As you might have noticed, Campfire Chess is slowly roaring back to life after an extended hiatus. The return not only includes some refinements to the design, a code refresh, a complete redesign of the Downloads page, and a few other tweaks…but it also includes the return of our social media accounts. I am doing my best to build a content system where I can consistently update them, but for now, the accounts are active and slowly coming back to life along with the site. If you’re into the social media scene, check us out:
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.
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.
- Product Review – Chessmate Ultima Pocket Chess Set
- Published: 31 May 2014
- God and Chess
- Published: 07 June 2014
- Finding the Right Notation Tool
- Published: 25 July 2014
- Robin Williams and the Way of Things
- Published: 14 August 2014
- The Sad State of Chess on the Mac
- Published: 11 January 2015
- The Big Deal About Berlin
- Published: 10 February 2015
- The Sad Reality of Cheating in Chess
- Published: 06 September 2015
- Does Chess Need an Audience?
- Published: 18 October 2015
- US Chess Sends Open Letter to FIDE
- Published: 16 February 2017
- 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!
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:
As the world prepares for the coming showdown between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin in New York City, a Moscow court dealt a serious blow to Agon/FIDE’s attempts to limit the broadcast of moves from the event. The court ruled that Agon’s claim to the moves as trade secrets was not accurate and even ruled that its claims against Chess24 were invalid because Chess24 is outside of Agon’s legal jurisdiction.
The ruling is re-printed in English above from Chess24’s article with a full explanation of the ruling and its implications for Agon’s ongoing war against chess freedom located on the same page.
Women’s World Chess Champion Hou Yifan shocked the chess community when she announced last month that she had withdrawn from the Women’s World Championship Cycle, citing disagreements with FIDE over how it conducts the tournament process. Chessbase published transcripts from a recent telephone interview with Yifan and Frederic Friedel where she expressed disappointment in FIDE leadership’s continued support of the current tournament format. As it stands, the Women’s World Chess Champion (hereafter annotated as WCC) is often chosen through knockout tournaments where the winner earns the title despite the possibility that they might possess an ELO rating 100-200 points below Yifan, who is currently the highest rated female chess player in the world.
Trouble with the Knockouts
You can read the article yourself via the link above, but the main point of her argument is that the WCC is often selected via a 64-player knockout tournament format. This format places Hou and her counterparts on equal footing and gives an unfair advantage to players who might not qualify to challenge her in any other setting. If the highest rated player in the tournament has a bad game and is eliminated by a lower player, it creates an opportunity for a player to assume the title of WCC without possessing the qualifications. For her, a knockout tournament is not necessarily a bad thing. However, she views it as an unreasonable format for choosing the WCC. I agree wholeheartedly. Can you imagine if Magnus Carlsen’s title was on the line in some 64-player invitational where a single bad day could send the title into the hands of another player?
I cannot see the men allowing such a method to be used by FIDE to determine the champion, and the women of the professional chess world should refuse to stand for it as well.
Hou’s Plan and FIDE’s Silent Stand
Glass ceilings and gender barriers are coming down all over the world, but FIDE remains trapped in its antiquated ways. Hou’s plan for changing the tournament format is, as Frederic mentions in his article, amazingly simple. She proposes that the same format used to select the World Chess Championship title currently held by Magnus Carlsen be used for the WCC. A series of qualification tournaments would send certain players to a Candidates tournament where the winner would advance to challenge the reigning World Champion. As a compromise, Hou has suggested that the winner of the knockout tournament be declared the challenger to the reigning champion, not the champion themselves. The plan sounds simple enough, but according to Chessbase, FIDE has retained the 64-player knockout format because it is popular among the female chess players.
It is not difficult to imagine why the format is so popular…it reduces much of the legacy of the WCC to a lottery.
Hou Yifan has big dreams for reforming women’s chess.
It is easy to place the blame on FIDE, which is an organization that has a sorted history of cronyism, manipulation, and disregard for what is best for promoting international professional chess. Countless recommendations for improving tournament cycles and gameplay have been provided by some of the world’s greatest chess minds. Yet, those recommendations and ideas have been met with the standard fare that Hou has received for her comments: to be discussed at the next board meeting. As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time in government service, I can tell you that it will probably be discussed at the meeting, but the world stands a better chance of Kirsan’s aliens invading than the board agreeing to change the WCC cycle format. Yet, it is this comment in Frederic’s interview that reveals another troubling element to the situation:
FF: Sounds perfectly logical. However FIDE has said that the current Women’s system is very popular amongst the girls since they get to play a lot of interesting events …
What is going on here? FIDE is, potentially, holding on to a format because it is popular, among the women on the circuit. It might be popular, but is it right for the future of women’s professional chess? Unfortunately, one does not have to look far in cyberspace to see the back and forth with people who believe that women cannot play beautiful chess or do not deserve the respect of their male counterparts. The chess audience on Twitter is notorious for this kind of banter, but does the general consensus of the women’s professional chess world about the 64-player knockout championship actually hurt perception of their ability? I would argue that it does! If the women players are arguing for more recognition and appreciation for their art in one breath, but supporting a tournament format that undermines the legitimacy of the highest female chess achievement, then the fight for equal respect of female chess players is what ultimately suffers. That, along with the countless other young girls who are hunched over their chessboards this morning with dreams and aspirations of being a GM or a WCC.
What to do?
Bureaucracies have a notorious history of taking simple ideas and transforming them into disastrous monstrosities. The fundamental elements that make bureaucracies like FIDE so inefficient are probably what will enable the WCC cycle to retain its imbalanced format (for now). Hou Yifan’s withdrawal from the cycle and her recommendations for changing how the WCC is selected should be a wakeup call for the leaders of the professional chess world, but it will most likely fall on deaf ears. In the meantime, the world will continue to watch as its great chess players are increasingly isolated and ostracized by the organization whose mission is to grow and promote our game.
Gens Una Sumus, without clear direction or a promising future.
Imagine for a moment the social stereotype of the typical chess player. Is it the image of an old white guy sitting alone in his house hunched over a chessboard with stacks of newspapers, magazines, and books around him? Perhaps he is disheveled and could use a refresher on how to use the shower? Bobby Fischer did not own a computer so this guy does not have one either. This creepy stereotype continues to persist in the mainstream media, but is there any truth to it?
A recent article on World Chess took players and fans to task for not embracing social media like other sports. The article’s title warns of things to come: Chess Players are Surprisingly Bad with Social Media. There is nothing surprising about this to chess players, fans, and the community as a whole. The author insists that professional players have not harnessed the power of social media marketing tools to boost their popularity and popularity of the sport. The whole argument assumes that chess audiences are ready to embrace social media marketing on a wide scale. History proves that this is not the case with chess.
An example brought up in the article uses the always fun and engaging WCM Claudia Munoz. The author focuses on Claudia’s 19,000+ Tweets relative to her 3,000 followers and implies that her inability to reach more people is due to a lack of cooperation from other chess masters. I would argue that it has less to do with the quality of personality or the collaborative efforts of different chess masters and more to do with the nature of chess itself. Chess is a game that has transcended the board and is readily available online. Chess players meet to play chess, not to share their favorite cat videos with each other. Quite often the focus of obsession for chess fans is not the personality or the player, but the quality of their game. There is no social media requirement to obtain PGN files of games, so the community as a whole lacks the need to be social.
I am more social than your average chess player because I run a chess blog and because I am a (way) less than average chess player. I enjoy the social elements of chess because I am interested in personality and how a player’s personality affects their style. The world’s greatest chess players have made serious efforts to improve their social media presence but the chess audience is not reciprocating. I wish that chess players as a whole were more social but chess is not an inherently social game. It is a strategic battle between two people who are not required to be friends to play. Yet, I think that Claudia Munoz and players like her are a ray of hope for a future where that mentality changes and the community is transformed.
Read the full article on WorldChess.com.