Today would have been my brother’s 64th birthday. I’d probably tease him about being old.

We mostly all have an optimistic start. A number of years ago my Mom sent a hand curated little photo book of family photos, annotated in her hand-writing.

Pictures of David

Pictures of David flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

David was definitely a happy baby in these photos.

Her words, her writing:

Pictures of David from 10 weeks old. He was a very happy baby and always a joy (Just like you)

That’s what Moms do, day in day out. Give it their all, and then some. What’s not said here about that happy baby is that his brain was and would never develop more, his entry into the world was with severe brain damage. David lived into his late 30s, in a gruesome state institution named Rosewood. His mental age never got much past two.

But his smile? It was always there in the photos.

In front are the wooden chess pieces and prize medal won by his and my great grandfather, David Gottfried, for whom my brother was named.

According to my grandmother’s stories, in addition to raising something like 8 kids alone (his wife Eva died early), her father David was also a well known chess player in New Jersey in the early part of the 20th century. Here it is in her own voice, recorded in 1994:

Because she knew I loved the old stories, my granny gave me the old wooden chess set along with this medal.

Wooden Chess Set
Wooden Chess Set flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Inside the box is a yellow typewritten clipping from JERSEY CHESS a local newsletter

At “Al’s Restaurant,” corner Clinton Place and Hawthorne Avenue, you will find Dave Gottfried, genial night manager. Dave has never lost a match game for the Newark Rice Chess Club — also is the holder of a silver medal for the Brilliancy Prize held at Bradley Beach several summers ago.

I’ve not been able to find much information about the “Newark Rice Chess Club”. As far as Brilliancy Prizes, well they are something, that’s for sure;

“Brilliancy prizes have been awarded since 1876 for match or tournament games that contain especially original and imaginative combinations. The first brilliancy prize for a tournament game was awarded during a competition in New York in 1876.

I had never thought to look up “Al’s restaurant” but there it was, the address right in that little yellow clipping. Google Street view shows me what looks like a school on one corner, houses on the other, but then as I spin the Street View camera, I see what might be a restaurant looking building on the corner! In my excitement I think it says “Al’s Restaurant” but alas…

Google Streetview takes me to the corner of Hawthorne and Clinton…

Actually it is now El Intocable Supermarket.

But I can be pretty sure it was once “Al’s Restaurant” where a genial night manager named Dave Gottfried sported a chess medal.

For that David the Chess Champion I never knew and my brother David I never knew…

David, May 1955

… I imagine them playing chess together, smiling, laughing, with me watching.

Update Much Later (Feb 8, 2022)

This really should be a new post, but hey, this is my blog. So an email from my cousin Steve talking about our grandma in common and stories her dad, David, sent me looking around the net again. He dug up some links to early 1900s publications of the Newark Chess Club.

I went back to the chess medal photo (it’s the flip side of the one above)

My Great Grandfather's Chess Medal
My Great Grandfather’s Chess Medal flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I could not make out the year, but since I have the medal (and a magnifying glass), I could read it as 1929. Then I looked at all the text:

Special Prize
New Jersey State
Hotel La Reine
Bradley Beach

engraving on medal

I never looked up the Hotel La Reine before, but quickly found a 1930 postcard image:

La Reine Hotel, La Reine Ave., Bradley Beach, N. J.
La Reine Hotel, La Reine Ave., Bradley Beach, N. J. flickr photo by Boston Public Library shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Even better I found a description of the hotel in a brochure for historic walks from the Bradley Beach Public Library — here is a detail of importance:

Description of Hotel La Reine from Bradley Beach Public Library

Here is the text:

The original Hotel La Reine was located on the lot next to borough hall before it was razed and rebuilt on Ocean Avenue in 1900.

The new Hotel LaReine was located at the corner of LaReine and Ocean Avenues. The Hotel LaReine featured 500 rooms, each with an ocean view, elevators, telephones in rooms, and two kitchens (one kosher). A swimming pool was also added, and retail stores were opened on the street level of the building.

In the 1920s, the hotel sponsored an annual Mardi Gras celebration during the summer. In 1928, the Manhattan Chess Club was convinced by owner Ned Sparks to hold their championship tournaments in the LaReine Hotel. An agreement was made that the next year, 1929, the International World Champion Chess Tournaments would be held in Bradley Beach. The Sparks family erected a new hotel, The Bradley Hotel, and added it to the nearly thirty-year old Hotel LaReine, specifically for the guests of the 1929 tournaments.

The Bradley-LaReine Hotel Complex was abandoned in the 1960s, and on April 1, 1974, both hotels were burned to the ground. Arson was suspected but never proved.[1].pdf

I found a summary of the championship matches and a news article in the New York Times (I can’t access the full article without paying) but no mention of David Gottfried nor the Brilliancy Prize. Oh, and here is an incredibly detailed summary of the 1929 tournament at Bradley Beach

But none of it mentions David Gottfried nor his medal. I am thinking that the New Jersey State championships were held in conjunction or around the time of the world championships, but are a separate event.

The research goes on…

Featured Image:

Both Davids
Both Davids flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Hi Alan – this is beautiful. I’m always touched by these posts you create and share, remembering your family and your history with combinations of memories, stories, photos. Each time your story brings them to life in a vivid way, even for a few moments. Such a beautiful gift to them and to us. To the Davids 🙂

  2. Alan, I look forward to reading what you have to say about our family. I can remember grandma talking about her father and his chess playing. She would love knowing that you have his medal and even looked for the building where the restaurant was. Our brother David will never be forgotten as he lives on in memories and pictures.
    Love, Judy ( big sister! )

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