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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 OffMyChess.com 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

  • OffMyChess.com Quarterly/Campfire Chess Magazine
    • Campfire Chess Magazine began as OffMyChess.com Quarterly and is published four times a year in PDF format.
  • The 2014 OffMyChess.com 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.

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