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.

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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.

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.

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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

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.

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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!

Posted on December 12, 2015 by Wesley Surber

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.

Posted on November 3, 2015 by Wesley Surber

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.

Posted on November 2, 2015 by Wesley Surber

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.

Posted on November 1, 2015 by Wesley Surber

Anand’s Worst Game…Ever?

On Thursday as the Bilbao Masters tournament resumed play into Round 4 nobody expected that former World Champion Viswanathan Anand would be offering up such a scathing criticism of his own game. Anand fought back hard and tournament commentators believed that he had a fighting chance to win the game but lost on time. Anand had this to say about his loss:

Today was perhaps the worst game of my life. I’ve never made so many ridiculous moves.

For a man of Vishy’s chess playing caliber it is hard to imagine such a devastating loss occurring in high-level chess, but it does happen! Just when I or others think that the 5-minute blitz game that was bombed at 2AM on Chess.com was the worst game of our lives…there are things worse than that. Judge for yourself by replaying Vishy’s Round 4 game against Anish Giri in its entirety:

Read more on the match between Anand and Giri on Chess24.com.

Posted on October 30, 2015 by Wesley Surber

The Texas Chess-Saw Massacre

When Bobby Fischer was king of the chess board it was hard for much of the world to imagine someone who could work harder or bring a greater sense of finesse to the game until the current world champion emerged. Magnus Carlsen has been called the Mozart of Chess and with his recent outburst that name seems fitting! He could be considered some kind of Chess-Saw intent on massacring any opponent that braves to stand in his way, but what is it that makes Carlsen so great? GM Daniel Naroditsky at Chess.com examines the phenomenon that is Magnus Carlsen and how the story of the great chess grinder is less of a horror movie and more of a real-life opera played out on the grandest stage for the world to see.

Read the full article on Chess.com.

Posted on October 29, 2015 by Wesley Surber

Giri Plays 172 Move Nail-Biter

If I were Anish Giri I would want to find a cold scoop of ice cream and curl up in bed for the rest of the night. The recently married Grandmaster just finished a 172-move game against Ding Liren at the Bilbao Masters tournament. Giri missed several opportunities to capitalize against his opponent and was only able to manage a draw after six hours of play!

Check out more at Chess24.com.

Posted on October 23, 2015 by Wesley Surber

FIDE Bans Garry Kasparov for 2 Years

Greetings, campers! This is a post that I never expected to write. For as long as he dominated the professional chess world Garry Kasparov has been an outspoken and often controversial figure. He has a longstanding hatred of Vladimir Putin and tends to see himself as more of a political activist than a chess ambassador. Unfortunately the way that Russian politics tends to deal with its rivals is to ridicule (or outright kill) them. Kasparov gained notoriety in this sense with the hilarious flying penis incident that has probably appeared on every funniest video countdown show since then.

Kasparov launched a massive campaign in 2014 to oust longtime president of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov but was literally destroyed in the lopsided election. Kasparov accused Ilyumzhinov (a close personal friend of Vladimir Putin) of winning the election through dirty politics that included bribery, extortion, and even the unusual step of removing a chess federation entirely from the list of FIDE organization and replacing it with a pro-Ilyumzhinov federation. Suffice to say that 2014 was a very exciting year for chess fans because politics and Kasparov both draw a crowd so interest was high on whether the former World Champion would be able to remove Ilyumzhinov. Kasparov remained relatively low key after the loss and made an appearance at the 2015 Sinquefield Cup in Saint Louis but now he returns to the headlines by receiving a 2-year ban from FIDE for bribery! Here is the exact determination from the FIDE Ethics Commission:

ETHICS COMMISSION JUDGEMENT

Upon due consideration by the Ethics Commission of the factors relevant to the sanction, including the gravity of the offence and the presence of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the Ethics Commission imposes the following sanction:

Mr Kasparov and Mr Leong are both banned for a period of two (2) years from holding any office or position within FIDE, including its member federations, continental associations or any other affiliated international organisations, as well as participating in any FIDE meeting as delegate, proxy-holder or other representative of a FIDE member. This ban will be effective from the period 21 October 2015 until 20 October 2017.

So, what did they do? In 2014 when Kasparov was running for the FIDE Presidency he made a deal with Ignatius Leong so that he would switch his federation’s vote from Ilyumzhinov to Kasparov in exchange for monetary contributions. Having worked in government service I have come to learn that appearance is everything and intentions are seldom taken into account. Kasparov’s camp argued that the $500,000 contribution for Leong providing 10 votes for the presidential campaign was to create an offshoot of the Kasparov Chess Foundation in Asia. Unfortunately the truth in the situation does not matter. Kasparov made a political blunder in that he did not see how his opponents would be able to manipulate the selling of votes. In some ways its almost as though he walked into a fool’s mate because his entire campaign was run on the premise of removing Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and ridding FIDE of its corrupt government once and for all. Yet it was a sneaky move that cost him 2 years of membership in FIDE or participation in its activities. Kasparov had this to say in response to the commission’s original findings:

“Back in Russia I got used to being falsely accused by puppet courts and this one has as little value and credibility as those. Being accused of corruption by Ilyumzhinov is like being accused of foreign aggression by Putin!

“My mission has always been to promote chess and to build the future of the game. I once hoped that could happen with FIDE, but it is clearer than ever this work will continue despite FIDE, which continues to take resources out of the sport and to drive away those who love it.”

This is the kind of stuff that makes it difficult to take Kasparov and his activities seriously. He never wishes to admit that he made a mistake or something that went wrong might actually be his fault. Surely at some point in his life he had to have stepped away from the chessboard and realized that he was making errors in his games. How else could he have learned and become one of the greatest players in history? Failure is an opportunity to try again but Kasparov never seems willing to admit that he can fail of his own doing. Unfortunately that seems to be something ingrained into Russian politics and Kasparov has proven himself to be the true son of his motherland: a devious Russian politician.