CCLA serverchess logo, knight, queen and pawn chess piece group

CCLA Correspondence Chess

Copyright  © 2005– by CCLA.
All rights reserved.




by Paul D. Shannon

CCLA member Paul D. Shannon photographed at the chess board
Where does one begin a short bio about a very long chess career? I guess at the beginning.

I grew up in small town Minnesota without knowledge of any kind of organized chess activity. When my uncle gave my brother a chess set when I was about 12, I was the one who played the game every chance I got with friends and family. In some fictional story, there was a mention of a chess club. So I tried to start one as a college freshman at Hamline University. Still with me not knowing of any organized chess activities, we decided to run an invitational tournament in the spring of 1963. One of the members knew someone who had actually run chess tournaments, so with his help we attracted about 50 players with letters to nearby high schools and colleges and had an unrated tournament. Although we still did not make a connection with chess organizations, our club took a team to a college unions regional in the winter of 1964. There we met players who knew that there was a Minnesota Open going on in Minneapolis the following weekend. So I entered that, and finally as a college sophomore made the connection with USCF and the Minnesota State Chess Association.

My parents moved to Moorhead, Minnesota (across the river from Fargo, ND) that summer. I had dropped out of Hamline for financial reasons, and decided to move home and attend the less expensive state college there, which is now Minnesota State University at Moorhead. True to form, I started a chess club there that fall and tried to contact other chess players nearby. I made the connections with USCF Master Stephen Popel, a faculty member at North Dakota State in Fargo, and Somner Sorenson, a Professor at Concordia College. Together we started publishing a local chess newsletter (I was editor). Somner was an active CCLA member and suggested I try postal chess. So late in 1964 I entered the Grand National. Then, in the spring of 1965, I organized and directed my first USCF-rated tournament. I jumped on the USCF “Operation Get Smart” in the ‘60’s to buy a life membership for $10 per year for ten years. And shortly thereafter did something similar with CCLA, so I am a life member of both. And as they say, the rest is history.

OTB chess was always more important to me. I played postal chess mostly as a way to force myself to actually study openings and endgames. But I was quite active in both, completing over 50 postal games and in as many as five CC organizations at once, and playing in more than 100 rated OTB games each year (sometimes 200+) for three decades before I started slowing down. To find enough OTB events, I found I had to run them myself. So I also directed 20-50 OTB tournaments for most of those years. I was always a bit angry that organized chess had not found me several years earlier, so to try to eliminate that problem for others, I ran the first rated OTB event in more than 40 different Minnesota towns in the 70’s, so there was no place that was not near some regular annual chess tournament. I also organized several large chess clubs that focused on rated club tournaments, rather than more casual play. All this activity led me to serve as a State Association officer in three different states (MN, Southern CA, OR) and to run unsuccessfully for the USCF Policy Board twice.


Playing that much, I occasionally got lucky and had some success. I won a number of smaller tournaments, tied for 10th with a good result at the 1975 U.S. Open, tied for first once in the U.S. Amateur West tournament, and directed enough to become a certified National Tournament Director. I played over my head several times to qualify for four state closed championships (two in MN, one in Southern CA, one in OR), where I was usually the lowest-rated player included. Although to be fair, my rating would usually have been higher if I was not also busy as tournament director for about two- thirds of the rated games I played. For many years I appeared on one or more most active lists, in some years as many as four (Most active TD, most OTB rated games, and in two CC lists of most postal games completed in a couple of the five leagues I played in).

In postal chess, I usually had at least 50 games in progress, mostly to study new openings for later OTB use, and for a while I was up at about 125 in play at one time. Again I probably would have played better at a less frantic pace, but even so, I sometimes stumbled into a good result, qualifying for the 7th USCC Finals in one of my luckier periods. In that event I had to force myself to work more at my games, which probably made me a better CC player subsequently. At various times I played many games in CCLA, APCT, USCF, ICCF, and Postal Chess Guild. Way back in the late ‘60’s, I was once elected to the CCLA Board, but gave it up to serve for a brief period as an interim CCLA Business Manager. I was young then, with poor work habits. And losing my main job and moving from San Francisco back to Minnesota in the middle of that did not help. So my performance in that role probably left a lot to be desired. At the end of the ‘90’s, during a period when I was being treated medically for depression, I dropped my many postal games then in play. Many of those games were rated, depressing my U.S. CC ratings way below historical levels. I did not play CC again for over a decade, until I started up again in CC early last year after I retired.

And yes, I have a life outside of chess. I started a family twice, and have a daughter and granddaughter from the first marriage and a son, plus three stepsons, from the marriage to my current wife. I got an MBA from Pepperdine University. I had a 40+ year career in accounting-related middle management positions (Controller, Director of Finance, etc.) for medium sized companies. My wife and I sing in the church choir and I am Treasurer for that church. For a while I was Scoutmaster for my son’s troop (he made Eagle Scout and is now a recent college grad in mechanical engineering!). I am a life-long fan of science fiction and fantasy novels, and also play fantasy role-playing games with several regular groups of adult friends. I have dabbled at hiking, golf, bowling, tennis, bridge, and poker. Somehow I seem to be as busy now as before I retired from my career! And part of that is keeping about 25 server games going, plus still a section or two of postal games in progress. And at this point in my life, CC is probably finally more important to me than OTB, although I still play both (and the U. S. Open is nearby this August . . .).

Good luck to all, and may all your CC games be amazing!
PGN Viewer courtesy of ChessTempo.

 Click to Close Window
 Return to Highlights Index