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Campfire Chess Posts

Approaching the 1300 Threshold

Chess improvement can be a slow and grinding process. It has been a rollercoaster-like ride full of ups and downs (mostly downs) over the last few years. I am excited to be approaching the 1300 rating threshold after several setbacks over the past few months. Some of the losses this year have been brutal and some of the wins have been incredible, but learning to live with win and losses is one of the biggest challenges when learning the game.

This is a game I played last night that placed me within 2 points of the 1300 threshold. I have been too busy today to put my mind to another game, so I figured I would annotate this game and show some of the things I continue to learn on the long to road to chess mastery.

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Cleaning Up My Soviet Travel Set

I love old Soviet chess sets and one of my personal favorites is a travel set I got from Etsy a few years ago, but it took quite a beating before I ever purchased it. So, I decided to take some time tonight to clean it up and try to restore as much of its original shine as I could. This is the same set I posted on Instagram earlier this week:

Time for some rest, relaxation, and study time! #CampfireLife

A post shared by Campfire Chess (@campfirechess) on

Here are some before and after images spliced together haphazardly using my iPad:

And here are some nice shots of the finished product:

Not too bad for about 20 minutes worth of work. In fact, it took longer to compile these photos into a blog post. ūüėĀ

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Soaking Up Some Much-Needed Sun

Blog posts here on Campfire Chess have been quite anemic the past few months due to some things in my personal life that have taken precedence over chess and blogging. I plan to write more about all of it in the future because I believe it will be beneficial to my readers as well as my family and friends. However, for now, I am on vacation with my family and have taken the opportunity to soak up as many rays as I possibly can given that much of my life is spent behind a computer terminal.

With that, I have grown a new addiction over the past few months that has taken up much of my time on this vacation: watching streams on Twitch. Whether its watching Mambo-B destroy the enemy with his skills on Battlefield 1 or Swag_Dracula hunting down campers as Jason Voorhees on Friday The 13th: The Video Game. Yet, these modern masterpieces hide another gem lurking on the Twitch platform: chess!

High definition professional photography of a hotel room TV running Chess.com on Twitch.TV. (Image Credit: Campfire Chess)

Although the amount of streamers on Twitch devoted to playing chess is relatively small, I have found that there are usually 1-2 people playing chess online and streaming the video on the network around 75% of the time. Here are some good streams that I have been watching regularly that you might enjoy:

  • Full Chess Directory on Twitch – Typing chess into the Twitch search box brings up all active broadcasts and accounts.

  • Chess.com – The web’s largest chess website streams all of its broadcast material through Twitch including some platform exclusive events.

  • Chess Brah – Very cool blitz games and some instructional content with GMs Eric Hansen, Robin van Kampen, and an eclectic mix of other chess personalities. The name comes from a more contemporary surfer-style way of saying bro…I think.

Campfire Chess has its own Twitch Channel, but it is empty at the moment. One day I hope to start a regular stream when my personal life has stopped fluctuating and returned to somewhat of a sense of normalcy. In the meantime, enjoy the streams above and maybe I will see you in the chatrooms! I am usually on as CampfireChessTV. See you there!

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Analyzing My First OTB Win

Longtime readers know that I have struggled to secure any hint of a victory when playing against players over-the-board (OTB). I have won (and lost) my share of online blitz and standard games on Chess.com and lichess, but capturing that first victory at a real tournament was elusive. This might not seem like much to a seasoned chess player, but not being able to obtain even a slight advantage in so many games was frustrating. See here, here, and here. However, that frustration came to a close recently with my first OTB victory!

Because it has been awhile since I posted anything of significant here on Campfire Chess, I thought it would be a good idea to share this game with my readers to help celebrate my victory. My opponent was very challenging, but errors were made that turned things in my favor.

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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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