Posted on August 6, 2016 by Wesley Surber

Russia Makes Play for Control of WCC Cycle

There are some people out there who believe that the Russian Bear has been awakened and that the country is swiftly moving back to its Soviet history or at least, a future influenced by the political and ideological positions of its Soviet ancestor. While the world is distracted by the Olympics in Rio, Zika, and Russia’s (non)participation in the games, the Russian Chess Federation has made a play for control of the World Chess Championship cycle by submitting a proposal to FIDE that would effectively allow sponsors to buy positions in the championship and undermine any chance that chess has for expanding its audience and recognition as a competitive sport. Here is the letter in its entirety:

To: Chairman of FIDE Commission for World Championships & Olympiads (WCO)
Mr. GEORGIOS MAKROPOULOS

Dear Mr. Makropoulos,

Russian Chess Federation asks the Commission to consider and (if needed) improve and approve the below mentioned amendments to the current system of determining the World Chess Champion at the 87th FIDE Congress (04–14.09.2016 Baku, Azerbaijan). RCF suggests adding an article to the rules governing World Chess Championship matches stating that the World Chess Champion can accept the challenge of any player who can contribute to the prize fund and the costs of holding of the match.

Herewith a number of basic conditions should be fulfilled:

• The FIDE President would have the power to veto any proposed match. Any proposed World Championship match would be carried out under the auspices of FIDE and according FIDE rules.

• 50% of the prize fund will go to FIDE.

• The match must be held before the end of the current FIDE qualifying round, that is, before a challenger has been determined by the Candidates Tournament.

FIDE Vice President
President of the Russian Chess Federation Andrey Filatov

Needless to say that many in the world outside of neo-Soviet insanity are unhappy and have launched a petition against the proposed changes. The Association of Chess Professionals issued a response to the Russian request and has launched a campaign to encourage FIDE to reject the proposal. Of course, knowing that Kirsan and Putin are best buddies leaves little hope that the next World Chess Champion could be nothing ore than the man whose country is willing to pay the price for a seat at the board.

Here is ACP’s response to the proposal:

The Russian Chess Federation submitted an official proposal to the FIDE Congress for an addition to the current World Championship Cycle rules: anyone guaranteeing a required prize-fund can challenge the reigning World Champion.

We as ACP believe that this idea is completely detrimental to chess for a number of reasons, among which:

– The World Champion Title must be achieved only through a proper sport cycle, especially at a time when chess is increasingly recognized as a sport. The RCF proposal goes against the chess tradition and against the very spirit of modern chess. Although purchasing the right for the match was common practice 100 years ago, it was more of a sad necessity than a good system.

– Staging a “commercial” match would seriously undermine the appeal of the regular cycle match. As things stand, the Title Match is a unique event which is held every two years and which acts as a catalyst for all the chess world. Even so, it is very difficult to raise proper funds for the World Championship Match – we do remember several examples from the recent past and we are witnessing the same problems right now. Who would be interested in paying for the ‘regular match’ if it is no longer a unique event? Who would organize the Candidates under these circumstances? Who would regard chess as a proper sport a company can invest in?

– The World Champion Title would be devalued and, more importantly, the image of chess would suffer greatly at all levels and worldwide. It would also put the players on grossly unequal terms: some would have to battle their chances out against the best players of the world in the regular cycle, others would buy their shot at the title by securing the money. This is outright unacceptable. It could also bring a disrepute to our noble game, opening the door to problems we can’t even foresee now.

– The RCF proposal would inevitably mess up the World Championship Cycle. It would also limit the World Champion’s participation in other events, as he would need to spend most of his time preparing/recovering after the matches. Again, this is certainly not desirable.

The ACP strongly opposes changes to the World Championship Cycle that undermine the very sporting sense and the unique value of the World Chess Champion Title. Our opinion is supported by the results of the ACP Poll – 2016, where over 80% of the chess professionals clearly disapproved the idea of purchasing the rights for the Title Match. If you share our vision, please help fighting this proposal and join the ACP stand by signing and endorsing this statement. The RCF proposal could be approved already in September, and we feel the chess world has to take a clear stand on the matter before then.

ACP Board

Posted on June 15, 2016 by Wesley Surber

Chess Defies All Stereotypes 

There is no shortage of stories where chess teachers have used the game as a metaphor for the challenges of life and the importance of thinking about the consequences of a move before making it. Some of these stories, which have been dramatized in movies and books, are fictional but there are many real-life examples to show how chess has broken barriers and united some incredibly unlikely groups of people. Seattle Deputy Denise “Cookie” Bouldin is no exception. Once convinced by her peers that she was not smart enough to play chess, the veteran police officer has used chess to transform the lives of the people in her neighborhood through regular classes and through running her own chess club.

Ten years ago, Bouldin was teaching her anti-violence course to fourth- and fifth-grade students and wanted to come up with a fun activity she could do with the kids. She suggested a basketball game between the students and police. The kids fired back with the suggestion of a chess tournament. Bouldin, who had never played chess, was initially skeptical but agreed. She brought in people to teach the kids the game and she eventually learned it herself, three years after starting the club.

Chess continues to grow around the world and the United States is no exception. The World Chess Championship will be held in November in New York City and Saint Louis continues to grow as the Chess Capital of the USA. I hope that as chess continues this growth that we will continue to see more stories like Deputy Bouldin’s.

Read the full story here.

Posted on May 11, 2016 by Wesley Surber

St Louis, MO… Chess Capital of the World

Saint Louis, Missouri has hosted some of the strongest chess tournaments in United States history over the past few years. When GM Susan Polgar moved her SPICE program to Webster University, a plethora of chess talent migrated from Lubbock’s Texas Tech University to her new home at Webster. Now, St Louis continues to gain attention and prestige as it is increasingly looked at as the new chess capital of America.

Chess is a global game, enjoyed by millions around the world. For much of the 20th Century the nucleus of chess was the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. But now a new chess capital of the world is emerging – the American Midwest city of St Louis.

It’s a beautiful spring evening and Chuck is sitting opposite me, outside the St Louis chess club. He’s an African-American in late middle age who, during the day, runs a business selling meat. But this is where he comes after work. Between us is a beautiful inlaid chess board, on which stand elegant wood-carved pieces.

Is St Louis on track to becoming the chess capital of the world? Perhaps, because this is America and anything is possible.

Read more: BBC.com

Posted on February 26, 2016 by Wesley Surber

Carlsen’s Amazing Hamburg Simul

You really have to hand it to Magnus Carlsen. As one of the youngest chess champions in history, he has transformed the professional chess world with major brand endorsements, his own clothing line, his own brand/chess app, and is noteworthy as the first World Champion to develop his chess abilities in the age of prevalent chess computers. In the 2014 World Chess Championship, Carlsen effectively destroyed former champion Viswanathan Anand where there were no shortage of comments and questions about him being past his prime and Carlsen being the young wave of the future.

Earlier this week on February 21 in Hamburg, Play Magnus hosted a simul exhibition with 70 players. The German paper Die Zeit organized the event to commemorate its 70th birthday, which puts its first publication right after the end of World War II. In this competition sat one person for every year that Die Zeit has faithfully published to its readers.

simulsetup

70 boards ready to take on Magnus Carlsen. (Credit: Play Magnus)

As you can see, the setup for the event was stunning with each player receiving a Play Magnus chess set which was autographed by the World Champion after the event. Some of the competitors were invited to the event while others were chosen from a pool of over 1,000 applicants.

simulcarlsen

Carlsen’s six-hour battle. (Credit: Chess24.com)

At the halfway point of the event, Carlsen had shut his opponents out with an amazing 30 wins and 0 losses or draws. At the conclusion of the event, which lasted around six hours, the World Champion emerged with an exceptional record of 67 wins, 2 draws, and 1 loss. It is easy to lose sight of the wins in this situation because of the startling number of losses. This defeat came at the hands of Jens-Erik Rudolph, who is identified by Chessbase as a City League chess player with an 1981 ELO.

Magnus Carlsen’s single loss in the simul.

After struggling somewhat last year, it is refreshing to see Magnus playing such good chess recently. Additionally, it was nice to see that there was an eclectic mix of people participating in the simul including a nine-year old chess player and a famous futbol coach among others. Although I have to consider variables such as the number of people Carlsen played in this simul it is nice to know that the World Champion himself is not impervious to defeat at the hands of players < 2000 ELO. Rudolph’s 1981 ELO gives me hope, I tell ya.

Additional Credit: Featured Image by IM Anna Rudolf

-w.s

Posted on February 18, 2016 by Wesley Surber

Sinquefield Cup Changes Tournament Dates

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the World Chess Federation (FIDE) recently changed the dates of the 2016 Baku Chess Olympiad and Chess Congress, which created some conflict with the Sinquefield Cup. According to Chess24, the Sinquefield Cup has changed its tournament dates to August 4-16 to de-conflict.

This means that starting in the 3rd quarter of this year will begin a marathon of professional chess that will culminate with November’s 2016 World Chess Championship at a location to be announced in the United States. Here’s a quick breakdown of how the chess calendar looks from August to December of this year, barring any sudden changes by our robot overlords FIDE.

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

  • Women’s World Championship: October 11-31 (website)

November 2016

  • World Chess Championship: Dates TBD
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.

Points of Interest

Posted on February 12, 2016 by Wesley Surber

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.

claudiamunoz

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!