Month: May 2015

Fabiano Caruana Wins the FIDE Grand Prix

Getting to participate in the World Chess Championship is no small achievement. Each player competes in a series of smaller tournaments in a variety of international settings that are sanctioned by FIDE. Each of these tournaments has an individual winner, but the points also go into a larger crosstable pool where an overall Grand Prix champion is selected. In the 2012-2013 Grand Prix series, GM Veselin Topalov from Bulgaria and GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan finished first and thus were qualified to participate in the 2014 Candidates Tournament, which is a grand stage of competition on the way to the World Chess Championship. In the end, it was Viswanathan Anand who edged out Sergey Karjakin by 1 point to earn the bid to return to the table and challenge Magnus Carlsen for the championship title. The final crosstable from the 2014 Candidates Tournament looked like this:

Rank Player Rtg
March 2014
Pts TB’s
H2H Wins SB
1 Viswanathan Anand 2770 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ 1 ½ 3 57.25
2 Sergey Karjakin 2766 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 1 ½ ½ 3 51.75
3 Vladimir Kramnik 2787 ½ ½ 1 0 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 0 7 3 49.25
4 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2757 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 1 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 7 2 3 48.00
5 Dmitry Andreikin 2709 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 0 1 ½ 7 2 48.50
6 Levon Aronian 2830 ½ 0 0 1 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ ½ 3 45.00
7 Peter Svidler 2758 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 0 1 ½ ½ 0 1 0 ½ 3 46.00
8 Veselin Topalov 2785 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 0 6 2 42.25

This year, in the final round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Khanty-Mansiysk, American GMs Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura emerged victorious and now share the title of co-champions of the 2014-2015 FIDE Grand Prix. What is most interesting about this win is the fact that the United States went from having no representatives in the top 5 of the previous Grand Prix to having two of the strongest players in the world win the tournament and increase the possibility of a return of the FIDE World Championship and the return of the title to the United States in 2016 with Caruana and Nakamura both representing the stars and stripes.

In the final round of the Grand Prix, Nakamura drew his game against GM Dmitry Jakovenko after approximately three hours into the round. The game was annotated by Peter Doggers on

In similar fashion, Caruana drew his game shortly thereafter against Anish Giri, also from

At this point, the United States has gone from having no representatives in the top 5 players of the last Grand Prix to having two that have claimed the top tournament spots. Caruana and Nakamuar will now go on to compete the FIDE Candidates Tournament to see who will challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship. It will be interesting to see how that plays out and hopefully one of them can take the top spot and bring a renewed sense of youth and energy to the world’s most elite chess competition.

One Year Around the Campfire!

Exactly one year ago today I sat down at my computer to write about my passion for chess and how I wanted to focus more of my time on learning about the game and improving my skills. I had just closed my old astronomy blog and was looking for something to fill the time void, but I was not interested in creating something as time consuming and emotionally demanding as it was. When I started writing the first entry for Off My Chess, I wanted the blog to be as personal as possible. I wanted it to be about me, my thoughts, and my struggles as I sought to improve my chess performance. I soon realized that writing like that was much more challenging than I had anticipated. Chess is such a transcendental activity that it is practically impossible to write about it from a purely personal perspective because while it can be played alone, it takes on its sense of wonder when played against another person.

Since that day, the site changed its location from a subdomain to owning its own domain name and eventually changing names altogether to Campfire Chess to reflect my broader focus on chess as a game, an education tool, and an activity for bridging the gap between the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the haves and the have nots. I am extremely proud of what Campfire Chess has accomplished in the last year with the regular publishing of Campfire Chess Magazine, the 2014 Yearbook, and a multitude of free downloads including exclusive wallpaper, game collections, and ebooks. Chess has come a long way from being the game of nerds to receiving serious international news coverage and propelling some of its players into some lucrative endorsement campaigns.

Perhaps most exciting thing for Campfire Chess was that 2014 turned out to be one of the most interesting years in recent chess history. Fabiano Caruana’s historic streak at the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis and the devastating defeat of Garry Kasparov in the FIDE Presidential Election are just a taste of the off-the-board soap opera that played out among the international chess elite. All of this happened in the midst of Campfire Chess picking up its main office and moving from the cold winters of Dayton, Ohio to the sweltering summers of San Antonio, Texas. Because I still suffer from somewhat of a chess identity crisis, I continue to maintain memberships in the Ohio Chess Association and the Texas Chess Association, although I will forever remain an Ohio Buckeye and a rabid Cleveland Indiansfan. As a way of celebrating the blog’s one-year milestone event, I would like to present two Top Ten lists. The first is a list of the Top Ten chess events that have occurred from May 2014 to May 2015. The second list is features and posts that were made on Campfire Chess between May 2014 and May 2015.

Top Ten Chess Events

  • Wesley So changes from Phillipines to the US Chess Federation
    • Philippine Grandmaster Wesley So of Judit Polgar’s chess team at Webster University announced that he was changing his federation to the United States Chess Federation. So was convinced that there were greater chances for him to exploit his playing abilities in the United States than anywhere else.
  • Shamkir Chess 2014 – The Gashimov Memorial
    • The Shamkir Chess tournament was held in memory of Grandmaster Vugar Gashimov from Azerbaijani who died of epilepsy in January 2014. It was announced by the Azerbaijani Chess Federation that the tournament would become an annual event and has attracted the top chess talent from around the world in its first two year. World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen won the inaugural event.
  • Fabiano Caruana’s incredible run at the Sinquefield Cup
    • Italian-American Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana stunned players and fans alike by winning seven games in a row. His nearly flawless run dealt Magnus Carlsen his second tournament loss in a row and evoked memories of Bobby Fischer’s epic 20-game winning streak.
  • China wins the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø
    • There was some complaining about the bathrooms and some other drama on the floors of the Chess Olympia in Tromsø, but China ultimately beat the favored Russian team to claim their first Olympic Chess Gold Medal in history! Shockingly, the festive spirit of the 2014 Olympiad was marred by the unfortunate death of CM Kurt Meier while he was playing on board two for the Seychelles.
  • Wesley So wins Millionaire Chess Open, then drops out of school
    • When Wesley So switched to the US Chess Federation, fans around the world (including myself) were ecstatic. He event went on to win GM Maurice Ashley’s inaugural Millionaire Chess Open in Las Vegas. However, immediately after winning $100K from that tournament, Wesley ditched his team at Webster University and left school altogether.
  • Garry Kasparov destroyed in FIDE Presidential Election
    • What can you do when even extraterrestrials do not want you to be the president of the World Chess Federation? Garry Kasparov learned the hard way when he was destroyed in a landslide victory by Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in his bid for re-election as the FIDE president.
  • After 26 years, Judit Polgar is dethroned by Hou Yifan as World’s #1 Female chess player.
    • Judit Polgar spent 26 years in the #1 spot for female chess players in the world. A product of the Polgar Experiment, Judit and her career has been great for the advancement of women in chess around the world. She famously refused to play in women’s tournaments and preferred to challenge the best male players she could find. In March of 2015, Chinese GM Hou Yifan became the #1 female player in the world, ending Judit’s 26-year reign.
  • Magnus Carlsen retains his title as World Champion in Sochi, Russia
    • Playing from a bunker somewhere deep in Russia, Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen reunited at the FIDE World Championship table to battle it out once again. Unfortunately, Anand was no match for the young Carlsen and despite a critical blunder by both players in the same game, Magnus Carlsen won and the tournament itself was snooze worthy.
  • Magnus Carlsen wins TaTa Steel Chess
    • Perhaps he was drained from the pressures of the World Chess Championship or maybe he is just becoming bored by beating the world’s best players. Whatever was going on at this time, Magnus Carlsen entered into the TaTa Steel Chess Tournament playing very poorly, but managed to stage a dramatic comeback and won the tournament.
  • Hikaru Nakamura wins the US Chess Championship; Wesley So forfeited against GM Varuzhan Akobian for writing on his scoresheet.
    • The Wesley So(ap) Opera continues as the favorite son to win the US Chess Championship forfeited a game against GM Akobian because he was taking notes on his scoresheet before making moves. After a warning, Chief Arbiter Tony Rich ended the game when So continued to take notes. Ultimately, it was blitz expert Hikaru Nakamura who dethroned GM Gata Kamsky and claimed his rightful place as the US Chess Champion.

Top Ten Campfire Chess Events

  • Quarterly/Campfire Chess Magazine
    • Campfire Chess Magazine began as Quarterly and is published four times a year in PDF format.
  • The 2014 Yearbook
    • The Yearbook is a collection of the best articles and game commentary from the blog over the previous year. It is published annually in PDF and PGN formats.
  • The Downloads Collection
    • The Downloads Collection is a growing collection of exclusive wallpaper, ebooks, and game collections. You will not find anything like it anywhere else.
  • The Sinquefield Cup Commemorative Board
    • Shortly after the Sinquefield Cup, I managed to secure a tournament chess board signed by all players in the tournament including Fabiano Caruana and Magnus Carlsen. The board now hangs in the Campfire Chess office in a custom frame.
  • Dealing with Loss
    • One step forward is always preceded by two steps back. I had entered a very difficult losing streak and decided it was time to share some of the strategies I was employing to deal with the emotional effects.
  • The Perfect Chess Notation Tool
    • Finding an inexpensive and reliable electronic notation tool is hard. I like the idea of Monroi’s personal chess manager, but it is too bulky and way too expensive for what it does. The PlyCounter chess notation tool is the perfect chess notation tool for the USCF member looking for a digital record of their games.
  • Chess Chronicles of the Strange and Unusual
    • What do a radio DJ, a famous military general, and an occultist have in common? Chess.
  • My beautiful African Padauk Chess Set
    • Every chess player has the set that they stare at online…just dreaming of the day when they can click the order button. This is a review of my favorite chess set, which comes from The Chess Store and is made of solid ebony and African padauk wood.
  • Moving to San Antonio, Texas!
    • I resisted this move with almost every fiber of my being, but it turned out to be one of the best things to ever happen to my family. Additionally, it opened up a whole new world of chess for me. After packing up and moving from Dayton, Ohio, Campfire Chess opened its new main office in San Antonio, Texas.
  • An Exceptional Win!
    • Sometimes a win comes out of nowhere and it just has to be shared! Although I have had better performances since this post, it remains one of my favorite wins.

As I said before, I am very pleased with Campfire Chess and the direction it has taken over the last year. Chess is very important in my life and I am excited about the prospects of continuing to play the game and to write about tournaments and game analysis. Yet, the main purpose of this blog has not changed. For the foreseeable future, Campfire Chess will continue to be purely an extension of chess as a hobby. In my experience, it is important to maintain a healthy balance between work and play. So, when the play becomes work, it has to end. Campfire Chess is immensely fun and I cannot wait to see what the rest of 2015 has in store for me, the site, and its devoted audience.

Want more Campfire Chess? Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

2015 Texas State and Amateur Championship Underway

Yesterday was the first day of the 70th Annual Texas State and Amateur Championship chess tournament at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport Marriott South in Fort Worth, Texas. The event itself is a 7-Round Swiss with both Champion Sections (G/90 with 30 second increments) and an Amateur Sections (G/90 with 30 second increments). The tournament runs from May 22 to May 25 and is the official State Championship Event for Texas! The Amateur Section is open to players U2000 ELO or unrated, while the Championship Section is open to players over 2000 ELO or with a rating higher than the 2014 Amateur Champion, IM Darwin Yang (2570 ELO).

The Playing Venue (from WCM Claudia Munõz)

The schedule of events for the 2015 Texas Championship should make for quite a fun-filled Memorial Day weekend for those looking to get out and see some fantastic Texas-style chess playing. Among the players is the always inspiring and social-media savvy WCM Claudia Munõz, who is reporting on her official website regularly from the tournament. The schedule for the three and four day events is below. Note that both schedules converge today, Saturday the 23rd:

Schedule of Events

  • May 22 @ 1945 CST: Round 1 (4-Day Event)
  • May 23 @ 1000 CST: Round 1 (3-Day Event)
  • May 23 @ 1430 CST: Round 2
  • May 23 @ 2000 CST: Round 3
  • May 24 @ 1100 CST: Round 4
  • May 24 @ 1715 CST: Round 5
  • May 25 @ 0900 CST: Round 6
  • May 25 @ 1445 CST: Round 7

Human-Sized chess board at The University of Texas – Dallas

Texas has a strong reputation for being the land of beer, BBQ, and cowboys. Yet, amongst those things (which are all real things…even the cowboys), Texas has an incredibly vibrant chess life. The Dallas Chess Club is one of the US Chess Federation‘s Gold-Member clubs. San Antonio, my current city, is home to its own flourishing chess club and it seems like I find chess players almost everywhere I go. The US Chess Federation’s governing body for chess in Texas is the Texas Chess Association, which publishes the Texas Knights Chess Magazine and does an incredible job of promoting chess across the state.

Good luck to all of this year’s State Championship participants and the families that have traveled from all-across the lone-star state to support them!

The Decline Continues…

I am excited that Campfire Chess will be celebrating its one-year anniversary in less than a week, but that does nothing to stem the tides of my late fortunes on the chessboard. Put aside the fact that despite the prevalence of chess news and information that has been published in the last few months, I have not been regularly available to consistently post updates and game annotations. In the midst of all of this, my already abysmal blitz ELO on has taken an enormous pounding this last few weeks: dropping from 920 to 750 in just a few days. My mind has been so distracted with other things that even those 722 and 800 ELO players seem to be an immense challenge lately. For example, this horrifying gem:

Basic principles, which I have studied and digested for so long, continue to elude me. At this point, I have resigned myself to having a mere slump and have re-engaged in meaningful study of grandmaster games and I have started reading Artur Yusupov’s incredible Boost Your Chess, vol 2., which was originally written for his personal chess students. The scene has been difficult for me for some time, so the struggle is nothing new. The lack of advancement, however, is… That is why I hope that over the next few weeks that I am able to conquer this slump and find my way back into some moderate chess success, resume writing regularly, and finally make my way downtown to the San Antonio Chess Club. For a nice laugh to end the night, here is another atrocity from my growing collection:

Fabiano Caruana Joins the USCF!

The chess world has been whispering about it for some time and John Stewart predicted it: the United States Chess Federation (USCF) is scooping up some of the best international chess talent out there. The dual Italian-American citizen Fabiano Caruana, who famously went on a 7-game winning streak in the 2014 Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis, has officially started the application process to change from the Italian Chess Federation to the UCSF! From the United States Chess Federation’s official press release:

SAINT LOUIS (May 12, 2015)The United States Chess Federation (USCF) today announced that Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana has initiated the application process to change chess federations, which, when approved, will allow him to play for the United States. Fabiano, who has dual citizenship in the United States and Italy, has been playing for the Italian Chess Federation for a number of years.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be representing the United States again and working with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Id like to thank everybody who has made this possible, and I look forward to this exciting new partnership,” said Fabiano Caruana.”In addition, I want to take this opportunity to express my appreciation and gratitude for the support given to me over the past ten years by the Italian Chess Federation. I wish them all the best for the future.”

When complete, this change will unite Fabiano Caruana, who is ranked third in the world, with Hikaru Nakamura, the world’s fourth ranked player and Wesley So who is ninth, under the United States flag.

“The addition of Fabiano Caruana to the United States’ roster is historic. For the first time in history the United States will have three of the top ten players in world ” said Jean Hoffman, Executive Director of the USCF, “Over the past several years, we have made tremendous strides to increase the awareness of, and appreciation for, the great game of chess in the United States. The return of Fabiano to the USCF is another large step toward achieving our goals.”

Caruana hopes to compete in his first tournament as a United States player on the second leg of the Grand Chess Tour at the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis, Missouri. The Grand Chess Tour is a circuit of international events for the world’s best players. The 2015 Tour was created in partnership between the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (Sinquefield Cup), Tower AS (Norway Chess 2015) and Chess Promotions, Ltd. (London Chess Classic).

Personally, I am very excited about this move! US Chess has suffered in the doldrums for decades and young players like Fabiano have the ability to inspire a new generation to sit down at the board. It will be interesting to see the reaction from the Italian Chess Federation and others since Fabiano has represented Italy for such a long time. ChessBase makes note that given the setup with Fabiano now under the stars and stripes, a USA Olympic Chess Team would consist of:

Name Rating World Rank World Rank
Fabiano Caruana 2803 3 22
Hikaru Nakamura 2799 4 27
Wesley So 2778 9 21
Ray Robson 2674 64 20
Gata Kamsky 2673 65 40

As much as I like Gata Kamsky and his style of play, I was happy to see Hikaru pull off the win this year in Saint Louis and I think that by having Fabiano on the circuit in the United States will add some additional prestige to the event. Welcome home, Fabiano, let’s get to work!

Coping with the Downfall

It has been awhile since I posted anything here, but do not fear because I have not abandoned the site. In between work and school, I have done what I can to remain active on although I have struggled recently with a terrible losing streak. For example, this collection of games cost me almost 100 ELO points in Live Chess and some of the games really speak to the devastation that constant stress can cause on a player’s game, even though that stress and distraction does not seem to be at the forefront of the mind.

In the world of professional chess, the US World Championship is over, the Shamkir Chess 2015 tournament is over, but not a single article covering them has appeared here on Campfire Chess. That will change shortly since the site will be celebrating its 1-year anniversary this month. I also have a new downloads section in the works and the Spring-Summer issue of Campfire Chess Magazine is due out in June. There is a lot of great chess coverage and analysis on the way! Just waiting for the right moment to make the right moves…

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