Meet Ed Gonsalves, chess superfan | St. Louis Public Radio

Meet Ed Gonsalves, chess superfan

May 7, 2013

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Ed Gonzalves lives in Providence, R.I., where he works for the U.S. Postal Service. Gonsalves self identifies as a sports nut with a penchant for statistics -- he's a WNBA season ticket holder and lists off a dozen sports he follows, from baseball to tennis to boxing.

King of them all? Chess.

"Chess is my pet," Gonsalves said, seated beneath the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center's plasma screens. They were filled with animated chess boards following the moves of the country's top players as they battled inside the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center a story above the bustling Maryland Avenue streetscape.

Every year, Gonsalves takes a two week vacation, travelling from Rhode Island to St. Louis, to observe the United States Chess Federation's (USCF) U.S. Chess Championships. He is the tournament's own "superfan."  Unofficially, he serves as a statistician, taking notes on every aspect of every game -- the USCF described him as a "statistical guru."

"As soon as this tournaments is done I work on updating all these stats, and that takes me several months, actually, because I have thousands of pages of data," Gonsalves said, noting that he records everything from wins and losses to streaks to players' birthdays, all backed up by thousands of games' each and every move.

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Gonsalves compiles results on his laptop, which replaced a large binder a few years ago. He copies the whole batch of data and quips to CDs, which are then distributed to players and other interested parties.

He traces his fanaticism back to his school days. The best chess player in his school, he "really never got better." Without a coach, he "leveled off at a certain point where I couldn't improve anymore," he said.

"So I stopped playing and started keeping stats of the good and the great."

He attended his first tournament in 2003, following his chess teacher (and current commentator for this year's Championships) Jennifer Shahade. Shahade was competing in the Women's Championship. Gonsalves was hooked.

He scoured through past years, delving back into records from 1936. Some games were easy to find, but information from more than half a century ago was scarce and mostly lost to the annals of history. Gonsalves found several games by scouring New York Times microfilms from the 1940s.

Today, he estimates he has more than 95 percent of the games ever played compiled in his statistics, move for move. He has 100 percent of the results. 

"I love doing this. Even the World Championship isn't as exciting to me, because this is America: These are our chess players, and I don't really care about the top of the world stage as much as this."