Posted on March 27, 2018 by Wesley Surber.

US vs. Norway in Chess Championship!

GM Fabiano Caruana, who is currently ranked #3 in the world, won the 2018 Candidates Tournament in Berlin against GM Alexander Grischuk in the 14th round. Caruana held the lead for most of the tournament but found himself fighting back against victories by GMs Sergey Karjakin and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Fortunately, the young American held off and emerged victorious in the final round. Caruana will go on to face GM Magnus Carlsen in November in London for the World Chess Championship title.

2018 Candidates Tournament Games

For your reference, this is the first time that an American has played in the World Chess Championship since Bobby Fischer beat Petrosian in 1971.

Posted on March 16, 2018 by Wesley Surber.

Rising from the Ruins

I’m typically the kind of guy who likes to keep to himself. I prefer to lead a normal life and spend my day causing as little trouble for people as I possibly can. I started playing chess regularly in 2014 as a way to reign in a serious lack of focus that eventually turned into a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 2015. Chess is the thing that kept me grounded through serious turmoil.

As I wrote about in December I was faced with a significant illness that affected my ability to write here on Campfire Chess regularly. I took time off to work on some serious problems in my family situation. Unfortunately those problems were unresolvable and my wife left me in late January of this year.

To say that I was devastated would be an understatement. I was wholly traumatized by the loss of a person who I thought was my best friend and lifelong companion. I lost a home and what seemed like everything that was important to me. I put the website and all of its social media accounts up for sale for a short time before family and friends convinced me to do otherwise. There were many sleepless nights following that last blog entry of 2017 and there are some even today. Yet, I’m still here.

Today marks the first time since December 2017 that a new entry has been made on Campfire Chess and I’m here to tell you that the site will press on! I will continue to play, broadcast, study, and write about chess here on the blog in addition to the social media accounts and the Twitch channel.

The hurt is still very real and will most likely remain for years to come. However, getting back to things here will help me to get past this tragedy and move forward in a way that will ultimately help me and my two beautiful daughters.

Thank you to everyone who continues to support Campfire Chess by visiting the site and participating on the social media accounts. You are all my family and I love you dearly.

Posted on December 12, 2017 by Wesley Surber.

A Message from the Editor

Dear Campers,

I hesitated to write this because life situations can change so dramatically in such a short amount of time, but I feel that it is necessary before going into the holiday season. Campfire Chess started in 2014 as “Off My Chess” and was mainly a side-project to document my love of chess and efforts to get better.

Since its inception, Campfire Chess has published a quarterly magazine, game reviews, product reviews, original PGN content, and much more. There are hundreds of posts in the archives spanning the past few years and I was even blessed to stream games and commentary live on Twitch. Earlier this year, Campfire Chess also started its YouTube channel to produce and distribute original video content. Without a doubt, 2017 has been among the most challenging and rewarding times for the site. On average, CampfireChess.com sees as many visitors as a strip mall comic book store, which is fine with me!

Before you start to wonder if this is “goodbye”, I want to assure you that it is not. However, I have decided to take a hiatus from writing about chess to focus on some other things in my life that I consider more important. In the interest of transparency, I can say that my home life has suffered over the past few years due to a serious illness I have carried. One day I hope to write more about that illness and the struggles that come with it, but for now, rest assured that my days of playing chess are far from over. Chess was originally one of the ways for me to manage that illness, but things became so bad in 2017 that it might have caused more damage than it helped.

However, I plan to continue playing chess on lichess.org and other places. I might even stream or publish new video content, but I will not be updating CampfireChess.com until sometime next year. That way I can refocus some of my energy toward healing myself and working to improve the quality of my family life.

That being said, please let me say “Thank You” to the chess community for the unbelievable support I enjoy for Campfire Chess. Since its inception, this site enabled me to correspond with many of my chess idols including some of the world’s top players along with the most creative and beautiful minds in the game. Those relationships have enriched my life in ways I never imagined possible and I look forward to building more of them when my break is concluded.

To be fair to me and to my family, I will not be putting a timeline on my hiatus. However, I assure you that the Campfire Chess Facebook Page along with the Instagram Page will continue to be updated regularly. If you are on social media, please consider following those pages as they have morphed over time into the primary means of communication for the blog.

Thank you for the support these past three and a half years. I look forward to many years of enjoying the royal game and its wonderful community in the future.

Sincerely,

Wesley Surber

Editor, www.CampfireChess.com

Posted on November 6, 2017 by Wesley Surber.

Campfire Chess Marketplace Now Open

Do you have an old chess set, clock, book, or trinket lying around that you want to get rid of? Amazon and eBay offer great ways to buy and sell, but Facebook’s Marketplace has recently been offering ways for communities to be built around buying and selling goods. Personally, I have had much success with these groups trading old VHS tapes and memorabilia, so I am pleased to announce the opening of The Isolated Pawn: A Chess Marketplace by Campfire Chess!

Membership is open to anyone interested in buying, selling, or trading chess goods. Membership requires a review to prevent spam accounts from joining, but I promise to review and approve membership requests as soon as possible.

Posted on October 27, 2017 by Wesley Surber.

Anna Rudolf Publishes Her New Chess Course

Anna Rudolf, my longtime chess crush, announced today that her new chess course is available from iChess.net!

Known as The Anna Rudolf Method, this course challenges players to let go of old ways of thinking about chess improvement and look to five things that typically hold people back from advancing to 1600 ELO and beyond. Over 15 hours, Anna covers blunders, missed opportunities, missing the strongest plan, underestimating your opponent’s strategy, and fear/complacency.

Many chess fans will recognize the lovely Anna Rudolf as Miss Strategy on chess24, and she brings much of her talent for teaching others to this powerful new set. Yours truly just picked up a copy and will most likely provide a full review once I am well into it.

Purchase and download the new course here.

Posted on October 19, 2017 by Wesley Surber.

TCEC Season 10 Underway

The Top Chess Engine Championship (TCEC) Season 10 started on October 14 to determine which engine has the skill to claim bragging rights for being the best out there. According to Chessdom, Season 10’s participants are among the highest rated engines to ever participate in the event.

List of Participants

  • Andscacs
  • Arasan
  • Bobcat
  • Booot
  • Chiron
  • Fire
  • Fizbo
  • Fruit
  • Gaviota
  • Ginkgo
  • Gull
  • Hakkapeliitta
  • Hannibal
  • Houdini
  • Jonny
  • Komodo
  • Laser
  • Nemorino
  • Nirvana
  • Rybka
  • Stockfish
  • Texel
  • Vajolet2
  • Wasp

Click here for more information about the Season 10 Tournament.

Click here to view the TCEC live games interface with analysis.

Posted on October 16, 2017 by Wesley Surber.

Rest in Peace, GM (Father) William Lombardy

Grandmaster William “Bill” Lombardy passed away from an apparent heart attack on Friday at a friend’s home in California. He made waves in the professional chess world for his 11-0 ravaging of his opponents in the 1957 World Junior Championship, but he is best-known for being Bobby Fischer’s second during the 1972 match in Reykjavik against Boris Spassky. Prior to that match, Lombardy spent part of his career as a Catholic Priest. Eventually, he became disillusioned with the Catholic Church because of its views of celebacy and decided to leave the priesthood. He spent most of his life in New York City where he was evicted from his home and spent time in rehabilitation from an assault.

He was portrayed in the movie Pawn Sacrifice by Peter Sarsgaard. A thorough reflection on his life and achievements is available on ChessBase. Some of his tournament games are also available on ChessBase or ChessGames.com.

 

Posted on by Wesley Surber.

The Curious Case of Claude Bloodgood

Greetings, Campers!

Halloween is right around the corner so I thought it would be a good time to dig into some of the darker and more mysterious mythology that haunts our game. Perhaps no other story has confused or amused chess players and fans more than the story of the notorious Claude Bloodgood.

Robbery, Murder, and Life Behind Bars

claudebloodgoodClaude Frizzel Bloodgood, whose name alone conjures images of the great villains from classic horror films, was convicted of burglary in the 1960s and served his prison time in Delaware. Shortly after being released, he murdered his mother, Margaret Bloodgood, in 1969 and was subsequently sentenced to death in 1970.

Not content to sit behind bars and wait on his execution, Claude stayed active playing chess and appealing his sentence along with several attempts to get released from custody altogether.

  • Unsuccessfully filed two petitions for habeas corpus alleging that his death sentence was prejudiced by the fact that he was a repeat offender.
  • Unsuccessfully argued that he was not provided a defense attorney during his trial as required by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright.
  • Unsuccessfully argued to state and prison officials that he had been born in 1924 in an apparent attempt to be released due to his age.

As if things were not strange enough, Claude also claimed to have been a Nazi spy. Curious since he would have been around the age of 10 years old at the time of World War II if his claims of being born in 1924 were true (they were not).

Prison Chess and Ratings Manipulation

I think that few people would argue against the idea that Claude was a good chess player, but his claimed rating and the mythology surrounding his chess career are remain a topic of considerable debate and scorn. He organized countless prison tournaments during his life, most of which were filled with new US Chess Federation members that were dominated by the seasoned Bloodgood.

This has led to accusations of ratings manipulation due to Bloodgood’s control and influence over the closed group of participants in his prison tournaments. In a sense, it is the same as walking down the street and getting every person I met to sign up for a US Chess membership just so I could beat the ones with little to no chess knowledge. Although they would have no rating or a low provisional rating, I would still see an increase in my own rating. Curiously, fragments of his games are scattered across the web with Chessgames.com offering the only collection that appears to have some coherence to it.

In addition to spending much of his jail time reading about and playing chess, Bloodgood also took the time to write chess books and work on his own opening, most notably his book on The Tactical GrobMore of a curiosity than a solid opening, The Grob has been the subject of much debate throughout the years and is available in several formats including free downloads across the internet (including Campfire Chess) and a print version available on Amazon.com.

Claude Bloodgood is one of those characters that adds to the colorful mythology that often surrounds chess and its players. Eccentricity has been a hallmark of chess personalities for centuries from enigmatic kings playing chess during the destruction of their fortresses to Paul Morphy’s final days and descent into madness and on to the famous disappearance and return of Bobby Fischer following his famous 1972 match. Claude Bloodgood might be one of the biggest con artists in chess history after Wolfgang von Kempelen and his famous Turk chess automaton. Or, it might be that he really was a good chess player and not as much of a con artist as many believe he was. We may never know.

Posted on October 14, 2017 by Wesley Surber.

Today is National Chess Day!

Good morning, Campers! Today is National Chess Day in the United States! Established in 1976, the holiday recognizes the benefits of chess to mental and social development as well as it’s links to improved quality of life. Clubs and individuals across the country will be setting up their boards to play the royal game in celebration of its national recognition.

 

Here are just a few things you can do today to participate:

  • US Chess Events: A comprehensive list of all US Chess sponsored events throughout the nation.
  • In Dallas, the Dallas Chess Club is hosting its 2017 National Chess Day FIDE Weekend Open Tournament.
  • In Dayton, Ohio (my hometown), the Dayton Chess Club is hosting the 5th Annual Wright Brothers Open.

In addition to these events and the myriad of chess activities available on lichess.org, Chess.com and others, I have curated a small playlist of chess videos for you to enjoy on YouTube. Check out the Campfire Chess YouTube Channel for more information.