Posted May 23, 2022 in Blog Updates

Eight Years Around the Campfire!

It’s been quite a ride so far as Campfire Chess celebrates its eighth birthday today! I started writing this blog shortly after closing an astronomy blog I had run for about 10 years called nightShifted Astronomy. Throughout its time, this site has covered world championships, local events, personal struggles, and a variety of topics throughout the chess world.

Campfire Chess began in May 2014 as Off My Chess and has taken many forms throughout the years. I am proud of the work done here and look forward to continuing as I keep playing chess and work to help others get to know the joy of the world’s greatest game.

Happy Birthday, Campfire Chess – A Personal Chess Journey!

Posted May 11, 2022 in News

Rest in Peace, GM Yuri Averbahk

The chess world suffered a major loss earlier this week with the death of Russian Grandmaster Yuri Averbakh. GM Averbakh was born in 1922 in Kaluga, Russia, and was the oldest living (and first centenarian) Grandmaster after recently celebrating his 100th birthday on February 8th of this year. He was the chairman of the Soviet Chess Federation from 1973 to 1978 and was the Soviet Chess Champion in 1954, just two years after earning his International Grandmaster title.

Yuri’s contributions to the chess world evolved over the years but he remained active in the game until his death. After rising to the top of Soviet chess and finding himself equal with the likes of greats like Boris Spassky and Mark Taimanov, he became a major contributor to the world of chess literature. He was known as an expert on endgame theory and was a major editor of the Soviet chess magazines Shakhmaty v SSSR and Shakhmatny Bulletin.

In addition to being a well-known endgame tactician, Yuri is also known throughout the chess world for his attacking style, as indicated in this game (notes by Yuri).

Posted April 25, 2022 in Chess.com, Other, Technology

Chess.com Is Lost

I’ve been openly critical of major chess websites before. ChessBase and Chess.com regularly receive praise here on Campfire Chess when they do things that further the development and promotion of the game, but they also get flamed when I believe that its necessary. This week, Chess.com went far beyond the necessity for a simple commentary. They’ve crossed into territory that should be unsettling for anyone who values our game. In fact, it’s my opinion that Chess.com has become so lost and has moved so far away from actual chess that I’ve made the unfortunate decision to stop playing and contributing to it for the foreseeable future.

Wasted Opportunities

Over the years, I’ve watched as Chess.com focused its attention on hideous endeavors like POG Champs and promotions that were designed to drive Twitch views more than actually promote the game in way that focused on longevity. Short-term exploitation of the Queen’s Gambit boom has led to negligible increase in the game’s long term interest. Then, they spent extraordinary amounts of money to house the Botez sisters in a Big Brother-like mansion in the name of (somehow) promoting the game. Yet, we haven’t really heard anything about it since. Why? Most likely because it doesn’t appeal to the wider chess audience and it’s a ridiculous waste of funds generated by site memberships.

And what did they learn from the fizzling of these activities? Absolutely nothing…

Selling Their Souls for NFTs

I have to admit that I was beyond furious when Chess.com announced its new NFT website, Treasure Chess. Now YOU TOO can mint your special 300 ELO Scholar’s Mate and charge $3000 on Chess.com for people to “own” it. No other technology available today infuriates me more than the peddling of cryptocurrency garbage like Non Fungible Tokens (NTFs). Or, as I prefer to call them, No F**king Thanks. This could be the first foul language moment in this blog’s history, but that’s okay. It’s time.

NFTs are one of the greatest pyramid schemes to emerge (so far) in the 21st Century. It’s a technology that prays on people’s lack of understanding of blockchain and cryptologic technology to get them to buy art, music, and now…chess games. These sites promise ownership of the purchased item, but all you own is a digital receipt or hyperlink to a receipt identifying you as the owner. Nothing stops other users from screenshotting the art, downloading the music, or retrieving a chess game from a database and posting it in another place. In essence, you own nothing.

On top of the fact that NFTs promise the future but deliver nothing, the power required to generate the crypto receipts for NFTs is enormous. It’s contributed to the insane price of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) these days and the increased energy consumption is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of our planet.

Done for Now

I realize that Chess.com is not an airport and there is no reason for my to announce my departure. However, I have been blogging about chess for 8 years now and a majority of the games, analysis, and stories have come from Chess.com. I’ve watched the site evolve from a competent and inviting community for people to grow, learn, and connect through chess…into a monstrosity. I have hope that one day Chess.com will find its away again, but until then, I simply cannot continue to support the site through a premium membership or paid verification. Until the insanity is reigned in at Chess.com, you’ll find all of my future content here on the blog and at lichess.org.

Game on, campers!
Ex

Posted April 21, 2022 in Game Analysis, My Chess Journey

Game Analysis – The Missile!

I’ve played some of the best chess of my entire life over the past few months. There were nerve-wrecking wins and heartbreaking losses, but all of them were wonderful opportunities to hone my skills and keep getting better. I chose to analyze and comment on this game because I felt that it is an important instructional moment. My opponent played solid chess until about midway through the game when he made a critical error and allowed me full access to his defenses. I hope you enjoy!

Following this victory, my online rating sits at an astounding (for me) 1340!

Game on, campers!
Ex

Posted April 15, 2022 in Blog Updates, Technology

An Appeal to WordPress

Dear WordPress,

For the love of God, please stop destroying your platform. Campfire Chess runs on a nearly 10-year old WordPress installation and for many years it was unbeatable as a blogging and content management system. More recently it seems that every time I log into my site to make an entry I am confronted with some unnecessary and extremely destructive redesign of basic features. At first it was the Gutenberg editor that divides paragraphs into blocks. Fortunately, there is a plugin to remove that nonsense and return to the classic editor.

And now it’s widgets. The small blocks of interactivity on the right side of Campfire Chess are done with WordPress widgets and until recently, it was a very easy and basic function of site management. Now it’s received its own Gutenberg upgrade an it literally destroyed my sidebar. Fortunately, there is a plugin to remove that nonsense and return to the classic widgets…

Are you noticing the pattern yet?

Come on, guys. Stop ruining a good thing. When the top plugins on your platform are designed to remove some of your most recent added features…take a freakin’ hint.

Non-chess rant over!

Game on, campers!
Ex

Posted April 11, 2022 in My Chess Journey

My Best Rating Improvement Ever!

Pretty much everything in my life over the last year has been a whirlwind, and chess was not exempt from that chaos. It had been a long time since I played chess regularly when I started playing again in May of 2021. So many times before I would dive headfirst into chess with an massively unrealistic set of goals and expectations. Eventually I’d realize that those goals were unachievable and give up chess for a while.

This time, things have been different…

Focusing heavily on Daily (e-correspondence) chess, I’ve seen a massive improvement in the quality of my gameplay and my overall rating. What was typically a 50-100 point increase had jumped threefold over the past twelve months with a monumental jump from 800 to 1300 ELO!

There have been bumps in the road along the way, but the quality of my play and my confidence has gradually increased throughout the year. It was only recently that I took time to pull up my stats on Chess.com and see how much I have actually improved. But what exactly has changed from before?

Well, for starters, I’ve switched to much slower forms of chess. I’ve realized that my PTSD does not give me the focus and response time necessary to play blitz and bullet chess for serious rating. They’re okay for fun, but they’re often brutally messy and not nearly as positive an outcome as the more classical variants and daily chess. In addition, I’ve been regularly watching YouTube chess videos and reading through games of my favorite players (Morphy, Fischer, Larsen, etc.). Occasionally I’ll recognize a position or tactic in one of my games that I’ve seen in those books, but mostly reading keeps me in the mode and focused on playing the game.

Here’s a perfect example of recent play that I’m very proud of. This particular game was rough and ended with a beautiful tactic to win my opponent’s queen:

There’s still so much to learn and so much to do! I recognize that it takes hard work to play this game and I don’t expect to ever play at a master level. I also recognize that I’ll face slumps and dips, but I am reaching a point where I feel confident enough that I can continue to play and improve in a way that is reasonable and reachable.

Game on, Campers!
Ex

Posted February 28, 2022 in News

FIDE Crushes Russia and Belarus

Today, on February 27, 2022, an extraordinary meeting of the FIDE Council was held on the current situation and the urgent measures to be taken after the military action launched by Russia in Ukraine.

As stated by the FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, the FIDE Council regards its main mission in preserving the unity of FIDE and respecting the basic human rights enshrined in the FIDE Charter.

In this regard, the FIDE Council has adopted a number of important emergency decisions.

FIDE Council approves the following statement condemning the military action:

  • “FIDE expresses its grave concern about the military action started by Russia in Ukraine. FIDE stands united against wars as well as condemns any use of military means to resolve political conflicts. FIDE will take any necessary action to ensure the security of chess players and other members of the chess community. No official FIDE chess competitions and events will be held in Russia and Belarus.”
  • Following the call from IOC, the FIDE Council decides that no Russian and Belarusian national flag be displayed or anthem be played in all FIDE-rated international chess events. Instead – the national chess federation’s flag or the official symbol/logo shall be used. A simplified procedure for performing under the FIDE flag would be followed where it is crucial for the players or any other chess officials under the current geopolitical situation.
  • In order to safeguard FIDE from reputational, financial, and any other possible risks, FIDE terminates all existing sponsorship agreements with any Belarusian and Russian sanctioned and/or state-controlled companies and will not enter into new sponsorship agreements with any such companies.
  • FIDE Council condemns any public statement from any member of the chess community which supports unjustified military action and brings the case of chess grandmasters Sergey Karjakin and Sergey Shipov to the Ethics and Disciplinary Commission.
Sergey Karjakin deleted this tweet, but the internet never forgets. It’s my opinion that this lowlife garbage should never play in an international tournament again.

The FIDE Council reaffirms the FIDE Congress dates, welcomes the AICF’s bid to host the 44th Chess Olympiad, and suggests 10 days for other bids.

The FIDE Council suggests that regardless of the organization of the Chess Olympiad 2022, FIDE will organize the annual FIDE Congress during the previously planned dates – from 27.07.2022. till 02.08.2022. with the election date on 01.08.2022.

The preference is to combine the FIDE Congress with the Chess Olympiad 2022. However, consultations with the potential organizers of the Chess Olympiad 2022 will be carried out and adjustment of the FIDE Congress dates is possible if it does not imply a notable delay of elections. The FIDE Council confirms that the continental elections shall be organized within their constitutional terms.

The FIDE Council confirms its commitment to the continuation of all the established development programs for national federations, zones, continents, and affiliated organizations.

Posted January 20, 2022 in News, US Chess

US Chess Endorses Tornelo

US Chess announced on January 12, 2022 that the executive board is officially endorsing online tournament manager Tornelo.

It’s no secret that cheating is a big problem in online chess. One only need to glance at the monthy stats sent out by Chess.com to see how many player accounts (including titled players) are closed for fair play violations. It’s one reason that many chess federations are reluctant to fully embrace online tournaments.

In an odd twist of fate, online tournaments have gone “viral” in the past few years and more governing bodies are growing to accept them. The United States Chess Federation (USCF) has sanctioned online tournaments via Chess.com for several years now, but they recently took a step to improve the integrity of these events and to consolidate tournament management across the federation.

I have to admit that I’ve never heard of Tornelo, so I had to do a little bit of research to fully understand what this means for chess. In a nutshell, Tornelo is an online tournament managing system built for both in-person and online play. It has some robust anti-cheat elements embedded in their management system that will make it easier for players to report potential cheaters early in a tournament. This in turn will help to alleviate much of the headdache associated with redistributing points and voiding games when a cheater is identified later in a game.

Is this really going to change things? I honestly don’t know. I do appreciate US Chess‘s continued embrace of rated online activities and hope that this system proves valuable for TDs across the country.

You can read the original article on the official US Chess Website or view the letter from the US Chess Executive Board discussing the decision here.

Posted December 29, 2021 in Reviews

Book Look: How to Study Chess on Your Own

I’ve been playing chess regularly since 2014 and have made (in my opinion) minimal progress. Well, I guess you could say that I haven’t made the progress that I expected after devoting so much time to reading, studying, and playing. That’s one reason that I’m always on the lookout for new materials and new ideas to help me improve my game. That’s why I was very excited to read GM Davorin Kuljasevic’s new book How to Study Chess on Your Own. This is the honest review of a < 1200 ELO player. So, let’s begin…

I learned about this book from the Perpetual Chess podcast. Which, if you’ve never listened, you’re missing out! The title alone drew me to it because I tend to be an isolated chess player. I play correspondence games regularly, read and follow games in books/magazines, and play a lot against my DGT Centaur chess computer. I wanted something that might help me understand why my improvement was so stagnant. So, I put away all the other chess books and projects I was working on and focused solely on How to Study exclusively for the next few weeks.

The Study Advice

For the purposes of this review, I am going to divide the book into two sections: The Study Advice and The Games. The study advice offered by GM Kuljasevic throughout the book is interlaced with a variety of Grandmaster and student games that are used to illustrate the various principles explained in each chapter. The study options presented are very down-to-earth and application-driven. There’s very little “theory” involved in the advice he gives. Instead, he digs down and shows how the variety of tools at a chess player’s disposal these days can be used for a multitude of improvement opportunities.

Of particular interest to me was his advice for creating a study plan. This is a step that countless chess students (including myself) tend to ignore. I study and play chess a lot, but I realized that I didn’t have a solid plan of what I wanted to achieve and what steps I was going to take to achieve it. Not in the sense of “I want to be an IM in 5 years”. Instead, the advice is more practical and nuanced such as “I have 4 hours to study chess today, so 2 hours for openings, 1 hour for endgame, and 1 hour on tactics”.

Overall, I’d say that the advice in this book is a welcome addition to the growing library of chess improvement materials out there. It’s practical, sensible, and is flexible enough to where anyone from a lower-rated D-class player up to a Grandmaster could use it.

The Games

There are 71 annotated games and fragments scattered across How to Study Chess on Your Own. At first, I was following each of the games with my travel chess set at home and then using my iPad on my breaks at work. But I soon realized that despite the excellent study advice in the book, much of the game analysis was way over my head. There were principles explained that I understood but the application in many of these instances were still in the Grandmaster range. I felt like I wasn’t ready in my chess ability to get the most out of this analysis.

So, after playing through Game 15, I stopped reading/playing the games and focused on the meat of the book and its study recommendations. This is not to say that the analysis in the book isn’t excellent, because it is! There’s so much knowledge shared in these games that it was overwhelming for someone of my level. I know that I can’t speak for everyone, but I would assume that many lower rated players would have similar problems understanding the application of some of the more advanced concepts. I guess you can consider it a word of caution before digging into the variations and ideas that the games themselves present.

A New Library of Games

As I read through the book, I took note of the Grandmaster games and decided to put them together into a Chess.com library. I also played through the student games and fragments in the book for this collection. That library is free for access and download here and will eventually be added to the downloads section here on Campfire Chess.

Final Thoughts

It’s impossible to truly unpack the depth of knowledge and expertise presented in How to Study Chess on Your Own. GM Davorin Kuljasevic obviously produced this as a labor of love. You can sense the passion he has for chess and the drive to help others improve their game. Of the chess books I’ve read recently, it’s most definitely one of my favorites. I only hope that over time I can improve in my game enough to go back through many of the annotated games and unlock their secrets!

Posted December 10, 2021 in Campfire Digest

Campfire Digest – December 10, 2021

Good Morning, campers! Welcome to Campfire Chess Digest for Friday, December 10, 2021! The World Chess Championship 2021 is still underway and it has certainly had a share of ups and downs, breathtaking and disappointing moments. There’s still much more chess to come before the year is done!

Here’s some of the best chess action we’ve seen this week:

Magnus Carlsen is…once again…World Chess Champion

https://www.chess.com/news/view/fide-world-chess-championship-2021-game-11
Magnus Carlsen cruised to defend his World Championship title for the fifth time this week against Ian Nepomniachtchi. It was one of the most lopsided and unusual championships I can recall. Ian just couldn’t capitalize on several opportunities presented to him by Magnus. And for another two years, Norway is king of world chess.

A World Record at the World Chess Championship

https://en.chessbase.com/post/world-championship-2021-g6
Magnus Carlsen came out on top of an incredible 136 move game that set a world record for the longest chess game played in a world championship. The previous title was held by Anatoly Karpov and Viktor Korchnoi in the 1978 World Chess Championship.

A Century of Chess: Karlsbad 1907

https://www.chess.com/blog/kahns/a-century-of-chess-karlsbad-1907
Long before the Soviet Empire dominated the professional chess world, the German Empire’s elite held firmly to the title of the world’s best chess players. This exceptional article from Chess.com (a rarity these days) explores Akiba Rubinstine’s rise to prominence in the early part of the twentieth century.

World Rapid and Blitz Coming to Warsaw

https://en.chessbase.com/post/the-world-rapid-and-blitz-championships-will-take-place-in-warsaw
The FIDE World Rapid and Blitz tournament will soon be making its way to Warsaw beginning on Christmas Day and running through December 31st.