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Category: Campfire Chess

Celebrating 3 Years Around the Campfire

Campfire Chess started as a small side project following the end of six years running my astronomy blog and non-profit called nightShifted Astronomy. In the high days of nightShifted I would never have expected it to end, but that all came to fruition in 2014 when I closed the site permanently to focus on other areas of interest. Name, chess! I started Off My Chess as a blog covering my attempt to get better at the game and eventually evolved it into Campfire Chess covering news, views, and general insights about the game’s fascinating world of celebrity, hard work, psychosis, and political intrigue.

Today, Campfire Chess celebrates its three year anniversary! To mark the occasion, here are ten of my favorite posts from the last three years.

  1. Product Review – Chessmate Ultima Pocket Chess Set
    • Published: 31 May 2014
  2. God and Chess
    • Published: 07 June 2014
  3. Finding the Right Notation Tool
    • Published: 25 July 2014
  4. Robin Williams and the Way of Things
    • Published: 14 August 2014
  5. The Sad State of Chess on the Mac
    • Published: 11 January 2015
  6. The Big Deal About Berlin
    • Published: 10 February 2015
  7. The Sad Reality of Cheating in Chess
    • Published: 06 September 2015
  8. Does Chess Need an Audience?
    • Published: 18 October 2015
  9. US Chess Sends Open Letter to FIDE
    • Published: 16 February 2017
  10. Iran Hosts Women’s Chess and Anti-American Chanting
    • Published: 11 February 2017

Here’s to many more years for Campfire Chess and our game!

Sincerely,

Wesley Surber

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US Chess Championships Begin Today!

Grab your laptop, tablet, and your favorite chess app, program, or board and get ready to follow the exciting showdown in Saint Louis: the 2017 US Chess Championships!

Reigning Champions GM Fabiano Caruana and Nazi Paikidze-Barnes will be fighting to retain their titles against the best that the country has to offer on the board. All games are played at 1300 CDT (GMT -5) and will be broadcast on Chess24, ChessBomb, and ChessBase.

Also, I recommend trying out the Watch Chess app available on iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. I wrote a review about it awhile back and it has been a great companion for watching chess when stuck in a meeting or in another place where its not practical to bring up a browser-based website.

Tournament Breakdown

  • March 29 – April 2: Rounds 1-5 (1300 CDT)
  • April 3: Rest Day
  • April 4 – April 9: Rounds 6-11 (1300 CDT)
  • April 10 – Playoff (if necessary) (1300 CDT)
  • April 10 – Closing Ceremony (1830 CDT)

Read more on the official website and follow all of the late breaking information on the US Chess Federation website.

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Campfire Chess is Social!

Contrary to what you might have heard about chess players, I am a (mostly) social guy! Campfire Chess is not my full time job, so everything I do here and on social media is a hobby (for now). But that does not mean that I half-ass my efforts with the site! There are social media pages for Campfire Chess on just about every relevant platform out there! Some of these pages contain exclusive updates and stories that are not found here on the main blog. If you are a social type, then check out Campfire Chess on its myriad of other broadcast mediums!

If the links above don’t work, try these:

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Five Beautiful (and expensive) Chess Sets

Chess sets offer artists and other creatives with almost endless possibilities to design custom and unique pieces. I came across some beautiful albeit pricey sets on the web the other night and decided to share them here for your viewing (or possible purchasing) pleasure. These sets are in no particular order:

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RawStudio Leather and Steel Chess Set ($507 USD)

RawStudio’s chess set is inspired by industrial design and those little puzzles you can find at Toys-R-Us or various mall kiosks. It looks very beautiful and designed for portability, but I cannot imagine being comfortable carrying my $500 chess set out and about.

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The STACK Chess Board [Limited Edition] ($450)

This cool board is like Legos or an Erector Set for chess! The board itself combines from four separate pieces into a full-size board. The ability to break the board down makes it perfect for travelers and for convenient storage if $400 for a nondescript chess board is your thing.

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Black Tower Dragon Set ($150)

Chess has long held a place in science fiction and fantasy lore. In the real world, companies have created countless sets based on dragons, fairies, aliens, and other characters from classic stories. This, however, is one of my personal favorites! The glass board is perched on a highly detailed tower and the gold/white creates a unique look for dragon-theme boards that are often depicted with darker purple and red colors.

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Hand-Turned Rustic Log Chess Set ($220+)

This is one of those chess sets you will see repeatedly on Tumblr or Pinterest feeds and I have fallen victim to clicking it several times before seeing the price and running for the hills. $200+ might not seem like alot for a chess set, but the size of this one makes me cautious. However, the rustic artwork and craftsmanship of the set is certainly among the best out there. This seems like more of a collector’s item than an actual day-to-day game board.

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King Arthur Fantasy Chess Set ($1,350)

Much like the dragon chess set above, sets involving castles and midieval themes like King Arthur are commonplace. However, this is one of the most detailed and beautiful sets that I have ever seen. For someone who loves chess, fine woodwork, and the legend of the Knights of the Roundtable, this thing is perfect! It is only when we get to the price that my heart stops and disappointment sets in.

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New Campfire Goodies Available!

Yes, this is shameless self promotion but can you blame me? Campfire Chess is about to celebrate its 3-year anniversary and I am happy introduce a new line of goodies available in the official Campfire Chess Store

The two items above are just a small sample of what is available. Although I am biased, I will say that the coffee mug is one of the best coffee mugs I have ever owned. As a guy who spends a significant portion of his day sitting at a desk, coffee is a vital part of making it through the day without going off on someone. These mugs are great because they come with a small handle on the lid, which is convenient when your hands are full. They also keep your coffee warm for hours, although certainly not as long as a YETI or RTIC

The calendar prints are very nice as well. Two options are available including the USCF Tournament Set calendar print pictured above and a print of my beautiful African Padauk chess set from back when Campfire Chess was just getting started. 

I am pleased with the products offered in the store, but Cafepress is certainly not my first choice for products but it is the website with the most options and easiest access. My main problem with Cafepress is that their prices on some products is very high, which is a deterrent to higher markups on products. Therefore, the markup on most Campfire products is less than $2, but that money goes toward maintaining the website and developing programs to help spread chess news and awareness to others.

If you like the gear, head over to the shop and check out the new stuff!

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A Plug for the Club!

Chess often gets portrayed in film and media as a solitary activity, but there is a huge social component to the game that is rarely seen by the world at large. While millions take to places like lichess.org and Chess.com to get their fix, there are still countless others who play over-the-board (OTB) chess in clubs, restaurants, bars, homes, and an endless list of other places around the world. I admit that media had shaped some of my ideas of chess players and clubs, but I was pleased to see most of those ideas shattered when I gathered up the nerve to visit my local club for the first time in 2016. They were very welcoming and shared just as much of a passion for the game as I did. I found that being around such great players who were committed to the game and its principles was inspiring; it made me want to get better although I felt like I was only getting worse.

sachess.jpg Wednesday night chess at Methodist Hospital (Credit: Campfire Chess)

Since then, I have been blessed to play with some amazing players in and around the San Antonio area including chances to play in simultaneous exhibition games against GM Boris Avrukh and IM Paz Medina.

With that in mind, there are many exciting ways for players in the South Texas area to get involved in local clubs as well as ways to find players who are willing to play and coach. NM Jesse Lozano is a local chess celebrity who is the reigning city champion. He runs the San Antonio Scholastic Chess website and regularly hosts tournaments at Trinity University and other places throughout the city. In addition, Rackspace hosts chess tournaments at its Headquarters (known as The Castle) just off of Interstate 35 near SAMMC. The next Rackspace event is scheduled for April 1st.

If you live in the area and are looking for a good place to play, check out the club’s official Facebook page. The group is regularly filled with lively discussions, brilliant chess, and information on the latest events in the city along with registration information. 

The San Antonio Chess Club’s official website is currently down for maintenance but will (hopefully) be available for access at www.sanantoniochess.com.

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My “Battlefield” Problem

I realized last night that I have not played a single game of online chess this year! I have played a couple of OTB games with friends and spent some time reading Chess Life and other magazines, but it was not until the latest edition of ChessBase Magazine arrived in my mailbox last night that I realized how much time I have spent on other pursuits; namely my recent obsession with Battlefield 1.

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If you are not into video games or do not keep up with technology news, then you might have only heard of Battlefield 1. It is the most recent installment of the highly popular Battlefield video game series published by Electronic Arts and DICE. It is notable for its incredibly immersive multiplayer and its unique setting; World War I. I picked the game up late last year shortly after it was released and was immediately hooked. It is a vision of sensory overload with immense maps, incredible weapons, and a wealth of knowledge that I never experienced from a video game before. In fact, I have learned more about World War I from this game than I have from any class in school or book.

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Why write about this on Campfire Chess? Well, like I said, this game has taken up an immense amount of my time. So much that the looks my wife gives me have gone from mild disapproval to outright scorn and disdain. Perhaps the obsession aspect will wear off soon and I can get back to playing some chess on a somewhat regular basis. In the meantime, if you are an Xbox One gamer and like to play Battlefield 1, look me up: DasExorcist.

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A Future for Campfire Chess?

Campfire Chess is coming up on its three-year anniversary later this year, which is excellent when you consider how quickly blogs come and go across the internet. It seems even better in the chess world where it seems like blogs pop up everywhere and die within months or sit idle for years. Since I started writing this blog in 2014, much has happened to promote the blog and to threaten its very existence. Before I go on, I thought it would be neat to break down some blog stats:

General Blog Statistics

  • Campfire Chess Age (today): 32 months.
  • Average “age” of Top 100 Technorati Blogs: 33.8 months
  • Median Figure: 28.8 months
  • Source: ProBlogger
  • Campfire Chess Posts: 249
  • Campfire Chess “unique” visitors: 22,500
  • Campfire Chess “unique” visitor countries: 27
  • Campfire Chess “top” post:
  • #1 – Downloads page
  • #2 – The Sad State of Chess on Mac

On an average, Campfire Chess receives about as many daily visits as a strip mall comic book store, which is pretty awesome and goes beyond anything I had in mind when I started writing here three years ago. So, where do we go now?

I had high hopes for 2017 but they were quickly destroyed by a series of unfortunate events. There is a high probability that my family and I will be relocating out of Texas in the coming months, which has put a significant strain on all of us. The subsequent stress and turmoil has reduced my chess playing from frequent (70-80% of my free time) to less than 10% of the time. In fact, my anxiety has peaked to a point where it is difficult to properly set up a board, let alone play a comprehensive game. That has caused me to consider putting Campfire Chess on hiatus for awhile until I am able to get myself together, so that is option one.

The second option is to modify the content of Campfire Chess slightly to use it as an outlet for dealing with my anxiety and document my attempts to get back into chess. When I started taking chess seriously in 2014 it was very relaxing and enjoyable. I still enjoy it and believe that it might be an effective means of coping with the stress of everyday life. So, that is option two.

In all honesty, it is likely that Campfire Chess will continue as it has been although with a reduced frequency in posting. I will post whenever I can but I am not going to be able to post as frequently about tournaments or other events as I would like until I am able to regain some of my grounding. That could happen tomorrow or it could happen next year. Suffice to say that regardless, Campfire Chess will soon be packing up its mobile device and a few chess boards as it relocates (temporarily) from the sand and sun of South Texas for the oasis of Seoul, South Korea.

Stay tuned, campers…

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Happy New Year (and new logo)

Happy New Year, Campers!

We are ten days into the new year and while Campfire Chess has been silent since Christmas, I have been working hard behind the scenes. I am proud to announce that after months of design, re-design, and more re-design that the new site logo and title design is online! The new logo is simpler which makes it easier to print on marketing materials and merchandise. Look for the new design to slowly replace the old flame and wood logo/icon set throughout the coming weeks.

Changing the logo is also symbolic in that it signifies the changing of one era to a new era. Campfire Chess has changed primary chess websites from Chess.com to lichess.org (more on that in a later post) and my day job is changing, which I hope will afford me more time to write and play chess than my current job. In all, I look forward to a promising 2017 on and off the board.

And Jake, I haven’t forgotten you…sending you a move shortly. :)

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Merry Christmas To All!

Merry Christmas, campers! The Campfire Chess HQ is awash in the yuletide spirit even though we will not be blessed with snow-covered grounds this year. From our family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

> Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” – Matthew 2:1-8 (ESV)

And finally, in the tradition of the festive spirit of the holiday I present you with proof that Santa is real. After all, he has a game in the database at Chessgames.com!

A huge thanks to everyone who supported Campfire Chess throughout 2016. I am looking forward to a bright and productive 2017! See you all next year!

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