Posted on February 12, 2019 by Wesley Surber

San Antonio Chess Club Announces New Officers

A new year is fully underway and the San Antonio Chess Club has elected new officers for its executive board.

  • President: Rosalinda Romo
  • Vice President: Joel Salinas
  • Treasurer: Juan Carrizales
  • Director-At-Large: JP Hyltin
  • Webmaster: Martin Gordon

Founded in 1888, the San Antonio Chess Club is the oldest chess club in the state of Texas. They currently meet at the Lions Field Center on Broadway from 1730-2100 every Thursday (except holidays). They are also the official governing body for US Chess activities and tournaments in the greater San Antonio area.

The club is currently exploring ways to expand chess activities in scholastic and amateur arenas across the city. If you’re interest in joining or would like more information, check out their official website for details.

Posted on February 5, 2019 by Wesley Surber

A Solid Blitz

I’ve been carving regular time out of my day to do chess studies and they have started paying off. Despite all of the mistakes and blunders, I believe that my fundamentals are improving steadily as a result. Here’s a solid game I played recently on lichess.org that I felt was worth annotating.

Posted on January 29, 2019 by Wesley Surber

The Awesomeness of lichess.org Studies

Chess has a reputation for being a game of intellgience both on and off the board. In recent years, this has manifested heavily in the realm of information technology development. Chess engines continue to get stronger by the day and programmers of all skills are constantly developing new tools to help players analyze, sort, annotate, and improve their games. One such recent development is a growing feature on the popular lichess.org website called studies.

The study system on lichess is, at its core, a highly advanced PGN creator and annotator. It allows a user to create a new study that can be public or private. New moves, annotations, and other elements are automatically synced with the lichess server and between all of the users with access to the study. This makes studies an excellent utility for chess teachers and exhibitions since users can see, follow, and even provide collaborative comment on a game or position. To use the study utility, simply select study from the Learn menu on the lichess website. A list of available public studies will appear for you to choose from.

If these public studies do not suit your tastes, there are options on the side of the page to create your own studies. This is where I found the study function to be most useful for me.

Using the study tool, I am able to create a private study where I can create an individual chapter for each part of a video series I am following or game I am studying. This way I am able to make annotations, draw arrows or circles, and then share those studies with a highly limited audience if I want. Additionally, the study tool provides the user with an option to download each chapter as an individual PGN file in the format of an annotated game. Or, you can download the entire study as a PGN database to be opened in most chess database programs.

For me, the best part of this system is the collaborative elements. It opens up a world of possibilities for digital interaction between teachers, students, and general chess enthusiasts in an intuitive and easy-to-use way. If you have not tried it out, visit lichess.org and check it out.

Posted on January 25, 2019 by Wesley Surber

Victory and Destruction in Blitz

The following games were blitz games played on lichess.org in the past few weeks. I decided to annotate and share them because they show some of my continued progress (and regression) over the past few weeks. I continue to read, study, and play as much as possible, so I hope that these games reflect some improvement in my overall play style.

The first game is a very nice win with some cool tactical elements. There were moments where I felt like I just got lucky, but others where I felt like concrete principles were starting to sink in for me.

This next game is a devastating loss. It is no good for a chess player to only share his/her winning games. As Chess Coach likes to say: losing is learning. Well, this is a painful loss, so check it out:

Posted on January 15, 2019 by Wesley Surber

Cleaning Out the Dust!

Whew! This place is dusty! There are spider webs all over the place and it is obvious that the power went out at some point on this website because there is a funky green mold growing in… Oh, nevermind. Greetings, Campers! Welcome back to Campfire Chess, an amateur chess blog that has seen better days. Seriously.

So, today you might have noticed (or not) the first official blog post since May 2018 and the first significant visual upgrades since 2017. Well, I decided to re-open the site’s core this morning and I was shocked to see how neglected it had become. At one point, Campfire Chess was my crowning (pun intended) achievement! It was heartbreaking to see how much the challenges of the past year had allowed it to decay.

Fear not, however! I have cleaned out the dirt, busted the spider webs, and made some minor upgrades to the site’s visuals and operational elements. It is my hope over the next few months to get back to regular chess blogging. Before I do that, I have to get back to regular chess playing, which is something sorely lacking for me these days.

I am working on that! I promise! In the meantime, continue to check back here for new content or follow Campfire Chess on any of its social media platforms using the navigation menu above.

See you on the board!

Posted on by Wesley Surber

Time for New Annotations?

This month’s edition of Chess Life has an interesting article advocating for changes to the way that we annotate chess games. The author, GM Andy Soltis, presents his argument on the basis that engines have changed the way games are analyzed in such a way that statements like White has a slight advantage are no longer relevant. I think that he raises some interesting points, but I am not sure that the changes to evaluations brought on by engine analysis warrant such a complete and drastic overhaul.

Humanity’s Slight Advantage

One of the key points in the discussion is the idea that in many situations, X color has a slight advantage can hinge on whether the player does not blunder. Therefore, the annotation is more realistic as X color has a slight advantage as long as they play perfectly according to this analysis. GM Soltis believes that the precision of chess engines allows us more accurately present lines as White wins with X move or Black wins in 37 moves with X.

This precision is compounded with the growing prevalence of tablebases. Recently, lichess.org has started offering an incredible seven (7) piece tablebase. Technological advancement only promises a future where we could surpass a ten (10) piece tablebase. That accuracy lends some credence to GM Soltis’s argument.

Despite these advances and despite my passion for technology, I believe that there are artistic and strategic elements in chess that computers might never understand or utilize. Stockfish can analyze millions of combinations in hindsight and state unequivocally that white can win in 37 moves without a blunder, but humans are not capable of that kind of analysis. With humanity, there is always a chance of blunder, mistake, or other factor that can affect a game’s outcome.

Room to Grow

GM Soltis makes some excellent suggestions with regards to these engine analysis comments, however. Specifically, using ~ versus !? because it more accurately reflects the nearly infinite possibilities presented in post-game analysis by a strong chess engine. Such a change might take some time to catch on, but it would make reading an in-depth analysis easier for newer generations that have grown up in the age of the hashtag, markdown format, and other digital mediums.

As a medical professional who spends his time pouring over spreadsheets and other electronic data, it would be nice to see more of the standard notations from large data sets and relational databases make their way into chess annotation because, curiously, it’s more in line with what is increasingly becoming a common language in the digital age.

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 March 16, 2018 by Wesley Surber

Rising from the Ruins

I’m typically the kind of guy who likes to keep to himself. I prefer to lead a normal life and spend my day causing as little trouble for people as I possibly can. I started playing chess regularly in 2014 as a way to reign in a serious lack of focus that eventually turned into a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in 2015. Chess is the thing that kept me grounded through serious turmoil.

As I wrote about in December I was faced with a significant illness that affected my ability to write here on Campfire Chess regularly. I took time off to work on some serious problems in my family situation. Unfortunately those problems were unresolvable and my wife left me in late January of this year.

To say that I was devastated would be an understatement. I was wholly traumatized by the loss of a person who I thought was my best friend and lifelong companion. I lost a home and what seemed like everything that was important to me. I put the website and all of its social media accounts up for sale for a short time before family and friends convinced me to do otherwise. There were many sleepless nights following that last blog entry of 2017 and there are some even today. Yet, I’m still here.

Today marks the first time since December 2017 that a new entry has been made on Campfire Chess and I’m here to tell you that the site will press on! I will continue to play, broadcast, study, and write about chess here on the blog in addition to the social media accounts and the Twitch channel.

The hurt is still very real and will most likely remain for years to come. However, getting back to things here will help me to get past this tragedy and move forward in a way that will ultimately help me and my two beautiful daughters.

Thank you to everyone who continues to support Campfire Chess by visiting the site and participating on the social media accounts. You are all my family and I love you dearly.

Posted on November 6, 2017 by Wesley Surber

Campfire Chess Marketplace Now Open

Do you have an old chess set, clock, book, or trinket lying around that you want to get rid of? Amazon and eBay offer great ways to buy and sell, but Facebook’s Marketplace has recently been offering ways for communities to be built around buying and selling goods. Personally, I have had much success with these groups trading old VHS tapes and memorabilia, so I am pleased to announce the opening of The Isolated Pawn: A Chess Marketplace by Campfire Chess!

Membership is open to anyone interested in buying, selling, or trading chess goods. Membership requires a review to prevent spam accounts from joining, but I promise to review and approve membership requests as soon as possible.