Kenneth Stubbs
(American artist, 1907-1967)

photograph of the artist
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Introducing Kenneth Stubbs
Specialist (P), 1st Class, USNR

When we requested certain information from Ken Stubbs for use in preparing this item, he wrote (among other things!): "Let me suggest that you give space to others who not only deserve it, but want it, more than I. There are many of them; and I think they should come ahead of me. So why not just put this stuff on file to use some time from now--at a time when maybe I can be of some use to the Divan, by at least appearing once in a while....?"

Ken Stubbs was born, on a farm in South Georgia, in 1907. His family moved to Washington, D.C. in 1919.

About 1921, Ken learned the moves of chess from an encyclopedia--using an incorrect Knight move for several months!

In 1923, at Central High School here, he helped organize the first D.C. High School Chess club. Ken was chess champion there from 1923 to 1926, winning every tournament played, also a half dozen matches for the championship. At this time, he writes, he was much encouraged by Willard. H. Mutchler (then one of Washington's brightest chess stars; now a Divanite, too, and Chess Editor of The Washington Post), but "played badly." From Will Mutchler, we learn that young Kenneth at that time composed several "not bad" chess problems, one or two of which found publication in the Post.

Ken entered the Corcoran School of Art here in 1926, and played very little chess--"perhaps a dozen games a year"--until 1937. He "kept up" with chess events, however, and otherwise maintained his interest in the game by playing over the game scores he found in newspapers and in a few chess books.

After a varied art career which at times took him to Provincetown, Mass., and Detroit, Mich., Ken joined the faculty of the Corcoran School in 1934--and, later, that of George Washington University. Of course he plied his Art constructively "on his own" as well; you may find his work--murals, mostly--in a number of the Government Buildings here.

Ken has been, and still is, a member of several art organizations. He presently is Vice President of the Society of Washington Artists.

He joined the Divan (then known as "The Washington Social Chess Divan!") in the summer of 1937, to play in one of two "Class B" Tournaments advertised in the chess column of The Evening Star. "I decided to see how bad a chessplayer I was," he explains. He finished second, with an 8-2 score, in the tourney; but evidently he was not well satisfied with this showing. However, he recalls that it was in the Divan that he met Walter Jacobs (formerly of New York City, a well known problemist and player, at that time also a member of the Divan), "and received from him my first instruction in how to play chess with some sense." And it was Walter Jacobs who first aroused Ken Stubbs' interest in the games of Grandmaster A. Rubenstein, with results which we shall mention later.

Kenneth resigned from the Divan after a few months with, he remembers, no intention of spending much more time on chess. However, he joined the Capitol City Chess Club here in 1938, and that Fall played in their strong Club Championship tournament. His play was most discouraging to Ken; but Al Horowitz gave an exhibition at CCCC early in January of 1939, losing only to Mr. Stubbs' French Defence; and that victory renewed Ken's "hope."

He played in two Championship Tourneys at Capitol City. We well remember his stubborn draw with Ernest M. Knapp (then President of the Divan; a member of both clubs) in their postponed game in the 1938 Tourney. In his second try for the Capitol City Title, Ken did very well indeed, tying for first place with Donald H. Mugridge; but he lost the tie match.

Stubbs also played in Martin Stark's 1939 District Championship Tournament, doing not too well, but gaining invaluable experience in that formidable field.

In October of 1941, having resigned from CCCC some months previously, Kenneth Stubbs came back to the Divan; and he remained an "active" member until December, 1942, when he enlisted in The U.S. Naval Reserve. He immediately was elected to Honorary Membership in the Divan for the duration of his service with the Navy.

He was elected a Director of the Divan in 1942, serving on the Board for some five months--until the pressure of his private affairs compelled withdrawal--not without effect. We recall, gratefully, that in February of 1942 he negotiated the purchase for the club of its familiar bookcase--a real bargain, at $3.50!

One of the outstanding contributions any one ever has made to the Divan's planned program of activities was Kenneth Stubbs' conception of "The End Game Tournament." He planned and personally directed, on Wednesday evening, March 11, 1942, the Divan's first "Multiple End Game Tourney." So far as we know, this idea never has been used by any other club--at least, not until very recently, and then at our suggestion. 18 played, in 3 class sections of 6, in that first attempt. 28 participated in our next end game tournament, and in September of 1942, 24 played, using five endings selected by Reuben Fine. In a "simplified" form, this idea remains today a "stock" and very popular feature in the Divan's Bag of Tricks.

And we must tell you this too: After Ken's "boot" training at Bainbridge, he was assigned (luckily for us!) to a station hard by Washington; and we began to see a little more of him at the club, mainly on Saturday evenings. On the evening of Saturday, April 24, 1943, when the first round of last year's District Tourney was being played at the Divan, Ken Stubbs was on hand as a naturally interested spectator. During the evening he walked over to the Secretary, who was posting a couple of applications for membership on the Bulletin Board, and announced quietly that he wished to pay dues in the club. "But why?" protested the Secretary, in mild amazement. "You're an Honorary Member of the Divan; why should we take your money?" He shook his head. "I've been comin' around," he said, "and I want to pay my way. I won't come around unless I do." He meant every word of it, too! After some small and fruitless argument, and consultation with other Divan Directors present, the Secretary accepted from Stubbs a year's dues at the established non-resident membership rate--$5.00 plus the Federal Tax. At the next Board meeting, this transaction was heartily sanctioned; and thus, our Special Rate for Servicemen other than Commissioned Officers came into being.

If you're interested in the games of the great chess genius Grandmaster Akiba Rubinstein, we suggest that you ask Ken Stubbs to show you his collection. For two or three years, he's been gathering Rubinstein's game scores. His last count was 633 and Ken's played over each one at least twice!

And so, we cannot agree with Kenneth Stubbs when he writes that he doesn't deserve this space. True, he is not a prominent, oft-seen Divanite--he is not able to be with us anywhere nearly as much as we'd like. So much the more reason, then, for this acknowledgment; for telling all our other members something about this tall, sandy-haired, soft-spoken young fellow in the Navy uniform, who comes so seldom to the club now; and particularly for telling you how "useful" he has been to all of us.

We have never met a man who speaks so modestly of his chessplay--or, we're constrained to add, who speaks with such unwarranted deprecation of his own ability at chess. Perhaps it is because he is an artist that K. Stubbs loves chess so well; and will never, no matter how well he plays the game, be satisfied with the way he plays it!

There is none in the club more thoroughly well-liked by all who know him than this Divanite.

It is with considerable pleasure, therefore, that we hereby accord to Kenneth Stubbs that place in the Divan's "Hall of Fame" which he so well deserves.

A miniature by Stubbs:

Blindfold exhibition (ten boards, October 17, 1942)

French Defence
White--George Koltanowski
Black--K. Stubbs

 1. P-K4           P-K3
 2. P-Q4           P-Q4
 3. Kt-QB3         B-Kt5
 4. P-K5           Kt-K2
 5. Q-Kt4          P-QB4
 6. QxKtP          R-Kt1
 7. QxRP           PxP
 8. P-QR3          Q-R4
 9. R-Kt1          PxKt
10. PxB            Q-R7
11. B-Kt5 ch       B-Q2
12. BxB ch         KtxB
13. Kt-K2          QxR
14. PxP            RxP

Washington Chess Divan, The Divan News, Vol. 2 No. 8, Sept. 1, 1944