IM John Donaldson: Gordon Brooks (1943-2021) was a USCF member for over 60 years, first in Flint, Michigan, and later Los Angeles. The following tribute to Gordon, honoring him as USCF volunteer of the month roughly a decade ago, was written by Randy Hough.
The great Piatigorsky Cup tournaments in 1963 and 1966 were the strongest Grandmaster events ever in the U.S. And they had lasting effects on chess in southern California, some of which could not have been anticipated.
Case in point: in 1969 L. Gordon Brooks came to Los Angeles, hoping to observe the third cup. He was disappointed to learn that the series had concluded, but found the climate congenial, and decided to stay. He began a 35 year career at the classic Los Angeles Central Library (where he interacted with thousands of patrons including Bobby Fischer, who was not researching chess say no more), and began to immerse himself in the local chess scene as player and volunteer.
Gordon held several offices, including president, for the Santa Monica Bay Chess Club, whose membership and influence peaked during the seventies. Its American Open over Thanksgiving weekend often drew over 400 players and attracted such top level Grandmasters as Walter Browne and Larry Evans. Working with the legendary patron and hostess Lina Grumette on the board of her Chess Set Educational Trust, Gordon helped organize the U.S. Championship in Pasadena in 1978, several "futurity" tournaments for players to earn FIDE ratings in the early years of its rating system, and the continuing Memo rial Day Classic tournament.
Gordon has always displayed an even temper and willingness to listen to others, sometimes under trying circumstances. These qualities proved useful again when southern California was recognized as a state unto itself by USCF in 1978, and the Southern California Chess Federation, whose board members included some large egos, was formed.
The Educational Trust continued for a few years after Lina's passing in 1988, helping fund training and trips to the nationals for scholastic players. Gordon then stepped up to fill the void, spearheading the creation of a new fund for these purposes, which has the large (by southern California standards) sum of over $10,000 at its disposal.
After moving from the Westside of Los Angeles to Pasadena in the mid '80s, Gordon became active in the Arcadia and Pasadena clubs, serving the latter in the indispensable role of tournament director for several years. Though slowed down a bit by health problems, he continues to be active, most recently finding a new site for the Pasadena club when the city imposed an intolerable rent increase. After 40 years, that flame of volunteerism still burns bright.