< George Barnes was born in Duluth on August 4, 1902. Although he would live most of his adult life in Minnesota, he grew up in Chicago and it was there he learned to play chess. He credits an uncle with teaching him the game, and one newspaper account wrote that this relative played in one of the Anglo-American cable matches for the British side. (Those matches were played from 1896–1911, but no one with the name Barnes played for either side. It could be his uncle had a different last name or played in one of the collegiate matches between the two countries, which are not as well documented.)
Barnes attended Hyde Park, one of the elite high schools in Chicago, and it was there he enjoyed his first success in chess, as his team won the city championship in 1920. This success was written about in Edward Lasker’s chess column in one of the Chicago papers, likely the first time Barnes had a game published.[...]
George Barnes graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1921 and later that year began his studies at the University of Michigan. During the next four years he was the best player on campus and developed into a strong player. The highlight of his time in Ann Arbor was acting as Emanuel Lasker’s chauffeur during the latter’s visit in 1924. Shortly afterward Barnes defeated Lasker in a simul in Detroit. G S Barnes vs Lasker, 1924
Barnes took a position in advertising, working for General Mills in Minneapolis, and over the next few decades advanced to increasingly higher-level positions. This strong economic base, and Barnes’ generosity, led him to become a major patron of Minnesota chess for over four decades, contributing considerable time and money (particularly for the 1932 Western Chess Association Championship and the 1958 U.S. Open).
Barnes was the dominant Minnesota player for two decades from the early 1930s until the early 1950s, winning eleven state championships, a record exceeded only by Curt Justin Brasket ’s 16 titles. His achievements were not just local. He scored three draws and only one loss against Samuel Reshevsky in four Western Chess Association Championships in the first half of the 1930s, and drew with Isaac Kashdan in the 1938 American Federation Championship. His best tournament result was the 1932 Western Chess Association Championship. Juggling duties as chief organizer and as a player, Barnes still finished at fifty percent, good for fifth place in the ten player field, which included future U.S.C.F. Chess Hall of Famers Reuben Fine, Sammy Reshevsky, Fred Reinfeld and Herman Steiner.
During much of Barnes’ chess career club play was paramount. He was a regular for the Minneapolis side in its matches with Winnipeg starting in the mid-1930s, where he played several times against Canada’s chess prodigy Daniel Abraham Yanofsky. He also participated in the multi-team matches held in Green Bay between 1938 and 1941, which attracted players from Chicago and Milwaukee, as well as Minneapolis.
Barnes retired to Arkansas and continued to play actively until his death in 1977. Chess Life & Review did not mention his passing, but Chess Life (May 20, 1947, p.2) covers his earlier accomplishments.>