Posted on September 16, 2016 by Wesley Surber

United States Victorious in Baku!

It was long before I was born the last time that the United States won a gold medal victory at a Chess Olympiad. That kind of drought is long enough for many American chess enthusiasts to start each Olympiad off with little to no hope for a competitive finish. Countries like Russia and China have dominated the scene for years, but all of that changed in the final round of the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku when the United States defeated Canada to earn its first gold medal since 1976! This got me to thinking…what was the world like the last time that the United States won a gold medal in a Chess Olympiad?

  • Height of the Fischer Chess Boom after the 1972 match against Boris Spassky.
  • First flight of the Concorde airplane.
  • Apple Computer Company was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
  • The Canada CN tower was completed.
  • Howard Hughes dies at age 70.
  • Viking I Lander arrives on Mars.
  • Fidel Castro becomes President of Cuba.

My, how far we have come… The Fischer boom is long gone and most people under 25 probably do not remember the Concorde. But it is 2016 and chess in America is undergoing a renaissance. The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis has hosted some of the strongest tournaments in American history and the United States Chess Federation continues to transform itself into a powerhouse of chess promotion and advocacy. That strong advocacy led to the acquisition of Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana, who won the United States Chess Championship earlier this year. With a renewed vigor and youthful dynamic, the United States team steam rolled into the Baku Chess Olympiad to capture a series of early victories and never letting up on their competition.

Power Out of the Gates It was readily apparent at the outset of the tournament that the United States team was a force to be reckoned with. They earned four victories early before falling behind a point to Scotland in Round 2.

From that point on, the United States team held a solid momentum to compete for placement in the tournament’s top three positions. The drama lasted, however, until the very end.

It was readily apparent that the United States team outplayed their Canadian counterparts, but was not able to pull off a complete win in that final round. Once the American games were completed, attention focused to the Ukrainian team who was competing to break a virtual tie. Despite a strong performance by the Ukraine team, it was not enough to overcome their deficit and defeat the Americans. With the tiebreaker over, the United States left Baku with chess gold!

The United States Chess Team was:

  • Captain: IM John Donaldson
  • GM Fabiano Caruana
  • GM Hikaru Nakamura
  • GM Wesley So
  • GM Samuel Shankland
  • GM Ray Robson

National Pride I am incredibly proud and feel blessed everyday to be able to play chess and to know that my country is starting to embrace the game on a grander scale. Now we can turn our attention to New York as the United States prepares to host the greatest event in chess: the World Chess Championship!

Posted on February 16, 2016 by Wesley Surber

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.

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