12th American Open – Santa Monica, CA (1976) / John Pike (1931-2011)

This is a tournament for which it is very difficult to find detailed information, and nearly impossible to find any of its games.

<MillBase> apparently has only two games:

Round Result Opening Len White ELO Black ELO Event Site Date

1 0-1 C57c 18  Radford, Michael 2200  Madsen   0  Santa Monica Santa Monica, CA USA 1976.??.??
1 0-1 D30v 13  Pye, F              0  Buff, J  0  Santa Monica Santa Monica, CA USA 1976.??.??

I originally got interested in the tournament by some discussion on <CG> about Jim Buff.

From there I discovered the three co-winners of the tournament,

In November, 1976, Walter Browne, Yasser Sierawan [sic], and John Pike won the 12th American Open.


So, it seems the Santa Monica (1976) tournament had some qualified players; Browne was need his peak, and a young 16-year old Seirawan scored one of his first major successes.

But why the dearth of actual games from this tournament? Or even additional information on it. And who was John Pike?

You can follow some of my research and efforts in finding out who John Pike was in a series of posts I did on <CG>:


John Pike was a largely inactive master, living in Kalamazoo MI, who happened to be in LA for other reasons when the American Open was held. He took the opportunity to join the enter the tournament, and was seeded 58th. For scoring 7/8 he tied for 1st (actually Seirawan won on tiebreak), and took home $833 (~$3.5k in today’s money). He had an execellent result, losing only to William Batchelder.

Pike died in 2011, age 79, and his obituary is here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/jsonline/obituary.aspx?n=john-pike&pid=150491241

He was a chemist at Upjohn Pharmaceutical for most of his life. By tracking down more information on Pike, I found an article in the Febuary 1977 Michigan Chess magazine that contains the most detail on the Santa Monica tournament that I’ve been able to find:

Here are screen shots of the info:

Kalamazoo Man at Top in Santa Monica (MI Chess, Feb 1977)(click on picture to enlarge)

There is also this newspaper item describing the drama going into the final round:

1976-11-29 -- The Evening News - DeFirmian Takes Chess Lead (7th R)

The Evening News - Nov. 29, 1976

DeFirmian Takes Chess Lead


Nineteen-year-old Nicholas De Firmian has taken the lead after the
seventh round of the American Open Chess Championship, defeating
once-favored Grandmaster Anatoly Lein of the Soviet Union.

De Firmian's triumph yesterday over Lein was his sixth in the chess
competition. The Santa Barbara teenager earlier had one tie, with
Larry Nezhni of Pacolma.

Current U.S. Champion Walter Browne, of Berkeley, held on to his tie
for second place with a 6-1 score.

Sixteen-year-old Yasser Seirawan, of Seattle, also finished the
seventh round with six points, with draws against both Browne and
Lein, and a victory over Canadian Champion Peter Biyiasas. Other
players with six points included David Strauss, of Riverside; Alan
Pollard, of Los Angeles, and John Pike, of Mich.

Soviet Grandmaster Leonid Shamkovich was tied at 5-1/2 points with
Biyiasas, Lein, Julius Loftsson, of Los Angeles, 15-year-old Jay
Whitehead and Zaki Harari, both of Francisco.

This was not too shabby a tournament, in terms of talent there were three GM’s, five senior masters, twenty masters and fifty-one experts. Two of the GM’s were from Russian – Anatoly Lein and Lenoid Shamkovich. Many of the other player names are well known even today. So Pike’s performance must certainly be considered a highlight of his chess career.

I’ll also note that the Michigan Chess article goes out of its way to mention he once shared a flat with “Leonard Barden, the famous English chess writer and openings theoretician, and Abe Yanovsky, former Canadian chess champion”.

[Update – Thanks to <stonehedge>  we now know that John E. Pike’s dob was Sept 26, 1931, in addition to his  dod of Apr 23, 2011.

https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JG1S-ZYX ]



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