Chess Collection | Spotlight

Checkmate! A fusion of art, strategy

Munitz donates showcase collections, tourney champ’s prize

Picture of a few chess sets on display.

From Russian nesting dolls to 1950 medieval-style ceramic pieces, “The Art of Chess: The Munitz Chess Collection” is on display at the University Library through the fall quarter.

The exhibit features selections from the 52 fine chess sets and more than 350 volumes of chess literature donated by Cal State L.A. Trustee Professor and former CSU Chancellor Barry Munitz to the University Library Special Collections.

In a chess tournament held last week in collaboration with the exhibit, Konstantin “Kostya” Kavutskiy uttered the ultimate “checkmate.”

Beating out 28 faculty, staff and student competitors, winner Kavutskiy, a finance junior, was awarded a $500 gift certificate donated by Munitz. Runner-up Benny Wu, a mechanical engineering junior, received a $100 gift certificate presented by an anonymous donor.

Picture of Konstantin "Kostya" Kavutskiy.

Kavutskiy said, “I originally learned how to play chess when I was 4 years old. Since then, I've studied the game, trained with different coaches, and developed a passion for the game. I was really excited to win the CSULA chess tournament because I think it was the boost that Cal State L.A. needed to kick off its chess club/team.

“The college chess circuit is booming right now with more and more schools developing strong teams and giving out scholarships to chess players,” he said.

“The United States Chess Federation is also starting to use more of its resources to focus on college chess. Now is the perfect opportunity for CSULA to start building a team and competing intercollegiately. The $500 prize was awesome as well.”

Memories and moves—
Munitz on chess sets

“My father started collecting books about chess, along with a few sets, before I was born. Then, as he was completing his career, I assumed the responsibility for conserving and adding to the very important historical library while, at the same time, collecting many more chess sets based upon aesthetic, cultural and anthropological criteria.

“I was in the same high school class with [legendary chess master] Bobby Fischer at Erasmus Hall in Brooklyn, New York, and learned to play at the Marshall Chess Club in lower Manhattan—indeed before I was taught to read.  During a visit from Gary Kasparov to see the library and the sets in my Getty office, we talked in detail about the extensive ties between the life of education and the life of chess, and he provided very strong encouragement for linking these materials to an academic institution.

“It was always clear that the books and the sets would never be sold, but on the other hand, they had to be accessible to an institution where all of its constituencies could enjoy studying, examining, and actively utilizing the materials. Therefore, it was perfectly natural for me to donate all of the items to my home academic campus, where the students, faculty and staff have such a strong dedication to learning and to engaging each other.

“It is my very great privilege and honor to have the family chess materials reside in perpetuity with the Los Angeles campus of California State University.” – Barry Munitz

About Barry Munitz

Barry Munitz is currently the trustee professor at Cal State L.A., with full professorial tenure in the Department of English, and serves as an advisor to the Charter College of Education. He is also chairman of the California P-16 Education Council and the Sierra Nevada College Board of Trustees. Munitz was formerly chancellor of the California State University system, and then president/chief executive officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Previously, he was chancellor of the University of Houston, academic vice president of the University of Illinois, and started his administrative career working for Clark Kerr at the Carnegie Commission on the Future of Higher Education.

Munitz serves as a member of the three Eli and Edythe Broad Family Foundation Boards, as a trustee of the Cotsen Family Foundation, and as a director of the Sallie Mae Corporation.  He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Munitz holds a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College in classics and comparative literature, a master’s degree and Ph.D. in comparative literature from Princeton University, and honorary degrees from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Southern California, California State University, Whittier College, Claremont University Center and Graduate School, and the University of Notre Dame.

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