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Campfire Chess Posts

20 Years Later, Garry Kasparov Loves the Machine

Just over 20 years ago last month, former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov played a dramatic six-game match against an IBM supercomputer called Deep Blue, the second of two matches the grandmaster played against the technological behemoth. Up until that point, computers were very strong in their chess abilities but had yet to beat some of the game’s greatest players. Kasparov was determined to prove that machines lacked the beauty of truly deep chess thinking and simply could not beat him. Kasparov’s subsequent crushing defeat was merely a harbinger of things to come. The rise of the machines (chess and others) would come much swifter than almost anyone could have predicted.

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(Credit: FOX)

Recently, Kasparov gave an incredible TED talk about the rise of intelligent machines and the need for humanity to embrace, not fear them. Obviously, he took the time to assure the audience that his defeat by Deep Blue overshadows the fact that he won the first match. Kasparov’s talk is deeply inspiring for those who can appreciate the beauty of chess and technology; its definitely worth watching if you are a fan of TED talks in general, technology, chess, or just curious how one of the world’s greatest minds sees the future under the influence of intelligent machines.

As technology leaps forward, the world’s greatest game has regularly been there to help it shine. If you need proof, then check out the recent fiasco with the Chess.com iOS app in which the 32-bit version stopped working because the site’s 2.1 billion games exceeded the necessary math. Chess has always been a key component of technological evolution (and revolution) and Kasparov obviously sees that there is no reason to fear the rise of the machines.

Comprehensive coverage and review of the TED talk is available on Chessbase.

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Chess at Trader’s Village

I am always on the lookout for new and interesting chess shops, stories, and personalities throughout the day and I came across a really cool place south of downtown San Antonio that definitely raised my curiosity. Trader’s Village is a massive flea market and entertainment venue located on Interstate 410 just south of JBSA-Lackland in San Antonio. Aside from rides, food, games, and countless shopping opportunities, I found a neat little space where chess is king!

Nate is the proprietor of AllPerfectGifts4U located in booth #1049 and much of his wares are chess sets and boards of varying styles. I was impressed to find a unique US Air Force themed set for a respectable $49, but the set I wanted had already been sold via the online store. I guess I might have wandered to the wrong shelf looking for goodies.

In addition to selling and promoting chess, Nate also organizes a monthly chess tournament in the Trader’s Village central plaza. There is a big sign on one of the overhangs (see this post’s featured image), which advertises the monthly tournaments and can help lost chess enthusiasts find their way.

According to Nate, the tournament games are 15 | 10 time controlled  with modest participation and several regular players including one or two personalities that definitely seem to add a unique flavor to this hidden chess gem. The winner of each monthly tournament receives a professional tournament chess set to add to their collection! 

I have reached out to Nate for some clarifications and will update this article as I receive additional information. If you are interested in signing up for one of these tournaments, visit the tournament’s official website.

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Celebrating 3 Years Around the Campfire

Campfire Chess started as a small side project following the end of six years running my astronomy blog and non-profit called nightShifted Astronomy. In the high days of nightShifted I would never have expected it to end, but that all came to fruition in 2014 when I closed the site permanently to focus on other areas of interest. Name, chess! I started Off My Chess as a blog covering my attempt to get better at the game and eventually evolved it into Campfire Chess covering news, views, and general insights about the game’s fascinating world of celebrity, hard work, psychosis, and political intrigue.

Today, Campfire Chess celebrates its three year anniversary! To mark the occasion, here are ten of my favorite posts from the last three years.

  1. Product Review – Chessmate Ultima Pocket Chess Set
    • Published: 31 May 2014
  2. God and Chess
    • Published: 07 June 2014
  3. Finding the Right Notation Tool
    • Published: 25 July 2014
  4. Robin Williams and the Way of Things
    • Published: 14 August 2014
  5. The Sad State of Chess on the Mac
    • Published: 11 January 2015
  6. The Big Deal About Berlin
    • Published: 10 February 2015
  7. The Sad Reality of Cheating in Chess
    • Published: 06 September 2015
  8. Does Chess Need an Audience?
    • Published: 18 October 2015
  9. US Chess Sends Open Letter to FIDE
    • Published: 16 February 2017
  10. Iran Hosts Women’s Chess and Anti-American Chanting
    • Published: 11 February 2017

Here’s to many more years for Campfire Chess and our game!

Sincerely,

Wesley Surber

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Registration Open for Rackspace Chess 2017!

Updated 0740 CST: Fixed incorrect tournament date in blog entry. Correct date is 29-Apr-2017.

What better place to host fanatics of chess than the home of fanatical support itself, Rackspace! Each year, Rackspace hosts a massive chess tournament at its Headquarters (known as The Castle) just off Interstate 35 (Google Map) in Windcrest. 

As a leader in the technology industry, Rackspace wants to build a culture around chess as a scholastic mind sport, so that our young adults enter the workforce with the technical thinking skills that matter to us. –Rackspace

The Rackspace Chess Tournament will take place on April 29th at The Castle, with registration details available on the official Rackspace Chess website. The tournament is heavily focused on children, so if your child is a scholastic chess player or someone who simply loves the game and wants to come be part of the growing chess movement in America, then visit the Rackspace Chess website and register them for the tournament! There are two sections to this tournament spanning a wide range of ages and playing ability:

Rated

  • K-12 Championship
  • K-8 Championship
  • K-5 Championship
  • K-3 Championship
  • K-12 U1000/UNR
  • K-8 U800/UNR
  • K-5 U600/UNR
  • K-3 U400/UNR
  • K-1 U400/UNR

Unrated

  • 4-12 Not Rated
  • 4-8 Not Rated
  • 4-5 Not Rated

The time control for all games is G/30 d5 (5-second delay). 

It is my hope that Campfire Chess will find the time that day to spend some time at Rackspace and provide coverage and some photos from the event. As with anything else, that depends on work and family.

Also, be sure to check out San Antonio legend NM Jesse James Lozano’s SAScholastic.com website for the most up-to-date information on scholastic chess tournaments being held in the city.

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US Chess Championships Begin Today!

Grab your laptop, tablet, and your favorite chess app, program, or board and get ready to follow the exciting showdown in Saint Louis: the 2017 US Chess Championships!

Reigning Champions GM Fabiano Caruana and Nazi Paikidze-Barnes will be fighting to retain their titles against the best that the country has to offer on the board. All games are played at 1300 CDT (GMT -5) and will be broadcast on Chess24, ChessBomb, and ChessBase.

Also, I recommend trying out the Watch Chess app available on iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. I wrote a review about it awhile back and it has been a great companion for watching chess when stuck in a meeting or in another place where its not practical to bring up a browser-based website.

Tournament Breakdown

  • March 29 – April 2: Rounds 1-5 (1300 CDT)
  • April 3: Rest Day
  • April 4 – April 9: Rounds 6-11 (1300 CDT)
  • April 10 – Playoff (if necessary) (1300 CDT)
  • April 10 – Closing Ceremony (1830 CDT)

Read more on the official website and follow all of the late breaking information on the US Chess Federation website.

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Waters Muddy as Kirsan Ilyumzhinov Resigns, but Didn’t…

It is hard to find supporters for FIDE‘s Dear Leader Kirsan Ilyumzhinov outside of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and those loyal to the oppressive regimes of Iran and Syria. Yet, the man manages to get re-elected to the post every cycle since 1995! Several attempts to oust him including a poorly run campaign by former World Champion Garry Kasparov have failed. 

The FIDE website and some chess news outlets reported yesterday that Kirsan had resigned as FIDE President following a special board meeting in Athens, Greece. Before cities around the world started the fireworks show, Kirsan himself released a statement via the Russian Chess Federation stating that he had not resigned from FIDE. Moreover, he claimed that the announcement was made because he is the victim of a plot by the United States to overthrow him. 

Kirsan’s dealings with dictators like Muammar Gaddafi (pictured above) has damaged chess’ international reputation and set back FIDE’s efforts to have chess recognized by the Olympic Committee. He was sanctioned by the U.S. Government in November 2015 for providing support to the Syrian government and stepped down temporarily until he could clear up the sanctions. However, he has remained a key figure in some of FIDE’s biggest events, which has led to some confusion in the professional chess community. 

Kirsan continues to assert that he has not resigned, but things seem to be more unclear now than ever before. According to the FIDE website through official statement, AGON (evil), and the professional chess community outside of the Russian Federation, Kirsan has been officially removed because he stated in the 26-Mar-2017 meeting that he had resigned.

Read comprehensive coverage:

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US Chess Championship Set for March 29

Grab your popcorn and laptops, campers, because the United States Chess Championship is set to begin in just over two weeks time! The tournament will be hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for the eighth year and it promises to be another exciting tournament for chess players and fans alike!

This year, newly nationalized American Champion Fabiano Caruana and America’s sweetheart Nazi Paikidze-Barnes will defend their titles against the top talents from US Chess. The prize fund this year is $194,000 with players arriving on March 27-28, Opening Ceremonies on March 28, and Round 1 beginning on March 28. As usual there are plenty of places to catch the action. Fans can view the matches live on ChessBomb, ChessBase, Chess24, and Chess.com.

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Campfire Chess is Social!

Contrary to what you might have heard about chess players, I am a (mostly) social guy! Campfire Chess is not my full time job, so everything I do here and on social media is a hobby (for now). But that does not mean that I half-ass my efforts with the site! There are social media pages for Campfire Chess on just about every relevant platform out there! Some of these pages contain exclusive updates and stories that are not found here on the main blog. If you are a social type, then check out Campfire Chess on its myriad of other broadcast mediums!

If the links above don’t work, try these:

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Singapore GM Shadow-Banned from Asian Zonals

I cannot lie and say that I was familiar with GM Zhang Zhong of Singapore and his wife, WIM Li Roufan, until the two of them became embroiled in a controversy with the Singapore Chess Federation. Apparently, both of them were excluded from playing in the Asian Zonals, which the Singapore Federation stated was due to the fact that they were simply not selected to play in the tournament. GM Zhang Zhong recently responded via ChessBase stating that Singapore’s actions amounted to a ban from the tournament and that the Federation itself was playing a semantics game.

This betrays from the start a willful ignorance of the meaning of the word “ban.” According to all standard dictionaries, the definition of the word “ban” is to “prohibit, especially by legal means”. The organisers of the Zonals Championship published an open invitation to all federations. It stated that all players were welcome to join. The only requirement was that the respective chess federations were responsible for registration. – GM Zhang Zhong (via ChessBase)

GM Zhang Zhong breaks down correspondence between himself and the Singapore Chess Federation in much the same way I would break it down. It is definitely worth the read if you get a chance to check it out. In essence, Singapore needed to register the two players for them to participate in the Asian Zonals, but did not. By refusing to register two of their best players, the Federation essentially banned them from playing in the tournament. 

GM Zhang Zhong and WIM Li Roufan (credit: Singapore Chess Federation)

The politics of chess are not much different from the everyday politics of government. There are shadowy agencies like Agon and FIDE that use incredible resources to undermine chess, and then there are amateuresque creeps like Singapore’s Chess Federation that prefer to put their personal agendas above the cause of furthering chess for its players and fans.

Read the full report: ChessBase News

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What is Your Favorite Piece?

Do you have a favorite chess piece? Are you partial to the Queen and her awesome power to be the decisive factor in a game? Or maybe you prefer the Knight and picture yourself as a warrior riding into battle as you move the pieces? I have been asked several times what my favorite piece is and it has certainly not changed since I started playing chess many years ago. Without a doubt, the pawn is my favorite piece, but this is not a post just to tell you that. Instead, I was intrigued by how a person’s favorite chess piece can significantly reflect nuances of their personality. This came about because I was recently asked about my favorite piece and the response from the questioner was that it did not surprise them. This was because the person recognized the importance of the pawn as a key to victory. 

An Overlooked Behemoth

In my opinion, the pawn is often an undervalued and critical part of any chess strategy. Even in pop culture references to chess, the idea of being a pawn often relegates a person to a mere participant without any significant positive contribution to the effort. Yet, a chess game is lost right out of the gate without a pawn protecting the King! When I look at the chess board, it is easy to see the elegance of the Knights, Bishops, Rooks, King and Queen. The pawn is often nondescript, but it is an overlooked and under appreciated behemoth (Battlefield 1 reference FTW). 

I think that there is no better representation of this importance than Ted Danson’s explanation of the pawn from the movie Knights of the South Bronx. In the film, his character is explaining to the kids about each piece and how valuable they are. In the YouTube clip below, the relevant part starts at 3:35.

Initially he downplays the importance of the pawn but reverses course when he recognizes that many of the underprivileged kids he is teaching relate more to the pawn than any other piece. They are quickly disillusioned by his explanation because it seems to reinforce the sense of hopelessness they feel in life. Yet, he changes directions and tells them of how important the piece is to the success of the game. The reversal is not a lie, but merely a different way of looking at the importance of the piece. Without the pawn, the King’s army is defenseless.

Echoes of Modern Leadership

The pawn relationship in chess is a perfect allegory for experiences in modern leadership. Chess mirrors life in countless ways, including the distinct roles that each person plays in the fulfillment of life’s greater purpose. Sure, most people want to be King or Queen, but those who wear badges of royalty or distinction cannot sustain themselves without the people who choose to be Bishops, Knights, Rooks, or pawns. It is this leadership reflection that makes the pawn my favorite piece. 

I have felt like an undervalued pawn by my work, my family, and my friends at many points throughout my life. I have even found myself in the midst of a pawn sacrifice from time to time, which led me to a strong personal conviction to ensure that when entrusted with the care of pawns that I would do my best to protect them and utilize them to the best of their ability. Furthermore, I pledged to myself that I would do my best to show them that they have intrinsic values that are far greater than the 1 point awarded on the board. 

This same person who asked about the pawns later presented me with a going away gift from a work center I recently departed. On the plaque I received was an engraved pawn along with a huge ceramic pawn to add to my collection! It was an incredibly touching gesture that reinforced my thoughts and feelings about the pawn and its importance as a chess piece and as an allegory of life.

What is your favorite chess piece and why? Share your story on our Facebook page or Twitter feed!

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