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 Media


12-year old Tremil Anderson
Photo by LA Chess Club

Sometimes serendipity smacks you in the face. Last night while on Facebook I get a Facebook Live alert from Valerie Idehen that Maurice Ashley was playing blitz in Los Angeles’ Starbucks. I tune in and watch him beat several players with 5:1 odds. That’s not the story unless you’ve never seen Maurice play.

After Maurice was done, he was amiably chatting with other players someone mentioned “12-year old prodigy named “Tre.” Then the question started about how to find the boy. They commented that he played (and taught) at the LA Chess Club and occasionally came to the coffee shop to play blitz. I immediately started looking for “Tre” and was Googling different spellings. No luck. Then someone showed a YouTube video of a boy with an Afro analyzing a position at a demo board. Very articulate and not camera-shy.

GM Maurice Ashley watching a video clip of Tre Anderson giving a lecture at the LA Chess Club. Ashley was at a Starbucks in Ladera Heights, California. Photo still taken from Valerie Idehen’s video

As Maurice was signing autographs on everything from coffee sleeves to bus cards, Valerie asked him, “Did you hear about this 12-year old prodigy named Tre?” “Who’s Tre? What’s his rating?” Maurice interest was piqued, but no one seemed to know any details. “He teaches at the LA Chess Club.”

Really? At 12 years old?

“We gotta to find Tre,” said Maurice. Then someone showed him a different video showing Tre wearing a colorful cap. Maurice was impressed. “He looks awesome.” Definitely. “Who is his coach? We gotta go find him.” After a few minutes of watching Tre at the demo board, the search was on to find this bright boy. I found a video link and after another search learned his full name was Tremil Anderson, a local talent.

Tre will be coming for Maurice’s commentating job in a few years!

What immediately stuck out is the comfort of how he expresses himself. I have been a university professor for more than 20 years and a few of my adult students are less comfortable than Tre when presenting. I supposed when you’re presenting for a grade it’s different. 🙂

So here’s the video Maurice was shown…

Notice how comfortable he is with presenting his ideas. It is rare to see this level of maturity, and some high-level Grandmasters even struggle with it. Former World Champion Garry Kasparov once said, “Hard work is a talent” and Tre is already showing that he can work hard at improving in chess. While there is not much information on him in scholastic chess, there are a few videos of note. He tied for 1st in the Western Class Championships last April and has a current USCF rating of 1944.

Note that he is a Dragon aficionado and plays an insane game against NM Robert Shlyakhtenko, a U.S. All-American. One of the things I would caution Tre about is responding to every comment on YouTube.

What is good about Tre is that he did ANOTHER video analyzing the game above after many naysayers commented that he should have captured the rook with Nxh1 instead of playing Nxe4. In this video, he goes through the game move-by-move and explains his point. This shows that he is self-critical and seeking to improve. While he certainly is a chess talent, his work ethic is more impressive.

At this rate it is possible that he could make National Master this year. Finally is another game with Tre analyzing an interesting game in the Tarrasch French. After the session, club manager Mick Bighamian analyzed the same game.

It is obvious that Tre is a huge talent and the work he is putting in will yield dividends in chess and anything he aspires to do in life. It appears that Maurice will have competition to commentate the next Sinquefield Cup! 😉


Another year has passed and The Chess Drum is still beating at 17 years. It’s been quite an interesting journey. Things have changed drastically from the times we were reading Informants and MCO to the current times of ChessBase 14, Twitch banter videos and cage matches. During the time of The Chess Drum, I have seen an evolution from websites to blogs to social media to videos. It has been interesting to see how the delivery of chess content has changed over the years.

Currently, The Chess Drum houses thousands of pages of content from over the years. The focus now is to compile the information as part of a book series. It is a long overdue project and one that will show the universality of chess and the contributions an overlooked segment has made. Below are some of the tens of thousands of photos captured over the years. Some I had forgotten about.

Drum Reflections (2001-2007)!
CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.

Drum Reflections (2008-2014)!
CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.

Drum Reflections (2015-2017)!
CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.

Last year, I released Triple Exclam!!! The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior. The reception was enthusiastic and I have about 20 hardbacks left due to a cancelled order. I have a paperback version on the way in a couple of weeks. While I only wrote 118 articles (down from average of around 200) last year, the emphasis on publishing Triple Exclam was the priority.

In 2018, there is a hope that The Chess Drum will revisit some of the stories and continue to document new history. Such an undertaking is very bold as one has to have the discipline, time and resources to keep it beating. It hasn’t been easy and it is a rather thankless effort. Nevertheless, the value of the material will become more evident when the books immortalize our great game.

Thanks for purchases of Triple Exclam and for the support of The Chess Drum over the 17 years! KEEP THE BEAT GOING!!


Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum

Happy 17th!!



Before going to Spain in an attempt to defend his Gibraltar titles (2008, 2015, 2016, 2017), GM Hikaru Nakamura traveled to South Africa for a visit and a series of exhibitions. There were a number of videos buzzing around in social media and the visions of over-excited South Africans made it a must-see event. Nakamura arrived in Johannesburg the morning of January 3rd and in the evening played the final of the 2017 Speed Chess Championship Final against World Champion Magnus Carlsen. What great timing!

Hikaru Nakamura (seated onstage) playing Magnus Carlsen from the main auditorium of Birchwoods Hotel and Conference Center in Johannesburg, South Africa (match link). All photos by Lennart Ootes

Nakamura was in South Africa as part of a week-long whirlwind tour featuring a variety of events… most notably the 2017 South African Junior Chess Championships. He is one of few top-level GMs to have touched African soil, a sad reality.

Hikaru Nakamura at simul before the South African Junior Championships.

Nakamura faced 101 players and go 92 wins, 7 draws and 2 losses!

Nakamura did visit Libya for the 2004 FIDE Knockout, but had not ventured to the Sub-Saharan African region. Of course, Maurice Ashley and Pontus Carlsson have recently visited the continent to participate in an “Chess Masters for African Tour,” but Viswanathan Anand (Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa), Judit Polgar (Botswana) and Nigel Short (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria to name a few) are a few of the top-10 GMs (past and present) who have ventured to the continent… especially south of the Sahara.

Despite being a continent needing the most assistance to propel chess development, Africa has received little attention from FIDE officials and struggles to gain the attention of local officials. Ironically, it becomes a battleground every four years during the FIDE elections. Thus far, things are quiet politically. Nevertheless, the arrival of a top Grandmaster is always a jolt of adrenaline and Nakamura’s appearance was no exception.

Posing with prize winners at Closing of South African Junior Championships

Nakamura has developed into one of the biggest brands in the chess world. He makes himself accessible to fans and seems to be willing to accept almost any online challenge. His banter and Twitch videos are ever-popular and his style never disappoints. However, his South African trip was not only a community service appearance and a vacation, but it turned out to be much more activity than we could imagine. There was even a session of blitz lawn chess!

Large crowd came out to Joubert Park!

Blitz Lawn Chess!

He found himself in the famous Joubert Park where he faced off against all comers including IM Johannes Mabusela. The scene was electric and the American Grandmaster seemed to enjoy the moment. Here is one battle giving opponent 3:1 time odds and 10:1 money odds. Of course, the money wasn’t the issue, but it certainly upped the pressure on the four-time American champion. Check this out!

Videos by Mike Klein (

What is the significance of a set of blitz games? Certainly, blitz is a common pastime in the chess world and a staple of chess in the park. What is amazing is NOT the fact that a Grandmaster is playing in the park, but it happens to be one of the top players in the world. It would still be news if Nakamura showed up in Washington Square Park, but to bring such excitement to the South African community is enough to provide an impetus for chess development.

Few of the top players make these type of appearances, but if they knew the impact these visits could have, many may venture to Africa more often. Mikhail Botvinnik would no doubt be horrified at Nakamura playing blitz in a park against random players, but the beauty is that chess gains a new level of respect and prestige.

No doubt that blitz certainly has a place, but more importantly Nakamura shows that moving fast is necessary but not sufficient in blitz. Many park players are fast and can create problems with unorthodox play and gambits, but cannot match the quality of moves of a professional blitz player. Here Nakamura gets into an interesting situation over pawn promotion…

IM Johannes Mabusela was enjoying the festivities…

…and even got a game in (see game).

Mike Klein of interviews Nakamura
at Joubert Park in Johannesburg, South Africa

Videos by (Mike Klein)

What can we gather from this exhibition? We saw the enthusiasm throughout the visit during the simul, the ceremonies and even in the park. Players in South Africa have a lot of passion for chess and it’s quite a boost when you have the world’s strongest players to visit. It helps the marketability of chess and also provides prospects for future events.

I have also stated that the best chance for African players to earn FIDE titles is to attract professional players to the continent. It’s fine for strong players to come and give lectures and simuls, but the idea of hosting strong tournaments on the continent would provide such a catalyst for growth. Traveling abroad is cost-prohibitive for many non-professional African players, and there are few opportunities on the vast continent.

Seeing Nakamura playing in South African parks give chess a bit more accessibility that the top-level tournaments don’t provide. Here we saw the many faces of chess: online championship chess, scholastic chess and park chess. Fortunately, there are organizations making a push for chess development and Kasparov Chess Foundation for Africa (KCFA) continues to make a strong presence. Thanks to Graham Jurgensen of KCFA and the organizing committee for making this happen!

Great day at Joubert Park!
All photos by Lennart Ootes (galleries here)


Daniel X Jones vs. Alejandro RamirezGM Alejandro Ramirez

Blitz Battle on January 27th!
Daniel X Jones vs. GM Alejandro Ramirez

The Chicago Chess Club will be hosting their first major event of the year when GM Alejandro Ramirez will be coming to the Windy City for a simultaneous exhibition and a match with Daniel X Jones. Promoter Nathan Kelly asserted that the match is the main event, but of course the Costa Rican born Grandmaster is a huge favorite to score an overwhelming result.

Jones has proven to be battle-tested, so he looks to make the match competitive. Will he shock the world? When The Chess Drum told Ramirez that losing to Jones would result in a worldwide broadcast, he took in in stride and said, “Haha, I don’t doubt that!”

There have been a number of highly-publicized cage matches featuring Jones who for the past month has been hosting an entertaining segment known as the “Midday Massacre.” These are short segments where he plays several 1-minute chess games with players from around the world. The games are dotted with colorful trash talk. Jones has been a member of the Chicago Chess Blitzers traveling team who have won three matches with a pending match against New York on March 3rd. He has also played three head-to-head matches with FM Jimmy Canty, NM Shawn Martinez and NM Jeff DeJesus.

Daniel X Jones vs. FM James Canty III

Jones takes on FM James Canty III in blitz battle!
Photo by Nathan Kelly

Ramirez is best known as a broadcaster in Grand Chess Tour events and U.S. Championships. He has also hosted the Spanish coverage for the St. Louis Chess Club where he is a Grandmaster-in-Residence. He also has produced ChessBase DVDs on the Benko Gambit and annotated one such game of Emory Tate’s in Triple Exclam. He is currently the coach of the St. Louis University Chess Team who recently qualified for the Pan-Am Intercollegiate “Final Four” tournament in the spring.

GM Alejandro Ramirez has fully deemed himself from last year's poor showing. He is still in the running for the title.

GM Alejandro Ramirez (left) in the 2013 U.S. Championship,
a tournament he came close to winning!
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Ramirez first gained notoriety as a 14-year old by nearly beating Alexander Morozevich in the 2002 Olympiad in Bled, Slovenia. Then an IM, he scored 9/14 and caught the eyes of many. The young star was able to get some invitations and later qualified for the FIDE World Cup. In 2003, Ramirez became a Grandmaster at the age of 15 becoming the first Costa Rican to earn the coveted title. He was later able to secure a scholarship to University of Texas-Dallas and earned two degrees from the school. After a short stint in the video game industry, he decided to focus on chess full-time. In 2011, he switched his federation to the U.S.

It should be a good weekend for the Chess Chess Club. Spots for the simultaneous exhibition are $30 and the event will start at 11am before the big match. Lunch will be provided! Match will begin at 5pm. There will be 10 5-minute games and 11 3-minute games. Games will be broadcast on Facebook Live!


Prime Minister Erna Solberg and President Donald Trump
days before his infamous remarks.
Photo by CNBC

President Donald Trump has had a tumultuous tenure in his year in the Oval Office. Constantly dogged by Tweets, off-color comments, contradictions, he was recently blasted for making disparaging comments about Haitians, Nigerians and Africans in general. He recently said if Nigerians came to the U.S., they would not want to go “back to their huts” and that for Haitians, “they all have AIDS.” He characterized developing nations as “sh!*hole countries” and suggested that the U.S. give Norwegians more consideration for immigration. In fact, Trump had just met with Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg so he may not have chosen the country randomly.

Without realizing it Trump has invoked an interesting side note two years after the U.S. won the gold medal at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. Perhaps he doesn’t know that the World Champion is Norwegian, or that the country’s citizens already do quite well, but what if World Champion Magnus Carlsen were to join the U.S. Chess Federation? Since we’re living in a fantasy world, we can imagine the 2020 U.S. Olympiad team in Russia: Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So. Impressive, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

While Trump has proven to have very objectionable views on nationality, gender and race, would getting a particular chess-playing Norwegian to join the U.S. be a good idea? Since we are building a fantasy wish-list, how about World Junior Champion Aryan Tari? Trump would probably encourage such a move until he discovered that Aryan’s parents hail from Iran. Of course, the entire episode is ridiculous and the U.S. should not build a policy based purely on religion or nationality.

In the final analysis, referring to other countries in such objectionable ways (while praising others) is certainly unbefitting for such a high office. Imagine if a FIDE President uttered such obscenities. Unfortunately, this talk is sometimes heard in the chess world during an election year when some imply that smaller federations (particularly from Africa) would be willing to accept money and favors for votes. Let’s hope we don’t hear such comments as we move toward selecting a new FIDE President. Let’s also hope no other President (of any organization) will stoop to historic levels of crude language.


Tata Steel Chess 2018

One of the marquee tournaments kicked off today in Wijk ann Zee with the opening of the 80th Tata Steel Chess Tournament. World Champion Magnus Carlsen is coming off of his 2017 Grand Tour win and the recent Blitz title to play in his 14th Tata tournament. He won in 2016 and will be looking to take the crown from Wesley So who won it last year.

Wesley So, winner of 2017 Tata Steel Chess Photo by Alina L’Ami (Tata Steel Chess)

The field will feature a number of players who are poised for the Candidates tournament in March. 2018 participants Fabiano Caruana, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Vladimir Kramnik, and Sergey Karjakin will join So in London for a right to challenge Carlsen in the World Championship this year. Veterans Viswanathan Anand and Peter Svidler are going to cause some problems for the young crop of stars in the field. Wei Yi, at 18 years old, is perhaps one of the most highly-touted teens.

Other interesting additions will be Hou Yifan who was former Women’s Champion and has announced she is going to attend Oxford University for graduate studies. Baskaran Adhiban is making a return appearance after being the darling of last year’s event with +2. Debutante Maxim Matlakov has gotten his first invitation at age 26 and is the reigning European Champion. Last by not least is the Challengers winner Gawain Jones got the better tiebreaks over Markus Ragger. Both ended on 9/13.

The Challengers tournament will be led by Indian sensation Vidit Santosh Gujrathi touted by Anand as the future of Indian chess. The field includes the last two World Junior Champions in Norway’s Aryan Tari (2017) and Jeffery Xiong (2016). Four-time African champion Bassem Amin of Egypt is making his first appearance at Tata Steel. He recently broke the 2700 barrier becoming the first African player to do so.

Two women will provide lots of excitement as the congenial Harika Dronavali returns to Wijk to compete along with her colleague Olga Giriya who is making her first trip. There are a number of young Dutch talents in the field including the van Foreest brothers Jorden (18) and Lucas (16) and Benjamin Bok (23). Erwin L’Ami will most likely be the pacesetter for the Dutch side to protect home turf. Russia’s 21-year old Dmitri Gordievsky rounds out the field.

Tata Steel is an Indian multinational conglomerate consisting of a number of industries. Those following the tournament from the early days will remember it as the Hoorgovens, a Dutch steel company that would later merge with British steel to form the Corus Group. When Tata steel purchased Corus in 2007, the tournament took on the name of Indian conglomerate.

Video by Tata Steel

Official Site:
Videos: (YouTube)

2018 Tata Steel Tournament
January 13th-28th, 2018 (Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands)
1 Carlsen, Magnus GM Norway
2 Caruana, Fabiano GM USA
3 Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar GM Azerbaijan
4 So, Wesley GM USA
5 Kramnik, Vladimir GM Russia
6 Svidler, Peter GM Russia
7 Anand, Viswanathan GM India
8 Karjakin, Sergey GM Russia
9 Giri, Anish GM Netherlands
10 Wei, Yi GM China
11 Matlakov, Maxim GM Russia
12 Hou, Yifan GM China
13 Adhiban, Baskaran GM India
14 Jones, Gawain GM England
1 Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi GM India
2 Amin, Bassem GM Egypt
3 Krasenkow, Michal GM Poland
4 Bluebaum, Matthias GM Germany
5 Korobov, Anton GM Ukraine
6 Xiong, Jeffery GM USA
7 L’Ami, Erwin GM Netherlands
8 van Foreest, Jorden GM Netherlands
9 Gordievsky, Dmitry GM Russia
10 Bok, Benjamin GM Netherlands
11 Tari, Aryan GM Norway
12 Harika, Dronavalli GM India
13 Girya, Olga WGM Russia
14 Van Foreest, Lucas IM Netherlands
Official Site


Some years ago, I stumbled onto a Google document featuring a video of Bobby Fischer shortly after he was released (March 24, 2005) from his nine-month imprisonment. I had not seen it on any chess-related website and had been meaning to do a brief on it after some reservations. Fischer had immediately shaven his scraggly beard grown over his nine months in prison, but had a noticeable knot on his head. It’s not clear if this was from an injury during numerous scuffles with Japanese prison guards.

Bobby Fischer nine months after Japanese detention.Bobby Fischer after two weeks in Iceland (after release)

On the left, Bobby Fischer photo taken after nine months of Japanese detention. Media sources have spitefully presented this ghastly image as the last impression of Fischer. He shaved the beard down shortly after arriving in Iceland. On the right, Bobby Fischer two weeks after his release in Iceland. Photos from

This clip began with Fischer in a relaxed mood at the Hotel Loftleideir Reykjavik discussing a wide range of issues from the music of the Temptations to religion to the state of chess. While many erroneously state that Fischer didn’t have any interests outside of chess, it is clear that he was a sports enthusiast, loved “soul music,” swimming, bowling and was a voracious reader of literature.

Bobby Fischer heading to his first press conference on Friday March 25th 2005, one day after arriving in Iceland. Photo by Associated Press.

The video appeared to be shot by his friend Saemundur “Saemi” Palsson, who was instrumental in settling into his adopted country. I would imagine that this video was used for the documentary Me and Bobby Fischer detailing his last years. The video is broken into different clips, but gives a very interesting view of Fischer in his last years in Iceland. He passed away in Iceland in 2008 at age 64 and is buried outside of Reykjavik. The last time #BobbyFischer was trending was during the premier of the movie, Pawn Sacrifice, an interesting but unflattering account of his life.

The segment with neurologist Dr. Kári Stefánsson, co-founder of deCODE Genetics, was particularly interesting because they discussed Fischer’s legal issues. As the were eating lunch, it was apparent that this was a central focus of Fischer’s bitterness… the book Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess and the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer were violations mentioned. Of course Fischer was very direct in his view that he had been exploited.

Bobby Fischer having lunch with wife Miyoko Watai and Dr. Kári Stefánsson.

Bobby Fischer having lunch with wife Miyoko Watai (left) and Dr. Kári Stefánsson while discussing his legal issues.

Stefánsson seemed to be operating from the notion that Fischer was speaking irrationally (or resorting to “coprolalia”) about certain issues, but of course he raised very good points about the legal case. The tension in the conversation was sometimes broken by laughter. “He hasn’t lost his sense of humour,” said Stefánsson. Also on the video were some interesting conversations with Fischer Random during this lunch meeting and even mention of possible match.

The video seemed to be situated out of order because in the middle of the video, they showed the clip of Fischer on the airplane from Japan to Iceland (via Denmark) with the scraggly beard. He discussed his account of imprisonment in the Japanese jail. In other parts he discussed old classic songs, Michael Jackson, his legal situation with the U.S. government, his Icelandic citizenship, prearrangement in chess and the question of God. Fischer was even seen singing Dean Martin’s, “That’s Amore.” It’s an interesting account. Enjoy!

Video by Saemundur Palsson


National Master Ernest “Steve” Colding has been a mainstay in New York chess for more than 40 years. He has an affable persona and for the past 30 years has shared his joy of chess with students in the New York area. As one of the original “Black Bears of Chess,” he continues to enjoy a fierce game of blitz. With yet another contribution to the chess community, he has released a new book titled, “Teach Your Child Chess in 10 Easy Lessons.”

The book extols the virtues of chess and provides a learning guide with 10 lessons. The target market are parents and coaches of schoolchildren with the idea of making it a fun learning activity. There are a number of interactive exercises with helpful diagrams and 53 challenge exercises. It’s an enjoyable book for teaching your children. I was one of the first to purchase a copy. Get yours today!


GM Pontus Carlsson is becoming a regular on the African scene to conduct training sessions. The Swedish national participated in the 2017 Africa Tour visiting Botswana, Namibia and Zambia. The trip, sponsored by the Paul Allen Foundation, was a rousing success and featured other Black chess masters including Maurice Ashley and Kenny Solomon.

His latest visit to Kenya was sponsored by MiniChess, an initiative started in South Africa by Marisa van der Merve. The program as launched in December 2015 and signed Kasparov Chess for Africa as a partner.

Hi Daaim just so that you know I am in Kenya now and will do some big Exhibition at the big Shopping Mall Village Market in 2 hours.

As of recent, Carlsson has been developing his chess webinars, but he recently visited Kenya for series of events. He was featured November 26th during “game night” at the Village Market mall with Brian Kidula of the Terrian Chess Academy serving as his host. He urged Kenyans to come out to “watch, play, learn chess in 5 minutes” and to learn about chess initiatives in Kenya. He also visited school children in Nairobi and Mombosa.

Carlsson at a press conference shortly after arriving in Nairobi.

Carlsson with Brian Kidula of Terrian Chess Academy

The expressive GM gives words of encouragement.

Carlsson giving a blindfold exhibition
Photos by Terrian Chess Academy

Carlsson has entered into a strategic partnership with the Terrian Chess Academy “with the goal of making Kenya a chess powerhouse, as well as empowering the youth with logical thinking, planning, memorization techniques and visualization skills; which will be critical aids in shaping their lives.” The Club added that the Nairobi Safari Club helped with the accommodation for the 12 days.

Turning Kenya into a chess powerhouse is a tall order, but with the webinar format it could be suitable if the right infrastructure is put into place. Carlsson conducts group lessons and can continue the relationship with African talents. We look forward to see the results of the initiatives.

If you are interested in contacting GM Carlsson and signing up for his webinars, please contact him with the following information:

Twitter: @GMCarlsson
Facebook: Pontus Carlsson


The year 2017 was an interesting year showing that chess is becoming more universal with the steady rise of China and India. Viswanathan Anand won the World Rapid and took 3rd in the World Blitz, a sign that he is still a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming Candidate’s Tournament. If this is his last stand, then we should be effusive in our praise as Anand has been an ultimate statesman.

Behind Anand comes some talented players such as Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (2721 ELO) and prodigies 13-year old Nihal Sarin and 12-year old Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu. We will see what progress they make in 2018. In this Olympiad year, we will see more stars come out from diverse places.

Speaking of diverse places, The Chess Drum was able to make a presence in South Africa and presented the club with a copy of the book, “Triple Exclam.” In addition, there was a photo essay done to capture the beauty of the continent. It’s about time we staged more tournaments there. The continent just produced its first 2700 player in Bassem Amin. Progress!

Reuben Salimu and Daaim Shabazz

Reuben Salimu and Daaim Shabazz
at Claremont Chess Club in Cape Town, South Africa

In the U.S., there was some buzz pertaining to the blitz battles that were being staged by the Chicago Chess Blitzers. They staged three team matches with (Memphis, Cleveland and St. Louis) and a number of cage matches with Daniel X Jones as one of the main blitzers. In the coming year, fans are awaiting the Chicago vs. New York showdown. Nathan Kelly has done a fantastic job in promoting the events.

The 2017 saw the launch of the aforementioned Triple Exclam!!! The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior in March. The book was well-received and was featured on a broadcast during the U.S. Chess Championships. The book is still available through The Chess Drum and paperback version will be available in a few weeks.

Interview at 2017 U.S. Championship

Tan Zhongyi
Photo by David Llada

There were a couple of controversies with the 2017 Women’s World Championship being held in Tehran leading to “hijabate” boycotts by a few players including the U.S. Women’s champion. Despite the controversy, the event was well-run and Tan Zhongyi won the crown. Sadly, she has made no effort to maintain her activity since winning.

In other news, the other finalist Anna Muzychuk protested the 2017 World Rapid and Blitz held in Saudi Arabia last week because of human rights concerns. The other issue was the refusal of visas to the Israeli players due to political sanctions.

World Champion Magnus Carlsen made a statement in the Norwegian media, “If the world Chess championships are to be played in Saudi Arabia again they MUST allow all players from all countries to participate.”

Here was my take…

In the World Rapid and Blitz, Viswanathan Anand defied odds to win the Rapid segment while Ju Wenjun of China took the women’s competition. In the Blitz competition, Magnus Carlsen defended his title by winning in convincing style, crushing the competition on the second day with 9/10 and ending on 16/21. Nana Dzagnidze won the women’s tournament with 16.5/21. There was a controversy when Russia’s Ernesto Inarkiev tried to claim a win against Carlsen for saying Carlsen made an illegal move. He didn’t. The problem was Inarkiev was the one who made an illegal move! Here is what happened…

Arbiter told Inarkiev to play on after which he refused and appealed. He lost the appeal and the game. Carlsen went on to have fantastic result. If Inarkiev had gotten away with an obvious fraud, it could’ve changed the nature of the tournament. Carlsen’s win was a sort of “poetic justice.”

Forgot to mention that another World Champion was blitzing when Garry Kasparov played in the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament in August. The Chess Drum covered the event and while it was difficult to get an interview with the 13th World Champion, others were conducted with Grandmasters Levon Aronian, Leinier Dominguez and Elshan Moradiabadi.

Interviewing Levon Aronian after he won the 2017 St. Louis Rapid & Blitz
Photo by Peter Doggers

The Chess Drum takes pride in covering interesting and/or unheralded chess personalities and this year we covered several who earned acclaim: Deborah Richards-Porter (chess entrepreneur), FM Justus Williams (3rd IM norm), Tom Murphy (blitz impresario), Frank Johnson (World Amateur-Italy), Lawyer Times (state champion), Phiona Mutesi (college), IM Adham Fawzy (brilliancy), and Baraka Shabazz (former prodigy).

Unfortunately, there were a few deaths reported by The Chess Drum including Kenneth Clayton a few days ago (obituary). Also joining the realm of the ancestors as Charles Kuwaza of Zimbabwe (obituary), Everest Tucker of the U.S. (obituary) They left their respective legacies and in this next year we will make new ones. Following are the memories from 2017. Enjoy!













Happy 2018!!


Chess Club Live, a large social media organization announced their awards for 2017 via Twitter. There were various categories and followers were asked to vote in several categories. The vote was conducted via Twitter poll and there was a limited window of time. In a year when an number of interesting books have been released, it was an honor for a publication from The Chess Drum to be included. “Triple Exclam” covered the life of IM Emory Tate, an enigmatic and exciting figure in the chess world. The project was well-received and a paperback version is soon to be released.

The following books were nominated:

Jan Timman, “Timmans Titans” (New in Chess)
Viktor Moskalenko, “Training with Moska” (New in Chess)
Carsten Hansen, “Closed Sicilian: Move by Move (Everyman Chess)
Daaim Shabazz, “Triple Exclam!!! The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior” (The Chess Drum)

In the final tally, both Timman and Shabazz got 36% each and were declared co-winners.

While is was a small samples of votes from a large chess community, it was interesting to see what the market acceptance is for certain types of books. In addition, the categories and nominees therein exposed us to chess personalities and innovations we may not have known about. It is with some pride that we can have in the fact that chess is continuing to grow. Each of the person nominated for any honor will certainly know that they have made a contribution to moving chess forward.

Voted Awards

Photographer of the Year: Alina L’Ami (link)

Download of the Year: The Anna Rudolf Method (link)

Podcast of the Year: Ben Johnson for Perpetual Chess Podcast (link)

Blogger of the Year: (tie) KimiyaChess and Carsten Hansen (link)

Best Chess News Feed: Fast Chess (link)

Performance of the Year: Deep Mind’s Alpha Zero (link)

Enterprise of the Year: Chessbidder (link)

Magazine of the Year: New In Chess (link)

Server of the Year: lichess (link)

Videographer of the Year: GM Daniel King (link)

Best Chess App: FollowChess (link)

Best Twitter Account: @HowardStaunton (link)

Player of the Year: Levon Aronian (link)

Tournament of the Year: Gibraltar Tradewise Chess Tournament (result)

Social Network of the Year: (link)

Prodigy of the Year: Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu (link)

Founders of the Year: (tie) Carina Jorgenson & Michael Mkpadi for Chess Club Live and Thibault Duplessis for lichess (link)

Innovator of the Year: Chessify Me (link)

Statistician of the Year: 2700chess (link)

Coach of the Year: GM RB Ramesh (link)

Retailer of the Year: House of Staunton (link)

TV Show of the Year: chess24 (link)

Online Resource of the Year: Chess University (link)

Commentary Team of the Year: Jennifer Shahade, Maurice Ashley, Cristian Chirila, Yasser Seirawan (link)

Commentator of the Year: GM Jan Gustafsson (link)

Author of the Year: (tie) Jan Timman for “Timman’s Titan” and Daaim Shabazz for “Triple Exclam” (link)

Game of the Year: Bai Jinshi vs. Ding Liren (link)

Tournament Director of the Year: Jeroen Van Den Berg for Tata Steel (link)

Editor of the Year: Macauley Peterson (link)

Editorial Journalist: Leon Watson for the UK Telegraph (link)

Beast of the Year: Viswanathan Anand for 2017 World Rapid and Blitz
Journalist of the Year: Tarjei Svensen


Four young men from New York have continued their ambitions in chess at Webster University under the tutelage of Grandmaster Susan Polgar and Paul Truong. Shawn Swindell was the first to enter Webster and he also plays on the basketball team. He was followed by FIDE Masters Joshua Colas and Justus Williams last year who both secured scholarships. National Master James Black Jr. enrolled this past Fall to make the quartet complete.

Shawn Swindell, James Black, Jr., Josh Colas and Justus Williams at 2017 Pan-Am Intercollegiate in Columbus, Ohio

Webster University “C”

Shawn Swindell, James Black, Jr., Josh Colas and Justus Williams
at 2017 Pan-Am Intercollegiate in Columbus, Ohio
Photo by Paul Truong

The four have known each other since they were just entering the chess scene over a decade ago. All are from New York: Shawn and James (Brooklyn), Justus (Bronx) and Josh (White Plains). Colas, Williams, and Black were the subjects of numerous articles since becoming National Master before turning 13 years old. Excitement was high when the three masters had committed to Webster.

Their pending admissions open a new chapter in the history of chess as it relates to the African Diaspora and provides a path for their evolution, not only as aspiring Grandmasters but as mature men with a purpose in life.

~From 2016 article, “African-American Chess Masters Making Move to Next Level

In what has been the subject of many studies, young Black men have struggled in many of the social indicators denoting upward mobility. While all will most likely trod different paths to success, these four men are now together at Webster pursuing aspiration in both chess and in higher education. It is a story we don’t hear often enough, especially from America’s major urban areas.

Chess Life (July 2012)

Before enrolling all had storied careers in scholastic chess with numerous national championships between them. What is more important is the support they are giving each other in a world where Black players have lower levels of participation, comparatively speaking. There have always been challenges in this regard, and perhaps this is what makes the story so intriguing.

Of course, the chances of each accomplishing their goals are a lot greater with the support they provide each other. Given all of the negative and “gangsta” images of Black men in the media, it may be improbable to some that these men can be chess impresarios and work toward degrees as well. Societal stereotypes still prevail. In one of the interviews, Josh and James have reflected on these awkward situations.

“It’s actually pretty funny for me,” Black Jr. said. “When I tell people I play chess, a lot of people tend to be like, ‘wow, you don’t look like the type.’ For me, I’m into chess, but I’m also into fashion and things like that. I’m into a lot of stuff. I feel like there’s not a real appearance for a typical chess player. You just do what you do.”

“I would say it doesn’t matter how you look, honestly,” Colas added. “It’s all what’s in the brain. I tell people a hobo could be better than you in chess. You never know.” (link)

Chair and President Meg Hauge of Chess Challenge hosts James Black, Jr., Josh Colas and Justus Williams at the 2016 event in Washington, DC.

Such comments are still quite common. While they may be innocent “as-a-matter-of-fact” comments, they can be unsettling when they are offered on a regular basis. That’s not counting the snarky and mean-spirited comments in social media. Chess has its own image issues despite the game’s changing face over the past 20 years. The game is a lot younger, more diverse, and a lot more dynamic than the outdated “egghead” public perception in which it is painted.

Over the past weekend, the four students were on the same team for the first time representing the Webster Gorlocks at the 2017 Pan-Am Intercollegiate. It wouldn’t have mattered what their result was, but there was a sense of pride that we had in seeing the photograph of them representing excellence.

Shawn Swindell, James Black, Jr., Josh Colas and Justus Williams at 2017 Pan-Am Intercollegiate in Columbus, Ohio

(L-R) Shawn Swindell, James Black, Jr., Josh Colas and Justus Williams set for action at 2017 Pan-Am Intercollegiate in Columbus, Ohio. GM Susan Polgar (standing) is part of the historic assembly of the “Young Lions” from New York. Photo by Paul Truong

It is well known that when Black students (regardless of nationality) are at predominantly-White institutions (PWIs), it may be hard for others to comprehend the sense of isolation. In general, there are not always the proper support mechanisms in place to help students cope with tension that students sometimes feel when they are of a ethnic, national or religious minority. Sometimes all one has is the camaraderie of friends.

It is certainly difficult being a trailblazer. Regardless of what happens from henceforth, the four young men may come to understand the historic step they took. Chess has been able to provide them with an opportunity to seek their individual ambitions and to say they have once played on the same team. Perhaps they will one day realize the examples they are setting for generations to come!


“When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.”
~ African Proverb

The chess world lost another pioneer the other day when National Master Kenneth Roger Clayton passed away on December 26th. The 79-year old Maryland resident was a person of consequence: a scholar, chess master, loving father/husband and scuba diver. He was the 4th African-American to earn the title of National Master.

Ken Clayton analyzing with teen prodigy Baraka Shabazz
Still photo taken from ABC News

When Paul Truong announced Clayton’s passing, you could feel the outpouring of emotions.

I am so sorry to bring bad news. NM Kenneth Clayton, my 1st and only chess teacher in Saigon, South Vietnam, and one of the first African American to earn the National Master title, passed away yesterday. His daughter Darlene just informed me.

RIP Mr. Clayton, you will be missed, and thank you for being a chess role model for me!

Darlene Clayton told The Chess Drum that her father passed away on December 26th after a battle with Alzheimer’s. At the time of his death, he lived in Columbia, Maryland with his wife Miriam Parker Clayton. Born, July 26, 1938, Clayton came from a hard-working family and attended the prestigious Dunbar High School in Washington, DC. He was salutatorian, student leader and earned admission offers from all of the Ivy League institutions on the east coast.

Kenneth Clayton at Dunbar H.S. in Washington, DC

Photos from Dunbar H.S. yearbook, 1955

The 17-year old standout chose Harvard College and enrolled in 1955, the same year he took up chess. For the next two years, he became engrossed in his chess activities and played for Harvard Chess Team along with Shelby Lyman, Arthur Freeman, and G. Sveikauskas.

In a bold step, Clayton decided to leave the university and take a decidedly different path. His younger brother Robert Clayton would continue the tradition and graduated from Harvard before going to George Washington Law School to become an attorney. While he was still focused intently on chess, he was also smitten by Serilda Taylor and they were married in 1961.

Clayton’s first rated-tournament was the District of Columbia Open in 1959 in which he placed 6th. He got an impressive rating of 2020 as a result. In the early 60s, the Claytons bore two daughters. Darlene found humor in the fact that her father tried to expose his daughters to chess to no avail! “I couldn’t sit still that long,” she joked.

At this point, Clayton became deeply involved in computing sciences and was a specialist at Hydronautics, Inc. in Laurel, Maryland. At that point, he was still trying to maintain his chess activity along with family duties. During Memorial Day weekend in 1963, Clayton entered the U.S. Amateur in Asbury Park, New Jersey as the 8th ranked player in a field of 160 players.

With a rating of 2102, the 24-year old Clayton had kept pace with other youthful front-runners. Going into the last round, three players had 5-1/2 points, Clayton, Stan Tomchin and David Daniels. Clayton quickly drew with Tomchin and Daniels was held to a draw by Charles Rehberg. As a result, Clayton won on superior tiebreaks among several players ending with a 6-1 score. Here is his game with Milton Danon, who would later win the 1979 U.S. Amateur.

For the next few years, a number of events would change the course of his life as he continued to pursue chess ambitions. He took on a contract as a computer specialist in Vietnam. While Clayton was not involved with military operations, he was there during Vietnam’s conflict with the U.S.

Finally, Clayton would eclipse the 2200 rating barrier in June 1967 and earn the National Master title. He was the fourth Black player to earn the accolade. Walter Harris, Frank Street, and Leroy Jackson preceded him. While working in Vietnam, Clayton won the 1968 Vietnam Chess Championship held at the Tan Son Nhut USO in Saigon.

“He was one of the kindest people you can ever meet.”
~Paul Truong

In around 1970, Clayton met Tien Truong and his 5-year old son Hoainhan Truong, who assumed the name of “Paul.” His father had already taught him the basic chess moves. Despite the fact that the boy couldn’t speak English, Clayton took the inquisitive and curious boy under his wing. He taught him the finer points of the game, took him to tournaments and soon recognized that he possessed a talent for chess.

Randall Hough captured this relationship in a September 1986 article in Chess Life magazine. He interviewed Clayton in Saigon and asked about Paul, who had created a sensation by winning the equivalent of the national championship at age eight!! While the boy enjoyed swimming and other games, chess seemed to intrigue him. Clayton gave this assessment of Paul’s potential…

“He was always attentive, retained what I taught him, possessed good nerves and evaluated positions objectively. I recall one game against a strong player, whom Paul defeated in an ending in which he used a Bishop to trap his opponent’s Knight on the run of the board. Playing virtually a piece up, he just walked in with the King. He had seen a similar maneuver in one of my games.”

The relationship continued after the Vietnam War was over. Both Tien and Paul endured a tortuous journey to arrive in New Jersey December 1st, 1979. You can read Hough’s article here. On June 17th, 2007, The Chess Drum ran an article about Truong and Clayton’s special kinship. Truong sent The Chess Drum the following note about Clayton:

“He is the most instrumental person in my chess career (other than my father) who took me to all the chess tournaments when I was young. It was quite a challenge because we could not communicate with each other except for hand signals and pointing things out on the chess board. I developed my playing style through him. In addition to chess, I learned how to properly act on and off the chess board. He is a class act.”

FIDE Master Paul Truong (right) pictured here with Kenneth Clayton with his wife Grandmaster Susan Polgar in Rockville, Maryland. He stated, “A few years ago when the College Chess Final Four was in Washington, DC, he came to visit my wife and I. He even came to St. Louis to visit us and my sisters in law.” Photo courtesy of Paul Truong

Clayton continued to play intermittently and battled the then-World Champion Anatoly Karpov in a 1977 simultaneous exhibition in Maryland. Also included below is a bruising battle against his chess peer, the multi-talented Charles Covington and lastly a battle with IM Marcel Sisniega. Sisniega would become an 8-time Mexican champion, a Grandmaster and notable movie director. Sadly the Mexican legend died in 2013 at age 53.

Besides his own chess activity, Clayton helped Paul to rekindle his interest in chess after as he was adjusting to the U.S. Another one of the players he is famously associated with is Baraka Shabazz, a talented teen phenom who was the subject of widespread media attention in the early 80s. Clayton can be seen in the following three-minute video mentoring Baraka.

Video by ABC News

Despite his first marriage ending in 1966, Clayton decided to remarry in 2010 to Miriam Parker. Besides being a Life Member of the U.S. Chess Federation, he enjoyed hobbies such as scuba- and cave-diving by exploring the beauty of marine life and the bowels of underwater caves. Unfortunately, he had to give up diving because he contracted a sinus condition aggravated by depth pressures. However, he also enjoyed photographing birds and riding his bike.

His daughter Darlene stated that in June her father was still lucid, but what followed was a precipitous decline in health. Clayton spent the last few weeks in hospice care where he died peacefully while surrounded by loved ones. He is survived by two daughters (Diane and Darlene) from his first marriage to Serilda Taylor, three grandchildren, his brother Robert Clayton, Esq. and a host of relatives and friends.

Four generations here! Ken Clayton with his mother Lela Yvonne Clayton (left), daughter Darlene and granddaughter Klarke. Photo courtesy of Darlene Clayton

Diane Clayton Koontz holding her father’s 1963 U.S. Amateur trophy
Photo courtesy of Darlene Clayton

There is a proverb, “When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground,” and it is certainly true in the case of Kenneth Clayton who lived during Bobby Fischer’s rise to prominence and had so many lessons to give. As his memory faded from the ravages of Alzheimer’s, he left behind some of the brighter moments in the sunrise of chess in America and remains one of the trailblazers who set the stage for popularizing chess in the Black communities. Many of our pioneers may never know how many hearts they’ve touched, but part of this library will remain!

Funeral Arrangements
Saturday, January 13th, 2018
Calvary Episcopal Church
820 6th St. NE
Washington, DC 20032

Visitation: 10am
Funeral: 11am


Baraka Shabazz at Dupont Circle
Photo by Washington Post

Recently on Facebook, BJ McCurdy of Los Angeles raised a question on the whereabouts of Baraka Shabazz (unrelated to this writer). For the uninitiated, Baraka was a teenage sensation who experienced a meteoric rise in the late 70s. She was the subject of many articles and enthralled a mass media audience. Born in Denver, Colorado, her chess story began when she learned the game at age 12 in an Alaska cabin during a harsh winter season. She improved rapidly and took the city of Anchorage by storm. Seeing her talent, the family moved her to a number of cities in search for the best training ground. The family ultimately settled in Washington, DC.

After quickly ascending and starring in World under-16 in England, Baraka had eclipsed the 2000 U.S. rating, or “Expert” level. To put that in perspective, it made her the 6th best player on the woman’s list and in the 98th percentile of players in the country. In those days being an Expert was a laudable accomplishment for a tournament player. Perhaps there was a tendency for her parents to believe that this status signaled potential in the obscure sport. In the midst of the “Fischer Boom,” there was the temptation to associate every talented youth with the world champion.

Baraka appeared regularly in the national print media and was interviewed for the following segment on ABC News. This is the impetus of this article and I wanted to take this opportunity to share this rare footage of Baraka for the first time.

Video by ABC News

In viewing this video, we can reflect on the short burst of light that Baraka shined over the chess horizon. She was an endearing 15-year old girl venturing into territory not yet explored. In the late 70s, many in the Black community followed her progress with great interest. I remember my mother excitedly showing me an article about Baraka in the Chicago Metro News, a community newspaper.

Baraka Shabazz’s being featured in Chicago Metro News, December 4, 1982 as part of Tony Brown Journal segment.

There she cut a striking figure at the board… demure and poised. I saved that article and the photo appears to the left. I met her in the early 80s during a tournament at the Chicago Palmer House. I noticed her confidence and her effort to speak with perfect diction. It turned out that things were a bit more complicated.

Baraka was gradually becoming disenchanted and sought another path in life. She left chess after participating in the 1983 World Open. Her story represents a common theme in today’s era of prodigious talents. This was before the Venus Williams/Serena Williams fame and the legend of Tiger Woods. Richard Williams wasn’t certain what his daughters would become, no less historic figures. Eldridge Woods may have had a better idea. As a parent, how can you be sure?

Today we have chess parents moving to the “chess capital” of St. Louis and the story of Samuel Sevian whose parents moved from the west coast to the east coast so he could realize his potential. If you add LaVar Ball to the list of parents who are seeking to elevate their prodigy children to new heights, it represents an increasing trend. However, Yusef and Raqiba Shabazz were venturing into uncharted waters in the 70s… at least in chess.

Baraka Shabazz

Baraka Shabazz’s charm and angelic face belied her tenacity. At 15, she carried her hopes into the 1981 U.S. Women’s Championship. Still was taken from ABC News footage.

It would be another 15-20 years before girls became regular participants in tournament chess. Whether she knew it or not Baraka represented a hope that girls could be successful and thrive in chess. There were other contemporaries such as Dr. Alexey Root who remains deeply involved in chess development for girls. She played in the 1981 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship with Baraka as the two youngest participants.

Unfortunately for Baraka, her poor showing in the 1981 Women’s Chess Championship may have been a turning point. She became despondent. In a brutally candid 1988 article titled “Ex-Queen’s Gambit,” she stated that the pressure was stifling and that chess ultimately had a destabilizing effect on the family. Relations with her family became strained and she eventually moved to England. Despite moving away from chess, one can sense that she still got tremendous joy from the game and that it had a lasting impact on her life. In turn, she made a lasting impression on us.

She is not exactly scarred by her love-hate relationship with chess, just changed in ways that even she doesn’t fully understand. She believes the discipline, the stardom, even the rejection by some of her family have made her stronger. She shows this strength when she speaks of her child. She says she may, someday, teach him to play chess.

~Excerpt from “Ex-Queen’s Gambit”

Perhaps in retrospect, we can say that things did not turn out as we would’ve hoped for her, but what’s important was that Baraka decided to choose her own path. There is a lot that we can learn from Baraka’s story and chess parents of today would do well to heed to these lessons. Chess is a difficult sport to attain material success, but some parents have learned that it is a wonderful activity for developing academic discipline, social skills and the discipline. We only hope that Baraka will understand the impact she made in chess during her short, but noble run.


Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

The chess horizon has been quiet since capping off a busy year with the Grand Chess Tour. Last week, I started wondering about 2018 chess year. Apart from the Alpha Zero buzz and the firestorm over the World Championship logo, there hasn’t been much in the way of chess news. What is also very strange is the lack of information concerning candidates in FIDE’s Presidential election next year in Batumi, Georgia.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
Photo by David Llada

There has been one announcement of a candidate and it is the incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov who seems to be serving as FIDE President in name only. After being sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury last November 25th, he could not make an appearance at the 2017 World Chess Championship last fall due to the sanctions. He then transferred his authority to his Deputy President, Georgios Makropoulos.

In addition, his authority was radically reduced in a no-confidence vote by the FIDE Board. There were rumors that he had resigned and it was posted on the FIDE website. These reports were later rebuffed by Ilyumzhinov. What the hell is going on?? There were questions of whether a coup d’etat had been executed. Those reports were denied by FIDE. Jamaica’s Ian Wilkinson, an attorney who stood with Garry Kasparov in his failed bid for FIDE President, filed a petition calling for the removal of Ilyumzhinov because of sanctions.

“I want to continue uniting the chess world. I will be working towards my goal to have one billion people playing chess.”

~ Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of FIDE

Last month Ilyumzhinov announced that he was running in the 2018 election for FIDE President. There has been no announcement of a opposing candidate, but it is less than a year away. Georgios Makropoulos is the Acting President despite the fact that Ilyumzhinov still operates in the capacity of the FIDE President. He has appeared at tournaments making presentations to winners.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov making ceremonial move in World Women's Championship final. Photo by David Llada.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov making ceremonial move in
2017 World Women’s Championship final.
Photo by David Llada

When asked about the situation, Makropoulos told,

“At the last meeting of the Presidential Board, it was a unanimous conclusion of the members that Kirsan should not run in the next elections. This opinion had already been expressed by several Presidential Board members during the General Assembly in Baku 2016—except myself—I remember clearly Israel Gelfer and Jorge Vega. (link)

This begs the question, “Who else will enter the race?” Over the past 12 years, three candidates (Bessel Kok, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov) have attempted and all three were soundly defeated. Is there a sense of helplessness in potential candidates? FIDE appears to be operating under a cloud of uncertainty. Ilyumzhinov has announced his candidacy, but it’s not certain if he is eligible. If he is not, then what happens? Does Makropoulos assume the position? It will be a very chaotic situation since federations have to prepare for the political season and have enough information to consider the alternatives.

Will someone emerge? Perhaps the strategy would be to keep any aspirations undercover to prevent any preemptive moves by competition. The last election in 2014 was extremely bitter and tore some federations apart. In fact, Africa was one region that suffered. It was a pitiful sight. What will the future hold for FIDE with the Olympiad, Presidential Election and the World Championship less than a year away? Can we look to a more civil process? With an embattled President barred by sanctions and no viable election slates to come forward, it should be an eventful 2018.

Elections are less than a year away!

Video by Batumi Chess Olympiad


We’ve all heard the numerous puns concerning chess. They dot the tournament halls on t-shirts and many are very catchy and humorous. In this season, we will hear blitz players sing any number of holiday songs adapted for chess. Instead of “chestnuts roasting on a open fire,” my high school coach used to sing “backward pawn on an open file.” Everyone has a pun about Nat King Cole’s classic, “The Christmas Song.” There is the immortal joke about “chess nuts boasting on an open foyer” and of course the ubiquitous and worn pun, “chess players mate better.”

One may quip that this is what was intended by AGON who is now ramping up publicity for the 2018 World Chess Championship next year in London, England. What has created buzz is not the impending Candidates tournament in March to determine who will face Magnus Carlsen, but the logo that has been designed for the match. While it may delight abstract artists and hardcore impressionists, it has fallen flat in the eyes of chess players and non-chess players alike. Susan Polgar and others posted the imagery on Facebook fueled a firestorm… and a few “pawnographic” chess puns.

The above logo is translucent and the images are not well-defined, but when you add color and texture, it becomes more apparent where the controversy lies.

What-were-they-thinking? AGON described the logo as ‘controversial and trendy, just like the host city.’ Is that supposed to flatter Londoners? Social media has blasted the decision to put what some refer to as a Kama Sutra imagery within the logo. The overwhelming consensus… the logo sucks. It not only sucks, but… it f*%ks!??

There was a provocative article titled, “New World Chess Championship Logo Says, ‘Hey, Let’s F*%k’.” OK… I censored the titled, but Emma Baccellieri has an interesting analysis of how much sex each chess piece is having. It is done in complete mockery. One thing for sure is that this logo is bringing out the creative juices in us all.

Press conference after Carlsen’s win in the 10th game of the 2016 match against Sergey Karjakin. Notice the logo at the top done by the same Russian company, Shuka Design. It is an abstract version of a chess board, but would the newly-designed logo be as media friendly? Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

I attended the last championship match in New York and it was in an artsy location with all types of aesthetic meanderings. The location was even in a remodeled building that had the feel of a museum, not a sports venue. The beautiful art designed for that match seemed to fit the venue. However, whomever approved this logo should know that while chess players have a sense of humor and are inveterate appreciators of art, this logo is a risque risky idea… or are we simply a bunch of prudes? Twittersphere had no shortage of opinions.

Olimpu Urcan cited a New In Chess article by British Grandmaster Nigel Short in which he dissed Marcel Duchamps.

So what would the silver-tongued Short say about the logo?

Not a bit of irony as Short is one of AGON most fierce critics.

While some say it’s harmless to children, is this the type of logo you want for a World Championship? Boniface Kathurima of Kenya even mentioned that he showed the logo to a non-chess friend and they concluded that chess players were perverted. What was the idea behind the two figurines being intertwined in what is conceivably a sexual position?

Ilya Merenzon of AGON told designers the theme was about fighting, but this is definitely not jiu jitsu going on. It appears that chess players only have one thing on their minds… mating positions. Ugh. Media outlets are having a field day on us with bad puns. This logo is trending now and other outlets such as BBC, USA Today, Huffington Post and ESPN. Even FOX News even piled on.

Apparently AGON enlisted the services of Russian studio Shuka Design, whose logo is apparently a bare-chested mermaid. According to London’s Daily Mail, AGON has made a statement.

‘As organizers of the Match we’ve been busy for over a year working with artists and designers to develop a perfect key visual, the image that will be associated with the 2018 Match and which will find its way onto mugs, posters, outdoor displays, venue design, media, broadcasting graphics and more.’

Oh sure… just what we need. By the way, event posters are selling for US$45.00. The interesting fact is that Shuka Design is reveling in the attention and is plastering social media quotes on their website. This is more publicity than the obscure Russian company could’ve dreamed of.

Shuka Design posts social media comments

Was this done to create a buzz? If this is the explanation, it would be too early to play that card. Was this a blunder or a clickbait stroke of genius? While the issue is still trending, chess has (once again) become the butt of jokes in mass media.


Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

Deborah Richards-Porter
Photo by Jamaica Chess Federation

Jamaica’s WIM Deborah Richards-Porter played fantastic Chess, winning three of her last four games to end on a bang at the Women’s Zonals in El Salvador. Her final score of 5½ points was good enough for 4th position, 5 places ahead of her starting rank. She narrowly missed qualifying for the Women’s World Championship by a mere half point behind the winner Puerto Rican WIM Danitzka Vazquez with whom Richards-Porter drew in the 4th round.

Entering the ninth and final round on November 22, Richards-Porter was in ninth position on 4½ points from 8 games. She had the daunting task of facing the unbeaten joint leader Colombian International Master Paula Rodriguez who, at 2326 rating points, was by far the top seed and favourite in the event, rated over three hundred (300!!) points ahead of the Jamaican (2025). That did not matter as Richards-Porter wielded the black pieces with decisive effect to shatter the Colombian’s unbeaten record, claim full honours and finish her tournament with a landmark victory.

The Zonals was a qualifier for the 2018 Women’s World Chess Championship set to be held in Khanty-Mansiysk (Siberia) Russia. It was held from November 17 to 22, 2017. Twenty-two women competed from eight countries – Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico and Puerto Rico. Richards-Porter was the only player from the English-speaking Caribbean.

The time control for each game was ninety minutes for forty moves with thirty minutes to complete. There was an increment of thirty seconds per move from the first move.

Richards-Porter at 2017 subzonal
in Guatemala.

WIM Richards-Porter is etched in Jamaica’s sports folklore as the best female chess player in her country’s history and, arguably, in the West Indies. She has represented her country with distinction at six (6) World Chess Olympiads from Bled, Slovenia (2002) to Baku, Azerbaijan (2016).

She made history at the 37th Olympiad (Turin, Italy 2006) by earning the Woman FIDE Master (“WFM”) title. At the Women’s Sub-Zonals in Surinam 2014 she earned the “WIM” title. She was the first person in the English-speaking Caribbean to gain these titles.

She is Jamaica’s ten-time Women’s Chess Champion and created more history by winning the Sub-Zonals Women’s Championship (Barbados, 2016). She also led Jamaica’s Women’s team to win the gold medal for its category at the 39th Olympiad (Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia, Russia, 2010).

Richards-Porter’s participation was made possible by sponsors the Confederation of Chess For the Americas, the Jamaica Chess Federation, the Kasparov Chess Foundation and R&D Chess Academy. She returns to Jamaica on Saturday evening, November 25, 2017.

Ian G. Wilkinson QC
Jamaica Chess Federation

November 23, 2017


The last event of the Grand Chess Tour will culminate with the London Chess Tour and perhaps will be the last major event of the year. There is still the Tata Steel Chess January 12th-28th, the World Candidates tournament in March to be held in Berlin, Germany and the World Championship in 2018 will be held in London.

Wesley So
2016 London Chess Classic Champion

The English capital will be buzzing for the next two weeks, but one may wonder where the Grand Chess Tour is headed. The field of players have been virtually the same over the years. There may be some innovations afoot, but the London Classic will be a good prequel to the upcoming Candidates tournament. Magnus Carlsen, Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi have replaced Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri in the field. Wesley So returns to defend his 2016 crown.

So had a banner 2016 year, but this year has been up and down. After winning the U.S. Championship for the first time, he scored creditably at Shakmir, equal at Norway Altibox before fizzling at the Sinquefield Cup. He currently stands in 6th place in the Grand Tour standings.

This is the 9th edition of the London Chess Classic. The first round will be played at Google’s London headquarters in Pancras Square. After a rest day, the tournament resumes at the Olympia Conference Centre in Kensington on Sunday December 3rd at 14.00 London time. There will also be the British Knockout Championships expanding to eight players including the legendary Nigel Short.

There is the also 5th Pro-Biz Cup designed to involved the business community with chess promotion and charity. There is also a London Chess Conference and the FIDE Open event (December 2nd-9th), a 9-round Swiss format with a £20,000 prize fund and possible norm opportunities. The Super Rapidplay Open will return on 17th-18th December and will be a 10-round FIDE rated open with all players playing in the same section and competing for section prizes.

(Drum Coverage from 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)

2017 London Chess Classic
December 9-18, 2016 (London, England)
1 Carlsen, Magnus GM Norway
2 Aronian, Levon GM Armenia
3 Caruana, Fabiano GM USA
4 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime GM France
5 So, Wesley GM USA
6 Anand, Viswanathan GM India
7 Nakamura, Hikaru GM USA
8 Karjakin, Sergey GM Russia
9 Nepomniachtchi Ian GM Russia
10 Adams, Michael GM England
(Official Site)

Video by St. Louis Chess Club

Video by GM Daniel King

Official Site: (live games)
Photos: Lennart Ootes


IM Angelo Young will lead the Blitzers
Photo by Nathan Kelly

Chicago Chess Club has been keen on igniting the chess scene with spirited cage matches. However, the club is back at locking horns in a city vs. city battle and there is no matchup more fierce than Chicago-St. Louis. The two cities will square off on Saturday, December 2nd at the St. Louis Chess Club. It will be the second match held at the venue since Chicago defeated Memphis 130-70. The barnstorming Chicago team also traveled to Cleveland and crushed the Heavy Hitters 293-157.

Chicago Chess Blitzers promoter Nathan Kelly received the St. Louis roster yesterday and it appears the match will be a close one on paper. IM Angelo Young (2431) will be coming off of his 26.5/30 score to lead the Blitzers. The team will have a number of new faces in the lineup including IM Viswhnuvardhan Arjun (2300) and FM Gauri Shankar (2297). Dirtan Zekaj (2203), Aakaash Meduri (2111) and Michael Auger (2277) are also making debuts for Chitown. They will field vets in Daniel X Jones (2237), Remi Adekola (2214) and Tom Murphy (2211) helped Chicago in their rout of Cleveland.

FM Aaron Grabinsky

FM Aaron Grabinsky

For St. Louis the will be led by Webster University’s FM Aaron Grabinsky (2398), IM Vitaly Niemer (2394) and NM Nicky Rosenthal (2379). NM Julian Proleiko (2283) came to the Chicago Chess Club and won a cage match in convincing style over NM Kay Kaulule. Kaulule, currently in Zambia, will not be with the Blitzers this weekend.

FM Doug Eckert is a St. Louis vet who has competed in the 2009 U.S. Chess Championship and has been a mainstay in St. Louis area chess. This will be the first match for St. Louis and it will be interesting to see if this mish-mash of players will be able to match up against a battle-tested Chicago team. Follow the action on Chicago Chess Blitzers (Facebook).

Memphis vs. Chicago

Charter members of the Chicago Chess Blitzers in St. Louis after victory against Memphis. The team will field a number of new players to battle arch rival city. Should be exciting! Photo by Nathan Kelly

“Best in the Midwest” Blitz Battle
Chicago vs. St. Louis
# Player Blitz Team
1 FM Gauri Shankar 2297 CHI
2 IM Angelo Young 2431 CHI
3 IM Vishnuvardhan Arjun 2300 CHI
4 NM Michael Auger 2277 CHI
5 Dritan Zekaj 2203 CHI
6 NM Aakaash Meduri 2111 CHI
7 Daniel X Jones 2234 CHI
8 Remi Adekola 2214 CHI
9 Tom Murphy 2211 CHI
10 Sedrick Prude 1975 CHI
11 Andrew Bell 1923 CHI
12 Stephen Jennings 1962 CHI
St. Louis
# Player Blitz Team
1 FM Aaron Grabinsky 2398 STL
2 IM Vitaly Neimar 2394 STL
3 NM Nicholas Rosenthal 2379 STL
4 NM Julian Proleiko 2283 STL
5 NM Nick Karlow 2231 STL
6 Jacob Wilkins 1951 STL
7 Isaiah Gadson 2055 STL
8 FM Doug Eckert 2196 STL
9 Alex Marler 2040 STL
10 NM Andrew Witte 2167 STL
11 Kaleb Gosdin 1963 STL
12 Dritan Nerhati 1993 STL
13 Dwight Beasley 1928 STL
Score: Chicago 154 – St. Louis 134

The Tate Gambit??

Recently I had a lengthy call with FM William Morrison. It was a pleasant conversation which was originally about his ailing mother, but ended up on a chat about his fellow chess legend in the African Diaspora, IM Emory Tate. He mentioned the praise circulating about Triple Exclam, but also asked me if I had heard of the “Tate Gambit.”

Of course in Triple Exclam: The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior I had covered the Tate Variation of the Alekhine which went 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4.a4!? a5 5.Ra3!!?? Yep this was Tate’s Frankenstein of a creation. In the notes of Tate-Herfel I referenced a 1994 game where Tate tried this idea from the Black side against Roger Blaine after 1.b3 f5 2.f4 a5!? 3.a4 Ra6!? 4.e4 Re6!? 0-1 (43).

Tate loved his rook lifts and played them in very unexpected situations. The variation that bears his name is on the left (Tate-Herfel, 1991) and variant from the black side on the right (Blaine-Tate, 1994). Watch the games below!

Of course, this wasn’t the Tate Gambit. Morrison described that it came out of the Dutch and g4 was played. I knew 1.d4 f5 2.g4!? and played it in blitz a time or two. However, he said he didn’t have the exact moves, but he would send me the reference…

Tate-Blaine, Illinois Open, 1992

Game with the so-called “Tate Gambit”

When I went over the game, I scoffed, “It’s crap.” It seems to be a weird combination of ideas with a Benko Gambit motif thrown in. However, let’s take a closer look.

What is my final assessment? The opening is definitely risky for white and easy for black to get a sound position after 5…Nf6 instead of 5…gxh3. However, it’s not as easy to find solutions over the board. One of the great things about Tate was his willingness to try new ideas and create art. His quest was motivated by his free-spirit and the Tate Gambit showed how his idea also had a positional premise.

Morrison and I agreed that it would be a misnomer to believe Tate was only about tactics. “I played him 500 games and he definitely knew the finer points of positional play,” he said. As we close out another year, the Tate stories keep coming. It will not make up for his loss, but it is refreshing to know that he is still making an impact.

(Update: The position NM Eric Schiller cites after 4.Nc3 also occurred in Emma-Pilnic from 1959 Mar del Plata (0-1, 46). Schiller also co-authored a book with IM John Watson titled, Taming Wild Chess Opening: How to Deal with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It also gives Tate credit for the gambit after 4.Nc3. Apparently they didn’t check since Schiller’s 2002 book, Gambit Chess Openings. It’s possible that earlier games could’ve been added to the database in the interim. In my view, 5.h3 seems to be an original idea.


Cote d’Ivoire, also known as the “Ivory Coast,” has been an active chess presence in West Africa. Under the leadership of Dr. Jean-Claude Essis Essoh, the Chess Federation of Cote d’Ivoire (FIDEC) has participated in the past few Olympiad tournaments and has been helping to lead an increase in popularity in Francophone West Africa. The federation had risen from dormancy in 2013 and has seen a growth of approximately 15 clubs around the country.

FIDEC recently partnered with the Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa (KCFA) in hosting a team event in the capital of Abidjan from Thursday 26th October until Sunday 29th October 2017. According to a press release, teams from the ECOWAS region were invited to participate. ECOWAS is the Economic Community of West Africa States, a subregional grouping of 15 West African nations. Recently the KCF celebrated its 15th year in New York city and this event will become one of the 15 events planned for the continent.

Prior to running for FIDE President in 2014, the KCF focused efforts on Africa creating KCFA. Garry Kasparov said one of the things he took away from his campaigning was the potential in Africa. After losing the election, efforts continued and are managed by Graham Jurgensen of South Africa. He was on hand to witness the event. The tournament was held at the Olympic Village of the Francophonie Games. There were two FIDE-rated events… a 4-player team invitational and an Open Swiss Rapid tournament. Mr. Privat Kouakou (FIDEC Director General ) and Mr. Charles Lorng, (FIDEC Vice President) were the co-organizers of the event.

Next year will be an election year and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has announced that he will run for office once again. During the last election Dr. Essoh wanted Ilyumzhinov to explain the activities implemented and executed in Africa. 3:40 minutes A fierce debate followed with Georgios Makropolous after Essoh tried in vain to get FIDE officials to describe their plans for the growth of chess in Africa.4:13 minutes This issue is certain to surface during the FIDE General Assembly in the Republic of Georgia next year.

Dr. Jean-Claude Essoh at 2014 FIDE General Assembly.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Ivorian delegation in Tromso, Norway for the 2014 Chess Olympiad

Chess in West Africa has been undergoing incremental growth over the past 20 years with Nigeria being the most active federation in the ECOWAS region. French-speaking Africa is generally the hotbed of some of the world’s top draughts players, but chess has made a presence as well. With the help of Kasparov Chess Foundation, that chess has made inroads. Togo (2012) and Burkina Faso (2016) are two of the newest members of FIDE and both sent representatives for the FIDE Arbiter’s Training Seminar. In fact, Togo will be hosting the African Junior Championship next month.

The FIDE Arbiter’s Training Seminar was held in parallel with the main tournament. IA Stephen Boyd conducted the sessions in both English and French. The successful candidates were Mr Koffi Botsoe (TOG), Mr Tyeoulou Kouya (CIV); Mr Paul Zirimba (CIV), Mr Jocelin Trah (CIV), Mr Leon Ndrin (CIV) and Mr John Solarays (GHA).

In the main team event Nigeria won the event with an undefeated score while Liberia and Sao Tome and Principe came in second and third respectively. The Nigerian team was the top seed with an average rating of 2116 and two Candidate Masters. According to the KCFA press release,

“This rapid tournament was won by CM Dieyi Roland from Nigeria with a score of 6/7. He ended ahead of a strong group of 4 players on 5.5 which consisted of FM Harmon Barcon from Liberia, CM Abiola Akinseye from Nigeria, Philip Ameku from Ghana and Justin Aka from Cote d’Ivoire.”

Photos by Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa

Team Results

Rapid Results

Before the event, Dr Essoh Essis was unanimously re-elected as the President of FIDEC during the General Assembly meeting. The result represented a resounding endorsement for the tireless efforts of Dr Essis and his team who have been instrumental in developing chess in Cote d’Ivoire and in hosting and arranging this latest tournament.

Champions of 2017 CIV Team Invitational
Photos by Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa


Officer Denise “Cookie” Bouldin
Photo by Joe Dyer

With all of the tension that exist between urban youth and the police force, there have been so many suggestions to bridge the gap. There have been meetings with celebrity athletes, summits and other initiatives. There are a number of videos of police officers playing basketball and even breakdancing. Yet the problems persist and homicides continue to grab headlines.

There are some initiatives that have escaped the public eye, but are no less noble. Denise “Cookie” Bouldin has been running her Urban Youth Chess Club for 11 years. Her idea for using chess as way to reach youth starts in a Chicago projects where she grew up.

“As a kid, I was pretty much brainwashed that I wasn’t smart enough for chess. I never saw a black person playing chess. Never. And then someone showed me all the pieces on the board and said, OK this is what this one do and this one do, and I got frustrated ‘cause I kept forgetting. And I said, you know what? I hate this game, I hate it, hate it, hate it. Don’t ever want to play it again,” she declared, hand sweeping the table as if she were clearing the board. “My brain just wasn’t made for chess. And when anyone would try to teach me I would say, I can’t do it, I’ve tried.”

Officer Cookie has been teaching chess since 2006. Photo by Genna Martin.

Despite her own ambivalence toward chess as a youth,
Officer Cookie has shared its joys.
Photo by Genna Martin

What is often the case is those interested in chess are taught by people with a faint idea of the rules and often lead to frustration and confusion of those they are teaching. Years later after years on the Seattle Police Department, she was charged with organizing a community activity involving the police department and the local youth. She organized a basketball game which turned out to be a smashing success. The next year students balked at another basketball game and wanted chess! Unfortunately only a couple students knew how to play.

“I asked the kids, be honest, how come you don’t play chess? And they would answer, ‘I’m not smart enough to play chess. I don’t play because chess is for smart people. Chess is for white people, for nerds.’ I realized that the answers these kids were giving were the same answers I gave for not playing chess. The same reasons!”

“Chess, again, is a sport, a sport of the mind. With chess you don’t have to be the fastest, you don’t have to be the tallest, you don’t have to be the biggest.”

Unfortunately, these stereotypes are deeply rooted. For the past 17 years, The Chess Drum has covered information about the overlooked Black segment of the chess world. Tens of thousands of pages and success stories later, children of every ethnicity, income class, educational level enjoy chess along with millions around the world. While the game is still not in the mainstream of activities and remains on the fringe, it has blossomed in the past 20 years with the rise of the Internet and availability of chess instructional material.

Officer Cookie has been inspiring through chess since 2006. Photo by Alan Berner.

Officer Cookie has been inspiring through chess since 2006.
Photo by Alan Berner

Officer Cookie has overcome adversity in life. Having avoided drugs and prostitution in the Chicago projects, she encountered a woman who advised her against wearing revealing clothes and attracting negative energy and attention. She met a police officer in school who inspired her to seek public service in law enforcement.

When she moved to Seattle and sought to join the force, many doubted her toughness, despite her Chicago roots. Officer Cookie proved her worth and became a valued member of the community. She has since earned a number of community awards and has been recognized by the police force for her performance.

Officer Cookie in her trademark lipstick from her days as a fashion model. Photo by Genna Martin.

Officer Cookie in her trademark lipstick from her days as a fashion model.
Photo by Genna Martin

Another innovation is her mobile “pop-up” chess parks. This allows activities to be organized throughout the city and was made possible by the Rainier Beach Merchants via a neighborhood matching fund grant. These activities have provided an outlet for disaffected youth or those whose minds are much better when engaged.

Many have reached out to help her with her fledgling chess club. What started as a chess tournament has become Detective Cookie’s Chess Club. She even got handmade boards from the Stafford Creek Correctional Center. Officer Cookie meets twice weekly and usually attracts 20-25 per meeting.

If you are interested in supporting Officer Cookie or have any questions, contact Jean Veldwyk at (206) 723-5371 or

Detective Cookie’s Urban Youth Chess Club
c/o SEED
5117 Rainier Avenue S.
Seattle, WA 98118
(206) 760-4261 (Office)
(206) 650-3621 (Cell)

Facebook (Detective Cookie Chess Club)

Additional Sources:

Alan Berner, Fun brain workout? Check. Meet Detective Cookie’s chess club, Seattle Times, 6 June 2017

Janet Pelz, Detective Cookie Bouldin: Stopping Violence with a Chess Board, How Does She Do It? 30 March 2012.

Tim Kelly, Detective Cookie’s Chess Club Receives Handcrafted Boards from Stafford Creek , Department of Corrections (Washington State), 15 November 2016.


Togo Togo Togo

2017 African Junior Chess Championships
(Lome, Togo)

Togo delegation at the General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Togo is a small French-speaking West African nation of 7.6 million and a budding chess nation. The nation has been a member of FIDE since being welcomed at the 2012 FIDE Congress in Istanbul, Turkey. In five years they have had a number of local activities and hosted the African Amateur Individual Championships in August 2016, but will be in the African spotlight while hosting the African Junior Championships beginning December 21st.

Given the latest landmark accomplishment by GM Bassem Amin of Egypt, the tournament has continued to be a stepping stone for Africa’s finest talent. Amin won the tournament in 2004 before becoming a four-time continental champion. Most recently, he eclipsed the 2700 rating barrier becoming the first African player to achieve this level. Besides Amin, only GMs Hichem Hamdouchi (Morocco) and Ahmed Adly (Egypt) have been over 2600. Who will be next?

According to FIDE,

“Under the auspices of the African Chess Confederation, the Togolese Chess Federation has the honour of inviting all African Federations affiliated to the World Chess Federation (FIDE), to participate in the 2017 AFRICAN JUNIOR U20 INDIVIDUAL CHESS CHAMPIONSHIPS, to be held at the Bravia Hotel, Lome, Togo, from December 21st 2017 to December 31st 2017.” (link)

Bravia Hotel (Lome, Togo)



It has recently come to my attention that Everest Tucker, Jr. of Farmington, New York had passed away earlier this year in May. We played a couple of times and had a few amicable and lively exchanges online. He had missed a few World Opens and when I saw him in 2006, he told me he had been ill. I remembered Everest name from the list of Black Masters Jerry Bibuld had produced and was surprised when paired against him. I won our first game when he collapsed in a flurry of moves. He won the second encounter when I could not adequately shelter my centralized king. The games are featured below.

Everest had earned his National Master’s title and reached a high rating of 2209 back in December 1982. He was a very personable man with a gift for the gab and enjoyed social interaction. His comments left on The Chess Drum were always positive and engaging. His last World Open was in 2007 and last played in 2009. In 2010, he posted the following message to The Chess Drum’s blog.

Everest Tucker 07 Jul 2010 at 1:40 pm
Hey, Daaim! I certainly miss being able to go to the BIG Open anymore, but I’m hopeful that when my health is restored, I’ll be down in Philly for future World Open with the rest of you guys! I was surprised that Gata Kamski didn’t have a better showing, and I was also wondering where Naka was? I hope you had a great time this year, and now I’m gonna go and checkout the photos you took…!

Everest Tucker, Jr.

Everest Tucker, Jr. at the 2004 World Open
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Here are our two games…

Everest lived in the upstate New York area with his wife (Cynthia) of 44 years. He was also survived by four sons, Phillip, Andre, Paul and Dylan, his mother Mrs. Louise Tucker, brother Derrick “Bob” Tucker and sister Brenda Tucker Johnson. He was 67 years old.



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