Harold Dondis, the longtime co-writer of this column, has died at the age of 93. On Dec. 10, Harold suffered a heart attack at the Boylston Chess Club, while playing the game he loved. With his passing, we have not only lost this column’s writer of more than 50 years, but the chess community has lost a great benefactor, and I have lost a wonderful friend.
Harold Dondis was a key founding member of the US Chess Trust, a nonprofit fund-raiser for chess. He was also involved in the development of the US Chess Hall of Fame, now at the St. Louis Chess Club in Missouri. He has been a longtime member and financial supporter of the Boylston Chess Club.
Harold would say that his greatest chess accomplishment was his 1964 triumph over a young Bobby Fisher in a Fitchburg simul in which he caught Fischer in an opening trap. The standing-room-only crowd was so impressed that they carried Harold out of the playing room on their shoulders. Harold was a frequent traveler to chess events throughout the United States and across the globe. He was in Reykjavik during the runup to the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match, where he tried to help the Fischer camp in their negotiations. His role, he told me, was essentially just to answer the phone, but at some point in the chaos of trying to persuade Fischer to play, he feared that an angry, rampaging Fischer was going to punch him.
Besides loving chess, Harold was a great baseball fan, supporting at first the St. Louis Cardinals and then the Boston Red Sox. Recently, he started rooting for the New England Patriots.
Harold was born in Rockland, Maine, in 1922. He and his family suffered though the Great Depression, which left an indelible mark on him. He was educated in the Rockland public schools, at Bowdoin College (class of 1943), and at Harvard Law School (class of 1945). His first job out of law school in 1945 was at the Boston firm of Rich, May, Bilodeau and Flaherty, where he rose to senior partner and remained for his entire legal career. Among his great legal accomplishments was the honor of arguing a case before the US Supreme Court. His professionalism was so great that he was still working at the firm until the day he died. And I am sure that he would want this mentioned: He never missed a deadline for this column!
This article originally appeared in the Boston Globe, as part of Mr. Dondis’ and FM Chase’s regular chess column there.
Photo courtesy Tony Cortizas