Human Capital Development (payable to), and mailed to Alvena Clark, 5th Floor, Lawson House, 30 W Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60654.

I have come to the conclusion that running fundraisers and giving to good causes is not what our club does well, nor is it what I, as chief organizer, do well. What Evanston Chess Club does best is provide great chess as well as community and friendship for chess players, both through our weekly club meetings and our tournaments. I am confident in that small way we will continue to make a difference in the lives of everyone who participates.

Maret Thorpe, organizer, Evanston Chess Club