Check is in the Mail: FM Alex E. Dunne RIP

Update 10/10/2023: The family of Alex Dunne respectfully asks for your financial help in the wake of his untimely death this past January. Alex did not leave a will, and the legal costs of settling his estate has been – and continues to be – a considerable hardship for his children and widow. Please join us in supporting Alex’s family by clicking on the following link and making a donation to help defray these formidable expenses.

Dunne 1

Alex Edward Dunne was born January 3, 1942, in Sayre, Pennsylvania, one of three children born to the late Edward and Erba Dunne. His obituary states that Alex, “fell in love with chess at an early age, became a FIDE Chess Master, and was the head of the Athens High School Chess Club for many years.” After high school, Alex attended Mansfield University in Mansfield, PA. After graduating from college, Alex went on to teach English in the Athens (PA) Area School District for 30 years.

Alex began the correspondence chess column in Chess Life magazine in December of 1981, and gave it the delightful name that today’s young players likely don’t get. He maintained the column until February 2021, but had to step down after he suffered a stroke. He served as the Correspondence Chess Director for the US Chess Federation from 2005–2020.

Alex started the correspondence chess column from nothing; of the four games analyzed in the first column, three were his own. But they were good games, and the last one, Ham–Dunne, ended when Alex announced forced checkmate in six moves!



Alex is survived by his wife Colleen, sons Quentin and Nicholas, daughter Samantha, and his sister Jane Long, as well as many grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins. His family included the following paragraph in his obituary:          


He loved Monty Python comedies, The Simpsons, trivia contests, puns, Dr. Pepper soda, Friday evening Chinese dinners at New Kam Bo, and taking walks around the Sayre Pond with his beloved dog, Crystal. One of his favorite quotes was, “Good morning. If you’re always having a good morning, it never leaves room for an awful day.” He believed deeply in the values of human dignity and equality and passed those values along to his children.


He was a regular at the annual Philadelphia chess tournaments, including every World Open from 1990 (18th) through 2004 (32nd). This next game comes from the 1987 Philadelphia Open. Alex faced the Geller Gambit against his Slav Defense, managed to get himself into trouble in the opening, out of trouble in the early middlegame, briefly ahead a few moves later, back down to even a dozen moves later, and finally ahead for good in the ending.



Alex authored an impressive list of chess books, with some focusing on correspondence chess:

  • Fred Reinfeld, The Man Who Taught America Chess
  • How to Become a Candidate Master (and the Answer Guide)
  • How to Be a Class A Player
  • Great Chess Books of the 20th Century in English
  • The Absolute Correspondence Championship of the United States Chess Federation
  • The United States Junior Open Chess Championship, 1946-2016
  • 2010 Chess Oddities
  • The Complete Guide to Correspondence Chess
  • Center Counter Uprising (with David Taylor)
  • Modern Postal Masterpieces
  • The LDL Sicilian


Justin Sarkar shared the following story with me:


I first met Alex Dunne in July 1997, at the Castle Chess Camp in Bradford, PA. Alex Dunne was known to always say, “Good skill,” which he distinctly preferred to the more traditional “Good luck.” He firmly believed in the benefits of playing both 1. e4 and 1. d4. In that sense, he was ambidextrous. Note: I wonder if he was a lefty? I can't recall for sure, but maybe someone would know. I remember that he was into numbers and specifically, something about perfect squares. Note that he lived until 81, which is the next perfect square after the chessboard number 64. I had occasional contact with Alex over the years via email including in Fall 2020, when I requested a copy of our old games for my records, which he kindly supplied. He always signed off with a touch of Latin, “Pax.”


In his first World Open, Alex took the scalp of GM Kamran Shirazi with the Smith-Morra Gambit! Shirazi side-stepped the gambit and played into the Sveshnikov variation. Both players had some trouble in the queenless middlegame, but by move 20 things had settled down and the position was roughly equal. It stayed that way for 15 more moves, until Shirazi made a mistake on move 36, after which Alex showed the technique needed to win.



Eric C. Johnson of the Allentown Chess Center included the following as part of his tribute to Alex:


He was always very funny and he gave great, memorable lectures. He liked to tell the story about how Lasker won the "liquor" game at St Petersburg 1914. The masters were invited to play on a fancy set where the pieces were all various sizes of liquor bottles (pawns small, knights medium-sized, kings and queens huge). Every capture required the player to drink the contents of the captured piece. Lasker won after 1. e4 e5 2. Qh5 (?!) Nc6 3. Qxf7+ Kxf7. After Lasker drank a small shot, his opponent had to drink a half-bottle (!).

There is an anecdote about Alex in game 8 of my booklet “20 Games and Their Stories” which I will reproduce here: “....Later in the event, I was analyzing other games with my friend David Locke. I showed him a variation in the Sicilian Defense and I said something like, “and now after this move, you play 9. ... h5, to exploit his weakened light squares," and David thought that was the funniest thing he had ever heard. Alex Dunne walked by, and we showed the position to him to ask him what he would play (and why). He said, “I'd play 9. ... h5, to exploit his weakened light squares,” and walked on by. We all got a big laugh out of it because Alex had obviously overheard our conversation and had played along!


In our next game, Alex faced GM Giorgi Giorgadze at the 19th World Open in 1991. Both players struggled in a sharp line in the Gruenfeld Defense, with Alex coming out of the opening with a slight advantage. He held it until his 20th move, when, instead of playing for the attack, Alex chose to force a draw by repetition.



Alex tragically lost his wife Janet and grandson Ronald in a house fire on February 16, 2003, while he was playing in the US Amateur Team Championship in Parsippany, NJ. Despite what this must have done to him, Alex was fortunate enough to find love again, marrying his second wife Colleen in 2004.

At the 32nd World Open in 2004, Alex played his favorite Nimzovitch Defense against Andrew Karklins, author of the classic tome Modern Grandmaster Chess. Alex quickly equalized, but the advantage traded hands several times. In this game Alex managed to make the next-to-last mistake, and Karklins gave up a dozen moves later.



Jeff French, Editor of the Texas Knights published the following in his most recent issue:


I have learned that there has been a death in our extended chess family. I would like to share a little history I have had with FM Alex Dunne. You may remember him as the US Chess Correspondence Chess Director, or his column in Chess Life (and you can read more about that history on I first met Mr. Dunne in late 1974, and interacted with him for the next six years. He was one of the English teachers (for grades 7-12) in the Middle/High School I attended in rural Pennsylvania. He was a very kind man. I shared my new position of TK Editor with him in 2014. I even sent him a digital copy of my first issue. He was quick to congratulate and wish me “good skill in your new post.” I still have the email. He was 81.


My only direct contact with Alex was in the early 1990s, when I was just getting started in correspondence chess. US Chess sponsored two “thematic” correspondence tournaments in 1991, and I chose to play in the King’s Indian Mar Del Plata tournament. This was during Kasparov’s reign as World Champion, so it was a popular line in tournament play, and the KID was one of my favorite openings. So when Alex offered to analyze the results and put together an opening analysis of the tournament, I signed up quickly. I sent him a letter with a check (yes, it was in the mail), and he sent me a 14-page analysis of the different lines played in the tournament. I still have that analysis.

When my wife and I moved to upstate New York in 2015, there were no over-the-board tournaments anywhere nearby, so once again I chose to use correspondence chess (actually, the 21st Century version: email chess). Alex analyzed the following game in his column, and he showed me quite a bit I had not found myself.



Alex died January 16, 2023, after an extended illness. He was still playing the game he loved, competing in a John Collins Memorial Correspondence Chess section, with a rating of 2150. Alex set a standard in his column that I aspire to today; I am a teacher, as he was, and I try to include lessons in my analysis whenever possible, so that others can improve their game. I send my heartfelt condolences to Alex’s family and friends; so many more of us feel his loss than you may know.


Good skill in your games,




U. S. Chess Absolute Championship


The 48th edition of the US Chess Absolute tournament began play on March 1st. The tournament is a 13-player Round Robin event held on the International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) server. The event is rated through US Chess and the ICCF. The average rating is 2360.


Competing this year are:

  • Frederick Rhine, IL (2411)
  • John Millett, CA (2397)
  • Harry Ingersol, CA (2388)
  • Chris Lewis, VA (2383)
  • Danny Horwitz, TX (2380)
  • Tim Corkum, WI (2379)
  • John Procopi, PA (2369)                   
  • Keith Rodriguez, FL (2366)
  • Kristo Miettinen, NY (2350)
  • John Walton, WA (2349)
  • David Sogin, KY (2336)
  • Timothy Harris, SC (2332)
  • Rick Johnson, CA (2311)
  • James Ellis, GA (2303)


The top 13 players on the January 2023 USCF top 100 Correspondence Chess Players list received invitations to compete. In case a player declined their invitation, the next player down on the list received an invitation, until 13 players accepted. Cross Table (



News From the Front Office

Recent Event Winners

John W. Collins Memorial Quad
19C07, Barry Walker, 6–0

20C13, William Baumer, 4–2

21C01, Brian Flowers, 6–0

21C16, Thomas Babcock & Craig Faber 4½–1½


Walter Muir E-Quad

22W19, Robert TreVucht, 5½–½

22W21, Charles Renfroe, 5½–½

22W25, Lelan Conti, 6–0


Victor Palciauskas

22VP11, Robert TreVucht, 5–1