Glen Buckendorf’s chess career is full of accolades.
The Buhl resident has 10 Idaho State Chess Championships under his belt, several trips to national competitions, a chess career spanning nearly seven decades, and a passion for the game that has never wavered.
Like many 81-year-olds, Buckendorf’s hearing and health is waning, but a day doesn’t go by without him devoting time to the strategic game that he’s played since the 1940s.
During the Idaho State Tournament in February, Buckendorf was named a trustee emeritus by the Idaho Chess Association, given in recognition of his ongoing devotion as a friend, supporter and champion of chess.
“I was pretty surprised when I got this,” Buckendorf said.
He’s driven to play by his love of the game, not for the awards, he said.
“Whether I win or lose, I still enjoy playing,” he said.
But that hasn’t stopped the honorary titles from coming. In 2009, Buckendorf emerged from the ICA state championship as the top-seeded senior in the state.
The year before, Buckendorf was selected to receive the 2008 Outstanding Career Achievement Award by the U.S. Chess Federation and in 2006, earned first place in his class at state.
To say he’s devoted is an understatement. Since 1946 Buckendorf has only missed two state championship matches. He’s played 53 consecutive years.
In his earlier years, Buckendorf dominated play at the state level. Between 1951 and 1972, he won the state championship nine times.
His strength is in studying – his home chess library consists of some 400 titles, mainly on opening moves.
“I always thought my strength was in my ability to see further ahead than the other guy but that doesn’t always work because some of my competitors saw even further ahead,” Buckendorf said.
Annette, his wife of over 60 years, chuckles, “That’s why you lost some.”
She’s his rod, Buckendorf said. Without Annette’s support he wouldn’t be playing anymore.
“I’m one of many chess widows,” she said.
While he spent hours toppling competitors she played Scrabble with other significant others waiting on the tournament sidelines or touring whichever city they were in.
“I just made his life into my own,” she said. “We went to all of the tournaments together and got to meet a lot of other chess-mates. I made a lot of friends over the years with all the other mates.”
Annette has even been honored by the chess community. In 2008 she was given the Honorary Chess Mates Award which is mentioned in the World Chess Hall of Fame and Sidney Samole Chess Museum in Miami, Florida. The award is given to “widows” in honor of their contributions and unselfish support on behalf of chess.
When Buckendorf discusses her award, his animated pride overshadows his own accomplishments.
“That was something, and she deserved it,” he said.
The couple feels grateful for their life together. His hobby has enhanced both their lives, taking them from New York City to Washington D.C., and to Florida, Illinois, California and Oregon, to name a few.
One of their most memorable trips came when Buckendorf qualified for the U.S. Chess Championships in 1998, held in Hawaii.
“That was the big joke, that we would go to Hawaii when they held the U.S. championships there,” she said. “It was a wonderful trip and happened at just the right time for our 50th wedding anniversary.”
As Buckendorf takes a nostalgic look back on his successful chess career, he’s not ready to declare checkmate.
“I’ll never retire from chess,” he said. “As long as I’m physically able to do so, I’ll be playing. I won’t ever quit.”