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/


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!


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…



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)


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


Since the inception of The Chess Drum, I have written on hundreds of events. However one of the most rewarding experiences is to cover an event live. Being present gives access to the excitement in the atmosphere, the away-from-the-board drama and the personal interactions with players. It is one of the the factors that make covering live events so rewarding and also challenging.

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

For example, I have covered five Olympiad tournaments live (2014, 2012, 2008, 2006, 2004) and it is by far the most challenging event. There are so many players and so many teams that a journalist literally has to devise a strategy of what they will focus on each time of the day. For me, I have to shoot photographs, set up and conduct interviews, file stories and handle social media.

When covering events at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis (CCSCSL or St. Louis Chess Club), it is more manageable given that the event is confined to the beautiful venue. While the building that houses the club is a bit cozy, it is well-managed and the staff very professional. I have covered perhaps five or six CCSCSL events and have visited the club on a few other occasions while visiting my centenarian great-aunt in E. St. Louis, Illinois.

THIS time there was something a bit different. The media was buzzing about Garry Kasparov’s “return” to professional chess. I knew better. There is no way the 13th World Champion would endanger his legacy by jumping back into the shark-infested waters of professional chess. Nevertheless, him playing in a competitive event adds intrigue and I decided to attend a couple of days.

Garry Kasparov making his grand entrance before the round.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

I must admit… St. Louis Chess Club has been so successful that it may have already outgrown its beautifully-renovated building in the Central West End area. The place has a wonderful ambiance and every square inch has been optimized to enhance one’s experience. In addition, there are always plenty of blitz games going on outside the club.

Ironically, many of these players are oblivious to the world-class players walking into the club. That is what makes chess such an enigma. I played a stately-looking young lady in a game who shared that she was from Nigeria. It was an interesting game that made it into the endgame… although I gave her one takeback. The place is a veritable magnet of personalities, far and wide.

Impressions at CCSCSL
CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.
All photos by Daaim Shabazz (unless otherwise stated).

When I covered the U.S. Championship in April, all the journalists had was a long table… and wherever we could sit our computers. I missed the 2017 Sinquefield Cup, but before coming to the Rapid & Blitz, I was glad to learn that journalists were being placed in one of the three “chess houses” owned by the Sinquefields. These buildings are literally 1-2 minutes walk from the club and the Kingside Diner, a chess-themed eatery also owned by the Sinquefields.

With Elton Arrindell, a friend from grad school
at the Kingside Diner. He works for the State of Illinois.

I met a close friend in the Central West End and explained the ongoing activity with the world’s top players. We watched a bit of the live broadcast before heading to the Kingside diner next door. He showed me pictures and video of his family back in St. Maarten. Elton, his marathon-running lawyer wife Geri, and two children Zachary and Zoe live only minutes away from the club.

Elton knew Rex Sinquefield because his son is in the Boy Scouts and Rex has made handsome contributions to the local troop. My friend knew the area well and had eaten at the Kingside diner, but never had any exposure to chess. It was interesting to watch my friend take an interest in the atmosphere. What can we do to make chess more than something nice to pass by on the street?

The Chess House… the place where fun happens after hours!

The chess houses may be the journalists’ haven, but it also doubled as a place of bughouse battles, drinks and laughter. It is almost unimaginable to see Levon Aronian and Sergey Karjakin playing bughouse, but they holding court beating everyone in sight. Aronian is one of those persons easy to like. Even when he’s talking trash, he does it in such a loving way that you cannot possibly get upset at his sarcasm.

Here I will recount some of the things that stood out in the few days at the Grand Chess Tour event. These five points are not in order of importance.

  1. Seeing Triple Exclam sharing space with Reality Check and Play like a Girl!…
    During the 2017 U.S. Chess Championships, I appeared on the live broadcast and sales spiked immediately. Copies of Triple Exclam have been available at the St. Louis Chess Club and the profile of the book is buoyed by the prestige of the venue. Coming into the club and seeing the book displayed with Alisa Melekhina’s Reality Check and Jennifer Shahade’s Play like a Girl! is interesting because all three books highlight growth segments in chess.

    Reality Check (Alisa Melekhina), Triple Exclam (Daaim Shabazz),
    Play Like a Girl! (Jennifer Shahade)
  2. Taurus Bailey, Maurice Ashley’s manager

  3. Breakfast with Ashley and his manager Taurus Bailey…

    Not too many better things to do than to hang out on a Saturday morning at a coffee shop. I had met Taurus for the first time the previous day after years of communicating via Facebook. Maurice had just come from a workout and joined us at a Starbucks. We talked about old chess times, martial arts, Triple Exclam, the state of chess and his pending trip to Jamaica.

    Maurice even shared a couple of Emory Tate stories. Back in 1988, Emory had come from Baltimore and showed up at his Brooklyn doorstep urging him to come with him to play in Chicago. What followed was an eventful 16-hour drive from New York to Indiana to Chicago. Maurice recalled Emory fading at the wheel, but they made it to Elkhart, Indiana. It turns out that Maurice was smitten by one of Emory’s four gorgeous sisters, but they had to get to the tournament. It would’ve been good to have this episode as part of the Tate biography!

  4. Observing fellow journalists…
    Chess journalism is a very small community of loyalists of many different backgrounds. Some report for personal websites, others report write for chess organizations while a few report for mass media outlets. There were not many in the press corps. John Henderson of Scotland was reporting as well as IM Eric Rosen, who was handling social media for U.S. Chess. I also met Isaac Steincamp of Chess Summit. While the Rapid & Blitz is impossible to cover round-by-round, chess.com reporters Mike Klein and Peter Doggers teamed with Mario Emelianova for a series of wonderful daily reports. Sitting next to them, it reminded me of other press rooms I have been in. Chess journalists are basically chess players who like to extol the excitement and sporting value. It is good to see journalists working to promote chess in a positive light. Mike always briefs me on press room issues. 🙂

    Peter Doggers and Mike Klein interviewing Sergey Karjakin.
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

  5. One may not appreciate the process, but…

    …can appreciate the final product!

    Video by chess.com

  6. Watching top-level players in action…
    While I’m truly not starstruck when I see top level chess players, I can appreciate their accomplishments and emotional diversity they bring to the game. You have Viswanathan Anand who looks like the prototypical engineer, has a even temperament, but has the chess style of an assassin. Garry Kasaparov is a torrent of energy and it shows in his outwardly expressive manner. It is also interesting the way the players interact with the fans.

    Levon Aronian seemingly never refuses an autograph.
    Photo by Mike Klein.

    Nakamura has one of the largest fan bases in the world and is much more engaging than his reputation. Fabiano Caruana gives the impression that he doesn’t realize he is a top five player. He moves easily among all types of people and seems happy to pose for selfies with gushing fans. David Navara is perhaps the most polite player on the circuit. He presents himself with a formality and humility that is very refreshing. I enjoyed a short chat with him. On the other hand, Kasparov eschewed the crowds and slipped away quickly after the games were done. Very little fan interaction except in the signing of his new book, Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins.

    Finally, I also got to see top players playing bughouse! I was actually a fly on the wall (pun intended). 🙂

    GM Bughouse… Karjakin and Aronian vs. Moradiabadi and Akobian.
    Very interesting scene folks!!

  7. African donations… One statement that caught my attention was when Kasparov said he would donate his winnings to further chess development in Africa. Of course, many will know that Kasparov has been active on the continent promoting chess with his Kasparov Foundation for Africa with Graham Jurgensen as his Executive Director. He has made inroads, but progress has been rather gradual. Politics aside, it shows that his pronouncements during the 2014 FIDE Presidential campaign have continued. In a continent that finds difficulty in raising sponsorship, such help by a high profile player is more than the typical speech and giving of a simul. No other organization is furthering initiatives in such a way.

The five areas of focus are…

  1. Grand Tour Chess… I have never had a conversation with Rex Sinquefield, but if I did I would ask him about the variety of the field. In the latest New in Chess (2017/5) 22-year old Indian Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi (2693 ELO) was asked, “If could change one thing in the chess world, what would it be?” He answered, “Have more tournament where the top players don’t just play amongst themselves. It’s more fun to see a mixed field.” Indeed.

    In a recent interview, GM Vidit Gujrathi of India advocated for a more diverse field in the elite circuit.

    There have been some rumblings about the homogeneity of the elite tournaments… same players, different venue. To the credit of the Grand Chess Tour, they continue to try new format and the new Rapid & Blitz (Yasser Seirawan calls it “R&B”) was a smashing success bolstered by Garry Kasparov’s return. The Sinquefield started in 2013 with four players and has blossomed into ten players. They have added the Paris and Leuven events after Norway Chess pulled out after one year.

    There are even discussions about expanding the tour even more. It will hopefully include a variety of players. Ding Liren played in last year’s Sinquefield, but apart from his inclusion, the field represents the same combination of players. None of the young Indian talent, who by some accounts will dominate the chess landscape in the near future. Anand will certainly need a replacement.

  2. Venue Layout… The tournaments were splendid and got a lot of visitors. The Rapid/Blitz ended up getting 1 million unique online viewers. In terms of the venue layout, the organizers opted for the long as opposed to the square. It apparently provides more space for the spectators and players, but it appears that the room has a limited capacity.

    Crowds were packed deeped into the viewing area.
    Photos by Daaim Shabazz

    Another problem was the providing space for journalists who were covering the tournament. Grand Tour events have continued grow making space more limited. At the Rapid & Blitz, only two photographers were allowed behind the ropes, understandably so. There simply wasn’t enough room for more photographers.

    There were some avoidable problems. One particular arbiter stood in front of cameras (and people) and waved his hand flippantly when he was told his was blocking the view. There were other locations he could’ve stood. With this attitude you run the risk of alienating the fan base who are paying admission fees. People paid money to see the action and arbiters have to understand this.

  3. WIM Ivette Garcia Morales of Mexico handled the Spanish broadcast with GM Alejandro Ramirez.
    Photo Ivette Garcia Morales (Facebook)

  4. Commentary… Great as usual. The Spanish team with GM Alejandro Ramirez and WIM Ivette Garcia also did well. Although I don’t speak Spanish, I watched the broadcast for 20 minutes just to see how much more expressive Alejandro Ramirez is in Spanish than in English. Yasser, Jennifer Shahade and Maurice Ashley handled the daily broadcasts with class.

    There were still the tired comments about the use of engines. Of course you have to use engines to get through variations quickly and avoid making obvious errors. It is a live show which means you have less time go through lines accurately. What is worse than a 1200-rated player (with an engine) pointing out that a Grandmaster missed a tactic? It’s an avoidable nightmare.

    The feature of viewers calling in is always interesting because it shows how far the coverage reaches. It is common that fans are following their favorite players and there is usually several calls as far way as India. The quizzes and the puzzles are welcome features and time fillers and of course Yasser’s stories are jewels.

    Certainly there are complaints about delivery and style, but one cannot deny that Jennifer, Yasser and Maurice make up one of the best commentating teams out there. Of course, we should dispense with boorish insults as Steve Giddins was roundly rebuked for some improper comments about Jen.


    Giddins offered no apology and even after her brother IM Greg Shahade demanded that he remove this tweet, it is still public meaning he is unrepentant. Not sure he knows of Jen’s father FM Michael “Iron Mike” Shahade. He definitely looks like he could’ve been someone’s bodyguard. Giddins would do best to stay clear. Seriously.

    Michael Shahade would not be pleased with Giddins right now.
    Photo by SugarHouse Poker Blog

The tweet was wrong on a number of levels. Interesting how people can post such comments in an open forum and not realize the damage, not only to the person targeted, but to their own reputation.

So another event in the books. Mike Klein made the comment that I always manage to pop in for a couple of days. Alas… it is the life of an academic. In the midst of my faculty meetings, it is difficult to string days together. However, the two days on site is more valuable than none at all. It’s always good to see the action and to interact with elite players, chess fans and journalists.

I was able to conduct a few interviews including with winner Levon Aronian. It is my third interview with Levon and each time it was after a glorious result. You have to get players when they’re in a good mood. Certainly the closing ceremonies is when you can get players to open up a bit.

Posing with Maurice at his Hall of Fame plaque
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

OK… some of you are probably wondering about my 102-year old great aunt. I usually include a photo of her at the end of my St. Louis reports. Well… unfortunately I ran out of time to see her. On the day I was leaving, it was too early for her. She makes 103 in November so perhaps I will visit her and play in the Thanksgiving Open! Certainly the St. Louis Chess Club is the place to be and I’m already looking forward to the next event.

Until next time…

…keep the beat going!

Link: Kasparov’s return ignites, but Aronian shines


Levon Aronian holding the cup of the inaugural St. Louis Rapid and Blitz.
Photo by Maria Emelianova (chess.com)

Garry Kasparov made at long-awaited return occurred in St. Louis as part of the 2017 Grand Prix Tour. Media organizations around the world were excited and fans were buzzing in social media. In the end, Kasparov contended that it has become too difficult to handle the pressure of competitive chess. “Really too much pressure … Maybe if we can eliminate opening theory, then I can play. Otherwise, you have to remember everything and they have so much practice. It’s a huge disadvantage,” he asserted. Here is his segment with Maurice Ashley where he discusses his performance and what he sought in making his return.

Interesting insights!

Video by CCSCSL

However, he did create moments of nostalgia with some shining moments. In fact, his Najdorf against Cuba’s Leinier Dominguez was a textbook treatment of how black gets it’s famous reputation as a fighting defense. There was also his King’s Gambit against Sergey Karjakin and the 9.h4!? novelty against Levon Aronian, Hikaru Nakamura and Viswanathan Anand.

It was in fact Levon Aronian who (during the Sinquefield Cup) went on record to say that, “You have to play h4 whenever you can!” As noted, Kasparov actually lost in the h4 novelty game against Aronian, but scored a crushing victory against Hikaru Nakamura with the same line in the blitz segment. The ending this game was novel because we often think that endgames with opposite-colored bishops are drawn. More on this game later.

Garry Kasparov essaying his novel play against Hikaru Nakamura in round 13 of the 2017 St. Louis Rapid & Blitz. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

In his book Deep Thinking, Kasparov mentioned that he didn’t like the nickname “The Beast from Baku” when he was playing, but he earned such plaudits several times. Nakamura commented that Kasparov had a “decent showing.” He also showed he still had fresh ideas. However, other players were much sharper and faster! Kasparov bungled a number of good positions and his time whittled down.

While Kasparov brought a lot of excitement, the star of the show was Aronian whose personable demeanor has won a legion of fans worldwide. Rebounding from a disappointing 2016 season, he is again enjoying chess after winning the strong 2017 Altibox Norway Chess event in Stavanger. In a very poignant interview in New in Chess, he talks about some of his recent emotions in chess including a period of listlessness from which he had to emerge. He found solace and comfort in his fiance (Arianne Caoli), friends and decided to focus on his physical state.

I decided that I had to concentrate more on my physical state, I always hae to be in top shape. I worked on my running technique, worked on my stamina. And a friend of mine who is helping me with my chess and also managing me, he said you train too much. So I didn’t do anything for one month, just hung out with my friend. And also Arianne and some of my other friends helped me understand where I was going.

Certainly Aronian righted the ship and played with a bit of motivation in this tournament. He won praise for his scintillating win over David Navara with a blistering attack following 22.Rxf6! Watch!

As over 1,000,000 viewers would watch throughout the week, there were some very interesting games involving twists and turns. There were of course the heartaches and the games during the rapid featured time scrambles and the inevitable blunder. Nakamura anguishes over his only loss in the rapid segment.

Both Nakamura and Caruana chased Aronian throughout and Ian Nepomniachtchi lost momentum due to a number of “spoilers.” In fact Le Quang Liem beat all three! Even tailender David Navara scored three wins and prevented aspirants from gaining. One of the most memorable moments in the tournament was Kasparov regrettable loss to Navara. The former champion had developed a completely dominating position and it appeared that Kasparov would be getting the point. However, a drastic turnaround occurred and become a nightmare for the champion. Mike Klein of chess.com annotates.

Kasparov tweeted about the game and mentioned it several times throughout. The devastating loss affected him in a way in which it was difficult for him to fully focus on the games ahead and he mentioned that he lost sleep. After three days of rapid and two days of blitz, one would think that fatigue would set in but the games were very exciting and the tournament result was in doubt until the last day. Aronian emerged on top after the rapid segment with 12 points (+5-2=2) with two points for a win and one for a draw. Caruana and Nakamura were holding him close.

For the wild and crazy blitz segment, there was not shining star. In fact, Sergey Karjakin scorched the filed on the first day with 8/9 despite almost flagging against Kasparov a few times. That game was a King’s Gambit which started 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nc3 Qh4+ 4.Ke2 Qd8!? Was Steinitz’s ghost in the room?

The game ended in a fierce time scramble and Kasparov was able to get in a tactical sequence and with little time to find the winning response, they agree to a three-fold repetition draw. Aronian still held the lead by two points and included a 147-move marathon with Navara. Nakamura stayed close after closing the day with a swindle against Caruana. Here was Aronian’s impressions after the first day.

Video by chess.com (Mike Klein)

Le Quang Liem arriving at playing hall with a hulking figure in the background. Who is this man?

That man is John Urschel a retired lineman with Balitmore Ravens who is currently pursuing a doctorate in mathematics. He is seen here chatting with chess.com’s Mike Klein and Canada’s Yuanling Yuan.

The viewing area was like being in a subway car after work.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

On the second day there was the question whether the two-point gap could be closed in such short order. Karjakin actually closed the gap to one point after Aronian went winless in first two games. Perhaps it was the late night bughouse sessions that were coming to bear. According to the chess.com report, Aronian stated that he only got four hours of sleep. Perhaps reality kicked in as Karjakin and other pursuers appeared in the rear-view mirror.

Levon Aronian with GM Cristian Chirila
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Interestingly, enough Kasparov began to round into form after losing the first game of the day. He then went undefeated including consecutive wins over Nakamura and Caruana. Navara also played the “spoiler” role by beating both Karjakin and Aronian. In fact, a number of instructive ending took place during the blitz including the Navara-Aronian game. In what seemed to be a drawn ending, Navara marched his white king from h2 to g7 and weakened the pawns.

After 32…Re1+, the game is heading toward a draw, but the white king raised his own sword and charged the enemy. In blitz, moves happen quickly and mistakes often come in rapid succession. The black king played 36…Ke6 allowing the white king to attack with Kg5-h6-g7 to weaken the pawns and with the rook pick them off. Truly instructive!

Fortunately for Aronian, the loss didn’t supplant him from the lead, Nakamura couldn’t keep the pace dropping games to Kasparov and Dominguez. Kasparov-Nakamura was actually a very interesting endgame lesson involving opposite-colored bishops. Draw? Nyet!

Garry Kasparov cracking his knuckles in the final stages of his win.
Photo by Maria Emelianova

Meanwhile, Aronian won a 4 vs 3 R+P ending that he lost earlier. This win in round 15 moved his lead to 2.5 points. Kasparov hadn’t lost since the first game of the day and after beating Nakamura, delivered a picturesque mate against Fabiano Caruana.

Lots of thrills and spills!

While Aronian had clinched victory in the penultimate round, Kasparov settled into his chair to face Cuban maestro Leinier (two i’s) Dominguez. He would play an absolutely beautiful Najdorf that will be the subject of study for many years. Despite being rather aloof and distant from his fans in St. Louis, he left with us one thrilling chapter of his career.

Meanwhile the FIDE World Cup will begin September 2nd in Tbilisi, Georgia with many of the Grand Tour participants competing. While Aronian earned perhaps an acceptable pre-wedding gift, it was Kasparov who enthralled the fans with his trademark expressions, his energy and his passion.

Final Interview with Garry Kasparov

Video by CCSCSL


Maxime Vachier-Lagrave has had mixed results in the past year. In last year’s Sinquefield Cup, MVL, as he is known, was second in the world with a 2819 ELO and top seed. He finished on 50% and it started a string of mediocre results. Coming into the 2017 edition of the Sinquefield Cup, he would be a “dark horse” at 2789 and #8 on FIDE list. Known as a theoretician and deadly in complicated positions, MVL stayed true to his style and with a bit of fortune on his side, waded through the field undefeated. Here he is interviewed by Maurice Ashley about his overall performance after winning his last game.

Video by CCSCSL

MVL started by beating defending champion Wesley So, but his most fulfilling game may have come against Carlsen in a game with dizzying complications. The World Champion erred with 46.Rg2?? forgetting that 46…Bh3 47.Rxg3 Bxf1 48.Rf3 loses to 48…Be2! The oversight was that 49.Re3 is met by 49…f4! and the bishop is immune due to 50.Rxe2 Nc1+! There after Carlsen was simply the exchange down.

MVL still wasn’t in the clear since Levon Aronian and Viswanathan Anand were on his heels. The three would enter the final round tied on 5/8. MVL beat Ian Nepomniachtchi, Anand drew and Aronian lost after trying to press for a win against Carlsen. So the victory went to Frenchman MVL who has one his first supertournament and is now back to #2 in on the live list.


Jerald Times has been shuffling around the chess world for decades. He is known more as a coach than a player, but he has recently launched a new initiative with his inaugural “Hip Hop Chess Day” in the Bronx. Hip hop heads will know that the Bronx is where the roots of hip hop sprouted and chess is as much a part of New York landscape as any of the great pastimes. Times enlisted the help of local artists including “Barry Bee” Moody (Doug E. Fresh’s ‘Get Fresh Crew’), “Loaded Lux” and “G-Epic.” They discussed the merits of chess and how it has influenced their life as a hip hop artist. Hip Hop Chess Day involved dance demonstrations, music, breakdancing and of course chess!

Video by News 12 (Bronx, NY)

Of course, the concept is not new and goes back to the parks in many cities where hip hop was showcased during fierce street blitz battles. One of the first formal efforts to market this concept was “Urban Chess,” a 2004 chess-playing site and discussion board that hosted the sharing of rap samples and discussion of various hip hop and chess topics.

Words Beats Life (2005) has been running its “Bum Rush the Boards” event since 2005 and the Hip Hop Chess Federation (2007) formalized the chess/hip hop fusion and used chess and hip hop as metaphors for helping children gain better opportunities for social development. The mission is alive and there is enough work to go around and great opportunities for collaboration.

Long time chess has been typecast for a very narrow demographic, but it is very much a game of multiple communities. Honestly, Times is just in the beginning phases of the initiative, but hopes to expand “Hip Hop Chess Day” as movement to gain the interest of the hip hop generation. He has plans to take it to major metropolitan markets. His niche is that he will attempt to expose youth to excellence in chess as he has done for decades.

National Master Jerald Times on “Hip Hop Chess Day”

Video by BronxNet


Team Captains: Tichawona Tony Troy (Cleveland) and Daniel X Jones (Chicago). Photo by Tichawona Tony Troy

The “Best in the Midwest” rivalry continues to brew as the Chicago Chess Blitzers travels six hours (one way) to Cleveland to take on the Heavy Hitters at Case Western University. The event was designed to be a 15-players event with each player playing a counterpart twice with each color. There was good cheer before the match as the pregame trashtalk in social media was legendary. Other cities chimed in to speculate on the match and future battles.

Tichawona Tony Troy was the main organizer from the Heavy Hitters and had visited the Chicago Chess Club a couple of weeks earlier to get a feel for the competition. Cleveland was ready. They had new team shirts and had reserved a wonderful venue at Case Western University for the event. After the Chicago Blitzers arrived, they changed into their team shirts and the match was set.

As players milled about acquainting themselves with one another, informal introductions were also given to the live online audience. Cleveland legend IM Calvin Blocker gave encouraging words and described chess as a unifying force. Blocker was once one of the Midwest’s strongest players, but had to forgo more serious ambitions in chess to care for an ailing mother. His story is indeed inspiring.

Cleveland vs. Chicago (Introductions)

Video by Nathan Kelly (Chicago Chess Club)

Roger Hickman, the President of the Chicago Chess Club, made some remarks in announcing the opening of the Chicago Chess Club and then declaring the match to start with the UFC charge, “let’s get it on!” There was a review of the rules by tournament director Roy-Allen Bumpers and questions were raised and addressed. One in particular was the idea of promoting a pawn to a queen. Famous incidents have involved elite players promoting a pawn without replacing with a piece which counted as an instant loss. However in this tournament, there was a different explanation. After that clarification, the games started!

Video by Nathan Kelly

Chicago jumped out to a commanding lead in the first four rounds winning 18½-11½, 18½-11½, 23½-6½, 18½-11½ (Chicago +38). The 3rd round was particularly decisive as Chicago won 2-0 on nine boards! From the outset, it already appeared that Cleveland would be outgunned.

Chicago jumped out to a quick 38-point lead in the first four rounds.

IM Angelo Young started on 12/12 and proceeded to scorch the Cleveland lineup with 26.5/30 (+25 =3 -2).

In the first six rounds, IM Angelo Young, IM Dejan Maksimovic, Tom Murphy had 12-0 while Daniel X Jones, Kela Kaulule and Aderemi Adekola were on 11-1. FM Carl Boor paced Cleveland with 12-0 while IM Calvin Blocker was on 10½-1½ after being upset by A-player Stephen Jennings.

After a couple of more rounds, the trend continued and Chicago had bolted to a 157-83 lead nearly doubling Cleveland. It turns out that round 7 would be the most competitive with Chicago barely edging Cleveland 17-13. For all practical purposes, the match was theoretically over as it would be nearly impossible to make up 74 points in the remaining seven rounds.

Calvin Marshall watching as NM David Allen Sr. rumbles.

Nathan Kelly watching the action and ably representing
the Chicago Chess Club

The legendary IM Calvin Blocker blitzing with Zambian Master Kay Kaulule

Nathan Kelly told The Chess Drum that the Cleveland players may have had trouble keeping up the torrid pace of the event and were not used to playing at such intensity. Clearly the new chess club in Chicago has given ample opportunity for the Blitzers to sharpen their skills. Unfortunately for Cleveland, the onslaught continued.

Rounds 9-11 (17½-12½, 22½-7½, 19-11)

Chicago 207 Cleveland 133 (Should total 330, right?)

Round 12 had a bit of drama with dispute in two of the matches. This dispute between Tony Rotella and Sedrick Prude followed a thrilling battle and came down to a rook ending that appeared headed for a draw. In fact, the position is completely equal. As Rotella’s clock winds down near forfeiting, he claims a draw, but more specifically, a “book draw.” What that means is that black had no possibilities of winning. However, Rotella had run out of time as his clock hit 0:00 thus rendering any such claim invalid. Watch the action.

Despite the heated debate, Rotella went on Facebook to say,

I am not going to fan the flames, but insufficient loses chances were allowed and announced at the starting of the tournament, and our TD called a very experienced TD from the area who sided with me. I’m still not totally certain about the ruling (I think I’m probably wrong, and mixing it up with the older master/class subjective crap) but there’s no question I was correct to at least inquire about it. Who wouldn’t? My opponent was great, and either way it was awesome to play him and chill with the dudes from Chicago. And Roman is right, the real argument took place right next door and was far more entertaining for all involved. ????

Aderemi Adekola

What Tony was referring to was the McElrath-Adekola game. If you noticed the next board in the video, you will see Flamando McElrath debating with Remi Adekola about their first game. Apparently Flamando thought Remi resigned. It was a clear misunderstanding as everyone in Chicago knows that Remi never resigns in blitz games. So after Remi also won the second game, they revisited the debate once again. Nevertheless, both games went to the Chicago player. Chicago approaching midnight with three more rounds remaining, was now ahead by more than 80 points.

Fatigue had set in and now the teams were simply trying to complete the schedule. The last three rounds was an indication of how things had gone for Cleveland. Chicago ended the battle in resounding fashion by 293-157 (+136). Leading scorers of the match were IM Angelo Young (26½/30) and Kay Kaulule (26/30) for Chicago; FM Carl Boor (26/30) and IM Calvin Blocker (21½/30) led the charge for Cleveland.

It was a grueling match and both sides were to be commended for fighting in the spirit of chess. New friendships were made and memories were etched in the annals of chess lore. Cleveland did an outstanding job as host and the event was certainly an effort worthy of praise. The Chicago crew drove through the night back to the city with Tichawona Tony Troy already seeking a revenge match.

It is perhaps the beginning of greater things to come as some of the players have already begun discussing league play. It is unclear where Cleveland Heavy Hitters will land next, but Chicago Chess Blitzers are already in negotiations with Detroit for a possible showdown. As Drum readers will know, Detroit will seek poetic justice for FM James Canty who lost a tough match against Daniel X Jones. Nevertheless, the excitement is high and more matches are ahead. Stay tuned!

Jonathan Clinton, David Allen Sr., Jason Clinton, Trey Modlin

Roy-Allen Bumpers (TD) and George “Permanent Supreme” David
Distinguished men of Kappa Alpha Psi representing chess!

Chicago Chess Blitzers

Cleveland Heavy Hitters
Photos by Nathan Kelly

“Best in the Midwest” Blitz Battle
Cleveland Heavy Hitters vs. Chicago Chess Blitzers
# Player Blitz Team
1 IM Angelo Young 2425 CHI
2 FM Carl Boor 2475 CLE
3 NM Kay Kaulule 2232 CHI
4 IM Dejan Maksimovic 2341 CHI
5 Aderemi Adekola 2138 CHI
6 Thomas Murphy 2173 CHI
7 David Franklin 2185 CHI
8 Daniel X Jones 2259 CHI
9 IM Calvin Blocker 2399 CLE
10 Stephen Jennings 1920 CHI
11 Tim Donnahue 2037 CHI
12 William Sedlar 2174 CLE
13 NM Todd Freitag 2099 CHI
14 Andrew Bell 1799 CHI
15 Gwayne Lambert 1900 CHI
16 Sedrick Prude 1981 CHI
17 Trey Modlin 2186 CLE
18 George David 1807 CHI
19 Will Grandberry, Jr. 1942 CHI
20 Jonathan Clinton 1807 CLE
21 Tony Rotella 2043 CLE
22 Roman Kowalysko 1903 CLE
23 Jose Abutal 1993 CLE
24 Adam Gerver 1853 CLE
25 David Allen, Sr. 2200 CLE
26 Tichawona Tony Troy 1679 CLE
27 Benjamin Al-Shami 2109 CLE
28 Jason Clinton 1853 CLE
29 Felix Tapia 2091 CLE
30 Flamando McElrath 1842 CLE
Score: Chicago 293 -Cleveland 157


Rounds 01-10: http://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?201708054872
Rounds 11-20: http://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?201708055072
Rounds 21-30: http://www.uschess.org/msa/XtblMain.php?201708055082


Blazing trails lead to St. Louis, the self-proclaimed “capital of chess” to host to 2017 Sinquefield Cup. As part of the third of five events of the Grand Chess Tour, it is a chance for players to ground on tour leader and World Champion Magnus Carlsen. According to tournament organizers…

The 2017 Sinquefield Cup is an elite international event, featuring ten of the strongest chess players in the world. Over the course of nine rounds, these competitors will battle for $300,000 in prize money, points toward the Grand Chess Tour, and the coveted title of 2017 Sinquefield Cup Champion. Join GMs Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley, and WGM Jennifer Shahade for the move-by-move.

Magnus Carlsen is back in the Grand Chess Tour after successfully defending his World Championship title against Sergey Karjakin. Although he has not had a good string of tournaments in the past year, he still leads the GCT with 25 points ahead of Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (17 points) and Wesley So (14 points). While So is the defending champion of the Sinquefield Cup, Carlsen finished 1st in the Paris, France and 1st in Leuven, Belgium.

The field is slightly different from last year with Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi replacing Ding Liren and Anish Giri, respectively. Veselin Topalov, Alexander Grischuk and Vladimir Kramnik are also missing. Wesley So now leads the American triad switching positions with Fabiano Caruana as the top-rated U.S. player. Hikaru Nakamura will anchor the attack against an able field. The three Russians are considered “underdogs” in this field.

Magnus Carlsen hopes to break his drought by winning his second Sinquefield. Photo by Lennart Ootes.

This is the 5th edition of the Sinquefield Cup and since it’s start as a four-player tournament has blossomed into a format that includes 10 players. Last year, MVL was sitting on 2819, but has stabilized at 2789 while Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana have been threatening Carlsen in the 2800 stratosphere. The same core of players are participating this year with the return of Carlsen, but in a somewhat vulnerable state. The World Champion has not won a major classical event in nearly a year and other players will be jostling for position to vie for the crown next year.

After the Sinquefield Cup there will be a blitz/rapid event featuring former World Champion Garry Kasparov. He will be combined with six players from the Sinquefield and three wildcard selections Leinier Dominguez (Cuba), Le Quang Liem (Vietnam) and David Navara (Czech Republic). This will be the official unretirement of Kasparov who has created quite of a stir with his pending battle.

“It’s a thrill to officially be returning to the game, and certainly not something I would have anticipated more than a decade after my retirement. Coming back to the board in St. Louis is truly an honor – I wouldn’t want to commemorate this moment anywhere else.”

The venue is the Chess Club and Scholastic Center at 4657 Maryland Avenue, Saint Louis, MO 63108. Tickets cost $10 per round or $80 for all ten rounds. Full information available at the official web site. Live commentary will be given by an eminent line-up of Maurice Ashley, Jennifer Shahade, Yasser Seirawan with roaming commentating by Alejandro Ramirez. For more information, visit www.grandchesstour.com or follow along at @CCSCSL.

2017 Sinquefield Cup
August 2nd – August 12th, 2017 (St. Louis, USA)
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (4657 Maryland Ave.)

Rank Name Rating Country Flag Age
No. 1 GM Magnus Carlsen 2822 Norway
No. 2 GM Wesley So 2810 USA
No. 3 GM Fabiano Caruana 2808 USA
No. 5 GM Levon Aronian 2799 Armenia
No. 7 GM Hikaru Nakamura 2792 USA
No. 8 GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2789 France
No. 10 GM Viswanathan Anand 2783 India
No. 12 GM Sergey Karjakin 2773 Russia
No. 15 GM Ian Nepomniachtchi 2751 Russia
No. 16 GM Peter Svidler 2751 Russia
Official Site

The Sinquefield Cup is a 10-player all-play-all tournament played at a classical time control: 100 minutes for 40 moves, then 60 minutes to the end of the game, with a 30-second delay (not increment) from move 1. It takes place from 2-11 August in the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, with games starting at 13:00 local time (14:00 New York, 19:00 London, 20:00 Paris, 21:00 Moscow, 01:00 Mumbai). There’s going to be live commentary in English from an array of star names: Yasser Seirawan, Jennifer Shahade, Cristian Chirila, Maurice Ashley, Varuzhan Akobian and Eric Hansen. Ivette Garcia and Alejandro Ramirez will commentate in Spanish, with Jan Gustafsson adding commentary in German for the last two rounds.


Daniel X Jones with wife Zoraida
Photo by Daniel X Jones

In the past few years, Daniel X Jones has been a catalyst for chess growth in Chicago. While operating a martial arts dojo, he also hosts chess events to ignite enthusiasm that has been dormant on the south side for the past decade. He is also one of the members of the Chicago Chess Blitzers team that will be facing Cleveland Heavy Hitters on August 5th.

Prior to his rise in chess, Jones was homeschooled for the first year of high school, but graduated from Rich East High School where he was on the wrestling team and also studied karate. He has trained in other disciplines which includes earning a purple belt in VSK Jiu Jitsu and is now a 3rd-degree black belt in karate. He has run the Lion’s Paw Karate & Chess Academy (7928 S King Dr., Chicago, Illinois 60619) for the past three years and has trained hundreds of youth in self-defense, discipline and confidence-building. Watch this beautiful video…

Video by Columbia Chronicle

Jones with children Isaiah, Malachi and Samaya

Jones is a man of strong resolve and high character. He and his wife Zoraida are proud parents and are instilling these values into their three children Isaiah (9), Samaya (6) and Malachi (2). The entire family is active in Lion’s Paw and eldest son Isaiah is already winning martial arts accolades. A fun fact about the Jones household is that each member of the family has a birthday in August!

A few weeks back, The Chess Drum was able to get some answers from Jones who goes by the chess moniker, the “Baby-Faced Assassin”. When asked how he picked up chess, he asserted,

“My father taught me how to play at 6 years old. I grew up watching him rumble with some of his chess buddies and visiting their homes. Around 11 years old I began to get more serious and into the game. That is when I began studying on my own and playing in Tuley Park tournaments.”

Tuley Park was the chess playground on the south side for many years under the stewardship of Thomas Fineberg, a retired Chicago Public School math teacher and long-time high school chess coach with Chicago Vocational and Harlan high schools. During his path to improvement, Jones locked horns with his friend Kayin Barclay and some of the other veterans in the Chicago area.

As of late, Jones has reached his peak rating of 2165 after performing well winning joint first (with Kay Kaulule) in the 2nd Emory Tate Memorial, winning joint first in under-2100 (with Roderick Scarlett) at the Chicago Open and scoring 6/9 in under-2200 at the World Open. He has also gained some notoriety for getting a couple of GM scalps in blitz encounters recently. Following is a game his played in the 6th round of the Chicago Open where he found an enterprising queen sacrifice!

Jones has been working hard on his martial arts students, but is also desirous of promoting blitz to the forefront of chess. Having long been a variant for leisure games, Jones believes that blitz can be a useful tool in mainstream chess. He states, “In my opinion, our world of chess is slowly deteriorating as things continue to evolve around us as chess stagnates. I love the ideas Maurice Ashley put on the table and I want to partake in revolutionizing chess. So much so that chess ‘professionals’ can be devoted and make a living full time.”

Daniel X Jones vs. FM James Canty III

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

Chess scholastic organizations have touted chess as an avenue for sharpening analytical abilities, pattern and spatial recognition, discipline, time management, and social development. These characteristics are more associated with the longer formats where these skills can be measured reliably. While these benefits of chess are acknowledged by Jones, he is part of a group touting the idea of moving blitz (1-, 3-, or 5 minute games) to the forefront of chess as opposed to classical. This has been said before and there have been many experiments, but the question is whether this will yield sustainable success.

There is a precedent. Other sports have tinkered with formats to make their game more exciting. Even American football has been played in smaller arenas to showcase action and athleticism. Of course, the National Basketball Association (NBA) would never lower the shot clock to 12 seconds to make things more exciting, but perhaps there are other models. Cricket created the Twenty20 (T20) format as a more exciting form than the traditional six-day “Test” matches. Since 2004, T20 has become wildly popular.

Chess has also tried to popularize the faster formats. Ashley helped to produce a DVD titled, “Speed Chess” featuring Hikaru Nakamura, Alexander Shabalov, Larry Christiansen and Joel Benjamin. “Banter chess” on sites like Twitch have become popular, but only as a complement to more erudite classical tournaments. Blitz games are hard to give commentary on and while exciting, are often filled with mistakes that would be unforgivable in long time formats. It is also hard for a novice or non-chess public to understand what is happening.

There are points for both sides of blitz vs. classical debate, but there is always a question of making chess understandable to the uninitiated. Practically everyone starts chess the traditional way with no clock and with the idea of understanding patterns and analytical branches. Blitz lies at the other end of the spectrum with mind-dizzying time scrambles, intuitive sacrifices, scintillating tactics.

“I see in the near future a blitz institution that has a respected and established rating & ranking system. In tandem with social media and more footage, drawing many more youth and adults to the world of chess.”

~Daniel X Jones

Of course, attempts have been made to popularize blitz. The legendary Grandmaster Walter Browne was one such proponent of blitz and set up the World Blitz Chess Association and had a magazine, Blitz Chess. IM Stephen Muhammad was one of the early supporters. It eventually floundered. IM Greg Shahade (founder of U.S. Chess League and now World Chess League) has gone on record to say that faster time controls are the future of chess.

Part of the initiative that Jones is pushing has resulted into blitz matches in both team and individual formats. Jones’ is a member of the Chicago Chess Blitzers, a collection of Chicago-area blitz specialists who have begun taking challenges from other groups. There are also the toe-to-toe matches with lots of bravado. Jones defeated FM Jimmy Canty in a short match, but will have a stiff test in facing NM Jeff DeJesus on September 16th.

Memphis vs. Chicago

Team Captains Daniel X Jones (Chicago) NM Alex King (Memphis)
shake hands before the team blitz match. (story)
Photo by Nathan Kelly

For the last two months, Facebook has become a virtual playground with all types of challenges, dares and taunts between players and cities. The Chess Drum pressed Jones about all the trash talk in social media and he admits that much of it is to orchestrate interest and increase the profile of the movement. “Drama draws attention,” he asserted.

There will certainly be drama next month as DeJesus will visit the Chicago Chess Club from Houston, Texas to engage in a 20-game blitz match. The two had an earlier online encounter at the Internet Chess Club with DeJesus winning by a huge margin. Prior to the official match on September 16th, Daniel next challenge will be in a team blitz match against the Cleveland Heavy Hitters next week on the campus of Case Western University.


The chess community is still buzzing after the Chicago-Memphis match and a number of videos of blitz battles have circulated around social media. A lot of inter-city trash-talking and sharp-witted banter has been bounced around and the result is the second team blitz match featuring Cleveland and Chicago. There was even a scouting visit by Cleveland! More on that later.

Both cities are sports towns and have their share of legends in major sports history… Lou Boudreau. Ernie Banks. Jim Brown. Walter Payton. Michael Jordan. Lebron James. Now the rivalry spills onto the chess boards for an impending August 5th bout. Tichawona Tony Troy (Cleveland Heavy Hitters) and Louie Green (Chicago Chess Blitzers) discuss upcoming “Best of the Midwest” match coming up August 5th!

Video by Chicago Chess Club
(Nathan Kelly, Lou Green)

Two Midwestern working class cities have been known for their sports fervor over the years. After agonizing for decades from Michael Jordan’s buzzer beater over Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo in the 1989 NBA Playoffs, Cleveland and Lebron James broke a 50-year city championship drought in 2016 by winning the 2016 NBA championship against the Golden State Warriors. Last fall, Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs battled for the World Series crown with Chicago breaking a 108-year championship drought.

Michael Jordan celebrates winning shot over Craig Ehlo in first round of 1989 NBA playoffs.

Michael Jordan celebrates winning shot over Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo
in first round of 1989 NBA playoffs.
Photo by Ed Wagner Jr. (Chicago Tribune)

Lebron James... 3-time NBA Champion

Lebron James made Cleveland a championship city again.
Photo Getty Images

The two cities have their pride and when they match up competitively, the gloves come off. The city of Cleveland will be looking to bring the heat to Chicago in a blitz match on August 5th. Coming off of a blistering win over Memphis, Chicago will travel to “The Land” to face off in a 15-board double round robin match on the campus of Case Western University. The stakes… pride and bragging rights. Tichawona Tony Troy crashed the Chicago Chess Club and some fierce trash-talking went down.

Video by Chess Chess Club
(Nathan Kelly, Lou Green)

So… Cleveland guarantees a “W” and Chicago vows to stay undefeated. Both can’t be right. Who will it be? Cleveland or Chicago? Stay tuned for more details including lineups and player profiles.

“Best of the Midwest” match… Chicago vs. Cleveland
it’s going down on August 5th!

Message from Cleveland Heavy Hitters…

The Chicago Chess Blitzers will take on The Cleveland Heavy Hitters Chess Team. There is a limit of 15 players for both teams. There is a $25 entry fee and all players must have current USCF membership ratings. Please bring heavy chess pieces with regulation chess sets. The match will be on the 3rd floor of Guilford- 11112 Bellflower Rd. (It’s a yellow house). Friends and family are welcome to come and spectate. This event is to help encourage the game of chess and to promote positivity. We all need to help stop the violence in Cleveland and Chicago and chess is a way to bring people together and stop the violence.


Egypt Egypt Egypt

Since 2004 winning the African Juniors and earning the IM title and winning the following year, Bassem Amin has been on a steady track to become the strongest player in Egypt. He now has a chance to make history by being the first player of the African continent to make the iconic 2700 ELO mark. Currently at 2672, he stands to edge closer after winning both the African Championships in Algeria and the Lake Sevan in Armenia. Amin stated on his Facebook page that the 2017 African crown was his 4th (2009, 2013, 2015 previously) and the tournament in Armenia was the strongest tournament he has won.

Amin won both the African Championships in classic and rapid in Oran, Algeria.
Photo Bassem Amin (Facebook)

Amin (7/9), South Africa’s IM Daniel Cawdery (7/9), and Egyptian compatriot Ahmed Adly (6.5/9) won gold, silver and bronze respectively in the order of tiebreaks. The three will qualify for the 2017 World Cup. Amin also won the Rapid and Adly won the Blitz competition.

Amin breakthrough came at the Lake Sevan when we faced a number of strong players including GMs Igor Kovalenko (Latvia), Martyn Kravtsiv (Ukraine), Dariusz Swiercz (Poland), Tamir Nabaty (Israel) and Hovhannes Gabuzyan (Armenia). There were a number of young Armenian players such as Samvel Ter-Sahakyan, Manuel Petrosyan, Haik Martirosyan and Tigran Harutyunian.

Amin was the top seed, but the competition was fierce. Swiercz-Amin in round one was WILD!

After winning against Martirosyan (who just turned 17), he faced Ukraine’s Kravtsiv and lost disastrously against the Averbakh variation of the King’s Indian. The game was fairly equal until disaster struck after 17…Nd7??

After the tragic loss, Amin got back on track by beating 23-year old Ter-Sahakyan. He then got three draws and a win in next four rounds and was in a must situation going into the last round. Nabaty, Amin and Kravtisiv were on +3, but the Ukrainian had better tiebreaks given that he defeated Amin. The Egyptian would face the second-seeded Kovalenko in the final.

Two battles were drawn quickly while the remaining three would determine the top three prizes. Amin played a Closed Sicilian and the game evolved into a complicated middlegame. Did Kovalenko miss 21…Nxd5!? Maybe so, but black had the two bishops and a better structure. The Egyptian fell into further trouble after 26…Rxf5! a beautiful exchange sacrifice destroying the kingside and allowing the bishop pair free reign.

GM Bassem Amin, winner of 2017 Lake Sevan
Photo from Facebook (Bassem Amin)

Kovalenko, apparently in time trouble, dawdled with 32…Rg8 and 34…Re8 allowing Amin to relieve the pressure by giving the exchange back. The Ukrainian was going astray and mistakes were coming in bunches. After 36…Bxf3?! black was relying on his massive pawn army to carry the day, but the bishop held them off! Kovalenko allowed and trade of rooks, his pawns to become blockaded and they started to fall one by one. White’s trump was the passed a-pawn which kept the black king pinned down. After that the bishop was free to attack and weaken the pawns and black was in zugzwang. Incredible ending to a memorable result for Amin.

Official: http://sevan.chessacademy.am/
Standings: http://chess-results.com/tnr291927.aspx?lan=1&art=4&fed=EGY&turdet=YES&wi=821


GM Pontus Carlsson (Sweden)
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Ben Johnson contacted The Chess Drum a month ago to ask questions in preparation for his podcast with GM Pontus Carlsson. The directory of podcasts can be found here. These podcasts feature chess personalities from around the world in about a 60- to 90-minute format. Carlsson talked about his progression in chess, his current career in the Czech Republic, the chess atmosphere in Europe and also some of his experiences as a player of African descent. He also mentions his experiences in U.S., Spain and China and the contrasts of the chess communities in each country. Now 34, Carlsson recently took part in the “Chess Master in Africa” tour and still spends time with his students online. Great segment!

Perpetual Podcast #29 (82 minutes)

Personal: http://www.pontus-carlsson.com
email: p.carlssonchess@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pontus.carlsson.547
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GMCarlsson

The latest podcast featured World Championship contender GM Hikaru Nakamura who was just returning from the Grand Chess Tour in Belgium. Johnson caught up with him at his home in Sunrise, Florida where he has taken up residence for the past four years. He was preparing for a half-marathon in Seattle, Washington. In a very interesting conversation, the world’s #7 player talked about his championship aspirations, the pressures of competition, changes in preparation and the use of engines.

Hikaru Nakamura making several statements today.

Nakamura at 2016 Sinquefield Cup
Photo by Lennart Ootes

For finance buffs, there was a lot of talk about options trading in financial markets. Very instructive! He also weighed in on training with with Garry Kasparov and how he came to a working relationship with Kris Littlejohn. He talks about poker and chess. A burning question… how long does Nakamura plan to play chess? He talks about that too. He weighed in on who could challenge Magnus Carlsen in the next cycle. You’ll never guess the answer.

Perpetual Chess #32 (94 minutes)

Personal: http://hikarunakamura.com/
email: hikarupress@gmail.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GMHikaru
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GMHikaru


Chess in Chicago has a long and venerable history. Chess on the southside of Chicago has a spotted history, but with no less pride. Over the years, players on the southside have played in burger joints, parks and coffee shops, but with the vision of 10 players, persistence has led to a permanent home. Roger Hickman, a 1972 graduate of CVS and known as the “Godfather” proclaimed that chess on the south side of Chicago is “back in business.” The group found a location on the south side and dubbed it simply, “Chicago Chess Club” (CCC). The buzz has been “off the charts” as visitors are slowly finding their way to the new spot.

This is the beginning!

Unlike the McDonald’s location, the CCC is tailor-made for chess with tables and ample space. It is ideal for tournaments and accessible by public transportation and Midway Airport is about 15 minutes away. The Chicago Chess Blitzers and subgroup that make up the heart and soul of the founding members, has entertained many guests at the fast food joint, but hopes to take the momentum to the new club. IM Dejan Maksimovic has been a regular adding a dose of humor and bravado to the atmosphere. Other notables like FM Jimmy Canty and IM Atulya Shetty hope to come by the new location.

The first game ever at Chicago Chess Club! Who won?

Sedrick “Big Pawn” Prude

Chicago Chess Center’s Bill Brock and Chicago Chess Club’s Roger Hickman

Before the Canty-Jones match, Hickman proudly announced that “chess is alive on the southside of Chicago.” After weeks of planning and setting the legal foundation, the Chicago Chess Club was opened on July 1st. The club drew a variety of members from different parts of the chess community. There was music, foods and of course raucous blitz banter. Besides chess battles, the CCC will offer private and group lessons, lectures, exhibition and a variety of tournament formats. GM Boris Avrukh is scheduled to make an appearance on July 22nd for a lecture and simultaneous exhibition. A blitz tournament will follow. Look for the flyer soon!

Make your way to…

Chicago Chess Club
8622 S. Pulaski
Chicago, Illinois 60618
12pm-12am daily

Thanks to the principal founders Tim Donnahue, Edwin Walker, Nathan Kelly, Sedrick Prude, Johnny Strapp, Louie Green, Stephen Jennings, Roger Hickman, Chet Parks, and Willie Granderson!


Tom Murphy has been known in chess circles for four decades. More familiar with those who revel in the excitement of blitz in public places, Murphy has showcased his craft giving it a higher profile. As a result, he has been the subject of many interviews on the intrigue of the game. He also was the subject of a 2007 Washington Post story, another one on NPR and countless others. While most will not be surprised that Murphy is an Expert-level player, his keen mind and crisp, baritone articulation will cause you to take notice.

Murphy’s background is one of life’s challenges. He is a born North Carolinian but spent formative years in Philadelphia. Later, he spent many years becoming a legendary figure in Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle before settling in his current location of Chicago. He was once enlisted, once homeless, once imprisoned… but more than once dreamed of chess stardom. Substance abuse led him to a six-month stint a D.C. prison nearly 20 years ago. Chess seems to be the way to express his obvious intellectual talents. He has been instrumental in injecting excitement in every city he has been in. These types of contributions may be overlooked.

“People tend to look at the stereotype of what I represent, not what I understand.”

~Tom Murphy

One may ask, “What can a ‘blitz hustler’ do for chess?” Murphy is not a “hustler” in the vein of a sleazy character that we see in street games like “three-card monte.” There is always a principled lesson that he tries to impart. It is another trait of a chess artist… someone more interested in protecting dignified tradition than merely trying to swindle you out of a hundred bucks with shady play.

If you’ve ever watched “Murph” play chess, he is a consummate professional and always seems to defuse minor disagreements before they escalate. The term “hustler” is often associated with players who are cheaters. There are quite a few of the true hustlers. Noted examples are players like the one who tried to hustle Maurice Ashley by taking two pieces in one move, or the Dominican player who tried to queen a white pawn by advancing from f7 to e8. Murphy has seen his share of tomfoolery (no pun intended), but he makes an effort to treat chess with respect and honor.

Tom Murphy at the 2nd Emory Tate Memorial (June 2017) in Chicago.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

James “Black Knight” Taylor used to call such players “Street Masters” to signify the special status they had at showing a passerby the exciting slings and arrows of chess. Today Murphy is known as one of the catalysts of chess on the southside of Chicago. Certainly, Tom has a lot of stories to tell you about his own life and what he has seen on the streets. He is a man of wisdom and speaks of a life of hard lessons. While it is true that he may have lost a second or two off of his lightning reflexes, he can still assert his version of Murphy’s Law.


New York players looking through Triple Exclam during the 2017 World Open.

As the summer heat is in full swing, many chess players are choosing a variety of ways to stay cool. Sometimes the best way is to stay inside and play chess. The World Open is the largest open tournament in the U.S. routinely drawing 1,000-1,300 players every July 4th holiday weekend. Of course, Philadelphia is an ideal place since it is a festive time of the year. It is this environment that generally will bring out the best in players. It was such the case for IM Emory Tate who notched many memorable victories at the tournament including the six that appear in the book, Triple Exclam!!! The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior.

“Thanks again for doing such an amazing service to the chess community. This book will be enjoyed for generations to come!”

~Dr. Ani Deshpande

Tate’s biography Triple Exclam has been well-received from the chess public reaching across the land and extending into the Caribbean, South America, Europe and Africa. Tate made a presence in many of these places and of course was an icon in the American chess scene. His melodramatic portrayals of his games were a staple activity in the skittles room. Also his confident swagger and glaring eyes showed a man in search of his next adventure over the board. While Tate missed the last five World Opens before he passed away, his games live on through Triple Exclam.

Tate showing Kudrin-Tate at 2001 World Open at the Adams Mark Hotel.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

A moment of tranquility at 2006 World Open
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

(L-R): Daaim Shabazz, Glenn Umstead, Kamanyala Bior and Emory Tate. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

(L-R): Daaim Shabazz, Glenn Umstead, Kamanyala Bior and Emory Tate at 2009 World Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

The book was brought to the iconic tournament where many players were able to purchase a copy. There were many photos taken with the limited edition book and players could be seen going through the games. There are only 50 copies left of the hardback book, but plans are underway for an e-book and possibly a softcover version. The e-book would enjoy global appeal and would avoid the exorbitant postage fees that only the most faithful have paid.

I would like to take time to thank all of those who have supported the book project and for the kind comments. Even in cases where one book was printed upside-down, everyone has been very patient. Thanks Salvador! Please feel free to write a review at Amazon, The Chess Drum or the media outlet of your choice. Last but not least, thanks to my copy editor Dan Shenk, designer NM Neil Fairclough, proofreader NM Frederick Rhine, Estalita Slivoskey of Potomac Indexing and Dorothy Herbowy of Rose Printing for helping to immortalize Emory in such a way. He was deserving!

Triple Exclam at the 2017 World Open

Jerome Works (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Dr. Ani Deshpande (South Bend, Indiana)

Glenn Umstead (Atlantic City, New Jersey)

Italy’s Davide Nastasio … “At sushi in Philadelphia! Great book, more publishers should follow your amazing quality level!” Photo courtesy of Davide Nastasio.

Various shots of players with copies of Emory Tate's biography. Make sure you send yours so I can add to collection! Get your copy… I'll be out soon! Order yours at The Chess Drum (thechessdrum.net)!

Posted by The Chess Drum on Saturday, June 3, 2017


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


Farai Mandizha (Zimbabwe)
Photo by David Llada

Over the years, IM Farai Mandizha has made strides since coming from Zimbabwe nearly a decade ago. Initially, he developed a reputation for his blitz skills, but as he developed a plan for earning his titles, he focused more on incremental improvements. In this time he has earned his IM title with three norms and last weekend scored his second GM norm at the 2017 World Open. Farai scored 6/9 with 4.5/7 (+3=3-1) against GMs.

Based in New York with wife Respina, Farai has been teaching at Hunter College Prep for the past four years. He told The Chess Drum of one of his prized pupils in 16-year old Fikirte Hunt. Sometimes it is difficult for a chess coach to keep their own game sharp, but Farai will have a lot of instructional material for his students at Hunter after his sterling result. He is hoping to earn the last norm in the coming months. He is hoping to become the first Zimbabwean Grandmaster and only the third sub-Saharan African player to earn the coveted GM title.

Following are three of his games from the tournament:

IM Farai Mandizha (2342-Zimbabwe)
# Player ELO Nation
1 Jesse James Lozano 2024 USA
2 GM Andrey Stukopin 2577 Russia
3 GM Ruifeng Li 2571 USA
4 GM Jeffery Xiong 2658 USA
5 GM Aleksandr Lenderman 2585 USA
6 GM Jianchao Zhou 2595 China
7 GM Ashwin Jayaram 2492 India
8 GM Alexander Stripunsky 2536 USA
9 IM Andrew Tang 2461 USA
Score: 6-3 (GM NORM)

The premier chess event in America was held July 4th weekend beginning on June 30th in the iconic place of the country’s founding. Philadelphia is known for many things… Declaration of Independence, Rocky movie series, cheese steaks and soul music. For the past three decades, it has also become an institution in chess. The World Open has mostly been held in the “city of brotherly love” and seems to be the perfect place for magical moments. The 2017 had a few.

Photos by Daaim Shabazz

Nearly 1300 players came from around the country and from nearly nearly 50 countries (32 in Open Section) to compete in America’s largest open chess tournament. The prize fund was a guaranteed $225,000 with the Open Section offering $20,000 for first prize. While there has been a decline in overall strength of the tournament, the competitive nature was in full swing. The top section had more than 200 players including more than 30 Grandmasters. Top-seed Le Quang Liem of Vietnam (2726) followed by 14-year old Jeffery Xiong (2658), the current World Junior Champion.

Jeffrey Xiong was steady during the entire event, but was slowed by a 1/2-point bye. He beat IM Roland Nolte in this contest. Le Quang Liem of Vietnam (foreground) gets a 14-minute headstart while waiting for GM Pavel Blatny.

17-year old Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kazakhstan)

Le held onto the first table for most of the tournament, but a spate of draws slowed his progress and Jianchao Zhou of China passed him on 6/7. Along with Le, Tigran Petrosian and Andrey Stukopin had 5.5/7. Xiong also had the same score after taking a 1/2-point bye in round seven. However the big surprise was 17-year old International Master Zhansaya Abdumalik of Kazahkstan. After beating Gil Popilski of Israel, she joined the logjam a half-point from the lead! She started attracting attention, not only for her long ponytail she wore past her back, but for being an increasing threat on the top boards.

In the penultimate round, Zhou-Petrosian, Le-Stukopin, Xiong-Lenderman, Zherebukh-Abdumalik were headliners. Here is how the games transpired:

Meanwhile IM Farai Mandizha of Zimbabwe was on the mark for earning his second GM norm. Here he is preparing for one of his games. Photo by Respina Mandizha

Here Mandizha polishes off GM Andrey Stukopin after the Russian made a dubious exchange sacrifice…

With one round remaining, Petrosian, Xiong, Abdumalik and Filipino Grandmaster Oliver Barbosa moved out front with 6.5/8. Abdumalik’s performance was already causing a stir, but now she would be on board one for the finale against Xiong! Petrosian would play Barbosa in the other match-up. By this time, Abdumalik (win or lose) was poised for a GM norm joining Zimbabwe’s Farai Mandizha. The teen Kazakh shined in the Chicago Open, but this has to be her best result thus far. The former world youth champion has been touring the U.S. She started miserably in St. Louis with 1/9, but now having a chance to win a major event.

For the third year in a row, Steve Immitt sang the “Star Spangled Banner” before the last round.

America has long had the national anthem before the opening of sporting events and it is certainly a different feeling at a less-fancied chess tournament. Immitt received generous applause for his efforts. Now… let’s get it on!

Abdumalik-Xiong started out in a Sicilian Najdorf and entered the fashionable 6.h3 line. This game was equal for the most part without any of the fireworks typical of such a game. It wasn’t certain whether Xiong was trying to press, but probably felt that his opponent was in good form.

A crowd assembled around the board waiting to see if history would be made.

The Petrosian-Barbosa game was gripped in a battle of a Catalan. The game was a thriller with all types of imbalances. Somewhere along the way the Filipino stumbled and allowed white an initiative after 18…Nxf8?! 19.d4! After 19…cxd4 20.Rac1 Bxd5 21.exd5 black appeared to be busted. The black king was stuck in the center and white kept striking at the center after 26.f4! The game exploded into a tactical melee after 37.Rcd1 Rxh3 38.Nxe5. Black was never able to fend off the onslaught and had to donate more material. It was hopeless and Barbosa resigned.

Petrosian (no kin to former World Champion) would end on 7.5/9 and get clear first to go along with his National Open win the previous month. Along with the US$20,500 prize, Petrosian also won the blitz tournament later on that evening beating Samuel Sevian. Blitz phenom Andrew Tang came in 2nd. As far as the World Open, it was quite a fruitful weekend for the Armenian. Even with his loss to Xiong in the 6th round he was able to recover. In 2nd-6th were Le, Xiong, Yuniesky Quesada-Perez (Cuba), Zhou and Stukopin on 7/9 and $3,960.00. Abdumalik also had 7/9, but would take the 1st under-2300 prize for $5,000.

In other sections, the winners were:

Under-2200: Ramon Manon-Og, Martin Hansen, James Lee Richardson, 7.5/9
Under-2000: Rigoberto Rodriguez, 8/9
Under-1800: Bruce Mubayiwa, 8/9
Under-1600: Angel Barrios, Rachael Li, Kendrick Gardner, 7.5/9
Under-1400: Daniel Wang, 8/9
Under-1200: Matthew Block, 9/9!
Unrated: Turmunkh Narangerel, 7/9

Standings: http://chessevents.com/worldopen/
PGN Games: http://www.thechessdrum.net/games/worldopen2017.pgn

See you next year!

All photos by Daaim Shabazz (unless otherwise stated)


The battle brewing over the past couple of weeks spilled out onto the board in at the opulent St. Louis Chess Club last weekend when 10-player teams from Chicago and Memphis met for a all-play-all battle. After the momentum built by the epic Daniel X Jones vs. FM Jimmy Canty match, the chatter is social media was at a frenzied pitch as players were making challenges, counter-challenges and even offers of bets.

The Memphis Chess Club had secured a date with the Chicago Chess Blitzers for June 24th in St. Louis. Both teams would drive four hours (Memphis north and Chicago south) to play in the premier chess venue of the U.S. It is a place where some of the best in the world have played. Now all the chatter would stop and the attention would be on the match. Beforehand there were a number of promotional videos.

With the genius of Johnny Strapp’s promotional videos, everyone was hyped to see what was going to happen. Social media was going wild, and more bids were being put in for the next match. All roads led to the first-class Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, and it would be the first time most of them had visited. It would be an exciting time for all.

Many gushed about the environment and Nathan Kelly was maniacally posting Facebook updates. The teams arrived and walked upstairs to the venue, and they were ready to start. The match was a 10-player event with each player playing two games (white and black) against every player on the other team.

Memphis vs. Chicago

Team Captains Daniel X Jones (Chicago) NM Alex King (Memphis)
shake hands before the match

Memphis vs. Chicago


Memphis: Dwight Weaver (hidden), Chuck Wenzler, Shimera Paxton, Clay Polk, Jonathan Beatty, Devon Puckett, Alex King, Carlos Sims, Stephan Dolz, Peter Pritchett

Chicago: Kela Kaulule, Daniel X Jones, Sedrick Prude, Tom Murphy, Tim Donahue, Stephen Jennings, George David, John Porter, Malik Brewley, Johnny Strapp

Memphis vs. Chicago

It’s on!
Photos by Nathan Kelly

The games were hotly contested with top=seeded Alex King of Memphis (2393) battling Chicago’s top brass. Unfortunately for King, he had a problem with the clock. He hung a rook against Jones in a winning position, and then flagged while still in the throes of the middlegame…

Then against Murphy he was felled by a similar fate after falling 2:30 minutes behind…

Here King shows some technique against John Porter

King scored a mere 1/2-point from Jones and Murphy, but steamrolled the rest of the Chicago roster giving up only another 1/2 point to Tim Donahue. He led Memphis with 16/20. Meanwhile, Chicago’s Jones (19/20), Thomas Murphy (19/20), Kela Kaululu (17/20) and Donahue (17/20) led Chicago over the Memphis squad who were outrated by nearly 200 rating points.

Memphis vs. Chicago

The battle was contentious and perhaps the lopsided score was not indicative of the competitive spirit that Memphis brought to the match. Chicago’s Roger Hickman watches the action. Photo by Nathan Kelly.

There was a lot of attention given to the only woman in the tournament, Shimera Paxton. She scored 5.5/20 but held Jones to draws in both of their encounters. Quite a feat since it was the only points Chicago’s captain gave up. Paxton was a part of the Douglass Elementary chess program that competed in Nationals. A few years ago, The Chess Drum met Dr. Jeff Bulington who was running the Douglass program that included Paxton and her brother Emmanuel Paxton. They were competing in a tournament at the St. Louis Chess Club.

Jasmine Thomas playing at the St. Louis Chess Club in November.

(L-R): Kaiwan Harris, Ricky Smith, Shimera Paxton, Alehe Cole, Marley Fabijanic at the 2013 Thanksgiving Open at the St. Louis Chess Club. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Here is Shimera Paxton trying to break through against Tim Donahue

There was another interesting sidenote when Memphis player Dwight Weaver and John Porter reunited at the board after 33 years. Porter had played Weaver in a Memphis tournament in 1984, but could not remember the details. Nathan Kelly stumbled across a newspaper article when gathering material for a promotion of the match. Here is what he found…

Memphis vs. Chicago

Memphis vs. Chicago

Weaver-Porter almost 33 years later!

Memphis vs. Chicago

Dwight Weaver and John Porter
Photos by Nathan Kelly.

Kelly posted the results round by round and the first round was 10.5-9.5 a rather close affair, but it was as close as Memphis would get. Here is the round-by-round tally:

Blitz Battle (Chicago vs. Memphis)
Chicago Memphis Chicago Memphis Chicago Memphis
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis
4657 Maryland Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108
Saturday, June 24, 2017
# Chicago Memphis Total
1 10.5 9.5 10.5-9.5
2 13.0 7.0 23.5-16.5
3 12.0 8.0 35.5-24.5
4 11.5 8.5 47.0-33.0
5 14.0 6.0 61.0-39.0
6 10.5 9.5 72.5-48.5
7 17.0 3.0 88.5-51.5
8 11.5 8.5 100.0-60.0
9 15.5 4.5 115.5-64.5
10 14.5 5.5 130.0-70.0
USCF Crosstable

It appeared that everyone had a good time at the venue and there was time enough for even more blitz battles outside the club. Perhaps friendships were made, but it is hopeful that such activities will spur more matches across the country in a similar way that the U.S. Chess League was so successful. The match gained a huge audience in a first-class club and the participants will cherish the memories for a long time.

Memphis vs. Chicago


Memphis vs. Chicago

Peter Pritchett (Memphis) and Tom Murphy (Chicago)

Memphis vs. Chicago

John Porter (Chicago) and Shimera Paxton (Memphis)

Memphis vs. Chicago

Job well done!
Photos by Nathan Kelly

Memphis vs. Chicago

Zambia’s Kela Kaulule capturing memories
Photo courtesy of Kela Kaulule

After the tournament, the players milled about and played more chess. The area is quite electric on a Saturday evening and there are plenty of places to eat and hang out. However, what could be better than more blitz? GM Benjamin Finegold played every player from the winning team. Here is a thrilling game with Jones. Having fun!

Video by Nathan Kelly

Thanks to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis and its staff for hosting the team event and for Michael Kummer for directing the event. Also thanks to GM Ben Finegold for sparring battles and for all those who supported the Memphis and Chicago teams (Roger Hickman, Nathan Kelly, Edwin Walker, Louie Green, Louisville’s Steven Faulkner). Lastly, thanks for prominently displaying Triple Exclam!


Chess Club & Scholastic Center for St. Louis. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis
4657 Maryland Ave, St. Louis, MO 63108


Charles Kuwaza

On April 18th, Charles Tawonerera Kuwaza fell to his death from the 9th-story of the Club Chambers building on the corner of 3rd Street and Nelson Mandela Avenue. The question of Kuwaza’s tragic death has been whether it was a suicide (as initially reported) or whether he was assassinated and pushed from the 9th floor. A police investigation was completed about 10 days ago.

Bystanders recalled hearing a “sickening thud” and seeing Kuwaza lying near the curb. Apparently, there were no screams before impact. Paramedics arrived on the scene but were unable to revive him. Preliminary reports of a suicide were brought into question. Many reports suspect foul play since Kuwaza was embroiled in a corruption case and was poised to unveil potentially damaging details in his pending trial.

Kuwaza was a catalyst for Zimbabwean chess for many years and had served as the country’s Federation President. Given his position in the government, he often wielded influence that was able to bring positive attention to the game. Kuwaza was captain of the 2002 Olympiad Team when International Master Robert Gwaze scored 9/9 for a gold medal. Kuwaza was a chess pioneer and had held various leadership positions for more than 30 years.

Zimbabwe's Men’s Team (front, from left to right) IM Robert Gwaze (Bd. 1), Takaedza Chipanga (Bd. 2), Michael Luberto (Bd. 3) and Charles Chakanyuka (Bd. 4); from left to right (in the rear), Wisdom Chikwanda (Bd. 5), Rangariral Karumazondo (Bd. 6) and Charles Kuwaza, (captain). Copyright © Jerry Bibuld, 2002.

Zimbabwe’s Men’s Team (front, from left to right) IM Robert Gwaze (Bd. 1), Takaedza Chipanga (Bd. 2), Michael Luberto (Bd. 3) and Charles Chakanyuka (Bd. 4); from left to right (in the rear), Wisdom Chikwanda (Bd. 5), Rangariral Karumazondo (Bd. 6) and Charles Kuwaza, (captain). Copyright © Jerry Bibuld, 2002.

Professionally, Kuwaza recently served in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) as SPB executive chairman from September 1, 2001 to November 27, 2015. He ran into a bit of trouble after he was brought up on charges of contempt. In 2016, he was forced on leave after refusing to cooperate with an ongoing tax investigation. In March 2017, he was indicted on five counts of corruption involving ZW$2.5billion (US$1million) in tax arrears. Since March 24th of this year, he was free on bail at the time of his death.

About 11 am on April 18th, Kuwaza visited the office to collect documents for his court appearance on May 18th. His wife waited in the vehicle downstairs with the engine running, but after 40 minutes went to check on her husband. There were public cries that a man had committed suicide. Alarmed, she rushed to the location and saw her husband’s body on the street. Stricken with grief, she confirmed that the man was indeed her husband. Recent reports stated that the police had completed the investigation and that the results of the autopsy had not been made public. According to a June 12th article in Zimbabwe’s NewsDay, Kuwaza’s lawyer asserted,

The autopsy report is ready and is now part of the docket; thus, I cannot comment on it. We wait to hear the consideration of the magistrate on whether an inquest would be held,” Chisoko added. Foul play has been suspected.

Kuwaza was laid to rest on April 21st at Glen Forest Memorial Park.

Officials from Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Algeria, Malawi, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Namibia at the 2014 FIDE General Assembly in Tromso, Norway. Kuwaza standing second from the right. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

The Chess Drum’s Daaim Shabazz with Charles Kuwaza of Zimbabwe
at FIDE General Assembly in Tromso, Norway
Photo by Daaim Shabazz


Lawyer Times has been a mainstay in the New England area for the past four decades and now he can lay claim to being the 2017 Massachusetts state champion. Times toppled past champions IM Dave Vigorito and GM Alexander Ivanov to take the title with 5/6. In 2nd-3rd were Farzad Abdi and Carissa Yip with 4.5/6.

National Master Lawyer Times
2017 Massachussetts State Champion

Times appears on these pages of The Chess Drum and years ago was the subject of an interview after winning the under-2200 section at the 2005 Chicago Open. Since then he was stayed in the steady 2300 range and continues to look for new challenges. On his website, Times described his beginnings in chess.

I began learning chess at the age of 6 by observing my older brother teaching my older sister. Ironically, I picked it up while she did not. My brother began teaching me the basics and from there I continued teaching myself. In a short time I was able to beat my brother, the dream of every younger sibling. Afterward, as others began to see my potential I received coaching from the best Chess Masters.

Times later became part of the famed Boston Latin team that won the National High School Championship in 1981. That team had a young prodigy name Sandeep Joshi who rose quickly to become an FIDE Master, then fell into obscurity. Times kept playing on and in 1994 became a Master.

Boston Latin-1982 National High School Champions
Lawyer Times, Sandeep Joshi, Michael Diener, Edward Lung, and Bill Frye.
Photo by Joe Runci (The Boston Globe)

Times is the founder of the Future Masters Chess Academy which provides children with many programs to improve their understanding of the game. Times told The Chess Drum,

The fundamentals and practices I’ve honed throughout my career I’ve taught to students privately and at various schools and institutions throughout Massachusetts. As I began to see the tremendous impact it had on them both in game play and in life I founded the Future Masters Chess Academy. Now we assist kids in using chess principles to master chess and life.

Times conducting a class at Future Masters Chess Academy
Photos courtesy of futurechessmasters.com

Certainly a role model to many, the affable Times will be competing at the World Open in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania next week.


Detroit and Chicago have a close relationship with both being home to hard-working migrants from the south in search of hope and opportunity. The Midwest was the destination for many Blacks due to the abundance of factory jobs in the steel mills, foundry, and stock yards. The determination to find good paying jobs required a disciplined, strong will and has been the trademark of the strong “Midwestern work ethic.” This strength carried over into competitive activities such as sports and entertainment.

FM James Canty IIIDaniel X Jones

FM James Canty III vs. CM Daniel X Jones
Photos by Nathan Kelly

In weeks leading up to both Danny X Jones and James Canty agreed to a 10-game blitz battle in Chicago. Social media was in a frenzy. and several cities started to discuss the prospects of an intercity competition. Both cities have a very proud history of sports, and just a few decades ago, the two cities fought some of the most brutal battles in professional basketball. There was a build-up complete with trash talk reminiscent of the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls rivalry in the 80s and 90s.

Detroit vs. Chicago

The two cities have developed a fierce but respectful rivalry over the years.

This past weekend saw another battle involving the two cities. The rivalry would now extend to the chess board. There was a pregame video complete with interviews and both players expressed respect for the other, but claimed that they would be victorious. One problem… only one could be right. So who would it be??? There was an undercard with two Experts Aderemi Adekola taking on Aakaash Meduri locking horns. Those games were not shown live, but here is the opening ceremony with Roger Hickman offering inspiring remarks.


That score ended 4-1 in the best of seven games with Remi coming out on top. Now… all the hype built up on the main card. Daniel X Jones taking on FIDE Master James Canty. Jones was the co-winner of the under-2100 section of the 2017 Chicago Open, and co-winner of the 2nd Emory Tate Memorial two weeks ago. Canty’s claim to fame is winning 2nd place and $20,000 in the 2014 Millionaire Chess under-2350 section. The Detroit native received notoriety for his feats in the local media.

After two weeks of banter in social media, the tension was thick as both of the players gave their pre-match impressions to Nathan Kelly. “Canty Cash” stepped out of the van looking like a UFC fighter and said he was ready for the bout. Daniel “The Baby-Faced Assassin” looked like he was going to a business meeting also offered words of supreme confidence. Ironically, that same nickname was Isiah Thomas who played for the Detroit Pistons and a main rival to the Chicago Bulls.

Now… let’s get it on!

Main Event: Canty vs. Jones

Interviews by Nathan Kelly, video production by Louie Green

That was just the first game! What a ride!! After that, there was more. In the five-minute games, Jones won the second in a rook ending and in the third he mounted a counterattack after being slightly worse and chased Canty’s king at the edge of the board where it was mated. Canty got his first win of the match, but couldn’t avoid losing the 5th game giving Jones a 3½-1½ edge in the first segment.

Daniel X Jones vs. FM James Canty III

In the three-minute segment, Canty won the first in a fierce time scramble with Jones pressing for a win. In the melee, Canty claimed a forfeit win with three-tenths of a second left pulling the overall match back to within one. In the second game, Canty was pressing with a passed b-pawn, but then lost the thread allowing a fortress. After blacks’ …Kh2, Jones played g4+ after which Canty committed an illegal move by leaving his king in check.

Daniel X Jones vs. FM James Canty III

In the last three minute game, a feverish pace resulted as seconds wound down. A volley of checks was given. and it still appeared to be unclear. Canty decided to press ahead and ended up getting rook skewered on the a-file and resigned. The win gave Jones the decisive result. The final match score was 5½-2½ (3½-1½ and 2-1). There was an applause by the spectators, and both players were given praise for their battling spirit.

Watch the action of games 6-8 below.

There was a press conference after the match where questions were posed to the two competitors. The described their strategies in the match. Jones stated that he steered away from main lines Sicilian and wanted to simply get a game to play. Canty was asked about the competition that he faces in Detroit and stated there are limitations because there isn’t the consistency in attendance. So Canty took a six-hour bus ride to play a blitz match. Chicago blitzers were very appreciative.

Both were asked what it takes to excel. Canty offered an intense study of tactics while Jones talked about learning to evaluated positions. Lastly, there was the debate about the role that blitz plays popularizing chess. Both believe blitz should be moved to the forefront. This created a vigorous debate on Facebook, and it’s just beginning. Many cities have all weighed in with well-heeled blitz players looking to get into the action.

Press Conference

Video production by Nathan Kelly and Louie Green

2017 Blitz Battle
Saturday, June 17th, 2017
Lion’s Paw Chess & Martial Arts Academy, Chicago, Illinois

CM Daniel Jones (Chicago) vs. FM James Canty III (Detroit)


Videos by Johnnie Strapp

Kudos to the Chicago Chess Blitzers for organizing and supporting an exciting event. In particular, thanks to Roger Hickman, Nathan Kelly, Louie Green, Johnnie Strapp, Chase Ford and of course Daniel Jones for helping to host the event.


The chess season is in full swing and in the heat of summer, chess players typically look to play in fun tournaments. The Chess Educators International Open is such a tournament in one of America’s vacation capitals, Orlando, Florida! The 5-round tournament has a possible prize fund of $10,000 (based on 160 entries) and serves as a perfect warm-up to the World Open tournament beginning on the June 29th. This tournament will be held at the Park Inn Resort and Conference Center Orlando by Radisson, a complex in close proximity to all Disney activities. It will be a guaranteed fun time!

June 23-25, 2017 – A Five (5) Round USCF and FIDE rated event in all sections! $10,000 prize fund, based on 160 paid entries, with $7,000 minimum guaranteed!


Additionally, the tournament is offering a rebate for registrations and room reservations if they are made by June 19th. Get a $20 Rebate for your registration when you register before June 19th and a $50 rebate towards your first official hotel room night with a minimum of three (3) nights. Send a copy of your hotel reservation to info@chesseducators.com for this rebate.

Chief Tournament Director ANTD Steve Lampkins, USA.
Chief Organizer of the Tournament: IO Beatriz Marinello, USA

Organizer: Beatriz Marinello
Email: info@chesseducators.com
Telephone: 917-553-4522
Website: http://www.chesseducators.com/chess-educators-international-open-tournament/


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