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Category: Famous Players

Magnus Carlsen Takes on The Simpsons

The Simpsons is in its 28th season (premiered in 1989) and despite being written off by passing social fads like Family Guy has remained a staple of American culture for longer than many of its fans have been alive. Throughout its run, the show has hosted countless cultural crossovers including KISS, President Donald Trump, and many other celebrities that have brought the show a consistently refreshing take on the state of the world. This past Sunday, the show put chess at its center for the first time in its long history with an episode dedicated to exploring a complex and relatively unknown part of Homer Simpson’s backstory. To help him through the challenges of that backstory was the Norwegian World Champion himself: Magnus Carlsen!

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I will not spoil the entire episode in case you have not seen it, but suffice to say that it is worth taking the time to watch! There are the usual missteps like chess boards being set up incorrectly, but there is also a great deal of attention to detail in the episode such as real-life positions on the boards and enough club-level chess talk to please even the most discriminating chess geek!

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Moe’s Tavern taken by chess fever! (Image Credit: Fox)

For me, one of the best moments of the night came from the image above where Moe’s Tavern became the social hub dedicated to watching the episode’s final match. The creators truly captured the atmosphere of chess fans following the game in a way that was funny yet reverent in a way that only The Simpsons could achieve. If you have not seen the episode, you might qualify to watch it here depending on your cable provider.

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Karjakin Withdraws from Norway Chess 2016

Interesting…

GM Sergey Karjakin, who is the current challenger for the title of World Chess Champion against Magnus Carlsen in New York City later this year, has withdrawn from the Altibox Norway Chess tournament and provoked the rage of the tournament’s organizers.

Chessdom and Susan Polgar have posted a series of responses from the tournament organizers that explain in clear terms that Karjakin’s withdrawal from the tournament is disrespectful:

  • Karjakin has a signed contract with us and it does not state that he can withdraw from the tournament if he qualifies for the World Championship in November, states Jøran Aulin-Jansson.
  • This action feels disrespectful to us as the organizers of the event as well as the other players in the tournament, not to mention the entire chess world that were looking forward to the dress rehearsal for the World Championship match between Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen, says Aulin-Jansson.
  • Sergey Karjakin is a great chess player and he is still welcome as a participant in Altibox Norway Chess 2016. He has, after all, won both times he has participated, says Aulin-Jansson.
  • Karjakin obviously has a lot of nerves before his first World Championship match, however, we truly wish Karjakin and his advisors understand that one can not just run away from agreements because it suddenly does not fit in preparation for a match that does not start until about half a year later.

For more information, contact:
Jøran Aulin-Jansson
Board Member
Phone: +47 913 32 242
joran@norwaychess.com

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Hou Yifan is Women’s World Chess Champion

My guess is that an objective chess journalist would be expected not to pick sides or have favorites in tournament matches, but that is the beauty of running my own site and never claiming to be an objective chess journalist! Back in April of 2015, GM Mariya Muzychuk of the Ukraine shocked the professional chess world by knocking out favored GM Koneru Humpy of India and winning the Women’s World Chess Championship title through the somewhat maligned knockout system.

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GM Mariya Muzychuk crowned Women’s Champion in April 2015. Image Credit: FIDE)

Unfortunately, the same politics that has cast a dark cloud on the 2016 Candidates Tournament has also overshadowed a fight to the finish as former champion GM Hou Yifan has outplayed Mariya to officially reclaim her position as Women’s World Chess Champion in Lviv, Ukraine. I emphasized the word officially because it is clear from the way that many in the professional chess community treated Mariya during her time as champion were not entirely convinced that she was worthy of the honor. Personally, I am sad to see her go because I felt that she brought a special energy to women’s chess. Hou Yifan earns excellent reviews for her friendliness and even more praise for her dominating chess, but it feels as though the professional chess world never really moved on from her as the World Champion when Mariya was awarded the honor in 2015.

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Despite the fact that Hou was the clear favorite to win the match, Mariya made it apparent early on that she was not going to make it easy. After dropping games 2 and 6, Mariya found herself in an early hole but that was all she surrendered to the dominating Chinese player before Hou reclaimed the title in point increments from drawn games.

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GM Hou Yifan. Image Credit: New York Times)

Congratulations to the new Women’s World Chess Champion, GM Hou Yifan of China! An exceptional performance in Lviv caps her return to the highest position in women’s chess. Play through all of the games from the match below:


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Happy Birthday, GM Robert James Fischer!

He was obsessive, explosive, rude, and some believe that he was a dangerous psychotic. Yet, countless people both inside and outside of the chess world adore the late Bobby Fischer. Today is his birthday, he would have been 72 today and we take a moment today to honor the man who inspired countless people to take up chess around the world! In recognition of his birthday, here is the so-called Game of the Century played in 1956 against Donald Byrne.

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Will the Real Irina Krush Please Stand Up?

The February 24th edition of the Steve Harvey Show featured a fantastic game called Two Lies and a Truth in which Steve and his guest, career criminal Secretary Hillary Clinton asked questions of three young women to find out which one of them is the real US Women’s Chess Champion, GM Irina Krush.

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Most of these women are liars. (Credit: YouTUBE/The Steve Harvey Show)

Each of the women in the game were obviously well-studied in Krush’s life and chess experiences as the not-Krushes gave excellent responses to Steve and Hillary’s questions in which they detailed Krush’s immigration from the USSR as a child to her upcoming shot at winning the US Women’s Chess Championship for the eighth time. The current record holder is Gisela Kahn Gresser who has held the title nine times in 1944, 1948, 1955, 1957, and 1965-1970.

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The Real GM Irina Krush. (Credit: YouTUBE/The Steve Harvey Show)

Of course, for chess aficionados, it was obvious from the beginning who the real Irina Krush was, but it was refreshing to see Steve and Hillary guess correctly and send the audience home with a nice gift. Congrats to Irina for continuing to be a trailblazer in the chess world and good luck to her in the upcoming championship. Here is the clip in its entirety:

Having problems? View the full clip on YouTUBE.

-w.s.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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The Carlsen Disappointment Train

The internet can be a tough place to exist for anyone, especially a celebrity. It is undisputed that Magnus Carlsen is currently the best chess player in the world. However, it is also true that 2015 has been a forgettable year for the World Champion. He has not dominated his opponents like we are used to seeing and that has some people in the chess blogosphere worried. The headlines on Chess.com and other sites are glaring: Chess.comWhat’s Wrong with Carlsen?, UK TelegraphCarlsen’s Ratings Crash, and Norway News in EnglishFrustrated Carlsen Logged Shocking Loss. The most recent article, which triggered this post, was a video posted on Chess.com from ChessCentral titled Something’s Not Right with Magnus Carlsen. Some have speculated that Carlsen is not playing his best chess because he is bored, distracted, has found love, or is not as good as we thought he was. The reality is that this all stems from the notion that heroes are infallible and invincible. Even Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was not immune to having a bad 2015 with sanctions against him and having to step down temporarily as FIDE president. Bobby Fischer was an exceptional chess player but his persona and the mythology around him has eclipsed his chess play throughout the years. Some people will talk about Bobby as though he was an invincible force who never lost and never had days where he was just off. Bobby had some terrible losses during his ascension to chess stardom. The Chess.com forum has an excellent post that asks this very question and users have submitted some particularly brutal games from Fischer’s early days. This one is especially devastating and it comes from a 1964 simul in San Francisco:

I have games in my personal archives from Chess.com that are better than this game, but a loss like this is not indicative of Bobby’s character as a whole just as a streak of poor results are not indicative of Magnus Carlsen’s personality or his chess ability. Is there something wrong with Magnus Carlsen? Probably. Is he playing poorly because he is bored? Probably. What else is there in chess when you are the World Champion? He has reached the pinnacle of chess and is still incredibly young, so how much higher can he go? I, for one, hope that he has found a girl who melts his heart and is distracting him from the board for a little while. That is partially because I am biased and want Nakamura to have a shot at the title in 2016, but also because Magnus needs that kind of balance in his life to maintain his health and sanity. Even if there is something wrong with him, it only goes to prove that he is human, he is fallible, and that there is nothing wrong with that.

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The Bobby Fischer We Never Knew

Bobby Fischer was one of those personalities that defies definition. Some have called him a maniac while others have called him a genius. His chess was as beautiful as a Da Vinci painting but his off-the-board antics were the stuff of a public relations manager’s worst nightmare. In his later years Bobby was remembered less for his works of art on the chessboard and more for his often incoherent rants and incessant anti-Semitism. By the time that he passed away in January of 2008 he was living an isolated life in Reykjavik, Iceland where he brought down the Soviet Chess Machine in 1972.

Gardar Sverrison is considered to be the only real friend that Bobby had during the final period of his life. Now, Gardar has published a book in Iceland (English edition coming in 2016) that opens up a new window into the world of Bobby Fischer. Instead of focusing on the same tales we have seen in Bobby Fischer Against the World and Pawn Sacrifice, Sverrison dives headfirst into the deep intellectual and emotional motivations that made Bobby Fischer who he was. The rants and unusual behavior was something that the world will always remember but the underlying reasons for why Bobby acted the way he did have always been the stuff of societal conjecture and armchair psychology. Now, readers around the world will have unparalleled access to the psyche of the man who single-handedly changed the face of chess forever.

Back on with Bobby Fischer is available for purchase in Icelandic language here. English edition is due out in 2016.

Read more about the book, its author and subject on Chessbase.

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Wesley So Victorious in Bilbao

American Grandmaster Wesley So achieved victory through a blitz tiebreaker against GM Anish Giri 1.5-0.5. Giri made headlines earlier this week for destroying Vishy Anand in Round 4 and for playing a mammoth 172 move draw against Ding Liren. Unfortunately the recently married GM from the Netherlands was unable to keep up the pace and was outmaneuvered in the tiebreaker by So. Wesley was the only player to win a game in the first half of the tournament and quickly became an early favorite to take the lead or at least find himself in a deathmatch with Giri. Like his American counterpart GM Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So is also a deadly blitz master:

Check out a complete recap with photos and commentary on Chessbase.

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