Posted on March 27, 2018 by Wesley Surber.

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.

Posted on October 14, 2017 by Wesley Surber.

Today is National Chess Day!

Good morning, Campers! Today is National Chess Day in the United States! Established in 1976, the holiday recognizes the benefits of chess to mental and social development as well as it’s links to improved quality of life. Clubs and individuals across the country will be setting up their boards to play the royal game in celebration of its national recognition.

 

Here are just a few things you can do today to participate:

  • US Chess Events: A comprehensive list of all US Chess sponsored events throughout the nation.
  • In Dallas, the Dallas Chess Club is hosting its 2017 National Chess Day FIDE Weekend Open Tournament.
  • In Dayton, Ohio (my hometown), the Dayton Chess Club is hosting the 5th Annual Wright Brothers Open.

In addition to these events and the myriad of chess activities available on lichess.org, Chess.com and others, I have curated a small playlist of chess videos for you to enjoy on YouTube. Check out the Campfire Chess YouTube Channel for more information.

Posted on March 22, 2017 by Wesley Surber.

US Chess Championship Set for March 29

Grab your popcorn and laptops, campers, because the United States Chess Championship is set to begin in just over two weeks time! The tournament will be hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis for the eighth year and it promises to be another exciting tournament for chess players and fans alike!

This year, newly nationalized American Champion Fabiano Caruana and America’s sweetheart Nazi Paikidze-Barnes will defend their titles against the top talents from US Chess. The prize fund this year is $194,000 with players arriving on March 27-28, Opening Ceremonies on March 28, and Round 1 beginning on March 28. As usual there are plenty of places to catch the action. Fans can view the matches live on ChessBomb, ChessBase, Chess24, and Chess.com.

Posted on February 16, 2017 by Wesley Surber.

US Chess Sends Open Letter to FIDE

Earlier this week, the United States Chess Federation (US Chess) released an open letter from Gary Walters, the federation’s president. In the letter, which is addressed to Nigel Freeman of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), US Chess made official many of the concerns that the larger chess community has expressed for some time about the state of FIDE and the effect that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov’s seemingly endless tenure as FIDE president has had on the sport. The letter is very telling in that it shows the depths of leadership, communication, and organization problems that exist within FIDE; they are much worse than some had expected.

Gary’s letter addresses the hijab controversy at the 2017 Women’s World Chess Championship in Tehran (still ongoing) and problems surrounding Ilyumzhinov’s sanctions by the United States Government and the contradictions between FIDE’s statement that he would step down temporarily to address the sanctions. Instead, Ilyumzhinov has appeared regularly at major chess events in the capacity of FIDE president and has made no apparent effort to clear his name with the Department of the Treasury. This is all stuff that we know, but perhaps the most interesting moment comes when Gary addresses the 2016 World Chess Championship in New York City.

…this indecorous behavior is coupled with the conduct of a World Championship on U.S. soil without so much as a word in advance to the nominal “host” Federation, FIDE’s conduct becomes insulting.

Say what? Apparently, the announcement that the championship would be held in the United States in 2016 was never communicated to US Chess prior to the declaration. The United States was happy to host the event, but any professional governing body like FIDE owes the host nation’s federation a courtesy call and head’s up prior to announcing such a major event! Although, US Chess does have a recently unemployed resource that could help them gather intel without FIDE knowing…

Gary’s right in that this kind of behavior is insulting to US Chess and to chess in general, but I am inclined to believe that US Chess did not receive a phone call prior to the announcement because Ilyumzhinov made the decision on the fly and that the intention to host the event in the United States was a last minute gamble to generate publicity. In addition to the Championship problem, Gary also addresses every chess fan’s least favorite shadow company: AGON.

on several occasions AGON has failed to live up to its end of agreements with FIDE, with a predictable injurious effect on FIDE. The failure of AGON to make contractual payments has caused difficulties for some federations that would normally receive support from FIDE. President Vega states that he has informed FIDE in strong terms that it should cancel the agreement with AGON in light of its nonperformance.

Oh. My. God! Yes! Please, cancel this contract…but it will never happen unless Ilyumzhinov himself is relieved of his position because AGON is another one of his pet projects. AGON’s failure to follow through on its contractual obligations is hilariously hypocritical considering its incessant attempts to sue legitimate companies like Chess24 and Chessbomb for sharing moves during the Candidate Tournament and 2016 World Chess Championship. Unit the dirt is cleaned from the FIDE leadership ranks, this will continue to happen only to the detriment of chess around the world.

The motto of FIDE is Gens Una Sumus, which means We Are One People. As lovers of chess, we are one people but FIDE continues to act as though it is above the law and above the players and fans within its charge. Although I doubt that much will come of it, I am proud of my chess federation for speaking out against the destruction that FIDE is bringing to the sport. It is refreshing to know that US Chess remains committed to the truth of American ideals, which is obedience to law and standing up for what is right. I applaud Gary for his letter and for the board of US Chess for showing that they stand with the larger chess community as a body committed to fixing problems and promoting our game!

Here is the letter in its entirety. Plus, you can read the original post on the US Chess website here.

To: Mr. Nigel Freeman, Executive Director, World Chess Federation

Dear Mr. Freeman:

I write openly on behalf of the United States Chess Federation (“US Chess”) to express growing concerns that our Federation has with the World Chess Federation’s (“FIDE’s”) general casualness toward its own rules and statements, to FIDE’s lack of responsiveness to us as a member nation, to the questionable status of its president, and as well as to its economic health.

On October 6, 2016, I wrote to FIDE, care of yourself, to ask that any religious requirements for the Women’s World Championship in Iran be spelled out plainly respecting the obligatory wearing of hijabs, as well as for any other religious conduct requirements that might be imposed upon the participants. Without repeating my earlier letter, the text of the provisions at issue may be found in Section 1.2 of the FIDE Handbook, as well as set forth in Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. At the time of my earlier letter, we found it peculiar that FIDE held itself to the world as being opposed to discriminatory treatment and as a guardian of equal rights, only to award the Women’s World Championship to a country that resides at the center of controversy concerning the fair and equal treatment of women. We continue to find FIDE’s actions peculiar.

I never heard from you on the above matter except in the briefest email by which you told me that my questions would be answered after FIDE conferred with the Iranian Chess Federation. That was months ago. Later, and without any of the promised answers being provided, you invited me to search out Mr. Makropoulos while he was in New York for the World Championship. For a world sporting organization, this lack of a formal response was troubling. When this indecorous behavior is coupled with the conduct of a World Championship on U.S. soil without so much as a word in advance to the nominal “host” Federation, FIDE’s conduct becomes insulting. Chess deserves better. So does US Chess.

We are also concerned about the ongoing role of the current FIDE president. FIDE’s communications regarding its President have created a confused state of affairs. FIDE issued a public statement more than a year ago, shortly after the time Mr. Ilyumzhinov was sanctioned by the U.S. Government, in which FIDE declared that Mr. Ilyumzhinov would have no further business, legal, or financial involvement with FIDE’s affairs. The ostensible purpose of his withdrawal from those affairs was so that he could “concentrate on clearing the situation with the US Department of the Treasury.” (See FIDE’s Statement of 12/16/15.) It is beyond time for FIDE to update the world of chess on that “situation.” The world’s greatest game suffers immeasurably under Mr. Ilyumzhinov’s persistent cloud. His own statements do nothing to benefit chess, but rather exacerbate the confusion, including an absurd demand that he be granted U.S citizenship. Moreover, despite that the December 2015 FIDE statement set forth that Mr. Makropoulos would exercise the powers of the president, we note that Mr. Ilyumzhinov has recently attended more than one international event appearing in ceremonies as the President of FIDE. If there has been a change in FIDE’s December 2015 statement, please announce the revisions.

Finally, we have received an open letter from the President of the Confederation for Chess of Americas (“CCA”), President Jorge Vega, in which he states that he finds FIDE’s financial situation “worrying.” As President Vega points out in his December 2016 letter, on several occasions AGON has failed to live up to its end of agreements with FIDE, with a predictable injurious effect on FIDE. The failure of AGON to make contractual payments has caused difficulties for some federations that would normally receive support from FIDE. President Vega states that he has informed FIDE in strong terms that it should cancel the agreement with AGON in light of its nonperformance. We echo President Vega’s concerns and recommendations.

US Chess will not standby and quietly watch as FIDE’s corporate and presidential conduct damages the game of chess. While we remain ever optimistic and continue to believe in Gens Una Sumus, we fervently hope that FIDE will improve its communications, sets its Presidential Board in full order, adhere faithfully to its rules and regulations, and forthrightly present and improve its financial health for the good of the game. Very Respectfully,

Gary L. Walters, President, US Chess
Posted on September 26, 2016 by Wesley Surber.

Susan Polgar, the Times, and Hired Help

As I wrote a few days ago, the United States claimed victory in a Chess Olympiad for the first time since 1976. Shortly thereafter, World Champion Magnus Carlsen posted a sarcastic tweet in which he openly wondered if Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana were still for sale. Because I am a huge baseball fan and have often wondered about the merits of a free agency system in professional chess, I took the tweet at face value and dismissed it as nothing more than a sarcastic way of Magnus congratulating the US team. Unfortunately, in most cases, in chess not everything is as it seems.

Grandmaster Susan Polgar took exception with claims of “hired help” on the United States Chess Team.

I commend Susan for addressing the claims because although she took some subsequent heat on Twitter for her comment, the assertions about hired help were not limited to Magnus Carlsen. The New York Times, which seems to pride itself on being at the forefront of racial and social divides in America, boldly proclaimed that the United States team won with the help of imported talent.

The New York Times preferred to emphasize imported talent over national victory.

What is lost on me is the almost relentless focus by the media on the ethic origins of the players on this team and participants in countless other activities including books, music, and movies for that matter. Does it make a difference that Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana are recent additions to the United States Chess Federation dossier? The article mentions that it is unusual for players to change federations, but is it any more unusual for a person to change their citizenship? Wesley So trained under Susan Polgar at Webster University and was integral to their team before dropping out of school to pursue chess full-time. Fabiano Caruana has played for the Italian Chess Federation for years, but is actually an American citizen who was born and raised in Florida.

A Nation of Immigrants

What gets lost in these arguments and what I think really got Susan Polgar’s blood boiling seems to be that the media forgets that 99.9% of the people who live in the United States of America are the product of immigration. My family is of German descent, but does that disqualify me from representing the United States in an official capacity? Of course not, just as switching from the Philippines to US Chess does not disqualify Wesley So from representing the United States at the Baku Olympiad.

Ultimately, these are the things that make America such a unique place. America is a country where people from all backgrounds, of every ethnicity, and of all life experiences can stand on a podium and wear a gold medal as a representative of their country. These men were not hired help or imported talent. Instead, they represent the very core of what America stands for. Asserting anything else devalues that.

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 April 26, 2016 by Wesley Surber.

Caruana and Paikidze are 2016 US Chess Champions!

GM Hikaru Nakmura and GM Irina Krush entered into the 2016 US Chess Championship carrying the same hopes and dreams of their competition but with much more at stake: the defense of their 2015 championship titles. Nakamura, who is a mainstay on my beloved Chess.com, has won the US Chess Championship in 2005, 2009, 2012 and in 2015. Krush began the 2016 event looking for her fifth consecutive win, but was stopped short by US #2, GM Nazi Paikidze.

Coming Back to America

Just a few short years ago, I would have considered it insanity to believe that GM Fabiano Caruana would be a member of the US Chess Federation and go from playing for the Italian Chess Federation to winning the 2016 US Chess Championship. Yet, that very thing happened yesterday when Caruana edged out his opponents with a win against IM Akshat Chandra, who is widely known for his monumental propulsion into the stratosphere of chess ability. Chandra, who is considered to be one of the brightest rising stars in chess, finished the tournament in last place with 1.5/11, scoring draws against Jeffery Xiong, Alexander Shabalov, and Nakamura.

gmfabiano

Caruana owned a slight edge over his opponents entering in to the final round, but showed impeccable drive and determination to win the final round despite being given the black pieces. After his victory, GM Wesley So drew against GM Aleksandr Lenderman and Nakamura drew against GM Ray Robson, earning them the second and third finishing positions respectively.

A New Face for United States Women’s Chess

I like to think that GM Nazi Paikidze, the new US Women’s Chess Champion is representative of the new wave of chess champions that are set to emerge in the next few years. Although her name might be new to some people, she has an extensive social media presence where she has advocated for chess, health, and fitness for quite some time. Paikidze’s Instagram and Twitter accounts are regularly updated, which shows that she has found a way to balance the demands of professional chess, staying healthy, and maintaining connection to family, friends, and her fans.

As the final round of the women’s section was about to begin, it looked as though WGM Tatev Abrahamyan was set to win, but her 16-year old opponent WIM Ashritha Eswaran shocked everyone by outplaying her opponent and scoring a devastating win.

gmnazi

Paikidze played exceptional chess throughout the event with five draws and six wins. In what could be considered a Cinderella event, Paikidze’s final victory coming against last year’s champion, Irina Krush.

Congratulations to GM’s Fabiano Caruana and Nazi Paikidze for their victory in this year’s United States Chess Championship!

Posted on February 28, 2016 by Wesley Surber.

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.

krushoptions

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.

realkrush

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.

Posted on January 6, 2016 by Wesley Surber.

Texas Tech Dethrones Webster Dynasty

As a fan of Major League Baseball I share the frustrations of countless fans resigned to watching teams like the New York Yankees dominate the sports landscape and establish consecutive winning streaks called dynasties. In chess, Texas Tech University dominated for years when GM Susan Polgar became the school’s coach. In her time at Tech, GM Polgar led her team to victory in the Chess Final Four for the first time in Tech’s chess program history. That was 2007 and the chess program in Lubbock would grow much faster than the university was prepared to deal with. She left the program in 2012 to start a new program at Webster University and took most of Texas Tech’s chess talent with her. Texas Tech faded somewhat into chess obscurity as the SPICE program at Webster University dominated the college chess landscape and established a powerful dynasty that turned out to be more like the Death Star. Texas Tech made chess headlines by defeating Webster at the Pan Am Intercollege Chess Nationals in the home of my beloved Indians: Cleveland, Ohio!

This win was impressive not only for Tech’s redemption victory over Polgar’s Webster team, but also the level at which Webster’s teams suffered in the tournament. FM Mike Klein has an excellent tournament report over at Chess.com. Surely expectations will be high for both colleges in next year’s competition and Tech recently added the lovely and talented WCM Claudia Muñoz to their lineup. It will be exciting to see what happens in the weeks and months to come as both schools regroup and head into the new year.

Play through all games from the tournament below: