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Month: February 2016

February 29th? What is THIS Madness?

Life has been so busy lately that it was almost lost to me that 2016 is a leap year! For many people that only means another day to wait for their paycheck or one more day of putting their nose to the grind at the work to finish a big project. For me, it enabled me to squeeze out one more day at the gym before my physical fitness test. My job requires that I maintain a high level of physical fitness which is tested regularly throughout the year. To make this one special, I decided that I would take it on leap day. And, since this is a chess blog and chess players (typically) enjoy odd facts and history, I thought it would be nice to look into the origins of February 29th. Plus, it gave me a reason to post today…

An Imperfect Path Around the Sun

There have been many calendars throughout history including the Lunar, Julian, and the Gregorian Calendars. Most of us learn very early in school that the Earth orbits the Sun in a semi-perfect circle. Typically we celebrate a new year around the world every 365 days, but scientists observed that during the use of the old Lunar Calendar that seasons would shift drastically over time. This indicated that the calendar’s basic system for tracking the length of time it took for the Earth to orbit the Sun was inaccurate. Can you imagine having a snowstorm in Texas in July? If we still used the Julian Calendar, it is highly likely.

It takes the Earth on average, approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds long (365.242189 days) to complete one full orbit around the Sun.1 To compensate for this seasonal shift, it was determined that an extra day was needed every so often to balance out the inaccuracy of the calendar. Julius Caesar’s Julian Calendar introduced the concept of the leap year, but its calculations were still not enough to compensate for the full effect of the uneven orbit. This was because the only rule used to calculate the need for a leap year was that the year had to be evenly divisible by four.

Here are some interesting facts about the error rates in our common, Western calendars:

  • 365-day Calendar (with no leap years calculated).
    • Length: 365 Days
    • Error Value: 6 hours/year (1 day in 4 years).
  • Julian Calendar
    • Length: 365.25 Days
    • Error Value: 11 min/year (1 day in 128 years).
  • Gregorian Calendar
    • Length: 365.2425 Days
    • Error Value: 27 sec/year (1 day in 3236 years).
  • Mayan Calendar <– not saying it was aliens, but…
    • Length: 365.242036 Days
    • Error Value: 13 sec/year (1 day in 6500 years).

memealiens

Did the Mayans know something we don’t? As some ancient astronaut theorists believe…
(hope you read that in the guy’s voice)

The Vatican Steps In

Pope Gregory XIII realized the problems with the Julian Calendar and comissioned a new calendar to be created that would fix the leap year issues. The result was a calendar adopted in 1582 in Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain known as the Gregorian Calendar. It is the most widely used calendar in the world today. Here are some specifics:

  • The Gregorian Calendar is a 365-day, solar calendar divided into 12 months of irregular lengths.
  • 11 of the months have 30 or 31 days, while February has only 28 days during a common year.
  • Nearly every four years is a leap year where one extra day is added to February (which is today), making the calendar 366 days long.
  • The formula for calculating leap days is much more complex than the old Julian Calendar, which makes the Gregorian Calendar far more accurate.
    1. The year is evenly divisble by 4.
    2. If the year can be evenly divided by 100, it is NOT a leap year, unless (see third rule)
    3. The year is also evenly divisible by 400.

gregorianexample

An Early Example of the Gregorian Calendar (Credit: ScienceSource)

So, campers! Enjoy this extra day because it only comes around so often! Kiss your girl (or guy), phone a friend, play some chess, and enjoy it because you can bet that summer will be arriving at the same time it did last year thanks to the hard work of the people who watched the skies throughout history and helped us create one of the most essential tools in existence: our calendar.

-w.s.


  1. “Julian Calendar,” Time and Date.com, accessed February 28, 2016, http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/julian-calendar.html

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Will the Real Irina Krush Please Stand Up?

The February 24th edition of the Steve Harvey Show featured a fantastic game called Two Lies and a Truth in which Steve and his guest, career criminal Secretary Hillary Clinton asked questions of three young women to find out which one of them is the real US Women’s Chess Champion, GM Irina Krush.

krushoptions

Most of these women are liars. (Credit: YouTUBE/The Steve Harvey Show)

Each of the women in the game were obviously well-studied in Krush’s life and chess experiences as the not-Krushes gave excellent responses to Steve and Hillary’s questions in which they detailed Krush’s immigration from the USSR as a child to her upcoming shot at winning the US Women’s Chess Championship for the eighth time. The current record holder is Gisela Kahn Gresser who has held the title nine times in 1944, 1948, 1955, 1957, and 1965-1970.

realkrush

The Real GM Irina Krush. (Credit: YouTUBE/The Steve Harvey Show)

Of course, for chess aficionados, it was obvious from the beginning who the real Irina Krush was, but it was refreshing to see Steve and Hillary guess correctly and send the audience home with a nice gift. Congrats to Irina for continuing to be a trailblazer in the chess world and good luck to her in the upcoming championship. Here is the clip in its entirety:

Having problems? View the full clip on YouTUBE.

-w.s.

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Victory and the Stinging Virtues of Defeat

I submitted the final assignments to complete my Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) earlier this week, so years of university school work has come down to the arduous task of waiting on degree conferral. Finishing up these remaining assignments left me little time to play chess, but that has finally changed and I am beginning to reclaim my free time through online play, reading, and study. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I returned to playing online chess and won the first two games. The third game did not go so well and my pattern of wins-losses has traveled along an unusual 2:1 ratio of wins to losses.

I played a game the other night against a challenging opponent whom I was convinced had me in a death grip once or twice during the game, but I managed to pull some tactical maneuvers and secure the win. Here it is with my commentary:

Lucky or getting better? Probably a mixture of both.

The next game caught me falling to an old cognitive trap that has devastated my play before: complacency.

Cockiness, sloppy development. Doomed from the start.

I plan to work on some articles about the different cognitive traps that affect chess players, but I need to conquer my procrastination trap first.

-w.s.

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Carlsen’s Amazing Hamburg Simul

You really have to hand it to Magnus Carlsen. As one of the youngest chess champions in history, he has transformed the professional chess world with major brand endorsements, his own clothing line, his own brand/chess app, and is noteworthy as the first World Champion to develop his chess abilities in the age of prevalent chess computers. In the 2014 World Chess Championship, Carlsen effectively destroyed former champion Viswanathan Anand where there were no shortage of comments and questions about him being past his prime and Carlsen being the young wave of the future.

Earlier this week on February 21 in Hamburg, Play Magnus hosted a simul exhibition with 70 players. The German paper Die Zeit organized the event to commemorate its 70th birthday, which puts its first publication right after the end of World War II. In this competition sat one person for every year that Die Zeit has faithfully published to its readers.

simulsetup

70 boards ready to take on Magnus Carlsen. (Credit: Play Magnus)

As you can see, the setup for the event was stunning with each player receiving a Play Magnus chess set which was autographed by the World Champion after the event. Some of the competitors were invited to the event while others were chosen from a pool of over 1,000 applicants.

simulcarlsen

Carlsen’s six-hour battle. (Credit: Chess24.com)

At the halfway point of the event, Carlsen had shut his opponents out with an amazing 30 wins and 0 losses or draws. At the conclusion of the event, which lasted around six hours, the World Champion emerged with an exceptional record of 67 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss. It is easy to lose sight of the wins in this situation because of the startling number of losses. This defeat came at the hands of Jens-Erik Rudolph, who is identified by Chessbase as a City League chess player with an 1981 ELO.

Magnus Carlsen’s single loss in the simul.

After struggling somewhat last year, it is refreshing to see Magnus playing such good chess recently. Additionally, it was nice to see that there was an eclectic mix of people participating in the simul including a nine-year old chess player and a famous futbol coach among others. Although I have to consider variables such as the number of people Carlsen played in this simul it is nice to know that the World Champion himself is not impervious to defeat at the hands of players < 2000 ELO. Rudolph’s 1981 ELO gives me hope, I tell ya.

Additional Credit: Featured Image by IM Anna Rudolf

-w.s

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Sinquefield Cup Changes Tournament Dates

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) recently changed the dates of the 2016 Baku Chess Olympiad and Chess Congress, which created some conflict with the Sinquefield Cup. According to Chess24, the Sinquefield Cup has changed its tournament dates to August 4-16 to de-conflict.

This means that starting in the 3rd quarter of this year will begin a marathon of professional chess that will culminate with November’s 2016 World Chess Championship at a location to be announced in the United States. Here’s a quick breakdown of how the chess calendar looks from August to December of this year, barring any sudden changes by our robot overlords FIDE.

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

  • Women’s World Championship: October 11-31 (website)

November 2016

  • World Chess Championship: Dates TBD
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I, For One, Am Still Skeptical of Our Robot Overlords

In 1994 when Homer Simpson was launched into outer space and inadvertently released laboratory ants aboard the space shuttle and a closeup of the floating insects was interpreted by Kent Brockman, everyone’s favorite TV announcer, as an invasion of earth by insectoids. The quote, I for one welcome our new insect overlords, was taken from the film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Empire of the Ants and has since been parodied countless times through various memes.

Kent Does Not Look Happy About This One… (Credit: FOX)

So, why the backstory on the title? No reason, just word count. :)

I felt that it was the proper way to address the World Chess Federation‘s (FIDE) recent release of date changes to the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku and the 2016 FIDE Congress, moving both tournaments up from the end of September to the first two weeks of the month. Why is this such a big deal, then? Well, it just so happens that the end of August and into the first week of September is traditionally the time of the Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis, where the world’s strongest chess players including Magnus Carlsen play as part of the Grand Chess Tour.

With the overlords at FIDE now dictating that the Olympiad and the Congress will occur at the same time as the Sinquefield Cup, that creates a very difficult situation for players in both tournaments. The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis has already mentioned via Twitter at 1450 CST that it is aware of the conflict and is working on a revised schedule.

I, for one, am not so welcoming of our robot overlords who can shift tournaments without so much as an explanation. I also suspect that I am not the only one out there that might be reading between the lines on this one. Even if FIDE is not engaged in a conspiracy against American players, the sudden change of tournament dates will definitely affect players, friends, and family members who have already made plans to attend one of the events or the Sinquefield Cup.

Can chess players make big deals out of nothing? Of course they can, but our FIDE overlords can also making nothing out of really big deals. Just ask the friends and family of Larissa Yudina.

Points of Interest

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Claudia Munoz is 9 Queens Player of the Year

If you follow chess for any length of time online then you have probably run across the name, read the Twitter feed or visited the awesome website of Women’s Candidate Master Claudia Munoz. Claudia is a rising star in professional chess and will join the Texas Tech Red Raiders Chess Team later this year.

A testament to her skills on the board in addition to her charm and personality has established her as a trailblazer in the world of chess on social media. You may recall back in November of 2015 when an article circulated the web that cast the negative spotlight on chess social media with the title, Chess Players Lose at Social Media. Claudia is often mentioned in these kinds of articles as an enigma, but I think that she is much more than that. It is not only apparent that Claudia has a passion for the art of chess, but also for people in general. Always friendly and willing to show a human side of chess players that is often lost in the (losing) world of chess social media, Claudia is an absolute breath of fresh air in the chess-o-sphere.

New Accolades

Now, Claudia is adding another feather to her cap by being named the 9 Queens Player of the Year for 2015. 9 Queens is an organize that was founded by WGM Jennifer Shahade, the editor of Chess Life Online as a way to empower people through chess.

claudiamunoz

Not all scores in Texas are settled with guns. (Credit: Claudia Munoz)

Claudia will be traveling to Tucson, Arizona in April of this year to receive her well-deserved award and also to serve as the special guest for 9 Queens’ Chess Fest 2016. My very best wishes and loads of congratulations go out to Claudia for this achievement!

From the 9 Queens announcement:

9 Queens is excited to announce our Special Guest for Chess Fest 2016 and recipient of the 2016 9 Queens Player of the Year Award – Women’s Candidate Master Claudia Munoz!

At just 18 years old, Claudia is an accomplished chess player, earning many accolades such as: • 2014 United States U-20 Girls Junior Champion at the University of New Hampshire. • 2014 Tied for 1st place at the National Girls Invitational Tournament in Florida. • 2013 Champion of the All Girls National Championship U-16 in Chicago, Illinois. • Winning the gold medal for the United States in the 2007 North American Youth Chess Championship U-10 in Aguascalientes, Mexico earning the Woman Candidate Master title from FIDE.

On top of those accomplishments, Claudia is a stellar student and social media powerhouse, with over 2.7 million visits to her bilingual website www.claudiamunoz.com, and over 7,000 Facebook followers! (https://www.facebook.com/ChessCampeona)

Claudia has this to say about empowerment through chess: “How a person is outside of a chess board is how they are on the chess board, correct them on the board and you changed their lives forever.”

We are so excited to welcome WCM Claudia Munoz to Tucson and look forward to having her as our Special Guest at Chess Fest!

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Feels Good to Be Back!

Wow! What a demanding few weeks this has been! I thought that I would struggle not to write or work on the blog during my self-imposed exile, but that turned out to be much easier than I expected given the amount of work I had to do for school and for my everyday job. Yet, I am happy to say that things are starting to wind down and I am ready to get back into writing regularly here on Campfire Chess. To start out for now, I would like to point everyone to the updated downloads page where there are many new wallpaper sizes for some of the older wallpapers and a brand new wallpaper featuring the Campfire Chess logo and a beautiful, misty forest background.

campwall

I am working on fixing some display problems with the site as well as eliminating the clutter that has gathered on the server over the last two years to make the campfire experience much more streamlined. There are also some exciting new projects on the horizon, so keep those chess pieces moving!

w.s.

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