George Cunningham Chess Brilliancy Prize Fund Established

01.13.16 The George Cunningham Chess Brilliancy Prize Fund has been established thanks to the generous financial support of a philanthropic chess patron who wishes to remain anonymous. This fund honors George Cunningham for his monumental contributions to Maine chess and welcomes further donations to create a self-sustaining principal that would support quarterly awards of $100 to recipients of the George Cunningham Chess Brilliancy Prize. To make a donation, or receive more information on the fund, please contact Dan DeLuca at

George S. Cunningham
image: DigitalCommons@UMaine

George Cunningham was born in Maine on March 25, 1909. He was an associate professor of mathematics at the University of Maine. In 1978, he was interim Executive Director for the United States Chess Federation (USCF). He was also a member of the USCF Policy Board. In 1980, he was the ratings statistician for the USCF and introduced bonus points, feedback points, and fiddle points. He founded the University of Maine chess club which now bears his name.

A Life Member of the USCF, Cunningham is credited in the current edition of the U.S. Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess 6th Edition (page xxxi) for providing expert advice: "George Cunningham provided technical assistance in defining the statistical relation between color allocation and win expectancy."

Cunningham, along with his University of Maine colleague Gerry Dullea, was the recipient of the first annual Association of U.S. Chess Journalists Award of Merit in 1975 for their chess column in the Bangor Daily News--a column they started in October of 1971 and which Cunningham continued for twenty-two years. B. G. Dudley, chairperson of the Association of U.S. Chess Journalist's Awards Committee, stated, "This column is being honored for its high standards and its achievement in the promotion of the game of chess. On behalf of the Association of U.S. Chess Journalists, I wish to extend our congratulations to the newspaper and its fine columnists."

Here is a link to Cunningham's and Dullea's chess column from the September 30-October 1, 1972 edition of the Bangor Daily News. This column was published less that one month after the conclusion of the historic Fischer-Spassky World Championship Match and mentions Fischer's 6-0 rout of Larsen in their 1971 Candidates Match.

In 1975, Cunningham and Dullea hosted a thirteen-part weekly television program on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network.

Here's an article that appeared in the September 17, 1993 Bangor Daily News (BDN) written by interviewee Bill Gallagher lamenting the replacement of Cunningham as the BDN chess columnist.

And here's the article Gallagher refers to when he states, "Who, among his fans, can forget his report of the 'The Grandma's (sic) Mate?'"

Cunningham played in his last USCF-rated tournament, the 53rd New England Open, in September of 1993. He passed away in Maine on December 19, 1993.

Congratulations to Phil Lowell recipient of the first George Cunningham Chess Brilliancy Prize and $100: Phil Lowell Receives ChessMaine's Inaugural Brilliancy Prize


This is a tremendous tribute to a man who's passion, dedication and generosity made Maine chess for much of the last 5 decades. George gave constantly to the chess community and will be remembered by anyone who played scholastic chess during his tenure or played in any of his directed tournaments.

George inspired many, myself included, and his dedication to the game is remembered by many of us from the U of M. I know that he personally guaranteed prize funds when the turnout did not match the expected prize fund so as not to disappoint the players. Along with Jim Quirk and Stuart Laughlin, George spread the love of chess throughout Maine.
This is a fitting way to remember him.

A wonderful memorial to a fine gentleman! I had the pleasure of having lunch with George shortly before he died. George Cunningham was one of a kind! He would have appreciated being associated with an award like this!

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