|Walking into the chess room.|
I saw Mr. Falconer off and on over the years, both at weekend tournaments and Tuesday lectures. Strangely, we never crossed swords, although he battled fiercely against several of my star students. Foremost an attorney, Mr. Falconer capably represented (pro-bono) the state organization CalChess against a rogue scholastic organizer in 2004-05. He seemed to navigate legal complexities as methodically as Vladimir Kramnik would convert a positional advantage.
The following paragraphs first appeared in this obituary at Chess Life Online.
|Watching a tournament game.|
A native Californian, Neil first joined the Institute in 1945 after finishing his service in the U.S. Army and soon after established himself as one of the strongest chess players in California, finishing third in the state championship in 1946. When former World Champion Max Euwe visited the Mechanics' in 1949 Neil was one of those who held him to a draw. That same year, Neil graduated from the Boalt School of Law at UC Berkeley, passed the bar and started working at the firm where he would later rise to named partner - Steinhart and Falconer. New responsibilities did not slow down Neil's rise as a chess player, and in 1951 he won the California Open title at Santa Cruz.
|Chess tournament flag.|
One of Neil's defining characteristics besides his generosity of spirit and dry sense of humor has been a lifelong interest in learning. He was a regular attendee of former Grandmaster-in-Residence Alex Yermolinsky's weekly endgame lectures and has always had a keen interest in solving chess puzzles and problems. The past decade he has played with pleasure in more than one 5-minute chess tournaments at the Institute, matching wits with players almost 80 years his junior!