Death of Harold Winston: Former President of the United States Chess Federation, Cook County Public Defender’s Supervisor, College Rival George RR Martin
As captain of a chess team at the University of Chicago in 1968, Harold Winston won a decisive match that won the National and Pan American Championship.
Among his college chess rivals was George RR Martin, the future author of “Game of Thrones” who wrote about a certain rival in his short story “Unsound Variations”.
Martin “put him in a story like ‘Hal Winslow’,” said Mr. Winston’s wife, Dr. Carol Weinberg.
Winslow was the captain of the U. de C. in “Unsound Variations” which also shared Mr. Winston’s initials.
“It was never easy between U. of C. and Northwestern,” says a character in Martin’s story. “Throughout my college days, we were the two great powers of the Midwest, and we were rivals. Chicago captain Hal Winslow became a good friend of mine, but I gave him a lot of headaches.
A representative for Martin said the author was unavailable.
“They played chess together in college leagues, and you read the passage, and you know it’s Harold – with the clipboard, a little disheveled,” said Al Lawrence, general manager of the charity. American Chess Trust. “There are too many clues to deny.”
Mr Winston, who chaired the US Chess Trust and was a supervisor in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, died of heart failure in February at the age of 75. He resided in Naperville.
From 1987 to 1990, he was president of the trust’s parent organization, the US Chess Federation, America’s governing body for chess.
Mr Winston used his knowledge of openings, maneuvers and endings as he struggled to overturn convictions and win new trials for defendants as a supervisor at the Public Defender’s Office, where he had worked since 1991.
“He knew both strategy and tactics,” said Robert C. Drizin, deputy public defender. “I called him the grandmaster of post-convictions – like a chess player who always thinks about moving forward.”
“Harold was a giant at chess,” said Lawrence. “Many of those in our kingdom of 64 squares and a ticking clock – where debates only resemble life and death – had little knowledge of the importance of Harold in the world of real arguments of life and death. He has won new trials for those convicted of murder in at least seven separate cases. “
Mr Winston helped free Alton Logan, who spent more than 25 years in prison for the 1982 murder of a security guard – a crime he did not commit.
Another man, Andrew Wilson, admitted to his lawyers he was involved in the murder, but Wilson’s lawyers said they could not share the confession due to attorney-client privilege.
It wasn’t until Wilson’s death in 2007 – who had been convicted of the murder of Chicago cops William Fahey and Richard O’Brien – that his lawyers came forward, with Wilson’s approval, to share his confession.
At one point, he also portrayed serial killer John Wayne Gacy when he was on death row.
“He was a unique individual,” said his wife, “because many people of his intelligence and ability would be entitled to the money, and he was entitled to the service.
“He really tried to make the world a better place,” she said.
Growing up in the Bronx, young Harold loved strategy games like Risk and Monopoly. By playing Clue he would solve the murders before anyone else, according to his brother Marvin Winston, who said: “He was like a Sherlock Holmes.”
He played on chess teams at the Bronx High School of Science and at the City College of New York. After studying history at the University of California, he obtained his law degree from Loyola University in Chicago.
Mr Winston worked to distribute chess games inside prisons, tried to keep the price of chess conferences low enough for players on a budget to attend, and organized tournaments for women .
“He understood that chess could help everyone and should be open to everyone,” said Lawrence, “whether they were African American players, female players, disabled players, junior players, of incarcerated players. “
In chess, Mr. Winston obtained the official designation of “expert” – the ranking just below “master”. This placed him above 99% of tournament players in the United States, Lawrence said.
He loved a Christmas Eve tradition known as “simulations” – playing simultaneous chess matches. At the invitation of an Oak Park rabbi, he would play a dozen or more games at the same time, moving from table to table to play members of his congregation.
He loved to travel, often stopping to see Civil War battlefields as he traveled and returned from chess events.
Mr. Winston is also survived by his daughters Elizabeth and Katherine Winston. Services have taken place.