Isaac Kashdan, an international grandmaster chess player and chess editor of The Times for nearly 30 years, died Wednesday at his West Los Angeles home after a long illness. He was 79.
Kashdan had suffered a stroke more than two years ago and, despite confinement to a wheelchair and failing eyesight, had kept up with news of the chess world until his death, family friends said.
Rated an international grandmaster since 1932, Kashdan was seven times captain of the U.S. team in the Chess Olympics and frequently a judge at international chess tournaments. He was a member of the U.S. Chess Federation and for 11 years organized a large international grandmaster's chess tournament in Lone Pine, Calif.
As a player, Kashdan reached his heights in the late 1920s and early '30s, when he was considered "one of a handful of world champion contenders," said Jack Peters, The Times' current chess editor.
The then-champion--Alexander Alekhine, a Russian-born French resident--never gave Kashdan a title match. According to Peters, that distinction went only to the champion's personal friends or to those who could put up considerable prize money.
But Kashdan earned a following for his play in the Chess Olympics, an event separate from the much better-known Olympic Games. The Chess Olympics were played every two years, and Kashdan was the American team's star player, Peters said.
As captain of the team, he led the Americans to several world championships and was the leading U.S. chess player of his time.
In later years, Kashdan, though still an extremely competent chess player, concentrated his energy on the Lone Pine tournament, which, in Peters' words, was "a tremendous accomplishment, attracting unparalleled numbers of top players. It was unique in chess history--the biggest collection of top-notch chess players in the world."
Until the stroke, Kashdan remained spry and busy, serving "as a sort of grandfather figure to young chess players," Peters said.
Author of several books on chess, Kashdan wrote a Sunday column that appeared regularly in The Times until his illness forced him to curtail his activities in 1982. He was also a frequent contributor to chess periodicals.
Born Nov. 19, 1905, in New York City, Kashdan was educated in New York public schools and attended City College of New York. He worked for a time for a New York investment firm before coming to Los Angeles in 1948 and was named chess editor of The Times in 1955. Kashdan was also active in the Jewish Federation Council of Los Angeles, serving as administrative officer from 1949 to 1967.
He is survived by his wife, Helen Kashdan, and a son, Richard L. Kashdan. Funeral arrangements are pending.