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US vs. Norway in Chess Championship!

GM Fabiano Caruana, who is currently ranked #3 in the world, won the 2018 Candidates Tournament in Berlin against GM Alexander Grischuk in the 14th round. Caruana held the lead for most of the tournament but found himself fighting back against victories by GMs Sergey Karjakin and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. Fortunately, the young American held off and emerged victorious in the final round. Caruana will go on to face GM Magnus Carlsen in November in London for the World Chess Championship title.

2018 Candidates Tournament Games

For your reference, this is the first time that an American has played in the World Chess Championship since Bobby Fischer beat Petrosian in 1971.

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.

WCC2016: Too Early to Draw Any Conclusions

All eyes are on New York City as Magnus Carlsen defends his World Chess Champion title against Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin. Carlsen is the heavy favorite to win the tournament but if the first few games are any indication of what to expect from the whole tournament, we might be in for a long ride. As the name of the post suggests, its too early to draw any conclusions from these games, but there are many conclusions in these games that end in draws

Game 3: Bending Space and Time

Hopes were high after the first two games that there would be some dramatics appearing in the third game and they came…in a sense. Reminding players, commentators, and fans alike that chess requires mental and physical resilience, the players battled it out in a 7-hour, 78-move nightmare that ended…you guessed it..in a draw.

Game 4: Drawing Up A New Strategy?

After the marathon of Game 3, I was very impressed that the players were able to squeeze out the next game, which went 94 moves before ending in another draw. It was apparent in this game, however, that Magnus was becoming frustrated with Karjakin and that a draw was certainly not on his list of game ideas for the day.

Game 5: Drawn of the Dead

Game 5 was played earlier today and felt like a blitz game at times. The moves were fast in some areas deep into the position with Magnus finding himself in trouble against his challenger for the first time in the match. There were certain moments in the game when Karjakin had clear advantage on the board, but Magnus was able to bring these situations back into balance and force a draw on move 51.

America Shows Agon How an Open Market Works

Just prior to the start of the 2016 World Chess Championship (WCC) in New York City, Agon Limited filed suit in United States Federal Court against Chess24, Chessbomb, and ChessGames.com to prevent them from broadcasting the moves just as they did (and lost) in Moscow earlier this year.

“These entities expend no time, effort, or money of their own in organizing, producing, or hosting the chess events for the World Championship and instead reap economic benefit from free-riding on the work and effort of World Chess.” – Reuters

However, just as with their loss in Moscow, New York District Judge Victor Marrero ruled in favor of the defendants for most of the reasons that have been covered on this blog and in countless others in the chess community already. The most important of those? CHESS IS FOR THE MASSES!

Chess is a game that transcends all boundaries. (Credit: WikiMedia)

RIAA of the Chess World

Although they were readily handed defeat in two countries, Agon promises to continue pursuit of its business model despite widespread business and consumer disapproval. Despite obvious attempts to assist the company with its model, Agon refuses to acknowledge that its attempts to restrict access to tournament moves is misguided. As a direct result, it seeks to force consumers to engage its unreliable and third-rate content delivery system instead of offering a compelling service for fans of the game to watch and enjoy.

Agon has quickly turned itself from an obscure entity into the modern chess equivalent of the Recording Industry Association of America which successfully sued a multitude of families in the early 2000s for downloading mp3 files from Napster and other file-sharing services. By suing grandmothers and teenagers for untold millions of dollars, the RIAA quickly became synonymous with corporate greed, censorship, and created a gap between recording artists and their fans from which some artists never recovered.

Hope for an Agon awakening remains dim, but I am pleased to see that both the United States and Russia dealt a blow for freedom to its blatant attempts to monopolize public domain information.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Celebrating National Chess Day!

Today is National Chess Day in the United States. In my opinion, that’s not too shabby for a country only recently moving back into the chess spotlight. There are chess events happening all around the country and yours truly will be taking plenty of time today to indulge in our game. What are you doing to celebrate today?

Ad Victoriam Ad Valorem

Editor’s Note: I am pleased to welcome my good friend Howard Darkes as a guest author today on Campfire Chess. Howard is a longtime philosophy and literary mentor of mine. I hope that you enjoy his heartfelt reflection of Memorial Day. -Wesley Surber

Hello, Campers! My name is Howard Darkes and I first want to thank my longtime friend Wesley for granting me control of the blog today to share reflections on the past and to address some troubling concerns for the future. Today is Memorial Day in the United States of America and I believe that this is something that needs to be said because there is much mourning going on across the globe today. As the professional chess world is knee-deep in the Shamkir Chess Gashimov Memorial tournament that commemorates one of the greatest players of our generation, my country takes time during the season to reflect and recognize the countless men and women who have sacrificed their lives to defend the sovereignty of our nation and to continue our way of life.  It is on this day that we recognize, remember, and honor the people whose lives were sacrificed in pursuit of this selfless service or whose lives have since expired upon returning from home to enjoy the freedoms they so valiantly fought for.

Originally from Germany, my family has a long history of military service with the most recent generation being among those to continue that tradition. In memoriam, my paternal Grandfather served in the United States Army during World War II against the Axis Powers. It is today that our nation honors men like him, who has long departed this earth but his children, grandchildren, and now countless great grandchildren continue to enjoy freedoms that generations prior could only have dreamed of.

Unfortunately, the memory of those sacrifices and the freedoms that came with them are being tainted by the very men and women who have sworn an oath to uphold and defend the laws of our nation and to promote the very way of life that sets us apart from the rest of the world. These days, it is popular to hate America. In fact, it is almost as though hating America is much more socially acceptable than to acknowledge America’s contributions to the rest of the world throughout history. That is why, when sitting US President Barrack Obama gave his speech at the Hiroshima Memorial on May 27, my blood boiled for a while but my patriotism and depth of knowledge about the sacrifices of military service and dedication to duty that comes with such service helped me to overcome those feelings.

There were many moments in the Hiroshima Speech that betrayed the memory of fallen service US service members, but I want to take this Memorial Day to highlight a few of them.

The world war that reached its brutal end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art. Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes, an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints.

In his speech, Barrack Obama paints a picture of World War II as some kind of playground dispute among the rich kids. It was the wealth, power, and quest for domination that drove the United States to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not the carefully calculated decision to avoid millions of casualties assured by a US invasion of the Japanese mainland. Furthermore, he asserts that the players in the war had advanced ideas of justice, harmony, and truth. Yet, the philosophies of Nazi Germany resulted in the execution of countless Jews, Soviets, homosexuals, and other minority groups that President Obama has championed throughout his reign. Although it is often lost in the sensational history reports of Nazi atrocities in Europe, the Japanese Empire was no better. Japan’s notorious Unit 731 killed 3,000 people while conducting horrific medical experiments and approximately 300,000 people died as a result of biological weapons developed at the facility.


Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us. The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.

This is the crux of his speech because, in his opinion, American morality has evolved past the need for nuclear weapons and for war. His statements imply that if the United States, Nazi Germany, and Japan were engaged in a worldwide conflict that the American Government (and the American people) would never support the use of nuclear weapons against another nation. His words imply that Japan was attacked by the US out of fear because its people were different. Yet, it was the Japanese Empire that forced the US into a conflict with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Before that moment, the US had not been engaged in a war with the island nation. However, the attack prompted a response by America that raged across the Pacific Ocean and its myriad of tiny islands until the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki put an end to the fighting and forged an alliance of peace between the two countries that brought about a technological revolution!

While the devastation levied on the two cities is tragic in-itself, it cannot be said enough how those sacrifices most likely saved the lives of countless others whose lives would have been snuffed out when the US launched an invasion of Japan. The pending invasion, known as Operation Downfall, projected that 500,000 US service members would have lost their lives and the fanatical warrior culture of the Japanese Empire would have required hand-to-hand combat in almost every home on the island. Some estimates of the initial invasion suggested that around 100,000 soldiers would be killed in combat on the island per month, so at one point, 500,000 Purple Hearts were commissioned by the War Department to prepare for the losses. Yet, intelligence on the nature of the Japanese enemy caused the US Government to make its calculated decision to deliver the nukes in an attempt to stave off the need for such an invasion. Japan surrendered six days later, after around 130,000 people were killed in the blast.

Why We Come Here

President Obama ended his speech with this:

Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.

Taken out of the context of the rest of the speech, it is an accurate assessment of life and death. Ancient warfare philosophies have always taught that fighting should be done only as a last resort. When Hitler’s Germany and the Japanese Empire began systematically invading other countries and slaughtering innocents, the United States and its allies fulfilled their moral duty to intervene and to save those less fortunate. President Obama can speak all he wants to about the need for moral revolution, but a revolution is not the same as evolution. A moral revolution does need to occur in our society, but it needs to look to the heroes of World War II for the way ahead. The young men and women who laid down their lives for their brothers, sisters, and even for those who they did not know are the reason that I am able to sit here today and be critical of the man who stands up and claims to speak for the free world.


The reality is that Barrack Obama speaks for no one but himself. Even a half-hearted apology for the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is a betrayal of the worst kind to the memory of the soldiers who gave their lives fighting to defend their homes and families. If anything, the bombs prove the American resolve to preserve life and to defend the lives of others. If that were not the case, then Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been just the first wave in a series of greater bombings and conquests that would not have ended with Germany and Japan’s surrender.

The Man Who Speaks for No One

Instead, I prefer to join the millions of people in the United States and around the world who disagree with President Obama’s self-loathing and anti-American sentiment. Those people in Europe whose families were rescued by the Allied powers continued to appreciate and respect those sacrifices. And I appreciate the sacrifices of every man and woman around the world who has decided to give his or her life for something greater than their own personal desires; to defend their homes, families, and the freedoms that they hold so dear. Today, we honor them all by reminding the world that the fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen gave their lives not to defend the personal philosophies of the United States Government or the opinions of its leaders. These people pledged to defend the foundations that make us different, which are rooted in the United States Constitution, by sworn oath ad victoriam ad valerum.

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