In Memoriam: Myron Lieberman, 1941-2021

Anyone who has attended a U.S. Open since 1974 has seen a couple—always together—walking from meeting to meeting in matching tee shirts that often sported the logos of past Opens. Gradually over the years, quick, sure strides between workshops became more cautious, and eventually a walker appeared in front of Myron. But neither their judgment nor their dedication to US Chess ever lost a step.

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2016 US Open

Rachel and Myron Lieberman at the 2016 U.S. Open in Indianapolis, Indiana wearing their traditional matching tee shirts. Also with them are Michelle Martinez (left) and Dr. Martha Underwood. Photo courtesy of Fun Fong. 

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Myron and Rachel Lieberman

Rachel and Myron Lieberman at the 2009 U.S. Open in Indianapolis, Indiana, wearing matching US Chess Trust tee shirts. Photo courtesy of David Grimaud

“Between the two of us, we’ve given over 100 years to chess,” Myron said in an interview in 2015. They donated both hard work and funding. Music was another passion, particularly the Arizona Music Hall of Fame, which they likewise supported. It’s impossible to write about Myron, even on his passing, without including Rachel. And Myron would want it that way.

Love at first dance 

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Liebermans at 2003 Open

The Liebermans at the 2003 U.S. Open. US Chess archival photo

For the first 20 years of his life, Myron lived in Los Angeles, California. Then he moved to Arizona. The two met in the fall of 1962 at an Arizona State University football after-game dance. “I went looking for a boyfriend,” Rachel once admitted with a laugh, recalling her 18-year-old self. Myron, however, stopped by on his way home to North Phoenix simply to outwait the traffic snarl. It was love at first dance. Ever after, they were together. Really together. “We’ve tried to share our lives, not just share a room,” Myron said.

Because the gift of life on Earth is finite, there is an inevitable end to even the greatest partnerships. Myron died Christmas Eve, 2021.

A lifetime of helping others 

“One of the deepest bonds that made Myron and Rachel such a legendary team was a shared commitment to helping people,” Al Lawrence said. Lawrence worked with Myron and then Rachel when they were members of the Policy Board (now the Executive Board) of US Chess and he was executive director. Later, as managing director of the US Chess Trust, Lawrence again worked alongside Myron. “Right up to his final days, his focus was on helping others. Chess was one of the ways he knew lives could be changed. So he gave thousands and thousands of hours to chess on local, state, and national levels.”

Lieberman started organizing and directing chess tournaments as president of his high school chess club in 1957. He played correspondence games with a transfer student from Germany after that student returned to Europe. During the 1960s, Myron was an active member of the Organization of Western Chessmen. This was his introduction to US Chess and organized chess. He organized a match by teletype between Motorola facilities in Phoenix and Scotland. Myron saw what chess had done for many children written off by others. That was a pivotal factor in his decision to volunteer for advocacy of the value of chess.

Six decades of service to US Chess 

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Lieberman, Winston, Schultz

Myron Lieberman (left) with former US Chess Presidents Harold Winston (center) and Don Schultz in an undated photo. US Chess archival photo

Long the primary organizer and tournament director (TD) in central Arizona, for 25 years, Lieberman was president of the Arizona Chess Association, which later became the Arizona Chess Federation, Inc. He organized or directed many Arizona state chess championships during this time. He was chief assistant TD at the Statham tournaments in Lone Pine, California, from 1976 to 1981, and Myron wrote the chapter on history and statistics in The Best of Lone Pine by Grefe and Waterman. He organized the U.S. Open in 1978 in Phoenix and other national tournaments in the following two decades, while holding special events for the Phoenix Chess Club.

The current president of US Chess, Mike Hoffpauir, recalls, “I first met Myron Lieberman and his beloved Rachel about 2008 when I became a Delegate for the Virginia State Chapter and attended my first Delegates Meeting. I observed him carefully when he spoke (which was frequently), noting his deep knowledge of US Chess Bylaws, business practices, and ‘chess politics.’ Later I learned he was a former US Chess Secretary and Vice President. I immediately developed a deep respect for his considerable knowledge and actually came to rely on it, from time-to-time, when I needed more context on a US Chess issue. The entire US Chess community is saddened by his loss, but his legacy lives on in the structure and activities of our organization. Rest in peace, Myron, and thank you for all you have done.”

Myron earned the titles of US Chess National Tournament Director and FIDE International Arbiter. He served as US Chess national Secretary (1978-81), Treasurer (1981-84), and Vice President (1984-87). At the time of his death, he also served as Secretary of the US Chess Trust and as US Chess Delegate at Large, as well as chair of the US Chess Outreach Committee.

Truly, Myron Lieberman never stopped giving.

More Information about Myron Lieberman

His US Chess Trust bio page

2015 YouTube interview by Glenn Alan Torrico

More Memories of Myron Lieberman 

Myron was as selfless and effective a volunteer as I’ve ever been fortunate enough to meet and work with, both at US Chess and the US Chess Trust. He saw that chess was a way to turn young lives around, and so he gave much of his own life to sharing the benefits of our game. He and Rachel were blessed with a lifelong love and gave back that blessing through their work for others. All of us at the US Chess Trust will miss and never forget Myron Lieberman.”

--US Chess Trust President and former US Chess President E. Steven Doyle 

“The dedication that Myron had for the game and promoting the benefits of chess for those of all ages all these years is unsurpassed. He can rest in peace knowing he helped to provide positive benefits for those who loved the game as he did.  He has been a cornerstone of the foundation of US Chess and will be missed by all.”

--US Chess Director of Administration Judy Misner

 

Comments

As a young scholastic player in Tucson, my first introduction to chess in the Phoenix area was Myron Lieberman. He directed all the open events in Phoenix ranging from the Phoenix Chess Club Championship, Phoenix Open, Arizona Open, Rocky Mountain Open, and Copper State Open. Myron directed the Candidates which was a qualifier into the Arizona State Closed, and several Nationals, including my fourth grade year and first nationals, the National Elementary in 1981, in Tucson. Myron paired the event by hand of course with pairing cards - there were no computers back then - had color coated pens for indicating wins, losses, and draws for the pairing cards and the wall charts. Rachel was always at his side helping. Fast forwarding, Myron would record the meetings of the state association, ACFI, when I was president, just like he had done for many years for USCF, now US Chess, at the Executive Board meetings. RIP Myron, you will be missed.

Myron was a giant. Without him, there would probably be no chess in Arizona. I can't clearly remember when I first met Myron and Rachel, but I know that I knew them well when I started selling chess books at Phoenix Chess Club tournaments in 1984. Myron's dedication to chess detail was legendary. I would get there early and stay late, pretty much as long as Rachel and Myron. I remember one night the tables had to be rearranged. Had it been me, I would have put it off until morning, but Myron stuck with it for another hour, well past 1 am. I miss Myron, and I hope Rachel is comforted.

Myron was an outstanding person and dedicated to chess. During the decade I lived in Phoenix, his passion and competence in directing and organizing chess always shone.

I cannot think about Myron without Rachel. Together, the exuded kindness like few others in our community. Myron's presence and contributions will be missed.

Myron and Rachel have always been two of the most positive contributors in the chess world, and they've had profound effects on many areas of chess. Their unfailing kindness has planted so many positive seeds that the full value to others of their contributions cannot be known. John McCrary

Myron did so much for Arizona chess and chess in general. I first met him as. a TD for the state tournaments in the 80’s….and then every week for years at the Tempe chess club.so many hours he and Rachel gave to promote chess and share their joy with kids and adults. He will be missed but not forgotten.

We have truly lost one of the finest contributors to chess. I cannot tell you how many times this young fellow spoke to me and added to my education about chess. He and Rachel nominated me for Life Delegate at Large. I was truly honored.

Myron was instrumental to chess in Arizona, he and Rachel doing all of the behind-the-scenes work to keep tournaments organized and running for decades. His presence with Rachel at any Phoenix event is one of the enduring memories of my prime chess-playing years, and I'm grateful for his willingness to do the grinding work which let so many others, such as myself, simply enjoy the opportunity to play. My sincere condolences to Rachel.

I'm very sorry to hear of his passing. For many years I LOVED competing in the tournaments he directed, as well as attending his weekly Thursday night chess club.

I'd often see him at the National Open. When I did, he never failed to take a moment or two and chat with me.

Thanks for the memories Myron and thank you for all that you did for the game of chess.

Myron's passion for chess was unsurpassed. The ultimate authority on rules and tournament organization, many of us in Arizona absorbed as much as we could from him.....his legacy continues through all subsequent chess activities in the state.

Myron's passion for chess was unsurpassed. The ultimate authority on rules and tournament organization, many of us in Arizona absorbed as much as we could from him.....his legacy continues through all subsequent chess activities in the state.

We have lost a giant of the chess world. Myron Lieberman was the driving force behind chess in Arizona. He served tirelessly at the state and national levels. But more importantly, he was a friend and mentor that helped others build upon the strong base he helped create. My sincere condolences to Rachel - a closer and more devoted couple you will not find. Myron will be remembered fondly by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.

I first met Myron back in the 70's when I became very active in chess on the local, state and national levels while living in Memphis, Tennessee, at that time. I looked for his advice on chess matters for many years after moves to Seattle, Houston, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. I count he and his wife as a friends and always looked forward to meeting with them. It is a very sad day to hear of his passing. My deepest condolences to Rachel and his family. This is a great loss to US chess on every level, especially in Arizona. Rest in peace my friend.

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