Dear chess community,

IM Emory Tate
September 26, 2015
Photo by Richard Shorman.

International Master Emory Tate passed away on October 27, 2015 leaving behind a chess legacy that was unparalleled for a non-Grandmaster. His handsome collection of GM scalps, his animated postmortem sessions and his willingness to share in his knowledge made him a popular and revered figure in the chess world. Since his passing, his presence has been missed by family, friends and the chess community at-large. He was one who thought about his legacy and how he would be remembered by those whom he loved.

I once had a conversation with Tate in which I tried to convince him to write a book of selected games. He scoffed at the idea. At that point, I knew I would be writing this story for him. Since February, I have been compiling the story of his life with the hopes that his legacy will be one befitting of a man who dedicated his career to chess. In my research, I have found quite a treasure trove of information that has not reached the public eye.

In this biography, I cover his upbringing, his evolution as a player, his triumphs and struggles and the sunset of his life. The book will contain a number of this games, both the obscure and famous. While Tate was known for his slashing victories (Tate-Yudasin, de Firmian-Tate), and original opening ideas (The Tate Variation against the Alekhine after 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.a4 a5 5.Ra3!? with black 1.b3 f5 2.f4 a5!? 3.a4 Ra6!? 4.e4 Re6!? and 1.c4 d6 2.Nc3 e5 3.Nf3 g5!?!?) there is so much more to him. While he also has positional masterpieces and technical wins, he was perhaps known for the demonstrative and theatrical way he expressed chess ideas.

Apart from chess, Emory Tate was a colorful persona with an interesting background. What is not know to many is that family members called him “Dennis” to eliminate confusion with his older sister who was also named “Emory”. Emory Sr. wanted a legacy, but later had quite a strained relationship with his son, Emory Jr. In the book is the following tract:

Emory Sr., Andrew Tate, Emory Jr.
Photo courtesy of Tate family archives.

“The Tates had to manage their sizable brood of nine children. Things were not easy for Dennis, particularly due to his tumultuous relationship with his father. He became a rebel early on, and his domineering father would not hesitate to exact a seemingly disproportionate punishment on Dennis. Much later would Dennis say about his father, “Only a grandchild, named after him, calmed his nerves …” Despite the strained relationship, Emory Sr. passed on his love of poetry, the outdoors and chess to his son. These are pastimes that Dennis would hold dear for the rest of his life.”

All of these factors shaped Tate’s personality and he became one to eschew the traditional paths to success. Chess would become his legacy. Even enlistment in the U.S. Air Force was a way to express his unique talents of multilingualism and his intense intellect. In the Air Force he established his legend by winning five Armed Forces Championships. It was there that he shined yet his failure to organize a regiment to ascend to Grandmaster ranks of chess would haunt him. During the 1987 NATO Championship in Denmark, his friend and Air Force mate Leroy Hill gave admonished him in a prophetic way.

Hill: “You’re a coward, Tate.”
Tate: “What do you mean?”
Hill: “You’re afraid. You’re afraid of success. You could become the first Black Grandmaster, but you’ll never become a Grandmaster unless you get serious.”
Tate: “Aw, don’t worry about it.”
Hill: “This tells the story of you. Unless you take it seriously, you’ll be just another talent that could have been. Get professional about it!”

The Air Force Academy at the 1987 U.S. Armed Forces Championship banquet in Washington, D.C. Left to right: Brian Lankey, Bobby Moore, Greg Vitko, Martin Dean, Emory Tate Jr. and Leroy Hill. 
Photo by U.S. Air Force Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR).

The Air Force Academy at the 1987 U.S. Armed Forces Championship banquet in Washington, D.C. Left to right: Brian Lankey, Bobby Moore, Greg Vitko, Martin Dean, Emory Tate Jr. and Leroy Hill. Photo by U.S. Air Force Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR).

Following Tate’s ignoble separation from the Air Force, he set out on a course to find his salvation in chess, but it was not easy going. Despite his increasing collection of brilliant wins, he was unable to find a firm financial footing. He became a “Mad Max” chess warrior shuttling from weekend tournament to weekend tournament with the pace of a Fortune 500 CEO… approximately 1000 tournaments. It was in this fashion that Tate became a global brand. However, he was not keen to monetize his value. Ever giving he gave of his knowledge freely. However, there were times that his self-confidence led to humorous stories. This one involved GM Gregory Serper.

While Tate was high on confidence, sometimes his ambitions did not match his realism. In a telling anecdote, Serper recounts Tate showing him another one of his beautiful wins, whereupon Tate asked Serper, “What do you think, Gregory? Maybe I should go to the ‘First Saturday’ tournament in Hungary and get my GM norm? Then maybe I can even challenge Kasparov for a match.”

The funny part of this story was Tate’s reaction to a young Russian bystander for laughing aloud at his presumption. The Russian boy, who didn’t know Tate, was quickly berated in perfect Russian. Serper recalls Tate’s reaction: “Why are you laughing? Look at him [here Tate pointed at me], he is a Grandmaster, he knows me well, and he is not laughing! And you don’t know me, so why are you laughing?”

However, Tate was more than his chess. Beneath his hard shell was a beautiful soul. In the book, a chapter by this name tells a story of a Tate:

There was an inner beauty about Tate described in so many of the heartwarming stories about him. Reflecting on these accounts told by other people, one realizes that reducing him to his chess identity alone is indeed a disservice. His generosity, tendency to encourage and ability to inspire were rare traits in a world preoccupied with self-fulfillment. Tate thrived more while giving—and reminded one of the rich man who gave all his wealth away and found comfort living as a commoner. Sometimes he slept in odd places and, after his slumber, he arose to set off on new adventures … more souls to enlighten.

Emory Tate shares the joys of chess with his students at the 
Chris Torres Chess Camp in Fremont, California.
Photo by Chris Torres

Emory Tate shares the joys of chess with his students at the
Chris Torres Chess Camp in Fremont, California.
Photo by Chris Torres

In all of this, I have 12 chapters spanning his life from his birth to the fateful day that he collapsed at the Shankland Open. Following are 24 puzzles featuring his combinations and two appendices of his games (annotated by a number of players) including three with his commentary. There is also an interview I conducted in 2006 and a photo gallery of rare photos. It is ironic that those closest to Tate did not realize the magnitude of his influence and the lives he touched.

I was told that Emory rarely talked about his chess accomplishments around family members. Perhaps they didn’t realize the magnitude of Emory’s stature in the chess community until the days and weeks following his passing. Several family members recalled being moved by the sheer volume of stories and tributes posted on social networks and other media. While there were many different angles, what was common in most of them was Emory’s generosity and his love for family and friends … and sometimes even strangers.

Thus, I have compiled roughly a 300-page treatise on a chess icon… not the best player, but perhaps one of the most passionate about his craft. Tate was a phenom in a number of ways and no one understood him fully. Each of us got a piece of him … a piece he wanted you to have. Only when we put these pieces together did we understand what a marvel of a mosaic he was … the impressive, the impassioned, the impresario … Emory Tate!

FM Emory Tate at 2001 World Open. Copyright ©, Daaim Shabazz.

This was Tate’s favorite chess photo… the look of a predator gazing at his prey.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The book release is projected Fall 2016.

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Chess is experiencing quite an increase in interest especially among the youth as major tournaments worldwide are often dotted with scholastic players. This boom has necessitated the demand for able instructors, coaches and trainers. With the demand, comes increasing contact of adults and minors. It is rare that there is a conflict, but when there is one, it is usually a matter of the two parties not being able to get the results desired … so there is a parting of ways. Rarely is there anything more serious than a disgruntled customer or parent.

Ohio v. Leon Wilson

Last year, F. Leon Wilson was accused of inappropriately touching a 4-year old minor during a chess lesson. This came after the parent informed the police about a conversation he had with his daughter. In the case of Wilson, we was a highly-regard coach and has been teaching in the Columbus area for a number of years with great success. He had submitted to a number of background checks with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (OBCI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). When the allegation arose, Wilson had been returning from a tournament in Greece when he was apprehended in the airport and placed under arrest before any investigation was done. After he was arrested, a 7-year old came forward to make a similar claim.

The initial charge was first-degree felony of “rape,” but later downgraded to fourth-degree “gross sexual imposition.” He posted bail on a $250,000 bond and has been free ever since. All of this changed within a year. Social media excoriated Wilson and tended to paint him as guilty before any evidence was presented. Another 23-year old accuser came forward with a 10-year old claim, but it was not admissible. Wilson submitted to a polygraph test prior to the trial and it came out that he was “truthful.” These results, however, would not be admitted as evidence. After four grueling days of the first trial in February, the jury could not come to an agreement and a mistrial was declared.

F. Leon Wilson at February trial
Photo by

In the second trial, a DNA test was offered during the trial, but it showed no connection to Wilson. Another source says that the DNA of another male was found on the clothing of one of the girls. There was no other evidence and while the prosecuting attorney Mark Sleeper admitted there was not much physical evidence, he offered that there are such cases where DNA cannot be found. It boiled down to the testimony of the two girls. It appeared in the first trial there was a failure to convince the jury of Wilson’s absolute guilt. In the second trial, the jury reached a “guilty” verdict. The question would be, what changed in the second trial? What was the burden of proof that convinced this assembly of jurors? If there is no DNA, no audio, no video, no witnesses then what is the basis of the conviction?

Are Chess Coaches Safe?

Accused of “gross sexual imposition” on a minor, Leon Wilson was found guilty on two of three counts and will face sentencing July 29th. The verdict begs the question, “How are chess coaches and trainers protected from these allegations?” One may glibly answer, “Well… they shouldn’t molest children.” Of course not and any pedophile or child molester should be held to the letter of the law. Let’s look at it a bit deeper. What is to stop any angry child from leveling a charge against their coach and what would their defense be?

F. Leon Wilson
Photo by Frank Johnson.

If a passed polygraph and a negative DNA test are not sufficient and if there is no other audio-visual evidence, then it is the word of the accuser versus the accused. In this case and 4- and 7-year old accused Leon Wilson of inappropriately touching them during a chess lesson. This means that chess coaches have to take precautions to protect themselves. What precautions?

In order for coaches to protect themselves (and thus protection of child), they should resort to video taping every private session (or not giving private lessons), having at least one parent present at all times, having the lesson in a public facility, or having the lessons on the Internet (also with parents watching). If only one parent is present and they have to leave the room, then the lesson must stop and the child has to go with them. If parents don’t submit to being there at all times, then should the coaches deny the service? This is now a legitimate question. Of course, this is cumbersome to carry out, but if Wilson can be convicted without any evidence and a mere accusation, then what precautions should a coach take?

There is no charge easier to make in America, perhaps the world, and more difficult to disprove than a teacher, a coach, a relative being accused of touching over the clothing, inappropriately, or sexually, or molesting or sexually assaulting a child.”

~Brad Koffel, Defense Attorney for F. Leon Wilson

Coaches/Parents: Protection is Vital

In the Wilson case, there was no shred of physical evidence that he had molested the two girls, yet their words were credible in the eyes of the jurors and the cries of emotional parents touched all those guardians who dread the day that they will face such a situation. The defense contended that the girls were coached by their parents to testify credibly in the court. Of course, but it’s up to the legal system to uphold due process and the mantra “innocent until proven guilty.” Wilson was arrested at an airport prior to any proof (other than the accusation). If a child utters to a parent, “My coach touched me,” and that parent calls the police who arrests them on the spot, perhaps we have come to the end of the road in terms of due process. In this day and after this verdict, it is doubtful that coaches will want to continue to take such a risk.

Photo by

We are moving into a society where people are becoming disconnected due to cell phone, social networking and video conferencing. Are we coming to a time where children will receive all of their chess instruction via cell phone or computers? Not likely, but the Wilson case is a lesson for all of us who want to share our joys of chess and its inherent benefits. This verdict sets a precedent for future. Coaches and trainers should take precautions (as should the parents) to ensure of the safety of both parties.


F. Leon Wilson
Photo by Frank Johnson.

Starting today (June 6th) F. Leon Wilson is a defendant in a second trial where he has been charged with “gross sexual conduct.” The first trial ended in a hung jury on February 29th. Wilson is facing 20 years on three counts of gross sexual imposition involving two of his students, ages four and seven (at the time of the accusation).

The prosecution presented unconvincing evidence in the first trial and will have to answer to the fact that no physical DNA was found, no camera footage, no audio of 911 call, nor were there any witnesses to these allegations. Wilson has told the media that all of his lessons are held in public view and that he has only made contact with his students in a celebratory and affirmative fashion. There was also a polygraph screening that will not be admitted, but Wilson’s passing of that test is something he has made public. As part of the investigation, there was a DNA print taken and the results of that information will be discussed in the second trial. Wilson took the stand in the first trial and presumably will stand again in his defense.

Wilson maintains his innocence and had formerly rejected a plea bargain. The trial will be held in the Delaware County Court and the proceedings will last throughout the week.

Drum Coverage

Chess Coach Wilson facing trial July 14th

Trial in progress for Coach Leon Wilson

Wilson retrial set for June 6th


Emory Tate away last October, but left behind a legacy that will last for an eternity. There have been a number of memorial tournaments held in his honor and the latest will be hosted by the Lion’s Paw Chess Academy in Chicago on June 25th at the Salaam Restaurant on West 79th Street. After his death last October 27th (death, obituary, funeral), there were literally thousands of tributes recounting stories of his impact. On June 25th, players in the Chicago area will honor a hometown hero with a 5-round Swiss tournament. The event expects to draw a large number of players from Chicago and perhaps the surrounding states. Organizer Daniel X Jones is hoping that this event become an annual tribute.

Tate was born on the Westside of Chicago along with his four sisters. Combined with his four half-siblings, he came from a large family with a domineering father, a successful attorney with a private practice. His mother was a hard-working woman from rural Alabama who had vision of success for her children. At the age of 13, Emory moved with his family to Elkhart, Indiana where he became the valedictorian of Concord High School. He was also on the wrestling team and was working his up the ladder in the chess club. It was there that the dormant interest in chess blossomed into a passion and young Tate worked hard to improve.

Concord H.S. Chess Club, Elkhart, Indiana (1976)

After earning a scholarship to Northwestern, he took his growing interest after defeating GM Arthur Bisguier in a simul. Many chess players remember Tate being at Ron’s Chess Shoppe and other venues in the Chicago area. During this era of his life, his confidence soared and he became a sensation after developing his hyperactive tactical style.

Apart from his sparkling play was the influence he had on the chess community. Tate’s games were always full of creative ideas and he was always willing to share his ideas in a demonstrative way. His generosity is one of the redeeming qualities he is remembered for and is why he had such a large fan base. He will be aptly honored the community where he had such an impact, the southside of Chicago. See flyer below for details.


Sophia Lynn of “Chess R US” is known for her stunning drawings and t-shirt designs, but she is rallying support to start a new chess club in the Baltimore area. The area has a long chess history and many legendary players have come through the area. Lynn is trying to revitalize the chess scene. On June 18th, she will host a tournament and is inviting all to register and support the mission! Check it out!



Chicago Open officially starts the summer circuit of tournaments on the American chess landscape. Wheeling will host the 25th edition of the tournament and it expects top players to vie for the $100,000 guaranteed prize fund. The field will feature a strong Chinese contingent including Yu Yangyi, Jianchao Zhou and Ju Wenjun.

Last year Jeffery Xiong scored a historic victory and earned his final GM norm in the process. He had a memorable 2015 and started this year with a creditable performance in the U.S. Championship. What will be the story this year? What new star will emerge? There will be a number of young upstarts as well as a number of veterans in the field.


FM Kevin WangGM Yu Yangyi


GM Ju Wenjun (China)
Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

Official Site:
Tournament Details:


Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

Women’s International Master (WIM) Deborah Richards-Porter was in the news lately for winning the 2.3.5 subzonal tournament held in Barbados. Players from Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Venezuela also vied for the title. She becomes the first Jamaican to win a subzonal tournament and nipped WIM Danitza Vazquez of Puerto Rico with an unconquerable 8½/9.

Richards-Porter has won the women’s Jamaican national championship 10 times and has led the Jamaican women’s team at the past several Olympiad tournaments. She has been feted by the Jamaican Chess Federation and the RJR Sports Foundation and has been a role model of excellence for the up-and-coming players (male and female). When all is said and done, she will be the most decorated woman in Jamaican chess history.

Olympiad teammates Ariel Barrett and Deborah Richards-Porter
had strong showings at the 2.3.5 subzonal in Barbados.
Photo courtesy of Jamaican Chess Federation.

Given her dominance on the national stage, Richards-Porter has now lent herself to teaching chess to the next generation at her R&D Chess Academy along with her husband, Russel Porter. One of the main questions often asked about the women’s scene in chess is how to get them more involved. Why are there not good numbers of women participating in chess? Why are there not a higher number of women competing at the highest levels? More on that later.

Another question that has emerged is, do gender-segregated tournaments stunt the growth of the females they are seeking to inspire? About one year ago, GM Nigel Short reignited a firestorm about women in chess stating reasons why women are at the lower rungs of the professional chess ladder. Some point to low numbers, but when the Polgar sisters emerged, there were even fewer women than today. What did they do to compete at the highest level?

Warren Elliott (front, left) was held to a draw by Deborah Porter (front, right) at the 2012 Jamaica Chess Open, however Elliott defeated the rest of his opponents to claim first place.

Warren Elliott (front, left) was held to a draw by Deborah Porter (front, right) at the 2012 Jamaica Chess Open, however Elliott defeated the rest of his opponents to claim first place. Richards-Porter won the Jamaica Open three years later. Photo by Zachary Ramsey.

Short faced a maelstrom of criticism about accepting the difference in strength as a factor of social conditioning. His pointed comments, reignited a painful debate on gender equality in chess. Social conditioning of boys and girls often determines what activities they pursue and how much time they allocate to them. The issue remains… what constitutes the chasm in chess? Is it that girls and women are not thoroughly challenged in gender-based tournaments and thus, their improvement trajectory slower? These tournaments are designed to serve as an incubation for building the requisite confidence for girls. However, it is important that girls do not get stuck in this incubation too long. Hungary’s Judit Polgar, the strongest woman in history, gave her insight on women in chess:

In fact, they must focus to play the best chess and not women’s chess and then they will improve faster. Unfortunately, most of them focus only on playing in women’s chess … You have to put your goals as high as possible and only then will you improve. (see article)

Is it simply a matter of practicality in the use of time? Is economics a factor? One may say that people tend to disfavor spending an inordinate amount of time studying a game without some derived benefit. Some have argued that if not for the presence of the women’s tournaments, participation would be far less. The question is why? Certainly, women enjoy the accomplishments they garner in gender-based tournaments. Perhaps they there needs to be incentives to play in tournaments where the chance of winning in a larger and stronger pool is drastically reduced. It is ironic that some Grandmasters complain that it is difficult to survive as a chess professional and that women have more chances to succeed given their separate prizes and gender-based tournaments.

There are a number of issues that also come, but gender disparity has been a staple argument in chess since Bobby Fischer’s “knight odds” statement. However, the Polgar experiment showed that under the right conditions (including playing the strongest players), women can attain a high standard in chess. In fact, Judit Polgar became a Grandmaster at 14, eschewed gender tournaments and competed as an equal for decades. Not only did she compete, she spent her teenage years crushing strong Grandmasters in bloody mating attacks. She ultimately reached #8 in the world and a 2735 FIDE rating. Perhaps there is a gradualism, but it is important that girls are not setting their goals too modestly.

Deborah Richards-Porter at 2014 Chess Olympiad in Istanbul. Photo courtesy of Jamaican Chess Federation.

In addition, there has been discussion about women’s titles and their importance. It is common to hear a chess-playing girl say that she aspires to become a “WIM” or “WGM” because women’s titles are taken as the natural stage of improvement. Unfortunately, one hardly hears a girl mentioning the coveted “IM,” “GM” titles as an initial goal despite the fact that they aspire to compete with the best in every other endeavor. By this default, boys will have higher chess goals, higher expectations and thus, more ambition. Have we pigeon-holed girls and women to think only in terms of gender-related events and lesser titles? Have we encouraged them to have lower expectations of their abilities? There is certainly a place for gender-based tournaments, but should young girls take the example of the Polgar sisters as their own or as merely an exceptional case?

Women do play in open events, but the top players’ presence is sparse. One tournament showing progress was Gibraltar where several top females players competed in this year’s competition including GMs Anna and Mariya Muzychuk, Antoaneta Stefanova, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Dronavali Harika, Pia Cramling, Zhao Xue and others. In fact, GM Hou Yifan famously tied for 1st in the 2012 Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival with Short. There is also a “women’s prize” as an incentive. In 2015, the event was won by GM Hikaru Nakamura, but ironically, Hou earned more winnings than Nakamura. She took 3rd place overall and in addition, the women’s prize! Hou is the current women’s world champion at age 22, but her participation in the strongest tournaments is very spotty and her strength seems to have stagnated for the last two years. Apart from Hou Yifan at 2663, top women are around rated 2500-2575. Three others have eclipsed 2600 in the past.

For women in developing regions, there must be a push to play the strongest competition and strive for equal standards in skill. Richards-Porter is a player of good standard and won the 2015 Jamaican Open, defeating FM Damion Davy in the process. There had been the paradox that Richards-Porter continue to play in the women’s national championship because of the small field. It was considered important to have her as the standard bearer and eminent presence in the national championship. That was a logical thought, but would she be more of an inspiration competing strongly against the likes of FM Warren Elliott and Davy for the national championship and securing a spot on the overall Olympiad team?

Deborah Richards-Porter accepting highest accolade for female chess players.

WIM Deborah Richards-Porter accepting the RJR “Female Chess Player of the Year” from Grammy-winner Orville “Shaggy” Burrell. Photo by Jamaica Observer.

The late Dr. Hope Anderson set the tone by deciding to compete among Jamaica’s best players. Let’s hope players like Richards-Porter (and others) will continue this challenge. There is no reason to believe that women cannot cause a few nightmares in a given tournament. Maybe it will be up-and-coming Women’s Candidate Masters Ariel Barrett or Rachel Miller. Richards-Porter has been the trailblazer and has been encouraged by Jamaican Chess Federation President Ian Wilkinson to seek higher heights. While we hear chess-playing boys cite being Grandmaster as a goal, perhaps chess-playing girls should be socialized to think in a broader view as it relates to chess. That would be a watershed moment. As for Richards-Porter, she qualifies for the next round of qualifiers for the Women’s World Chess Championship. Let’s wish her well on her endeavor and hope to see her mash up the competition in Jamaica.


Kenya Kenya Kenya

2016 Kenya Open

Kenyan chess is seeing an uptick in activity in 2016. After holding a successful Kenya Open last month (won by Ben Nguku) it is in the midst of the Nairobi Open. There are apparently some bright talent sprouting from years of nourishment. The frequent trips around Kenya seem to be bearing some fruit.

Ben Nguku (left) receives his trophy from CEO
of Terrian Chess Academy Brian Kidula.

Happy winners from left…
Timothy Milton, Ben Nguku, Jane Wambugu and Mehul Gohil.

Ben Nguku ended up with 7/8 the same as Mehul Gohil but he emerged as a winner on tie break. Both shared equally the first and second prize KES 30,000 (USD 300) & KES 20,000 (USD 200). Peter Gilruth & James Panchol ended up in fourth position with 6.5/8 to each earn KES 7,500 (USD 75).

Timothy Mwabu


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Visit to Mukuru Kwa Njenga

Githinji Hinga and officials from Chess Kenya went to the infamous slum of Mukuru Kwa Njenga to provide the children a respite from the deprivation of necessities. It is a testament that Chess Kenya was not afraid to enter the rounds of this precarious area. The area is not paved and danger was always lurking.

“Usisahau huku ni ghetto, Battery na tenje zitaenda”
(Do not forget this is the ghetto, your car battery and radio will definitely go).

These are the type of stories that are missed in the chess world as there is a focus on the top players and the latest results in a big tournament. In fact, these stories may carry a larger social importance given the role that chess has played in upliftment in impoverished areas around the world. Chess players will perhaps know the story of Phiona Mutesi of Uganda.

It is interesting that this visit was sponsored by Sports Outreach Ministries (SOP), a non-profit faith based organisation that seeks to mentor children in impoverished areas through sports and a feeding program. It is the organization that made Phiona’s story possible. Pastor Francis Juma who is a director of SOP Kenya, started a chess program in October 2015. Robert Katende of SOP Uganda, who served as Phiona’s mentor, conducted a week-long training workshop at Mukuru teaching a dozen teachers from surrounding schools.

By this training, teachers were able to introduce chess to their respective schools and thus introduce them to Chess Kenya. This story would not normally see the light of day if not for niche websites and blogs.



Four-time U.S. Champion GM Hikaru Nakamura won MC2 in exciting fashion.
Will MC3 bring more spills and thrills?
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

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ALERT!! The May 31st deadline is fast approaching!

At least 50 people have already signed up for Millionaire Chess 3. Avoid the last-minute rush and sign up before the entry fee increases to $549! Remember that you need to have at least 60 games rated by 31 August 2016 to qualify for the Under Section of MC 3. If you haven’t met your 60 game requirement and are not sure about registering now for the tournament, here is some friendly advice. Go for it! Register now and then you have all the motivation to play as much chess as possible before MC 3.

The very first person to register for Millionaire Chess was Jones Murphy. Well done Jones! To follow Jones and many others who have already registered for the tournament, please…

Register now at!

MC supporters Daaim Shabazz, Adia Onyango,
Ashik Uzzaman and Jones Murphy, Jr.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Into History Once Again

April was a very hectic month for Millionaire Chess and also a historic one as our very own Grandmaster Maurice Ashley was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame. Maurice gave a moving acceptance speech in which he chronicled his humble beginnings in chess from the tough streets of Kingston, Jamaica to Brooklyn, New York and gave tribute to family, friends and colleagues who have helped him along the way. Maurice was the first African-American to ever be inducted into the hall, 17 years after he became the first Black person in history to become a GM. It’s an accomplishment of which we are all proud! You can view the acceptance speech here:

Video by CCSCSL.

Hail to the Chief!

Please join us in welcoming Ken Ballou to the MC family. Ken will be our Chief TD at MC3. It was an arduous and particularly difficult search for a Chief TD following Sevan Muradian’s sudden passing in February. Ken has deep experience at a TD in national events. This should hold him in good stead as he leads a new team to Millionaire Chess’ third edition. He has hit the ground running, already busy addressing technical queries and questions regarding registration, ratings, staffing and the like. Welcome aboard Ken!

Final Notes

A very big thank to all those who are helping to spread the word about MC’s Dream Maker Satellite Series and MC. We appreciate it very much.

If you have any questions regarding MC 3 or the registration process please do not hesitate to contact us at

We look forward to seeing you in October!

Best wishes,

Amy and Maurice

Participants Adia Onyango, Stacey Moore and Alisa Melekhina
flanking Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The 2016 Millionaire Chess Open

Thursday, October 6th through Monday, October 11th 2016


email address:



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Chicago is a wonderful city with its vibrant ethnic communities, world class entertainment and beautiful landmarks. However, the media paints a decidedly narrow picture… one cloaked in death, despair and helplessness. The law enforcement has been dogged by allegations of unlawful acts, police brutality and obstruction of justice.

The city has seen heated confrontations between the public and the police and the jails continue to fill up. This story is similar to what one finds around the country. The irony is that many men learn the deep consequences of their actions in a very unconventional way. Oliver Fluck arranged a nice photo series of inmates who found chess as an outlet.

Mikhail Korenman (left) conducts chess classes at the Cook County Jail.
Photo by Phil Velasquez (Chicago Tribune)

The Chicago Tribune ran a story about the benefits of chess on inmates. There are already a number of studies showing a reduction in recidivism. While the lessons often amount to cliches about “chess is life” or “making better moves,” the lessons stick. Jeff, a two-time participant in Cook County’s chess program stated, “If I make the wrong move, it can cost my family,” he continued, motioning toward the other pieces on the board. “It can cost everything that I have.”

Mikhail Korenman started the program four years ago and has made quite a bit of an impact. Chess is often used in a way to examine one’s inner self through introspection. Some see it as a tool that will enable them to succeed after paying their debt to society. Ernest expressed a bitter truth:

Once you get older and you start having kids, you realize that one bad decision can cost you your freedom, your life,” he said. “I just hate that it took me this long to really, really grasp that. But now, I really understand it. I really look forward to being successful when I get out there in the world. Because I believe I could do it.



Detroit has been beset by a long list of issues stemming from the scandal-ridden politics, the financial crisis of 2008, the recent Flint water crisis and lately the “sickout” strike of 94 of 97 Detroit’s school teachers. Certainly, everyone is sick of these egregious violations of public safety and the endangerment of our youth. Many of the Detroit schools suffer from neglect, abuse and total marginalization. This is why what is happening with the Detroit City Chess Club (DCCC) makes the latest accomplishments more meaningful.

Kevin Fite, founder of the DCCC, has been a selfless leader in providing Detroit-area youth an outlet from the social pathologies that plague the proud “Motor City.” It is a town that has quite a history of productivity and is home to the famous Motown Records empire. If you visit Detroit you will see the signs of urban blight and a city separated from its prosperous past. However, in such a city there are still jewels such as the Charles H. Wright African-American Museum and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Fortunately, these landmarks play a duel role of educating the public about the proud history of the city, but also as a host for chess activities of the DCCC.

Tamryn Watkins was the subject of a very inspirational story on According to the article by Scott Talley, Watkins stated, “If I didn’t meet Mr. Fite that day my grades could have dropped, or I could have even been kicked out of Webber.” Watkins had been called to the office because of an altercation with two other girls. “I think being a part of her school’s chess team has made her more focused and goal-oriented,” says Fite. He stated that she is more focused, goal-oriented and she’s smiling a lot more.

Kevin Fite, Detroit City Chess Club

NM Jimmy Canty

DCCC product FIDE Master Jimmy Canty
Photo by Kwabena Shabu.

Fite has invited a number of dignitaries to Detroit to expose the youth to positive images and to help invigorate enthusiasm for the local chess scene. Most recently GM Hikaru Nakamura made an appearance and gave exhibitions to the DCCC and toured the city. The DCCC services school around the metropolitan area and boasts of many success stories. Duffield Elementary shined at the 2005 SuperNationals and Bates Academy and prep powerhouse Cass Tech has produced FM James “Jimmy” Canty III.

The latest success coming from Detroit is the six students from the University Prep Science and Math team winning the “Under 14” category at the 13th Annual Kasparov Chess Foundation All-Girls National Championships. The team members are active at Fite’s DCCC and among their many titles, this was the biggest. Fite told The Chess Drum that the girls had a disappointing tournament last year, but returned with a vengeance.

Yes, They really wanted to win it because the previous year they placed in 4th place and they didn’t realize how tough the All-Girls tournament was. I’ve never seen the girls so upset like they were last year. All they talked about this year was going back to the All-Girls. All the girls will be attending Cass Tech High School in the Fall.

KCF All-Girls National Championship, 2016 National under-14 Champions!

L-R: Jaidyn Hamilton, Lauren Bradford, Sa’Nya Burton, Gisele Motley,
Jada Hamilton and Charisse Woods.
Photo by Catherine Martinez.

In actuality, four of the 8th-grade girls will attend Cass while Charisse Woods, a 5th grader who competing for University Prep Science & Math Elementary will transfer to University Prep Science and Math Middle School next fall. She will join Sa’Nya Burton who is a 6th grader. With the girls poised to attend Cass Tech, it goes without saying that they will continue adding to the tradition of the Detroit powerhouse high school.

Fite told The Chess Drum that Canty, a Cass Tech alumni, has been assisting the girls with instruction. Canty has been blazing his own trail having won $40,000 at the 2015 Millionaire Chess Open and later qualifying for his FM title. Things are looking up for Detroit and the chess community is keeping their heads when all about them are losing theirs.


Fabiano Caruana
2016 U.S. Chess Champion

The tide has turned and the balance of power has shifted in American chess. There were two new champions crowned after the U.S. Championships held in St. Louis ending this past weekend. Fabiano Caruana was crowned the champion in his debut. After switching his federation back to the U.S. last year, it has been an eventful ride for the Miami-born, Brooklyn-bred Grandmaster.

Caruana has since settled in St. Louis and is the top-rated U.S. player and now the national champion. In addition to his muscle as America’s champion, he has Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So as teammates in the upcoming Olympiad this fall in Azerbaijan. They will make a formidable trio along with Ray Robson. These four held the top four places in the championship where there was exciting play from wire-to-wire. There were no breakout stories in the open championship and Aleksandr Lenderman and Sam Shankland did not have the best of tournaments. Veterans Gata Kamsky and Alexander Shabalov never got any momentum going. U.S. Junior champion IM Akshat Chandra had a “character-building” experience getting three draws from 11 games.

The youth movement is afoot! Carissa Yip and Ashritha Eswaran chat after a round Both players affected the outcome of the championship.

In the women’s championships, Nazi Paikidze won her crown in the very last round after Tatev Abrahamyan lost to Ashritha Eswaran. Paikidze beat 7-time champion Irina Krush to nudge out Abrahamyan who had lead for most of the second half of the tournament. This broke the reign of Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih who had won the championship for the last ten years. However, that wasn’t the story. In fact, the story was the onslaught of the younger players such as Eswaran, Jennifer Yu, Akshita Gorti and Carissa Yip. The last three rounds saw these young players took scalps thus affecting the outcome of the championship.

GM Fabiano Caruana & IM Nazi Paikidze
2016 National Champions

2016 U.S. Chess Championship
St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Final Standings (Overall)
Rank Name Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Score
1 GM Caruana, F 2795 x ½  1  ½  1  ½  ½  1  1  1  ½  1  8.5
2 GM So, W 2773 ½  x ½  ½  ½  ½  1  ½  1  ½  1  1  7.5
3 GM Nakamura, H 2787 0  ½  x ½  ½  1  ½  1  1  1  1  ½  7.5
4 GM Robson, R 2663 ½  ½  ½  x 1  ½  ½  ½  ½  ½  1  1  7.0
5 GM Onischuk, A 2664 0  ½  ½  0  x ½  ½  1  ½  1  ½  1  6.0
6 GM Xiong, J 2618 ½  ½  0  ½  ½  x 1  ½  ½  ½  ½  ½  5.5
7 GM Kamsky, G 2678 ½  0  ½  ½  ½  0  x ½  ½  ½  ½  1  5.0
8 GM Lenderman, A 2618 0  ½  0  ½  0  ½  ½  x ½  ½  ½  1  4.5
9 GM Akobian, V 2615 0  0  0  ½  ½  ½  ½  ½  x 0  1  1  4.5
10 GM Shankland, S 2656 0  ½  0  ½  0  ½  ½  ½  1  x 0  1  4.5
11 GM Shabalov, A 2528 ½  0  0  0  ½  ½  ½  ½  0  1  x ½  4.0
12 IM Chandra, A 2477 0  0  ½  0  0  ½  0  0  0  0  ½  x 1.5
PGN Games (Overall)

2015 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship
St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Final Standings (Women)
Rank Name Rating 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Score
1 IM Paikidze, N 2346 x ½  ½  ½  ½  1  1  1  ½  1  1  1  8.5
2 WGM Abrahamyan, T 2342 ½  x 1  ½  1  ½  0  1  ½  1  1  1  8.0
3 IM Zatonskih, A 2470 ½  0  x ½  ½  ½  1  0  1  1  1  1  7.0
4 WGM Nemcova, K 2367 ½  ½  ½  x ½  ½  ½  1  1  0  ½  1  6.5
5 WGM Foisor, S 2258 ½  0  ½  ½  x 0  ½  1  1  1  1  ½  6.5
6 GM Krush, I 2465 0  ½  ½  ½  1  x ½  ½  0  1  1  ½  6.0
7 WIM Eswaran, A 2225 0  1  0  ½  ½  ½  x ½  0  ½  1  1  5.5
8 WFM Yu, J 2157 0  0  1  0  0  ½  ½  x 1  ½  ½  1  5.0
9 Yip, C 2164 ½  ½  0  0  0  1  1  0  x 1  0  ½  4.5
10 FM Gorti, A 2184 0  0  0  1  0  0  ½  ½  0  x 1  1  4.0
11 WIM Bykovtsev, A 2219 0  0  0  ½  0  0  0  ½  1  0  x 1  3.0
12 FM Melekhina, A 2205 0  0  0  0  ½  ½  0  0  ½  0  0  x 1.5
PGN Games (Women)


IM Oladapo Adu

The Ghana Chess Association, under the auspices of the African Chess Confederation and the World Chess Federation held 2016 Zone 4.4 Individual Chess Championships in Accra from 28th March to the 6th April 2016 at Tenko Plaza Hotel. Thirty-two players from the following seven federations were represented: Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo. The arbiters were IA Abdel Fattah Akkour of Morocco with FA Enyonam Sewa Fumey (Togo), NA John Solarays (Ghana) and Rabiu Olabisi (Nigeria).

Nigeria’s IM Oladapo Adu controlled the proceedings throughout the event with an undefeated 8/9, a truly dominating performance. Ceding draws to IM Francis Anquandah and CM Oluwafemi Balogun. Balogun, also from Nigeria, also had a strong showing with 7/9. Nigerians dominated affairs taking the top seven positions. Adu hopes to make a good showing in the African Individuals and make a return to the World Cup.

Chess-Results (4.4 subzonal):

2016 Candidates Tournament
March 11th-March 27th, 2016 (Moscow, Russia)
1 ADU Oladapo IM NGR
2281 8.0
2 BALOGUN Oluwafemi CM Nigeria
2249 7.5
3 KIGIGHA, Bomo FM Nigeria
2363 7.0
4 ANWULI, Daniel GM Nigeria
2365 6.0
5 OSUNFUYI, Abimbola FM Nigeria
2780 6.0
6 ODEH, Kenneth Nigeria
2031 6.0
7 ERHABOR, David Nigeria
2104 6.0
8 MANAN, Yoboue Ivory Coast
2104 5.5
9 ANQUANDAH, Francis IM Ghana
1993 5.0
10 EBOSSE, Kingue FM Cameroon
2047 5.0
11 ONOVUGHE, Ochuko FM Nigeria
2166 5.0
12 MENSAH, Joseph Jamena CM Armenia
1986 5.0
13 ADU, Lionel Ghana
1877 4.5
14 THOMPSON, Edward CM Ghana
1890 4.5
15 EPHOEVI-GA, Adama Togo
1861 4.5
16 ATTAH, Elikem Kofi Ghana
0 4.5
17 KAMARA, Ansumana CM USA
2015 4.5
18 CHARLES, Haji Kiadii Liberia
0 4.5
19 SOSU Edward Ghanian
1729 4.5
20 AKINLEYE, Akinseye Nigeria
0 4.5
21 JACOB, Jallah Liberia
0 4.5
22 OYAMA, Ekok CM Nigeria
2762 4.0
23 DEGONDO, Simplice FM Ivory Coast
2757 4.0
24 OFOWINO, Toritsemuwa Nigeria
1793 3.5
25 HUSHIE, Carlton Ghanaian
1761 3.5
26 EBONGUE, Emile Cameroon
1802 3.5
27 THOMAS, Saah Liberia
0 3.5
28 NKUM, Michael Ghanaian
0 3.0
29 ARKO-DADZIE, George Ghanaian
2780 3.0
30 BODJONA, Abalou Togo
1370 2.0
31 TANDOH, Charles Ghanaian
2762 1.5
32 AYIKU Angela Ghanaian
1523 0.0
Tournament Details


Kenya Kenya Kenya

Purity Maina

Kenya’s Purity Maina receive her credentials as an International Arbiter (IA) during the FIDE Presidential Board meeting held in Moscow, Russia! Maina would be familiar to some on the African continent and she has appeared on these pages before, but it is quite an outstanding achievement. She would become only the second woman on the continent to earn the title. Mona El-Labody of Egypt precedes her earning the title in 1986.

It is very important that more women earn FIDE credentials to help change the role that they play in the sporting aspect of chess. Given the continuing lower numbers in chess among women, there is certainly room for growth in areas of leadership.

FIDE Arbiter Purity Maina at the 2015 African Championships in Egypt.

FIDE Titles Conferred: http://www/


Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica


2 June 1950 – 24 March 2016

It is an indisputable fact that Jamaica is one of the greatest countries in the world with accomplishments in various spheres of endeavour ranging from, inter alia, the arts, music, the sciences and sports.

One who made a sterling contribution in the sporting arena for her country was our beloved Hope Anderson who, like Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise, went where no other Jamaican female Chess player had gone before….

Hailing from Portland, that pristine of Jamaican parishes, and from what would later prove to be a family of outstanding individuals, Hope took to Chess relatively early and eventually became a solid, well-rounded player.

She developed steadily and more than held her own against male opposition long before the famous Hungarian Polgar sisters (Susan, Sophia and Judit) made it popular for women to play against men.

Indeed, Hope blossomed as it became eminently clear that Chess (once the game of kings but now the king of games!) was an excellent fit for her. One of her outstanding performances was in the 1977 Jamaica Civil Service competition when she made tremendous progress, surprising many (except herself!) going all the way to the final before succumbing to one Bertram Scott.

Hope, a medical practitioner by profession, in stark contrast to the dictates of the Hippocratic Oath, did serious damage to life and limb on the Chess battlefield inflicting numerous defeats upon her opponents.

This was not surprising as she was a student of the game and a patient, strategic competitor. She read voraciously, assimilating and digesting Chess theory which she willingly shared with many of the younger awe-struck female players.

Although she defeated a number of good male players and became the first female to play in the “Men’s” National Championship, it was against the members of her own sex that her star truly shone brightly.

Jamaica Federation President Ian Wilkinson
delivering a eulogy of Dr. Anderson.

An early member of the JCF, Hope created history when she became Jamaica’s first National Women’s Champion in 1973, four years after the Jamaica Chess Federation was established and one year after the JCF became an official member of FIDE, the International/World Chess Federation.

So profound was her dominance over her female counterparts that she won the first six (6) Jamaica Women’s Championship titles, registering further victories – 1976, 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985. Although her streak was audaciously broken by Claire Clarke in 1986, Hope reclaimed the throne in 1987 notching her seventh victory with ooooomph!

Her undoubted class as a chess player, her esprit de corps, leadership skills, sense of humour, humility, equanimity of mind, dignified bearing, calming presence, indefatigable spirit and many other qualities inevitably led her along the path of representing her country on the highest international stage – the World Chess Olympiad – the zenith of international team chess competition.

She cemented her place in the pantheon of Jamaica’s sporting legends in 1984 when, as National Women’s champion, she led Jamaica’s women as they debuted at the Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece. There was a feeling of inevitability about this landmark sojourn which Hope was to replicate via more Olympiad outings in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (1986), again in Thessaloniki (1988) and Novi Sad (in the former Yugoslavia -1990).

At the Olympiads many realized that she was not an easy opponent to face as she acquitted herself admirably. Hope motivated her colleagues who supped at her table for inspiration especially one Christine Bennett who won a silver medal in Novi Sad, 1990 – scoring 6/7 as the board 4 or reserve player. To date she is the only Jamaican female player to win an Olympiad medal!

She also rendered yeoman (woman) service to the JCF by serving as a secretary of the JCF; being team doctor on trips abroad and serving as chaperone and mentor to junior players during international competitions overseas – including Ryan Simons (her nephew) and Jomo Pitterson – and providing invaluable assistance to others such as John Tobisch.

Dr. Hope Anderson (center) at the 1986 Chess Olympiad in Dubai, UAE.

Although she “parked her pawns” after her last competitive JCF event in December, 1996, she remained an inspiration and role model to many chess players, especially females. The current successful crop of Jamaican female chess players doubtlessly have stood on her shoulders. These include Deborah Richards-Porter, the first Woman International Master in the English-speaking Caribbean and other Jamaican women champions such as the young phenom WFM Rachel Miller, WCM Ariel Barrett and the reigning women’s champion WCM Annesha Smith, respectively.

The path she blazed for women’s chess in the region bore significant fruit in 2010 when the Jamaica Women’s team created history by winning its category at the Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia, Russia.

Her accomplishments on the chess stage are nothing short of remarkable having regard, inter alia, to her obligations to her family, the many professional responsibilities she had to discharge and the serious physical challenge she had to endure due to an illness which, in her inimitable fashion, she kept to herself and which she fought doggedly in the style of her many chess defences.

Having made her transition, she will now be enjoying many games with local titans such as Enos Grant, John Powell, William Roper, Alfred Thompson, Orrin Tonsingh and Humphrey Gayle and former world champions such as Vera Menchik, Jose Capablanca, Bobby Fischer and Mikhail Tal (all of blessed memory) who went ahead of her to set up the chess pieces and tables!

Frederick Cameron (former president of the JCF); Dr. Hope Anderson and Ian Wilkison QC at the JCF’s inaugural Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony held on September 26, 2014. Photos courtesy of Jamaica Chess Federation.

Dr. Hope Anderson, medical doctor; pioneering chess player par excellence, chess administrator, chess coach and mentor, Jamaica, the region and the Chess World in general are indebted to you for your immortal contribution to Chess and its glorious history.

The Jamaica Chess Federation extends condolences to Hope’s family and friends and although, understandably, we share your grief and mourn her passing, we prefer to celebrate the life of this great daughter of the soil. We will forever cherish her memory and a tangible way in which this will be done by the JCF is by re-naming the annual tournament for High School girls in her honour.

Having regard to what Reverend J.J. Williams said earlier, her soul will rest in peace and will be illuminated with that divine, perpetual light.

Ian G. Wilkinson QC
President, Jamaica Chess Federation

April 6, 2016
East Queen Baptist Church,
Kingston, Jamaica


Maurice Ashley has been a fixture in American chess for three decades. Born in 1966 in St. Andrew, Jamaica, Ashley’s story is well known to the chess public. However, he has become a household name in how he has represented chess in these years. What makes Ashley unique is his excellence in several aspects of chess. Most inductees are noted for one particular activity while Ashley has achieved excellence in competition, coaching, commentating, writing books, producing instructional software and lastly promoting tournaments. It is rare to have an individual involved in such a variety of chess activities and then excel.

Maurice Ashley at the World Chess Hall of Fame
Photo courtesy of Maurice Ashley.

On April 13th, Ashley was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame on a clear Wednesday afternoon among a distinguished audience of chess luminaries and guests. The guests included his mother, his sister and his daughter. Who could have ever thought that a “late-bloomer” like Ashley would one day graced the hallowed halls of legendary chess figures? Ashley admitted that being the world champion was not one of his lofty goals since he had sights on promoting chess in various platforms. He has done just that. While his story is well-known, he had to field a barrage of interviews about his evolution.

It goes without saying that being such a trailblazer comes with a high profile which Ashley has held with distinction. Being the “first” in so many categories has set the bar for youth who seek to excel in any number of areas. One does not have to be a top-level Grandmaster in order to make an impact. Ashley has proven this will now for eternity be recognized for his contributions.

Maurice Ashley’s Induction Ceremony Speech

Video by World Chess Hall of Fame.


Lupita Nyong’o speaks at a Disney promotion for the movie.

Back in 2014, an announcement was made that Lupita Nyong’o, would be playing Phiona Mutesi in an adaptation of the book, “Queen of Katwe.” Nyong’o won an Academy Award for her stunning portrayal of Patsey in “12 Years as a Slave.” This film has a tremendous story line and is not much about chess as one would suspect. Directed by Mira Nair, Disney has made this story into a movie and is scheduled to premier on September 23rd with the general viewership beginning on September 30th.

The Queen of Katwe

Many chess players seeing this story immediately ask questions such as “What is her Elo rating?” In doing this they miss the entire lesson and either cannot grasp the beauty of the story or they are so narrow that they view chess strength as the only worthy metric of a story’s value.

Phiona’s story has been told many times in many different ways … a person rising out of poverty against all odds. Her odds are like this… “Phiona Mutesi is the ultimate underdog. To be African is to be an underdog in the world. To be Ugandan is to be an underdog in Africa. To be from Katwe is to be an underdog in Uganda. To be a girl is to be an underdog in Katwe.”

It is a story that one can always find inspiration from and this story is no different. It is a triumph for chess in yet another example of the game’s redeeming qualities. However, if you are wondering whether you are going to see her whip out a Dragon Sicilian or essay the latest theory in the Berlin Defense, then you have the wrong idea. You find value in her life story.



Chess has been rife with cheating episodes due to the accessibility of powerful chess engines on palm-sized cell phones. One of the highest profile cheating accusations took place during the 2006 World Championship Chess Match between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov. It was thought by the Topalov camp that Kramnik’s frequent trips to the bathroom were suspicious. It became dubbed, “Toiletgate.” It is without a sense of irony these charges were never verified and the Kramnik camp took offense. Topalov and Kramnik still do not speak to each other to this day.

FM Josh Colas at 2015 North American Open drawing with Ruifeng Li. He would earn a GM norm with 6.5/9, but during his stellar performance, cheating allegations were made. The claims proved baseless. Photo by Alan Losoff.

A week ago, another cheating allegation took place during the 4th round of the Philadelphia Open (March 23rd-27th). Seventeen-year old Josh Colas, a senior at White Plains High School, gained notoriety after earning a GM norm last December at North American Open. His impressive wins over Grandmasters created a sensation, but for the wrong reasons. There was a rumor started that Josh was cheating despite the lack of evidence. The tournament staff took the claim seriously and adopted a passive approach.

We watched him closely during the last few rounds, and found that he hardly ever got up from the board, usually just once briefly per game to visit the bathroom. From our observation, the TDs believed that the claims of cheating were without merit.

Josh was never queried by the tournament staff, but found out later through a rumor mill. There was discussion on that Josh was repeatedly going to the bathroom, but these comments were not based on the investigation and findings of the organizers. Nevertheless, the claim may have created suspicion that Josh’s success at chess has come from actions other than his hard work. Who started this rumor? Did the Vegas incident serve as a motivating factor in profiling Josh in Philadelphia?

“Truth always prevails so in the end this saga will only heighten Josh’s ability even more…”

~Guy Colas, father of FIDE Master Josh Colas

At the Philadelphia Open, there is a policy that no player is allowed to take their cell phone into the bathroom. Players would stop by to check phones before entering. Apparently Josh excused himself from the board and went into the bathroom with his phone in his pocket. His behavior had been rather innocuous and he remained glued to the board most of his games. Yet complaints arose once again. According to the official account released by Bill Goichberg,

At the Philadelphia Open, we observed the same behavior during the first three rounds. But in round four, when Josh went to the men’s room after 15 moves, he was seen with a cellphone in his pocket by the father of another player after exiting a toilet stall. Josh said that he had forgotten about the rule prohibiting cellphones in the bathroom. The witness said that Josh appeared to have slid the phone into his pocket, while Josh said that it was already in his pocket and he touched it to hold it there.

The accuser was Zhenjiang Li, the father of International Master Ruifeng Li, one of Josh’s peers and frequent opponents. Apparently Li had entered the bathroom some time after Josh. According to Josh, he turned around and someone appeared to be peering through the stall. As Josh adjusted his clothing and opened the door to exit, Li confronted him and asked him a question about the phone in his pocket. Incidentally, Li had no official capacity at the tournament, so Josh accused him of invading his privacy and threatened to call security.

Li hurriedly exited the bathroom and told one of the directors that Josh had a cell phone in the bathroom. Josh stated that Li mentioned the word “cheater” or “cheating.” Li later denied using this language. Josh was identified and the staff asked for his cell phone (which was powered off). After they examined his cell phone, nothing suspicious was found, but they agreed that Josh had violated the rule. No one denied this and a penalty was forthcoming.

According to the regulations, the penalty is based on the severity of the offense and would lead to one of the following:

A. The player is forfeited.
B. The player loses 20 minutes or 75% of remaining time, whichever is less.
C. The player loses 10 minutes or 50% of remaining time, whichever is less.
D. If no more than 5 moves have been played, the offending player may receive a warning rather than a penalty.

After a conference, Josh was accessed a time penalty of 20 minutes for violating the rule which he acknowledged and accepted. His opponent Kevin Wang appeared to be flummoxed by the entire affair and told the directors that he was “certain that Josh was not cheating.” He also agreed that the position was not the type that would motivate a player to seek computer help. The game was drawn shortly after the incident.

Goichberg ended the official statement by saying,

Considering all the evidence, the TDs felt that it was extremely unlikely that any cheating had taken place, however there was a clear rules violation so we ruled that Josh get a 20 minute time penalty.

Despite, this ruling, there was no public announcement vindicating Josh and rumors continued to fly. There were also reports that Li contacted others about Josh having a cell phone in the bathroom. One of those contacted was Susan Polgar of Webster University. Josh will be attending Webster in the Fall and recently attended a special training at the university with Ruifeng. What was Li’s motive for informing others?

To add insult to injury, a Twitter account called “Chess Stats” tweeted the following messages (around March 29th) and tagged several chess personalities, including Polgar.

The tweet unequivocally stated that Josh had been cheating despite the organizer’s investigation. IM Greg Shahade condemned the cheating allegation. Someone contacted Albert Silver of ChessBase who demanded proof. When it was discovered that tournament directors had not found any wrongdoing, the pressure on the tweet increased. Polgar tweeted, “@colas_guy @thechessdrum Guy, many of us will defend Josh vigorously. This is unwarranted. I am very angry.” Josh’s father Guy Colas was notably irate. Li denied any affiliation with the Twitter account and told The Chess Drum,

First of all, I didn’t post anything and will never post anything for this report on any public platform. I just checked my tweet account, it seems nobody using my account to do any action as well. If anything posted on tweet, definitely not me and I don’t know who did as well.

He added,

After check in my cellphone, I went into the bathroom while Josh Colas already in it. Later I saw his cellphone right after he put the phone into pocket, so I reported to TD that someone brought the cellphone into the restroom.

This version differs from what Josh told his father. In a heated email exchange with Li in defense of his son, Colas stated,

Josh told me that you said that you saw him using his cell phone in the stall, and he replied “can I call the police for you invading my privacy.” Then you ran out of the bathroom screaming cheater. Then you told Bill, that you saw him slip his phone in his pocket.

It was a even intimated that a litigious battle may follow. Li denied calling Josh a cheater and disavowed the tweet. However, he reinforced the rationale of his actions and said he respected Goichberg’s decision. In an e-mail sent to Colas, Li stated,

Basically, Joshua is one of my son’s chess friends, I have no any interesting to against Joshua in any kind, but I have the right to fill out a complain to USCF or FIDE if the situation do bothered me, because I am USCF member as well.

Did Li feel he was merely being a “Good Samaritan” by telling the director that Josh had a phone? Li also made the point that the directors had informed Josh about the rule earlier implying that he intentionally did something in contravention of the rules. In the final account, Josh scored a “normal” 5/9… clearly not someone benefiting from using a chess engine repeatedly. Otherwise, the risk of cheating far outweighs the benefits.

Li, who was not officiating or playing, had been suspected as one of the persons involved in rumor mill in Las Vegas. Both Josh and Li’s son Ruifeng played a tense battle in the 8th round of the North American Open. The game was drawn and Josh went on to earn a GM norm. It’s unfortunate, but true that parents often meddle in their child’s competitive relationships and turn friends into rivals. The children often look at each other and shrug their shoulders.

“The ACC wishes to reaffirm that good or even outstanding performance by a player can never in itself be the basis for an accusation or complaint…”

~FIDE Anti-Cheating Commission

The news continued to circulate about Josh (especially on, thus sullying his image and raising great suspicion about his sportsmanship. There were very tasteless comments made, but there were strong supporters as well. The Twitter account mysteriously disappeared after Josh’s father and his supporters started to rally behind him. While Li disavowed and condemned the tweet, he certainly contributed to the initial suspicion of cheating.

This case is not unprecedented. There was a case in the 2015 European Women’s Championship (Chakvi, Georgia Republic) involving Romanian WGM Mihaela Sandu. Rated 2300 and seeded 45th, she was on 5/5 and leading the tournament when cheating accusations were hurled at her. A petition was signed by 32 players due to “raising [sic] suspicion of cheating in the tournament.”

Romanian WGM Mihaela Sandu, rated 2300 and 45th seed, was the biggest surprise of this event. After five rounds she was leading with a clean 5.0 score.

WGM Mihaela Sandu of Romania was also unfairly targeted
at the 2015 European Women’s Championships.
Photo by Frederic Friedel

After seven rounds, Sandu was still leading (on 6/7) after beating GM Antoaneta Stefanova, and a second petition was signed by 15 players requesting that her games (specifically) have a delayed broadcast. The first signature on the petition was her next-round opponent GM Natalia Zhukova. These petitions were posted on the walls of the playing hall for all to see.

The accusations were baseless, but it mostly likely affected her play and she ended on 6/10, losing her last three games. A review of her games showed no pattern of computer assistance, but the accusing players were not penalized. Sandu’s supporters rallied to her cause, and Sandu had to issue a statement in her own defense.

“… in case of a false accusation you may be penalized by the arbiter according to the Article 12.2 and 12.9 of the Laws of Chess (from warning to expulsion from the competition).”

~Giorgi Giorgadze, Tournament Director at 2015 European Women’s Championship, responding to false cheating allegations.

Perhaps with false accusations, each accuser should also be made to remit financial reparation to the accused player … and not only expulsion from the event, but suspension! This would deter frivolous claims and suspicions lodged against players. Otherwise anyone can launch a cheating allegation without any consequence. The FIDE Anti-Cheating Commission (ACC) released a statement in the Sandu case. The ACC excerpt reads,

The ACC wishes to reaffirm that good or even outstanding performance by a player can never in itself be the basis for an accusation or complaint, and that it has published standards and procedures that must be satisfied by properly-submitted complaints. ACC will undoubtedly investigate and, if necessary, prosecute these instances when they come under the Commission’s attention. (full statement)

While Li claims he did not accuse Josh of cheating, the implications were very strong. Here are a few questions to ponder:

  1. Should the organizer require a formal complaint before players are profiled or watched (i.e., vetting)?
  2. Should formal complaints be written and a processing fee assessed (i.e., FIDE)?
  3. Should chess parents, who are not competing, be allowed to remain in the playing vicinity once the round has started?
  4. If spectators are allowed to remain in the tournament hall, what rights do they have?
  5. Was Li (a non-player and non-official) within his right to say anything to Josh while games were in progress?
  6. Was Josh correct in citing an invasion of his privacy (in the bathroom)?
  7. How should the accused be approached after an accusation?
  8. What rights do the accused have after a complaint?
  9. What should the penalties be for false accusations?
  10. Should cell phones be allowed in the hall at all?

Back in the day, spectators had free reign to walk around and talk to competitors. However, it is the view of this writer that spectators should not communicate with players and referee the tournament just as they could not call someone’s flag in the old days. Despite Li’s contention, being a USCF member does not give a spectator the right to intervene in a tournament.

FM Joshua Colas

We certainly need to draft guidelines for this issue. We cannot allow random accusations of cheating. It creates tremendous damage in the reputation of the accused, the tournament directors, and tournament organizers. There have been improvements in rooting out cheating, but little thought has been invested in how to vet cheating accusations. If a cheating accusation is false, then perhaps the accuser should receive a penalty. It’s only fair.

The incident at the Philadelphia Open should give pause to anyone lodging accusations against a player without irrefutable evidence. To say, “he put his phone in his pocket” goes far beyond “someone brought the cellphone into the restroom.” Further spreading innuendo via e-mail and social media should also be sanctioned. There are times when a player’s strength makes a jump. It is not a linear jump according to age. We cannot suspect that because a 2400-ELO player makes a GM norm, that something must be wrong.

In this case, it appears that Josh was wrongly suspected of cheating, but most damaging was being disparaged in social media as a cheater. Certainly young players will make careless mistakes, but to try to smash their reputation in one stroke is precipitous. Such allegations can have a traumatic effect before the young player has a chance to realize their potential. Where Josh was in the wrong was violating the policy of having cell phone in the bathroom. Josh has been affected by the affair and has learned a valuable lesson, but he did not deserve to have his character assailed in such a way.


Last year, Anish Giri wrote a book titled, “After Magnus: Who can detrone the World Chess Champion?” In this slender book, he gave profiles of 10 players whom he thought could possibly unseat Magnus Carlsen. There was one omission… not himself of course, but Sergey Karjakin! Perhaps many overlooked the Ukrainian transplant and had Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura as top choices for the match in November.

While Karjakin’s play in the Candidates Tournament was not the most solid, he played well when it counted. His last round win over Caruana was one for the ages. An exciting Richter Rauzer Sicilian ending in a mating attack for white. Karjakin’s triumph gives him a shot at the world championships and perhaps the first opportunity for a player of the Russian flag to win the title since Vladimir Kramnik in 2000. Kramnik would hold the unofficial title until the 2007 unification tournament, with Viswanathan Anand winning. Of course everyone is aware that Karjakin is Ukrainian, but switched federations back in 2009 and became a Russian citizen.

What will Karjakin’s prospects be in the match? Many are not expecting him to make it much of a match. His play was a bit unstable in the Candidates and he was dismantled by Anand. However, he will be at full strength and have the weight of the Russian empire behind him to bring the crown back.

Sergey Karjakin receiving the baton from Viswanathan Anand.

There have already been predictions made and Carlsen is an overwhelming favorite. It will perhaps be closer than many imagine. In addition, the question has become the issue of marketing the match to Madison Avenue. The marketing angle from this match will be more challenging without either Caruana or Nakamura, but AGON will have to work hard to make it happen. While Carlsen had become a media darling, Karjakin will have to work on his charismatic appeal to attract his share of the media attention.

Karjakin has had a good run with wins in the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 Candidates tournament. Despite being the youngest Grandmaster in history (12 years, 7 months), he has been under the radar and not often mentioned as a challenger to Carlsen. It is with some intrigue that Giri did not choose Karjakin, but chose Caruana, Anand, Nakamura, Wesley So, Wei Yi, Ding Liren, Yu Yangyi, Alexander Grischuk, Maxime Vachie-Lagrave, Richard Rapport. All of these players will be watching … and they will be taking note.

2016 World Championship Challenger, Sergey Karjakin
Photos by Amrita Mokal.


The time is here! Millionaire Chess has opened registration and mere hours after opening, there were 13 signings. Millionaire Chess VIP Jones Murphy was was the very first registrant followed closely by Robert Beatty. The first Grandmasters to sign up were Ioan Cristian Chirila (Romania) and Niclas Huschenbeth (Germany).

Last year, MC#2 reached 50-50 status with 50 Grandmasters and 50 countries. It remains to be seen if “price elasticity of demand” will come into play. That is, the affect that lowering the entry fee will have on the number of registrants. There is also the change of location which carries the highest concentration of chess players in the country.

Players will have easy access to New Jersey and the numbers should easily eclipse 1000. While the entry fees are lower, so are the prizes. The prize fund is $510,000 based on 1800 entries of which 60% guaranteed. The more players entering the tournament, the highest the percentage guaranteed. So go ahead and register for one of America’s marquee tournaments. The tournament will be at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, Jersey on the dates of October 6 – 10, 2016. Be there!

The 2016 Millionaire Chess Open

Thursday, October 6th through Monday, October 11th 2016
Harrah’s Resort, Atlantic City, New Jersey


email address:



* * *


Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

An epic finale’ is brewing in Moscow at the 2016 Candidates Tournament. Both Sergey Karjakin and Fabiano Caruana are gripped in a tense tie for 1st place and are scheduled to meet in the last round of the tournament. At this point Karjakin has the better tiebreak based on his number of wins, so Caruana will have to win one of the last two encounters.

One day this will be a classic photo.

One day this will be a classic photo.

Caruana has sprinted toward the finish line after underwhelming the first seven rounds with draws. After his key win over compatriot Hikaru Nakamura, he pulled ahead in the field after beating Viswanathan Anand. Karjakin lost brutally to Anand, but rebounded with a win over the hapless Veselin Topalov.

This sets up a very tense showdown where Caruana will face both Russians evoking memories of Bobby Fischer against the Soviets. All the parallels are there: New York, Brooklyn, child prodigy, Russian opposition. Of course, Caruana is a rather mild-mannered personality with tough nerves and a universal style. Equally, Karjakin is a tough competitor who will come without any expense spared to make him successful. He has had an unimpressive second half, but will be more than prepared. Levon Aronian will be a tough prequel to his finale with Caruana.

The possibilities of a Carlsen-Karjakin match vs. Carlsen-Caruana contrast sharply. As mentioned by commentators, Karjakin has been around the elite level for many years, but despite his various sponsorships, has not established an identifiable media brand. He is not particularly visible and his fan base may not be equal to the other top players. However, he is eminently-qualified to compete and the match will be competitive. Whether Madison Avenue will make an investment is another matter.

GM Sergey Karjakin

GM Sergey Karjakin

For Carlsen-Caruana, there would be immediate attention given that it will be in New York, a place Caruana called home for most of his childhood. There are all the connections to Brooklyn-bred Fischer and Caruana’s Italian ancestry will certainly give marketing agencies a lot to work with. In addition, he has much in common with Carlsen with both being telegenic bachelors, epitomizing a mano-mano, gladiator battle. Finally, Caruana has a decent score against Carlsen which would make for great anticipation.

Caruana with his second GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov
Photos by Amrita Mokal (ChessBase India).

So what will be the outcome of the Candidates? We are all hoping for an ending free of drama and controversy, but there were many critics of the tie-breaking format. Instead of playing a playoff, the winner will be determined by tiebreaks… unless all the tiebreaks still produce a tie. In that case, rapid games are played. There can actually be a five-way tie for first!! One thing that is certain is that chess fans are in for an exciting finale’ and an even more exciting championship in November. Carlsen is certainly watching.

2016 World Championship Candidates
March 11th-27th, 2016 (Moscow, Russia)
Round #13
13.1 Caruana
13.2 Aronian
13.3 Topalov
13.4 Anand
Round #14
14.1 Svidler
14.2 Giri
14.3 Nakamura
14.4 Karjakin
Games (PGN)


Chess and Basketball have quite a few things in common in the month of March. There are important tournaments going on in both sports which will determine a path to a championshp. America’s basketball “March Madness” features 64 teams in four brackets of 16 colleges and universities. Chess has a “March Madness” that features eight players who are vying for a chance to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the world title in November.

There is a searing debate on the women’s championship chess cycle which uses the knockout format in alternating years. Photo by Anastasia Kharlovich.

Grandmaster Maurice Ashley was featured on NPR’s “Only a Game” about the parallel between tournament formats. At this point, chess uses the match format for its championship. He talks about Howard Staunton’s 19th century innovation in chess that was initially shunned. “One of the main flaws was there was no seedings,” said Ashley. Of course, this meant that the strong players could face each other in the earliest rounds thus making the ending anti-climatic.

Of course, seedings are the DNA of an NCAA basketball phenomenon known as “bracketology.” Of course chess eschews using the knockout format for the championships and it stands only as a qualifier. More than 150 years later, it is still seen as not worthy of deciding a champion. Magnus Carlsen has gone on record as an endorser of the knockout format and it was roundly condemned after the apparent flaws in the World Cup were made evident. It’s an interesting discussion.



The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis have produced their first segment titled, “Today in Chess” which is hosted by GMs Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley, Alejandro Ramirez and Canadian GM Eric Hansen. The segment primarily focused on the ongoing Candidate’s tournament currently taking place in Moscow, Russia.

There was in depth coverage and commentary of the games, the player personalities along with game analysis and predictions. Of course, there was the subject about who would be the most able challenger to Magnus Carlsen, but the question also surfaced on who Carlsen would least like to face. It ignite a very healthy and vigorous debate. There was also a hotline to ask questions, a very welcoming idea.

The production featured a number of different formats including the usual sports setup with color commentary, one-on-one with Hansen and the “Beyond the Board” talk segment where the four GMs discussed, among other things, the future of American chess. The show will be fine-tuned as it evolves, but it has gotten off to a fine start. Maybe they will bring on guest authors of upcoming chess books. :-) Check out the inaugural segment and you can use the hashtag at #todayinchess.



MC3 is beginning to ramp up its media machine as the revamped format is in full blast. The registration will begin on April 1st. Excitement for the new format has been bolstered by recent announcement by the MC team on changes in the format. One change that has been already announced is the reduced prize fund of $510,000 of which 60% is guaranteed. The amount came after long deliberation of whether to hold another event in 2016. On the revamped MC website (launched on March 15th) the following details were posted…


  1. We’ve moved to Atlantic City to take advantage of the much higher representation of chess players along the eastern seaboard.
  2. After taking a poll of our players, we are distributing prizes down to 40 places, up from 20 last year.
  3. Using the same poll results, we are returning the time control of all sections back to 40/120, SD/30 and d/5.
  4. We are introducing the Redemption Jackpot, where players with a 50% or worse score after 4 rounds will be able to vie for a new prize based solely on the result of their last three games.
  5. We are introducing a Dream Maker Satellite Series that will give players the world over the opportunity to win a slot in our event by playing in a tournament in their local area.
  6. We have automated the entire registration process to reduce any confusion about ratings and sections.
  7. We have removed Unrated and Provisionally rated players from all sections except the Open.
  8. We completely removed the Unrated section from last year.
  9. We’ve extended the minimum number of rated games required to participate in our event from 50 to 60.
  10. We have changed the registration schedule in order to make it easier to better screen all players who have entered the event.

With the reduction of the prize fund will bring a reduction in the entry fee to $549, with an early bird discount of $499. Fortunately, the time control will go back to the 40/2 SD/30 (rather than 40/90) and the prize structure has been revamped with prizes up to 40 places. There will also be an “MC Dream Maker” feature, a satellite series to encourage participation by chess clubs around the country.

According to information on the main website,

In pursuit of the tournament’s goal of further democratizing competitive chess, the 2016 Millionaire Chess Open will feature two new initiatives intended to facilitate the inclusion of as many players as possible. First, the tournament’s entrance fee has been halved from $1,000 to $549. Secondly, the introduction of the Dream Maker Satellite Series, which launches March 14, 2016 will give any chess club the opportunity to host its own “mini-tournament.” Every player who emerges victorious in one of these tournaments will win a seat into the 2016 Millionaire Chess Open.

The ideas keep coming as both Maurice and Amy try to find the right formula by which chess can become marketable to the masses. The relocation to Atlantic City will position the tournament in the heart of largest chess-playing population. “Our primary objective with this move was to ease access for east coast players,” stated Amy Lee, a partner in Millionaire Chess. “Research shows that Atlantic City is not only closer to a larger portion of chess competitors, it also offers greater transportation options.”


Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The 2016 Millionaire Chess Open

Thursday, October 6th through Monday, October 11th 2016


email address:


* * *


FIDE Women’s World Chess Championship pitted Women’s World Champion Mariya Muzychuk against former Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan (2010-2012, 2016-2015). Despite Muzychuk holding the crown, Hou came in as a huge rating favorite at over 100 Elo points stronger. The 10-game match took place in Lviv, Ukraine from March 1-18, 2016.

Muzychuk enjoyed the home advantage, but was not able to solve Hou Yifan and promptly feel behind after a loss in the second game. Hou also won games six and nine for the margin of victory 6-3. The match victory raised question about the future of the women’s cycle with alternating years featuring the championships in a knock-out format.

2016 Women World Chess Championship
(Mariya Muzychuk vs. Hou Yifan)

While many are befuddled at the strange women’s cycle, the head-to-head match appears to be one format that has stood the test of time. The match still doesn’t coincide with the overall world championship cycle. In addition, the championship match drew very little publicity and there was no real storyline to evoke excitement. Perhaps it was due to forgone conclusion that Hou Yifan was the superior player and that the match was a formality to her reclaiming her title.

What is clear is that something needs to be done to reinvigorate the women’s circuit and championship cycle. The Women’s Grand Prix keeps the marquee players interested and it presents a financial incentive that is more than they can garner at other professional tournaments. Thus, women have an advantage of gender-segregated tournaments, but despite a number of talented young players, it is clearly not developing a sustainable system.

This match was anti-climatic, but Hou Yifan is the deserving champion.
Photo by Vitaliy Hrabar.

Hou Yifan is champion once again, but what does this mean? She will get a seeding in the World Cup, but will she have to defend her title next year in a knock-out or will this be a qualifying tournament? It is being suggested that the women’s cycles conform to a more stable format where the champion is not defending the championship in a knockout crap shoot every other year. It appears that the knock-out as a qualifying tournament along with a Candidates tournament will help build up the anticipated match and perhaps draw more interest.

2016 Women’s World Chess Championship
March 1st-18th, 2016 (Lviv, Ukraine)
Official Site:


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