Samuel “Sammy” Barton
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Samuel “Sammy” Barton, an icon of street chess, passed away after battling serious health challenges. He was 55. Sammy was known as a mainstay in the greater New York scene and is considered to be a legendary figure. Called “Bubba” by his sisters, he attended Lincoln High School in Coney Island and played football as a youth. He learned chess at community center events in Coney Island.

Chess is a world unto itself each country having its own chess character and culture. With each nations there are a number of communities, but one of the most eclectic is the street chess community. Sometimes seen on the streets and in the parks, they make a commanding presence by their charisma, trashtalk and playful banter. One of the most visible players in the New York street chess scene was Sammy.

Watch him in Miro Reverby’s “Men Who Would Be Kings” playing a hapless Tony Springer.

Video by Miro Reverby

New York is the chess hub of the U.S. with so many legendary players that have trolled the parks and streets of the Big Apple. One of the most accessible platforms for chess is the form played on the streets. Unfortunately, chess tournaments are hidden away in posh hotels, community centers or churches. The contribution of street chess is that it shows the game’s true grit up close and personal.

Sammy had many challenges in life, but like so many others he found a refuge in chess. You could find him around the many parks of New York holding court and being at his best. There is something intriguing about players who have spent their entire lives loyal to the pursuit of a personal goal. At one point, it is said that he actually received chess training in Russia.

Some assert that chess is a way to take a daily introspection of one’s well-being. Others say that chess offers a cathartic release of daily stresses. For Sammy and players like him, it appeared to be the spirit of competition… and the thrill of winning with something on the line!

New York blitz legend

Sammy blitzes with GM Amon Simutowe
at 2010 World Open (Valley Forge, PA)

2015 World Open (under-2200)
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

The late James “Black Knight” Taylor told me before he died that street chess should be chronicled. While it would be difficult to focus on their results, it’s not always the rating or the games they played. Who can forget Sammy after seeing the video above?

What becomes important to us is the spirit they conveyed and the memories they have left to inspire us. Even when he was ill, Sammy wanted to be at the chess board. Even when he was not in the best of health, he wanted to do battle. We can all agree that Sammy, also know as “Sandman,” made his own contribution to chess. He will be especially missed in the New York scene.

He is survived by three sisters (Maureen, Regina, Julia), one nephew (Josef), four nieces (Sierra, Chelsey, Elizabeth, Paris), one uncle (Thomas) and a host of other family and friends.

Memorial for “Sammy” will be held at
St. Nicholas Chess Club
Saturday, June 30th @ 3:00 PM
91 EDGECOMBE AVE New York, NY

Contact: Al Pertilla (212-234-1114)

Sammy Barton
(March 5, 1963 – June 9th, 2018)

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The Chicago Open has become a marquee tournament in its 27-year history and the 2018 edition was about exciting as any of the previous tournaments. The tournament is traditionally held in eight sections with the Open Section drawing the “big guns.”

GM Aleksandr Shimanov

GM Aleksandr Shimanov
Photo courtesy of SPICE (Paul Truong)

A field of 128 players (28 GMs) In a very heated battle at the Chicago Open, third-seed Alexander Shimanov (Webster University) won the tiebreak edging fellow Russian Andrey Stukopin (University of Texas-Brownsville) and Awonder Liang. One of the brightest young stars on the U.S. landscape and the 2017 U.S. Junior Champion, Liang has made steady progress over the past few years and it now closing in on 2600 FIDE.

IM Dionisio Aldama

Shimanov lost to tournament sensation IM Dionsio Aldama who earned a GM norm in the tournament. However, Shimanov rebounded with four wins in a row including wins over contenders GM Ashwin Jayaram and GM Alexander Shabalov. His last round draw with Liang put both of them in a tie on 7/9 with Stokpin, who beat Aldama. Shimanov proceeded to win the tiebreak and took an extra $300 ($6133.34 in total).

In the under-2300, Jeffrey DeJesus of Houston won with 6/7 (and $5000 1st prize) closing with a win over Chicago resident William Aramil. Nicky Rosenthal had a chance to win or tie for 1st, but lost to Elias Oussedik and splitting 2nd four ways. Anthony Parker and Vincent Do also had 5.5/7 each getting $1275.

Gene Scott at 2016 Chicago Open
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

In under-2100, Agarkhorol Gangaa got 6.5/7 after winning his first six games edging out Anuj Dahiya and Gene Scott both ending on 6/7. Scott, a long-time Chicago veteran and one-time Master, scored his best result in recent years. He won five consecutive games! Aderemi Adekola nicked Gangaa (for the winner’s only draw) in the final round to come in joint 4th-8th with four “A” players.

Other results:

under-1900: Nathan Fong, 6.5/7
under-1700: Dmitriy Kovalkov, 6.5/7
under-1500: Florina Zhu, Jesse Hunt, Edward Li, 6/7
under-1300: Cheng Wang, Varshini Venkat, Aaron Berlin, Sivabalan Muthupalaniappan, 6/7
under-1000: Chinedu Emeka, Joshua Madsen: 6.5

GM norms were achieved by IM Safal Bora and Aldama, while IM norms were achieved by FM Matthew Larson, Tianqi Wang, FM Sam Schmakel and FM Ben Li. Schmakel (2428) earned his 3rd norm and qualifies for the International Master title.

Standings: http://chessevents.com/chicagoopen/
Tournament Details: http://www.chesstour.com/chio18.htm

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Dr. Essoh J.M.C. Essis

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) has some of the world’s top draughts players. If Dr. Essoh Essis has his way Africa will develop a foundation for an “African Renaissance” in chess. Dr. Essis has announced his candidacy for President of the African Chess Confederation (ACC). The voting will take place at the African Congress meeting during the 2018 Chess Olympiad in the Republic of Georgia and will set the tone for the next four years. He will stand against the incumbency of ACC President Lewis Ncube of Zambia.

Dr. Essoh Jean-Mathieu Claude Essis, 57, seems to have the training that would suggest a career in law, politics or diplomacy. He earned his B.A. degree in Law (University of Abidjan-Cocody), an M.A. degree in Public Management and a Ph.D. degree in Public Policy from George Mason University (USA).

After stints in public sector in Cote d’Ivoire and academic posts in the U.S., Dr. Essis now serves as a Civil Affairs Coordinator with the United Nations (UN). Based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), he serves in the area of peacekeeping initiatives and conflict resolution, “supporting the restoration of state authority in war-torn countries.” He has also been a Fulbright Fellow, Visiting Scholar at New York University, and earned certification in Public Administration Institute in Paris.

Years ago he became enamored with chess and ultimately realized the value it could bring in social fulfillment. He decided to enter the realm of local chess politics and was elected the President of Cote d’Ivoire Chess Federation (FIDEC) in 2013 (re-elected in 2017). This was a crucial time since there was a FIDE election campaign brewing.

Essoh Essis of Cote d’Ivoire (center) during General Assembly
at 2014 FIDE General Assembly in Tromso, Norway.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

As an Ivorian delegate, Dr. Essis lobbied strongly to assert the rights of Africa and caused quite a stir in Tromso, Norway. After returning from Tromso, he was able to lead a vigorous effort to improve chess on the Ivorian landscape. Some of the accomplishments accounted for:

  1. The number of clubs affiliated to the federation from six (6) to (25)
  2. The number of players holding a federal license from zero (0) to over two hundred and forty five (245)
  3. The number of FIDE rated players from one (1) to over twenty (20)
  4. The number of national championships held every year from zero (0) to two (2) per year
  5. The number of international competitions held in Cote d’Ivoire from zero (0) to an average of two (2) per year
  6. The number of FIDE Arbiters from zero (0) to four (4)
  7. The number of trained National Arbiters from zero (0) to six (6)
  8. The number of school-children formally trained on chess-related topics as part of the national primary school curriculum established by the National Minister of Education from zero (0) to two thousand and two hundred and fifty (2250) in fifteen (15) schools.

The Chess Drum first encountered Dr. Essis four years ago when we interviewed him after a debate on the floor of the General Assembly.3:40 minutes There he raised strong points to the FIDE Executive Board concerning the body’s efforts (or lack thereof) for chess development in Africa. He ultimately got into a debate on the floor with FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos. It is with a sense of irony that Makropoulos is standing for the FIDE Presidency.


“I am running because I have come to the conclusion that real, sustainable development of chess in Africa will remain “but a fleeting illusion to be pursued and never attained,” unless African federations are able to identify and empower leaders that are willing to change the current situation where they are expected to be servile providers of votes for the FIDE kings.”

~Essoh Essis to africanchessmedia.com


Just over a week ago, he was interviewed by Ogunsiku Babatunde for africachessmedia.com and gave detailed information about his background and his rationale for standing. In the interview that follows, we will learn more about Dr. Essis and his quest for ACC Presidency. In the coming weeks there will be more that will come forth in terms of his plans and platform.

Interview with Essoh J.M.C. ESSIS, Ph.D.
President of Federation Ivoirienne Des Echecs (FIDEC)
Candidate for President of African Chess Confederation (ACC)

Essoh J.M.C. ESSIS, Ph.D.

Daaim Shabazz (DS): What do you see as the three most vexing problems with chess development in Africa?

Essoh Essis (EE): Firstly, the gap between the potential and the current reality… and by this I do not mean only the potential that we see in scores of young African players to learn chess, perform well and possibly become notable Grandmasters and World Champions. I am also thinking about the potential for the widespread learning and practice of chess in Africa to significantly enhance the ability of our continent and its people to make genuine progress and achieve success in every other field of human activity;

Secondly, the lack of motivation and capability within the current leadership of the ACC to lead our Continent toward the realization of this strong potential. This requires that we work diligently to ensure the political, economic and financial autonomy of the ACC within FIDE. We must also endeavor to develop the managerial, administrative and operational capacities of ACC leaders, but also of African Federations, clubs, and individuals. Seen in this light, at least for myself, and for all the Federations that support my candidacy, this ACC election constitutes a much-needed opportunity to collectively undertake a critical analysis of the situation, and to start an all-inclusive and wide-ranging effort to address the problems;

Thirdly, the very real problem posed by a widespread myth or perception among members of the public in Africa, that the game of chess is foreign to Africans, and to Africa’s culture. That it is a game for Westerners (or foreigners in general), the wealthy, the most educated, the smartest people in society and, in any case, not for the masses of ordinary Africans that must struggle daily to earn their subsistence. This cultural obstacle to the democratization and development of chess in Africa is, in my view, the most important that we must tackle. However, my experience in the development of chess in my native Cote d’Ivoire has convinced me that this problem can be resolved once we have resolved the problems of decisional autonomy and operational capacity that are currently plaguing the ACC.

DS: There has been a constant problem of keeping African membership dues current. What is the current number of African nations holding FIDE membership and how do we fix the constant problems with arrears?

EE: I believe there are 47 African federations with FIDE membership of which 14 are currently on the latest list of federations listed as being in arrears on the FIDE website (http://ratings.fide.com/arrears.phtml). When I was elected as President of the Cote d’Ivoire Chess Federation, my own Federation had arrears amounting to more than 5000 Euros (in addition to other internal debts), and was barred from participation in FIDE-sponsored events.

I believe that the arrears problem is one that can only be resolved by African Federation leaders themselves, as a matter of priority, if they want to be regarded (and treated) with respect by FIDE officials and by other Federation leaders. In the case of Cote d’Ivoire, I decided to pay these arrears off as a matter of urgency because I recognized that this was the only way for my Federation and my country to earn the respect of other FIDE member federations and to participate on an equal footing with these other Federation leaders in any decision-making forum related to the leadership and management of FIDE.

Ivorian delegation in Tromso, Norway for the 2014 Chess Olympiad
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

In most cases, the accumulation of arrears with FIDE is a symptom of the systemic fragility of the Federations. In the case of Cote d’Ivoire, which I know best, the Federation had no assets and received no funding whatsoever from government, private sector, or any other external sources. It did not generate any money internally either, because none of the eight clubs in existence paid their statutory affiliation fees and annual dues to the Federation; and none of the players associated with these clubs held a federal license and paid a license fee.

It took a lot of intense fighting with club presidents and players and significant resources in creative thinking to put an end to what I referred to as the “culture and era of gratuity”. Upon submitting a request, we received hundreds of chess sets, and dozens of clocks from the Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa. We then offered four sets and one clock to every club that would purchase licenses for six players (six is minimum number of members that a club needs to be recognized as such per our FIDEC statutes). Today, FIDEC counts 25 dues-paying clubs and over 250 registered players with their own federal licenses, and every single player who has paid their license dues has automatically also been issued a FIDE ID number.

In addition, we have organized several well-publicized national and international tournaments (for which I want to express our eternal gratitude to the Chess Federations of Nigeria and Ghana) with free participation for all players, to create the motivation for everyone to play in official competitions. Once this initial promotional objective was achieved, and we started to see relatively large numbers of players registering to play in our competitions, our executive committee moved to institute participation fees for all FIDEC-organized tournaments.

2017 Cote d’Ivoire Team Invitational

Photos by Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa

Through these initiatives, we were able to raise a minimum amount of funds from our own local sources (players themselves, club presidents and/or other individuals who were willing to pay license fees for indigent players, as well as proceeds from participation fees in events organized by our clubs, leagues, etc.). These initiatives also helped establish FIDEC’s reputation as a credible sports management organization, and this led to the national Sports Ministry allocating a progressively increasing amount of financial support (8,000 USD in 2015, 16,000 USD in 2016 and 32,000 USD in 2017). Finally, this year, FIDEC has signed a cooperation agreement with our first Ivorian private sponsor, a management consulting firm that funds tournament prizes and trophies, and that is now supporting our effort to apply for and secure ISO-9001 certification for FIDEC operations.

I am aware that this is far from an ideal situation, but I believe it is much better than that which existed only four years ago. I also believe that sharing such stories and experiences can inspire other federation managers to use the same strategy, or to invent their own, in order to mobilize minimum levels funding to meet their most basic obligations.

In any event, African Chess players must recognize that it is not reasonable to expect that federation presidents will bear the costs of their federation’s activities from their own pocket, or that these activities can be funded exclusively from external sources such as FIDE presidential candidates or ACC presidents seeking reelection every four years. Instead, they must demand that aspiring federation managers come up with a clear and reasonable strategy, as well as with credible day to day initiatives, that can transform their federations into self-funded operations.

DS: Can you give us the theme of your election campaign and how will it differ from previous administrations?

EE: Our election campaign theme will be: “Together, we can”. It will differ from previous administration in that our focus is not simply on winning the election and replacing the current ACC leadership.

We are focused, instead, on establishing a broad coalition of African Chess federations and individual chess players who are willing and able to contribute creative ideas and make the sacrifices required to ensure that the ACC becomes an autonomous organization within FIDE and, most importantly that it takes full responsibility for the effective, efficient, equitable, qualitative, competitive, and durable development of Chess in Africa.

Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

DS: There has been a very polarized situation in the past FIDE elections. Past campaigns have divided federations, zones and entire continents. At the 2014 Chess Olympiad, Africa was caught in the middle of a contentious election. Has the continent recovered from that experience?

EE: No, we have not, and the ACC has remain divided since Tromso 2014, although we have, quite reasonably, chosen and managed to avoid any public display of hostility toward each other over the last four years.

On one hand, there is a group of Federation leaders that typically associate themselves with Mr. Lewis Ncube and Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and who are largely favorable to the current status quo. On the other hand, there are many “reformist” Federation leaders that typically associate themselves with Mr. Lekan Adeyemi (President of the Nigerian Chess Federation) and myself.

The upcoming election is likely to see a further fragmentation within the status quo group, with some Federations choosing to remain faithful to Mr. Ilyumzhinov, and some shifting their support to either Mr. Makropoulos or Grandmaster Nigel Short. Finally, there are some Federations, including those that became FIDE members after Tromso 2014, that are currently not aligned with either camp and are adopting a position of neutrality.

DS: You have had a very contentious relationship with Makropoulos who is standing for FIDE President. How do you expect to work with him if he in fact wins the FIDE Presidency?

EE: I want to be very clear about one thing: As ACC president, I am willing to work, in the best spirit of mutual respect and cooperation, with any FIDE President or official who supports my priority objectives of political, financial and operational autonomy for the ACC; management capacity building and empowerment of African federations; and the design and implementation of credible programs for the development of Chess in African countries.

Mr. Makropoulos himself has recently changed his stance and endorsed some of the key demands I formulated four years ago with regards to the relations between FIDE and the ACC. In his declaration of candidacy, he vowed to end the practice of votes by proxies, and to promote “direct participation of delegates to protect democracy and electoral procedures.” He also vowed to end the “politico-economic games and intrigues” orchestrated by FIDE leaders to undermine Federation Presidents like myself whose views have historically been deemed unacceptable or anti-establishment.

Finally, he vowed to “achieve profound unity of our chess world, without political, racial or religious divisions,” and to “open broad and permanent channels of communication that will fuel FIDE with new ideas and energy, with all the members of our chess family, making sure that everybody can have an active role in the new FIDE.” (see announcement)

Ivorian delegates leaving a tense session

Both Georgios Makropoulos and Dr. Essis debating
during a coffee break of the FIDE Congress.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

Everyone who took part in the FIDE general assembly in Tromso will remember that I formulated these very demands on behalf of African Federation leaders and chess players, and that he rejected them at the time on behalf of the FIDE leadership. Therefore, I applaud his revised stance on these issues, and I would be willing to work with him to turn these electoral promises into practical realities.

Having said this, I must also note that Mr. Makropoulos has been an integral part of the internal mechanism of FIDE for more than 30 years and he is thus equally responsible and accountable for many of the leadership failures that have brought FIDE to the sad state that it currently finds itself in. His ongoing attempts to distance himself as far as possible from the actions of Mr. Ilyumzhinov are understandable from a political perspective but he will need to follow up his words with action for us to have a productive relationship should we both be elected to the respective positions for which we are standing.

DS: In an interview with africachessmedia.com, you recounted that you demanded that FIDE leadership treat Africa federations with respect. I was present when you made that pronouncement and that plea earned applause among the body. Every four years (and the last 20), campaigns come to Africa with chess sets and promises of tournaments and “Chess-in-Schools.” None of these have been sustained. Why do you think that Africa remains an afterthought except when there is an election campaign and how do African federations hold FIDE accountable after these elections?

EE: It is important to understand that the division of labor between FIDE member federations is only a mirror image of the division of labor between regions and/or continents in the “international political economy”.

As a result of powerful historical, political and sociocultural factors, there is an unwritten rule (but a recurrent practice) that only Northern federations are entitled to occupy the top positions in the FIDE leadership. African (and other Southern) federations are therefore expected to serve only as suppliers of votes to the Northern elites competing in FIDE presidential elections. In effect, in this “system”, the leaders of organizations such as the ACC and the AIDEF (Association Internationale Des Echecs Francophones) were charged, until recently, to coax African votes in favor of the incumbent FIDE President.

The campaign visits to a few African countries every four years, the delivery of minimal quantities of chess equipment, the nepotistic allocations of ACC tournament organizational rights to “friendly” Federations, and the unfulfilled promises of developmental funds and chess-in-schools programs are only some of the operational dynamics of the system described above. So are the ostracism and persecution imposed on African Federation leaders who have dared to speak up against such practices and to call FIDE leaders to account (like I did four years ago). These unwritten rules and operational practices explain, among other things, why African Federations have historically never been able to hold FIDE leaders accountable after such elections.


The situation of chess in Africa is dire.
~Essoh Essis in 2014 interview with The Chess Drum


In the same vein, and for the same reasons, African Federations have been expected to be mere consumers, and not producers, of significant chess events that are “naturally” organized in better-endowed Northern Hemisphere countries. In fact, many African Federation leaders and players are perfectly happy to receive one or two invitations to attend a significant chess event organized in a Northern Hemisphere country once a year, instead of seeking to organize such events themselves to allow a majority of their own players to participate.

My campaign for ACC President is motivated by the desire and commitment of several like-minded and supportive African Federations to initiate an open discussion within FIDE about the destructive effects of these unwritten rules and their enabling practices. Our objective is to bring about positive change that is based on the principles of unity and equality within the chess family (“Gens una sumus”), democratic and transparent governance of our common institutions, and equal opportunity for all chess players around the world.

“So that the little boys and little girls of Africa that are just as brilliant, as intelligent as the children in any other part of the world are able to get the opportunity to become World Chess Champion.”

~Essoh Essis during interview with The Chess Drum in 2014 (Tromso, Norway)
Photo by Abidjan.net

DS: What are your short- and long-range goals for the next four years?

EE: In the short term (that is, in the first year of my administration), we hope to finalize negotiations with FIDE executives to ensure the political, economic, and operational autonomy of the ACC within FIDE.

We will also move quickly to assemble a large team of African chess experts to discuss the current situation of the ACC, with a view to identifying our organization’s current strengths and weaknesses, as well as existing constraints, challenges and opportunities imposed on it by its global environment. This exercise will culminate in the adoption of a detailed plan of action for the next four years, based on a shared vision of the objectives we want chess in Africa to achieve within the next generation (25-years).

Finally, we will move just as quickly to establish, enact, and progressively execute a transparent schedule of ACC managed competitions, through an all-inclusive negotiation process that guarantees equal and/or equitable treatment for all national Federations regardless of their prior political affiliations.

Essoh at the 2017 Team Chess Invitational

In the medium term (the next 2-3 years), we intend to design, promote, and implement relatively simple and standardized yet effective training programs (including experience-sharing seminars and workshops) to provide management capacity-building support and technical advice to African Federation leaders, with the aim of reinforcing their ability to successfully run small organizations (clubs, leagues and national Federations), as well as small and large chess development programs or projects.

This program of capacity-building activities should result in the establishment, formalization, and implementation of an integrated schedule of activities organized by all national Federations, with technical support from the ACC.

Finally, during the same period, we will initiate a series of negotiations with representatives of African governments, private sector and non-profit organizations, to mobilize financial support for chess development programs and activities in every country. Similar promotional negotiations will also be held with non-African institutions or individuals (such as the Kasparov Chess Foundation) that may be interested in making funds available for the durable development of chess in Africa.

Some of our objectives for the long term (by the end of the fourth year) will be to ensure that:

  1. most African federations are managed democratically and effectively, and are capable of funding and running their own formal schedule of activities, including national, sub-regional/zonal and regional/continent-wide competitions and their own development programs or projects;
  2. ACC-managed competitions are organized effectively and successfully and are well attended by Chess players from a large number of member-federations and;
  3. At least five (10% of the 47) African Federations have access to the funding required, as well as the technical capabilities, to organize significant international competitions on the FIDE schedule, such as the Olympiad or World Youth Championships.

It is needless to mention that my ACC Administration would provide strong political support to any African Federation’s bid to organize a Chess Olympiad as soon as possible in the future.

DS: Are there any closing comments you want to make about your candidacy?

EE: I want to issue a very solemn call on the FIDE leadership to recognize the urgent and crucial necessity of, and to positively work towards, the creation of the conditions needed for free, fair and transparent elections for all FIDE institutions (including the ACC) during the upcoming FIDE Congress.

Historians might want to take note of the fact that the responsibility to lead FIDE’s transition to democracy currently lies with Mr. Makropoulos, a citizen of Greece, the legendary birthplace of democratic thought and traditions. I want to believe that all the FIDE leaders will manage to rise to this particular challenge, and will “do the right thing”.

That is the only way to reconcile our organization’s practice with its prestigious creed statement that “We are [all] one people (Gens una Sumus)”. Moreover, this is the only way that we can ensure that each member Federation and Continental Confederation is empowered to independently and effectively design and implement programs that can ensure the development of chess in their own country or region, thereby contributing, according to their own mandate and resources, to the advent of a stronger, more prosperous, and eventually more successful FIDE.

Please post your questions & comments below!

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One of the marquee tournaments starts today in Wheeling, Illinois a quiet town just outside of Chicago. The Chicago Open is in its 27th year and once drew the likes of Hikaru Nakamura and top tier players from overseas. These days the tournament is a hot ticket for hungry norm seekers, top scholastic players and college students from elite chess programs. This Memorial Day weekend has 773 players registers, but will probably closer to the 984 players attending last year.

Site of Chicago Open

Anton Kovalyov, a student at University of Texas-Dallas, tops the charts along with Daniel Fridman, Alex Shimanov (Webster University) and Illia Nyzhnyk (Webster University) and Vasif Durabayli (Webster University). A number of young American Grandmasters will dot the field such as Samuel Sevian (defending Chicago Open champion), Ruifeng Li and Awonder Liang. One of the most intriguing players in the field is the legendary James Tarjan who came out of retirement a couple of years ago and created a wave by beating Vladimir Kramnik.

Standings: http://chessevents.com/chicagoopen/
Tournament Details: http://www.chesstour.com/chio18.htm

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GM Bassem Amin, 2018 African Champion

GM Bassem Amin, 2018 African Champion

Egyptians GM Bassem Amin and WGM Shahenda Wafa are 2018 African Champions. The event was held May 12-22 and organized by African Chess Confederation (ACC) and the Chess Federation of Zambia (CZF). It is Amin’s 5th continental championship (2009, 2013, 2015 and 2017, 2018) and the second consecutive for Wafa whose sister won the title with Amin in in 2013.

Livingstone, Zambia was the host of the event. The host city is about a seven-hour drive from the capital city of Lusaka and named after David Livingstone, a 19th century British explorer. It is the home of one of the world’s wonders, Victoria Falls. Certainly, players would have enjoyed this world wonder as the falls are flowing in peak season in May. This shot was from last summer.

Nevertheless, they were there to play chess. Unfortunately, only 30 players show up in the Open section with Egyptian players sending several of their Olympiad players. Grandmasters Amin, Ahmed Adly, Essam El-Gindy and Hesham Abdelrahman (2016 champion) were all vying for a spot at the World Cup. A strong cadre of 11 International Masters were also was also in the field including five from host Zambia. There were no West African participants this year. This is something that must be addressed in coming years.

In the Women’s championship 20 players from 10 federations, practically all holding titles. There were many returning participants including defending champion WGM Shahenda Wafa. Zambian national Lorita Mwango would be defending home turf and the Algerians wanted to add to their medal collection.

In the end, the Egyptian players was able to assert their dominance. Amin blitzed the field with 8½/9 drawing only with Adly who finished clear 2nd with 7/9. Coming in 3rd position was El Gindy with 6 points, edging Kayonde for the bronze. In the women’s tournament, Shahenda Wafa scored a sparkling 8/9 followed by Mwango and Latreche, both on 6½/9 points.

WGM Shahenda Wafa, 2018 African Women's Champion

WGM Shahenda Wafa, 2018 African Women’s Champion

FINAL STANDINGS
Open Section

2018 African Championship (Standings)

Standings: http://chess-results.com/tnr352629.aspx?lan=20&art=0&flag=30

Women’s Section

2018 African Championship (Standings)

Standings: http://chess-results.com/tnr352630.aspx?lan=20&art=0&flag=30

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Ju Wenjun, the long-standing salutatorian of Chinese women players won the world championship 5.5-4.5 on yesterday. Drawing the tenth game, she held off Tan Zhongyi who was the reigning champion. Ju makes the sixth Chinese player to win the title after Xie Jun, Zhu Chen, Xu Yuhua, Hou Yifan and Tan Zhonyi.

Ju Wenjun, 2018 Women's World Champion

Ju Wenjun, 2018 Women’s World Champion
Photo by Gu Xiaobang

The strong run by China is also accented by their dominance in team competitions. They are the defending gold medalists and in the last 14 Olympiads have won 13 medals (5 gold, 4 silver, 4 bronze). Ju has put up a number of strong performances winning the FIDE Grand Prix to qualify as the challenger. Hou Yifan, world’s highest-rated woman, has nixed the women’s cycle due to her dislike of the intervening knockout format. This is still a raging discussion.

Going into the match Ju was an odds-on favorite as the #2 player on the women’s list and a fixture near the top of women’s chess. On the other hand, Tan held an unremarkable and fairly inactive reign after upsetting Anna Muzychuk in the Women World Championship (knockout) last year in Tehran, Iran. That tournament was highlighted by political rumblings of “hijabgate” where a few high-profile players boycotted the event.

Tan Zhongyi, 2018 Women's World Chess Championship, Shanghai, China

Tan Zhongyi at Opening Ceremonies
Photo by Gu Xiaobing

The surprise of the tournament was the performance of Tan who used a mixture of steadiness and tenacity to defeat many powerful opponents including Anna Ushenina (UKR), Padmini Rout (IND), Ju Wenjun (CHN) and Harika Dronavali (IND). Certainly not an easy road. However, Tan was relatively inactive as a world champion and had few publicity appearances promoting the crown. Most of her appearances had been in the Chinese League, but she competed in a few overseas events.

This match was not given much coverage and there was not much discussion on it in the chess mainstream. The fact that not many journalists were in China limited the onsite exposure that would provide a deeper perspective of the player’s feelings and emotions.

The main coverage was done by Chinese journalists and the live commentary done in Mandarin, but ChessBase and Chess24 filed daily reports. GM Ian Rogers and wife Cathy Rogers were in from Australia to provide English coverage. He wrote an interesting account of the “invisible” nature of the match and the neglect by FIDE.

1st half of the Match (Shanghai, China)

The match was split between two cities: Shanghai and Chongqing, the hometowns of Ju Wenjun and Tan Zhongyi, respectively. The first six games showed the champion on shaky ground in the first few games going down two points early.

Tan Zhongyi, 2018 Women's World Chess Championship, Shanghai, China

Ju Wenjun on the prowl going up two games.
Photo by Gu Xiaobing

The first game started off when Ju unfurled 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.e4!? This is obviously a common move, but it is not as popular as the mainlines beginning with 3.Nf3. The game built up into a tense struggle and after 24…Bh2+ 25.Kg2 Qxf3+ 26.Kxf3 Bxe4+ 27.Rxe4 and major pieces came off. White’s pawns were a bit weak, but she enjoyed a passed d-pawn. Complicating matters was Ju falling precariously behind on time.

Tan decided to create complications and got a passed pawn of her own, and after the last pair of rooks came off. According to Rogers, there were some tense moments and black had to play some precise moves in the end, but the knight vs. bishop ending was drawn.

In the next two games, Tan got a bit careless and ended up dropping both games. In the second game, she was surprised by Ju’s opening and seemed a bit uncomfortable. In the unbalanced position, black went for a kingside initiative. Tan defended well, but perhaps underestimated the venom. Black had created with her connected passed pawns. By the time Tan scrambled to stop the black pawns, she was left with a few tricks, but Ju was alert and the pawns would go through.

In game three, they tried a Catalan, but Tan tried to mix things up with 14…g5? and after 15.Qh5 her position was in shambles. With her king imprisoned on e8, she tried surviving, but there were too many holes in the position. The game ended with a nice tactic 27.Qd4+! This had to have been a crushing blow.

In game four, Tan’s 29.h4! was
a battering ram

If you look at +2 score in a short match, it can put the create a false sense of comfort. It is not clear that Ju relaxed, but Tan came roaring back in game four. She essayed a Trompowsky Attack and showed her willingness to vary her opening, unlike Ju (who played 1.d4 every game). It appears that Tan was fond of pushing her g-pawns in this match and in this game got a strong attack with 21.g4!? It seems a bit crude as she shuffled her pieces around to aim them at the black king. Then she hit again with 29.h4! bulldozing the cover of black pawns. Ju seemed to panic, her position collapsed quickly and she ended up getting mated.

In the last game before moving to the next venue, Tan surprised Ju with the Bishop’s Opening. This may have been done to avoid the dreaded Petroff Defense. The experiment did not bear any fruit as black equalized easily. Tan played an exotic 10.Na3, but the piece became offside. With full command of the center, Ju developed a nice attacking position with raking bishop on b8 and c8 and a closed center. This seemed to be an attack made to order.

Tan sacrificed a pawn for the two bishops, but black’s position was fluid and the attack stormed ahead. After 30…Qh5 31.c4 Ne5! black’s attack was too strong. In a few moves, it would now be Tan who would be mated. Ju regained her two-point lead which presents a stiff challenge for Tan.

She would be going to her hometown. However, it’s not clear whether playing in one hometown is favorable or not given what happened to Viswanthan Anand against Magnus Carlsen.

2nd half of the Match (Chongqing, China)

Almost on cue, Tan roared back with a win. The good thing is that there are four games in which to make up one point. In game six, she need every ounce of energy as the game lasted 121 moves.

Queen endings are tremendously difficult to play as calculative powers are important. On move 41, it was R+Q vs. R+Q. Tan was nursing a pawn advantage, but the most important issue was white’s weak king. While the black king was safely ensconced on h7, the white king was scurrying about trying to sidestep checks and attacks on many entry points. Finally Tan decided that her best chance would be in a queen ending with the eventual help of her monarch.

The king’s “Long March” from g8 to g1!
Follow the green trail, then yellow trail,
then the red.

The king took a very cautious march up the board while the white queen was giving chasing. Finally the black king got onto the e3-square and then f1! It was a Nigel Short-type attack with the king and white could do little to prevent threats of cross checks and simplification to an easy win for Tan. There were more checks, but the end came when the black king landed on g1. Was this symbolic of Mao Tse-Tung’s “Long March”? It seemed so. It was an example of patience and of fortune!

After a quick draws in game seven and eight, Tan almost lost the match on the spot in game eight, but had to fight to get a theoretical draw in a rook ending. She had been struggling to get any tangible advantages in the opening and clearly took too many risks to win. In a critical moment, 45.e4! would be enough for a draw as Tan had reserved some trickery for secure the draw. On 45…f4 black would have 46.Re6+ when 46…Kxe6 would a stalemate. Otherwise black cannot escape infinite checks producing a “super rook.” Tan would live to see another day, but time had run short.

Tan would have to come up with something in the last game.

Tan Zhongyi played the hippopotamus in game ten.

The “hippopotamus” is a very flexible opening that relies on counterattack.
Photo by Burrard Lucas

In the last game, Tan ended up playing …g5 again. She opted for a Modern/Pirc after tricking Ju to play an 1.e4 opening. This may have been a good strategy since Ju may not have been too comfortable with the structures. Tan played a type of “hippopotamus” (with a5 instead of a6) which goads white forward to overextend her position. Ju played solidly when Tan lashed out with 19…g5!? It was now or never. Unfortunately, this ploy fell flat as the black kingside was irreparably damaged and Ju implicitly offered a draw.

Despite her worse position, Tan tried to drum up complications, but Ju played it safely and simplified into a dead equal position. There was nothing left. Tan agreed to a draw and congratulated her friend. Ju Wenjun becomes the 6th Chinese world champion winning 5.5-4.5.

Unfortunately, the match received little coverage or discussion. The reasons were stated earlier, but the question of the championship cycle may resurface since Ju will have to defend her crown only months from now (after the Chess Olympiad). In addition, there were issues with raising funds so the match had to be postponed. Ultimately, the prize fund of the match was a relatively paltry €200,000 ($239,210) with 60 percent going to the winner and 40 percent to the loser.

ALL GAMES (TWIC)

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GM Nigel Short (England)

This year is an Olympiad year, but more importantly, it is a FIDE election year. So far there has not been much in the way of campaigning, but in the past several months, there have been several announcements made. Earlier in the year we saw Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Georgios Makropolous announcement their quests for the FIDE Presidency. More recently we have heard from British Grandmaster Nigel David Short standing for the office.

Short’s name precedes him in the annals of chess. He has been a world championship contender against Garry Kasparov when the two decided to break away from the FIDE championship cycle. It was a short-lived experiment (no pun intended), but provided the professional circuit with an alternative to what people felt had become a moribund system.

Kasparov later admitted that his ill-fated attempt was not the best approach, but the championship crown was finally united by Viswanathan Anand. The Indian legend actually toppled Vladimir Kramnik of Russia who beat Kasparov in the Brain Games championship. Thus, there was a time that different players held disputed championships. What is even more perplexing was that FIDE had several champions featuring players outside of the top 10.

Nigel Short vs. Garry Kasparov, 1993 PCA World Championship
Photo by Telegraph

GM Nigel Short making a point
at the 2012 FIDE General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

After a system was devised and the championship cycle united, Anand held the championship for five years. He was eventually beaten by Magnus Carlsen in stunning fashion. While Anand and Carlsen have added stability, the auspices of the championship have been held by AGON, a Russian company with close ties to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Here is an interview he granted to The Chess Drum during the 2012 Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey.

During the 2014 FIDE General Assembly, Short made an inquiry as to the relationship between FIDE and AGON. This became a sticking point in the 2014 election. With Short continued campaign against FIDE’s long-standing Ilyumzhinov, he has decided to stand for the office of FIDE President a month after Georgios Makropoulous had announced his candidacy. It should be quite a battle with the embattled Ilyumzhinov and a candidate who is (for better or for worse) tied to him.

Nigel Short has a history of “stirring the pot”. Here he is pictured questioning the FIDE/AGON agreement at the FIDE General Assembly in Tromso Olympiad in Norway. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Short, now 52, may have an advantage as he is an outsider who may want to “drain the swamp,” but there will be questions about his experience as an administrator. While Short has been unmoved in his positions of FIDE negligence and corruption, he will have to address a bevy of questions about an array of topics. Short is not a neophyte to the campaign trail as he was part of the team lobbying for Bessel Kok, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov.

So does Nigel Short stand a chance? The answer is not so simple. From one standpoint, the vote will be divided which means that he does not have to achieve an overwhelming majority. You have a reigning President who still maintains some of his loyalist ties, a Deputy President with a large apparatus supporting him. For Short, you have a legendary player who has been active politically, is well-traveled and has wide support among smaller federations. This could play in Short’s favor.

Nigel Short is still winning tournaments,
but can he score an ultimate victory in Batumi?
Photo by Maria Emelianova

He has been very critical of both Ilyumzhinov and Makropolous which means he is fighting opponents who will be united on most issues. These opponents will seize upon some of Short’s unpopular commentary which caused the British Grandmaster quite a bit of backlash. Ironically, in the latest New in Chess (2018/3) he hurled invectives against Susan Polgar who holds considerable capital in the chess world.

Incidentally, many of her fans also represent (among many segments) vast numbers of women and players from small federations. It is uncertain what type of impact that will have. Being a political activist is far different from being a chief executive of a major international body. We will certainly find out in the coming months how serious of an effort he will make.

Video by GM Daniel King

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Herminio Baez

On yesterday I received the unfortunate news that Herminio Baez, Jr. passed away on Wednesday morning May 2nd. He was 63. The proud chess-playing father left was survived by his loving soul mate of 38 years Daniella Baez, four children including his three sons Antonio, Steven, Chris and daughter Maya. He also had 14 grandchildren.

Antonio affectionately called him “Pop” and told me of his fondest moments of his father. This included the time he asked his father for money to buy a new car tire. Herminio told him, “Buy a used tire until you can buy a new one.” Upset at the response, Antonio stormed off, but his father was teaching him a very instructive lesson about responsibility. It’s one we learn (or teach) at some point.

Herminio was born July 3, 1954 in Brooklyn and was the son of Puerto Rican parents and had five siblings. Harry preceded him in death. He loved playing the percussion instruments such as the congos and maracas was immensely proud of his heritage and was enthusiastic about Latin music.


“My dad passed away peacefully in his sleep, May 2nd, 2018. My dad was the most generous, caring, loving man you’ll meet. He was a Chess Master as well. Not only was it his passion it was also his job, his business. He loved all his students and couldn’t wait to show them new things everyday.”

~Maya Baez (daughter)


Latin music was a great passion of his.

Photos courtesy of Antonio Baez

Antonio has last spoken to his father the Saturday before his passing. He said he got a special feeling from that last talk. He mentioned that he told his father the name for his yet to be born son, “Malachi”. Herminio said, “I’m going to call him Arsenio.” Why Arsenio? We will never know.

Of course chess was his passion and he taught in the Dallas area for decades. Herminio was a part of the “Black Bear School of Chess,” a serious chess group organized to challenge members to be the absolute best. This school produced luminaries such as George Golden, Maurice Ashley, William Morrison, Ron Simpson and Ernest Colding. He was also a part of the Kingsmen Chess Club which competed in the Industrial League.

Kingsman Chess Club

Kneeling (L-R): Jerald Times, Ernest Colding, Ronald Simpson, Maurice Ashley
Standing (L-R): Robert Ali, David Diamond, Jerry Bibuld, Herminio Baez, John Evans
Photo courtesy of Jerry Bibuld

Herminio in action!

He left New York to try his teaching craft in Texas. In his discussion with me about Alfred Carlin, he told me how he ended up in Dallas. After being in the vibrant chess scene of New York, he decided to take heed to a referral and move south. His initial impression was one of racial intolerance and bigoted views. However, he was able to navigate these social barriers successfully.

Antonio & Herminio Baez, Jr.
Photo courtesy of Antonio Baez

I first encountered Herminio through casual email exchanges. I knew about him through FM William Morrison. I later contacted him when Alfred Carlin fled Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to live with his brother in Dallas. Needing sustenance to survive the aftermath of losing everything, I put him in contact with Herminio. Alfred taught for him since 2005 until the time he passed away just one month ago. Baez had set Carlin up with a steady line of students. Unfortunately, Carlin health began to fail him earlier this year. Herminio had been battling his own issues.

While there has been no official cause, Herminio had been suffering from chest pains and had suffered a previous heart attack in his 30s. In the early 2000s, he began to suffer recurrent chest pains and moved to improve his health. On Tuesday May 1st he mentioned feeling unwell and Wednesday morning he did not wake up apparently dying peacefully in his sleep. We owe a debt of gratitude for his services and mentorship.

Funeral Arrangements for Herminio Baez Jr.

Thursday May 10th 2pm / 4pm and 7pm / 9pm,
Friday May 11th 2pm / 4pm and 7pm / 9pm

He will be interred at St Michael’s Cemetery Saturday May 12th. Anyone wishing to attend the Burial must be at the Funeral Parlor by 9am. Please make sure you have enough gas in your vehicles. You can also meet the procession at the Cemetery.

St. Michaels Cemetery
7202 Astoria Blvd, East Elmhurst, NY 11370

Guarino Funeral Home of Carnarsie
9222 Flatlands Ave,
Brooklyn, NY 11236
Phone: (718) 257-2890

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Chicago Chess Blitzers heading to Detroit

You knew it was going to be a “Thriller” in Motown. Chicago Chess Blitzers (CCB) drove four hours to take on sibling city in a blitz battle. The match had seen a buildup of trash-talking with Detroiters posting choice words in social media. On Saturday, April 21st, CCB met at the Chicago Chess Club to make the trek eastward. An hour out, CCB went on Facebook Live to report their pending arrival.

Detroit area players have become known more for scholastic activity in recent years due to the work of several local coaches. However, there is parallel community of blitz players wanting to take up the challenge. CCB arrived at approximately 5:15pm and after 30 minutes of reviewing rules and regulations the match began. There was great spirit and many reunions.

John Brooks (and Tom Murphy recounted stories going back 30 years.

The first few rounds were relatively equal with Detroit pulled ahead +3 after after taking the second round 16.5-13.5. Chicago took the third round 16.5-13.5 to level the score again. After Chicago went up +2 in the 4th round, Detroit roared back to win round five by +4.

IM Angelo Young led CCB to a big victory against Cleveland, but was not in top form during the match. That honor went to Gopal Menon (26/28) dropped his only game of the match. Here he wins a game in a time scramble against the over-achieving Irv Thompson.

Irv Thompson (15.5/28) got a number of scalps…

…but not this one! Gopal (26/28) prevailed and only dropped one game.

IM Angelo Young (17/28) squares off against FM Jimmy Canty (19.5/28)

IM Atulya Shetty (right) led the charge for Detroit with 23.5/28
while NM Bill Calton got 15/28

The turning point came when Chicago blasted Detroit 19-11 in round six reclaiming the lead 93-87. IM Arjun Vishnuvard was on form and had only given up three draws in 12 games. After a mid-match break, Chicago continued to widen the lead which would balloon to 165.5-134.5 after round ten.

At this point, fatigue started to set in and bystanders at the tournament were saying the players looked a bit tired. Detroit legendary blitzer John Brooks was heard saying that he wish he had given a better performance. At 72, the local favorite could not string together many wins, but he seemed to command respect from several of the CCB players who were familiar with his blitz exploits.

Chicago took the next three rounds by another 14 points. One of the matches was Daniel X Jones vs. Jimmy Canty who played a cage match in Chicago last summer. The first game was in the Exchange Caro-Kann and the second Jones’ “Bird’s Opening.” Take a look!

The match was very spirited but unfortunately, the last and 15th round was unable to be held due to the lateness of the hour, but there was surprisingly several blitz matches. Tom Murphy played John Brooks a single blitz game and there was money flowing on the table. Two blitz gladiators going toe-to-toe was a sight to see. There are rumblings about a cage match between the two.

The one issue that could be improved is the time lapse in between rounds. The match had already started more than an hour late (due to a delay in Chicago). In addition, taking 10-15 minutes to set the pairings each round will result in another two hours of added time in a 15-round match. There was a minor issue with clocks being floating around and the tournament director was shouting out the pairings instead of posting which is difficult to do for 15 boards.

Typically in a round robin the pairings can be generated with 1:15, 2:14, 3:13 format such that every player knows who they are playing well in advance. There were also inaccuracies in the scoring. For example, Michael Vilenchuk was reported as winning his 11th round match against Greg Harris 2-0, but on the chart provided after the match, the score is presented as 1-1.

Detroit Destroyers came to play! After months of back-and-forth banter,
another Detroit-Chicago battle in the books!
Photos by Nathan Kelly

Nevertheless, the organizers Dee Wildman and Nathan Kelly were successful at staging an exciting match and Detroit pulled it off. There will be more action during the Chicago Open. Nathan Kelly is making plans for the next match as the CCB looks for its next adventure. He has a number of ideas which may include matches against GMs. There are also a number of cage matches in the works. Who’s next?

“Best in the Midwest” Blitz Battle
Detroit Destroyers vs. Chicago Chess Blitzers
# Player ELO Team
Flag
pts./28
1 Gopal Menon 2322 CHI
26.0
2 IM Atulya Shetty 2485 DET
23.5
3 IM Vishnuvard Arjun 2254 CHI
23.5
4 FM Mark Heimann 2464 DET
22.5
5 Daniel X Jones 2161 CHI
21.5
6 Aderemi Adekola 2085 CHI
21.5
7 Michael Auger 2235 CHI
20.5
8 FM Jimmy Canty 2297 DET
19.5
9 Michael Vilenchuk 2334 CHI
17.0
10 David Franklin 2160 CHI
17.0
11 IM Angelo Young 2425 CHI
17.0
12 Irv Thompson 1758 DET
15.5
13 Bill Calton 2330 DET
15.0
14 Aakaash Meduri 2168 CHI
15.0
15 Thomas Murphy 2075 CHI
15.0
16 Mickey Maloy 2094 DET
13.0
17 Justin Brown 2039 DET
12.0
18 Dritan Zekaj 2149 CHI
11.5
19 Aaron Daniel 2124 DET
11.0
20 John Brooks 1807 DET
10.5
21 Nelson Marcelino 2085 DET
10.0
22 Bryan Wilson 1875 DET
10.0
23 Steffen Klug 2101 DET
9.0
24 Gwayne Lambert 1900 CHI
9.0
25 Gregory Harris 2016 DET
8.5
26 Tim Donnahue 1949 CHI
8.0
27 Kameron Tolliver 2015 DET
7.0
28 Joseph Gadson 2007 DET
5.5
29 Manis Davidovich 2200 DET
4.5
30 Ernest Jones 1645 CHI
3.5
Score: Chicago 232 – Detroit 188
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Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

Georgios Makropolous has announced his candidacy for FIDE President. In what has been a very tumultuous period for FIDE, the Deputy President seeks to consolidate the authority that has been bestowed upon him when FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was placed under sanctions by the U.S. government on conspiracy charges.

Deputy President Georgios Makropolous

Deputy President Georgios Makropolous
Photo by FIDE

Last March, confusion swirled within the FIDE ranks when Ilyumzhinov allegedly resigned and a letter was released by the governing chess body. While Ilyumzhinov did “temporarily suspend his powers,” there was question whether he actually resigned. After the announcement appeared on the FIDE website, Iyumzhinov published a letter stating that report was untrue. He blames the U.S. Chess Federation for the issue. To further complicate matters, he announced his candidacy for the 2018 election.


“I am not going to resign. Moreover, I am going to run for the FIDE Presidency again in September 2018.”

~Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, FIDE President


As we get closer to the Olympiad and Congress meetings, the campaign circuit has been quiet and there has only been two announcements regarding candidates standing for FIDE President: Ilumnzhinov and Makropolous. At the FIDE Presidential Board meeting in which Makropolous announced his candidacy, the body urged Ilyumzhinov to step aside due to sanctions.

Dear Kirsan

The Presidential Board has resolved:

In the light of:

a) The imminent withdrawal of FIDE’s banking facilities by UBS,
b) The inability of FIDE to obtain replacement banking facilities while you remain nominal President and
c) subject to US Treasury Department sanctions,
d) The consequent severe difficulties facing FIDE in funding its obligations and its commitments to the chess family,
e) The adverse publicity that reflects badly on FIDE’s reputation and undermines the confidence of all those who are or
would be involved in chess,

That in the interests of the organisation:

You should resign with immediate effect.

Signed:

Makropoulos, Georgios Deputy President
Tolentino, Abraham General Secretary
Fierro, Martha Vice President
Siegel, Adrian Treasurer
Bastian, Herbert Vice President
Kambuzia, Mohammed Vice President
Marinello, Beatriz Vice President
Sundar, D.V. Vice President
Al-Hitmi, Khalifa Vice President
Gelfer, Israel Vice President
Kutin, Boris Vice President
Tulay, Gulkiz Vice President
Ochoa, Javier Hon. Vice President
Ramirez, Mario Hon. Vice President
Vega, Jorge President of Americas
Azmaiparashvili, Zurab President of ECU

In the 14 to 1 vote for Ilyumzhinov to cede his position, only FIDE Vice President for Africa Lewis Ncube objected.

There was a response from Ilyumzhinov…

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
Photo by David Llada

“The Presidential Board’s decision is absolutely political one and is not related to chess. This appeal to me with a request of my immediate resignation is based on groundless sanctions which were imposed on me by the U.S. Department of Treasury in 2015. I am not going to resign. Moreover, I am going to run for the FIDE Presidency again in September 2018.”

It remains to be seen if there will be another statement from FIDE or if they will simply take the fight to Batumi, Georgia this fall. Whatever the case, it will be a hot and heated battle. Ilyumzhinov will certainly use his relationships with past supporters to strip away votes, but unless another candidate emerges, it will be an uphill battle for the sanctioned President.

FIDE: http://www.fide.com/component/content/article/1-fide-news/10814-fide-press-release-2018-1st-quarter-presidential-board.html

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FM Justus Williams
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

FM Justus Williams of Webster University has spent the semester abroad in Thailand at the satellite campus. He is finishing his second year and appears to be having a great time thus far. He told me back in February, “Thailand has been great so far. I really like it. From the weather to the food.” As fortunes would have it, he is in the country during its strongest chess tournament and one of the strongest in southeast Asia.

For a country with modest chess community, it is an opportune time for Justus to make a strong showing to complete his requirements for the IM title. He is poised to gain a number of ELO as there are many strong players he can take down. So far, he has been paired down the first two rounds.

The defending champion is GM Nigel Short (2662), but he is not the top seed. Armenian Grandmaster Hrant Melkumyan (2669) will defend the top board among 16 GMs and 66 titled players from approximately 300 players. Russian veteran Alexander Morozevich is also among the contenders. India has brought a large contingent with 39 players. Justus is ranked 29th at 2364 FIDE. He is looking to gain some of the 36 points needed to secure the IM title.

2018 Bangkok Open

2018 Bangkok Open

For Justus, this tournament will represent the first major activity since competing for Webster University at the Pan-Am Intercollegiate in December. In that tournament he beat Polish Grandmaster Kamil Dragun of University of Texas-Brownsville. It would not come as a surprise if he came away adding to his handsome collection of GM scalps.

FM Justus Williams (2364-USA)
# Player ELO Nation
Flag
Result
1 SAJJAPORNTHEP, Jarunpol 1880 Thailand
1
2 PRIYANKA, K 2057 India
1
3 FLORES, Diego (GM) 2601 Argentina
4 MATZIES, Alexander 2019 Germany
1
5 PANDA, Sambit 2104 India
0
6 TARINI, Goyal (WFM) 2088 India
0F
7 ASHID, Tsetseg-Ulzii 1941 Mongolia
½
8 JAEEL, Atharva 1957 India
1
9 ARMSTRONG, Malcolm 2079 England
1
Score: 5½-3½ (LIVE GAMES)

Official Site: http://bangkokchess.com/
Live Games: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/18th-bangkok-chess-open-2018/1/1/1
Photos: https://www.facebook.com/bccopen2018/
Standings: http://chess-results.com/tnr344172.aspx?lan=1&zeilen=99999

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While limited supplies last, The Chess Drum is offering the final copies of the hardback version of Triple Exclam: The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior. The book has been the subject of favorable reviews worldwide in tribute to International Master Emory Tate.

Triple Exclam is a hardback, full-color edition that includes 285 pages in 12 chapters and seven appendices surveying the life of Tate. It includes 35 of his games (all annotated) and vintage photos at various stages of his life. The book also includes chapter notes and is fully-indexed. If you are not a chess-player but enjoy biographies, you will appreciate his story.

This handsome hardback edition will be autographed if purchased through The Chess Drum website. The $40.00 retail price will be discounted 10% after the order. Include the keyword “DRUMBEAT” as a note when ordering. The paperbacks are at the regular retail price of $27.00. Don’t miss out on getting your own copy… order today!

Offer ends May 24th, 2018.

OPTIONS


BUY NOW!

# # #

The Chess Drum, LLC is a publisher of chess news content and literature. The organization’s website has continued to demonstrate the universality of chess by covering a variety of topics through news stories, essays, interviews, and photos since 2001. Visit The Chess Drum at thechessdrum.net and follow the beat on Facebook and Twitter!

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Chicago Chicago Chicago

America is on fire once again. Another death of an unarmed man at the hand of police officers has evoked nationwide protests. In that aftermatch of numerous similar incidents, organizations are attempting to affect change to prevent these types of tragedies from recurring. Chicago’s David Heiser of Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation has launched one such plan in a city gripped by deadly police-citizen confrontations. Why has this become necessary?

Even though Chicago’s crime stats have improved over the past 13 months, the history of police shootings in Chicago have been startling. Decades ago the neighborhood officer was generally viewed as a friend and donned the name, “Officer Friendly.” This initiative was popular from the 60s to the 80s and some departments still maintain the program. I personally remember officers visiting my Oglesby Elementary classroom in Chicago.

Officer Friendly in Washington, DC (1972)

Each officer discussed what they did on a daily basis, offered words of encouragement about the importance of studying hard and safety tips. There were coloring books, a book club and other teaching guides. The officers were always pleasant and wore a smile. We always looked forward to the visit each year. It would be interesting to see the data on what impact the Officer Friendly program had. The relationship went sour somewhere along the way.


What happened to “Officer Friendly”?


Some believe that this initiative was a rebranding strategy to counter the negative image attributed to the officers during the turbulent 50s and 60s. In retrospect, the idea that those who stayed in school had fewer interactions with the criminal justice system has been examined in many studies. However, other important factors such as “racial profiling” have been found to play a role in a number of police confrontations going back many decades. This led to nationwide protests and gave birth to the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Ieshia Evans staging a protest at Black Lives Matter rally in Baton Rouge.
Photo by Jonathan Bachmann/Reuters

In many of the urban areas of America, there have been dozens of high-profile deaths involving police officers and unarmed citizens, particularly in the Black community. The list is too long to recount here, but the recent murder of Stephon Clark in Sacramento and the beating of Forrest Curry (for jaywalking in Texas) have reignited an issue. There are always two sides and some police officers have felt a need to show a different side. There are viral videos of police playing basketball, soccer and even showing off breakdancing moves.

Chicago Police Officers pushing pawns at a local event.
Photo by Renaissance Knights

There are organizations seeking to create programs designed to reduce the tensions. Recently, The Chess Drum covered the story of Denise “Cookie” Bouldin, a Seattle police officer who has formed a chess organization and has involved her department in her activities.


“In chess, at the beginning of the game, you should actually be thinking about the end.”
~Sam Ford, Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation


More recently the Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation (David and his wife Sheila Heiser) has collaborated with Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Police Department to form the “Cops & Kids Chess Initiative.” According to the brochure, the organization seeks to “increase positive relations between youth and police officers” and present the initiative “…as a year-round program that affords additional engagement opportunities to students from diverse communities across the city of Chicago to participate in vibrant chess programs.”

Sam Ford teaching chess at Alex Haley Academy.

While such programs are not a panacea to the issues that face police departments and the justice system, it serves as a reminder that law enforcement should be a part of the community they serve and not an adversary. Many of the “bad cops” may not volunteer for “Cops & Kids Initiative,” but if the “good cops” are involved, maybe they can effect change.

In addition, chess may effect change in the decisions our children are making. It has been used as a learning aid for children, a bridge-builder between alienated groups and a rehabilitation tool for those behavioral issues. It is ironic that chess has popularity in two major institutions, schools and prisons. Of course, we would rather our children learn chess and make better decisions before they have any interaction with the police.

Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation
Contact: David Heiser
Email: david.heiser@renaissanceknights.org
Write: PO Box 1074, Northbrook, Illinois 60065
Call: 773.844.0701

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Alfred Carlin
Photo by Ted Lampkin

On April 2nd, Selby Anderson of San Antonio, Texas informed the chess community that Alfred “Big Al” Carlin passed away at Presbyterian Hospital on April 1st (Easter Sunday). He had been suffering from the effects of congestive heart failure. Herminio Baez stated that the five-time Louisiana state champion had worked for him as a coach since 2005. Baez visited him in the intensive care in his last days. Today would have been his 66th birthday.

Carlin ended up in Dallas in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf and wreaked havoc on New Orleans, also known as “The Big Easy.” He resided in the 9th ward which was devastated by water surges of up to 15-20 feet. I had called to check on Rene Phillips and Carlin. Phillips was stuck in a hotel with his family in Sulphur, Louisiana.

When I tracked down Carlin, he told me a harrowing story. The hurricane woke him up at 3:00am. With the strong winds bearing down on him and water rising, he fled just ahead of the devastation. He mentioned as he was fleeing the water was waist-deep in some areas. He was able to find refuge in Dallas, Texas at the home of his brother, Blanchard Carlin.

Looking for work after losing most of his belongings, I put him in contact with Baez, a New York transplant. They connected and Carlin taught in his organization until his death. Baez reflected that when Carlin went into the hospital on March 20th, he instructed the nurse to contact him to ensure he wouldn’t lose his job! In fact, Carlin spoke kindly of Baez in a blog post:

January 16th, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Hi Daaim,
I know I,m a little late (LOL) sending this reply. I want you to know I,m still in Dallas teaching chess. I,m working hard and enjoying teaching all the fantastic little kids here. Still trying to get where I want to be but far better than right after Katrina! One of the main things I think you for is helping me connect with Herminio Baez! He has proven to be one of the best friends I have here in Dallas. I think of him as more than just a person I work for. He has been there for me many times when I needed help. Also he,s a great chess instructor and all around great guy. Thank you for mentioning him to me and also for you being he guy you are! Keep up the good work Daaim!

Born in New Orleans on April 3, 1952, Carlin was a mainstay in Louisiana chess winning the state championship five times (1981, 1983, 1990, 1991, 1996). He also played in major tournaments such as New York Open, World Open, Chicago Open and North American Open and reached a peak rating 2439 in 1988. For decades, he was one of the strongest African-American players in the country. The youngest of four Carlin boys, he was preceded in death by Blanchard and survived by Eddie and David.

Carlin once graced the most active list playing 200-250 games a year, hitting his stride in the 80s. His last tournament was the 2014 Texas State Championship and he ended at his rating floor of 2200. In his heyday he scored a number of scalps. Here is one of his wins against GM Larry Christiansen. Notes are by Carlin.

The legendary Arthur Bisguier wrote about this game in the June 1986 Chess Life:

Carlin’s victory over Christiansen had a poignant sidelight. Although the organizers provided clocks for use on the top boards, Carlin insisted on using his own. Naturally, a tournament director asked why he was being so stubborn. Carlin replied that the clock in question had been given to him by a lower-rated friend who had subsequently died. He wanted to honor this friend by using this clock while playing a world-class opponent. Carlin was permitted to use his own clock, and the Louisianan showed his gratitude in striking fashion.

(Note: Baez tells me that Carlin was also known as “Mr. C” by his students in Plano, Texas and they adored him. The chess community is planning a memorial. Further details are forthcoming.)

National Master Alfred Carlin

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I met Walter Hand many years ago at the old Border’s bookstore in Tallahassee, Florida where chess players met on Wednesday evening. He stood out due to his wheelchair and his cerebral palsy disability, but I also noticed that he was there every single week without fail. The transport service would come to get him and you could tell it was something he looked forward to.

I watched Walter’s games and though he struggled to move the pieces, the determination in his eyes was apparent. At some point, I finally got a chance to play him a game. I was humbled by the experience. One other thing I noticed about Walter was his 1000-watt smile.

Walter Hand

Here is a story from Jose Sanchez posted three years ago that is sure to touch the heart of any chess player:

In 1999 the Tallahassee Chess Club used to meet at Borders bookstore. Walter would show up every Wednesday to play. He had a transportation bring him and pick him up at 9pm. One night the chess tournament did not end at 9pm and the bus driver did not want to wait on Walter. Walter really wanted to stay and finish the tournament so I told the driver don’t worry go ahead and leave and some of the guys will help me load his chair in my pickup and I’ll take him home, I had no idea how this was going to be a life changing experience for me. When the tournament ended we loaded his chair in the back of my truck and helped Walter into the front seat. Slowly but surely we made it to Walter’s house. A task as simple as opening his front door took about 5 minutes. He invited me inside to show me some trophies that were made for him by an elementary school for showing them how to play chess. I got back in my car and cried all the way back home. Thank you Walter!

Recently I happened to be looking through some Tallahassee news reports and found an article dated May 17, 2017 on Walter. In the article, I learned he is also called the “Shock Man” because he continues to shock people by what he can do. For many years I had wondered what became of him since the Borders closed.

Chess is a passion of Walter’s and he’s looking to play again.

The article indicated that he was a local icon selling newspapers faithfully for 40 years! He stated that it is the only way he can make money. As one could imagine, financial strains of his disability were difficult to meet. At the time of the article, there was an online fundraising campaign for personal expenses last year and another event held at the Black Dog Cafe in November. I had missed both events.

It is hard to imagine the life of someone with cerebral palsy, but when looking at Walter, it eliminates any excuses for living a full life. With his limited mobility Walter is very sociable and wears that bright smile on his face. With chess, it keeps his mind sharp and active, but apparently he has be unable to manage his schedule to include chess. Hopefully, he will be able to play again. Below is his story.

Shock Man: The Walter Hand Story from Tabinda Syed on Vimeo.

Walter “Shock Man” Hand (website): http://www.shockmanhand.com/
Article Link: http://www.wctv.tv/content/news/Tallahassees-Shock-Man-hoping-to-play-Chess-once-again-423916823.html

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During this rest day, the 2018 World Candidates tournament is heading toward a very exciting ending. America’s Fabiano Caruana has held sole lead (6/9) for a couple of rounds breaking away from Shahkriyar Mamedyarov (5½/9), also undefeated. Caruana has had a very solid showing thus far and only obstinate defense by Ding Liren (and some misses by Fabiano) prevented a full-point lead over the field. Ding has drawn all nine of his games.

There has been a lot of attention on Caruana for the past few years since rejoining the U.S. National Team. Since then he has won a U.S. Championship and a gold medal with the U.S. Olympiad team. In recent days, excitement has heightened and the prospects of him earning the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen seem possible. Caruana missed an opportunity in 2016 when Sergey Karjakin defeated him to win the tournament. Karjakin lost the match against Carlsen that November.

There are many who feel that Caruana would represent a threat to Carlsen’s supremacy. He has a decent head-to-head score, has a style that is flexible and nerves that are steady enough to rankle the Norwegian. Hikaru Nakamura, who has been knowing Caruana since childhood, also talked about his strengths.

Video by World Chess.

This skill has been on fully display during the first half of the tournament. Although he snatched a win from Vladimir Kramnik, he missed one at a critical stage of the game with Ding Liren. After pressing Ding for three hours, Caruana seemed to be on the verge of collecting the full point with his deft rook maneuvers. In the maze of complications, he missed his chance. Here was the segment when the winning line was shown…

Video by World Chess

Nevertheless, Caruana has been well-prepared and showed his resilience in snatching a win from beleaguered Kramnik and scoring an important win over Levon Aronian. Kramnik has been in a tailspin since the loss and is virtually out of contention. GM Ian Rogers cautioned readers about Kramnik being the “drunkened gunslinger” with nothing to lose. Caruana faces him in round 11. Before that, Caruana will face Mamedyarov who is hot on his heels. The road is a tough one and Caruana will have to keep his nerve to become the first American to vie for the World Championship since Bobby Fischer.

Games of Fabiano Caruana

Main Site: https://worldchess.com/berlin/
Games (TWIC): http://theweekinchess.com/assets/files/pgn/wchcand18.pgn
Regulations: https://www.fide.com/FIDE/handbook/regscandidates2018.pdf
Pairings: http://fide.com/
Schedule: https://worldchess.com/berlin/

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Chess is often thought of as a game of the high-browed intelligentsia. It has adherents worldwide and is touted as an activity to sharpen one’s mind and to enhance cognitive ability. Does chess really make people smart? No, but it can certainly help the mind stay sharp and teach valuable lessons about patience and decision-making. It comes as no surprise that the game has become one of the most popular inside correctional institutions around the world. There is so much intrigue about prison chess that many volunteers seem to relish a chance to play these self-taught chess sharks.

Carl Portman of England released a book last year titled Chess Behind Bars, a poignant look at chess in British prisons. The book serves as part-instructional guide with some powerful testimonial statements made. The book starts with a Foreword by GM Nigel Short who described the contact he maintained with an inmate even after his release!

“Carlton has repeatedly said how important chess was to him during these very dark times, allowing him to focus on an enjoyable and intellectually stimulating pursuit, while the shadow of never-distant depression hung about him. He still treasures the Yugoslav-produced Chess Informant – the bible of the pre-computer age – that I gave to him then.

There have been a number of personal stories and I have written a few here at The Chess Drum confirming the impact that chess has had on inmates. In fact, I have also had contact with inmates over the years and have sent books and other literature. The only issue is that inmates often began to ask for other items such as legal books and requests to contact relatives.

Oftentimes it is difficult to get cooperation from prison officials. In one case, materials sent to a prison in New York were returned citing “codes throughout” as if it were a secret message to the prisoner. I’m not sure if the official was serious about the ignorance or was simply being difficult. Portman affirmed this…

One of the most attractive aspects of chess is that it is available to everyone. However, just because the game is available does not mean that everyone is able to reach out and embrace it. Prisoners are certainly one such group. For various reason some prisoners cannot obtain chess sets, books or magazines. This may been understandable in 1940s Russia, but here – in Britain in 2017? Surely not?

Portman’s stirring preface does about as good a job as I have seen to market chess as a reformative tool for inmates. The data backs him and chess in prisons have received some buzz in England and other countries. We have heard of chess being used as a metaphor for life in cinematic portrayals.

The Grass Arena is one such movie. It was adapted from the autobiography of John Healy, a former alcoholic who was taught chess in prison. He gives a lengthy interview in the book. Another is Life of a King starring Cuba Gooding who played Eugene Brown, an ex-inmate who founded the “Big Chair Chess Club” and used chess to reach rowdy youth.

Many prisoners attempt to reflect on their lives and the decisions they have made. Chess can help one to externalize thoughts and to examine them. Issues such as impatience, impulsiveness, over-aggression all can be seen and analyzed in a constructive way through chess. Portman obviously believes that chess can make a difference in “redemption.”

Portman’s own hardscrabble upbringing (i.e., poverty, alcoholic and abusive stepfather) made the entry of chess into his life a beacon of light. It opened up an avenue to friendships, competition, erudition and self-confidence. At some point, he took up the role of managing chess in prisons for the English Chess Association. This would become a labor of love and a way to share his beloved pastime.


“If you drop a diamond in the mud,
it is still a diamond.”

~Inmate


In the first couple of chapters, he lays out of the case for chess in terms of its benefits: decision-making, analytical skills, social development and mental health. He interviews John Healy a recovering alcoholic who spent 15 years in the “Grass Arena,” a park for homeless, vagrants and drug addicts. Healy talks about how he ended up in prison and learned chess through a chance encounter with a cellmate. It opened up the door to a mind darkened by alcoholism.

Portman also included a story about his visit to an unnamed prison in which he gave a simultaneous exhibition. He recounted the drab and depressing surroundings and mentioned the various briefings he received to ensure his safety. He was even told that the prisoners could use the chess pieces as weapons.

All of this to get chess into the prisons? It was to get him to appreciate where he was and who he would be dealing with. When the time came, the buoyancy in which the prisoners entered the room was something not seen in a long time.

My favorite chapter is titled, “Testimony from Inmates.” It aptly includes excerpts of handwritten letters of prisoners. As one who often writes inmates, I do realize how important these interactions are. Every letter is probably read 20 times and each visit savored and every word digested.

After Portman’s auspicious visit, he drove home with a glow thinking that he had lit a spark. His visit and subsequent letters made a big impact! To get an idea, here are a few:

My rating is 1800 and was arrogant enough (before coming to prison) to suppose that I would be unbeaten in prison but I am being frequently humbled by some fellow inmates.

I did once spend 2 years carving a chess set out of matches.

…all the concerns I have to endure on a daily basis in prison are neutralized when I have a chess board in front of me, and so chess has proved to be a grate source of serenity and pleasure. It has also brought me quite literally out of my cell (shell” as when not playing chess I tend to keep very much to myself, but I have played and subsequently talked to a wide variety of prisoners of all colours and backgrounds whom I would otherwise have avoided like the plague.

…decent chess players in prison tend to command a certain degree of respect and be looked up to by other prisoners.

It helped me cope the first few weeks.

There are many more gems in Chapter 5 and the handwriting makes it much more intimate. The letter on pages 70-71 is a must-read!

Portman does not hold back in criticism of how some prisons deny prisoners access to materials. This has been an ongoing battle as prisons have to ensure the safety of the staff and the inmates. We all have heard of prisons having a problem with contraband items and suddenly there is a security issue when shanks, drugs, flammable substances and even homemade firearms are found! It certainly is a challenge. In one instance, I had to produce my organization’s ID number before they’d allow any materials in.

There certainly needs to be more of an effort at outreach to prisons. It would certainly be a positive activity and has been said to require a certain discipline in thinking. Portman includes a couple of the prisoner’s games in the back of the book which provides even more insight into the level of talent. He also includes instructional material, puzzles and some classic battles of the greats. Lastly, he provides some chess resources and recommendations.

Carl Portman with Chess Behind Bars

The book had quite a few gold nuggets and even discusses the “Future of Chess in Prisons.” In this chapter, he entertains a discussion on what UK prison are and are not doing for their prisoners. Again, he promotes chess as a solution to some of the issues that plague prisons in terms of managing recalcitrant behavior. He also discusses mental health and provides a prescription…

“…every inmate (male and female) to be given the opportunity to play chess. For every prison to have a chess club and associated resources; for chess to be a component of the prison education curriculum; for chess to have prison certification and accreditation to enable inmates to prove their achievements upon release.”

He then lays out tasks for each actor in this effort from Prison Director to the inmate to those who simply want to help. I would recommend this book to any person who is involved in prison chess as a volunteer, as a prison worker or as one who may have a relative or friend incarcerated. It is a thoughtful book whose words will magnify the glory of chess.

Example of a handmade prison chess set

GM Kevin Spraggett weighed in saying that Portman’s book would “bring more ridicule to our noble game.” It’s ironic coming from someone who runs a chess site containing hundreds of pornographic images. It is disappointing that Spraggett crassly opines that the only captive market is for prisoners and that Portman’s prescription “wouldn’t amount to much.” He even adds that chess didn’t help prisoners from ending up in prison! Extremely bizarre logic from the legendary Canadian Grandmaster.


“Chess constitutes a mental training
of the greatest possible value.”

~R.F. Green


Of course, Chess Behind Bars is not your usual chess book, but has quite a bit of practical value. I would agree that chess cannot help reform everyone and is certainly not a panacea for society’s social ills. There are countless stories of notable chess players whose minds were tormented by unsavory addictions and vile thoughts. However, chess has been proven to help those who seek to cope with the rigors of prison life, have aspirations for self-improvement, and develop a more refined approach to decision-making.

At the 2013 U.S. Chess Federation meeting, there was a report given by Sandra Guisso on prison chess in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo.

The prison population is comprised primarily of 19-30 year old Afro-Brazilian men. They have run the program for the past 9 years, and in that time, prisoners were tasked with making chess sets/boards to sell, as well as learning how to play. Ms. Guisso said the program has 12 groups, each with 15 prisoners, who learn and play chess for 50 minutes, twice a week. Compared to the general prison population, participants in the program had a recidivism rate of just 27% (link).

If we are wise, we would heed to the advice of Portman by suggesting a larger role for chess in the prison system. The book makes a compelling case.

Link: http://www.qualitychess.co.uk/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Chess-Behind-Bars-Carl-Portman/dp/1784830321

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Rwanda Rwanda Rwanda

James Karuhanga, “Rwanda team for Chess Olympiad 2018 confirmed,” The New Times, 12 March 2018

Sandrine Uwase

Ten players on Sunday night qualified to make the open and women’s national teams, respectively, for the Chess Olympiad 2018 later this year in Batumi, the second-largest city of Georgia, from September 23 to October 7.

In the open team, the top five players are; Joseph Nzabanita, Candidate Master (CM) Maxence Murara, Fidele Mutabazi, Ian Murara Urwintwari and Alain Niyibizi (reserve), in that order. The women team comprises Joselyne Uwase, Sandrine Uwase, Layola Umuhoza Murara, Odile Kayitesi and Christelle Uwamahoro (reserve).

At the Chess Olympiad, countries or teams field four players during a match. The fifth player is always a reserve, according to Rwanda Chess Federation (FERWADE) president, Kevin Ganza.

“We are now going to organize training sessions for our players to be better prepared for the Olympiad which is a tough completion,” Ganza said.

Kevin Ganza, President Rwanda Chess Federation

Kevin Ganza, President Rwanda Chess Federation during an interview in 2016.
Photo by Faustin Niyigena

The final phase of Chess Olympiad qualifiers for selecting Rwanda’s teams – open and women – for this year’s 43rd Chess Olympiad, started on March 3 and was played over two consecutive weekends at IPRC-Kigali in Kicukiro.

Organized by the world chess federation (FIDE), the Chess Olympiad is a biennial chess tournament where teams from all over the world compete. It comprises open and women’s tournaments, as well as several events designed to promote the game of chess.

In 2016 the national team did not make it to the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, due to financial difficulties and hitches in travel preparations but Ganza said that preparations started early to avoid a repeat.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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On April 21st, it’s going down. One of the most fierce rivalries in sports history will continue as the Chicago Chess Blitzers travel eastward to take on the Detroit Players in the Motor City. This match has been in the works work several months while the Chicago-New York match was being planned. After that match was postponed, Dee Wildman (Detroit) and Nathan Kelly (Chicago) finally completed negotiations to stage a match in Detroit.

Both cities have a long history and are regional cousins sharing many similar characteristics. After the great migration from the South to the Midwest, both industrial cities developed rich cultures for the arts and humanities. The iconic Motown Records is still one of Detroit most famous brands and Chicago’s jazz and blues scene are world-class.

Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodman with “Jordan Rules” during heated rivalry. Will the Detroit-Chicago live up to the rivalry?

In terms of sports both cities have experienced success, but are also bitter rivals (Lions vs. Bears, Red Wings vs. Blackhawks and Bulls vs. Pistons). Basketball during the late 80s and early 90s the Detroit Pistons were the foil of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and won two NBA championships led by Chicago native Isiah Thomas. The “Bad Boys” touted toughness and grit and earned their nickname for their physical play. Jordan and Scottie Pippen finally overcame the Pistons and won six NBA championships.

The competition is less noted in chess although Michigan players are regulars in Chicago tournaments. This matchup will be the fourth for Chicago as they have beaten Memphis, Cleveland and St. Louis rather convincingly. Detroiters have visited Chicago Chess Club as FM Jimmy Canty battled Daniel X Jones in a cage match. Jones won that match and the trash-talk has already begun.

Shots fired!

The tension is heating up. Who will prevail? The rosters have not been released, but Detroit feels they are up to the challenge. They will most likely have Canty and NM John Brooks suiting up, but will IM Atulya Shetty play for the Detroiters? For Chicago, they will have a slightly different look with IM Angelo Young now living in California. Chicago believes they’ll have enough players in reserve to close the deal. Only one team will come out on top. Who will it be?

Video update coming!

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Wakanda Wakanda Wakanda

Zion. Zamunda. Wakanda.

All fictional places in film with memorable and history-making story lines. Zamunda was the mythical kingdom characterized in Coming to America, one of Eddie Murphy’s finest efforts. In The Matrix, Zion was the home base of pioneers fighting artificial intelligence agents seeking to exploit humans trapped in a computer simulation. In all three movies, people of African descent are prominent and presented in a very positive light.

Black Panther took theaters by storm on February 16th breaking all types of records for pre-sold tickets. It then broke U.S. records for first week gross receipts passing $292 million. By the fourth week, it has breached $1 billion including a massive following internationally. Many theaters around the world were bustling with events that appeared to be more like an African fashion show complete with drummers, dancers and of course African cuisine. It has been a rousing success within the African Diaspora and it is anticipated that the movie will collect a handsome haul in next year’s Oscars.

What has spawned such an explosion of interest in this theatrical rendition of a comic book superhero. Was it the story? Was it the costumes? Was it the underlying socio-political and cultural significance? Perhaps a combination. It is a place that people of Africa descent has envisioned for centuries… Pan-African cooperation, futuristic thinking and holistic living.

Okoye (Dora Mulaji) and Nakia (War Dog)

Wakanda is a fictitious African country fueled by a precious substance vibranium which had meteorically fallen on its land. This mysterious substance not only gave the city its source of energy, but would also be what would catapult Wakanda into a first-rate superpower. Wakanda had masqueraded as a poor developing country while harboring mind-blowing technology which included vibranium-powered weapons, advanced airships, levitating trains, holographic piloting and restorative health science. The country also made use of kinetic energy which contrasted with the natural beauty accented by tumbling waterfalls and exotic foliage.

In this enigmatic country, there is a very intricate social system with tribes united by the Black Panther heir, King T’Challa. His father King T’Shaka was killed during Captain America: Civil War in a terrorist blast while speaking at the United Nations. The Black Panther possessed special powers after being given a concoction from vibranium-mutated, heart-shaped plants administered by the wise sage, Zuri. This included an indestructible vibranium-powered cat suit. If one looks closely, the setting of Wakanda and its impressive architecture is symbolic of the ancient African kingdoms such as Egypt and Mali. Even the use of animals as powerful symbols seem to point to a historical significance.

The kingdom of Wakanda was protected by the Dora Milaje, a fierce regiment of female warriors. Their role lead to an interesting discussion on geopolitics, social order and gender roles. Okoye, the general of the force, commands a presence with a shaved head and Maasai-inspired outfit. There was a welcome explosion of aesthetics including body art featuring various hair styles, body paint and scars, lip plates, beads and other accouterments. It was a beautiful mosaic of colors and textures that escaped judgement of western standards.

What has made the cinematography so vivid is the cross between human ingenuity and unadulterated beauty of nature. Even today, African nations hope to find the delicate balance between the two that makes Wakanda so alluring. Unfortunately, colonial structure of trade has resulted in a continent reliant on agriculture and mining industries primarily for the benefit of others. In the Black Panther, we enter a new world where Wakandans had not been colonized. One may ask, “What would Africa be like today if colonization and slavery had not happened?” Some have envisioned a place like Wakanda.

Here is the trailer…

Despite the spoilers that follow, the point of this article is not to serve as a review of Black Panther. There are already dozens of them floating around in social media from the comical desciptions to those evoking serious intellectual discourse. What follows is an attempt to lay out some topics for discussion and perhaps talk about how these issues can contribute to an overarching strategy to help foster Pan-African unity.

Africa through the eyes of Wakanda

What lessons can we draw from Black Panther? There have been a number of efforts to take some of the positive energy and channel it into positive action. The concept of “Afro-futurism” takes hold in a Utopian country where intellect has blossomed to create a technological behemoth. For decades, media has been replete with Tarzan images of Africa. Of course, the fictitious Zamunda in Coming to America showed fantastical opulence, but there was a realism surrounding Wakanda in Black Panther.

Wakanda was no less grandiose and brought a semblance of tremendous pride in African identity. The movie is closing in on the one-month mark and there has been an overwhelming amount of positive energy radiating throughout the African Diaspora. In the romantic comedy Coming to America, there were some serious cross-cultural issues highlighted, but in the end a Pan-African marriage served as a beautiful symbol of hope. There remains a serious question on the table. Will this movie result any conciliatory efforts within the African Diaspora?

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana pointing to the Ministry of Justice building where he signed the proclamation for independence. Dr. Nkrumah was a main proponent of continental African unity and drew lessons from the Black struggle in America where he was a student at Lincoln University. After independence in 1957, he requested many Blacks from America to move to Ghana to help build the young nation. He adopted the black star in the Ghanaian flag as a reminder of Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Shipping Line, a Pan-African maritime network. Garvey was from the island of Jamaica, moved to New York and built the largest mass organization in Black history called the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Movies generally characterize African nations as dysfunctional, war-torn and disease-infested wasteland were animals and people co-mingle without any social coherence. Thus, there has been a hesitancy to express pride in African identity. Actresses like Lupita N’yongo have given us a idea of what one form of African beauty looks like. Her arrival on the scene has set the stage for other leading ladies of dark hue in an industry that is still skittish on “unconventional” looks.

Black Panther actually cast the continent in a very positive light and this may be the underlying reason for such celebration. Colorful garments have dotted the global landscape as various celebrations have taken place all over the world. What has also followed was a number of invigorating discussions and various reviews of the movie. While some will say that it is just another movie, all indications show otherwise. Following are some of the topics that have been discussed in the past month.

Pan-African Nationalism

There has been a lot of discussion on racial identity and nationality including the relationship within the African Diaspora. Incidentally, the cast was Pan-African covering nationalities from the U.S., Africa, Caribbean and Europe. The idea of Killmonger, who is half-Wakandan, serving as the nemesis to T’Challa was thrust front and center. While many bristled at his approach, Killmonger’s idea to eradicate oppression was noble. It was sort of an ode to the Black Panther Party of the 60s.


Where were you?
~Question raised by Killmonger to T’Challa in reference to the “Black struggle”


It is ironic that the superhero’s name was almost changed to avoid any association with the 60s revolutionary group. Nevertheless, Black Panther allowed people of African descent see beauty in a a full spectrum of colors and styles. This is a powerful symbol of inter-tribal unity (even romantic), a concept that has been difficult to achieve in present-day Africa. Even in Africa there is a reticence about expressing cultural pride to the world. Unfortunately, many African traditions are eroding as a result of globalization trends. This movie may provide a shot of needed adrenaline.

The cooperation of the tribes was vital during the reign of King T’Challa, but the arrival of Killmonger forced each tribe to reevaluate their committment. Okoye, Wakanda’s top soldier vowed to protect the throne but it was evident that she looked at Killmonger with great skepticism. In the end, it was a vanquished tribe of the vegetarian Jabari (Man-Ape tribe) who helped to save a gravely wounded T’Challa and usher him back to the throne. In a sign of contrition and collaboration, the Jabari ruler M’Baku stated, “A life for a life” as T’Challa had spared him in their battle.

International Relations

Who is allowed residence in Wakanda? On at least two occasions, outsiders were given medical residence in the African country. The arrival of Erik Killmonger also raised the question of how a Wakandan was defined. Killmonger was the son of Prince N’Jobu, who was killed by his older brother, King T’Shaka. Killmonger was left to discover his father’s body.

Erik “Killmonger” Stevens

While it is true that Africa has historically been exploited for natural resources, it was N’Jobu who betrayed Wakanda by selling vibranium onto the black market to South African arms dealer Ulysses Klaue. This occurred in Avengers: Age of Ultron when artificial intelligence tried to use vibranium purchased from Klaue to destroy mankind. In Black Panther, Klaue even made a “sonic-disrupting” arm cannon with a vibranium energy source. Was there justification for thinking that Wakanda would lose control of the vibranium? Indeed. It happened in the movies, it happened in Africa’s past and it continues to this day… all with African collaboration. Did T’Challa have a point?

The result was a battle of wills between Killmonger, who wanted to launch a revolution against global oppression and T’Challa who wanted only to protect the kingdom of Wakanda. If Wakanda allowed migrants residency can it maintain its identity? W’Kabi, leader of the Border Tribe, asked this very question when T’Challa mentioned the possibility of opening the borders. Interestingly, Killmonger double-crossed (and killed) vibranium dealer Klaue and delivered his body to W’Kabi to prove his worthiness to Wakanda. The Border Tribe allowed him in.


Is he Wakandan?
~Question raised by River tribal leader pertaining to Killmonger


Killmonger set out to avenge his father’s death and vowed to claim the Wakanda throne from his first-cousin in a challenge match. One elder asked the question, “Is he Wakandan?” putting the question of whether an outsider, despite Wakandan ancestry, would be eligible to sit on the throne. This has ignited the question of whether other Africans in the Diaspora have a role in shaping the future of the continent. In fact, some Africans may believe that other Blacks are appropriating culture by wearing African garments! Such statements are apocryphal. In reality, the movie inspired a widespread expression of “African Identity.”

Gender

It’s interesting that the women seem to represent some of the strongest and smartest figures in Wakanda. This is consistent both with the symbolism of the Queen Mother in some of the matrifocal societies in Africa. In fact, the women of Wakanda were very self-confident, beautiful and in the most patriotic roles. They reassured King T’Challa in his moments of doubt and protected his honor even after he was disgraced.

Okoye, was the ultimate warrior, fiercely loyal and demonstrated the range of her powers from the incredible fighting scenes to guiding the Wakanda craft with metaphysical powers. Shuri, T’Challa’s 16-year old sister, was a scientific genius and helped Wakanda realize the true power of vibranium. This is in a time when girls are woefully underrepresented in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, math). Shuri’s message was clear.

The Wakandan Women
Princess Shuri, Nakia, General Okoye, Queen Ramonda

As Queen Ramonda stood as the matriarch, she ultimately agreed to side with the tribe who refused to unite under her son’s rule. The idea that the characters expressed themselves through natural African beauty eschewing the wigs and foreign standards of beauty was refreshing. Was a message being sent in response to the trend of long weaves and wigs within the African Diaspora?

Angela Bassett played a regal role and as a widow, the greatest influence in the kingdom. Her presence was reassuring and added dignity to the cast. Not only were Wakandan women beautiful and smart, but also graceful. This gallant presentation of Black woman played a role in the beautiful and elegant garments donned during the initial weeks of the movie’s release. Will this set off an African-inspired cultural revolution seen in the 70s?

The Wakanda Strategy

While Wakanda was isolated from the world, they healed at least two foreigners. After the CIA agent Everett Ross was seriously wounded and healed in Wakanda, he played a role in the rebellion to reseat T’Challa to the throne. While the notion of an Pan-African kingdom was ideal, the underlying notion is that a foreigner (and CIA operative) was necessary for Wakanda to restore order, even in an ancillary role.

Bucky Barnes, who was compromised by the Russians in Captain America: Civil War, was seen (after the credits) healing from his brainwashing in a Wakandan hut. After Killmonger’s death, was T’Challa’s pronouncement of sharing Wakanda technology a good one? There seems to be a hitch in this story.

T’Challa at the United Nations.
Good idea?

The intersection of racial identity, class, gender and politics are prevalent in this 135-minute film. It invigorates an age-old discussion of geopolitics and social evolution. With people of African descent seeing the world evolve so quickly, this movie provides some focus on what we can become. External ties to Europe and America and dependency on international financial institutions (IFIs) like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank must be reevaluated. Africa’s ability to chart an independent course of development will rely on new relationships. Perhaps, the relationship within the African Diaspora is the first to be fostered.

In the movie, Wakanda was a first-rate power. What would happen if such an African nation existed? The movie is a fantasy, but so are revolutionary ideas until they come into fruition. L.P. Jacks once said, “Ideas never coupled with action are never bigger than the brain cells they once occupied.” Marcus Garvey’s UNIA never created the Utopian homeland desired in Liberia (due to subversive efforts by the U.S.), but the organization developed a powerful model.

Will the African Diaspora build the equivalent of a Wakanda? Will they erect a bridge to foster Pan-African unity? Will this be a defining moment as the world seems to be shifting its balance of power? Time will tell. Meanwhile we will see more of Wakanda in the coming Avengers: Infinity War… and Black Panther 2 is already in the works. The east is rising and… Black is good!

Images by Marvel Studios & The Walt Disney Company

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Today the World Chess Candidates will start the process of determining the challenger for the World Championship match later on in the year against World Champion Magnus Carlsen. The tournament will take place in the German capital of Berlin, the city’s first time hosting the event. The field will feature seven of the qualifiers and one wild-card selection. Half of the 2016 field will return with in Levon Aronian (ARM), Wesley So (USA), Fabiano Caruana (USA) and Sergey Karjakin (RUS). Karjakin won the event scoring a key win over Caruana in the final round.

The Russian went on to play Carlsen, but lost the championship match in tiebreaks. He returns along with Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Grischuk forming a Russian trio and comprising 38% of the field. One intriguing player is the top seed Shahkriyar Mamedyarov, arguably the hottest player of 2017. Ding Liren is the first Chinese to qualify and of course the second Asian behind Viswanathan Anand to vie for the qualifying spot.

Carlsen will be watching intently although a spat has surfaced between he and Anish Giri who implied that the World Champion was nervous at the prospects for facing the winner. What is clear is that the championship will prove to be exciting. Any of the eight competitors will be viable opponents. Who will break through?

It is ironic that Giri once wrote a book titled, After Magnus: Who Can Dethrone the World Chess Champion? Four of those he featured in the book are in the tournament, Caruana, So, Ding and Grischuk. Surprisingly, Giri’s other inclusions Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura and Wei Yi will not be in Berlin, but are three players who could threaten Carlsen in the future.

Main Site: https://worldchess.com/berlin/
Games (TWIC): http://theweekinchess.com/assets/files/pgn/wchcand18.pgn
Regulations: https://www.fide.com/FIDE/handbook/regscandidates2018.pdf
Pairings: http://fide.com/images/stories/NEWS_2018/FIDE_NEWS/Candidates_Tournament_2018_Pairings.pdf
Schedule: https://worldchess.com/berlin/

2018 Candidates Tournament
March 10th-March 28th, 2018 (Berlin, Germany)
Participants
#
Name
Title
Federation
Flag
Rating
1 Mamedyarov, Shahkriyar GM Azerbaijan
2809
2 Kramnik, Vladimir GM Russia
2800
3 So, Wesley GM USA
2799
4 Aronian, Levon GM Armenia
2794
5 Caruana, Fabiano GM USA
2784
6 Ding Liren GM China
2769
7 Grischuk, Alexander GM Russia
2767
8 Karjakin, Sergey GM Russia
2763
Main Site

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum
P.O. Box 7663
Tallahassee, FL 32314-7663 USA
webmaster@thechessdrum.net
(850) 296-9494


ISBN-10: 0998118024
ISBN-13: 978-0998118024
Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
Publisher: The Chess Drum, LLC
Paperback: $27.00 (full color)

TO ORDER NOW… CLICK HERE!

Triple Exclam!!! The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior hit the market last year on March 1st with great anticipation and was well-received. Now there is a paperback equivalent on sale. It is also featured in a bold full-color format with a non-gloss finish. There have been minor corrections from the original hardback version. This collector’s item goes for $27.00 and is available at The Chess Drum. The paperback version is poised to reach a wider audience with a lower price point and bulk discounts of 10% are available at five or more copies.

In the past year, I have made additional discoveries of Tate’s legacy and perhaps these will become a topic for a more comprehensive work on chess in the African Diaspora. Hopefully, Triple Exclam will be the beginning of a series of books highlighting the unique contributions made by unheralded players overlooked in the history of chess.

Emory Tate vacationing in Mexico
Photo by Ed Lewis

Order Details

You can purchase the book by following the Paypal button below. A Paypal account is not needed. Buying in bulk cuts per unit and mailing costs, so for groups of friends, chess clubs, and vendors seeking volume discounts (for the purchase of five or more), click here to request an invoice!

International rates are currently prohibitive unless ordering quantities in multiples of five (U.S. Postal Service flat rate box). The Chess Drum is looking for international distributors to make the book accessible to a wider audience. An e-book version of Triple Exclam is forthcoming.

Some customers many be skittish about ordering online. In that case, contact me at webmaster@thechessdrum.net with number of copies needed and I’ll send an invoice. Mail orders are completed with money orders only. Also available for book signings. Make sure you add this handsome book to your collection!

FOR PURCHASING 5 OR MORE COPIES, click here!
FOR PURCHASING 1-4 COPIES, click below!

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The Chess Drum, LLC is a publisher of chess news content and literature. The organization’s website has continued to demonstrate the universality of chess by covering a variety of topics through news stories, essays, interviews, and photos since 2001. Visit The Chess Drum at thechessdrum.net and follow the beat on Facebook and Twitter!

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Muhammad Ali played chess and was a master of strategy and tactics in the boxing ring.

Each year The Chess Drum posts reflections for Black History Month. This year a video was produced with some reflections and contemporary topics. This has already been an interesting year with the release of “Black Panther” and its prospects for honors at the Oscars. It was apropos that the movie was released in February which is a month we use to intimately reflect on the success of people of the African Diaspora. That remains the mission of The Chess Drum.

The segment below is about 28 minutes long with latest Drum news, Black History nuggets and also has a trivia contest included! You’ll have to play the video to get the question and the answer. Check it out!


Video by The Chess Drum

Selected Black History articles at The Chess Drum
(Daaim Shabazz)

Black History Month: A Special Tribute!!
The Chess Drum, February 2002

The Rising of the Black Star
uschess.org, 2 March 2007

Black History: A Chess Perspective
The Chess Drum, 12 February 2010

Reflections… Black History of Chess
The Chess Drum, 24 February 2012

Rare Chess Images in Black History
The Chess Drum, 10 February, 2013

Chess through the eyes of Black History
The Chess Drum, 28 February 2014

Creating Black History in Chess
The Chess Drum, 26 February 2017

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Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

Davy Cops Fourth National Chess Champion Title

The 2018 National Chess Championship of Jamaica ended last weekend at the Christar Villas Hotel, with FIDE Master Damion Davy capturing the National Champion title for the Absolute section. This was Davy’s fourth hold on the title, which he won in 2011, jointly in 2012 and 2013.

FM Damion Davy

FM Damion Davy

Davy took the lead from Round 4 of the 11-round Championship and never looked back, eventually ending undefeated on 8.5 points, two points ahead of his nearest rival, CM Shreyas Smith, who ended on 6.5 points. Also ending on 6.5, but finishing third and fourth respectively on tiebreak were FM Malaku Lorne and NM Paul Brooks. NM Stuart James rounded out the top five on 6 points.

Despite Davy securing the title before the final round, the rest of the field continued to fight hard through to the end, as they sought to secure a place on the national team, which will participate at the 43rd Chess Olympiad later this year in Batumi, Georgia.

Defending Champion CM Smith recovers in time

Shreyas Smith

The 2017 champion, CM Shreyas Smith couldn’t reproduce his performance of last year, after suffering unexpected losses to schoolboys Raheem Glaves and NM Akeem Brown early in the tournament.

CM Smith fought until the end however, with his final game against NM Paul Brooks also being a tricky affair. The game constantly swung in each player’s favour due to time trouble experienced on both sides, along with positional complications. After 4 hours and 38 minutes and 69 moves, both players agreed to a draw, in what was the longest game of the final round of the tournament.

FM Lorne finishes strong with second half surge

After a lacklustre start, with only one point after five rounds of play, FM Malaku Lorne made a remarkable recovery with a late surge which saw him scoring a near-perfect 5.5 points from his last 6 games, to finish tied in second place. His final game against NM Brown displayed his passion for an aggressive game and accurate play, all with a calm demeanour, despite the stakes at hand. This final victory put FM Lorne in third place on tiebreak.

The final standings for the championship is as follows:


1. FM Damion Davy (8.5 points)
2. CM Shreyas Smith (6.5 points)
3. FM Malaku Lorne (6.5 points)
4. NM Paul Brooks (6.5 points)
5. NM Stuart James (6 points)
6. FM Joshua Christie (6 points)
7. Raheem Glaves (5.5 points)
8. CM Duane Rowe (5.5 points)
9. NM Kevin Merritt (5 points)
10. NM Akeem Brown (4 points)
11. NM Andrew Wallace (4 points)
12. Malik Curriah (2 points)

The sponsors of the 2018 National Chess Championship included the Sports Development Foundation, the Jamaica Olympic Association, Christar Villas Hotel and the Magnificent Chess Foundation.

Krishna Gray is Jamaica’s Women’s Champion for 2018

The 2018 National Chess Championship of Jamaica ended last weekend at the Christar Villas Hotel, with Krishna Gray capturing the National Female Champion title for the first time since 2012. Every year since 2012, she has come very close, even tying for first last year and losing out in the playoffs that took place to decide the 2017 championship. This year Gray was strong from the start, leading the tournament at the midway point on 5 points from 6 games. She continued her performance until the end, not losing a single game in the 11 Round Robin Tournament. Gray commented “This prestigious 11-round competition was truly grueling, but I was really proud that I competed and ended undefeated.”

FM Damion Davy

Krishna Gray

With this win, Gray secured her place on the national team, which will participate at the 43rd Chess Olympiad to be held later this year in Batumi, Georgia. This will be the fourth time that Gray will represent Jamaica at the biennial Chess Olympiad, where she will be seeking to gain a much sought after FIDE title if she is able to achieve a minimum of 3.5 points from 7 games.

Historic Ladies National Championship

WIM Deborah Richards-Porter, who did not play the Championship this year, but qualifies for the National Team by virtue of her current rating and performance over the year, pointed out that “in many ways this was an historic ladies championship for Jamaica, being the first time that the there was a full field of 12 players, enabling an 11 game Round Robin format”. It is also encouraging to note that 7 of the 12 players are actually juniors, all of whom are currently playing in the PCJ National High Schools tournament, and will be playing in the upcoming Serge Island National Age Group Championships to be staged this weekend.

WCM Ariel Barrett secures 2nd spot

WCM Ariel Barrett who was the Female National Champion in 2015, was one of the favourites for the 2018 title being the top-rated player in the field. After 3 rounds she was on a perfect 3 points, and then had draws with youngster WCM Adani Clarke, Sheanel Gardner and the eventual champion Krishna Gray in Round 6.

Ariel Barrett

In Round 7 she suffered her first loss to school girl Aulanni Kidd, who performed very well in this tournament ending on fourth place on 6.5 points, creating many upsets along the way in only her second attempt in a Nationals tournament. After this round WCM Barrett gained momentum winning three of the final four games, to end the tournament in second place with 7.5 points.

WCM Margoe Williams returns to chess with intensity

After a long hiatus from chess, WCM Margoe Williams returned to competitive play with intense determination. Overcoming personal challenges with the recent loss of her partner, WCM Williams had an amazing performance which was topped off by a win against the tournament favourite WCM Ariel Barrett in the final 11th round, ending on 7 points, with a spot on the national team. This result also denied WCM Barrett a tie with Gray, a playoff opportunity, and what would have been a chance to win the Championship.

The final standings for the championship is as follows:

1. Krishna Gray (8.5 points)
2. WCM Ariel Barrett (7.5 points)
3. WCM Margoe Williams (7 points)
4. Aulanni Kidd (6.5 points)
5. WCM Adani Clarke (6 points)
6. WCM Annesha Smith (5.5 points)
7. Sheanel Gardner (5 points)
8. WCM Melisha Smith (5 points)
9. Raehanna Brown (4.5 points)
10. Alliyah Yankana (4.5 points)
11. Rochelle Porter (4 points)
12. Ashanti Blackwood (2.5 points)

The sponsors of the 2018 National Chess Championship included the Sports Development Foundation, the Jamaica Olympic Association, Christar Villas Hotel and the Magnificent Chess Foundation.

~Rowena Coe
Chair of Public Relations Committee
Jamaica Chess Federation
Email: jamchessfed.public.relations@gmail.com

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Malawi Malawi Malawi

Great news! There is another outlet for African news. African Chess released its “maiden edition” with a number of interesting stories including a brief history of Malawian chess and GM Nigel Short’s visit in 2006. It was a watershed moment for the country who joined FIDE a year earlier. Africa Chess is the brainchild of Makhosi Makhisho Nyirenda, the Publicity Secretary of is the Malawi Chess Federation.

Some of the other articles are Nigerian Chess Online portal, a site hosting blitz events and highlight the exploits of Nigerian players. There is another article by Malawian player Desiderata Nkhoma who makes a solid case for increased activity and support for women’s chess.

The basic idea is to get more girls playing chess. In our planning sessions, we projected an enrollment target of 10 student but we already beat our target by 50%, enrolling 15 students of which 67% of them are girls. Last week Saturday marked the debut of our academy lessons. The lessons have been designed to accommodate everyone, so that they can learn from the comfort of their homes or free time at work. Our target is to introduce the game of Chess to at least 40 girls this year. And I believe we will surpass this goal.

Malawi’s Desiderata Nkhoma

There is an article on the Nigerian Olympiad qualifier with FM Bomo Kigigha and IM Oladapo Adu leading the way. Perhaps the most intriguing interview is the election of Israel Shilongo, the new Namibian Chess Federation President. He is only 26 years old and appears to be taking the baton from stalwarts like Charles Eichab and Otto Nakapunda. Shilongo has a “Vision 2020 Plan” set for chess development in the country. He will have four years to execute his plan.

26-year old Israel Shilongo
President of Namibia Chess Federation
Photos courtesy of Africa Chess

Whoever heard of chess being used as a “pick up line” to win the heart of someone you admire. There is a rather humorous story of a 30-year old player who wanted to learn to play to win the affection of the ladies. It’s not what you think. There is actually a motivation for that story. Also covered is an innovative program promoting chess for deaf players in Zimbabwe by London-based Tafadzwa Katiyo.

It’s quite a challenge to keep a chess news blog going, but hopefully we will see more interesting stories coming out of Malawi. All the best!

Africa Chess Mediahttps://africachessmedia.com/

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