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Campfire Chess Posts

Daylight Gameplay and Suffering

I played the game above on lichess late last night. The site itself is quickly becoming my go-to place for online chess for many reasons I will cover in a separate post. What surprises me the most is that this was the second game in a row where I had a excellent tactic that brought a win. In this case, my 29…Qc1+ brutalized my opponent and snatched his Queen after the forced King move. Then, it was followed by this little gem earlier today…

I had an unbelievably easy winning position that I was unable to convert in two rapid games today that made my games from last night seem like complete enigmas. In fact, I was hard pressed to imagine myself actually playing those games from last night, but I did…which makes me wonder why there is such a dichotomy in the quality of my games played later at night versus those I play during the daytime.

This is the other game played at night and although there are some mistakes, the number of serious blunders are greatly reduced compared to the ones I played earlier in the day… Not sure where I’m going with this, but have to wonder if there is something that happens throughout the day where my concentration is off-centered and has to find balance. Too bad it tends to happen around 2200-2300 at night…

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Magnus Carlsen Retains World Chess Title

Magnus Carlsen put the final nail in the coffin for the 2016 World Chess Championship with a spectacular finish in the 25 | 10 rapid tiebreaker. Carlsen had been frustrated throughout the event and fell behind before managing to equalize the standings in Game 10. He went on to win the last two games of the rapid event, which finally put an end to his challengers efforts and solidified his place as World Chess Champion for the next two years. As the main portion of the event drew to its conclusion, many in the chess world began taking note of the precarious position Sergey Karjakin could find himself in against one of the strongest rapid and blitz players in the world.

The first two tiebreaker games were drawn with Karjakin narrowly escaping a loss in the second game but unable to stop the onslaught that ultimately allowed Carlsen to retain his title.

Carlsen’s incredible finish to the rapid tiebreaker event.

The position above is stunning and reaffirms why Magnus Carlsen is the best chess player in the world. With Qh6+, Magnus brought his opponent’s bid to become the next world champion to his stunning halt. There were moments throughout the event where it seemed that Sergey Karjakin was poised to overtake Carlsen, but never found a way to convert his opportunities into solid wins. Of course, there were moments throughout the event were Magnus seemed to struggle both with his chess abilities and his ability to keep his emotions in check (no pun intended). Magnus took a little bit of criticism on social media for his outburst following his loss in the classical round, but I have to say that him storming out of the press conference is the kind of stuff that chess needs if it wants to become a popular, respectable, and marketable activity in the United States.

Viewership Review

Agon, which has become a four letter word In the chess community has refused to release (at least for now) the exact number of people who purchased their premium package for viewing the event, but initial estimates project that less than 10,000 people paid for the premium streaming and commentary package. Personally, I was pleased to be able to follow the games as a premium member of Chessbase, on ChessBomb, and to watch the exceptional commentary and analysis from some of my favorite people over on chess24.com. Still, just a long way to go if it wants to build an American audience to the point where corporations like Pepsi, Red Bull, or other major corporations are willing to sponsor the events. As mentioned in an excellent news article published shortly after Carlsen’s victory, chess needs a series of dramatic stories in order to sell itself to the American people. Bobby Fischer made history as the lone genius who challenged the world’s greatest chess power, the Soviet Union, during the Cold War which allowed the American people to relate what was happening on the board to what was happening every day in their news. When professional chess can find a way to bring the drama and excitement of playing the game to people in a way that relates to their everyday struggles and experiences, then it will find itself at a buffet of sponsors and fans. Compelling drama and personal connection sells products, not frivolous litigation.

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WCC2016 Tie Breaker on Wednesday

The World Chess Championship ended its standard round series yesterday with a whimper as Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin drew the final game after a mere 30 moves.

So, what happens now? As Magnus celebrates his birthday on Wednesday, he will face Karjakin in a series of rapid and blitz games to determine who will be the overall champion. For those games, the will be four rapid games at 25 | 10 with blitz games scheduled if the rapid games end in a tie. In the unlikely event that all of those games are tied then there will be a 5 minute for white, 4 minute for black game where the winner will take all.

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WCC2016 Tied Entering Final Round

The 2016 World Chess Championship in New York City has been nothing short of a nail biter and will at least come down to determination in the final round scheduled to be played Monday at 1400 EST. Games 7 and 8 offered some tense moments in which Magnus missed opportunities to turn the tide of the tournament against his opponent. However, his over aggressiveness prevented him from capitalizing on these positions as he would normally be able to.

But everything changed in Game 8 when that over aggressiveness finally backfired and awarded a powerful win to challenger Sergey Karjakin.

Some believed that Magnus would be unable to recover from the loss but managed to pull out a win shortly thereafter in Game 10 to even things up.

The tournament remains tied and goes into Monday’s final round with the very real possibility of a rapid or blitz playoff being needed to decide the overall winner.

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WCC2016: Too Early to Draw Any Conclusions

All eyes are on New York City as Magnus Carlsen defends his World Chess Champion title against Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin. Carlsen is the heavy favorite to win the tournament but if the first few games are any indication of what to expect from the whole tournament, we might be in for a long ride. As the name of the post suggests, its too early to draw any conclusions from these games, but there are many conclusions in these games that end in draws

Game 3: Bending Space and Time

Hopes were high after the first two games that there would be some dramatics appearing in the third game and they came…in a sense. Reminding players, commentators, and fans alike that chess requires mental and physical resilience, the players battled it out in a 7-hour, 78-move nightmare that ended…you guessed it..in a draw.

Game 4: Drawing Up A New Strategy?

After the marathon of Game 3, I was very impressed that the players were able to squeeze out the next game, which went 94 moves before ending in another draw. It was apparent in this game, however, that Magnus was becoming frustrated with Karjakin and that a draw was certainly not on his list of game ideas for the day.

Game 5: Drawn of the Dead

Game 5 was played earlier today and felt like a blitz game at times. The moves were fast in some areas deep into the position with Magnus finding himself in trouble against his challenger for the first time in the match. There were certain moments in the game when Karjakin had clear advantage on the board, but Magnus was able to bring these situations back into balance and force a draw on move 51.

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America Shows Agon How an Open Market Works

Just prior to the start of the 2016 World Chess Championship (WCC) in New York City, Agon Limited filed suit in United States Federal Court against Chess24, Chessbomb, and ChessGames.com to prevent them from broadcasting the moves just as they did (and lost) in Moscow earlier this year.

“These entities expend no time, effort, or money of their own in organizing, producing, or hosting the chess events for the World Championship and instead reap economic benefit from free-riding on the work and effort of World Chess.” – Reuters

However, just as with their loss in Moscow, New York District Judge Victor Marrero ruled in favor of the defendants for most of the reasons that have been covered on this blog and in countless others in the chess community already. The most important of those? CHESS IS FOR THE MASSES!


Chess is a game that transcends all boundaries. (Credit: WikiMedia)

RIAA of the Chess World

Although they were readily handed defeat in two countries, Agon promises to continue pursuit of its business model despite widespread business and consumer disapproval. Despite obvious attempts to assist the company with its model, Agon refuses to acknowledge that its attempts to restrict access to tournament moves is misguided. As a direct result, it seeks to force consumers to engage its unreliable and third-rate content delivery system instead of offering a compelling service for fans of the game to watch and enjoy.

Agon has quickly turned itself from an obscure entity into the modern chess equivalent of the Recording Industry Association of America which successfully sued a multitude of families in the early 2000s for downloading mp3 files from Napster and other file-sharing services. By suing grandmothers and teenagers for untold millions of dollars, the RIAA quickly became synonymous with corporate greed, censorship, and created a gap between recording artists and their fans from which some artists never recovered.

Hope for an Agon awakening remains dim, but I am pleased to see that both the United States and Russia dealt a blow for freedom to its blatant attempts to monopolize public domain information.

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Carlsen-Karjakin Tied After Second Round

The showdown for the title of World Chess Champion between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin is tied at 1 point each after rounds one and two ended in a draw. Carlsen drew white for Game One and opened with a homage to recently elected President of the United States Donald Trump with a combination called the Trompowsky Attack, which some have re-branded as the Trumpowsky Attack (1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5). An unusual opening at this level of play, the response from Karjakin neutralized the attack and led to a draw between the two.

Game One also had its share of American celebrities on hand as Actor Woody Harrelson made the ceremonial first move to begin the match.


Woody Harrelson makes the first move in Game One! (Credit: FIDE)

Game Two had some interesting twists and turns throughout, with Chess24 demonstrating throughout why it is a revolutionary medium for watching high-level games. Guest commentary by various Grandmasters and assertions that Game Two was boring led to some interesting and entertaining social media exchanges.

Game Three will be held at 1400 EST on Monday.

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Recovering from the World Series

Obviously, this post is not about chess and it is much more heartfelt than a typical Campfire Chess post. Before chess was such an important part of my life, there was the Cleveland Indians and Major League Baseball, yes…in that order. As a longtime fan of the Tribe, I have lived on the razor’s edge with countless other fans watching a team move to the brink of victory only to watch that achievement slip away in the final moments. It happened in the 1997 World Series when the Indians lost to the Florida Marlins in an 11 inning Game 7, much like what happened last week in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs. Suffice to say that when the final out was recorded at Progressive Field on November 2nd, yours truly immediately switched off the television and sunk into a deep depression. Really? you might ask? Yes, my answer is yes…a depression.

A Deep Passion, a Passionate Love

Sports fans are generally maligned by much of society because sports are often seen as a waste of time, but there is much to be gained from cheering for a team or a sport that speaks to the essence of your being. Baseball has always spoken to me because there is a beautiful perfection in its obsession with numbers, stats, measurements, and finesse. What might seem slow and boring to some people is very powerful for me and for the many fans of the game I have met throughout the years. Just as it is with chess, it is the elegance and intricacies of the game that open up the true beauty and meaning for those of us who have committed our hearts to it. I committed my heart to the scruffy Tribe in their home on Lake Eerie many years ago and have endured countless heartbreaks, but nothing has come close to what I experienced on that November 2nd night when the Chicago Cubs celebrated their first World Series victory in 108 years on the grass at our home, Progressive Field.


Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians (Credit: MLB.com)

Anyone who has experienced a relationship loss or gone through hard times with a loved one knows that people react differently to these kinds of situations. Some people are able to cope with them much more effectively than others. Some shut down, and others never fully recover. For me, losing Game 7 was like having a close lover break some of the worst news imaginable to me, which caused me to shut down. I removed many of the baseball feeds from my Twitter and Facebook accounts while also limiting the news I read related to baseball in general. I was not angry with the Tribe, just incredibly disappointed. Yet, that feeling of disappointment was only part of the more complex picture. What did the Indians have to be ashamed of in this World Series? Absolutely nothing! Game 7 was one of the most incredible baseball games I have ever witnessed and it seems that both Indians and Cubs fans agree. After a day or so I realized that what I was dealing with is much like what happens when someone close to us hurts us and we are unsure of how to deal with it. I realized that my love for the Indians was as strong as ever, but they had hurt me and it would take time to recover, but I would recover. Both of us would recover.

Little Kisses from God

My wife taught me a phrase a few years ago: little kisses from God. It’s when things are going badly, but God puts people or situations into our lives that help to reinvigorate us or to remind us that he is still there. A day after the World Series ended, I received my Indians 2016 American League Championship t-shirt in the mail; that felt like a punch in the gut. Yet, a few days later I started receiving other memorabilia I ordered from the MLB Shop including a mixture of items with the World Series and American League Championship emblems on them. None of these spoke to me as much as my limited edition ALCS Championship photograph with a piece of a ball used in Game 1 at Progressive Field. I realized when that photo arrived that God was using these things to show me that there is much good in what happened despite the hurt.

“Losing can be tough, but if I told you on February 12, 2016 that we would be playing Game 7 of the World Series at Progressive Field here in Cleveland, you would not have believed me.” – Tom Hamilton (Indians radio announcer)

The recovery process is ongoing and this entry is a big part of that recovery process. But, Spring Training is right around the corner and a rested Indians team will arrive ready to try again. The triumphs, pain, and sorrows of 2016 will be replaced with the blank scorecards of 2017 as all 30 MLB teams begin the quest to fulfill their dreams of being on the world’s biggest stage. I congratulate the Chicago Cubs, who had a lifelong devoted fan in my wife’s grandmother. Both teams fought incredibly hard and no loss or victory was unearned. There will be complete healing eventually, but this is the kind of heartbreak that leaves a scar. I only pray that it is a scar that allows me to cultivate gratitude for the good things that have happened and will happen in the future.

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How to Watch the World Championship

Updated November 09, 2016: Added additional viewing details and options. Campfire Chess will offer periodic reflection and post-game analysis throughout the event.

Few chess fans will be as lucky as those living in New York City when the World Chess Championship kicks off later this week, but that doesn’t mean we are entirely removed from following the match and taking in some expert commentary from Grandmasters and fans around the world. The recent victory in Russia over Agon has probably lessened some of the push for more subversive broadcasts and the web will be teeming with opportunities for chess players and fans to follow and comment on the event.

So, how can you view the match?

  • Chess.com will be hosting the official Agon widget on its site with access to chat functions with full video breakdowns scheduled after each round.
  • Chess24.com continues to establish itself as a bold new powerhouse in chess broadcasting and will cover the event with several big name commentators.
  • Playchess is the online chess play and broadcast service of Chessbase.
  • Agon/FIDE, who is currently like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in terms of its behavior against modern chess, also has an official website where users can view the moves for free, but pay a premium fee for additional analysis and special commentary.

The live match itself will happen in the historic Seaport District with tickets available via Ticketfly.

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Agon Loses in Moscow Court

As the world prepares for the coming showdown between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin in New York City, a Moscow court dealt a serious blow to Agon/FIDE’s attempts to limit the broadcast of moves from the event. The court ruled that Agon’s claim to the moves as trade secrets was not accurate and even ruled that its claims against Chess24 were invalid because Chess24 is outside of Agon’s legal jurisdiction.

English translation of the ruling. (Credit: Chess24.com)

The ruling is re-printed in English above from Chess24’s article with a full explanation of the ruling and its implications for Agon’s ongoing war against chess freedom located on the same page.

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