The Man Behind the C. Stuart Laughlin Trophy

04.22.18 An astute reader pointed out that today's younger generation of Maine chess players may not be aware of the namesake behind the C. Stuart Laughlin trophy recently awarded at the 2018 Maine Closed Chess Championship in Waterville. Allow us to elaborate upon this great historical figure of Maine chess.

C. Stuart Laughlin (1933 - 2016)
original painting by Roger Morin 1999

Curtis Stewart Laughlin was born on September 18, 1933 in Portland, Maine. He attended Deering High School and after college became a teacher in Brunswick and a substitute teacher in South Portland. Stuart purchased a cottage on Great Diamond Island where his family had summered since the turn of the century.

Stuart was a member of the Portland Chess Club for most of his life and president of the Club for many, many years. It is not an exaggeration to say that generations of Maine players were provided opportunities to participate in club, ladder, and tournament play because of Stuart's volunteerism. Players were encouraged along the way by Stuart's love of chess, facility in teaching, and kind welcoming manner.

Stuart was a deacon at Woodford Congregational Church and for decades he served as the board secretary for the Diamond Island Association.

He is remembred fondly by many Maine chess players as a true gentleman. Stuart had a careful, fastidious, and attentive way about him. He would keep impeccible records of Portland Chess Club Ladder games in exacting cursive writing. Always showing up at chess events smartly dressed, Staurt demonsrated excellent sportsmanship and is remembered as someone who could lose a game with respect and dignity.

The following rememberance is from one of Stuart's former students:
Stuart came to Lincoln Junior High every Friday afternoon in the late 70's, and bestowed upon me a love for the great game of chess that I still have to this day. He also single handed kept the Portland chess club going through the 80's where I enjoyed many a game with some of the finer players in Maine at the time. Many other players young and old owe a debt of gratitude to Stuart for making chess so accessible in Maine during those years. I will never forget Stuart for the gift he has given me that has lasted all these years.

A search of the author's archives turned up seven over-the-board games with Stuart from 1998-2003. Playing over these games and adding my notes was a real joy. As I was replaying Stuart's games, some of which I uncannily remember to this day, I could see Stuart carefully writing his moves in precise cursive handwriting, placing his head in his hands, eating his favorite Necco Wafer candies, and singing his unique song of life through the game of chess.

My seven games with Stuart Laughlin, 1998-2003.

The C. Stuart Laughlin Trophy is awarded each year to the winner of the Maine State Closed Championship.


I did not know that Stuart had passed. Sad to hear. You really evoked a true remembrance of him, Mike, and I thank you!

I have heard this thought from many strong players in the Portland area including myself . "Any success I have had in chess can be attributed to Stuart Laughlin " Countless uncompensated hours given to the game as a Club , Tournament and Maine Chess Association volunteer .

The value of Stuart Laughlin in Maine Chess as a promoter, organizer, tournament director should never be underestimated and the trophy is a testimony to that. He affected many players lives in Maine.

Forgive me for talking about myself and my own triumphs in the late 60s and early 70s,as it parallels Stuart's influence on it tirelessly and consistently providing the environments he provided for the game he loved.

Although I had started to understand the value of chess when I was 11 in Maryland playing against my father and was given a subscription to Chess Life by my grandmother (who did not play chess) I was only starting to get the "virus" as Tal put it. My parents decided to return to Maine where they both had come from settling in a little town called Brunswick. I attended Brunswick Junior High School and so of course when I found out that one of the recreation classes provided was a chess club run by an unassuming, quiet, even-tempered man named Stuart who was probably on of the best listeners I ever met. This was about 1967 pre-dating the Fischer boom.

But the BJHS chess club was very active and had quite a few players. I was not the best player in the club maybe 4th and ultimately second there I believe. The club enjoyed little excursions to play matches against other schools, just like regular sports. And Stuart was in the organizer of it. I recall playing him after school and he presented to me a copy of Chess Review a magazine I had never seen before which I still have.

All this indeed contributed to my own success of achieving 3rd place in the first tournament I ever played in, the 1969 Maine High School Championship at age 13 the youngest competitor. I went on to almost win in 1970 or 71 when I choked against Richard Gutman who won. So second place. (Somehow the strong players of that time Graham Cooper and Mike Carrol had been eliminated to name a couple). =1st in 1973 and finally 1st alone in 1974.

By then I had moved on from Stuart and the BJHS of course and seeing him in the adult tournaments. But then I went on to Technical school (where I swear that chess helped me as the computer programming teacher named Professor Blackmore was a chess enthusiast and I did not think my grades in High School were not great probably due to my obsession with chess). We crossed swords over the chessboard often.

Well, it's a small (big) state and after finishing my programming degree, ended up in Portland with a job at Casco Bank where Stuart ran the club at the YMCA on Friday nights. Stuart stuck around until very late hours on Friday nights and often would play the odd game with anyway who walked into the club who did not have one. Of course there were limits to how late he would stay deferring to "youngsters" like myself and Mark Brann playing for quarters until all hours of the night.

He was a super-patient man and always with a kind well-placed word to say. I can recall after somehow losing two in a row in one of the Maine Opens I sat down to play the next round and was so angry at myself that I was going to destroy the next player and indeed I did and produced a miniature in probably 15 minutes against the bewildered player who had no idea what had happened or what he did wrong. Shaking hands and I was walking away and Stuart at a nearby board said aloud "Mike was hungry!"

He was one of the great personalities on Maine Chess!

thanks for the good article letting us know who stuart was and how the trophy came into being.

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