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Chess News

Where is Azerbaijan? (posted 7/22/12)

As noted in our post about the Top 5 FIDE players. Teimour Radjabov is the top player in the country of Azerbaijan. The map below, shows the exact location of the country. According to the CIA factbook, the country was independent from 1918-1920, and then was controlled by the Soviet Union for the next seven decades until it became independent again in 1991.

Other facts about the country are harder to ascertain. It seems to be a muslim, secular, democracy, but there are various accounts and differing opinions depending on which website you visit.

They also have an interesting tourism videos touting the country as the “land of flames”.


Chess Boxing Update (posted 9/10/11)

Back in July 2008 we wrote about a bizarre sport called Chess Boxing which combines our favorite game with what some call the “sweet science” of pugilism. At first we thought this must be some kind of joke, but after doing a little due diligence, we determined that it was for real.

 Meanwhile, in our 6/26 blog post “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” we wrote about the many unique responses received from a LinkedIn question on “Where is the funniest place you’ve played a game of chess?”

It turns out Tim Woolgar, the founder of London Chessboxing was is also on LinkedIn. He wrote back that the funnies place he has played chess is in a boxing ring!

We wrote back to him to find out if this sport is still in existence. The answer is – the London Chessboxing association is alive and well. They hold events every 3-6 months and have an event scheduled this evening, September 10th.

Though it’s still in the viral stages, Tim has plans in the works to try to setup a USA vs. England match. He’s courting U.S. news organizations and hopes that the publicity for this type of event will put them over the top and move the sport to mainstream status.

This is Your Brain on Chess (posted 1/26/11)

Monday’s edition of the New York Times contained  a chess article that answers the question – Do Grandmaster’s think differently than other human beings? The answer to the question is “Yes”, but only when they are thinking about chess. The story references two recent studies that were conducted to understand how MRI brain scans of skilled game players differed relative to novices.

The first study checked the differences in reaction times of Grandmasters and Novices in solving two types of problems. The first test asked them to identify geometrics shapes. Both Grandmasters and novice chess players had the same reaction times which showed that visualization skills were no different between the two groups. However, when they were asked to identify chess positions, the Grandmasters identified them faster. The interesting part was in how their brains achieved this task. In essence, the stronger players used portions of both the left and right hemispheres of their brains. By utilizing additional areas of the right brain, the Grandmasters were “processing information in two places at once”.

The other learning from the study was that the two groups looked at the chess board differently. Novices stared directly at the pieces as they tried to identify the position in question. Experts stared at the middle of the board and used their peripheral vision to take in the location of the pieces on the board. This technique is more efficient and allows them to process information more quickly.

The second study was conducted by researchers at the Riken Brain institute in Japan. In this case, the researchers compared experts in shogi, a complex game from the far east. The results were similar to the first study – brain activity was no different when comparing reaction times to games or puzzles that were outside of the expert’s specialty. This study found that experts in shogi also had activity in the “basil ganglia” which is an area of the brain that allows quick calculations towards goal based behavior.

As we noted in our blog post “10,000 hours” it takes time to develop this type of ability. But it seems that with lots of study and practice, people can learn to raise their game by ramping up their brain activity!

Hail to the Champions (posted 6/6/10)

There have been some noteworthy chess

events in the news over the past couple of months. First, Viswanathan Anand beat Veselin Topalov to retain his world title. The match, held in Sofia Bulgaria, was highly competitive and was decided in Game 12, the final match before a series of scheduled tie-breaks.

Topalov could have played safely with the white pieces in the final game, but he ultimately pushed hard to create winning chances. The prevailing opinion was that Topalov felt he would be at a disadvantage during the rapid tie break games since Anand is known to excel at this format.

There are many websites which contain a full analysis of the final game such as this one:

The key position to me occurred after move 30:

Topalov chose the risky 31. ef?!, which further opens up the long diagonal for Black’s white squared bishop.  After 31. … e4! 32. fe Qe4+ 33. Kh3 he was in trouble. Ultimately Anand found the winning attack and came away with the 1.2 million Euro prize.

Second, Gata Kamsky regained the US Championship. As reported in the NY Time Gambit column and documented on the St. Louis chess club website, the 2010 US Chess championship was a hotly contested event which was tied after 10 rounds.

The tournament had a unique tie break match format.  For the last round, the player with Black would have draw odds, meaning they would win the match if they won or drew the last game. The players were asked to seal a bid with anywhere from 1 to 60 minutes to determine how much time they would have on their clocks.  The player with the lower bid would get to choose their color, while the other player would get a full 60 minutes. Kamsky one the bid, by asking for only 25 minutes on his clock. After much back and forth action, Kamsky had the advantage and could have one the game, but agreed to the draw to seal the victory and win the $30,000 first place prize.

Kamsky has a unique history in that he was the US Champion back in 1991 when he was only 17 years old. Now, 19 years later he is champion again.  This is quite an accomplishment since he had quit chess from 1996 to 2004 in order to obtain his law degree and eventually resumed his active chess playing career.

Vasily Smyslov (posted 4/16/10)

A famous veteran of Russian chess passed away on 3/27/2010.  Vasily Smyslov was born in 1921 and learned to play chess from his father when he was 6 years old.  He became famous for his positional style of play and was a top contender for the world championship throughout the 1950’s.

His was a chief rival of Botnovik for many years, but finally broke through in 1957 and became the 7th World Champion.  Unfortunately, he only held the title for one year and lost the championship back to Botnovik during a rematch the following year.  Because of this, some people referred to him as “The Winter King” since he held the championship for a short period of time.

Smyslov was also well known for his love of music.  His fondness for singing and strong singing voice almost earned him a place in the Bolshoi Opera Company, though his dream was not realized when he did not make the final cut when he auditioned for a spot in 1950.

In spite of those setbacks, Vasily continued to play chess throughout his life and remained a top player well into his 70’s.  He had many fans in the world of top flight chess including Vladimir Kramnik who said (as noted in the NY Times Gambit blog):

 “He is truth in chess! Smyslov plays correctly, truthfully and has a natural style. By the way, why do you think he lacks that aura of mystique like Tal or Capablanca? Because Smyslov is not an actor in chess, his play is neither artistic nor fascinating. But I am fond of his style. I would recommend a study of Smyslov’s games to children who want to know how to play chess because he plays the game how it should be played: his style is the closest to some sort of ‘virtual truth’ in chess.”

A testament to his playing strength and longevity can be found on  A quick search of the database shows 2,637 games available for study.  A sample game from the database shows how patience and a positional style can win with a 100+ move demonstration using the KIA –

 Magnus Carlsen Wins Corus 2010 (posted 2/7/2010)

Magnus Carlsen, the teenage sensation from Norway continues to make headlines in 2010.  At the beginning of the year he made history as the youngest player to ever hold the #1 rating in the world.  He topped that with another stellar tournament result, scoring 8 1/2 points in the 72nd annual Corus tournament in the Netherlands.

Never one to play in a cautious manner, Carlsen nabbed the 10,000 euro prize with 5 wins, 1 loss and 7 draws.  By contrast, world champion Viswanathan Anand was the only player not to lose a game in the tournament, but he only scored 2 wins (and 11 draws).

There’s not doubt that Carlsen has become even stronger since he has picked up Garry Kasparov as one of his coaches.  Though he has been removed from competitive chess for a while, Kasparov still has a lot to offer with tremendous knowledge of strategy and how to handle the pressures of top flight competition.

Time will tell if Carlsen eventually becomes world champion.  Based on his recent results, I wouldn’t be against him.

Tkachiev Asleep at the Switch in Calcutta (posted 10/11/09)

TkachievAs reported from various news sources, the French Grandmaster Vladislav Tkachiev, ranked 58th in the world, fell asleep at the board during the Calcutta Open!  It seems that he showed up drunk, played a handful of moves and then put his head down on the table and feel asleep.  Numerous attempts to wake him by neighboring players did not help and he was automatically forfeited from the match after only 11 moves (another articles say he completed 15 moves).  In any case, he needed to be physically carried from the tournament room after his forfeit.

The tournament is still underway, and surprisingly, he has been allowed to continue despite this embarrassing episode.

According to the website this is not the first time he has gotten into trouble because of alcohol problems.  At last year’s Chess Olympiad in Dresden, he failed to show up for the final round, and cost his team a chance at a medal.

The above mentioned episode in Calcutta brings up a number of ethical questions regarding tournament rules.  Was it right for other players and the tournament director to try and wake up Tkachiev?  If it’s improper to comment on the position on another board or to point out when somebody’s time runs out, it must be illegal to help wake up an opponent if all he wants to do is sleep.

A full accounting of the events of the match are posted at the following ChessBase link:

Despte all of this, Tkachiev is regarded as a talented chess player.  Hopefully he will realize he has a problem and will seek help.  To see a sample of his games, see the chess problems section on our Analysis/Games page.  We have posted a position from one of his games as a new item (problem #9).

World’s Biggest Chess Game (posted 8/30/09)

map_german_statesAs reported on ChessBase news, the world’s largest chess game is currently underway in Thuringia, Germany.  The Kyffhauser Monument is a famous tourist attraction in the area and the past tradition has been to clear the field that is 1,500 feet belolargeboardw the top of the monument and put giant images there.  This year, they created agiant chess board instead.

The board measures 1,200′ x 1,200′ (4 football fields x 4 football fields) and giant chess pieces have been fashioned out of vinyl to fill the squares.  The highest rated player in Germany, IM Elisabeth Paehtz is currently playing a match against the internet community.  Moves are decided on at 10 a.m. each morning and she must post her answer by 4 p.m. each afternoon.

The image at right shows a tractor as it mapped out the giant board.  The picture below shows how the game looks from the top of the monument.

Click the ChessBase link below to see the current board position and read the full article.


Kasparov-Karpov (posted 8/8/09)

Garry Kasparov and Anatoli Karpov have agreed to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their 1984 championship match with a new event on September 21-24 in Valencia, Spain.

The match will consists of 12 games – 4 rapid and 8 blitz.  Details of the prize money at stake have not been released.

Interestingly, despite the fact that Kasparov came out on top most of the time, he only had a +2 score over the 144 games played between them during 5 championship matches (21 wins, 19 losses, 104 draws).

Below is a YouTube video of a short match they played back in 2002 …

USCF Squabble Threatens to “Throw Polgar From the Board” posted 1/9/09

susanpolgarAs noted in a recent New York Times article, a knock-down, drag out fight has erupted on the US Chess Federation executive board.  Though no official news is posted anywhere in your monthly magazine, it seems that trouble has been brewing for quite some time between other board members and the married couple Susan Polgar and Paul Truong.

Back in October 2007 Samuel Sloan, a former board member, accused Susan and Paul of posting defamatory internet postings in his name with the alleged purpose of causing him to lose the USCF election.

The Federation hired a lawyer to look into the claims.  The plot thickened when internal communications between the lawyer and the board surfaced on Susan’s web site.

In the end all parties are suing each other.  The Federation is suing to have Susan and her husband removed from the board.  She and her husband are countersuing the board for libel and slander.

For those of you who thought the federation was just about reporting chess news and organizing tournaments – think again.  No wonder they are having so much trouble staying solvent!

Kasparov Documentary Chronicles His Battles With the Russian Political System posted 1/9/09

kasparov_politicsMasha Novikova’s new film “In the Holy Fire of Revolution” covers the struggles of Garry Kasparov to drive home election reform in Russia.

An article about the viewing of the movie at an international film festival confirms that Kasparov never shies away from a fight on or off the chessboard.  His determiniation to push the powers that be to allow other candidates to be heard is admirable.  Throughout his campaign for an opposition political party he is harrassed, threatened and ultimately arrested and put in jail for five days.

In the end Kasparov eloquenty sums up the reason for his quest:

“What I’m doing is not about winning or losing. It is a moral imperative – to fight for democracy and human rights.”

Link to Article

Chess is the Salvation for Hostage in Somalia – posted 1/9/09

Another story that is almost too strange to be true concerns a Spanish photographer named Jose Cendon and a journalist Colin Freeman.  They were both assigned to go to Somalia to put together a story on the recent wave of hostage taking executed by Somali pirates on the high seas.  Little did they know that the guide and translator that they hired would set them up to be kidnapped themselves.

Over the course of five weeks, they were held captive by twelve machine gun toting kidnappers and were forced to march for many hours over the first two nights of their captivity.  Over the next five weeks, they lived in caves, out of sight of any potential rescuers.

What did they do to stay sane and pass the time?  Play chess!  They fashioned their own homemade chess set and board and played together for hours each day.  Ironically, Jose was quoted as saying that he “didn’t feel threatened” and never felt that his life was in danger.  The captors did cook them meals consisting of variations of rice, goat meat, spaghetti and bread and even brought them tea from time to time.

In the end their release was negotiated by their newspaper – and most likely a ransom was paid (Jose was not allowed to divulge the details of how he and his friend were set free).

There may not be a moral to this story, but the next time you are complaining about the conditions for a local tournament, be thankful that you are living in a democracy with the option to pass the hours with an enjoyable, leisurely hobby.

Still the Champposted 11/1/08

In the recently completed chess championship in Bonn Germany Viswanathan Anand successfuly defended his title with a relatively easy victory over Vladamir Kramnik.  Anand had an impressive run, winning three matches, drawing seven and losing none in the two week event.

According to a recent New York Times article, only a month ago Anand finished dead last in a Grand Slam Masters final in Spain.  It is a testament to his character that he was able to get up off the mat and completely outplay one of the worlds best players when it mattered the most.

Surprisingly the 1.5 million Euro prize fund was split evenly among the participants.  This was part of the pre-match arrangements.  So I guess we don’t have to feel too bad for Kramnik as he will have a large bankroll to continue his chess career.

Super Grandmasters – posted 10/5/08

As we all know, the dilution of ratings is a hot topic of discussion in chess circles, even at the highest levels.  Recently, an unofficial moniker of “Super Grandmaster” has begun to gain acceptance as a way to distinguish between regular grandmasters and those who have exceptional skills.  A recent article about chess prodigy Wesley So, who just turned 15, notes that one of his goals is to reach this milestone Link to So Super GM article.

This distinction is based solely on rating – if a player is rated above 2700, they are considered one of the elite.  A quick check of FIDE and USCF ratings charts confirms that this is a very distinct group.  Only five players on the FIDE list and three players on the USCF list would qualify.  For the record, they are:

FIDE: Veselin Topalov, Alex Morozevich, Vassily Ivenchuck, Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand

class=”mceItemHidden”> class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=””>USCF: Gata Kamsky, Alex Onischuk, Hikaru Nakamura

World Mind Games – posted 10/5/08

The World Mind Games are currently underway in Beijing.  Over 3,000 participants are competing in the tournament with 35 gold medals up for grabs.  The competition is focused on five of the worlds most popular games: Bridge, Chess, Go, Draughts (checkers), and Xiangqi.

Alexandra Kosteniuk, the recently crowned Womens World Champion picked up the first gold medal in a blitz chess event, defeating Antoaneta Stefanova of Bulgaria .  To learn more about the World Mind Games, visit the official site – World Mind Games Site Link

Up and Comers – posted 10/5/08

A number of strong players have been emerging in recent years.  While everybody has heard of Magnus Carlsen, there are many others who are also coming into their own.  As noted above in the article on Super Grandmasters, Wesley So is one of those players.  He will turn 15 on October 9th of this year, and has already attained his Grandmaster title (at the age of 14 years, 1 month, 28 days).

Even in Cuba, where it is hard to make a name for yourself on the international stage, there are young players who are in the headlines.  Fidel Corrales Jimenez is a 21 year old IM with a 2552 FIDE rating.  Lisandra Oraz is a 20 year old WIM who recently topped 2300 on the FIDE ratings charts.  Both of these players have recently achieved their highest ratings and are scheduled to play in a number of tournaments in the next few months.

This all goes to show that chess really is an international game where anybody with a chess board and the ability to excel can become a top-ranked player.

Chess Boxing (no joke!) – posted 7/28/08

There is a new chess fad that is on the rise in Europe.  The sport is called “chess boxing” and combines the mental discipline of chess with the physical tests of boxing.  The boxers alternate between blitz chess sessions and boxing rounds.

chess boxingBy now, I’m sure you’re thinking this is some sort of belated April Fool’s joke, but it’s not.  I recently learned about the sport in an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune.  After a quick scan of the internet, I found numerous articles on the subject.

The sport was started in the early 2000’s by a dutch artist named  class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=”named “>Lepe Rubingh who was inspired by a novel he read which had fictional characters participating in chess boxing matches.

Here’s how it works:

Players alternate between 2 minute boxing rounds and 4 minutes of chess.  (They are alotted 12 minutes each for a speed chess game.)  After four minutes of chess is played, they remove the board from the ring, put their gloves on and resume boxing!  A win may be achieved by knockout in the boxing match, checkmate, time-forfeit, or by points if the chess match ends in a draw.

They even have their own organization known as the WCBO (World Chess Boxing Organization).

This strikes me on a personal level as quite bizarre, but it does make for an entertaining youtube video …

Idaho Schools Offer Chess as Part of their Curriculum – posted 3/21/08

idaho chess picture

A recent article in the New York Times discussed the merits of using Chess as a formal learning tool.  The Idaho school system has adoped the “First Move” curriculum which was created by America’s Foundation for Chess, a Seattle-based non-profit oganization.

Many studies have been conducted on the benefits of chess for young children.  The linkage from chess to improvement in other subjects has not been clearly demonstrated, but there is no doubt that it is beneficial for children to interact with each other and learn creative problem solving techniques.

To read the full article, click the following link –

Linares Results – posted 3/10/08

Magnus CarlsonThe Linares tournament recently concluded with Vishwanathan Anand coming out on top with a score of 8 1/2 points in the 14 round tournament.  The world champion narrowly outpaced one of the chess world’s up-and-coming stars Magnus Carlson, who scored a solid 8 points (including 5 wins).  Carlson is only 17 years old and after his stellar results he will be rated #5 in the world.

Look in our Analysis / Games section to see a sample game as posted in last week’s New York Times.

Morelia-Linares Tournament – posted 3/2/08 Morelia-Lineres poster

A major tournament featuring the world’s top players is currently underway with Vishwanathan Anand in the lead with a score of 5.5 after eight rounds.  The tournament has a unique double round-robin format with half of the matches played in Morelia, Mexico from 2/15/08 through 2/23/08 and the other half in Morelia, Spain from 2/28/08 through 3/7/08.

The currrent edition of the tournament has been very competitive with many hard-fought, decisive games.  To date, an amazing 20 of 36 games have ended with a clear winner.

To learn more about the tournament, look for commentary on the Internet Chess Club and other chess news sources.  (Note: There is an official tournament website, but it is currently inoperable!)

Boris Gulko Simul – posted 2/19/08

Boris GulkoThe Dumont Chess Mates Club will be holding a simul with Boris Gulko on Monday, April 14, 2008.  The event will begin at 7:30 P.M with a short autograph signing followed by the exhibition.  Admission to the event is $5 and the cost to participate in the simul will pay $20 per board.  Mr. Gulko will be playing up to 30 people in the simul.  Seats will be filled on a first come first serve basis.  Note – refreshments are included as part of the admission.

Boris Gulko is a top GM with a rating of 2623 which makes him the 19th highest rated player in the United States.  His other claim to fame is an amazing +3-1 score in matches against Garry Kasparov.  If you are interested in finding out more about the exhibition, contact Lawrence Constance at 201-568-1506 or click on the Dumont Chess Mates link.

Bobby Fischer -1/17/08

One of the most brilliant players in the history of chess passed away on January 17, 2008.  His achievements were overshadowed in laters years by his anti-semitic and anti American diatribes which were likely caused by mental illness. (Read the Wikipedia biography –


New World Champion – 9/29/07

MEXICO CITY (AFP) — The chess world hailed a new champion Sunday with the crowning of India’s Vishwanathan Anand, victor of a grueling tournament that brought together eight of the game’s best players. (Read the complete article –

anand & topalov

Ice Chess

Back in January 2007, the London Chess Club played the Moscow chess club with pieces made of ice!  See the complete transcript via the following link:

Ice Chess

Chess Stores

  • The House of Staunton – In the chess world, when you talk about top of the line, the House of Staunton is the place to go.  They have some of the most beautiful chess sets you’ve ever seen all made with with incredible craftmanship out of top of the line materials.  The site also has various other accessories including clocks, boards and chess tables. Click here
  • The Chess House – They have a full line of merchandise and excellent customer service.  I have personally purchased numerous books and supplies from this site.
  • Chess Zone – Internet site with a wide variety of reasonably priced chess sets, boards, clocks and boxes.  They are also a local business (Haverstraw, NY), though I don’t think they have a storefront.  However, they do have a very funny joke posted on their site, which I was proud to pilfer and add to our collection.  Their website is:
  • USCF Store – This site also has a full selection of merchandise and offers discounts to USCF members.  There is currently a special discounted rate for online membership renewals.

Internet Chess Sites

There are numerous sites available online to sit down and play a game of chess.  The sites listed below have an annual membership fee, but also provide a higher caliber of competition and numerous tutorials that provide great opportunities for self-improvement.



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