Campfire Chess

Lonely these days, but not abandoned…

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Lately, it may seem as though I have abandoned the site considering that there have only been three (not including this one) posts during the month of August. I have not abandon the site, nor have I abandoned chess. Instead, life happens and things have been relentlessly busy for me and my family. There is a bright light at the end of the tunnel around the first part of September, so I hope to be back to regular writing at that time. In the meantime, I will continue to be sparse around here and around the chess community.

Keep checking back here regularly because although I am not writing regular posts at the moment, I am working on some of the behind-the-scenes technologies that run the site. Specifically, I am working to completely redesign the downloads page with new wallpapers, game collections, and other goodies. That stuff should go live this weekend or next.

Play on!

Tournaments

2016 Sinquefield Cup: So Wins It All 

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The Sinquefield Cup is always an amazing event and has come to solidify its place as one of the most prestigious chess tournaments in the world. Every year, the best chess players from around the world converge on the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis to compete in the round robin tournament. The Sinquefield Cup is also memorable for Fabiano Caruana’s incredible run in 2014, which I built a commemorative wall piece to celebrate the tournament. After some scheduling changes due to the upcoming Baku Olympian, this year’s event included Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Veselin Topalov, Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Anish Giri, Vishy Anand, Peter Svidler, and wildcard Ding Liren.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen opted out of this year’s event so that he could focus on the upcoming World Chess Championship in New York.

After some thrilling games between the world’s elite players it was Wesley So, the former Webster University prodigy, who took a commanding lead early in the tournament and cruised to a solid victory with 5.5/9 pts. The Sinquefield Cup is part of the second Grand Chess Tour, which aims to promote professional chess around the world. The Grandmasters featured in the Sinquefield Cup are regular participants in the tour. For details and photos from the Sinquefield Cup, check out the detailed analysis on Chessbase.

News

Russia Makes Play for Control of WCC Cycle

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There are some people out there who believe that the Russian Bear has been awakened and that the country is swiftly moving back to its Soviet history or at least, a future influenced by the political and ideological positions of its Soviet ancestor. While the world is distracted by the Olympics in Rio, Zika, and Russia’s (non)participation in the games, the Russian Chess Federation has made a play for control of the World Chess Championship cycle by submitting a proposal to FIDE that would effectively allow sponsors to buy positions in the championship and undermine any chance that chess has for expanding its audience and recognition as a competitive sport. Here is the letter in its entirety:

To: Chairman of FIDE Commission for World Championships & Olympiads (WCO)
Mr. GEORGIOS MAKROPOULOS

Dear Mr. Makropoulos,

Russian Chess Federation asks the Commission to consider and (if needed) improve and approve the below mentioned amendments to the current system of determining the World Chess Champion at the 87th FIDE Congress (04–14.09.2016 Baku, Azerbaijan). RCF suggests adding an article to the rules governing World Chess Championship matches stating that the World Chess Champion can accept the challenge of any player who can contribute to the prize fund and the costs of holding of the match.

Herewith a number of basic conditions should be fulfilled:

• The FIDE President would have the power to veto any proposed match. Any proposed World Championship match would be carried out under the auspices of FIDE and according FIDE rules.

• 50% of the prize fund will go to FIDE.

• The match must be held before the end of the current FIDE qualifying round, that is, before a challenger has been determined by the Candidates Tournament.

FIDE Vice President
President of the Russian Chess Federation Andrey Filatov

Needless to say that many in the world outside of neo-Soviet insanity are unhappy and have launched a petition against the proposed changes. The Association of Chess Professionals issued a response to the Russian request and has launched a campaign to encourage FIDE to reject the proposal. Of course, knowing that Kirsan and Putin are best buddies leaves little hope that the next World Chess Champion could be nothing ore than the man whose country is willing to pay the price for a seat at the board.

Here is ACP’s response to the proposal:

The Russian Chess Federation submitted an official proposal to the FIDE Congress for an addition to the current World Championship Cycle rules: anyone guaranteeing a required prize-fund can challenge the reigning World Champion.

We as ACP believe that this idea is completely detrimental to chess for a number of reasons, among which:

– The World Champion Title must be achieved only through a proper sport cycle, especially at a time when chess is increasingly recognized as a sport. The RCF proposal goes against the chess tradition and against the very spirit of modern chess. Although purchasing the right for the match was common practice 100 years ago, it was more of a sad necessity than a good system.

– Staging a “commercial” match would seriously undermine the appeal of the regular cycle match. As things stand, the Title Match is a unique event which is held every two years and which acts as a catalyst for all the chess world. Even so, it is very difficult to raise proper funds for the World Championship Match – we do remember several examples from the recent past and we are witnessing the same problems right now. Who would be interested in paying for the ‘regular match’ if it is no longer a unique event? Who would organize the Candidates under these circumstances? Who would regard chess as a proper sport a company can invest in?

– The World Champion Title would be devalued and, more importantly, the image of chess would suffer greatly at all levels and worldwide. It would also put the players on grossly unequal terms: some would have to battle their chances out against the best players of the world in the regular cycle, others would buy their shot at the title by securing the money. This is outright unacceptable. It could also bring a disrepute to our noble game, opening the door to problems we can’t even foresee now.

– The RCF proposal would inevitably mess up the World Championship Cycle. It would also limit the World Champion’s participation in other events, as he would need to spend most of his time preparing/recovering after the matches. Again, this is certainly not desirable.

The ACP strongly opposes changes to the World Championship Cycle that undermine the very sporting sense and the unique value of the World Chess Champion Title. Our opinion is supported by the results of the ACP Poll – 2016, where over 80% of the chess professionals clearly disapproved the idea of purchasing the rights for the Title Match. If you share our vision, please help fighting this proposal and join the ACP stand by signing and endorsing this statement. The RCF proposal could be approved already in September, and we feel the chess world has to take a clear stand on the matter before then.

ACP Board

Campfire Chess, Tournaments

Jesse James is 3-time San Antonio Champion 

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Chess players from around the San Antonio area converged on Methodist Hospital this past weekend to see who would earn the distinction of San Antonio City Chess Champion. Approximately 82 players registered for the 5-round event which saw participation from players in the 900 ELO to 2263 ELO range! NM Jesse James Lozano quickly emerged as the man to beat as he sought to defend his championship title and earn the distinction of being the 3-time city champion.

Entering into the 4th round of the event on Sunday Lozano led the tournament with a score of 3-0, although Alexander Wlezien, who commanded a 2206 ELO prior to the event remained neck-in-neck with him. The final standings had both Lozano and Wlezien earning no losses across all five rounds. In the end, Jesse James claimed his third title and walked away with an impressive 2267 ELO. Congratulations to Jesse on his win!

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 Pair | Player Name                     |Total|Round|Round|Round|Round|Round| 
 Num  | USCF ID / Rtg (Pre->Post)       | Pts |  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  | 
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    1 | JESSE JAMES LOZANO              |4.5  |X  34|W  47|W  51|W   7|D   3|
   TX |          / R: 2263   ->2267     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    2 | ALEXANDER WLEZIEN               |4.5  |W  49|W  13|D   9|W   6|W  15|
   TX |          / R: 2206   ->2209     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    3 | GREGG STANLEY                   |4.0  |W  26|W   8|W  52|D  15|D   1|
   TX |          / R: 2189   ->2190     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    4 | ERNESTO L MALAZARTE             |4.0  |W  50|L   7|W  20|W  35|W  21|
   TX |          / R: 2166   ->2161     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    5 | DUY MINH NGUYEN                 |4.0  |H    |W  48|W  56|W  10|D   9|
   TX |          / R: 2095   ->2102     |     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    6 | DANG MINH NGUYEN                |4.0  |W  62|W  24|W  38|L   2|W  25|
   TX |          / R: 1970   ->1984     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    7 | ROHIT CHOUDARY BANDI            |4.0  |W  27|W   4|W  28|L   1|W  32|
   TX |          / R: 1916   ->1954     |     |B    |W    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    8 | DONALD W FLOURNOY               |4.0  |W  35|L   3|W  39|W  52|W  24|
   TX |          / R: 1919   ->1936     |     |W    |B    |W    |B    |W    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    9 | SREENEVASH RAMESH               |4.0  |W  44|W  33|D   2|W  16|D   5|
   TX |          / R: 1652   ->1768     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
   10 | JAMES DOUGLAS HUDDLESTON        |3.5  |W  25|D  16|W  23|L   5|W  28|
   TX |          / R: 2112   ->2104     |     |B    |W    |B    |W    |B    |
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Table data courtesy of US Chess.

A small sample…

The annual city championship is a small sample of the larger San Antonio chess community that thrives throughout the year. The San Antonio Chess Club meets every Thursday night at the Lions Field Center on Broadway St for blitz and a subset of the club meets each Wednesday at Methodist Hospital for a monthly rapid tournament (G 90|5). Many of these events include highly skilled club players in the 1600+ ELO range, but Jesse Lozano offers opportunities for kids and lower rated players in scholastic play throughout the region on his website, www.sascholastic.com.

Tournaments

San Antonio Chess Championship this weekend!

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This Saturday and Sunday, chess players from across South Texas will converge on Methodist Hospital’s John Hornbeak Building to compete in the San Antonio Chess Championship! Over 50 players are currently registered for the event, which will feature the city’s best taking on…the city’s best! Yours truly originally had plans to attend the event to cover it here on Campfire Chess, but the same commitments that have emaciated posts on this site for July will likely keep me from attending. I am going to make an attempt to stop by to grab some photos and check on the standings, but unfortunately will not be able to cover in-depth like I wanted. In any case, if you are in the San Antonio area this weekend, hold a valid US Chess membership ID and want to compete for a chance at a variety of prizes, stop by!

Here is a complete list of details courtesy of the San Antonio Chess Club:

Location: Methodist Hospital John Hornbeak Building
          3rd Floor
          4450 Medical Dr.
          San Antonio, TX 78259

Time controls: Rds. 1 and 2 G/90|5, Rds. 3-5 G/120|5

Prizes: $1525 for full entry and 1/2 option prizes
        $500 1st, $300 2nd, U2100 $125, U2000 $125,
        U1800 $125, U1600 $125, U1400 $125, U1200/Unr. $100.
        Trophy to top Bexar County Resident.

Entry Fees: $60 at site

$5 discount to Club members paying full entry

Registration: 8:30-9:30 am

Rounds: Saturday 10am, 2 pm, and 6pm; Sunday 9am - 2pm

Half point bye any 1 round. Notice must be made before Round 2 is paired.

Entries: San Antonio Chess Club
         PO BOX 690576
         San Antonio, TX 78269-0576

Contact info: sanantoniochess.com
              elvisclassic@sbcglobal.net

Pay online using PayPal. Click on "Send", then enter our club's email address
(sanantoniochessclub@gmail.com) and your appropriate entry fee in "Amount".
Then click Continue followed by choosing "Friends or Family" (to bypass PayPal fees).
Please include a note with participant's name and USCF ID, rating, and mailing
address should we have to mail you a prize.
Campfire Chess

A Trip Down Memory Lane

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Have you ever had a day where you found yourself looking through old photos or browsing through the rarely touched bowels of your hard drive reminiscing about things, people, and times that have come and gone? As a chess fanatic and lover of all things baseball, I am a deeply sentimental and reflective man. The other day I reached a rare moment where I was not faced with accomplishing a task or other responsibility, which gave me an opportunity to mindfully browse the web in search of fond memories.

I entered the online world in 1994 after I convinced my parents to purchase dial-up internet service through Netaccess of Virginia, a now-defunct local service provider that delivered blazing 28.8 kbps to our rural home through our telephone line. Prior to that, my network experience was confined to BBS and local area networks on Apple IIgs and a Tandy Sensation PC at my school. Needless to say that I caused quite a few arguments for tying up the phone line so much, but my recent foray across the web reminded me that although the internet was painfully slow in those days, there was a special flare to it. Among the most influential components on the web was Yahoo, which has unfortunately faded into increasing obscurity. From that portal, the web seemed to literally spider out to places like Tripod, Xoom, and an old favorite of mine, Geocities.

My first website was hosted on my ISP’s web server and was mainly a list of my favorite movies, music, and exploration of HTML. It was cool seeing my stuff published online, but the process of submitting files via e-mail and waiting on an update (which was often done incorrectly) was too cumbersome to sustain. Thank God for Tripod and Xoom, a combination of which became my web home for the next 10 or so years. From 1996 until I graduated high school in 2000, I ran Fire Walk With Me: The Unofficial Twin Peaks Home Page that amassed hundreds of thousands of visitors and was consistently ranked among the top Twin Peaks (not the restaurant) websites on the net. In those days, IRC, AIM, and ICQ were the ways to stay in contact with friends and family; social media did not exist…it was a simpler time. It is this time that I found myself missing most of all as I browsed through the countless articles, blog posts, and reflective pages seeking to preserve the history of the world’s first global network. It can be hard for many to understand, but it was a thrill to pick out a home and a street on Geocities just as it is today to post a meme or update a Facebook status.

My web presence went dark from 2000 to roughly 2006 as I kept a small personal page on Tripod and my DeviantArt page masked with a free novelty URL before opening my first real web host at nightShifted.com when I started my nonprofit education and astronomy outreach program, nightShifted Astronomy. Fortunately, this was around the time that Internet hosting became cheap or at least, affordable for most people. nightShifted Astronomy continued from 2006 to 2014 when I finally decided to close up shop altogether. Shortly thereafter, Campfire Chess made its debut as Off My Chess, a tiny blog where I could share my games and interests related to the world of chess.

So, what is the point of a post like this? The truth is that there may not be a point to it, but it was really nice to take a moment and travel down memory lane to look at websites and talk about Internet places that have come and gone. I believe that sometimes we tend to think of the Internet as growing stagnant in its development and growth, but the reality is that the Internet has always been an evolving and growing organism. It has changed forms countless times since its early development and there is no indication that it will cease those transformations anytime soon. My early exploration and exposure to the Internet was about the free exchange of information and ideas in a way that had never been done before. Data that I never imagined possible was suddenly available at my fingertips, but these days we tend to take it for granted. Curiously, I think that the next evolution of the Internet will not come with the same whisper that many of its previous incantations have come. Instead, I think that we will see a growing fight against censorship and the startling social trend to silence those whom we disagree with.

In the meantime, I will continue to carry on as the web evolves. It is my hope that Campfire Chess will remain for as long as it can, but I’m well aware that all things come to an end at some point. Until then, as I said, I will continue to carry on.

Game Analysis

MHCC July 2016 Round 1: The Stuff of Nightmares

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Although you’ll be hard-pressed to find many pastors (or people) out there who would admit that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is their favorite film of all time, I am not your typical pastor nor do I like to think of myself as your typical person. When it comes to chess, there is much evidence to support the position that I might be the world’s worst chess player. I have become accustomed to losing just in some of the most interesting and depressing ways over the past few years and I thought I have learned to deal with the trauma that can arise from such an experience, but last Wednesday’s tournament OTB game reminded me of how devastating it can be to make a mistake in a game where I put so much time, effort, energy, and focus. In essence, Wednesday night was an opportunity for me to experience my own Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

As many of you know, I have been playing in my first series of OTB tournaments a few months back, but had to take a break to finish some school and other personal projects. These projects also contributed to the lack of posts here on Campfire Chess, but I digress. Playing in the July edition of this tournament was a last-minute decision, so there was a little bit of hesitation on my part for returning. However, I know that the best way to improve is to continue to play. Unfortunately, my return to OTB play was the stuff of nightmares. Rarely do I go into these situations expecting a win because very few of the players involved in these tournaments are rated anywhere near where I perform. Most of them are the master level or higher including a resident International Master and occasional visits from Grandmasters, which I have written about in the past. However, I can say that I never expected what happened this past Wednesday night. To say that it was traumatic betrays the depth of the experience.

I lost a game in eight moves although I played through to 12 moves for a combined total board time of around 14 minutes. Looking back on things, I realized that it was a simple mistake that ended the game so quickly whether it was rushing or simply not surveying the more properly. It has taken me a few days to get over it, but I have written some commentary on this atrocious game and decided to share it with my Campfire Chess audience. Now, for your viewing pleasure I present to you around one of MHCC July 2016.

Unfortunately, my desire to try again this week has been postponed because of a sick child. As always, family comes first. Therefore, I will have to wait until next week for an opportunity to redeem myself with a reasonable loss.

Reviews

Product Review – Most Amazing Moves

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I am not sure why I have struggled to finish this review, but hopefully this 4th draft will be the final version. This also turned out to be the first post of July 2016. Normally, I would already have posted several entries, but this is been a challenging month.

Alas, on to the review we go…

Like most chess players, there are certain games and moves that have left an unmistakable influence on my life. Of course, classic games like Morphy’s Opera Game and Fischer Game of the Century are highlights, but some classic games of Staunton, Casablanca have earned their way into my collection of PGN databases and FEN diagrams. So, imagine my excitement when I discovered a DVD on the growing Chessbase library that brings many of those games together in a single collection: GM Simon Williams’ Most Amazing Moves. Although the DVD itself was published in January 2015, I only recently managed to pick up a copy and go through it in its entirety.

The DVD Itself

Most Amazing Moves is a 4-hour collection of video commentary by GM Williams on a mixed collection of games featuring some of his own experiences intermixed with games from the greatest players in history. Combined with his unique brand of humor, Williams provides the viewer with an exciting overview of the games and exploration of how some seemingly small moves can change the course of a game or even the course of chess history. If British humor is not something you are accustomed to, and some of his comments could seem offputting. However, I found all of his commentary and insights into the games extremely refreshing.

The DVD itself begins with some relatively popular classical games, but it is the exploration of key moments in these games that separates this DVD apart from others. Personally, as a man who is fully aware of his chess deficiencies, I enjoyed Simon’s repeated jabs at the viewer further assumed inability to see the most amazing move and the meaning behind what makes it such an amazing move. Throughout the DVD, Simon begins by offering brief commentary on each game before moving on to a Chessbase quiz that allows the user to guess the next set of moves. There were moments in these quizzes where it seemed that no amount of calculation or guessing allowed me to determine the correct move. However, there were other times when I was able to guess the correct move, but only because it fit with a theme carried over from one or two games earlier. Or, I was able to determine the correct move but not immediately ascertain exactly why it was such an amazing move. Fortunately, Simon provides detailed explanation of the moves and even some witty comments on variations that can be selected by the user. Some of those variations come with honest and heartfelt chess instruction while others are met with a look of disdain and utter confusion and why the person would even consider trying to guess the moves. Here is an example of the gems that make up the bulk of the DVD:

While there are many examples of amazing tactics demonstrated throughout the DVD, Williams does not focus exclusively on tactics and also provides the user some opportunities to review great positional chess games as well. This variety as a unique flavor to the DVD which helps to diversify its target audience and simply add to the overall fun of watching some of the greatest chess games in history.

About the Author

GM Simon Williams is from Surrey, England and earned the title of Grandmaster in 2008 after finishing his third GM-norm at the Hastings International Chess Congress. While he continues to play in a variety of settings, Williams has recently transitioned from playing regularly in tournaments to focusing on chess commentary, tournament organization, and publishing. He runs his own website which is published a series of instructional DVDs and he is well-known for his commentary on Chessbase and Chess24. His sense of humor and depth of chess knowledge add a unique flavor to his instruction and commentary that, in my opinion, is much needed in the world of professional chess.

It is apparent throughout the DVD that Williams had a blast organizing, researching, and filming this product. There are many examples in the DVD from his own games and he is not shy about acknowledging the perception that can come with focusing on himself in a DVD titled Most Amazing Moves, but there are no instances throughout the four hours of DVD commentary and instruction where I felt that a game or move had been represented that was not amazing in itself.

Final Verdict

As I write this review, Most Amazing Moves is available in the Chessbase Shop for €29.90 and is available on physical media or via download option. For that price, which is consistent of most of Chessbase’s DVDs, it is an exceptional bargain for such an amazing collection of games. Both beginners, intermediate, and advanced players will appreciate the nuances of these amazing moves. If you do not have a copy of Chessbase, the DVD itself comes with a copy of Chessbase Reader or you can download the free Chessbase Reader from here. I give it 4.5 pawns out of 5.

Campfire Chess Rating: ♟♟♟♟♙

Further Reading: Chessbase Review (2015)

Reviews

Watch Chess App Brings Grandmasters to Your Wrist

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I love discovering new chess apps and web services! Recently as I was looking for new (and useful) apps to install on my Apple Watch I came across a cool little app called Watch Chess (FacebookTwitter | iTunes). Mainly searching for an app to display chess games or maybe even lucky enough to play a chess game on my watch, I was blown away by the functionality of this little gem and knew that I had to offer it a short review!

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The app’s home page is simple and intuitive with a colorful list of available broadcasts. Clicking on the tournament image brings up a list of rounds for that tournament that include dates and easy select for kibitzing the game of your choice. The interface is mirrored on the Apple Watch with the only difference being the absence of the colorful tournament buttons. Each board is clear and easy to read on the Apple Watch just as it is on the iPhone. Although some people might be turned off by the lack of an engine interface, that is no reason to stop most users from enjoying the app’s presentation of high-level chess.

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Watch Chess is one of the few apps out there that offer full support for the Apple Watch. While some people still consider it to be a novelty, the Apple Watch is growing as a tool to supplement people who use iPhone or other Apple products. The app works as well as any other Apple Watch app with custom notifications and the ability to use the digital crown to scroll through archived games. Unfortunately, this means that the app also suffers from some of the watch’s setbacks including some slow load times for games. Apple has promised to fix these problems by moving more of the operating system on to the device itself with the coming release of watchOS 3 this fall.

News

Chess Defies All Stereotypes 

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There is no shortage of stories where chess teachers have used the game as a metaphor for the challenges of life and the importance of thinking about the consequences of a move before making it. Some of these stories, which have been dramatized in movies and books, are fictional but there are many real-life examples to show how chess has broken barriers and united some incredibly unlikely groups of people. Seattle Deputy Denise “Cookie” Bouldin is no exception. Once convinced by her peers that she was not smart enough to play chess, the veteran police officer has used chess to transform the lives of the people in her neighborhood through regular classes and through running her own chess club.

Ten years ago, Bouldin was teaching her anti-violence course to fourth- and fifth-grade students and wanted to come up with a fun activity she could do with the kids. She suggested a basketball game between the students and police. The kids fired back with the suggestion of a chess tournament. Bouldin, who had never played chess, was initially skeptical but agreed. She brought in people to teach the kids the game and she eventually learned it herself, three years after starting the club.

Chess continues to grow around the world and the United States is no exception. The World Chess Championship will be held in November in New York City and Saint Louis continues to grow as the Chess Capital of the USA. I hope that as chess continues this growth that we will continue to see more stories like Deputy Bouldin’s.

Read the full story here.