More about Dewain Barber and the Barber MS (6-8):

For even more information about Dewain Barber and the Barber MS (6-8), please see the tournament's legacy site and his private chess blog, "The Chess Travelor."


Dewain Barber with a Maasai warrior. Just one of the stories you will find at the above link.


March 2019 Chess Life Cover
Revised December 22, 2018
By Ralph Bowman
Mr. Barber learned chess in Norman, Oklahoma from his older brother Dwight, and shortly thereafter joined a school chess club in 7th grade. He played in his first tournament, a scholastic event, in Tulsa that year.

His favorite memory as a chess player happened at the Cerritos Chess Club in Southern California on December 19, 1975. This was a large chess club that often held simultaneous exhibitions (simul) with grandmasters. One of these simuls was with six-time US Champion Grandmaster Walter Browne. The simul started at 9 PM. At 1 AM Dewain looked around the room and notice many empty chairs. He had been concentrating so much on his game that he did not notice there were only seven boards still going. He was up an exchange and a pawn. Taking into consideration how tired he was, Dewain offered a draw and it was accepted. GM Browne’s result for that simul was 57 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses.

He played off and on over his school years. Upon graduation from Northern Arizona University, he started a teaching career in the Buena Park Elementary School District in Buena Park, California where he taught World and American History to 7th and 8th Grade students for 30 years.

During his teaching, the staff at his school was asked to provide a club for the students to volunteer to join. He chose chess and games. Later this was to become the chess club that he continued for 27 years.

Mr. Barber relates these stories about his chess teams:

“As chess coach one of my favorite stories was an encounter with a new student, Andrius Kulikauskas who was later to join my Buena Park Junior High Chess Club. As I had been playing tournament chess for several years, I had reached a level of 1410. During the school day I would play students before school and during lunch. On one particular lunch time Andrius (Andrew) walked in and starting watching my game that I was playing with one of the members of the chess club. While these games were in progress I usually answered questions about homework and graded papers, which was not disrespectful of the chess players whom I played. This multi-tasking kept me busy and able to have fun at chess as well.

When I finished the game I was playing, Andrew asked if he could play me. Usually I have new students play someone in the club first, but I decided to see what this young man knew about chess.

As the game progressed nothing was unusual and I graded papers and talking to students about their work. After several more mechanical moves I noted that I had lost the center and I was a Pawn down. Not to fear I was a “skilled” tournament player and I would pick up the Pawn in the middlegame. Continuing to multi-task I once again looked at the board and noted that I was now a Rook and a Pawn down with a gathering crowd of chess club members. Fortunately, they were not drooling, but seemed very excited. I was excited as well! What is happening here? A student who walked in off the playground had never to this point in my coaching career beaten me. I put aside the papers I was grading and starting really concentrating on the game. In addition, I asked students not to ask questions about their schoolwork till I finished this game. It was not looking good for the old coach. I began concentrating on the game at hand and with good play I won in the endgame. Later on Andrew was to become a US Chess Federation National Chess Master.

The best finish my National team ever achieved was tied for 5th Place at the National Junior High in Terre Haute, IN. Other teams have placed 14th or in the top 25.”

“One particular student who stands out is a young 7th Grade student who told me later in life that he only came to school because chess was available before school and during lunch. I do not know if this was the driving force in his life, but he later graduated from college and went on to teach chess and math. In addition, National Master Joe Hanley decided to open a chess center in Irvine, CA to support all the young people who wanted to learn about the game.”

“Another young 7th Grade student, Ed Motley that should be mentioned was active in Scholastic Chess through High School, received an appointment to West Point. Since I lost track of him I had no idea where he was. As it turned out I was at a National Junior High event nearly 20 years later where I was attending a coaches meeting. When the meeting was completed and I prepared to leave, I heard a voice from behind that said, “How are you doing Mr. Barber? I turned around to see my former student, Ed Motley, in the meeting. I was impressed when he asked me to meet his team that had come to that National event. As I arrived at the team room he introduced me to his players who were having a great time and then he introduced me to his son, a member of the chess team. This happened again in April 2011 at the event in Huntington Beach, CA called the Dewain Barber Scholastic sponsored by NM Joe Hanley.”

In 1974 Mr. Barber attended a meeting in the City of Orange, CA that brought together organized chess from throughout Orange County. Mr. Barber has assisted or organized the Bernard Morrison Scholastic Chess Tournament (Bernard Morrison taught chess to Orange County elementary students since 1974) and Miley Staser Scholastic Chess Tournament (who also taught elementary students since 1977) in Southern California.

As Scholastic Chess growth occurred in this country, Mr. Barber was part of that effort. He created “A Guide to Scholastic Chess” which provides information to school-based persons on how to start a chess club. Over 50,000 copies have been distributed and it is currently available on the “Teachers & Coaches” page of the US Chess website. This book is the basis for the US Chess Certified Local Chess Coach (Level I) test. This publication has been given away free since its inception. It is in its 11th Edition.

He has been a member of the U.S. Chess Federation’s Life Member Assets committee, Scholastic Committee, and former member of the Scholastic Council. During this time he asked the US Chess Delegates to create the Scholastic Service Award to recognize persons for their “Many Contributions to Scholastic Chess”. In addition, he helped create the National Girls Tournament of Champions (NGTOC). He has been chairman of the GM Arnold Denker Tournament of High School Champions. For more information on his involvement with the Denker Tournament see “GM Arnold Denker: The Legacy”.

Because of his life of teaching and coaching K-8 players, Mr. Barber wanted to create a national tournament specifically geared for the winners of State Championships who were in Grades 8 and under. In 2010 the US Chess Board of Delegates approved the “Dewain Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions”. The inaugural tournament was held July 30 to August 2, 2011 in Orlando, FL. The K-8 players played in the same room and at the same time as the players in the “GM Denker Tournament of High School Champions”.

In September 1982 Dewain started his company, American Chess Equipment. He began the company because he had found it difficult for schools to purchase chess equipment at reasonable prices. The company now does business in all 50 states and 10 foreign countries. He has committed his company, American Chess Equipment, to continue to sponsor the Denker and Barber tournaments. The company was recently sold to Shelby Lohrman and has continued to be a chess equipment supplier to the chess community.

When asked, “How has the game of chess influenced your life?” the following was his response:

“As a schoolteacher I was seeking something to enrich the lives of young people. Chess became that vehicle. I have seen the positive effects of Chess on thousands of Scholastic players, met dedicated coaches, organizers and had an opportunity to travel around the world meeting people and playing this game. When I was in China I went to a school and meet some teachers who were directing a school program in Chess. They valued Chess as a learning tool as much as I do. As Chairman of the GM Denker Tournament of High School Champions, it has been my pleasure to meet some of the nicest high school students that this country has to offer. The Denker Tournament has been one of the stepping-stones for numerous Grandmasters and I thank GM Arnold Denker and his son, Mitchell Denker for creating and supporting this event. The people I have met in my life in chess have enriched my life many fold.”

Mr. Barber has been a recipient of the following awards:

1995 Recognition for his 20 years of service to Scholastic Chess by the Southern California Chess Federation Board
2000 Teacher of the Year, Buena Park School District
2000 US Chess Scholastic Service Award
2002 US Chess Special Services Award
2003 Volunteer of the Year Award of Junior Achievement of Southern California
2008 U.S. Chess Trust Harold Dondis Award
2010 US Chess Meritorious Service Award
2014 City of Fullerton, CA 40 Year Achievement Award for Morrison Scholastic Chess Tournament
2016 US Chess Distinguished Service Award for Lifetime of Dedication to Chess
2018 US Chess GM Koltanowski Gold Medal for exceptional support to chess
2018 Honorary title, “Dean of Scholastic Chess”
2019 US Chess GM Koltanowski Silver Medal for exceptional support of chess

Dean of Scholastic Chess

By Dewain Barber
September 8, 2018

As I sit at home thinking about all of the activities that took place at the 2018 US Open in Middleton, Wisconsin, I “Awonder” if it was skill or luck. Thank you to Awonder Liang for playing in the 2013 Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions as a young person. This year he became a Grandmaster and presented a simultaneous exhibition for participants in the Denker, Barber and National Girls Tournaments. This event was part of the opening activities of the 2018 US Open.

The story really began back in 1984 with a phone call that changed my life. We all will have these moments, but I could not have imagined back then all that would happen. I received a call from GM Arnold Denker, who was later to be named the Dean of American Chess. GM Denker simply said to me, “I want to do something for the kids.” At first, I thought he was going to donate his time to do a simultaneous exhibition or volunteer to pass out trophies at one of the Nationals. But as it turned out, he wanted to do a whole lot more than I expected.
He provided an idea or two suggesting an event that brought together every state high school champion. The question was how to select deserving players who would want to travel to this event. Would it be the highest rated player who qualified? Would it be based on age or something else?

As it turned out, we agreed to invite the champion from the high school tournament of each state to play. But, when? Since I was acquainted with the scholastic schedule, I knew that many of the months that might be considered would be out. Fall was the start of the school year, winter would present problems with travel, and spring was devoted to competing in state events and the Scholastic Nationals. The end result was a decision by both of us that summer would work best. But, where? There were few scholastic events available during the summer because most families were on vacation. This would mean starting a new event with no support. Arnold suggested the US Open as a possible site. He had been US Champion and had played in the US Open for many years so it seemed a possibility. The US Open was a very prestigious event with many strong players at all levels and ages wanting to compete so the fundamental question was, “Would the US Chess Federation accept a bunch of high school kids playing at their event?” Maybe yes, maybe no.

Because GM Denker was well known to the adult chess community and the Delegates, he created a motion that I co-sponsored and the delegates agreed by acclimation after he said the words, “This is good for chess.” This action created what is today known as the GM Arnold Denker Tournament of High School Champions.

This event has hosted 1,011 high school players, fourteen of which have gone on to become Grandmasters. One of those GMs was Alex Fishbein who won the first Denker event in 1985. What is unusual is that this year he played in the first National Senior Tournament of Champions in which he tied for first. In addition, Alex’s son, Mitch played in this year’s Denker! The Denker Legacy is alive and well.
Four events have followed this initial Invitational offering: GM Polgar Girls, Dewain Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions, National Girls Tournament of Champions and the National Senior Tournament of Champions. It has been quite a story over these last 34 years. I have been pleased to have been a part of this Legacy with the sponsorship of the US Chess Federation. I would also like to thank the US Chess Trust for their support.

The future is very bright for Scholastic Chess. We are all poised, youth and adult, to fulfill the mandate given to us by the Delegates of US Chess when they revised the mission of our Federation to focus on education of both youth and adults. To carry out the change in the mission mandated by the delegates, in the words of our Executive Board president, Allen Priest, “We have a legal and moral responsibility to change.” This movement of change to an educational organization for all ages started in 2008 with the delegates’ mission restatement. It continued with the filing of revised Articles of Incorporation in 2009. And the IRS recognized the change by granted US Chess 501(c)3 status in 2014, retroactive to 2009.

To further support this change, all we have to do is look at what Allen saw when he visited the US Chess Championship in St. Louis. He stated, “This is a very American Event with merit and opportunity for American participants who represent a diversity from around the world. We are an American institution. Just visit one of our National events and you can see who we really are.”

I have no problem embracing this future. As a retired school teacher with 30 years of experience, I had the pleasure of hosting a chess club at my school. During one of those years we had been planning to attend the US Chess National Junior High Championship when I received a note from the office to see the principal. I stopped by his office and was informed the trip was off. I was shocked to learn the reason why: The US Supreme Court had ruled that all public schools could not have events that were not “curriculum-based”. I then went into the Curriculum of the California Common Core State Standards and located 14 statements that supported what chess teaches. I presented the information to the school board of my district and our chess club was designated a “curriculum-based” chess club, the first in California to be given that designation. We were then able to take our trip. Chess can be an important educational component if the chess advisor chooses that direction.

In their Mission Statement one of the core values of US Chess is “Education. Chess is an educational tool aiding in the learning of planning, cause and effect relationships, pattern recognition, and research, all key skills for success in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).”

Another area of concern is the development of a strong Scholarship Program for Youth. President Priest said, “We now have in place a program that can support scholarships that are earned by scholastic players.” I look forward to working to assist with this goal. I hope that many colleges/universities continue to support scholarships for our chess youth. In addition, we need to seek out donors who clearly see that by donating to the US Chess Scholarship Program, we will be using these funds to support this goal. These funds will be separated and maintained for the future.

I would like to thank the Executive Board and Delegates of the US Chess Federation for honoring me with the title: “Dean of Scholastic Chess”. I will continue to work with everyone to promote scholastic chess.


The authors are donating the profits from this book to the four scholastic invitationals (Denker, Barber, Haring, Rockefeller) so we gladly offer this review by Rachel Schechter here. 

Humor in Chess

 Beat the Covid-19 Blues with Humor in Chess, written by Dewain Barber, coauthored by Ralph Bowman.  This warm, witty collection of chess jokes, quips, riddles, and anecdotes wins guaranteed grins and heartfelt chuckles.  Drawing from 50+ years of experience, The Dean of Scholastic Chess has compiled a first-class compendium of wry one-liners, droll cartoons, and tongue-in-cheek chess tales that entertain and instruct—with a modest homespun wisdom sure to appeal to all manner of stripes (squares?) in our vast chess community. 

 Humor in Chess’ seven chapters offer something for everyone:  Scholastic Coaches’ Stories, Player Stories, Chess Peace Cartoons by super talent Tony Sullivan, Tournament Director Stories, Tournament Organizer Stories, Denker and Barber Tournaments and Chess Vendor Stories.  Over and again, innocence meets experience, striking an unique quirky balance.  My personal faves include:

Chess Pasta, Chess Changes Lives, Never Give Up, True Story, Super Powers, Proper Words, Sunil Who?, Hand Made Chess Boards and Don’t Lose Your Head. 

The international array of chess players, personalities, and circumstances we encounter in Humor In Chess is impressive—as is the homage Mr. Barber pays to Bernard Morrison and Arnold Denker among others, reminding us in Even GMs Start Somewhere Else that “it’s not where you are, it’s where you are going.”

Equally impressive are the Humor in Chess contributors, among them: Mike Atkins, Arnold Denker, Jim Eade, Alex Fishbein, Maureen Grimaud, Tim Just, Mike Klein, Shelby Lehrman, Mike Lennox, Chris Merli, Elliot Neff, Frank Niro, Garrett Scott, Ryan Velez, Suni Weeramantry and of course, the Duchess, Susan Barber. 

Reviewed by Rachel A Schechter, Chess Instructor

US Chess 2019 Delegate

Downstate VP Illinois Chess Association

Education Consultant, Chess in Schools.us

Treasure Chess Affiliate, Owner

Share Your Feedback

We recently completed a website update. If you notice a formatting error on this page, please click here.