Fischer Era Chess Prodigy Headlines Caveman Chess Festival


International Master Salvatore “Sal” Matera is the top-rated pre-registered player, as of June 15, in the US Senior Open. Matera was one of seven prodigies of John “Jack” W. Collins. One of the other prodigies who frequented Collins’ home was future World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer.

Sal Matera

Chess Review first mentioned Salvatore “Sal” Matera in its July 1959 issue. In 1959, Matera was eight years old and had learned chess only the Christmas before. Yet Matera played well in the U.S. Amateur Championship, thus earning the 1959 mention.

Chess Review featured Matera’s photo on its January 1960 cover, noting that Matera studied with John “Jack” W. Collins. Collins later wrote My Seven Chess Prodigies; two of those prodigies were Matera and Fischer.

Eight year old Sal Matera
Courtesy of US Chess

The January 1960 Chess Review issue acknowledged Matera winning the Children’s Tournament of the Brooklyn Museum of Arts and Sciences. Matera scored 9–0 against a field that included players up to age 14.

16 year old Sal Matera
Courtesy of US Chess

Matera next appeared on the cover of a national chess magazine when he was 16 years old. That Chess Life cover story was about Matera winning the 1967 U.S. Junior Championship. Matera was a point-and-a-half ahead of the field when he lost his last round game to Walter Browne. Browne later became a grandmaster and a six-time U.S. Chess Champion. Even though Matera won the 1967 U.S. Junior Championship, he never forgot that last-round loss.

In a 2023 interview with GM Yasser Seirawan, conducted at the Saint Louis Chess Club, Matera recounted that he had been considering a complex move against Browne in a complicated position. Just at the moment Matera was about to make the move, Bobby Fischer, who was spectating, stopped to look at Matera’s game. Flustered by Fischer’s attention, Matera played “some general move” and later lost to Browne.

In the postmortem of the Matera–Browne game, GM Pal Benko took the White side (Matera’s side) and Fischer took the Black side (Browne’s side). According to Matera, Benko could not control Fischer, who found “incredible counterplay.”

Caveman Chess Festival

The Caveman Chess Festival includes tournaments and a chess camp. It runs from July 12–19 and offers $40,000 in guaranteed prizes along with 75 plaques. From July 12–14, Caveman Chess is organizing eight tournaments, six of which have guaranteed prize funds.

  • US Senior Open ($13,000 Guaranteed Prize Fund)
  • US Junior Open ($10,000 Guaranteed Prize Fund)
  • Caveman Medior Open ($10,000 Guaranteed Prize Fund)
  • US Blind Championship ($5,000 Guaranteed Prize Fund)
  • US Junior Open Blitz ($1,000 Guaranteed Prize Fund)
  • US Senior and Caveman Medior Quick ($1,000 Guaranteed Prize Fund)
  • Caveman Beginner Open 1
  • Caveman Beginner Open 2

The eight-tournament weekend is followed by the Caveman Chess Camp (July 14–19). Details about the tournaments and the camp are at

Something for Everyone

The Caveman Chess Festival has something for everyone. Players born after January 1, 2003, compete in the junior events. The Caveman Medior Open is for players born on or before January 1, 2003, and after July 11, 1974. The US Senior Open is for players 50 or older as of July 12, 2024.

The winners of the US Junior Open and the US Senior Open qualify for championships hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club. Some of the Caveman Chess Festival tournaments offer hundreds of dollars of prizes for women. The camp has sections for different ages, including adults, as well as optional girls-only classes.

FIDE Master Kevin Bachler, who earned the nickname of Caveman for his chess-playing style, is the driving force behind the Caveman Chess Festival. Bachler will be present all week, July 12–19.

And, as noted, attend July 12–14 to meet the legendary IM Sal Matera. Matera serves as President of the Marshall Chess Foundation. The foundation is “a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation formed by the Marshall Chess Club in 2008 to promote, through funding and other means, the study, play, and appreciation of the game of chess as a means to emotional and intellectual development.” Chess has something for everyone!

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on

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