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Tag: Champion

Magnus Carlsen Retains World Chess Title

Magnus Carlsen put the final nail in the coffin for the 2016 World Chess Championship with a spectacular finish in the 25 | 10 rapid tiebreaker. Carlsen had been frustrated throughout the event and fell behind before managing to equalize the standings in Game 10. He went on to win the last two games of the rapid event, which finally put an end to his challengers efforts and solidified his place as World Chess Champion for the next two years. As the main portion of the event drew to its conclusion, many in the chess world began taking note of the precarious position Sergey Karjakin could find himself in against one of the strongest rapid and blitz players in the world.

The first two tiebreaker games were drawn with Karjakin narrowly escaping a loss in the second game but unable to stop the onslaught that ultimately allowed Carlsen to retain his title.

Carlsen’s incredible finish to the rapid tiebreaker event.

The position above is stunning and reaffirms why Magnus Carlsen is the best chess player in the world. With Qh6+, Magnus brought his opponent’s bid to become the next world champion to his stunning halt. There were moments throughout the event where it seemed that Sergey Karjakin was poised to overtake Carlsen, but never found a way to convert his opportunities into solid wins. Of course, there were moments throughout the event were Magnus seemed to struggle both with his chess abilities and his ability to keep his emotions in check (no pun intended). Magnus took a little bit of criticism on social media for his outburst following his loss in the classical round, but I have to say that him storming out of the press conference is the kind of stuff that chess needs if it wants to become a popular, respectable, and marketable activity in the United States.

Viewership Review

Agon, which has become a four letter word In the chess community has refused to release (at least for now) the exact number of people who purchased their premium package for viewing the event, but initial estimates project that less than 10,000 people paid for the premium streaming and commentary package. Personally, I was pleased to be able to follow the games as a premium member of Chessbase, on ChessBomb, and to watch the exceptional commentary and analysis from some of my favorite people over on chess24.com. Still, just a long way to go if it wants to build an American audience to the point where corporations like Pepsi, Red Bull, or other major corporations are willing to sponsor the events. As mentioned in an excellent news article published shortly after Carlsen’s victory, chess needs a series of dramatic stories in order to sell itself to the American people. Bobby Fischer made history as the lone genius who challenged the world’s greatest chess power, the Soviet Union, during the Cold War which allowed the American people to relate what was happening on the board to what was happening every day in their news. When professional chess can find a way to bring the drama and excitement of playing the game to people in a way that relates to their everyday struggles and experiences, then it will find itself at a buffet of sponsors and fans. Compelling drama and personal connection sells products, not frivolous litigation.

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WCC2016 Tied Entering Final Round

The 2016 World Chess Championship in New York City has been nothing short of a nail biter and will at least come down to determination in the final round scheduled to be played Monday at 1400 EST. Games 7 and 8 offered some tense moments in which Magnus missed opportunities to turn the tide of the tournament against his opponent. However, his over aggressiveness prevented him from capitalizing on these positions as he would normally be able to.

But everything changed in Game 8 when that over aggressiveness finally backfired and awarded a powerful win to challenger Sergey Karjakin.

Some believed that Magnus would be unable to recover from the loss but managed to pull out a win shortly thereafter in Game 10 to even things up.

The tournament remains tied and goes into Monday’s final round with the very real possibility of a rapid or blitz playoff being needed to decide the overall winner.

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Carlsen-Karjakin Tied After Second Round

The showdown for the title of World Chess Champion between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin is tied at 1 point each after rounds one and two ended in a draw. Carlsen drew white for Game One and opened with a homage to recently elected President of the United States Donald Trump with a combination called the Trompowsky Attack, which some have re-branded as the Trumpowsky Attack (1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5). An unusual opening at this level of play, the response from Karjakin neutralized the attack and led to a draw between the two.

Game One also had its share of American celebrities on hand as Actor Woody Harrelson made the ceremonial first move to begin the match.


Woody Harrelson makes the first move in Game One! (Credit: FIDE)

Game Two had some interesting twists and turns throughout, with Chess24 demonstrating throughout why it is a revolutionary medium for watching high-level games. Guest commentary by various Grandmasters and assertions that Game Two was boring led to some interesting and entertaining social media exchanges.

Game Three will be held at 1400 EST on Monday.

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Nazi Paikidze and Hijab Hubbub

Editor’s Note: I try to keep away from writing about politics, but sometimes the world of chess becomes intimately entangled in the affairs of the world. The battles on the board begin to mimic those of the world around us and something has to be said.

US Women’s Chess Champion Nazi Paikidze rocketed into mainstream fame recently with her vocal protest of Iran hosting the 2017 Women’s World Chess Championship due to the country’s strict laws regarding female dress codes and specifically, compulsory wear of the Muslim hijab. Given that Nazi (pronounced na-SEE) is an immigrant to the United States herself and with the foundation of our country being that of individual liberty, one would expect rousing support for the champion. Yet, that is not the case in a world gone mad.

Social Justice Warriors Weenies, who seem to insert themselves anywhere they can criticize, ridicule, or otherwise remind others of their professional victim status, have lashed out at Nazi for her protest because she is too white to make a difference… As a man who has served with people of all races, genders, nationalities, and sexual orientations, I have reached my wit’s end with the incessant blame game on race, inequality, or random social condition flavor of the week used to marginalize the voices of people trying to make a legitimate difference for others. The voices on Twitter and on television crying racism, sexism, or whatever-ism simply do not represent the truth in much of our country.

One need not look too far to see that Nazi is not alone. Chess champions Garry Kasparov, Nigel Short, and lesser entities like Campfire Chess along with thousands of others have voiced their support for the protest because silently accepting the Iranian venue demonstrates a remarkable contempt for women’s rights around the world. You can sign her protest petition here.

Chess is a game that empowers men and women of all races and all backgrounds to break down the walls that typically restrict them. That is why I am proud of Nazi and her resolve. She represents the best of what our nation was founded on.

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The Queen of Katwe – A Movie Review

Too often movies are judged as success or failure simply on the amount of money generated by theater, advertising, and merchandise revenue. With those factors typically making up the outcome measurements for modern films, most chess movies are doomed to commercial failure from the start or face relegation to independent distributors. Last year’s Pawn Sacrifice is a perfect example of the challenges faced by chess films. The film opened to high hopes, received mixed reviews, premiered almost two years after completion, received a positive review here on Campfire Chess, but has since disappeared into the abyss of forgotten films and misbegotten biopics. In reflecting on Pawn Sacrifice prior to reviewing The Queen of Katwe, I realized that Pawn Sacrifice simply does not have the creative longevity to remain at the forefront of modern chess cinema. Perhaps some of the early reflections (including my own) were the result of hype and excessive expectations that were ultimately underwhelmed and left disappointed. That is why when I went to see the film reviewed in this article, I was cautiously optimistic about the outcome and determined to guard myself against personal biases.

Cautiously optimistic…

The Disney biopic The Queen of Katwe, which is based on the life story of Phiona Mutesi, premiered in theaters across America on Friday night and yours truly was there with my beloved to watch the film. I was pleasantly surprised to see that we were among 40-50 moviegoers in the theater for the 1845L showing. In contrast, Pawn Sacrifice was less than 15 the night of its local premier. After suffering through a collection of disappointing trailers (and one about dogs that had me bawling) the movie finally began and we were treated to just over two hours of Disney’s interpretation and dramatization of the life and trials of Phiona Mutesi.

Capturing Ugandan Struggle and Pain

Because this was a Disney movie, I was interested to see to what lengths the producers would go to portray the depths of pain and suffering endured by Phiona and her family in the Katwe slums. It only took a few minutes to realize that the producers had used subtle nuances present in the daily lives of Kampala’s slum citizens to maintain a sense of vibrancy while showing a deep and resounding pain felt by Phiona and her family. Singing and dancing for personal pleasure soon gave way to singing and dancing in the streets for money to buy dinner. The daily struggles presented throughout the film were never lost in the mixture of chess and personal victories, but those struggles also never whitewashed the sense of achievement and growth brought on by Phiona’s challenges and triumphs.

Phiona was played expertly by Madina Nalwanga and her coach by David Oyelowo, but it was without a doubt the exceptional Lupita Nyong’o who played Phiona’s mother that stole the show. There were times throughout the film that I wondered if the story was actually about Phiona’s mother and less about Phiona and her brother. Yet, these powerful moments where we were treated to following Phiona’s mother through her daily struggles provided the audience with a wonderful context for the challenges that Phiona would face. Why would a mother hesitate to accept scholarships or growth opportunities for their child? These questions and many others were answered by the unique way in which the filmmakers frame the challenges, failures, and triumphs of Phiona in the parallel worlds of chess and life through the eyes of her mother. It become apparent early on that Phiona is certainly her mother’s child; a woman who refused to roll over or accept that she was not capable of rising to a higher level of achievement.

Are We Still Looking for Bobby?

It is hard to write a chess film review without comparing said film to the classic Searching for Bobby Fischer, but doing so with The Queen of Katwe sets a new precedent in chess cinema. That 1991 film staring Joe Mantegna and Max Pomeranc is often seen as a benchmark for chess filmmaking and storytelling. Many people, including myself, hold it dear as one of the best movies about chess ever made. Yet, I could not help but wonder as I watched The Queen of Katwe with my wife, if we were not watching what could become the Searching for Bobby Fischer of the 21st century.

Earlier this week I wrote about how the Daily Caller wrote a hit piece on Phiona Mutesi quoting anonymous Grandmasters and others leading up to the film’s release. The intent of that article was to paint her as a subpar chess player undeserving of any sort of international attention. Yet, such language and disrespect is not levied at young Josh Waitzkin in press releases for Searching. Josh was (and still is) considered a legitimate chess prodigy although he has mostly given it up to pursue other activities. In her native country of Uganda and among the most powerful chess professionals in Africa, Phiona is a chess force to be reckoned with. The hit article certainly weighed on me as I watched the film. Fortunately, I was pleased to see that the filmmakers had treated Phiona and the chess world with an enormous amount of respect.

Phiona expresses her desire to be a chess master and receives both good and bad advice throughout the film, but never is the idea of rising to the top of the chess world presented as an option to Phiona without an enormous amount of personal commitment and support. Even when Phiona attends the Moscow Olympiad, her defeat becomes the crux of the film’s final act in which she finds herself struggling to play for fear of losing.

Ultimately, The Queen of Katwe exposes something about Phiona Mutesi that is often lost in stats, PGN files, and ELO references: her humanity. The film expertly balances the philosophy and challenges of playing chess but also shows how chess can bring out the truth of human struggle and triumph. Such stories are often overplayed in cinema, but here it is professionally mixed to where the chess victory is never really undermined by the struggles that it seeks to solve.

A Final Verdict…

The Queen of Katwe was much better than I had anticipated and it tugged at the heart strings in a way that only Disney can manage. It was easy to be empathetic with Phiona and her relatives facing daily starvation and deplorable conditions in the Katwe slums. The outstanding performances combined with some great chess scenes that were obviously supervised by chess professionals that cared about how the game was represented on screen, it is a film that is definitely worth seeing. Yet, I think that only time will tell if it has the longevity to remain a classic in chess cinema. The story of Phiona Mutesi is still ongoing, but that is the crux of the film’s entire premise. Life never stops, and those places were are used to are not always the places we are meant to be.

I only hope that Phiona and this film continue to inspire people to pick up our game.

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Baku Chess Olympiad is Underway!

It seems like such a short time ago when chess headlines were adorned with stories of the Tromsø Chess Olympiad in 2014 where visa challenges, bathrooms, and high food prices were among the hottest topics leading up to China’s triumphant victory in the event. But here we are looking down the barrels of the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, the home country of former World Champion Garry Kasparov.

After a breathtaking opening ceremony on Thursday, main tournament play began Friday with my beloved United States team winning all 4 of their first matches against players from Andorra. Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Sam Shankland, and Ray Robson each scored well-earned victory against their opponents to launch the team off to a powerful start in the Olympiad.

US Champion Fabiano Caruana is leading the US Olympiad Team

In the second round, Sam Shankland was the only member of the United States team to not earn a win in the round against Scotland. Caruana, Nakamura, and Robson all earned wins and although it is still early in the event, I would say that the United States team is going to be a team to watch throughout the tournament!

The National Gymnastics Arena – the Baku Olympiad venue.

This year’s Olympiad is being held in the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku, Azerbaijan. The country has increasingly positioned itself throughout the past few years as a place of intense international sport and competition. Known to the chess community as the birth home of Garry Kasparov, the 42d Chess Olympiad’s host nation continues to impress both players and fans alike.

Watch the Baku Chess Olympiad live on Chessbomb, Chess.com, and Chess24.

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Hou Yifan is Women’s World Chess Champion

My guess is that an objective chess journalist would be expected not to pick sides or have favorites in tournament matches, but that is the beauty of running my own site and never claiming to be an objective chess journalist! Back in April of 2015, GM Mariya Muzychuk of the Ukraine shocked the professional chess world by knocking out favored GM Koneru Humpy of India and winning the Women’s World Chess Championship title through the somewhat maligned knockout system.

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GM Mariya Muzychuk crowned Women’s Champion in April 2015. Image Credit: FIDE)

Unfortunately, the same politics that has cast a dark cloud on the 2016 Candidates Tournament has also overshadowed a fight to the finish as former champion GM Hou Yifan has outplayed Mariya to officially reclaim her position as Women’s World Chess Champion in Lviv, Ukraine. I emphasized the word officially because it is clear from the way that many in the professional chess community treated Mariya during her time as champion were not entirely convinced that she was worthy of the honor. Personally, I am sad to see her go because I felt that she brought a special energy to women’s chess. Hou Yifan earns excellent reviews for her friendliness and even more praise for her dominating chess, but it feels as though the professional chess world never really moved on from her as the World Champion when Mariya was awarded the honor in 2015.

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Despite the fact that Hou was the clear favorite to win the match, Mariya made it apparent early on that she was not going to make it easy. After dropping games 2 and 6, Mariya found herself in an early hole but that was all she surrendered to the dominating Chinese player before Hou reclaimed the title in point increments from drawn games.

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GM Hou Yifan. Image Credit: New York Times)

Congratulations to the new Women’s World Chess Champion, GM Hou Yifan of China! An exceptional performance in Lviv caps her return to the highest position in women’s chess. Play through all of the games from the match below:


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Happy Birthday, GM Robert James Fischer!

He was obsessive, explosive, rude, and some believe that he was a dangerous psychotic. Yet, countless people both inside and outside of the chess world adore the late Bobby Fischer. Today is his birthday, he would have been 72 today and we take a moment today to honor the man who inspired countless people to take up chess around the world! In recognition of his birthday, here is the so-called Game of the Century played in 1956 against Donald Byrne.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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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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