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Chapter 18: Roll of Honour


“Well, honour is the subject of my story.”

Shakespeare: Julius Caesar

J.L. Bairstow, who died in 1984, was for many years an office-bearer and a great benefactor of the Club.

Emmanuel (“Emmo”) Basta, a very strong but always amiable player, thrice Victorian and twice Club Champion, served on the Committee for many years, most of them as Vice-President. He died in office in 1992. He helped popularise chess through his Adult Education classes and contributed a chess column to the now defunct Weekly Times.

Olgerts Bergmanis, one of the many strong Latvian players, has been the Club’s Honorary Auditor for many years.

Dr. Albert Cymons has already been mentioned as the founder of Street Chess. He served on the Committee in various capacities over a number of years, including terms as Vice-President and President. A Doctor of Laws, he was a successful businessman and prominent member of the Swiss Club of Victoria. His enthusiasm, savoir faire, connections and genius for attracting sponsors to chess were of great value. A generous supporter of the building fund, he donated the cup for the Rudzitis Memorial and the plaque honouring the “four pillars” of the Club. In 2001 he was mainly responsible for the Melbourne Festival of Chess, sponsored by the City of Melbourne and the Swanston Hotel and featuring the Australian Championships. He was still playing shortly before his death in 2009, in his ninety-first year.

Greg Gatto, a member for many years, was a good friend of the Club in its prosperous days. While most of us studiously ignore new members and visitors, he was once thanked by the President “for his tireless work in welcoming all and sundry”. His long-standing contributions to the Club were capped by his three-year Presidency (2004-06) during the Dark Days he did so much to lighten by his complete devotion to the Club’s interests, his generous gifts and his hyper-activity as a renovator. He was renovating when we were at Peel Street but reached new heights (both literally and metaphorically) at Fitzroy. He is an important figure in the history of the Club.

Francis Kocur, Life Member, is another of those prominent during the Dark Days, making a great contribution to much-needed renovations and using other skills when, in 2009, the meeting marking the Renaissance was convened. He has always been keenly interested in the Club’s affairs.

John Lavery, Life Member, served on the Committee in different roles over many years. His goodwill towards the Club, his assistance to it as a man of many parts and his friendly personality have made him popular ever since.

Edwin (“Eddie”) Malitis, Life Member, was another strong Latvian player who won the Club Championship. He was President in 1972 and 1973. A firm but friendly and modest man, he is remembered for his tireless work as Treasurer for 47 years, a record that will certainly never be broken. He insisted on proper financial management. He stayed with the Club in good times and in bad and is more than any other person responsible for its survival. An International Arbiter, he directed play in innumerable tournaments. He interested himself in literally all aspects of our activities. A plaque put up in 1992 names him as one of the four pillars of the Club, but he might better be described as the keystone of its arch. He was awarded the Koshnitzky Medal. He died in 2007, and many of us gathered at his funeral. As was said of a very famous man centuries ago, If you seek his monument, look around you.

Edwin Malitis in the Club’s Centenary Tournament



Richard McCart, a member since 1987, and always interested in the Club’s affairs, played an important role as Secretary in 1998 and as President for the next three years. The Club was going through a difficult time and he acted strenuously and effectively to revive it by various means.

Carl Nater, Life Member, served as Maintenance Officer at 483 Elizabeth Street, Peel Street and Fitzroy. “Maintenance Officer” is a gross understatement: often he designed, obtained permits for, carried out and paid for the work – and then maintained. The two buildings bought by the Club needed extensive alterations which we could not have afforded if done by contractors. (Of course Carl had some assistants, notably Kon Raipalis.) Hand in hand with this work as a jack of all trades went many other kinds of contribution, some of them financial, like donations to the building fund and guarantees of tournament prize funds. He was Secretary for a time. A keen player himself, he often directed play. In his leisure moments he would climb into his four-wheel drive and disappear into the bush, fossicking for gold. At the 1991 AGM it was said of him that “he was and would always remain an important figure in the history of the Club”. In 2009 he came down from New South Wales for the meeting which marked the Club’s Renaissance.

Malcolm Pyke was on the Committee for some ten years until the end of 2007 in various capacities, including Tournament Organiser, Vice-President for two terms and, especially, Secretary. Strangely, he never became President, but he was the driving force for a long time. As well as holding other offices he became the de facto tournament organiser. He also became the Club scribe, reintroducing the taking of minutes and so helping to save part of our history from oblivion. What he did was at the expense of his own chess, which nevertheless saw him take some valuable scalps and become Club Champion in 2008. During these years the Committee was grossly under-populated and the burden on him was always heavy. Although he left the Committee at the end of 2007 he continued to act as tournament organiser, and, fortunately for the Club, at the AGM of 1st February which marked the beginning of the Renaissance he became Secretary again.

Marcus Raine, Life Member and former Committee member, became President in 1997. But whether he was in office or not made no difference to his devotion to the Club. An unassuming man, and sensitive to the needs of others, he was once described in a tribute as having been all things to all men in his work for the Club. He ran the bookshop, directed play, organised teams and ratings, was to the fore in Street Chess and working bees and could not be restrained from making frequent generous donations.

Konstantin (“Kon”) Raipalis, Life Member, was born in Latvia. He joined one of the strong chess clubs in Riga as a young man, so beginning a life-long devotion to the game. Shortly after arriving in Australia he settled in Melbourne, joining both Melbourne and the now defunct Latvian chess club “Venta”. He collected many “top scalps” and came equal first with Rudzitis in the M.C.C. Championship, losing the play-off, first in the City of Melbourne, equal first with Hanks and Ozols in the Max Green Memorial and third in the Victorian Championship. He won the Rudzitis Memorial at the age of 82 with a score of 4/5 and at the age of 89 he scored 5½ /11 in the Seniors section at the Australian Championship. Edwin Malitis described him as probably the strongest player of his age in Australia when he died in 1998 at the age of 89. He was a friendly and modest opponent.

Raipalis has black against Rudzitis

To quote Malitis again, “After retirement he became the unsung soul and personality of the M.C.C., doing the unrewarding tasks like cleaning, tidying up, opening and closing the club-rooms, etc.” He preferred not to join the Committee, but was the Club’s custodian for very many years. When much younger men were shirking working bees, Raipalis would sometimes be the only participant, putting his carpentry skills to work. A plaque erected in 1992 records his position as one of the four pillars of the Club. He should never be forgotten.

Arnolds Rudzitis. See The Latvian Legacy.

Grant Szuveges. See The Renaissance.

Angelo Tsagarakis, Life Member, first served on the Committee in 1994. After the death of Edwin Malitis he put his professional skills as an accountant at the Club’s disposal by becoming Treasurer. He lent the Club money for essential renovations and generally to help it get through hard times and was prominent in the movement to resuscitate the Club in 2009.

Hans Werner, Life Member, worked on the Committee for years and made large interest-free loans to help buy both the Club’s first and its second building.

Honorary Life Members – G.M. Ian Rogers, who was elected to honorary life membership in 1985, having resigned that membership in 1993, there appear to be only two living persons who have this honour: Bob Brooking and Doug Hamilton.

Many others, like Roger Beattie, Elie Beranjia, Patricia Collins and I.M. Guy West, to name just a few, might be mentioned for their various important contributions to the Club over the years.