Gary Hugh Sperling (1945 - 2018)

On Monday evening US Chess learned of the passing this past Friday, January 26, of former US Chess President Gary Hugh Sperling. 

Former Executive Director Al Lawrence notes, “No one I ever worked with was smarter. Perhaps no one was quite as smart. I was very sad to hear of his death. He had a wit.” 

The US Chess community grieves in the loss and offers our prayers and sympathy to his family.   ~US Chess President Mike Hoffpauir

Gary Sperling gave much of his distinguished life’s service to chess. He started as the “mailroom boy” for US Chess at its old office on 11th Street in Manhattan, hired by then Business Manager Frank Brady about 1960, while Gary was still in high school. By 1978, Gary was our organization’s president. He continued to serve as Treasurer through some challenging times for US Chess, and as its pro bono legal counsel. He also volunteered as a director of the American Chess Foundation and President of the Marshall Chess Club.

A graduate of Bronx High School of Science and Columbia College and Law School, he worked professionally as an administrative law judge in Manhattan, New York, and as Deputy Commissioner of the NYC Department of Ports and Terminals.

Survivors include his wife, Suzanne Sperling and his daughter, Lisa Sperling of Athens, Georgia. A graveside service was held Wednesday, January 31 at 10 a.m. in the Congregation Children of Israel section at Oconee Hill Cemetery in Athens. Online condolences may be offered at


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Garry's presidency from 1978 to 1981 put the Federation back on an even keel after a mass exodus of senior staff. I first met him in 1981 and was privileged to work closely with him on what was then the Policy Board from 1990 to 1993 (when both our reelection bids failed!). His analytical powers and interpersonal skills were always on display, as was a strong sense of humor that helped the Board through some difficult times. During our first meeting, he claimed to have peeked over a colleague's shoulder and read part of a "profile" memo from what we today would call a troll: "Sperling -- tricky but capable." "Fair enough," he shrugged, "though I'd prefer to reverse the order." Thanks for all your service to the Federation, Gary. RIP, my friend, and condolences to Suzanne and Lisa.

In reply to by Randy Hough (not verified)

Thanks, Randy, for your kind words and that anecdote that was so very like Gary that it made me smile.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Also FM William Fisher (1994-2018) died on January 5th as well.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I too, remember Gary's wit as he was one of the decision makers of the awarding of bids for the US Open, back in the day when the USCF Policy Board made decisions on bids for National Tournaments. One such bid was in 1991,in Los Angeles, when I was representing St. Louis, and Chicago and Washington DC were competing for the 1994 US Open, and I can recall Gary asking me if I was willing to comply with all of the requirements of the Grandaddy or Great Grandaddy of all USCF National tournaments? I can sort of remember him laughing when he posed that question to me, as I did not view that as condescending in any way. RIP Gary, and thank you for your service to the US Chess Federation.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

FM William Fisher died??

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Back in the days before computers, a USCF Rating Statistician used to calculate the ratings with an adding machine, a job I handled for a few years starting 1964, and Gary Sperling had done a few years earlier as a teenager. He was an active tournament player and USCF Expert and had many good ideas, and in the 1970s I suggested that he run for the New York State Chess Association Board of Directors, a largely symbolic office. I thought that it would raise his profile and might lead to a candidacy for the USCF Policy Board. He was not very well known among NYSCA members, so to help promote his candidacy I mailed out letters endorsing him, and he was elected with 21 votes, a one vote margin. In 1978 he did run for national office, and was elected USCF President. During his term we had an unpleasant dispute over some of his actions regarding FIDE. About 1989, he suggested we meet to try to understand each other better, and we had a long discussion in his hotel room, which was productive. In 1990 Gary was elected USCF Treasurer, and for two years until 1992 I found it a pleasure to work together with him on the Board; he often provided a valuable perspective on issues that lead us to the right decision. He also served as legal counsel to USCF for some matters, at no cost to the federation. Since this second Board term, Gary was no longer active in USCF politics or as a tournament player, but we remained in touch on occasion. It was always a pleasure to hear his incisive commentary on issues, and in 2007 he provided helpful advice when I held a meeting in Oklahoma to resolve differences between the two warring organizations in that state. Gary did a lot for American chess and I will miss him, and offer condolences to his family on their loss. Bill Goichberg

In reply to by Bill Goichberg (not verified)

Bill, thank you for your kind words. Please know that Gary treasured your friendship, and that, even in the days of your estrangement, he had the utmost respect for you and for all you had done for chess.

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