Personality quizzes are typically the last thing that I do while surfing Facebook. It was fun at first to see what Zodiac sign I really belonged to or which Walking Dead character I am most like. However, it seems these days that there are personality quizzes on Facebook for just about anything. It was only a matter of time before somebody created a chess personality quiz and we have the hive mind over at Chess.com to thank for this one. According to the quiz my personality is Chess Champion and my wife is a Chess Prodigy although I know of no prodigies out there that start their games with 1.a3??. Yet, I love her still.
You might have already read this story making waves across the online chess community, but its potential effects on international chess warrant another mention. The United States Department of the Treasury has slapped sanctions on Kirsan Illyumzhinov because of his continued support of oppressive regimes like those in Syria and the former governments of Iraq and Libya. Kirsan’s eccentric political connections are well known and often despised within the chess community, but these sanctions come primarily because of his connections to the government of Syria. American intelligence has linked Syrian government assets to support of the terrorist group known as ISIS. These sanctions come at a difficult time for Illyumzhinov and the World Chess Federation as the organization is actively searching for a US-based venue for the 2016 World Chess Championship.
For an in-depth exposé into the developing story along with the official response from Kirsan himself, check out this article on Chessbase.
Chess and murder: do they go hand-in-hand? Hollywood has produced several films in which chess plays the central role in a murder mystery. Books of the same type or a little harder to come by. That is why I was excited when I came across Even Dead Men Play Chess by Michael Weitz. Caution, there are spoilers ahead!
Ray Gordon leads a simple life. He is a chess teacher and is on his way to give a lesson to his good friend Walter Kelly. Walter is a man gifted with woodworking skills whose affinity for chess has grown in his later years. Ray agrees to teach Walter in exchange for the promise of a customized wooden chessboard. Walter’s death brings the chessboard out earlier than expected and leads to a revealed secret on par with the hidden mysteries of The DaVinci Code or National Treasure.
Ray Gordon is not a detective. The tools of the chessboard are his weapon against the injustice of the world. This was my favorite part of the character and flow of the story. Ray is someone within reach of the average person, chess player or not. Many people have felt the burning urge to ignore conclusions of accidents or natural death because the circumstances were too unusual to ignore. Ray is a conduit for the average person (and chess player) to journey along on a thrilling and dangerous mission.
In addition, the author’s brilliant use of chess terminology and analogy makes the story especially engrossing for students of the game. One of these is the inclusion of a classic game known in popular chess culture as The Evergreen Game. Evergreen was played by Adolf Anderssen and Jacques Dufresne in 1852 Berlin. It was not initially recognized as an exceptional game but gained notoriety over the years with commentary and annotations by various grandmasters. Here is the game in its entirety:
Chess puzzles and human puzzles emerge to answer the questions surrounding Walter’s death and to expose a web of lies and betrayal. Mystery stories and chess books can be hard to pull off, but Michael Weitz pulls it off with a powerful discovered checkmate in Even Dead Men Play Chess.
Check it out on Amazon in paperback and Kindle format.
Campfire Chess joins the millions of people worldwide mourning last night’s tragedy in Paris. Violence will never put an end to violence. I pray this morning for the health and safety of France and its citizens. I also pray that those responsible be softened in their resolve to cause damage and destruction to innocent lives.
Updated Nov 14 @ 1644 EST: Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has published a press release on behalf of the World Chess Federation (FIDE).
Imagine for a moment the social stereotype of the typical chess player. Is it the image of an old white guy sitting alone in his house hunched over a chessboard with stacks of newspapers, magazines, and books around him? Perhaps he is disheveled and could use a refresher on how to use the shower? Bobby Fischer did not own a computer so this guy does not have one either. This creepy stereotype continues to persist in the mainstream media, but is there any truth to it?
A recent article on World Chess took players and fans to task for not embracing social media like other sports. The article’s title warns of things to come: Chess Players are Surprisingly Bad with Social Media. There is nothing surprising about this to chess players, fans, and the community as a whole. The author insists that professional players have not harnessed the power of social media marketing tools to boost their popularity and popularity of the sport. The whole argument assumes that chess audiences are ready to embrace social media marketing on a wide scale. History proves that this is not the case with chess.
An example brought up in the article uses the always fun and engaging WCM Claudia Munoz. The author focuses on Claudia’s 19,000+ Tweets relative to her 3,000 followers and implies that her inability to reach more people is due to a lack of cooperation from other chess masters. I would argue that it has less to do with the quality of personality or the collaborative efforts of different chess masters and more to do with the nature of chess itself. Chess is a game that has transcended the board and is readily available online. Chess players meet to play chess, not to share their favorite cat videos with each other. Quite often the focus of obsession for chess fans is not the personality or the player, but the quality of their game. There is no social media requirement to obtain PGN files of games, so the community as a whole lacks the need to be social.
I am more social than your average chess player because I run a chess blog and because I am a (way) less than average chess player. I enjoy the social elements of chess because I am interested in personality and how a player’s personality affects their style. The world’s greatest chess players have made serious efforts to improve their social media presence but the chess audience is not reciprocating. I wish that chess players as a whole were more social but chess is not an inherently social game. It is a strategic battle between two people who are not required to be friends to play. Yet, I think that Claudia Munoz and players like her are a ray of hope for a future where that mentality changes and the community is transformed.
The World Chess Federation recently announced that national chess federations can organize rated team matches online using the FIDE Online Arena. Although the stated reason is to give poorer federations opportunities to compete in expensive team events, it is evident that this is a strategic move to place FIDE in line with the evolution of chess. Chess has always been an interest of computer programmers and scientists. Many of the first programs built to demonstrate processing power were chess engines. Chess.com and its competitors such as Playchess and Chess24 have trailblazed an exodus of players from tournament boards to online arenas.
In fact, Chess.com did this recently with the addition of its rated US Chess tournaments. I think this is a good move by FIDE. It will be interesting to see how many federations take advantage of new opportunities opened up by evolving technologies.
August was one of the worst months I have had since I began tracking my online chess results. I lost almost every game and considered taking a sabbatical from the game to regroup. September was much better but it was nothing compared to my breakout results in October! Going 7.0/12 for the month might not seem like much on a cross table, but the content of the games was far beyond my previous performance.
A key to improvement in these last few months has been Peshk@ tactics training courses including the latest edition of CT-ART. I started playing chess seriously in 2006 with Rybka Aquarium before adopting Chessbase. The quality of the user interfaces in Peshk@ and Aquarium are not up to modern standards but the chess content is exceptional for the price. In the next game my opponent’s devastating 11…Qxb2?? was a resignation in disguise.
I finished October with a 1065 rating on Chess.com which is the highest sustained rating I have had to date.
It is no secret that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov loves Russia and its benevolent leader Vladimir Putin. Chess websites and blogs painted the web today with news that the FIDE Candidates Chess Tournament 2016 will be held in Moscow. The winner of the Candidates tournament will face Magnus Carlsen at the World Chess Championship 2016 in the United States. Of course it is no real surprise that the tournament is set for Moscow. The FIDE president has a long history of mingling with some of the world’s most unusual and dangerous people.
Okay, so the third one is up for debate but he once tried to arrange a World Championship match in Baghdad and played chess with Gaddafi shortly before the dictator was overthrown by UN and UK forces. Curiously, Ilyumzhinov visited Libya and Iraq both shortly before their downfalls. Now as Vladimir Putin’s Russia continues to take on more aggressive roles in world politics, Ilyumzhinov is once again cozying up to the longtime president. Is Russia making moves to become a major influence in world chess once again? My money is on the revitalization of a Soviet-like chess machine and the return of the Russian Bear.
Bobby Fischer was one of those personalities that defies definition. Some have called him a maniac while others have called him a genius. His chess was as beautiful as a Da Vinci painting but his off-the-board antics were the stuff of a public relations manager’s worst nightmare. In his later years Bobby was remembered less for his works of art on the chessboard and more for his often incoherent rants and incessant anti-Semitism. By the time that he passed away in January of 2008 he was living an isolated life in Reykjavik, Iceland where he brought down the Soviet Chess Machine in 1972.
Gardar Sverrison is considered to be the only real friend that Bobby had during the final period of his life. Now, Gardar has published a book in Iceland (English edition coming in 2016) that opens up a new window into the world of Bobby Fischer. Instead of focusing on the same tales we have seen in Bobby Fischer Against the World and Pawn Sacrifice, Sverrison dives headfirst into the deep intellectual and emotional motivations that made Bobby Fischer who he was. The rants and unusual behavior was something that the world will always remember but the underlying reasons for why Bobby acted the way he did have always been the stuff of societal conjecture and armchair psychology. Now, readers around the world will have unparalleled access to the psyche of the man who single-handedly changed the face of chess forever.
Back on with Bobby Fischer is available for purchase in Icelandic language here. English edition is due out in 2016.
Read more about the book, its author and subject on Chessbase.