Month: December 2015 Page 1 of 2

Ending on a High Note

This will be the last post of 2015 on this site. This has been a rollercoaster year for chess around the world and it has also been a wild ride for me as I continue to work on improving my game. 2014 concluded with my online ELO rating sitting at just around 900. This year I am excited to end on a high note sitting at 1100 with a peak rating of 1170 in early December! It is incredible how much work goes into just a few hundred ELO points but the reward of persevering through unnerving losing streaks and perilous blunders is well worth it.


2014 was a hard year for me because it was a time of major transition. I moved from Ohio to Texas that year and was still very green when it came to learning the nuances of chess education.


2015 was much more rewarding in that I managed to find a rhythm and method that works for studying, analyzing, and integrating my game experiences into future play. Here is the final game I am playing this year so that I can focus on my family during the New Year’s holiday. From the Campfire Chess family to yours, I wish you a very Happy New Year and much joy and chess success! See you in 2016!

Nigalidze Stripped of GM Title

Earning the rank of Grandmaster is a monumental feat for any chess player and having it taken away can be equally devastating. As reported by various blogs and covered here earlier this year, GM Gaoiz Nigalidze of Georgia was caught cheating at the 2015 Dubai Open with an iPod Touch hidden in a restroom stall. GM Tigran Petrosian voiced his concerns to the tournament organizers after it became apparent that Nigalidze was strongly attracted to a particular bathroom stall. Investigation by the organizers revealed the hidden device and the back-to-back Georgian champion was immediately disqualified.

The World Chess Federation issued a ruling on December 4th which stripped the Georgian champion of his Grandmaster title and banned him from FIDE tournament play for 3 years. This scorched earth approach is a welcome tactic in the wake of the increasing amount of cheating scandals within the professional chess community. Nigalidze was allowed to keep his International Master (IM) title.

Additional reading:

Merry Christmas to All!

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and ythe glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in bthe city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God jin the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Lk 2:8–14.

From the Campfire Chess family to yours: Merry Christmas to all!

Should Tournament Chess Be Faster?

Chess24 ran a great article yesterday on the organizer of the Zurich Chess Challenge and his desire to speed up the time control for classical chess. I skipped it when it first appeared in my Feedly list, but I came back to it after some thought about how long professional chess tournaments actually last. Regularly I have tuned in to matches and left Chessbase up on the computer while doing a myriad of other tasks. Imagine my surprise when I take my family out to eat, visit the mall, and then come home to find the same game still in progress! People are naturally resistant to change so it is not surprising that not much traction has been made in efforts to change classical time controls.


For the 2016 edition of the Zurich Chess Challenge, the players will utilize a 40-minute control per player with 10 second increments per move. According to the article, FIDE has not responded to the organizer’s proposal to change the time control definition for classical chess, but I would imagine that with sanctions against their president are most likely a priority right now.

Read the full article on Chess24.

Winding Down the Year

Attention, campers! This is your Camp Director speaking! Christmas is right around the corner and that means worship, family fun, personal reflection, and more sweet treats than most people can handle. My family and I take Christmas very seriously and do what we can to enjoy it to the fullest. We celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ and ensure that we spend as much time as possible with each other. Additionally, I am preparing to start the final three classes for my Masters of Divinity program at Liberty University! With these things in mind, regular posts will start winding down effective today. I have programmed a post for Christmas and New Year’s Day, but regular postings will be few and far between until 2016 rolls around.

Please accept my sincerest gratitude for the continued love and support of this website over the last year and a half. I remain hopefully optimistic about the future of Campfire Chess and the prospect of a long future with this website, my local chess group, and the growing popularity of chess around the world. May the grace and love of Jesus Christ bless you and your family this holiday season!

Sincerely, Wesley Surber

The Carlsen Disappointment Train

The internet can be a tough place to exist for anyone, especially a celebrity. It is undisputed that Magnus Carlsen is currently the best chess player in the world. However, it is also true that 2015 has been a forgettable year for the World Champion. He has not dominated his opponents like we are used to seeing and that has some people in the chess blogosphere worried. The headlines on and other sites are glaring: Chess.comWhat’s Wrong with Carlsen?, UK TelegraphCarlsen’s Ratings Crash, and Norway News in EnglishFrustrated Carlsen Logged Shocking Loss. The most recent article, which triggered this post, was a video posted on from ChessCentral titled Something’s Not Right with Magnus Carlsen. Some have speculated that Carlsen is not playing his best chess because he is bored, distracted, has found love, or is not as good as we thought he was. The reality is that this all stems from the notion that heroes are infallible and invincible. Even Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was not immune to having a bad 2015 with sanctions against him and having to step down temporarily as FIDE president. Bobby Fischer was an exceptional chess player but his persona and the mythology around him has eclipsed his chess play throughout the years. Some people will talk about Bobby as though he was an invincible force who never lost and never had days where he was just off. Bobby had some terrible losses during his ascension to chess stardom. The forum has an excellent post that asks this very question and users have submitted some particularly brutal games from Fischer’s early days. This one is especially devastating and it comes from a 1964 simul in San Francisco:

I have games in my personal archives from that are better than this game, but a loss like this is not indicative of Bobby’s character as a whole just as a streak of poor results are not indicative of Magnus Carlsen’s personality or his chess ability. Is there something wrong with Magnus Carlsen? Probably. Is he playing poorly because he is bored? Probably. What else is there in chess when you are the World Champion? He has reached the pinnacle of chess and is still incredibly young, so how much higher can he go? I, for one, hope that he has found a girl who melts his heart and is distracting him from the board for a little while. That is partially because I am biased and want Nakamura to have a shot at the title in 2016, but also because Magnus needs that kind of balance in his life to maintain his health and sanity. Even if there is something wrong with him, it only goes to prove that he is human, he is fallible, and that there is nothing wrong with that.

Examining a Devastating Queen Assault

AmishHacker (1111) – Internet Opponent (1141) [C41]

Live Chess, 08.12.2015

This game tied my stomach up in knots. Even though I won, the blunder that allowed that victory was harsh. 1.e4 Inspired by my hero Bobby Fischer, this move makes up 99.9% of my first moves. 1…e5 Black moves in to block the e4 pawn from advancing. The battle in the center takes shape early. 2.Nf3 The Knight advances to engage the e5 pawn. 2…d6 Black advances his d-pawn to protect the e5 pawn and prevent the Knight from advancing. 3.Bc4 Lately I have been hesitant to play Bb5 as to avoid provoking a retaliatory pawn move. 3…Bg4 Black engages the Knight and pins it to defense of the Queen.

C41: Philidor Defense

4.0-0 Castling to safety as soon as possible so fewer active resources are devoted to King defense. 4…a6 Black advances on the a-file to prevent me from reinforcing on the Queenside. 5.d3 Reinforcing my position on e4 and providing backend support for the c4 Bishop. 5…h6!! An excellent move! My Knight is further trapped by defense of the g5 square and the pin to the Queen. Black is playing semi-passively to cut off my maneuverability and slowly choke my position to death. 6.Nc3 Trying to balance out the attack by prepping the Knight to engage on the Queenside. 6…b5 Black advances to stop my Queenside engagement and forces the Bishop to retreat or advance to d5. After some thought, Bd5 continues the attack on f7 and the a8 Rook. 7.Bd5 The Bishop is a fragile outpost! It threatens the a8 Rook and continues to attack the a2-g8 diagonal, but Black has good counter play if he wants to force a retreat.

Position after 7.Bd5

7…c6 Black engages the Bishop to force it into retreat. Taking the pawn is perilous and I want to maintain my control of the diagonal. 8.Bb3?! The best option which maintains an attack across the a2-g8 diagonal. Notice that I am trying hard to maintain control of the f7 square. My hope is to bring in a surprise attack at a later time, but the g4 Bishop will need to be cleared first. 8…a5 Black’s advances on the a-file threaten the position of the Knight and Bishop. Its cause for concern, but not for retreat at the moment. In any case, the Bishop is under the most duress as an attack by the a-pawn will claim it. 9.d4 This move was purely to break through the suffocating pawn structure. If Black takes the pawn a Queen re-capture would help to open my position. 9…Bxf3?? The f3 Knight is history but Black has committed a serious mistake by forcing an exchange on f3. Based on my planned response, Black has only 1-2 moves that can save him from #/1.

Position after 9…Bxf3??

10.Qxf3 Completing the exchange with my Queen now focuses a dual attack of the Bishop on b3 and the Queen on f3. With the obvious nature of the attack, I expected black to play a variation. 10…exd4?? Black misses his chance to defend against the surprise attack. 11.Qxf7# This is a devastating blow. I have been on the receiving end of this attack before and it took me days to stop kicking myself for making the blunder. 1-0

Sanctions Temporarily Force Kirsan Out

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has shocked everyone today by temporarily handing over control of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) to Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos. This comes in the wake of the recent sanctions against him by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Kirsan assures the world that his departure is only temporary and that he intends to sue the U.S. Finance Ministry (whatever that is) for defamation of his character.

Read more on Chessbase and Susan Polgar’s Chess Daily News

Secret Chess in Ukraine

Ukraine has a secret, and it is the games of Mariya Muzychuk from the Ukrainian Chess Championship in Lviv. The reason? Chinese spies! Mariya Muzychuk is the current Women’s World Chess Champion and will compete to retain her title against challenger Hou Yifan from China in March 2016. The Ukrainian tournament organizers decided to restrict the games from publication because they do not want to provide preparation insight for Hou Yifan prior to the championship match. Many online commentators are drawing parallels to the old Soviet Chess way of doing business in which candidates would compete against powerful chess players without releasing the games or results.

This kind of strategy is humorous in that a simple search in Chessbase reveals 1,132 of Mariya’s games spanning almost 18 years! I hope that the games are released after the championship. Although I love Mariya and will cheer her on during the championship, suppressing games to provide a competitive advantage is too iron curtain for my taste.

Read more on Chessbase.

The Blessing of the November Sessions

December is here and that means Christmas is just around the corner! It is hard for me to believe that so much time has gone by! Campfire Chess will celebrate its 2-year anniversary in May and we’ve averaged around 50 visitors a day since August of this year! If the internet could be imagined as a city then Campfire Chess is like a novelty comic book shop in a strip mall. Even Best Buy and some of the most successful businesses in the world started out small, so we are on our way! November was a lot of fun for me because my chess activities were up-and-down as usual but ended on a very high note. I closed out the month of November 2015 with a win that gave me my highest online ELO ever: 1073! I am very excited with the level of improvement I have gained in the last 2 years of tracking my chess studies. My online ELO was around 650 in May 2014 when I opened Campfire Chess as Off My Chess. 1073 represents almost a 100% improvement which is not too shabby for a guy who is going to university full time, raising two kids, working full time, and supporting a family. In addition, my chess studies and improvement are without the assistance of an OTB coach although I am utilizing the Tactics Trainer and Chess Mentor over at

In reflecting on this milestone I would like to share two of my favorite annotated games from November. The first game is an 9 move game that could be described as an assasination…

I am attending a school in Philly, so the next game was annotated on an American Airlines 737 from Dallas to Philadelphia earlier this week. This game was a lot of fun and had me on the edge of my seat several times throughout.

I anticipate completing my Masters of Divinity in March so I hope to devote more attention to the rest of the blog. I recently began reworking the reading list this week and plan to add the movie list which has been in production since July 2014. Chess is growing around the world and 2016 looks to be even better than this year! Stay tuned!

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