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Tag: Chess.com

How to Watch the World Championship

Updated November 09, 2016: Added additional viewing details and options. Campfire Chess will offer periodic reflection and post-game analysis throughout the event.

Few chess fans will be as lucky as those living in New York City when the World Chess Championship kicks off later this week, but that doesn’t mean we are entirely removed from following the match and taking in some expert commentary from Grandmasters and fans around the world. The recent victory in Russia over Agon has probably lessened some of the push for more subversive broadcasts and the web will be teeming with opportunities for chess players and fans to follow and comment on the event.

So, how can you view the match?

  • Chess.com will be hosting the official Agon widget on its site with access to chat functions with full video breakdowns scheduled after each round.
  • Chess24.com continues to establish itself as a bold new powerhouse in chess broadcasting and will cover the event with several big name commentators.
  • Playchess is the online chess play and broadcast service of Chessbase.
  • Agon/FIDE, who is currently like the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in terms of its behavior against modern chess, also has an official website where users can view the moves for free, but pay a premium fee for additional analysis and special commentary.

The live match itself will happen in the historic Seaport District with tickets available via Ticketfly.

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The Agon Widget from Hell

Remember back in March when Agon, the FIDE puppet company responsible for organizing and managing the World Chess Championship cycle limited the live game broadcasts and infuriated pretty much everyone except their billionaire Russian investors and mafia henchmen? Well, run-on sentences aside, the Agon mafia has returned to show its ugly teeth in the run-up to the World Chess Championship in New York City this November with an announcement that broadcast of the games will be limited to a widget designed to be embedded into an external website to broadcast the games. Peter Doggers at Chess.com breaks the announcement down a little more. When you have finished reading his excellent report, behold the new widget:

Agon’s WCC broadcast widget. (Credit: Chess.com)

According to the official statement,

First, and most importantly, the live moves of the World Chess Championship match will be made available for free to responsible chess websites and other media organizations that take our official broadcast widget.

Although it is presented as the most important part of the broadcast announcement, the idea that the WCC moves should be free is buried in the typical Agon-FIDE hyperbole and legal threats to the chess community and its myriad of online portals. For example,

It is fair to say that the furor that followed divided the global chess community. We were asked, “Does Agon have the right to prohibit anyone from broadcasting the moves as they were made?” We believe that we do and that we have a strong legal position. We also have the full support of the World Chess Federation and many others within the game.

Agon acknowledges that its actions divided a deep and thriving community, but it still fails to see that the divide is between Agon-FIDE and everyone else, not a divide among the chess community. In fact, I don’t believe that I’ve ever witnessed an online community come together en masse like the chess community did when Agon announced its monopoly. With its restrictive broadcasting agreements and tactics aimed at subverting the established ecosystem, Agon has alienated itself from countless people who care about chess and want to see it grow. Furthermore, to assert that its position is legitimized by a FIDE endorsement is no different than saying that its okay to restrict the games because the Kremlin says so. In addition, those within the game that are often quoted by Agon-FIDE couldn’t care less about broadcast rights for chess. Their names are solidified in the annals of chess history and their view is always from the front row…at the board!

What we are doing has never been attempted before in the chess world. It is a revolutionary approach and I am sure we will probably make some mistakes in its implementation before we are finished.

Really? It hasn’t? Do they mean that nobody has ever created a chess widget before to cover broadcasted games? How interesting because Chessbase has one and Chessbomb has one that regularly broadcasts live tournament games. This kind of drivel expounds on how little Agon-FIDE really knows about the depths of ingenuity, innovation, and connectedness that exist in the online chess world.

Suspicious Widget

As a veteran of nearly thirty years of computer and network development, I can say that most competent webmasters are reluctant to arbitrarily add external widgets to their platforms. Companies often gain the trust and respect of their customers by demonstrating commitment to that platform’s service before said platform allows their widget or code to be embedded within their framework. For me, I trust Chessbase and Chessbomb because they have earned trust and respect as reputable companies with a legitimate interest in furthering the game of chess. Agon has done nothing but drive a wedge between the chess community and the organization that is supposed to be championing our game.

Would you trust a Soviet JavaScript or PHP widget on your network or content platform? I sure as hell wouldn’t. Call me paranoid, but the truth is always buried in fine print and revealed in data breaches or midnight special forces raids.

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Settling Above 1100

The cycle of life ebbs and flows with some periods being more demanding than others. August to October of this year has been particularly demanding, which forced me to cut down on my chess writing and playing. Curiously, that break preceded a jump in my online game successes both in live challenges and on the damnable Chess.com Tactics Trainer. My online ELO currently sits at 1101, which is the first time it has surpassed that benchmark since March 13 of this year.

Pretty charts, but still a long way to go. (Credit: Chess.com/Campfire Chess)

Of course, some of my recent wins were clearly undeserved (abandoned by opponent, etc.) but I believe that many of them are starting to reflect my constant dedication to studying and learning about the game. For example,

Winning and losing in chess is like the tides, so I am trying to prepare myself mentally for the time when the wins don’t come and the only way ahead seems to be down, like this heartbreaking loss:

Until next time, keep the flame burning, campers!

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Product Review – Voice Master Chess Set

Many chess players and learners have moved their games into the cloud via Chessbase, Chess.com‘s servers, or the myriad of other iOS and Android apps available for tracking and analyzing a player’s repertoire. For me, this often involves playing on Chess.com on my iPhone or using Stockfish to store and analyze games on the go when I am away from my laptop or ability to access my Chessbase database. Yet, the steady transition of chess players to cloud systems over the years has not entirely eliminated a nostalgic piece of chess history: the computer chess board.

An interesting memory of chess I have as a kid is playing against a computerized board that belonged to my dad. I remember that it had a small LCD display, some red LEDs along the side to indicate the current move, and came with an annoying voice assistant that was always ready to pounce on your emotions once it had destroyed your chess game. The hauntingly annoying words of that board are forever engrained into my psyche: “Hi, my name is Chester! How about a nice game of chess?”

The IQ Toys Voice Master electronic chess board.

As time progressed, many of these boards were relegated to discount bins at bargain stores or the miscellaneous aisles at Goodwill locations. However, I came across a computerized chess board for sale at a Toys-R-Us here in San Antonio a few weeks ago and the item piqued my interest. Was there still a market for these things? And, if there was…what kind of other boards were available out there? A quick Amazon search revealed a mixture of the same problems faced by manufacturers of other niche products: a collection of worthless products with 1-2 star ratings intermixed with legitimate boards.

I spent the next few days researching options and finally decided on a mid-range board from a company called IQ Toys. My Voice Master electronic chess set came a few days later and I thought that now was an appropriate time to write a review given that I have had about a week to play with it. So, here is what its like to use a classic digital chess board in the age of the chess cloud…

Voice Master pieces are of high-quality construction.

Construction and Presentation

Given the plethora of cheap chess sets out there, it is important for a product to present a pleasing aesthetic. This little board was well packaged and it was immediately apparent that it was of a high quality construction. The box included the board itself, a set of white pieces, a set of black pieces, and a complete set of disks for checkers. I could go off on another tangent about the constant bundling of chess and checkers pieces together, but I digress. I tossed the checkers disks into the garbage and unpacked the small, magnetic chess pieces. The board itself does not come with a way to plug it into the wall, so it requires 4 AA batteries. Fortunately, so do many other toys I have purchased for my kids, so after loading the batteries and setting up the pieces, I clicked on the power and set to starting my first digital chess board game since the traumatic days of Chester…

Voice Master size comparison to 12″ MacBook.

Game Play and Observations

It was very straight forward and easy to get a new game started. Without wanting to adjust the options such as game strength or piece odds, two clicks on the key pad and I was underway. I quickly realized that it was going to take some getting used to how the pieces interfaced with the board so that I would not be inundated with a particularly annoying buzzer when it encounters an error. The player gently presses the piece down on the board and follows the instructions on the LCD board. After a few times of having the buzzer scare my dog and receiving more than enough interesting looks from my wife, I muted the board sounds and continue on. As with most chess computers it did not take long for me to hang a piece and lose the first of many casual games against the device.

Voice Master vs. Stockfish 7 via ChessBase GUI on Microsoft Surface 3.

I have yet to beat this board, which is nothing new for me and is nothing that I did not expect. However, I was curious to get an idea of how strong the board is on a normal setting. I felt as though I was playing against a 1500-1600 ELO player and decided that the best way to compliment any kind of review of the product would be to put it into an engine match against Stockfish. I fired up my Fritz 14 GUI and launched a new game against Stockfish with White and me manually inputting moves for Black on behalf of the Voice Master board. Although there were some moves made by the Voice Master board that warranted a ?? or similar marking, I avoided annotations in the game unless the board itself provided some form of text alert.

As I expected, Stockfish made short work of the Voice Master board although I was shocked at some of the moves and warnings offered by the board as the game approached its brutal conclusion. Specifically, move 21.Rxg7+ was flagged by the board as requiring caution. When the board asked me if I was sure that I wanted to proceed with that move, Stockfish’s analysis of the move bringing it to within (#8) with 21…Kxg7 22.Qg4+… at this point was more than enough for me to chuckle at the device’s overconfidence. The same thing occurred two moves later after 23.Rh7!! with the board asking if I was sure I wanted to proceed. Needless to say that the board lost shortly thereafter.

One interesting point of the game above is that the board seemed to completely ignore Stockfish’s attach after 21.Rxg7+ and go its own way. Very little was done to counter the coming assault although the board continued to offer coaching advice and precautionary alerts despite Stockfish having it at a #4 disadvantage.

Overall Verdict

The construction, appearance, and usability of the Voice Master board is nice. It does not have the cheap appearance or feeling that comes with many electronic boards sold in stores or online today. Learning the proper level of pressure to apply to the pieces during gameplay can take some practice and I highly recommend turning off the board sounds until you have a firm grasp on that pressure. Otherwise, a player can expect to be inundated with the horrific error buzzer mentioned above.

As for playing strength, the board seems perfect for beginners to mid-range skill players. It offers a classical tactile chess experience without the need to hunt down a physical opponent. However, it might be too little of a reliable challenge for some players as demonstrated in the demo game where it ignored the final mating combination almost entirely. The board retails for $39.99 on Amazon.com (as opposed to $99.99 on sites like ChessUSA.com), which makes it a nice gift for your favorite chess lover or child looking to get started playing the game. At least it does not have the taunting voice of the dreaded Chester set I mentioned in the beginning.

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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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MHCC July 2016 Round 1: The Stuff of Nightmares

Although you’ll be hard-pressed to find many pastors (or people) out there who would admit that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is their favorite film of all time, I am not your typical pastor nor do I like to think of myself as your typical person. When it comes to chess, there is much evidence to support the position that I might be the world’s worst chess player. I have become accustomed to losing just in some of the most interesting and depressing ways over the past few years and I thought I have learned to deal with the trauma that can arise from such an experience, but last Wednesday’s tournament OTB game reminded me of how devastating it can be to make a mistake in a game where I put so much time, effort, energy, and focus. In essence, Wednesday night was an opportunity for me to experience my own Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

As many of you know, I have been playing in my first series of OTB tournaments a few months back, but had to take a break to finish some school and other personal projects. These projects also contributed to the lack of posts here on Campfire Chess, but I digress. Playing in the July edition of this tournament was a last-minute decision, so there was a little bit of hesitation on my part for returning. However, I know that the best way to improve is to continue to play. Unfortunately, my return to OTB play was the stuff of nightmares. Rarely do I go into these situations expecting a win because very few of the players involved in these tournaments are rated anywhere near where I perform. Most of them are the master level or higher including a resident International Master and occasional visits from Grandmasters, which I have written about in the past. However, I can say that I never expected what happened this past Wednesday night. To say that it was traumatic betrays the depth of the experience.

I lost a game in eight moves although I played through to 12 moves for a combined total board time of around 14 minutes. Looking back on things, I realized that it was a simple mistake that ended the game so quickly whether it was rushing or simply not surveying the more properly. It has taken me a few days to get over it, but I have written some commentary on this atrocious game and decided to share it with my Campfire Chess audience. Now, for your viewing pleasure I present to you around one of MHCC July 2016.

Unfortunately, my desire to try again this week has been postponed because of a sick child. As always, family comes first. Therefore, I will have to wait until next week for an opportunity to redeem myself with a reasonable loss.

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Queen of Katwe Trailer Released

I did a small exposé in September of 2014 on Phiona Mutesi and her incredible rise in the professional chess world. At the time, it was rumored that Disney had acquired the rights to Tim Crothers’ book The Queen of Katwe, which is based on Phiona’s life in Kampala, Uganda and her rise to play in the 2010 and 2014 Chess Olympiads. Now, Disney has released the official trailer for The Queen of Katwe and has set its release date for September 23, 2016.

Initial reaction to the trailer has been positive and it looks like Disney has managed to capture the essence of Phiona’s story, which is triumph over the worst of life’s circumstances. Fortunately, this is a theme that Disney has great experience with. Hopefully the film will get screen time here in San Antonio so I can deliver a proper review at its time of release. Until then, enjoy the trailer above, check out the article on Chess.com, and visit the official Facebook page for the film.

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Caruana and Paikidze are 2016 US Chess Champions!

GM Hikaru Nakmura and GM Irina Krush entered into the 2016 US Chess Championship carrying the same hopes and dreams of their competition but with much more at stake: the defense of their 2015 championship titles. Nakamura, who is a mainstay on my beloved Chess.com, has won the US Chess Championship in 2005, 2009, 2012 and in 2015. Krush began the 2016 event looking for her fifth consecutive win, but was stopped short by US #2, GM Nazi Paikidze.

Coming Back to America

Just a few short years ago, I would have considered it insanity to believe that GM Fabiano Caruana would be a member of the US Chess Federation and go from playing for the Italian Chess Federation to winning the 2016 US Chess Championship. Yet, that very thing happened yesterday when Caruana edged out his opponents with a win against IM Akshat Chandra, who is widely known for his monumental propulsion into the stratosphere of chess ability. Chandra, who is considered to be one of the brightest rising stars in chess, finished the tournament in last place with 1.5/11, scoring draws against Jeffery Xiong, Alexander Shabalov, and Nakamura.

gmfabiano

Caruana owned a slight edge over his opponents entering in to the final round, but showed impeccable drive and determination to win the final round despite being given the black pieces. After his victory, GM Wesley So drew against GM Aleksandr Lenderman and Nakamura drew against GM Ray Robson, earning them the second and third finishing positions respectively.

A New Face for United States Women’s Chess

I like to think that GM Nazi Paikidze, the new US Women’s Chess Champion is representative of the new wave of chess champions that are set to emerge in the next few years. Although her name might be new to some people, she has an extensive social media presence where she has advocated for chess, health, and fitness for quite some time. Paikidze’s Instagram and Twitter accounts are regularly updated, which shows that she has found a way to balance the demands of professional chess, staying healthy, and maintaining connection to family, friends, and her fans.

As the final round of the women’s section was about to begin, it looked as though WGM Tatev Abrahamyan was set to win, but her 16-year old opponent WIM Ashritha Eswaran shocked everyone by outplaying her opponent and scoring a devastating win.

gmnazi

Paikidze played exceptional chess throughout the event with five draws and six wins. In what could be considered a Cinderella event, Paikidze’s final victory coming against last year’s champion, Irina Krush.

Congratulations to GM’s Fabiano Caruana and Nazi Paikidze for their victory in this year’s United States Chess Championship!

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