Ken Baxter

Ken Baxter

The 2010 Hall of Fame inductee, Ken Baxter, moved from Andover, NY to Charlotte, NC in 1979 right after marrying Carol McFarland. He quickly became involved in the local chess scene competing in the two chess clubs on Wednesday and Friday nights. He was already an accomplished "A" player when he arrived in Charlotte. In 1983 he started selling quality wooden chess sets to the NC community at deep discounts. With some selling success at the 1983 LPO, he added more inventory and expanded to include books, boards, clocks and plastic pieces. All his pricing was set below USCF member prices. His goal was to help the NC chess community. He would pack up his 1981 Honda Accord with all the inventory and show up at various tournaments around the state. Many times his books and equipment were sold at the RAM events run by Robert Singletary in Chapel Hill.

In 1984 he was elected Secretary/Treasurer of the NCCA. His first challenge was to take all the membership data and create a automated database. Up until his involvement, the membership roll was managed without the aid of a computer. At that time he manually entered all that data into an Apple IIe personal computer. He also wrote articles for the NCCA's Gambit. The NCCA treasury had very little money in 1984, and most of the membership dues were spent on printing and mailing the bi-monthly GAMBIT. His goal was to increase the treasury balance by cutting expenses and selling NCCA Life memberships. He was successful on both counts. To keep costs down, many weekends were spent collating and stapling the Gambit so that it was ready to mail. In the spring of 1986 he took over the responsibilities of President when Leland Fuerstman resigned. Robert Singletary, as the first VP, assumed the title, but allowed Ken to act as President, since that was the position he would be running for in the next election later that year.

In 1986 Ken was elected President of the NCCA. His goal, with the help of Gambit Editor, Larry Goldberg, was to improve the Gambit to the point where people wanted to be NCCA members so they could get the magazine. In addition, he wanted to further increase the NCCA's financial position so that it could have flexibility in promoting chess in North Carolina. For the first time in the history of the NCCA, Ken acquired some corporate sponsorships. The LINC, one of the early on-line "internet" companies, came through with money to enhance the Gambit and pay for printing and mailing. With this support, Ken was able to get a 43 page Gambit that included international news, national news, state news, local news and scholastic news. In addition, those enhanced Gambits were sent to every single adult USCF member in the state in an attempt to grow the NCCA membership. The Gambits that were produced were so successful that the Chess Journalists of America recognized our Gambit as the most improved state magazine in the entire country for 1987.

Another large corporation, The Charlotte Observer, was also recruited to support the NCCA. Jim Banbury, head of the promotion department, guaranteed the $5,000 prize fund of our 1987 NC Open held on Labor Day weekend (doubling the 1985 prize fund of $2,500). The event was even played in the Charlotte Observer building. The Banbury relationship was first established by Leland Fuerstman, and the Observer had guaranteed the 1985 NC Closed event held at the Radisson Hotel in uptown Charlotte. In addition to these large corporate sponsors, a number of smaller donors helped enhance the 1987 Invitational prize fund by $450.

When Ken finished his term as President, he left a treasury that included an investment in a bank CD to hold the life membership money. Also, the operating account was full due to cost cutting and sponsorship of the Gambit.

During his term as NCCA President he formed a new chess club in Charlotte that met on Monday night at the Shoney's on Independence Boulevard. That club ran rated chess events every week and became famous for his first Monday-of-the-month three round rapid G/30 events, known as "Rabbits" as opposed to the slow one round per week events known as "Turtles". You can see the results of those events in the Gambit Archives.

For those people that think volunteering to help the NCCA will cost you rating points by diverting your attention from playing, let Mr. Baxter's experience be a shining example; he attained the highest rating of his chess career, 2114, in April of 1988, his second year as president. Unfortunately, because of his corporate career, he did not have time for everything, so he sold all his chess inventory to Thad Rogers, ending a valuable service to the NC chess community that had benefitted a large number of players.

His official position with the NCCA ended when he did not run for reelection in the Fall of 1988. However, he continued to serve the chess community by acting as the chess liaison between the Charlotte Mecklenburg Scholastic Chess Association (CMSCA) and the NCCA and the USCF.

In 1989 he was elected President of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Scholastic Chess Association. Back in 1985, Larry Goldberg had asked Ken to help create this scholastic association. Ken and Larry worked out a budget that allowed enough money to hire a full-time chess coach/executive director. When Ken was living in California, he became friends with Vince McCambridge. So when the CMSCA was being formed, Ken recommended International Master Vince McCambridge be recruited as that initial coach. The CMSCA continues to serve the scholastic chess community in the Charlotte region.

After over a decade of focus on his professional corporate career in finance, in 2003 Ken became active in scholastic chess by teaching kids at the After School Enrichment Academy in Mooresville, NC. This led to his establishing the Academy of Chess Excellence (ACE) where he continues to teach chess.

His interest in the NCCA never left him, and he ran for the position of VP Scholastics in 2004. As VP, in 2005 he created the All Girls Open so that North Carolina would have a tournament to determine the representative to the Polgar Invitational. He also pushed the NCCA to provide funding to the Polgar representative in an amount equal to that of the Denker representative.

In addition to his official positions with the NCCA he has always made time to help when called upon. The NCCA needed his financial expertise in early 2002. The treasury of the NCCA was completely depleted and the bank CD had been spent. There were accusations of serious financial improprieties. Ken and Robert Singletary, both CPAs and dedicated to NC chess, agreed to review the banking activities of the NCCA administration from 1999-2000. The review determined that the money was spent on chess-related activities, such as the NC Invitational, NC Knights Tour, internet website, Denker representative, etc. This review helped the NCCA to put to rest any controversy over the use of NCCA funds and allowed the new administration to focus on NC chess and the future of the NCCA.

Mr. Baxter has always made time to help the NCCA. He also competes in many of the NCCA sponsored events. He has lost and won many rating points over the 31 years of competing in NC. He is probably best known as the guy in the suit that runs the Land of the Sky Speed Chess tournament on Saturday morning. He has run that event nearly every year, missing only a couple of times due to corporate business obligations back in the mid 90's. However, it might be his lovely wife, Carol, that the players remember most. She assists with collecting the entry fees and registering the contestants.

Since Ken is only 54 years old, the NCCA expects that there will still be more to add to this profile in the coming years. We have noticed that after 13 years of being rated down near his floor of 1900, he has finally eclipsed 2000 again with a stellar performance at the 2010 NC Open. What does the future hold for the newest member of the NC Chess Hall of Fame?

Chess Biographical background:
First USCF rated tournament: La Habra, CA Chess Club, in January 1974
First USCF rating after 6 games: 1208 at the age of 17
USCF rating after 24 games: 1304 in June 1975
Highest USCF rating attained: 2114 in April 1988
Current USCF title as of 9/7/2010: Candidate Master
Rating as of 9/7/2010: 2017
FIDE rating as of July 2010: 1894
First win over a USCF master: 1988 LOTS round 1, white vs. NM Neal Harris
Favorite personal game: vs NM Leland Fuerstman at Smokehouse in 2000
Biggest tournament played: 1986 World Open U2000
Richest tournament played: 2005 HB Foundation $500,000 U2000
Hardest tournament played: Open section of the 2007 World Open
State title: 1992 Tied w/ Jim Tobin for best Under 2100
Club events, 1st place: La Habra, CA 1976
Hornell, New York 1978
President's club, Charlotte NC 1988
1st Place tie, Queen City CC, Charlotte, NC 2010