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)
www.seedseattle.org

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.

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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)

INVITATION
REGISTRATION FORM

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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.

Obituary: http://www.everesttucker.com/obituary/

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Egypt Egypt Egypt

GM Bassem Amin
Photo by Anastasia Kharlovich

Africa has its first 2700-rated player in Egypt’s Bassem Amin. It has achieved this landmark before other aspiring geographic regions. The 29-year cut his teeth on Africa continental tournaments and won the 2004 Africa Juniors. He is a four-time African champion (2009, 2013, 2015 and 2017) and recently won the Lake Sevan tournament in Armenia.

He narrowly missed eclipsing the 2700 rating at the World Cup losing a heartbreaking match to Viktor Erdos. In that match, he was completely winning and fell into a stalemate trap. Erdos went on to win in the tiebreaks. Amin was visibly dejected. Amin recently won the Abu Dhabi Masters with 7.5/9 drawing to within points of the coveted Super-GM status. He then clinched it during the Swedish League game against IM Jonathan Westerberg.

This is a milestone for the African continent given that Amin was essentially raised on tournaments in Africa and the Middle East. There are many stronger chess countries that have never produced a 2700 player. It certainly shows that the chess has become more universal and the ability to attain a high skill level is possible for modest chess federations.

Congratulations Bassem Amin!

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Jones-DeJesus has the ring of a championship boxing match. After months of fierce trash talk, taunts, diss videos, Daniel X Jones decided to ditch his “Baby-Faced Assassin” label for the more ominous, omnipotent label of “God.” Immediately causing a lot of controversy, he continued with the theme coming to the match with a shirt emblazoned with “I Am A God.”

It’s always a tall order when “El Bandido” is trying to box with a god. In fact, there was once a Broadway musical titled, “Your Arms Are Too Short to Box with God.” Jones seems to be playing the role of WWE star CM Punk who foils The Rock

National Master Jeff DeJesus was amused that his holiness had even posted his obituary. “Boy I was gonna have mercy and let you win like 2 games in front of the fans but now you will feel the strength,” said DeJesus. Blows were being thrown even before the clock was pressed. Both players had pre-match interviews with the Chicago Chess Club.

Jones later explained his t-shirt and invoked Psalm 82.

Jeff DeJesus being interviewed by Louie Green

After all the buzz, it was time to play chess. Both sides determined the set and the clock to be used in the tournament. DeJesus played some warm-up games against Tom Murphy. Before the match, The Chess Drum also got a word from the two gladiators…

Daniel X Jones 3:31 minutes
Jeff DeJesus 2:55 minutes

Enough talk… time to battle!

Both Jeff DeJesus and Daniel X Jones get instructions before the showdown.

Would DeJesus’ arms be long enough??

Here we go!
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

5-minute (10 games)

The match started with fireworks with DeJesus taking the first four games, all hotly-contested. Jones was trying an interesting version of the Smith-Morra Gambit 1.e4 c5 2.d4 cxd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Nxc3 Nc6 5.f4!? There was a debate about this move order in social media with National Master Menon Gopal scoffing at it.

Theoretical debate in Smith-Morra.
Is 5.f4 any good?

Suffice it to say, Jones had a lot of confidence in this line and played it several times in the match. However, in the first game Jones played 1.f4 and the game evolved into a tense struggle. In the end, it appeared that Jones had a bishop-queen mating attack. As he tried to deliver checkmate, his king was already in check! Illegal move… DeJesus would draw first blood.

The second game was also a furious time scramble after terrific middlegame complications. The third was an f4 Smith-Morra that didn’t break through. There was a nice tactical sequence in the middlegame (involving b4 forking rook and knight) that ended in a R+P ending. DeJesus won that game going up 3-0.

DeJesus had made a video about the bullet match he and Jones played. In many of those games, he was content to trade and head for the endgame. During this match, he employed 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.g3!? against Jones’ Caro Kann. The fourth game started in this fashion and white kept an edge toward the ending. It seemed as if black was holding when Jones overlooked an Arabian mating sequence.

There were many ways to watch the action, but…

… there was no feeling like being there!

Now at 4-0 the Facebook viewers started to make jokes. Despite the deficit, Jones appeared to be composed as the technical team ironed out some issues with the camera angle. The clock was not visible to online viewers due to the glare, but neither player wanted to switch clocks. The fifth game was another Smith-Morra (5. f4) by Daniel X and it ended with a nice tactic.

After Jones broke into the win column, there was some cheering “let’s go” from the hometown supporters. The sixth game went into an ending within the first 10 moves and was fairly equal. Then all hell broke loss. The seesaw battle resulted into a pawn race with DeJesus promoting and then dropping mate on the board increasing the lead to 5-1. Game seven was probably Jones’ best of 5-minute segment as he got a blistering attack and mated DeJesus with the Smith-Morra line.

Jones breaks through in the 7th 5-minute game with a mating attack.
After Rd5+ DeJesus resigned.

Devastating loss for DeJesus, but he was still up 5-2. Would Jones turn the tide? Game 8 had an interesting sequence after …Bxf2. DeJesus played Bxd5? which looks good, but Jones could play Bxg3+! Kxg3 Qd6+ and Qxd5 exposing the white king. He opted for Be3 Rb1 Bxh3 still winning a pawn and obtaining the advantage. Jones kept up the pressure, but flagged in a winning position. DeJesus went back up to +4 at 6-2.

The ninth game saw a “Greek Gift” sacrifice with Bxh7+ but black had clear defensive resources after Kxh7 Ng5+ Bxg5 hxg5+ Nh6 gxh6 g6. It appeared that black was holding, but then blundered an exchange after getting rook skewered. It was downhill from there and Jones got the point. DeJesus still was up 6-3 with one left in the five-minute segment. The last game was roughly equal throughout and after a time scramble was drawn.

Cage Match!!!
Daniel X Jones vs. Jeff DeJesus

5-minute (10 games)
Daniel X JonesJeff DeJesus
 
Flag
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
pts.
Jones
0
0
0
0
1
0
1
0
1
½
DeJesus
1
1
1
1
0
1
0
1
0
½
October 28th, 2017 (Chicago Chess Club)

So the five-minute segment was won by DeJesus and now there would be a 10-minute intermission for the players to refresh themselves and get encouragement from friends. There were a number of bets taken on whether DeJesus could win five games in a row, three games in a row and other side bets. There was still skepticism on whether Jones could mount a serious challenge, but with the three-minute segment touching 11 eleven games, he would have plenty of time.

3-minute (11 games)

The first three-minute game was another Caro Kann with 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d3 d4 4.Ne2 e5 5.g3. This system has its own bit of venom, but Jones had a solid position against white’s imposing center. Black seemed totally tied up, but then DeJesus hung a pawn on d4 and the tide turned! While white’s rooks were doubled on a blocked f-file, black’s doubled rooks were rampaging on an open b-file. In a time scramble, Jones won on time in drawn R+P ending.

After winning the first game, Jones got on the wrong side of a miniature that lasted all of one minute.

Now… 7½-4½ DeJesus. Jones shook that loss off and pulled to within two when during the time scramble, DeJesus made an illegal move rook from h6 to a7. 7½-5½ DeJesus. The next game was one of the best in the series, but ended in a draw when both flags were down. Tremendous fight by both!

Draw!!
Photo by Nathan Kelly

The score was now 8-6. In the 15th game, there was the first controversy of the match. During a serious time scramble, Jones had offered and draw which was declined. Both players were moving rapid fire when Jones time ran out. In the final position, DeJesus had a rook vs. Jones bishop and pawn.

The question was whether Jones could have claimed “insufficient losing chances.” There was no clarity on this ruling since it has not been discussed before the match. It turns out that Jones could have stopped the clock and made the claim, but kept playing and lost on time. DeJesus now up 9-6.


According to the rule book, if you remove time as a factor, and the player that’s able to demonstrate that he cannot make progress, then the ‘insufficient losing chances’ will be upheld.

~Frank Johnson


There was a question as to whether Jones could’ve claimed a draw due to “insufficient losing chances.” Jones was not suggesting that the result be overturned, but for clarification wanted to know the ruling. Organizers put in a call to National Tournament Director Frank Johnson for verification.

DeJesus found the slick 13…Nf3+ exploiting the move order of 8.Qe2 instead of 8.0-0.

While they were attempting to get through to Johnson, Game 16 was another case of Jones again falling prey to a blindspot. In another Smith-Morra with 5.f4, DeJesus again equalized with 9…d4 10.e5 d4! DeJesus had the tactical 13…Nf3+! exposing the white king. The monarch scurried to the queenside with black pieces in pursuit. Under a blistering attack, Jones tried to counterattack, but hung his queen. Now DeJesus had tied for his largest lead at +4 at 10-6. One more win would clinch victory.

At the brink of defeat, Jones came roaring back. He trotted out the Latvian Gambit after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5. This was the first time this had been played in the match and seemed to catch DeJesus off guard a bit as he seemed to have some indecision about how to attack black’s unorthodox position. Both players developed outside passed pawns and the race was on. DeJesus miscalculated and sacrificed a rook in order to promote his passed a-pawn to a7, but was one tempo late and Jones’ queened first! After that the black queen cleaned up… 10-7. Jones still had a chance, but would have to win four straight.

Atlanta’s Frank Johnson (right) was called to weigh in on the situation.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

After the game, organizer Nathan Kelly was on the line with Johnson who had this to say… “Assuming that Daniel claims a draw correctly, ‘insufficient losing chances’ has to be declared in advance.” DeJesus ask the definition of what constitutes ‘insufficient losing chances.’ Johnson cited the 6th edition of the U.S. Chess rule book which states “if you remove time as a factor, and the player that’s able to demonstrate that he (the stronger side) cannot make progress, then the ‘insufficient losing chances’ will be upheld.”

In the next game it was the Alapin, a very tricky anti-Sicilian opening with its own venom. DeJesus played well and got the clinching victory.

So DeJesus clinches the match! Of course, there were no cheers given and the club was a bit quiet. However, the last three games would be played for prosperity. It was apparent that DeJesus felt more relaxed and and the tension lifted, but of course pride was on the line. Given all of the predictions of a big win by DeJesus, a 14-7 victory would still be convincing enough.

Jones ended up winning the last three games… with black in a Three Knights Game (1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 Bc5 4.Nxe5 Bxf2+), with white in an Alapin and with black in a Philidor. It’s unfortunate that the tension was released and many discussed that there be an incentive so the remaining games would not be deemed as insignificant. There was a suggestion of rating the games, but they would all have to be five-minute games. Nevertheless, it was an exciting match and good sportsmanship was on display.

Cage Match!!!
Daniel X Jones vs. Jeff DeJesus

3-minute (11 games)
Daniel X JonesJeff DeJesus
 
Flag
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
pts.
Jones
1
0
1
½
0
0
1
0
1
1
1
DeJesus
0
1
0
½
1
1
0
1
0
0
0
October 28th, 2017 (Chicago Chess Club)

So in the end DeJesus prevailed 11-10 (6½-3½ in 5m and 4½-6½ in 3m). While DeJesus clinched the match at 11-7, the notion that the last three games were not important would be dubious. It is true the last three games suffered in quality, but they were still hotly-contested.


Maybe next time I can play a better match.
~Jeff DeJesus after his narrow victory


During the press conference, both talked about how the cage match idea blossomed from the online banter. Club President Roger Hickman asked about the emergence of blitz chess and both stated that it would be an integral part of the chess scene, but perhaps would not replace classical play.

DeJesus with CCC President, Roger Hickman
Photo by Nathan Kelly

The question of the pre-match predictions was raised and DeJesus mentioned that while Jones played well, he felt some disappointment in his play. There was a question about whether chess would be featured as part of the Olympics. This is an never-ending debate that has been discussed around the world and at FIDE Congresses. DeJesus said that if chess had a part in the Olympics it would have to be blitz since in other sports they are rather quick and decisive. It’s an interesting debate and thus far there are good points on both sides.

DeJesus was asked about his tailing off at the end. He cited fatigue as a factor in his play and stated that once the match was clinched he didn’t have the motivation. When Jones was asked what he did to refuel after losing the 5-minute segment, he stated it was a process of assessing opponent’s style. During the 3-minute segment, Jones was never able to put together any consecutive wins until the match was no longer in question. Thus, those first four or five “feeling out” games may have been riskier than anticipated.

Great match!

Photos by Daaim Shabazz

Overall the match got rave reviews with one major complaint… viewers couldn’t see the clock due to the glare. That will have to be fixed in future matches. Another issues were some of the rules that need to be set before the match, but there were not major controversies. There should be another incentive to keep the tension in the match such as a certain amount of cash for each win or rated games.

Thanks to Chicago Chess Club President Roger Hickman as the host, match organizer Nathan Kelly, videographer Louie Green, public relations specialist Johnny Strapp for making this a successful match. Kudos to the gladiators Jeff DeJesus and Daniel X Jones for a thrilling match. Outstanding!

DeJesus hanging out with Chicago Blitzers

(L-R) Sam Ford, Jeff DeJesus, Malik Brewley, Willieman Grandberry (suit), Ernest “Checkmate” Jones, Louie Green, Stephen Jennings. Photo by Nathan Kelly

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Daniel X JonesJeff DeJesus

Daniel X Jones vs. Jeff DeJesus

After two months, another Cage Match is upon us! Daniel X Jones will take on Jeff DeJesus in a 21-game blitz match at the Chicago Chess Center. After a couple of hotly-contest matches, Jones will take on DeJesus who will be flying in from Houston, Texas for match glory. The two have faced each other at the Internet Chess Club with DeJesus winning a bullet match by a +19 margin. In fact, this result caused back-and-forth banter with DeJesus releasing a diss video on the result.

Of course, online bullet and face-to-face blitz are two very different disciplines and it will be interesting to see if Jones can close the gap. The match is heavily anticipated after being postponed for a month due to the effects of Hurricane Harvey. There have been reams of trashtalk on Facebook, but now all the talking has to end and it’s time to play! The match will feature 21 games in 5- and 3-minute formats.

Follow the match tomorrow on Facebook Live!

Main Event!!!

Saturday, October 28, 2017
500pm CST

Daniel X Jones (Chicago) vs. Jeff DeJesus (Texas)

5-minute (10 games)
3-minute (11 games)

Chicago Chess Club
8622 S. Pulaski
Chicago, Illinois 60652

Video by Johnny Strapp

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Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

Jamaica

Ambassador Dr. Nigel Clarke, Akshat Chandra, Qiyu Zhou, Andrew Holness, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Akshita Gorti, Awonder Liang, Hon. Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Maurice Ashley. Photo by Peter Myers (Jamaica Chess Federation)

The inaugural Jamaican International Chess Festival kicked off on the 13th with a serious schedule of events. The weekend was filled with many activities certain to ignite the chess scene in Jamaica for many years to come. GM Maurice Ashley teamed with Ambassador Dr. Nigel Clarke to produce and host the event. As with any new initiative, a web of relationships were established over time to make it happen. It begin with the idea of starting a center at Seaward Gardens in Olympic Gardens. Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the Jamaica Gleaner,

Actually, that came from a meeting I had in 2010, thereabouts, with Ian Wilkinson (Jamaica Chess Federation President), who was then spearheading a programme to spread chess throughout the island, starting with the schools. I had made a commitment at that time that I would spend some resources to create a centre at the Seaward All-Age School. But then it blossomed, having spoken to (Grandmaster) Maurice (Ashley), a former resident of Olympic Gardens, who has done amazingly well. Then I asked Ambassador Nigel Clarke (JCF vice-president) to coordinate with Maurice, and that blossomed into a bigger movement, to kind of get chess a new energy, to spread it in Jamaica. The centre at Seaward is only but just one of what we plan to do. (full article)

Four young masters were flown in to partake in the festivities including GMs Awonder Liang and Akshat Chandra and WGM Qiyu Zhou and WIM Akshita Gorti. These players are well-traveled having competed worldwide in youth tournaments during their rise to stardom. Liang is currently the world’s youngest Grandmaster while Chandra’s rapid ascent to GM has become legendary. According from Tournament Director Frank Johnson, Chandra has one of the fastest times for achieving the GM title. Only five years ago, his rating stood in the 1500s.

Zhou, who represents Canada, has an interesting background. The 17-year old is the only one of the four who has represented the national team having won the women’s championship in 2016. Despite being of Chinese ancestry, she spent her first few years in France where she learned to play. Her family them moved to Finland where she won the under-10 Finnish championship five consecutive years. Her family then moved to Canada where she excelled at the youth level and then won the under-14 world championship in 2014.

The 14-year old Gorti is one of the many young girls dotting the top section is American open tournaments. Starting chess at age seven, she won a number of titles including the under-8 North American Youth. She is currently the highest-rated girl under-14 and won the 2017 U.S. Junior Girls Championship and competed in the U.S. Women’s Championship.

So a high-powered lineup would come to the land of “wood and water” engage with the chess community. The excitement was at a fever pitch. The young masters started with visits to local schools with Liang and Zhou visiting Wolmer’s Boys’ School and Chandra and Gorti visited St. Catherine’s. They would play simultaneous exhibitions to waiting and eager students.

Awonder and Qiyu at Wolmer’s Boys with GM Ashley, former Wolmer student
Photo by Changrong Yu

In the evening was an extravaganza with an introduction of the players and an evening of social interaction with guest players and the larger chess community. There was so much excitement building up as the players mingled. There were lots of casual blitz games being played. The highlight of the evening was the appearance of the Prime Minister, Andrew Holness.

His Excellency actually played competitive chess for St. Catherine High School and later while a student at the University of the West Indies (UWI). The idea of this initiative is to use chess as a means for social intervention. JCF President Ian Wilkinson has been charting an ambitious course across the island and was on hand to support the event.

David MacEnulty (far left) joins the players and the organizers during the chess seminar

Frank Johnson shaking hands with Ian Wilkinson, QC. Past JCF President Frederick Cameron is in the background.

National Master Akeem Brown
playing friendly blitz with Canadian WGM Qiyu Zhou
Photos by Frank Johnson

After an eventful day, the guests would conduct more educational visits and take a tour to visit landmarks around Jamaica. One must-see in Jamaica is the Bob Marley Museum. It was actually the house that Marley lived in. Part of the lure of the tour is the simplicity in which Marley lived. Despite being a pioneer in a music form that would sweep the world, his fame did not change his perspective. Unfortunately, Jamaica was heavily steeped in bitter political battles that often turned violent.

In his house are the bullet holes from an assassination attempt. Marley was injured and many feared he would have to cancel a scheduled concert two days later, but he refused and gave an inspiring performance. “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?” he stated.

Bob Marley and the Wailers

Frank posing with the legend


My favourite part of the Jamaican International Chess Festival was surely the night at Emancipation Park. From human chess, and continuous blitz, to the simul, the crowd (and us) were in for a treat.

~Qiyu Zhou


Now the fun began! Qiyu described the scene as electric in Emancipation Parkin her ChessBase article. Several videos attest to this assertion as she stated crowds had to be contained. This was chess and not boxing! There was a human chess game that was of course very interactive. Each participant was given a red or gold jersey with the name of the piece.

Photos by Frank Johnson

As if there were not enough activities, there were stations where anyone could learn how to play chess. Local masters were on hand to provide the basic instructions. It was wonderful to see this process as it would become a trivia question in one’s chess life. “Where did you learn how to play?” will be answered, “at the Jamaica Chess Festival.” Certainly, a historic marker for the community as well. There were vendors selling chess merchandise and booths by SMART Chess and the Jamaica Chess Federation.

Learn chess…

…from one of the local masters! National Master Ryan Blackwood shows rook movement.

Scavenger Hunt

Drone footage and photos by Jamaica Chess Festival

There followed blitz battles with the four masters and GM Ashley taking on 44 local players. The five masters ceded only one loss… National Master Joshua Christie getting a win against Akshita. The tandem simultaneous exhibition would feature the five masters against 76 players. Awonder had 16 while the other four had 15. In the end, the masters would drop one game with Awonder blundering mate against veteran master Geoffrey Byfield.

With FM Warren Elliott and NM Mikhail Solomon belting out commentary and trivia, the crowd was buzzing with excitement. It is about as vibrant a chess scene as one could hope for. For an island with a population of about 2.9 million, a good portion were aware that chess was grabbing headline news that weekend. GM Ashley was as excited as we’ve ever seen him. Get a taste of the action in the following videos!

Videos by Jamaica International Chess Festival

What a night! Frank Johnson told The Chess Drum that “activities went all night.” In a place that is known for the parties until the wee hours of the morning, it is no surprise that the energy continued to flow with the pulse of the booming music. Jamaicans know how to throw a party. Nevertheless, it was time to get ready for the next day… and the grand finale.

For those who are not familiar with Emancipation Park, it is an iconic place and a social center of Kingston since 2002. It had met controversy because of the two imposing 7-foot statues representing the indigenous people of the island. Both are completely naked and anatomically-endowed as the symbol of freedom, aptly named after Marley’s “Redemption Song.”

On the final day, crowds had begun to gather for the final events. The marquee event was the team rapid event. Two teams (Dark Knights and Raging Rooks) consisting of 11 players would face off in a four-game match. Each player would play their opponent four times with 25 minutes plus five seconds added per move. JCF President Wilkinson gave his blessings and would join GM Ashley and FM Elliott in the commentator’s booth. Let the games begin!

JCF President Ian Wilkinson making way for the event
with his usual panache and in an eloquent style.
Photos by Jamaica Chess Festival

Ian Wilkinson, GM Maurice Ashley and FM Warren Elliott were on the call
Photos by Jamaica Chess Festival

Games from Dark Knights vs. Raging Rooks
Compiled by Frank Johnson via DGT systems

…and the final results were in! Raging Rooks win by the slimmest of margins!

See table at Chess-Results.com

The Raging Rooks with the Maurice Ashley Cup!

The event appeared to be a rousing success and the excitement has increased immeasurably with support of the government, the Jamaican Chess Federation and local players. It is a matter of time before the island begin hosting elite events. As Qiyu Zhou pointed out in her article, Jamaica offers ideal conditions for a vacation with its beautiful scenery and the hosts are certainly experts in the tourism industry. Hopefully, the Jamaican Chess Festival will become a fixture on the island’s chess landscape.

Thanks to the young masters for their presence and inspiration and to the organizers and supporters who made this wonderful event possible. Until year…

ONE LOVE!!

Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

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The Queen of Katwe

Five years ago, a book was released titled, “Queen of Katwe.” The book, written by Tim Crothers, received rave reviews. It highlighted the life of a 9-year old Ugandan girl who became enthralled with chess after following her brother to a club meeting. For others it would become a way for a meal, but for Phiona, it would become a passion and path to better life. Indeed. Today, Phiona finds herself on the campus of Northwest University as an incoming freshman.

After the book, life suddenly became overwhelming as Phiona was traveled the world telling her story. She went on a 33-day tour in the U.S. and ultimately drew the attention of Mira Nair. Through a web of relationships, Nair had previously met Lupita Nyong’o and decided that she would be perfect for the role. The Academy award winner read the script and signed onto the project.

Robert Katende breaking a coconut in celebration of the start of filming. Director Mira Nair (center) and Lupita Nyong’o (right) look on. Photo courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/maishafilmlab

Two years later, the movie was released September 30th, 2016 with great fanfare, but received a tepid response. Many thought it was a movie about chess. Some thought it was “slum-shaming” while others were disappointed that Phiona’s playing level was only average. None of these groups got it right. This was not a movie about chess, or Phiona’s rise to the top of the chess world. It was a story about triumph.

Now in 2017, she has enrolled in Northwest University, outside of Seattle, Washington. It is an unlikely place for a girl from Katwe, Uganda. She is one of the few from his poor town to attend formal studies. Her life has been changed. Phiona met Elliott Neff, a long-time chess instructor in Bellvue, Washington… just outside of Seattle.

Neff made contact with the Dr. Joseph Castleberry, President of Northwest University, who then offered both Phiona and Benjamin Mukumbya a scholarship to the university. It was a laudable gesture, but the two students could not manage the living expenses. Both were featured in the movie “Queen of Katwe,” but the Disney movie took a big loss at the box office. Both students are seeking to raise addition funds for expenses.

Link: http://q13fox.com/2017/10/14/queen-of-katwe-receives-help-for-costs-to-attend-northwest-university-in-kirkland-during-chess-tournament/

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International Master Emory Tate
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Two years ago today on October 17th 2015, Emory Andrew Tate, Jr. passed away after being felled by a heart attack at a chess tournament. The world immediately went into mourning and the stories started to flow about his chess adventures. On March 11th, 2017, a biography detailing the life of this most loyal acolyte of Caissa was released to the public. It was titled, Triple Exclam: The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior. No expense was spared to produce a work befitting of the heart and soul he gave to chess. The book was well-received and in six months the initial 500 hardback, full-color copies were sold to admirers far and wide.

After the release of the book, many offered additional stories of his life and we will add a few here in his honor. We will also add some games that he played on the ICC. One of the most poignant messages was left by “Erob” on November 10th 2015 only weeks after Emory’s death.

Tate, with that circus energy, like a clown on the high wire with no net underneath, laughing fearlessly at the crowd for refusing his invitation to join him, suffered never for a gentle smile, reassuring that we act by gift of our own wonder. And that Rolls Royce of a brain he carried, thundering down the slope of an unjust society, surely will find respite in the place where all like Socrates must go. But should his ghost decide to linger… our swords will sharpen… and our friendships will grow… in unpredictable ways.

Indeed.

There were those associates who purchased Triple Exclam in hopes to discover the magic of that “Rolls Royce of a brain.”

Memories of Tate have been immortalized and one can only give a wry smile when recounting the countless stories that cannot be captured in a single book. There is a saying that everyone has an Emory Tate story. Maybe not, but there are hundreds! A few months ago, Frank Johnson shared with me an anecdote of Emory’s determination.

On one weekend, Emory took the Greyhound bus to a tournament. While he traveled lightly he would sometimes bring along something to read. On this trip, Emory toted around his Anthology of Chess Combinations, a book of 2001 combinations from practical games. It was a book he found great beauty in and cherished.

Unfortunately, he left his book on the bus and when he discovered that it was missing, he returned to the depot only to see the bus pulling off. Emory, with his asthma-riddled lungs, chased down the bus in hopes of flagging it down. Generally buses will not stop, but somehow he got the bus to stop! Panting and out of breath, he got onto the bus and retrieved his prized possession. Having pulled off an unlikely task, he merrily went on about his business!

Emory competing at the 2001 World Open in Philadelphia.
His games always drew a watchful eye.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Emory Tate vacationing in Mexico
Photo by Ed Lewis

I also got a number of stories highlight Emory’s drinking prowess. For those who read Triple Exclam, this was a sordid chapter in his life. Chris Torres, a close friend of Emory’s, told me that he would drink in order to “shut down his mind.” There was certainly a lot of energy that he was generating, a lot of thoughts percolating and a cooling off period was needed.

Emory was troubled, but would look for (and find) a place of solace. Of course there many ways to do this. One that he chose was to imbibe in spirits to assuage his troubles. Another is to find a place to unwind. One of his favorite resorts was his mother’s home, a house sitting on secluded acreage tucked into rural Alabama. It brought him the solitude and time to reflect. It was said that he considered returning back to Alabama prior to his passing.

It was easy to understand why Emory appreciated beauty. Here is a family photo from the 90s of Emory with sisters Emory Denise and Katrinka, his mother Emma and youngest sister, Elizabeth.

While I was in St. Louis for the 2017 Rapid & Blitz tournament, Maurice Ashley told me a story about Emory’s “Mad Max” persona. In the late 80s, Emory drove three hours from Baltimore to New York. He decided to show up at Maurice’s doorstep in Brooklyn urging him to play in a Chicago tournament. Granted, it is a 12-hour drive from New York to Chicago and Maurice would not be doing any driving. What would follow would be a nightmare of a drive according to Maurice.

Certainly not as good of a driver as a chess player, Emory worsened his performance by occasionally indulging in a drink… all the while, talking a mile a minute. Maurice, then 22-23 years old, was totally frightened and never caught a wink of sleep. After 11 hours of torturous driving, Emory mentioned he was tired and they stopped in Elkhart, Indiana to spend the night. Maurice met Emory’s gracious mother, but was enthralled by one of Emory’s beautiful sisters! As Maurice was trying to acquaint himself, Emory barked, “It’s time to go!”

The story doesn’t end there. They get to the tournament in Chicago and Emory doesn’t have a room. By now, Maurice was obviously irritated, but Emory tells him, “Don’t worry.” After some time, Emory comes back and says, “I have a room.” Maurice was dumbstruck and how Emory could pull that off so fast! Of course we now know that Emory had built up tremendous social capital in the chess world and would cash it in at various times. What happened was that Emory had met an admiring player who was glad to have two strong masters to stay with them and perhaps analyze their games. Not only did they have a room to stay in, they got the beds! What an emotional roller coaster for Maurice that trip must’ve been!

With a clear mind Emory was an artistic magician who reveled at the delicate mysteries of chess. He wanted nothing more than to share his joy in a post-mortem session. His presence has been sorely missed. I have received a number of offers of stories, photos and more of his games. William Aramil sent a number of games Tate played on the ICC and a few are shown below.

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

Emory will not be forgotten. A man of his craft, he exhibited passion,
made his mark and it was indeed a Triple Exclam.
Photo by Chris Torres

What is interesting to note is not the tactical flourishes that Emory played, but the passion that brought about these fantastic ideas. In essence, one would be skilled if they solve difficult combination puzzles, but it requires more skill to get such positions. The beauty of Emory’s presence is that he was willing to show you how he did it. He was an artist who wanted to show his work, not for the sake of self-aggrandizement, but to show the beautiful idea contained in chess. Therein lies a beauty to behold, an inspiration to be felt and a lesson to be learned.

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Levon Aronian married the ravishing Arianne Caoili on Saturday, September 30th in a very quaint location at the Saghmosavank Monastery in the Aragatsotn Province of Armenia. The couple beamed brightly as shutters were clicking from all angles capturing the special moments. Just a few days earlier Aronian had won the World Cup for the second time, and Armenia was still celebrating. Now the native son was marrying a Filipina beauty with an equally beautiful name.

Levon Aronian and Arianne Caoili
married at the Saghmosavank Monastery
Photo by u1+

Aronian is considered a national hero in Armenia and having the country’s President as your best man proves it. Serzh Sargsyan doubles as both the President of Armenia and the Armenian Chess Federation and has supported Aronian throughout his career. The 34-year old Aronian is three-time gold medalist with a growing base of admirers attracted to his easy-going personality and non-compromising playing style.

Now a newlywed, he has topped off a banner year and is coming off perhaps the biggest win of his career. In 2017, he won Grenke Classic, Norway Chess, St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, but his World Cup victory now puts him in the Candidates qualifier next spring to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship.

After winning the St. Louis Rapid and Blitz, The Chess Drum asked Aronian whether he felt a sense of urgency in winning the world title. He stated that he felt no pressure and liked his chances to qualify.5:14 minutes The Armenian ace certainly made good on his word by winning the World Cup in style over a rising talent Ding Liren. The real question now is whether he stands as the biggest threat to Carlsen’s reign. He is currently the world’s #2 player on the October FIDE rating list.

Levon Aronian

Aronian enroute to his World Cup victory.
Photo by Anastasia Kharlovich

If one is objective in this assessment, Aronian has the experience, ambition, and style to challenge Carlsen. While there are several slots to be determined for the Candidates, Aronian’s successful campaign shows that he may have the form to make a valiant run. His past attempts have come up in disappointment. Let’s take a look…

In 2007, Aronian qualified due to winning the 2005 World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. In the 2007 Candidates tournament, he played GM Magnus Carlsen, and they tied 3–3 in the initial six games. In the rapid tiebreak segment, they drew both games. Aronian took the match winning 2–0 at blitz chess. This tournament had a preliminary qualifier where Aronian defeated Alexi Shirov 3½–2½ to join other qualifiers.

Levon Aronian scored a rousing victory over a beleaguered Peter Leko
during the 2007 Candidates qualifier tournament.
Photo by Europe-Echecs.com

The championship tournament was an eight-player, double round-robin format and would be played in Mexico City. The new venue did not suit Aronian and he ended on 6/14 in a disappointing 6th-7th position. Viswanathan Anand won the overall championship finally uniting the crown and winning his 2nd championship.

In 2011, Aronian qualified on the count of his FIDE Grand Prix win with 500 points. While the world championship cycle was finding its way, there were major changes in the format. As a result, Carlsen bolted. During the tournament, Aronian lost his match to Alexander Grischuk in a 4½–3½ in a quarter final match. After a 2–2 split in classical games, the Russian won the rapid tiebreakers 2½–1½.

Levon Aronian at 2013 Candidates.
Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

In 2013, Aronian qualified by rating for the eight-player, double round-robin Candidates tournament (no preliminary qualifier) in London. He finished 4th on +2 (+5-3=6) with Carlsen winning the right to challenge Anand. The Norwegian defeated Anand 6½–3½ to begin a new championship era. Aronian would have to wait again.

In 2015, Aronian failed to qualify for the Candidates, but was a wildcard selection by Armenian billionaire Samvel Karapetyan. Ranked 7th in the world, he was an acceptable entrant. The tournament took place in Moscow, Russia and featured the usual suspects. Anand got an automatic berth having lost to Carlsen in the championship match. This was a very close tournament with Sergey Karjakin winning by a point, but all but one player scoring at least 50%. Veselin Topalov got the wooden spoon with 4½/14. Aronian was 5th on an equal score.

In 2017, Aronian has qualified for the Candidates once again and is on an unprecedented roll. Next spring, he will seek to challenge Carlsen who seemed to be in somewhat of a slump before winning the Isle of Man last weekend. Aronian, who has been seen working out, seems to be a bit more driven than ever to get to the championship stage.

Interviewing Aronian after his St. Louis Rapid & Blitz victory
Photo by Peter Doggers

Aronian holding the Cup aloft after World Cup victory
Photo by Anastasia Kharlovich (fide.org)

His trainer traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia to train him between rounds and Aronian was in good form and high spirits. This may be exactly what he needs. The criticism on Aronian had been he was “too nice” and lacked the killer instinct. Not anymore. Even though he has stated no sense of urgency, this may be his opportune chance. Congratulations and all the best!

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GM Pontus Carlsson has introduced his webinar series titled, “GM Secrets Revealed.” With more than 20 years of experience as a player and coach, he is marketing his talents to the world market.

The webinars are 60 minutes and consists of the GM teaching an actual theme for 45-50 minutes plus 10-15 minutes where the participants can ask their own questions. All webinars will be interactive since the best ways to learn is by being engaged.

Of course there are many options for chess education these days, but the innovation of having GM-level instruction from anywhere in the world has added a viable option. In addition, to have group session and lively interaction is an added benefit. GM Carlsson speaks several languages including English, Spanish, German and Chinese. His topic range from building a chess training regiment to opening repertoire. He even has segments on how to utilize blitz as a tool. Here are some of the details:

GM Pontus Carlsson
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

How does this work?

Each member that signs up and pays the membership fee gets a personal invitation to the webinars. If a member can not attend the webinar than it will be possible to review it afterwards. GotoWebinar will be used and it is a well established webinar provider that ensures high quality.

What does it cost?

Every participant has to become a member and the membership fee is 120 USD/month. The membership fee is paid in advance and has to be paid before the 1st of each new month. If a member does not wish to renew his membership it has to be cancelled before the 1st of each new month.

GROUP MEMBERSHIPS & MORE INFORMATION!

If you are a chessclub, school or a group that wants to join than contact me on p.carlssonchess@gmail.com for a customized setup. Ask about discounted fees!!

For subscriptions, more information or questions please contact GM Pontus Carlsson.

Email: p.carlssonchess@gmail.com
Web: pontus-carlsson.com
Twitter: @GMCarlsson
Facebook: Pontus Carlsson

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Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

Jamaica

GM Maurice Ashley is launching yet another initiative. This time it will be in his home country of Jamaica. In a couple of weeks, he will host the 1st Jamaica International Chess Festival. It will feature a number of activities including a tournament with American scholastic stars.

The Caribbean seems to be a rite-of-passage for many scholastic players given the close proximity. American star Hikaru Nakamura first cut his teeth in Trinidad as a 10-year old and other junior players have enjoyed places like Bermuda and Curacao. This tournament will feature a couple of phenoms in GMs Awonder Liang and Akshat Chanda along with FM Akshita Gorti, girls junior champion. Canada’s 2016 women’s champion FM Qiyu Zhou will also be part of the contingent making an appearance as well.

There will be a variety of activities including school visits, seminars and simuls (featuring the four young masters). On the last day, the team event will feature the four phenoms in a 4-round rapid team match.


“So the Festival is about empowerment: Empowering by expanding the envelope of the possible. We are broadening the reach of Chess in Jamaica, promoting the game in a fun-filled atmosphere, while inspiring existing players to higher levels of achievement.”

~Ambassador Nigel Clarke


The event is the brainchild of Ashley and Nigel Clarke, who served as Jamaica’s Ambassador of Economic Affairs. Clarke is a “Chess Dad” and took his children to the 2015 World Youth Chess Championship where he met Liang and his father. However, the idea gained momentum when he visited the Sinquefield Cup last year and discussed the project with Ashley. Clarke also serves as one of the Vice Presidents of Jamaica Chess Federation.

While the project lies outside the auspices of the JCF, the entire chess community has provided support. According to Clarke, members of the JCF Council (IA Robert Wheeler, NM Peter Myers) will serve as arbiters for the team event. JCF President Ian Wilkinson and FM Warren Elliott will served as volunteers for the festival. Ashley will also lend his world famous commentating skills.

For more information about the festival, contact Nigel Clarke at nigelclarke1@yahoo.com for more information.

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Publisher: The Chess Drum, LLC
Retail Price: $40.00 (full color, hard back)


On September 17th, Curtis Anderson spent an hour discussing with Daaim Shabazz, “Triple Exclam: The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior.” Anderson’s “Talking with Authors” podcasts are within a series of interviews of authors of different genres. The hour-long interview also touches on the beginnings of The Chess Drum, the objective of the site and various chess-related issues.

Tate, who died on October 17, 2015, and was a magnetic personality on the chess scene with quite a fan following. His contribution to chess lies not merely in his level of play, or even his scintillating victories, but in his creation of unique ideas and inspiring dreams. The book chronicles his life, his challenges, his triumphs and his adventures, but also 35 of his games, fully annotated.

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2017 World Chess Cup
September 2nd-27th, 2017 (Tbilisi, Georgia)
FINALS
Levon Aronian vs. Ding Liren
 
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1
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5
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pts.
Aronian
ARM
½
½
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Ding
China
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Drum Coverage
| Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 |
| Semifinals | Finals |

Official Website: https://tbilisi2017.fide.com/
All PGN Games (TWIC): http://www.theweekinchess.com/
Rules and Regulations: https://tbilisi2017.fide.com/regulations/

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2017 World Chess Cup
September 2nd-27th, 2017 (Tbilisi, Georgia)
SEMI-FINALS
Levon Aronian vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Wesley So vs. Ding Liren
Drum Coverage
| Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 | Round 5 |
| Semifinals | Finals |

Photos by Maria Emelianova (chess.com), Anastasia Kharlovich (fide.org), Lennart Ootes.

The 2017 World Cup is coming to a close and there are so many possibilities of how this could affect the Candidates tournament. Macauley Peterson actually discussed the possibilities of who could make the tournament.

Of particular interest is the question of how the Isle of Man could potentially affect the average ratings of Kramnik and Caruana, who were elminated from Tbilisi after losing 9.2 and 5.2 rating points respectively. The pair are currently both precisely 2793.8 on the live ratings. But for the Candidates, the average of the monthly ratings over the entire calendar 2017 are what matter.

As of today, if nothing else changed between now and December, the average rating list would be as follows:

Caruana (2807)
So (2806)
Kramnik (2805)

Interesting Interview with Macauley Peterson
concerning the route to 2018 Candidates Tournament

Video by Georgia Chess

MVL will most likely miss the rating cut-off and will try to get one of the two spots in Tbilisi. One thing is for sure… there will be no easy outs in these two matches as all are elite players. In these matches, they will be tough to predict. It would be interesting to see if players will play it safe in the classical and go for tiebreaks or try to be aggressive in the classical and steal the match.

In Aronian-MVL, both in great form and expect have their seconds working overtime to find a novelty. In So-Ding, the Chinese delegation is impressive and most likely are looking through So’s voluminous history. Many of the Chinese players still remain in Tbilisi to assist in that task. Both players still have a chance to qualify even if they don’t reach the finals.

Official Website: https://tbilisi2017.fide.com/
All PGN Games (TWIC): http://www.theweekinchess.com/
Rules and Regulations: https://tbilisi2017.fide.com/regulations/

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Sebastian Halfhide at 2015 Groningen Open
Photo by Harry Gielen
(http://schaakuitzendingen.blogspot.com).

The Netherlands is one such country that has a sizeable segment of its population from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. Another significant group of migrants come from Suriname, a Dutch-speaking country that lies in northern part of South America. The country of 585,000 borders English-speaking Guyana on the west, French-speaking French Guiana on the east, and Portuguese-speaking Brazil on the south. In the chess world, Suriname may not be well-known, but has an active presence of chess in the country and competes in biennial Olympiad regularly.

Vines Weibolt is a native of Suriname and migrated to the Netherlands with her parents when she was 12 years old. She met her husband after moving back to Suriname and eventually they settled in the Netherlands where her son Sebastian Halfhide was born in 2001. He is an only child. Vines taught him chess at the age of eight and after he showed eagerness, she put him into a local club. Gradually he rose through the ranks as a promising junior and later was bestowed the status of “international talent” by the Dutch Chess Federation.

Sebastian Halfhide at 2016 Grenke Open. He missed IM norm by 1/2-point.

Sebastian Halfhide at 2016 Grenke Open. He missed IM norm by 1/2-point.
Photo by Georgios Souleidis (grenkechessopen.com)

Sebastian earned his FM title shortly before his 16th birthday and missed IM norms by 1/2-point in Grenke 2016 and Copenhagen 2017. He continues to progress through the European circuit having played in a number of strong tournaments including Riga, Pardubice, Hastings, Gibraltar, Wijk aan Zee, Basel and Berlin. The summer he scored 7/10 at 2017 Xtracon Open in Denmark, drawing with GM Alexander Shabalov.

Sebastian attends Utrechts Stedelijk Gymnasium, an elite school for gifted students. At 16, he is due to graduate and plans to spend a year to pursue chess endeavors full-time before entering the university. His progress is not without tremendous sacrifices and there is little in the way of sponsorship for rising talents. Currently holding a 2343 FIDE rating, Sebastian hopes to get invitations to continue his progress.

Analysis with Max Warmerdam & Sebastian Halfhide during
2014 Pathena NK Jeugdschaken in Rotterdam

Video by Pathena NK Jeugdschaken Rotterdam

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Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

FM Shane Matthews

When the curtains came down on the 2017 Jamaica Seniors and Veterans Championships (William Roper Memorial trophies) on Sunday, August 20 at the Jamaica Olympic Association there was a new Jamaica Veterans Champion. Seven-time Jamaica (Absolute) Champion and favourite FM Shane “The Magician” Matthews notched 7 points from a possible 8 (with 6 wins and 2 draws) to remain unbeaten and win the tournament outright and claim his first national Veterans title.

NM Geoffrey Byfield finished second (6.5 points), while dethroned two-time defending champion Ian Wilkinson QC was third (5.5 points). Finishing fourth was six-time Jamaica (Absolute) Champion IA CM Robert Wheeler (5 points) who retained his national Seniors title – his third crown in as many attempts.

Geoffrey Byfield (left) took 2nd place in the Seniors.
Photo Jamaican Chess Federation

Matthews and Wheeler have earned the right to be Jamaica’s official representatives at the World Senior Chess Championships set for Acqui Terme, Italy in November, 2017.

Fifth to ninth places in the 9-man field were Michael Diedrick, Markland Douglas, Eton Chin, Terence Lindo and Frederick Cameron, respectively.
The pairings, schedule and results can be found at the JCF’s website (www.jamchess.com) or on www.chess-results.com.

The tournament is named in honour of WILLIAM ROPER, one of the founding fathers of the JCF and its first Secretary when it was formed in 1969. An Attorney-at-Law, he was also a former Principal of the Norman Manley Law School and died at 83 years old on July 19, 2014.

It was a round-robin event over nine rounds at a time control of game in 90 minutes with increments of thirty seconds per move from the first move. It ran from August 5 to 20 with all nine rounds played at the JOA.

The event was sponsored by the Sports Development Foundation, the Kasparov Chess Foundation, the JOA and the JCF, respectively.

~Jamaica Chess Federation
2017 August 25

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Brooklyn Master Shawn Martinez had mentioned that he battled with Daniel X Jones years ago. Martinez said that he got the better of Jones, who was rated 1700 at the time. Since then Jones has gotten noticeably stronger and is helping to lead a movement of team blitz chess. Coming off of a win against blitz phenom Tavon Carter, Martinez knew Jones would be coming into the match with soaring confidence. When the Chicago entourage arrived they were resolutely positive.

Video by Nathan Kelly

Chicago had come to iconic Brooklyn, two cities that Bobby Fischer has in common and proceeded to throw down a fierce gladiator battle. The hype was real in the buildup and the pre-match hype. Jones-Martinez had a boxing ring to it and the Kaulule-Harriott undercard didn’t disappoint. The matches had a bit of everything including controversy. First up, the Zambian against the Jamaican.

NM Kela Kay Kaulule (Chicago) beats NM Tyrell Harriott (New York) 11-9

Zambia’s Kela Kay Kaulule
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Kela Kaulule came to Chicago to visit a relative, but has found a home in the Chicago Chess Club. He was chosen as the player in an “undercard” match against National Master Tyrell Harriott. Going into the match, there was not the hype of the main event and Kela was very calm as usual. The match started with the Zambian winning the first two games, but of course, Harriott came fighting back. Kaulule had a small lead before a controversy threw the match in disarray.

The controversy occurred when Kaulule repeatedly adjusted pieces after hitting his clock. Kaulule confirmed this with The Chess Drum. It is apparently a habit developed over a long period of time. Club owner and organizer Christian Whitted intervened and penalties were assessed. Even after a 20-minute delay, the next game was delayed for the same issue. In fact, the ICC had seen enough and stopped relaying the games at 8.5-8.5. After the smoke cleared, a draw put the score at 9-9. Kaulule then closed the match with two wins.

Video by Nathan Kelly

NM Shawn Martinez rallies to beat Daniel X Jones 8-6

There were some technical difficulties in the match with the network connection and the DGT board managed from Atlanta by Frank Johnson. Chicago Chess Club’s Nathan Kelly was broadcasting the games on his cell phone, but the viewing quality was not of standard. There was a better angle for the games, but the connection was spotty at best. The team worked feverishly to correct the issue and should be commended.

The games were originally set to be broadcast at the Internet Chess Club, but the management cut the relay after the Kay Kaulule-Tyrell Harriott match became snarled in controversy. This meant that the main event would be seen only through DGT wifi relay.

Daniel X Jones (Chicago) and Shawn Martinez (New York)

The match was a seesaw affair with both players staying close until the end. Martinez held the lead early but the games were even at 2.5 after five games. Again, Brooklyn edged out to a lead before Chicago roared back to take a 5.5-3.5 lead. Jones secured the lead at the end of the 5-minute and 3-minute segments. It appeared that Martinez caught his groove and rallied to victory with 4.5 in last five games (one 3-minute, four 2-minute) for an 8-6 win.

The games finished in the wee hours of the morning and it was truly a gladiator battle. While the composite score in the two matches was 17-17, New York will win home court advantage with Martinez’s win. The technical issues will have to be improved for the NYC-CHI match, but the excitement is high and now the cities will prepare to battle in the fall.

The event has spawned possibilities and hopefully other cities will take note and join the action.

Thanks to

…and

…and last but certainly not least…

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Get ready… two legendary cities… two gladiators… one winner!

Shawn MartinezDaniel X Jones

Shawn Martinez vs. Daniel X Jones

Video by Johnny Strapp

The time has arrived. After months of banter and trashtalk, this evening will mark a hotly-contest blitz battle featuring two marquee cities. Chicago Chess Blitzers, who are sponsored by the Chicago Chess Club, have begun the overture by traveling to Brooklyn. Daniel X Jones and Kay Kaulule were caught live on Flatbush Avenue and had a message for the audience… and for their opponents Shawn Martinez and Tyrell Harriott.

Video by Nathan Kelly

This comes after another video circulated on Facebook with New York players asserting their supremacy as a chess city. Of course, New York’s pedigree is unmatched as far as history, but that is happening now is the beginning of another tradition. With the growth of technology, it is possible to reach so many different corners of the chess community and the blitz community will be watching this with with their snacks.


“At the end of the day on September 9th, Shawn Martinez is going to handle business for New York and represent the truth about who’s better.”

~Christian Whitted, New York Chess & Games


New York had upped the stakes after this video featuring owner of New York Chess and Games, Christian Whitted sparring with Nathan Kelly, organizer and catalyst for Chicago Chess Club. Shawn, Donell and Chris also chimed in. It was a brutal assault. They referred to Chicago as “Chiraq,” a moniker coined by Brooklyn’s Spike Lee and seen as an insult by Chicagoans.

Kelly, a Brooklyn native, survived and held his ground, but Christian was also adamant. New York would win in a rout and be the victor in the September 9th match! So.. here we are… it’s September 9th! Who will it be? Who will win home court advantage for the upcoming New York-Chicago showdown? Will it be Shawn “The Silent Assassin” Martinez or Daniel “The Baby-Faced Assassin” Jones. New York is only big enough for one assassin. So gentleman… take your seats… shake hands… FIGHT!

Main Event (600pm EST)
Shawn Martinez vs. Daniel X Jones
Tyrell Harriott vs. Kay Kaulule

Saturday, September 9th, 2017
New York Chess & Games
192 Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, NY
https://www.newyorkchessandgames.com/

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FM Jorge Oquendo
2017 Florida State Champion

Jacksonville lies at the northern tip of the state of Florida in the eastern corner. It is two hours from the capitol city of Tallahassee, but eight hours from Miami. So when the Florida State Championship was hosted, many players chose not to make the long trek northward. Despite there not being the usual Miami-based Grandmasters, the field had a number of strong players led by Colombian International Master Nelson Gamboa who incidentally, did not finish the schedule. Also in the field were two more Cuban nationals, FM Jorge Oquendo and FM Cesar Valido adding to a field of strong Floridan expats.

FM Ian Findlay hails from Alberta, Canada, but spends time in Florida. Findlay was a star of the 1980s University of Toronto teams that won three Pan-Am titles in 1979, 1980 and 1981. FM Corey Acor of Tampa rounded out the field of titled players. Ironically, there were three professors Dr. Jeremy Mandelkern (2190), Dr. Jindrich Zapletal (2285) and myself (2041) and the rest were school-aged boys. In fact 6th-grader Raghav Venkat (2154) scored three points drawing Findlay and Acor and beating Mandelkern.

In the end it was Oquendo who clinched the title with a thrilling last round win over Mandelkern. FM Cory Acor eclipsed 2400 for the first time after drawing with upstart Raghav Venkat and finishing with 4.5 points. Valido also finished with 4.5 after an interesting win over Findlay.

FM Cesar Valido trying to break through against Canadian FM Ian Findlay.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Theo Slade’s battle against the Benko Gambit ended in draw with Daaim Shabazz after white missed a couple of chances. The game ended in a dispute of a claimed three-fold repetition, but after a conference, the game was declared drawn. Photo by Kevin Pryor.

2017 Florida State Championship

Section Winners

(under-2000) Andy Wang, 5.5/6
(under-1800) Harry Bollinger, 5/6
(under-1600) David Sheppard and Amy Xing, 5/6
(under-1400) James Zhang, 5/6
(under-1200) Spencer Lewis, 5/6

The 130 players came from all parts of Florida for the state championship. This was just off from the 140 the previous years and over 200 in the best years. The one-day scholastic tournament drew 31 school kids.

Standings: http://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?201709046762
Scholastic: http://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?201709036262

Florida Chess Association Board of Directors meeting… (L-R) Daaim Shabazz, Steve Abrahams, Bryan Tillis, Michael Hoffer (via Skype), Miguel Ararat (via Skype), William Bowman, Jon Haskel, Steve Lampkin. Photo by Kevin Pryor

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Let the Games Begin!

Tbilisi Mayor Davit Narmania, First Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs Akaki Lodia, Director of Organizing Committee of the 2018 World Chess Olympiad and President of European Chess Union Zurab Azmaiparashvili, President of Georgian Chess Federation Giorgi Giorgadze and Director of “Socar Georgia Petrolium” Levan Giorgadze spoke at press conference about the importance of the World Cup, the preparation and the participants of the tournament. Photo by Anastasia Kharlovich (fide.com)

All roads lead to Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia for the 2017 World Cup, a qualifying event involving 128 players from around the world. The world’s top 16 will headline a field which include one notable inclusion. One shocking detail is that World Champion Magnus Carlsen is participating in the tournament for the right to challenge himself! What if Carlsen or challenger Sergey Karjakin (who has automatic qualification) make the final? There would be another match to clinch the second qualification spot. So why is Carlsen playing? He gives his answer to chess.com.

Video by chess.com/Peter Doggers

Those seeking to challenge Carlsen must win this spot if they haven’t already qualified through the Grand Prix series or by rating. Levon Aronian, who has had a sensational year needs one of the top two spots to qualify as does Hikaru Nakamura and Viswanathan Anand since they probably will not qualify via rating or via Grand Prix. Aronian told The Chess Drum after winning the recent St. Louis Rapid and Blitz that he did not feel any pressure to win, but “likes his chances.”

Former women’s world champion Hou Yifan is one of two women in the field. Photo by Anastasia Kharlovich (fide.com).

Out of the eight finalists to challenge Carlsen in the Candidates tournament, Fabiano Caruana and Vladimir Kramnik will most likely qualify through rating while Shahkriyar Mamedyarov and Alexander Grischuk will most likely qualify via Grand Prix. If any of these players make the finals, the spot will go to the next player. There is one wildcard nomination that could go to a deserving player.

As far as the rest of the field, there are many interesting figures from around the world. There are two women including three-time women’s world champion, Hou Yifan. Reigning women’s champion Tan Zhongyi declined her invitation. Each region of the world is represented, but there are some notable omissions such as Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria), Leinier Dominguez (Cuba), and Dmitri Jakovenko (Russia). The youngest player is 16-year old International Master from Australia, Anton Smirnov.

There was of course a drawing of lots resulting in Carlsen starting with the white pieces against Nigeria’s Oluwafemi Balogun (2255). Balogun called the pairing an “honor” and a “once in a lifetime chance” to play the World Champion in a tournament. There are brackets with all of the pairings here and there are also sites with “bracketology” contests. The tournament is now in full swing and at this writing round one has been completed.

Other Details

The total prize fund is $1,600,000 (about €1,400,000) and the winner and runner up will qualify to the 2018 Candidates tournament to determine who will compete in the World Cup. Each of the matches will comprise of two game matches, plus tiebreaks, if necessary. The last standing after the previous rounds will enter a seventh round of four games, plus tiebreaks if necessary. Players receive 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game plus 30 seconds per move starting from move one.

Opening Ceremony

Video by Sagar Shah (ChessBase India)

Photos by Anastasia Kharlovich (fide.org).

Official Website: https://tbilisi2017.fide.com/
All PGN Games (TWIC): http://www.theweekinchess.com/
Rules and Regulations: https://tbilisi2017.fide.com/regulations/

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Drum Interviews @ St. Louis 2017 Rapid & Blitz

The inaugural event was launched in St. Louis on the tailend of the 2017 Sinquefield Cup won by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. It is hard to top such a strong field, but the intrigue was heightened when the 13th World Champion decided to play in the Grand Chess Tour. While he contends that his days of competitive chess are over, he dove headfirst into a field of elite players. Levon Aronian won the event in fine style with Sergey Karjakin and Hikaru Nakamura coming in second. After the event, The Chess Drum was able to get several interviews after the event was over. The legendary Yasser Seirawan was graciously enough to grant a very lengthy interview on a variety of topics.

GM Levon Aronian (Armenia) – Sometimes it’s best to get interview while players have a full perspective of their play. Aronian talked about his victory, Kasparov’s addition, his ambitions for the World Championship and his love for bughouse! It was the 3rd time that the Armenian has spoken to The Chess Drum audience and it is usually under victorious circumstances (2008 and 2012).

Interviewing Levon Aronian after the closing ceremonies.
Photo by Peter Doggers

I was able to see Aronian play bughouse at the “chess house” and it is amazing the type of tactical patterns. When asked with this practical experience was helpful for tournament play, he had a very measured answer. The interview is short, but as usual Aronian leaves us with his usual cheerful persona!

5:14 minutes

GM Leinier Dominiguez (Cuba) – Cuba has a vibrant chess culture and it is very much a part of the national landscape. Everywhere you go, you see chess on the streets, in murals, in sculptures and even lessons on television. I was able to see this on my trip to Cuba back in 2011. In the latest Chess Life, Jacob Chudnovsky wrote and extensive article on the chess climate in Cuba. He mentioned that many of the top players got started at the Latin American Superior Insituation of Chess (ISLA) in Havana.

Leinier Dominguez and Fabiano Caruana listening to Garry Kasparov.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Dominguez gave a short interview to The Chess Drum and talked about his experience at the tournament and his trip to St. Louis, his third. Surprisingly, Dominguez will not compete in the World Chess Cup and said he will go on a sabbatical for several months. According to some reports, the Cuban maestro has requested a rest from the Cuban national team. There are some rumors circulating, but there was no indication that his hiatus is nothing but temporary.

5:24 minutes

GM Elshan Moradiabadi (USA) – Several years ago Moradiabadi was playing for the Iranian national team behind Eshan Ghaem Maghami. However, at age 16 he won the 2001 Iranian Chess Championship with +9 (10/11) ahead of Maghami. Elshan then went to the US to pursue studies after graduating from the prestigious Sharif University of Technology with e B.Sc degree in Chemical Engineering. Since then a couple of young players have emerged with Parham Maghsoodloo (17), now the country’s top player, and Pouya Idani (22) have taken over the baton.

Elshan Moradiabadi embraces Sabina Foisor after she won the 2017 U.S. Women's Championship

GM Elshan Moradiabadi embraces his fiancee Sabina Foisor
after she won the 2017 U.S. Women’s Championship.

Elshan and Sabina get the autograph of GM David Navara (Czech Republic)
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

In Febuary, Moradiabadi changed his federation to the USA after earning two advanced degrees at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. He was originally recruited to the program by Susan Polgar, but when the SPICE program moved to Webster, he decided to stay because Webster did not have an engineering program. Fast forward, he served as Grandmaster-in-Residence at the St. Louis Chess Club at the time his fiancee Sabina Foisor won the title in an emotional triumph. Both are looking to start a new chapter in his life in the Raleigh-Durham area where they will be involved with teaching locally. He gave a brief interview to The Chess Drum and recounted his experiences in the US.

13:45 minutes

Taurus Bailey chatting with Maurice Ashley.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Taurus Bailey (USA) – Although a good percentage of the world follows every professional event on the elite circuit, it is a given that most chess players in the world are casual players with other professional lives. Bailey was in St. Louis to see the return of Garry Kasparov, but it should be known that he is also the manager of Maurice Ashley. As one can imagine, this would be a very demanding job as Ashley is a highly sought after commentator and speaker. The two met in social media after Bailey offered convincing arguments about Millionaire Chess catching the attention of Amy Lee and Maurice. He then provided consultation to the company on legal matters. A chess hobbyist, he practices civil law in a private practice.

15:45 minutes

The Chess Drum also got an interview with Hall of Famer Yasser Seirawan who had many things to say about the Grand Chess Tour, Kasparov’s appearance, the U.S. chess scene and many other topics. We will have a special segment for this interview. Stay tuned!

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Video by Johnny Strapp

New York and Chicago are two iconic cities and compete for top billing for best museums, best basketball players, best pizza, best entertainment and most storied sports history. In sports, both cities have supreme trash-talking pedigree and have brought home multiple championships. The New York Yankees have won 27 Major League Baseball championships and the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls was a 90s dynasty and a New York Knicks’ foil. Who can forget that the New York Mets dashed the dreams of the 1969 Chicago Cubs in one of the epic chase downs in history? So… the stage is set for another NYC-CHI battle between NM Shawn Martinez and Expert Daniel X Jones.

Emmanuel Carter blitzing against Shawn Martinez at 2015 World Open.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Daniel X Jones vs. FM James Canty III

Daniel X Jones battled FM James Canty III in a widely-watched contest!
Photo by Nathan Kelly

After three months of social media banter, a major bout is just a week away when Daniel X Jones travels to Brooklyn, New York take on NM Shawn Martinez of Edward Murrow fame. The Chicago Chess Club has staged a series of matches with different cities (Memphis and Cleveland). The winner of the upcoming Jones-Martinez match will be a 20-game match and the winner will get the choice of home field advantage in the team event.

Promoter Nathan Kelly went to his old stomping grounds to get a pulse of the excitement. Needless, trash-talk was thick and the hype has been ratcheted up a notch. “Jones-Martinez” does have a boxing ring to it. Who will come out on top? Kelly will lead the contingent with Jones and representatives from the Chicago Chess Blitzers to clash at New York Chess & Games on September 9th (Brooklyn, NY). Stay tuned… games will be broadcast.

Nathan Kelly goes to the Lion’s Den in Brooklyn…

…SHOTS FIRED!!!

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Egypt Egypt Egypt

IM Adham Fawzy has flown underneath the radar, but is primarily known as a representative of Egypt in African and Arab events. The 17-year old International Master recently shined in the Abu Dhabi International tournament in a scintillating game versus Iranian phenom GM Parham Maghsoodloo. He is following the path of many Egyptian prodigies of the past such as Bassem Amin and before him Ahmed Adly. In fact, Amin won the tournament with 7.5/9 and is now at 2699 ELO (live rating).

IM Adham Fawzy

IM Adham Fawzy
Photo by http://ajedreztricolor.com.ve/

The game came out of a Modern Defense, a defense that is rarely seen in top level play, but is sometimes employed since its subtleties are hard for an opponent to grasp over the board. However in this game, Iranian’s top player got run over by a truck. “Agadmator” made a video comparing the game to the likes of Mikhail Tal. While it is a nice attacking game to have in one’s collection, you can be the judge of whether it is Tal-like.

Video by agadmator (YouTube Channel)

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National Master John Brooks
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Detroit is known as the “Motor City” because of its massive car industry, but it is a city also known for its musical pedigree, notably Motown Records. It is also known as a hard-scrabble city with enough pride to challenge other blue-collar Midwestern cities in neighboring states like Ohio, Indiana, Missouri and Illinois. Like most cities in major urban areas, there is a chess presence. Recently an interesting documentary produced by Pierre Ashby with Derek Wilder as the videographer. It chronicles a group of Detroit players describing how they found the game of chess and why they remain enamored by it.

On first glance, they would appear to be the same “street players” found in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Baltimore or Philadelphia. However, the quality of their conversation gives the impression of players who have done more than play blitz games for pocket change. National Master John Brooks is prominently featured in the film. A beloved figure in Detroit, he has developed into somewhat of a role model for players in the area and shares his story in the film.


“Every piece has a life of its own.”
~John Brooks on chess


The film has one regrettable omission in FM Jimmy Canty and his meteoric rise through Detroit’s scholastic ranks, but captures some very engaging personalities with the usual nicknames like “Beast of the East.” In the film there are lots of blitz games, trash-talking, laughing, but there are some pearls of wisdom being dropped as well.

Dominic Johnson boldly claimed, “I don’t lose,” but when you hear his rationale it’s quite profound. Negash Bezaleel migrated from Buffalo to Atlanta to Detroit in search of promise. He talks about the way another chess group in Buffalo gave him the motivation and confidence to ultimately earn the Master’s title (1997).

Negash DaQuan Bezaleel

The documentary is about a half-hour long, but well worth it. These are the endearing stories we don’t often hear when following the typical prodigies. It shows how chess can bring joy and builds camaraderie, provides a support system and teaches lessons of life. If anyone understands lessons of life, it would be a Detroiter. These are the reasons, “Why We Play” resonates so loudly with those belonging to such close-knit groups. Enjoy!

Video produced by Pierre Ashby

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