Botswana Botswana Botswana

CALISTUS KOLANTSHO, “Maruatona’s chess reign castles to a satisfactory close ,” Mmegi Online (mmegi.bw), 20 January 2017.

American actor, Robert Downey Jr. once said,

“I think that the power is the principle. The principle of moving forward, as though you have the confidence to move forward, eventually gives you confidence when you look back and see what you’ve done.”

It probably sums up Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) president, Tshenolo Maruatona’s time in office. He is leaving office after a six-year journey, which left the code firmly on the right path. He will hand over the baton to a new leader when the federation holds election in May.

He said when he assumed office there was concern that chess was not played in public schools. The federation embarked on empowering trainers and distributing equipment to various schools. BCF also forged relations with Botswana Primary Schools Sport Association (BOPPSA).

Tshenolo Maruatona

Tshenolo Maruatona

“We came at a time when businesses were struggling and had cut off spending on corporate responsibilities. As a federation we decided that we should generate 70% of our grant,” he said.

Maruatona said they managed to have more sponsors onboard during his reign. He said sponsors do not give out money to faceless proposals.

He said the introduction of open door policy has seen changes in the style of play. He said there has been an increase of titles won by local players.

“We have had players going to Chess Olympiad coming back with titles. Botswana is taken seriously by FIDE. About six Batswana are sitting in different FIDE management committees,” he said.

Daaim Shabazz and Maruatona at the 2012 Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The Chess Drum’s Daaim Shabazz with Tshenolo Maruatona
at the 2012 Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Maruatona feels his predecessor should be somebody who is strong because there is a lot of politics within the federation. He said the president should be able to unify and be the image of the federation.

“We have quiet a pool of people within the committee who can take over. I do not see the need to go far to find my replacement. We do not want to give chess to people who had put it in bad light before,” Maruatona said.

Maruatona said he would not be lost to the sport and will always be involved in development. He said his energy would be in his Bobonong based club where they host the Bobirwa championship every December. The event was held for the third time over the festive season.

Tshenolo and wife, Neoh
Photo by Tshenolo Maruatona

Maruatona was introduced to the sport when he was a 12-year-old primary school pupil at Tsholofelo but did not play the game much.

“When I arrived at Marang Junior School, I met one of the pioneers of chess in Botswana, Rupert Jones. He taught me how to play chess. I was 14 by then. Unfortunately I was not strong enough to play for the school team until I arrived at Ledumang Senior School. I met students who were also passionate about playing chess,” he said.

He said at some point he played board one for the school but noted that he was not a strong player. The young Maruatona was chosen as the captain of the team and was in charge of organising the team. He said his strong point has always been to be an organiser.

Maruatona, together with his friends, established Kings Chess Club while studying at the University of Botswana.

“I was the president of the team. We recruited players and my job was to put everything in order. I even sponsored the team to go and play in Pretoria. I have never won anything,” he said with a chuckle.

“Upon completing my studies at the UB, I joined BCF as vice president in 2012. The president by then was Tshepo Sitale.” He said there has always been a lot of lobbying by some people because they were impressed by the work he was doing at club level.

Tshenolo Maruatona

Tshenolo Maruatona
Photo by Moreri Sejagamo

Maruatona said being in the executive is different than being in a club. He said in the executive there is lot of politics at play.

“Our mandate with Sitale was to push chess as a sport. Some people did not agree that it was a sport. We managed to promote the game to a point where everybody agreed that chess was a sport not recreation activity. Then we built a brand,” Maruatona said.

He was later elevated to the presidency despite challenge from other members who fancied their chances but he prevailed.


FACT FILE

Full name: Tshenolo Maruatona
Date of birth: March 20, 1980
Place of birth: Gaborone
Marital status: Married
Favourite dish: Seswaa and phaleche

Link: http://www.mmegi.bw/index.php?aid=65953&dir=2017/january/20

2017 Zanzibar Open

Zanzibar

Zanzibar is a beautiful, historic semi-autonomous section of Tanzania famous for its spices. It has a combination of Africa, Indian and Arab influences. One of the traditions that came to the islands many centuries ago was chess, but it has failed to gain a foothold in the region. However, the region has recently held the 2017 Zanzibar Open over the January 14th-15th. Hemed Mlawa emerged as the winner of the 5th Zanzibar Open Chess Championship with Taher Hassugji taking the junior section.

Zanzibar

2017 Zanzibar Open winners (L-R): Taher Hassuji, Godlove Kimarao, Hemed Mlawa and CM Nurdin Hassuji. Photo courtesy of Nurdin Hassuji.

According to a report on chessmasala.com,

Chess Zanzibar Interim Chairperson promised the Zanzibar Open would be an annual event and said his body was contemplating to hold another tournament in June and hoping to attract players from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia.

Full report here at chessmasala.com!

Words, Beats & Life, Inc. (WBL) has released another album, but this time it is chess-inspired. The album is called “Crowns” and contain 15 songs by a number of featured artists. Some of the songs are “ROOKie,” “Queens,” “Strata-G’s,” and Asheru’s “Chess Move.” The entire album is up on soundcloud, a music portal for budding artist. WBL has been holding there “Bumrush the Boards” for the past 11 years.

Soundcloud Link: https://soundcloud.com/user-278013921/sets/crowns

Words, Beats & Life
1525 Newton St., NW
Washington DC 20010
(202) 667-1192

Twitter: @wordsbeatslife
Instagram: @wordsbeatsandlife
Web: https://vimeo.com/wordsbeatslife
Contact: info@wblinc.org

Tata Steel Chess 2017

The first major tournament has begun and marks the first classical tournament for Magnus Carlsen since he defended his title. He will be one of the 14 competitors in the 79th edition of the Tata Steel Chess tournament in Wijk aan Zee (Netherlands). Pea soup will not be the only thing served up as the stage is set for some sizzling play in one of the longest running tournaments.

Carlsen hoists champion's trophy.

Carlsen hoists champion’s trophy.
Photo by chess24

Carlsen is joined by the newly-emergent Wesley So and his nemesis Sergey Karjakin. There are several new faces in the “Masters” group including the winner of last year’s “Challengers” group Baskaran Adihban and Wei Yi, who won the group in 2015.

GM Jeffrey Xiong
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The Challengers tournament will be led by Mark Ragger of the Austria, but will have some interesting faces including World Junior Champion Jeffery Xiong. This field has a number of young talent including Norway’s hopeful new GM in Aryan Tari. China’s Lu Shanglei was known most for his performance in last year’s World Cup, but will be trying to make a presence here and well as his compatriot Lei Tingjie, the world’s highest-rated girl.

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

Official Site: http://www.tatasteelchess.com/
Videos: (YouTube, Chess24)

2015 Tata Steel Tournament
January 13th-29th, 2017 (Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands)
Masters
#
Name
Title
Federation
Flag
Rating
1 Carlsen, Magnus GM Norway
2840
2 So, Wesley GM USA
2808
3 Karjakin, Sergey GM Russia
2785
4 Aronian, Levon GM Armenia
2780
5 Giri, Anish GM Netherlands
2773
6 Nepomniachtchi, Ian GM Russia
2767
7 Harikrishna, Pentala GM India
2766
8 Eljanov, Pavel GM Ukraine
2755
9 Wojtaszek, Radoslaw GM Poland
2750
10 Andreikin, Dmitri GM Russia
2736
11 Wei, Yi GM China
2675
12 Rapport, Richard GM Hungary
2702
13 Van Wely, Loek GM Netherlands
2695
14 Adhiban, Baskaran GM India
2653
Challengers
#
Name
Title
Federation
Flag
Rating
1 Ragger, Markus GM Austria
2997
2 Smirin, Ilya GM Israel
2667
3 Xiong, Jeffery GM USA
2667
4 Jones, Gwain GM England
2665
5 Grandelius, Nils GM Sweden
2642
6 Lu, Shanglei GM China
2612
7 van Foreest, Jorden GM Netherlands
2612
8 Bok, Benjamin GM Netherlands
2608
9 L’Ami, Erwin GM Netherlands
2605
10 Hansen, Eric GM Canada
2603
11 Tari, Aryan GM Norway
2584
12 Dobrov, Vladimir GM Russia
2499
13 Tingjie, Lei WGM Netherlands
2467
14 Guramishvili, Sopiko IM Georgia
2370
Official Site

Chess officials display the equipment to eager onlookers.

Somalia has been a member of FIDE since 1987 and has participated in past Chess Olympiads. However, things have been difficult in terms of keeping the momentum going in the Horn of Africa. Fortunately, the Somalia Chess Federation got a boost from the Kasparov Chess Federation with the donation of equipment to bolster Chess-in-Schools initiative at the Dhagah Tuur School in Somalia. KCFA reported,

The the program will run under the supervision of the Association of Chess Players of Somalia and has been implemented by the Somali Chess Federation with the help of boards and sets donated by the Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa in 2016. (full report)

During the 2014 FIDE Presidential campaign, former World Champion Garry Kasparov made Africa a priority in terms of his outreach. The result was a contentious election that appeared to split the continent into bitter factions. Several federations are still divided, but KCFA has continued its efforts post-election including helping the Millionaire Chess satellite tournaments last year. Let us hope that the effort continue!

The sets are being broken in!

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft

The Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa is delighted to be able to announce that we will be collaborating with the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to facilitate a series of chess master training tours across the African continent during the first six months of the 2017 calendar year. The program will be known as “Chess Masters for Africa” and will primarily be funded by way of grant received from the Paul G Allen Family Foundation.

The exciting new program will see structured chess training provided across six African countries by Master level players including GM Maurice Ashley, GM Pontus Carlsson, GM Kenny Solomon, IM Andrew Kayonde and IM Arthur Ssegwanyi.

Between them, the masters will conduct training sessions in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania from February until June 2017. More than sixty locally based trainers are expected to benefit directly from the program which is also expected to impact more than 1,500 children through indirect training sessions.

We wish to thank Mr Paul G Allen for his leadership and willingness to partner with us to make this tour a reality. We are confident that the training provided will greatly improve both the playing strength and technical knowledge of the local chess trainers and we look forward to witnessing the results as they pass on this knowledge within their local communities in the future.

~Graham Jurgensen, Executive Director, Kasparov Foundation for Africa

Download the full press release at http://www.kcfafrica.com/en/content/press-releases

This report was written by Jones Murphy, Jr., organizer of the multi-site tourney. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The fourth Multi-site Chess Tournament took place Saturday December 3rd, with 3 venues and a 3-hour time zone difference among them. The venues were New York Chess & Games, the California Youth Chess League in Santa Clarita near Los Angeles, and the Long Island Chess Center in Massapequa, NY. Two players entered in Santa Clarita, five in Brooklyn and four in Long Island for a total of 11 players.

Players again enjoyed the combination of normal OTB play at their respective venues, and online play with players across the continent. This was the first multi-site featuring an internationally titled players, namely IM Jay Bonin.

Keen action in three cities across the U.S.
Photo by Brian Karen

IM Bonin won all of his games to take clear first and $65, despite a scary episode against National Master Ernest “Steve” Colding in the opening. Colding was so disappointed by that mouse slip loss that he went on to be upset by rising star Noah Flaum, who tied National Master Tim Mirabile, winner of the very first Multi-Site, for 2nd-3rd($19.50 each). Los Angeles players Adam Draheim and Kevin Golchin split the U1800 prize of $13 each, and young Mishca Braswell of Brooklyn won the U1500 prize of $13.

Interestingly, Long Island players ran the table at the top of the tournament, and Los Angeles killed it in the U1800. Colding looked set to score a stunning upset against Bonin, but mouse-slipped to retreat a bishop from d2, instead of advancing a Rook to e3 on a critical move. Mouse-slips are a significant factor in online games, adding drama for spectators and fans, and heartbreak and joy for players:

Final Standings

We strongly encourage future participants to play games on ICC and in particular to play in ICC tournaments to familiarize themselves with the interface and device requirements. Lack of familiarity was once again a significant issue, with several players lacking current memberships on ICC.

Very much looking for additional venues, for more weekend events, for scholastics, and for multi day events such as “every Monday for 4-6 weeks”, that kind of thing. I think the concept is very applicable for our communities, and more broadly those in areas where there’s little activity wanting to link up with others across the country and the world.

~Jones Murphy, Jr.

* * *

For more information on the idea of a multi-site tournament, read Jones Murphy, “Murphy’s Law: Thoughts on Millionaire Chess,” The Chess Drum, 28 October 2014.

Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

IN THE BEGINNING…

On March 24, 2016 one of the brightest of Jamaican lights was extinguished when Hope Arthurine Anderson, escorted by Caissa, went to meet her Maker and the chess gods. Many, including members of the Jamaican Chess fraternity, mourned the passing of this outstanding Caribbean woman, a veritable gem of a human being.

Hope was born on June 2, 1950 in Port Antonio, Portland, that pristine of Jamaican parishes which has been haven to many celebrities such as movie star Errol Flynn after whom a famous marina there is named. She was the sixth child of Arthur Anderson, a policeman, and his wife Iris, a seamstress. She had six brothers (Lascelles, Lloyd, Roy, Winston, Donald and Karl) and one sister (Grace) who, incidentally, died on the 13th day of August 2016. These children were to distinguish themselves in various fields of endeavour including Business, Law and Medicine.

Hope’s secondary school education was at Titchfield High and Excelsior High schools, two of Jamaica’s well-known crucibles of erudition, where her prowess at mathematics astounded her teachers. Perhaps this ability or aptitude was to serve her well in her Chess “career”.

She was from a family of musicians and distinguished herself in this area of the Arts. After formal studies in Voice and with the guidance of Pauline Forrest-Watson (an outstanding Jamaican Soprano), Hope passed Grade 7 in Voice as a Mezzo-Soprano, with merit, in the Royal School of Music examinations. She was an accomplished piano player and often played the organ at her church.

Obviously a gifted, multifaceted person Hope was involved in various aspects of life. For instance, she was a High School teacher (Mathematics and Chemistry); she successfully pursued a Masters Degree in Computer Based Management Information Systems; she was deeply involved in the Caribbean College of Family Physicians becoming Regional Secretary in 2003; and she was an Associate Lecturer in the Department of Community Health & Psychiatry at the University of the West Indies.

She had a profound love for people and, consequently, did significant charity work through Kiwanis and provided voluntary service at health clinics for several churches across Jamaica. This aspect of her personality was a major reason she became a medical doctor. In fact, as her sister Grace said in the “Remembrance” at her funeral, Hope was a “…thorough conscientious and caring medical professional who sought at all times to give quality care to her patients.”

Hope (the third female from the left in the group on the left) “kibitzing” in the 1980s in Jamaica. To her right is Christine Bennett and the man to her left (in the dark glasses) is the late Humphrey “The Omega Man” Gayle!

FIRST JAMAICA WOMEN’S CHESS CHAMPION!

Hope took to Chess relatively early and eventually became a solid, well-rounded player. An early member of the Jamaica Chess Federation (JCF), she was to give great service to this institution in various capacities including as a secretary and being team doctor on trips abroad.

Although a medical practitioner by profession, so profound was her dominance over her female counterparts that, in stark contrast to the dictates of the Hippocratic Oath, she did serious damage to life and limb on the Chess battlefield inflicting numerous, painful defeats upon her opponents! Like Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise, she went where no other Jamaican female Chess player had gone before…

Hope won the first six (6) Jamaica Women’s Championship titles – having created history in becoming Jamaica’s first National Women’s Champion in 1973. She registered further victories in 1976, 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1985. Although her streak was audaciously broken by Claire Clarke in 1986, Hope reclaimed the throne in 1987 notching her seventh victory with ooooomph!

One of her games from 1987, a good year for her, is presented here with analysis – a 64-move win in the United General Classic against Christine Bennett, one of the best Jamaican female players at the time.

BATTLING THE MEN!

Hope more than held her own against male opposition long before the famous Hungarian Polgar sisters (Susan, Sophia and Judit) made it popular for women to play against men. In fact, one of her (analysed) games accompanying this article is her bruising battle against the future master Devlin Sinclair in the 1989 Jamaica (Absolute) Championship.

THE CHESS OLYMPIAN

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

She cemented her place in the pantheon of Jamaica’s sporting legends in 1984 when, as National Women’s champion, she led Jamaica’s women as they debuted at the Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece.

There was a feeling of inevitability about this landmark sojourn which Hope was to replicate via more Olympiad outings in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (1986); Thessaloniki (1988); and her last venture – Novi Sad (1990 – in the former Yugoslavia).

Hope (centre facing camera) playing board 2 for Jamaica at the 1986 Dubai Olympiad. To her right is Claire Clarke (bd. 1) and to her left Melanie Powell, the reserve (bd.3)

Blast from the past in Jamaica’s daily newspaper! The Jamaican delegation to the 1988 Olympiad in Thessaloniki, Greece. Hope is second from left in the front

Although she “parked her pawns” after her last competitive JCF event in December, 1996, she remained an inspiration and role model to many chess players, especially females. The current successful crop of Jamaican female chess players, doubtlessly, have stood on her shoulders. These include WIM Deborah Richards-Porter, ten-time Jamaican Women’s Champion; first Woman International Master in the English-speaking Caribbean and the first player from the English-speaking Caribbean to win a Sub-Zonals event (in Barbados, 2016); and other Jamaican Women Champions such as the young phenom CM Rachel Miller, WCM Ariel Barrett and the reigning women’s champion WCM Annesha Smith, respectively.

Her last “duties” for the JCF were at the JCF’s inaugural Chess Hall of Fame Awards held on September 26, 2014 at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica where she assisted with the presentation of prizes.

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

Hope making a presentation to Lontae Walker at the JCF’s inaugural Chess Hall of Fame Awards on September 26, 2014 in Kingston, Jamaica.

FANTASTIC “SEND-OFF”!

Her funeral was held on April 6, 2016 at the East Queen Street Baptist Church in downtown, Kingston, Jamaica and was well-attended by hundreds of persons from all walks of life and various professions. Of course, many members of the Chess fraternity attended including the author, the President of the JCF; Frederick Cameron one of the founding members of the JCF and a former JCF president; Claire Clarke-Grant and Melanie Powell-Reece, Hope’s former Olympiad teammates; Listra Clemetson, a member of the JCF Executive Council and the Chairperson of the JCF’s Women’s Chess Committee; Maxine Brown a member of the JCF Executive Council and the Chairperson of the Public Relations Committee; Candidate Master Dr. Kevin Brown, a surgeon and former Chess Olympian and Richard Lim a chess player, photographer and videographer.

In tribute to Hope, her brother Justice Roy Anderson, a retired Supreme Court Judge and accomplished singer, gave moving renditions of the songs “The Strength of the Lord” and “The Holy City”, while her brothers Winston and Karl touched the congregation with the popular – “His Eye is on the Sparrow”.

Retired Supreme Court Judge Roy Anderson (in wheelchair) paid a tribute to his sister by singing “The strength of the Lord” and “The Holy City”

Hope’s brothers Karl Anderson (L), the youngest of the siblings, and Winston Anderson singing “His Eye is on the Sparrow”

Other tributes included a beautiful poem (“To Hope”) written by her brother Professor Lascelles Anderson; a sentimental presentation by her close friend Dr. Peggy Myers-Morgan; and, of course, the JCF’s “Chess” tribute highlighting her historic achievements. Her sister Grace gave a fantastic “Remembrance” and the officiating ministers Bishop Burchell Taylor and the Reverend Roy Henry stirring sermons.

Professor Emeritus Lascelles Anderson (former Director of the Carter Center, University of Illinois), the eldest of the siblings and the author of the poem “To Hope”

ACHIEVING GREAT THINGS IN SPITE OF THE ODDS

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

Having made her transition, she will now be enjoying many games with Jamaican titans such as Enos Grant (the founding father of the JCF in 1969 and its first President); John Powell (Jamaica’s only Chess Olympiad male medalist); William Roper (the JCF’s first Secretary and first Senior Master); Alfred Thompson (Jamaica’s first National Champion); Orrin Tonsingh (former Jamaica Absolute Champion); and Humphrey Gayle (former Chess Olympian and the self-styled “Omega Man”).

She has joined the illustrious company of former world champions such as Vera Menchik, Jose Capablanca, Bobby Fischer and Mikhail Tal who went ahead of her to set up the chess pieces and tables!

Hope Anderson was an outstanding teacher, medical doctor, musician, philanthropist, pioneering chess player par excellence, chess administrator, chess coach and mentor. Jamaica, the region and the chess world in general is indebted to her for her immortal contribution to chess and its glorious history.

Ian G. Wilkinson QC
President, Jamaica Chess Federation

Photographs courtesy of Richard Lim and the Jamaica Chess Federation

* * *

Dr. Hope Arthurine Anderson
2 June 1950 – 24 March 2016

The year 2016 was the year of the Olympiad and Baku certainly spared no expense to put on a wonderful event. It was, by many accounts, the best Olympiad ever. The USA won the gold for the first time in 40 years and capped off a cinderella year the likes of Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So.

Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So.
Photo by Chris Bauer

As far as other key events of the year, Gata Kamsky and Maurice Ashley were inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame just before Caruana would win his first national title. The Miami-born, Brooklyn-bred prodigy had made good on his quest to win a title and gold at the Olympiad. While Ashley was getting his plaque mounted in the Hall, he was also organizing the third edition of the Millionaire Chess Open. Which was held with less fanfare, but was perhaps the best of the three editions. More on that later.

Emory Tate biography “Triple Exclam” went to print on his birthday, December 27th.

The movie “The Queen of Katwe” opening date was announced as September 30th and was met with great anticipation. While the movie did not get the box receipts anticipated it is one of those movies that will be more successful as time goes on. Magnificent showing!

In other artistic expressions, the biography of IM Emory Tate being published by The Chess Drum and was set to be released in the Fall 2016. Due to a number of delays, the books is now at the printers and is due in early January. The initial version will be a handsome hardcover, full color book, fully indexed and one for the ages. “Triple Exclam” is a tribute to a man who gave his life for chess and shared its inner beauty with any who would care to listen.

The 2016 Millionaire Chess Open was announced a bit later than previous years and the change of venue was one decision anticipating an uptick in entries. Held at Harrah’s Casino in Atlantic City, the tournament drew a little over 400, down from the 550 in the two previous editions (#1 and #2). What gives? Why the lack of support? Will there be another? Ashley was asked in a very interesting interview.

Part 1:
Grand Chess Tour, African Tour, Queen of Katwe, Baku Olympiad
30:06 minutes

Part 2:
MC3, MC3 in retrospect, Future of MC
23:18 minutes

GM Samuel Sevian and mother Armine chatting with GM Pontus Carlsson of Sweden at the 2016 Millionaire Chess Open. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Of course there was the Baku Olympiad and World Chess Championship, the pinnacles of team and individual chess. While The Chess Drum was not in Baku, we captured the impressions of the amazing event. However, we were in New York for the showdown between Magnus Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin. It was an exciting match although the match was decided by rapid tiebreaks, albeit with a spectacular ending.

Scintillating! Carlsen wins again!

Finally the year had a rather sad ending with the passing of Ray “Dragon” Robinson. He was a mainstay in Philadelphia chess and was known to be a historian of chess in the Black community. Rest in power Dragon.

Ray “Dragon” Robinson
February 22, 1959 – December 18, 2016

Ray Robinson at the 2006 World Open.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

It was an eventful year, but less prolific at The Chess Drum. Generally in the range of 200 stories, we got 145 in 2016. As the site transitions more into an archival reservoir and chess scholarship, the journalistic aspect will be minimized. There are many options to find coverage for events. Coming is the biography of Emory Tate and a history of chess in the African Diaspora.

All the best in 2017!


December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

Much has been said about racial intolerance in recent years. The contentious election season in the U.S. had everyone discussing the tension between the supporters of Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Campaign rallies were filled with commotions between protesters, racial epithets and sometimes fists flying.

In Europe there has been a debate about immigration with many politicians and pundits taking a hard line against the wave of emigrants from Syria and immigrants from other parts of the world. Amidst several terrorist attacks, many governments are beginning to echo the sentiments of the right-wing. There are some nations that are reputed to be relatively free from racial strife.

GM Pontus Carlsson
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Sweden is a country of approximately 10 million people, fairly homogeneous with an immigrant population of about 15%. However, is Sweden the racial utopia it’s cracked up to be? The chess world may know that GM Pontus Carlsson was adopted at age one by a Swedish family and has lived his entire life there. He still has ties to his native Colombia and was approached by a national magazine Semana for an interview. Colombia was preparing a 122-page special on Sweden and it was thought that Carlsson would make the perfect interview subject.

Carlsson then submitted to a lengthy interview, but what he revealed was not consistent with the multicultural utopia often told of Sweden. His narrative echoes that of many “minority immigrants” in the west… one with racial slights, discrimination and occasional confrontations with police. Carlsson told The Chess Drum that he had been forthright in the interview, but many of his harsh comments were nixed from the issue.

He wanted to share the gist of what he had to say and said, “It’s time for Sweden and the other countries to wake up!” Here is the Semana interview in its entirety.

1. You were born in Colombia, do you have memories of our country?

Pontus: I left Colombia when I was 1 year old so therefore I have no memories of that time. But I have understood that it was a good thing that I don´t have any memories since my Colombian parents died.

2. Have you been back in Colombia? If you have done so, what struck you the most and what is your relationship with Colombia today?

Pontus: Yes I have been back and of course I liked it a lot. I enjoy going to Colombia and of course Cali since I’m from there, but there are many beautiful places in Colombia. The climate, food, atmosphere, beaches, nature, I like almost everything apart from the violence that has to come to an end once and forever and the whole country has to understand that!

I have a good relationship with Colombia, where I have several friends. Unfortunately, I do not go there often due to the distance, but if I received serious invitations to make public exhibitions like playing simuls or blindfold chess I would go more often.

It was also a great honour for me to be elected as one of the 100 best Colombians and be invited to meet President Juan Manuel Santos. A pity that I had the European Championships at the same dates, because I really wanted to go and receive my order personally. I hope there will be a new possibility. I also would like to have a Colombian company as a sponsor, I would be proud to help a company in my country to expand and spread its brand, so if someone contacts me on the subject I will listen.

3. You also have Colombian nationality. Why?

Pontus: Because I am Colombian by birth and heart. For some things I like Sweden too, but as a black guy in Sweden I have received a lot of racism there, and thus I will never say that I am proud to be Swedish. I just cannot do it because it would be a lie.

I like the organization in Sweden and the manners that people almost always help unknown people who have problems, but there is a lot of racism against black people and as a player of the Swedish national team representing the country, I have been wrongly accused of stealing clothes In a shop where I before that spent 2000 euros a year, detained by the police who accused me of stealing my own car! detained for just sitting in my car with another black friend, timely talking about the issue of racism in Sweden. I have been detained for crossing the street, falsely accused of raping a woman because they confused me with another black guy who had not either raped that woman. I have been racially insulted several times on the street, and on internet forums, discriminated against in restaurants, shops and so much more but I think that’s enough for people to understand that I will never say that I’m proud to be Swedish.

Now in Sweden there are many black people, and in the Swedish boards of directors there is one black person. It is shameful! The Swedish government always talk about the equal rights and diversity that they say are so good in Sweden, and they say they treat minorities and foreigners well, but that’s just not true! It is just a disaster and the integration is another disaster. And the politicians and Swedish people always deny that there is racism against black people and that the integration is a disaster, but everyone can see it all the time, it is very frustrating, and many treat me differently now due to my good sports achievements and it have been the same people who was discriminating against me before. Now the racial party is one of the biggest here and the Swedish people and their politicians still deny that there is racism and that the country has problems.

Sweden’s Tess Asplund stands with raised fist opposite members of the Nordic Resistance Movement, a right-wing nationalist group (article). Photo by David Lagerlof.

In addition, after more than 20 years living in Sweden, I have never been able to adapt to the weather and the cold winters, and I hate the so-called Law of Jante, which is very present in Sweden, it is a disaster and has destroyed a lot in Swedish sport and so many Swedish athletes.

To conclude I want to say that I am proud to be Colombian, but I also cannot adapt to the violence in Colombia. It is a failure of our country and everyone should do everything possible to stop it.

4. Did you know that the Swedes in recent times have adopted 15,000 Colombian children? What do you think of that?

Pontus: I did not know the exact amount, but I knew it should be quite a lot. I think it’s a good thing if the children are without parents and future in Colombia. And I know that they control adoptive parents very hard before they approve the adoptions. Sweden is a very well-structured country and all other countries in the world could learn from that organization. The bad thing is that the children will have to learn to survive the Swedish winters and that is not easy (laughing) … and also to live with the racism that is always present in the Swedish society.

5. Your father taught you to play chess as a child. What did he teach you that you can pass on to people?

Pontus: Well my father is a great man, very smart, with good manners and values in life. I’ve learned a lot from him, both on and off the board, though I think more off the board (laughing) … Besides teaching me the rules and my first openings, he explained the basic chess strategy to me. Later I of course learned much more, but he was the one who gave me the basic knowledge. And it was good, since afterwards I have developed everything from that base.

Something also important was that we started early. At the age of four I knew how to move the pieces and at five I started to compete! I think it’s important to start early since then you have more chances to become very good.

GMs Pontus Carlsson and Maurice Ashley
at 2016 Millionaire Chess Open (Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA)
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

6. What is your most memorable victory and defeat in chess?

Pontus: It’s hard to answer since I’ve won a lot of things. I have more than five hundred trophies in my house and I really enjoy to win!

The last tournament I won was for example this week. Maybe when I won Torneig Internacional Ciutat de Sóller in Spain, because with that victory in a high-level international tournament I claimed the title of Grandmaster and also the Mayor of Soller took me to see the football match between Mallorca and Zaragoza from the VIP section, and I like soccer a lot so I remember that I was very happy that day. It was a great day. But I also like to win for others, and in teams since I know that it makes a lot of people over the world happy. I have noticed that since people comment on my triumphs in the streets, on internet and in social medias. I feel very good to know that I can do people in Colombia, Sweden or other places in the world happy with good results.

2007 European Team Championships: 5th board medal winners, Dmitry Jakovenko (Russia – Silver), Alexander Areshchenko (Ukraine – Bronze), Pontus Carlsson (Sweden – Gold) Photo by greekchess.com.

Of defeats I do not remember anything … No, it was a joke. I have one defeat in my childhood that I will never forget. I was about to win a medal at the European Under 10 Championship in Slovakia in 1992, I was a knight up in an endgame but relaxed and did a serious blunder that lost my knight in one move, which cost me the game and my medal. I was off the podium and it was so painful. I also had to be present at the ceremony looking at the podium and I remember that I was crying in my mother’s knee. It was horrible and I could not do anything nor any exercises in my school the next two weeks since I was so sad about it.

7. What is the most valuable thing that this sport has taught you?
Pontus: The respect that exists between the players. In chess there is more or less no racism, it is not like in soccer where people shout racist insults and throw bananas at the black players. It is a clean sport and I have always received respect, although I have always been the only active black player at high level. In addition, chess has allowed me to discover the world. I have played tournaments and championships in more than forty countries and it has been great. It is a good way to meet new cultures, to see beautiful places and to make friends.

GM Pontus Carlsson with chess players in Doha, Qatar.

Chess is also a sport where you work with your brain and become more intelligent. You get a better memory since you train it all the time, improve your calculation, concentration and your strategic ability, which is very useful both in school and in business.For children it is always a good idea to start with chess since they get better in school and especially in math.

In business there are also many things about chess that one could use, such as being able to “read” people, quickly analyzing situations, solving problems, calculating quickly and designing a good strategy. This are very important abilities in many jobs, but perhaps more than anything in investments and negotiations. But I think the most valuable thing is that everyone can play it, both young and old, and that there is no racism.

8. You became Grandmaster one of the most important titles of this sport. If I had to choose three fundamental characteristics that a great player should have, what would they be?

Pontus: Good memory, good nerves, and good strategy, but the most important thing for young players aspiring to be Grand Masters is to train right and to train hard.

GM Pontus Carlsson giving a blindfold simul at a community event in Sweden.

9. Your career has led you to become a member of the Swedish Chess Academy. What advice would you give to a child who wants to practice this sport?

Pontus: Yes, it is an honour to be a member of the Swedish Chess Academy where everyone is prominent business people or celebrities. What I like a lot there, is that everyone really loves chess and that they are very nice and humble. I have made some very good friends there who it is always a pleasure to meet.

And in collaboration with the Swedish Chess Academy, I organize “Näringslivet möter Förorten” which has become a major event in Sweden. The concept is that every child from the suburbs teams up with a “business executive” from the Swedish trade & Industry to play chess in pairs in a tournament with twenty teams. It is an initiative to improve and facilitate integration in Sweden and towards segregation. I think it is very important to bring different people together to remove many prejudices that exist, and then chess is a perfect tool because everyone can play it, poor as rich, old as young, white, as black.

It would be very nice to organize such an event in Colombia as well, and all companies and entrepreneurs interested in sponsoring or supporting it are welcome to contact me.

10. In addition to chess, you used to play soccer, so Zlatan Ibrahamovic or William James? And Why?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic
By Football.ua, CC BY-SA 3.0

Pontus: Yes, I really like football and as a youth I was playing in the highest national category of Sweden. And I have several friends who are soccer players. I follow the Colombian national team and I’m a big fan. I am very happy that we now have a strong team that can do something in the World Cup and Copa America.

Zlatan or James … well, to choose! I take both. A very good number 10 with one of the three best strikers in the world. That combination could not end in anything other than successes, titles and a lot of goals.

But to tell the truth, I like James a lot but my favorite in the selection is Juan Cuadrado for his dribbling skills.it is a pleasure to see him playing and I hope he will soon return to his best form. Before I also liked Camilo Zúñiga much when he was playing, and in the nineties Faustino Asprilla of course! A fantastic player and great idol that I hope to meet one day.

Note: Semena did not publish the interview in its entirety, but included quotes from Carlsson. The article appears at http://especiales.semana.com/especiales/suecia/ on page 50 and 51.

There is a petition circulating to invite the gold medal winning U.S. Olympiad team to the White House. After the momentous victory in Baku, Azerbaijan, there was little fanfare and barely any recognition of the historic accomplishment apart from chess media. Nationally, there was hardly any media coverage, no airport reception, no celebration and certainly no invite to the White House by the administration. In the past, Obama has endorsed chess activities prior to assuming the highest office.

Senator Barack Obama on the Harlem Children’s Zone

As it were, a new administration will be ushered in on January 20th under Donald J. Trump. It is long overdue to honor a team most of whom developed and nurtured an interest in chess in America, but reflect a variety of experiences. The petition was launched on December 22, 2016 and requires 100,000 signatures to be considered. The petition reads in part:

As the US Men’s Olympic Chess team won the gold medal in the 2016 World Chess Olympiad Open event held recently in Baku for the first time since 1976 and for the sixth time overall, and because they truly reflect the diversity and competitive spirit of America they have earned a visit to the Whitehouse in similarity to the NFL, Baseball, or NCAA champions.

In a country that gives football, baseball and basketball top billing, it is time to show that chess has made a cultural resurgence on the cultural landscape as thousands of schoolchildren are becoming exposed to the game and thus gaining a number of social benefits. Each of the members of the U.S. Olympiad team were noted players in their youth and it has provided them with opportunities to realize their potential. Short of winning a world championship, this accomplishment is perhaps the crowning achievement in chess and one of the most difficult. Sign the petition today so that U.S. chess and its top players can be recognized with the honor they deserve.

Please sign the petition today!

Ray “Dragon” Robinson
February 22, 1959 – December 18, 2016

Ray Robinson at the 2006 World Open.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Ray “Dragon” Robinson of Philadelphia was a man of many names, full of passion and excelled in chess, air hockey and pool. In addition to his chess exploits, he competed in air hockey tournaments on the east coast and was a noted player in those circles. More on chess in a minute.

Dragon, who was 57, suffered two strokes at his residence on December 3rd and after two weeks of fighting valiantly for his life, passed this past Sunday at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center while surrounded by family and loved ones.

Andrew Yevish, a fellow air hockey enthusiast reflected,

Dragon was always a great competitor, but he also was very encouraging to everyone he was competing with. He was a fatherly/brotherly figure who often served as the “glue” in our East Coast Air Hockey community. I can’t even recount all the times when he would listen and offer advice on my love life or some other problem. He always had a unique perspective, and always was a calming force whose laid back approach to life served us as a reminder not to take the problems too seriously… to go with the flow.

A 1978 graduate of John Bartram High School, he was one of Philly’s toughest chess competitors and constant fixture on the chess scene. His dedication spanned four decades and his passion for chess was on full display until his final days. Dragon earned his National Master title in 1992 and was active in the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) since the 1970s. His last post on Facebook was September 13th when he posted,

Congrats to team U.S.A. for winning the chess olympiad!!!!!!!!!

Bartram High was led by David Moore (who also became a Master) and Barry Burton in the early 70s, but after a lull in activity, the Bartram team was rejuvenated years later. Dragon had learned chess during his years at Bartram High and played behind Norman “Pete” Rogers on board two. Both went on to become National Masters and Pete later earned the FIDE Master (FM) title. Both Dragon and Pete were friendly rivals to Wilbert Paige and Glenn Bady at West Philadelphia High School, but would become part of a close-knit fraternity of Black USCF Masters and Experts in the city. Philadelphia was also basking in the chess success of Roberts Vaux High School.

Ray “Dragon” Robinson

Bartram High School Chess Club

Left to Right: Robert Gist, unknown, Raymond Robinson, Norman Rogers, Wilbert Paige, Joel Barringer, Melvin Carter and Bruce Cox.
Photos courtesy of Norman “Pete” Rogers

Rob Gist remembers that Dragon, Paige and Bady would play the Sicilian Dragon, an opening that was fashionable in the 70s and 80s. Robinson took the name “Dragon” as a tribute to his favorite defense. Gist told The Chess Drum that this competitive spirit led the Philly group to travel to New York for sparring matches with Ernest Colding and other area Masters. Then there were challenges to Baltimore chess players.

Here Dragon played faced Dr. Kimani Stancil with his pet opening during a Baltimore-Philly match.

Glenn Bady (Philly) vs. FM William Morrison (Baltimore); Ray 'Dragon' Robinson (Philly) vs. Dr. Kimani Stancil (Baltimore).  Photo by Michael Williams.

foreground: Glenn Bady (Philly) vs. FM William Morrison (Baltimore);
background: Ray Robinson (Philly) vs. Dr. Kimani Stancil (Baltimore).
Photo by Michael Williams

Dragon was known to be a very active person in his younger years and according to Gist, he was always involved in some athletic activity including street football. Unfortunately, he was struck by a car while in Middle School and injuries to his hip caused him to walk with a limp. This did not prevent him from continuing his athletic interests. In 1989, he had begun taking gigs around the city as a disk jockey and continued working various events for 30 years. He went by the DJ name “Sugar Bear” perhaps with a reference to his physical appearance. Some say it was due to his kind heart.

Philadelphia team after the Philly vs. Baltimore match in 2008.
Photo by Michael Williams

Dragon was a stout man, yet simple man with an affinity for his favorite well-done burger on a toasted bun with only black pepper… nothing else. Gist, who lived in Dragon’s house for the last 17 months, mentioned that he suffered a number of health challenges including an increasing debilitation with his hip. He had begun using a cane. Dragon suffered a stroke in 2008, but kept forging ahead and gleefully celebrated his 50th birthday the next year. Despite his limited mobility and now resorting to crutches, he remained active. Gist had mentioned to Dragon that he was concerned about his weight gain, but Dragon joked that he couldn’t resort to eating that “rabbit food.”

Being that the World Open was a Philadelphia icon, Dragon was a regular fixture at the tournament. He was often seen in the skittles room enjoying a game of blitz and engaging in friendly banter. At the 2016 World Open, he played in no less than six side events! His last tournament was in October at the Masterminds National and he ended at his USCF rating floor of 2000. His peak rating was in the proximity of 2200-2250 and was certainly a model to help create a cadre of strong players in the Philly area.

Dragon (left) in the skittles room at the 2016 World Open.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

According to Pete Rogers, Dragon had spent Thanksgiving at his house along with other chess players. On Saturday, December 3rd longtime friend Rodney “Storm” Bardwell talked to him at around 12:12pm. At 3:46pm, his roommate Rob Gist came back to the house to find Dragon on the floor on his right side. His eyes were moving, but he was otherwise unresponsive. His dominant left-hand was on the table as if trying to pull himself up.

Gist called 911 and Dragon was rushed to Penn Presbyterian Hospital. A CAT scan revealed that he had suffered two consecutive strokes afflicting both sides of his brain. Dragon continued his fight and bedside vigils were held by family and his chess friends over the next couple of weeks. Despite his fight, the prognosis was grim and Dragon passed away quietly in the company of loved ones on Sunday, December 18th. The news sent a shock wave through the chess and air hockey communities.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Uganda Uganda Uganda

FM Harold Wanyama (Uganda)
Photo by Kim Bhari

In a story out of Uganda, FM Harold Wanyama has retired from competitive chess after a 10-year stint that included appearances on the Olympiad team, national tournament prominence and stellar play in the club leagues. He mentioned as part of his highlights his experience in the Istanbul and Baku Olympiads and also the 2015 Millionaire Chess Open in Las Vegas. He won the Millionaire qualifier in Kenya and earned an all-expense paid trip where he described his experiences in an interview with The Chess Drum. 15:03 minutes

His retirement comes two days after a 7th place finish at the Kireka Open. In the article in Kawowo Sports, Wanyama stated that he wants to spend more time building his professional career in Information Technology and with his family.

Marion Malinga filed the report 20 December 2016 for Kawowo Sports…

One of East Africa’s greatest chess players ever has called it a day in office after a phenomenal career.

After ten years of playing competitive and exceptional chess, Fide Master Harold Wanyama has retired from Chess.

Wanyama who will go down as one of the finest players to ever take to the board quit the brainy game two days after the inaugural Kireka Chess Club Open Chess Championship held at Memorito Hotel, Bweyogere.

“It is time to call it a day in chess,” Wanyama, a three time Olympian revealed to Kawowo Sports.

“The journey has been intriguing and I’ve loved representing the nation from 2006 to date.

“I’d like to thank Dr Zirembuzi for giving me a chance to improve with Mulago Chess Franchise. I have basically won most of the events in a ten year span.

“A highlight of my journey was the Istanbul experience in 2012 where I gained the most rating points amongst all participating players from over 130 countries.

“The other highlight was recently in Baku this year where I was among the best performing Players on board two ahead of players like Nakamura, the world’s number three.

“I was also blessed to be among the three African players who were sponsored to go to Las Vegas in 2015 where I got great exposure.

“Now the journey has come to an end and I have to call it quits as I have to put more focus on my IT profession and family. I shall be following events as they happen though so I will not be so far away.”

In his ten-year career, Wanyama who played for seven clubs including Mulago Knights, Mulago Kings, Makerere, Sanlam, Makindye, DMARK and Kireka won over ten events with a number of those being shared between Uganda and Kenya.

He became the first and only player to defend the East African Championship when he retained it in 2007.

He also became the only player to win the Rwabushenyi Memorial Open three times when he took home the 2015 edition.

While his retirement comes at a time he’d lost his mojo following his unsatisfactory displays at the Kireka Open and the recently concluded Equity Open in Kenya where he finished fifth, 2016 will go down as one of his best years.

Aside from his superlative performances at the World Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan three months ago, the FM produced equally outstanding performances at other events.

In May at the Zone 4.2 Individual Chess Championships Open in Dar es Salaam, Wanyama earned his IM norm after collecting six points to finish third, only behind Egyptians Sobr Amrou and Kandil Adham– who won the tourney with seven points.

That was after he’d won the Kawuma Open in March ahead of International Masters Arthur Ssegwanyi and Elijah Emojong and FM Patrick Kawuma.

He was joint top with Emojong at the Mombasa Open last month after both attaining 6,5 points. He only lost the title on a tie-break.

On a club level, 2016 saw Kireka break DMARK’s monopoly to rewrite history. Wanyama who was named the club’s best player spearheaded his club to their first league triumph in a long time.

He retires seeded fourth in East Africa with a rating of 2280.

Link: https://www.kawowo.com/2016/12/20/harold-wanyama-retires-chess/

2016 London Chess Classic
1 Aronian, L
ARM
0-1
Topalov, V
BUL
2 Anand, V
IND
½-½
Kramnik, V
RUS
3 Giri, A
NED
½-½
Caruana, F
USA
4 So, W
USA
½-½
Vachier-Lagrave, M
FRA
5 Adams, M
ENG
½-½
Nakamura, H
USA
Official Site

Round #9: Sunday, 18 December 2016
Wesley wins London Classic and Grand Chess Tour!
Topalov ends tournament with a win!!

While Wesley So is not yet a U.S. citizen he has learned one of the certainties in life. One is death and there other… taxes. OK… the US$295,000 combined winnings of Wesley So will certainly get hit with a hefty tax from Uncle Sam, but he will soon add to the $100,000 he won in 2014 at the Millionaire Chess Open. It’s a good problem to have and the former Webster University student has been basking in the glory the entire 2016 campaign. Winning the last two Grand Tour events and two gold medal in between, it’s been a banner year for So.

So – MVL (after 6.d2-d4)
Hand-to-hand combat on move six!

While he clinched the Grand Chess Tour yesterday, there was still slight drama today as Fabiano Caruana and a couple of other could technically tie with So if he lost. All he needed was at least a draw to tie for first. So-MVL was rather short and another English. It is strange that the girl who played the opening move played 1.c4, but So transposed into a fashionable line with 1.Nf3 c5 2.c4 (2.e4!) Nc6 3.Nc3 e5 4.e3. Fast forward, the game exploded after 6.d4!? This is actually a line that the two of them played in Leuven which also ended peacefully. In this game, MVL deviated and enjoyed nice piece play, but got little more than equality.

There was excitement when two former World Champions were introduced. Both Viswanathan Anand and Vladimir Kramnik had played a total of 90 classical games in their careers with a score of +10-8=72 with Anand holding the slight edge. This game did not have any redeeming qualities or moments where the game hung in the balance. It would be their 73rd draw and lasted only 24 moves. In Giri-Caruana, we already know the result. The joke, puns and cracks are piling up. Hikaru Nakamura said he would rather have fun playing chess (win or lose) than “drawing every game.” Sergey Karjakin piled on…

Despite playing the most exciting chess, Nakamura drew his game uneventfully in a Berlin. That meant he took 2nd place in the Grand Chess Tour (GCT) and won US$50,000. He has also qualified for the 2017 GCT circuit.

Aronian-Topalov (after 18…Nxd5)
Space Invaders coming to crush!

Last but not least, we turn to an interesting encounter in Aronian-Topalov. Topalov has been a client this tournament losing six games, some in uncharacteristic fashion. This game was very characteristics of his bold and imaginative play. Against the Armenian, he play an enterprising piece sacrifice with 16…bxc4!? After 17.axb4 cxb4 18.Bd2 Nxd5. Had Topalov become unhinged? Many thought he was heading for his 7th loss. Black had three pawns and they looked like the monsters in the old Space Invaders video game.

Topalov seemed a bit overzealous and tried to advance the pawns immediately with 19…c3? The commentators predicted that pawns were too weak, would be picked off and blockaded. However, Topalov got tremendous play and Aronian decided to give the piece back, but the monsters proved to be unstoppable and the final position forced resignation.

Constellation of pieces with Space Invaders advancing (diagram #1) and the final blow 53…Re1! A relieved Toppy gets the win! (diagram #2).

Topalov has happy to end the tournament on a high note.

Postscript: The London Chess Classic was an exciting event with a sterling performance by Wesley So (no pun intended). He has capped off a spectacular year winning the Sinquefield Cup, team and individual gold at Baku Olympiad, winning London Chess Classic and the Grand Chess Tour. while keeping his humility.

There are many who are picking So as the next challenger along with Caruana. Unfortunately, no one saw this coming. No one. Last year no one would have picked him after his poor showing in the 2015 Sinquefield Cup as a wild card. It just shows that fans typically go with whomever is rising at the moment.

A few years back, many were saying Hikaru Nakamura and most recently Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (as he rose over 2800+). In fact, few picked Sergey Karjakin and even Anish Giri didn’t mention him when he wrote his book, “After Magnus: Who can dethrone the World Chess Champion?” Personally, I believe all of the above players have an favorable chance to challenge Carlsen in 2018. It is safe to say that we should just be patient and enjoy the ride! Congratulations Wesley and to all the competitors for a fantastic tournament!

Wesley So accepting the winner’s trophy from organizer IM Malcolm Pein.
Photos by London Chess Center

Round Highlights

Video by GM Daniel King

Full Broadcast (Round #9) 6:51:54

Video by CCSCSL

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Live Coverage: http://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/

2016 London Chess Classic
1 Nakamura, H
USA
½-½
Aronian, L
ARM
2 Vachier-Lagrave, M
FRA
½-½
Adams, M
ENG
3 Caruana, F
USA
½-½
So, W
USA
4 Kramnik, V
RUS
½-½
Giri, A
NED
5 Topalov, V
BUL
0-1
Anand, V
IND
Official Site

Round #8: Saturday, 17 December 2016
Wesley So clinches Grand Chess Tour!

While fans were joyous of Wesley So clinching the Grand Chess Tour, there were other emotion surrounding the event. Many fans were scrambling for the record books to see when a former World Championship has had such an abysmal performance as Veselin Topalov.

After his ignoble loss to Viswanathan Anand, Topalov now has six losses in eight rounds, scoring only two draws. There is serious concern as to Topalov’s plummet from the top 20. What could be the issues? The Bulgarian certainly has been one of the strongest players in the past two decades, but has he reached the sunset of his career? Is it simply a bad tournament? Well… two things are important to note… Topalov been shown nodding off prior to the rounds and his cracking in holdable positions. Puzzling.

Anand springing 12…b5! the novelty.

In round nine, he faced Anand’s 12…b5! an innovation brought by his second. The five-time World Champion rightfully seized the moment to complicate against a player who is not in form. He guessed right as Topalov was riding on a razor’s edge castling queenside and ending up with trebled b-pawns!! Imagine that. Perhaps Topalov did not learn from Anand’s practice of playing with a shredded pawn cover in front of the king. However, he held the position together… just barely.

Anand had missed the decisive 21…Bg4! since 22.f3 Bf5 gives black the e3-square. A key moment occurred as Anand bore down on a weakened white king. Anand showed some dazzling lines in the post-game interview, but concurred that Topalov was holding just fine. On white’s 26.Rd1 Anand showed 26…Qc7 looking at 27.Qe8+ Kg7 28.Rd8 Bd6+ 29.Ka3 Qc3+! 30.Ka4 (30.bxc3?? Ra2#) Qb3+ 31.Ka5 Re2 32.Qh8 Kh6 33.Re5 Re4! with a probable draw. Anand actually played 26…Qb6 answered with 27.Bg4!

Moves later, Topalov was holding on by a thread. Topalov began to unravel first with 31.h4? which earned quizzical looks since 31.Rd5 is approximately equal. They say that mistakes happen in bunches. After 31…Bc2 Topalov played with 33.Qc3?? and Anand plunked down 33…Qb5!

Topalov is shown gazing at the imperiled king. After a think, he played 34.Qc6 which was curtly met by 34…Rxf3+ (overlooked that the capture was with check) with mate to follow. Given the foggy-eyed appearance, Topalov hasn’t gotten much rest, but the nightmare continues. Let’s hope he can right the ship and close the tournament on a high note against Levon Aronian.

The other games were drawn without much fanfare. However, a couple of players can still catch So for a tiebreak opportunity. Nevertheless, the Filipino Diaspora is cheering their native son for his rousing success. Congratulations Wesley So!

Round Highlights

Video by GM Daniel King

Full Broadcast (Round #8) 5:23:34

Video by CCSCSL

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Live Coverage: http://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/

2016 London Chess Classic
1 Aronian, L
ARM
½-½
Anand, V
IND
2 Giri, A
NED
½-½
Topalov, V
BUL
3 So, W
USA
½-½
Kramnik, V
RUS
4 Adams, M
ENG
½-½
Caruana, F
USA
5 Nakamura, H
USA
1-0
Vachier-Lagrave, M
FRA
Official Site

Round #7: Friday, 16 December 2016
London is hosting an 1.e4 theme tournament with the Najdorf as the star!

The Ghost of Mikhail Tal visited London as a rash of spectacular Sicilians have graced the halls. Before going to today’s action, lets take look at one of the most beautiful examples.

Losing? Tal did not win this game?? Is this a misprint? No… the artist was none other than the attacking genius of Rashid Nezmehtdinov! After Fabiano Caruana’s spectacular victory against Hikaru Nakamura’s Najdorf, the same line appeared in today’s round. Ironically, Nakamura played white this time! Perhaps he was inspired by Caruana as Tal was by Nezmehtdinov. He played the same exact line he lost to and handled it with power and grace.

In this game, MVL followed Caruana-Nakamura until 13…Bb7 instead of Nakamura’s fateful 13…g5. However, after 14.Bg2 Rc8 15.Kb1 he went 14…g5 anyway. The difference is black has already mobilized on the c-file. In addition, the b7-bishop cuts the a8-h1 diagonal, so Nakamura played 16.Qh3! instead of the recommended 16.h4. What does this do? It gets the queen out of harm’s way and if 16…gxf4? 17.g5 is strong. After 16.Qh3, MVL countered with 16…Nc5 17.Rhe1 h5!? What a position!

Nakamura assessed the key position and bolted forward with…

…18.Nf5!!

Another blazing Najdorf in Nakamura-MVL!

During the post-game interview, Nakamura asserted, “I didn’t see any reason that it was losing on the spot… I didn’t see any risk, so why not take a chance.” After a series of exchanges in the center, the key moment according to Nakamura was 24.Ka1! Moves later, MVL is still hiding behind his wall of pawns, while stripping away white’s. In the position below, it appears as if white has some problems.

There is still some danger for white after 27…bxa3

However, in the postmortem Nakamura showed a very deep calculation when he stated that after 28.Qxf4 axb2+ 29.Bxb2, he had seen black’s shot of 29…Rg5! In fact Nakamura state that he had seen this move after MVL played 18…Ncxe4. Sheesh. Given the expanse of these lines the commentators and fans were simply in awe. However GM Josh Friedel made an incisive comments about trends with the black pieces.

So after 29…Rg5 Nakamura closed the deal with 30.Qxd6+ Kg8 31.Rg1! squelching all counterplay. He finished it off nicely with 35.Rg6+ Kh5 36.Rg1 f5 37.Qf3+ and MVL will lose his queen or be mated.

To be frank, two of the other games showed a simple spar, but not a championship-level match. Aronian-Anand was a very placid game and ended after the obligatory 30 moves white So-Kramnik took six moves more. Michael Adams eschewed his standard 1.e4 and played the English Opening. Despite the British connection, the opening gave Adams nothing special and the game was drawn rather comfortably by Caruana.

Giri had his chance to play for a win with 51.g5! Will he draw every game in this tournament?

The most interesting game was between two hapless competitors. Anish “The Artist” Giri and Veselin Topalov who has been a good client this tournament. This game was a tough struggle with pieces shuffling back and forth, probing and prodding. It was like a Greco-Roman wrestling match. In fact, pawns never moved again from moves 34-67.

A key moment came after 50…Qa4?? Topalov basically took his queen out of play and white could’ve played a powerful stroke 51.g5! All of a sudden black’s kingside comes apart and the black queen is too far to aid her monarch. Play would go 51…fxg5 52.fxg5 hxg5 53.f4! g4 54.f5! breaking down the door. 54… Fortunately, Giri played 51.Nf2? The dance continued and Topalov’s king scurried to safety on the queenside. Giri missed his chance… again.

A classic of Topalov capturing his certain mood at the London Classic.
Photo by Lennart Ootes

It was good fortunate that Topalov stopped the spate of losses. That is one of the remedies to getting back on course. For Topalov, the tournament has been a disaster. There is no other way to describe it. He seems rather listless and before the round, he appears to be groggy. Perhaps there is something more to his bad form than chess. He is still capable of playing sparkling chess, but this tournament was not such a time. If he finish with two wins… or without another loss, it would be a good ending.

Round Highlights

Video by GM Daniel King

Full Broadcast (Round #7) 6:14:05

Video by CCSCSL

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Live Coverage: http://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/

2016 London Chess Classic
1 Vachier-Lagrave, M
FRA
1-0
Aronian, L
ARM
2 Caruana, F
USA
1-0
Nakamura, H
USA
3 Kramnik, V
RUS
½-½
Adams, M
ENG
4 Topalov, V
BUL
0-1
So, W
USA
5 Anand, V
IND
½-½
Giri, A
NED
Official Site

Round #6: Thursday, 15 December 2016
Blockbuster games… heavyweight battles and trash-taking
accent exciting round of chess!

Muhammad Ali used to trashtalk his opponents to rattle them to the point of losing all senses about a match strategy. Opponents would be so upset that they would go in the boxing ring angry instead of composed. To make it worse, Ali would continue his barrage of insults during the fight. There were several occurrences in round six that spoke of psychological battles.

First, the heavyweight fighting…

This was certainly the most exciting round in a bloodletting round at the London Chess Classic. Fans and commentators were abuzz when two of the boards featured Najdorf Sicilians. The marquee battle was Fabiano Caruana against compatriot Hikaru Nakamura. The game started off with the 6.Bg5 variation which Caruana admitted that he doesn’t usually play, but he had some poison especially prepared.

Nakamura opted for the neo-Poisoned Pawn variation with 7…h6 8.Bh4 Qb6. This has been championed by a number of top players including Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. The game followed known theory with 13…g5, but Caruana countered with 14.h4!N (diagram #1). Many of these games are decided by a tempo. This game was decided by some deep preparation.

After Nakamura’s spirited 13…g5! Caruana’s 14.h4!N was the start of an all-out brawl in the Najdorf (diagram #1). A bit of home preparation gave Caruana enough courage to sacrifice the queen for two Godzilla knights… and a death grip on the neck Nakamura’s position. On 19.Qxf6! a queen sacrifice was on the board! Then after 19…Bxf6 20.Nd5 Qd8 21.Nf5! (diagram #2).

There are a number of sacrifices in the Sicilian, but how many would be able to sack a queen for two minor pieces without a forcing advantage? Not many. However, Caruana did, but he almost messed it up. After 21…Rb8 22.Nxf6+ Qxf6 he should have continued with 23.Nxd6+! since 23…Kf8 runs into the brilliant 24.Bf5!! Who does that??

Fabiano Caruana has moved to within 10 rating points of Magnus Carlsen. Photo by Lennart Ootes.

So Caruana played the more human-like 23.Rxd6 and Nakamura was still breathing after 23…Be6 24.Rhd1 0-0! Did Caruana forget that Nakamura could castle? Nope! He played 29.b5 which was met with quizzical looks when 29.Nxf7+! won immediately.

Caruana explained that he wanted to prevent the threat of Qxb4-e1 mate in some lines. So he played the coup de grace a move later with 30.Nxf7+! Rxf7 31.Rxe6 Qxb5 32.Rh6+ beautiful. The end is 32…Kg8 33.Rg1+ Kf8 34.Rh8+ Ke7 35.Rxb8 when 35…Qxb8 36.Bc5+! wins. Absolutely scintillating!

Second, the trash-talking…

Over the years, Anish Giri has developed the reputation of a player who lacks the killer instinct and is too content with drawing. It is the type of reputation that Peter Leko of Hungary held for years. Giri and Anand have a good relationship and often kid each other.

In this game, another Najdorf Sicilian and #fireonboard was trending today. In Anand-Giri steered into another 6.h3 variation, but this time did not venture into the 6…e5 lines. Instead the more positional 6…e6 was played and Anand lashed out quickly with 7.g4 Be7 8.g5 Nfd7 9.h4. Opposite castling occurred and fans were preparing for a toe-to-toe brawl… and that’s it what they got.

Amusingly GM Jonathan Tisdall made this remark…

He is referring to the drawfest seen in the recent match won by Carlsen in tiebreaks. By contrast, today’s games all featured sacrifices at some point. While Anand didn’t sacrifice his queen in this game (he did so against Nakamura), he sacrificed a knight on b5 in trademark fashion. Typically white gets three pawns for the piece, but the pawns are usually at a2, b2 and c2. In this case, Anand had played a3 and b4.

It was clearly dubious and Anand admitted that he had “gone too deep.” After 20…Rd8, jokes were thrown around about Giri was possibly winning a game of chess! Anand was on his heels and it appeared as if he would come under a crushing attack on his exposed king. Motto… never castle queenside, play a3 and b4, then sacrifice a piece on b5 clearing the files for the opponent’s rooks and queen. It’s a flawed idea.

Anand was hanging around and trying to muddy the waters with 25.Rg3. After 25…Qd8+ 26.Ke2 Bxe4 black appears to be winning. Instead, Giri went for mate with 25…Rb1+ 26.Ke2 Qa6+ 27.Kxf3 Qxf1+ 28.Bf2 Qh1+ 29.Kxe3 Qxe4+ 30.Kd2 but soon found that he had nothing tangible. Giri couldn’t reel in the point. Foiled again.

Giri has quipped previously that Anand was making it tough for the younger players and asked, “When is he going to retire?” In the post-game press conference, Anand fired back… “When is he going to win a game?” It drew a loud round of laughs from the fans and even passed the trash-talk litmus test of commentator Maurice Ashley. Alas, Giri will have to put up with the “artist” jokes again! Oh… that he likes to draw.

Viswanathan Anand ribbing Anish Giri to the delight of Maurice Ashley.
Photo from CCSCSL broadcast.

In MVL-Aronian, more sacrifices, but just as in the Anand game a knight sacrifice fell flat. However, Aronian perhaps overplayed his hand thinking that he could get at the white king. Negative. He only succeeding in donating all of his queenside pawns. Not sure what the thought was here, but MVL uninspired play in the tournament was finally rewarded. Another sacrifice appeared in Kramnik-Adams, but it didn’t lead to much and Adams has righted the ship after losses in his first two games.

As far as Topalov-So is concerned, it was another dismal performance for the Bulgarian. This was before the round had begun…

… not good sign.

Topalov-So after 27…Ne2.
A tragic ending for the Bulgarian Brawler.

What was sad was not the fact that the Bulgarian was brutally being mated, but after he resigned he seemed to be profusely explaining his case to So. When you are doing badly, you have to explain to people what is wrong. So seemed sympathetic. Then in the post-mortem, Topalov showed a bit of class in explaining his dismal performance. He offered some lines, but it was clear, he was not seeing the board well.

Topalov asserted, “Maybe my brain isn’t working.” Hard to see such a fighter go down with a whimper. It’s almost like seeing a former heavyweight boxing champion being beaten badly by a young upstart. Sparing the details of the 27-move game, it is safe to say by looking at final position, that white was not in the same league.

Round Highlights

Video by GM Daniel King

Full Broadcast (Round #6) 4:30:18

Video by CCSCSL

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Live Coverage: http://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/

2016 London Chess Classic
1 Aronian, L
ARM
½-½
Giri, A
NED
2 So, W
USA
½-½
Anand, V
IND
3 Adams, M
ENG
1-0
Topalov, V
BUL
4 Nakamura, H
USA
½-½
Kramnik, V
RUS
5 Vachier-Lagrave, M
FRA
½-½
Caruana, F
USA
Official Site

Round #5: Tuesday, 13 December 2016
Adams gets the “W” … Topalov in free fall

Michael Adams has been a national hero since becoming the youngest Grandmaster in British history at 17 years old. That may not seem like much in an era where an Indian boy named Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa is threatening to become a GM at age 11! Nevertheless, Adams was facing one of his contemporaries in Veselin Topalov.

Both had been on bad form, but this would be a battle of two opposites, a technician vs. brawler. In this game, there was an ebb and flow, but no one had a grip until Adams seized the opportunity with 15.e5! fxe5 16.Qg4. It’s another example of Adams’ efficiency in developing attacking formations. The position doesn’t look that menacing, but after Topalov predictably refused to enter a slightly worse endgame, Adams punished him. British fans went crazy and the buzz started…

… however, it wasn’t over.

Topalov banged down 29…Qg4 (diagram #1) apparently winning back a piece, but Adams played 30.Bg5! stopping mate. After 30…Rxe4 31.Qxa7 threatens mate and a certain death for the black king after 30…Bd5 31.Qa8+ Kd7. At this point, one commentator slipped saying that white simply wins after 32.Qxg8?? (diagram #2). However, black mates after 32…Re1+! 33.Rxe1 Qxg2#. Of course Adams played 32.Rxd5! and black resigned.

With two draws and now a win Adams has climbed into respectability. Meanwhile, Topalov is in absolute rating free fall. Weighing in at 2803 a year ago, he has now dropped to #20 in the world.

Aronian-Giri played a short game in which white got nothing. The Dutch player was credited with a self-proclaimed moral victory. His post-game comments cause quite a few furrowed brows.

Well.

In another bit of prepared, Twittersphere lit up when Viswanathan Anand essayed a bit of prep of his own with 10…Bxa3!!??

After all of beauty of the patterns and preparation, the game ended in a very sterile and tranquil way.

So-Anand after 30…Kxg6

So what does one make of this idea of preparation? Commentators said that the position known as #518 (RNBQKBNR) in Fischer 960 still has a lot of life. However, the chess world seems hesitant to take on another version with any vigor. Fischer 960 remains as a variant that is trotted out for a novelty tournament. Will future elite tournaments end in positions above? Time will tell.

One game that was certainly not a victim of preparation was Nakamura-Kramnik, a game ending in a stalemate. Nigel Short has gone on Twitter lately showing how horrible the stalemate rule is.

The rule states, “The game is drawn when the player to move has no legal move and his king is not in check.” (FIDE Law of Chess, Article 5.2). It is a long-standing debate and the stalemating trick remains a tremendous resource in certain position. Most will see it as a last-ditch swindle (i.e., “crazy rook”) while many beautiful examples exist to demonstrate harsh lessons of inattention by the strong side.

In this game, it appeared that three results were possible throughout the middle game. Kramnik seized the queenside, but made some inaccuracies and the action switched to the kingside with Nakamura pressing. There were a number of finesse moves involving sacrifices, but all lead to equal position be a stream of endless checks.

Nakamura tried one last idea by sacrificing a knight for two connected passed pawns. Kramnik had to find a series of only moves… and he did it. The final 60…Nf7! trick means that white cannot penetrate to the d6 square and if he tries to advance the pawns, they are blockaded and he loses!

After the game, Nakamura stated that he thought the sequence was winning and did not see the stalemating trick until the end. Indeed. Perhaps chess still has quite a bit of life and this tournament has shown some very enterprising ideas.

Round Highlights

Video by GM Daniel King

Full Broadcast (Round #5) 6:36:23

Video by CCSCSL

Despite the precise preparation, this is what resulted.

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Live Coverage: http://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/

2016 London Chess Classic
1 Caruana, F
USA
½-½
Aronian, L
ARM
2 Kramnik, V
RUS
½-½
Vachier-Lagrave, M
FRA
3 Topalov, V
BUL
0-1
Nakamura, H
USA
4 Anand, V
IND
½-½
Adams, M
ENG
5 Giri, A
NED
½-½
So, W
USA
Official Site

Round #4: Monday, 12 December 2016
Is this it for Topalov?

Different day… same sh… stuff. Not really. Today’s round had four draws and one win by Hikaru Nakamura and more unorthodox openings, so that the same. Anish Giri tried the London System perhaps an inside joke in honoring the moment. Everyone was in on it, even his opponent…

He ended with the same result as Carlsen’s “Trumpowsky Attack” but not before Wesley So tried to deliver a knockout blow with 12…f4!? It seemed as if Giri was busted, but he calmly gave back the pawn and consolidated. So bishops were much better and he ended up winning a pawn, but didn’t capitalize on his opportunities.

While the games have been hard fought and inspiring, one player wanted to inspire with his attire. He became the focus of a trivia question by Press Officer Fiona Steil-Antoni. Who is this man?

After many guesses, it turns out that it was not Anish Giri, nor a Michael Jackson impersonator, but…

Levon Aronian!!

The effervescent Aronian definitely made a fashion statement!
Photo by Lennart Ootes

As Spike Lee said to Michael Jordan, “It’s gotta be the shoes!” I’m sure Lev wishes his shoes would’ve brought as much flair as his outfit. Caruana-Aronian was an anti-Berlin where black spent a tempo to place his bishop on c5 to the surprise of many commentators. Thus, it appears that elite players today are breaking traditional rules to gain a psychological edge and to sidestep prepared lines. We’ve seen castled kings with no pawn cover, strange pawn thrusts, rooks lifts and spent tempi. We have entered a new era.

Nevertheless, the tense battle that ensued was a fairly equal affair with an interesting feature that only one pair of pawns had been exchanged before black captured another pawn with 29….Qxe3 allowing a three-fold repetition. Anand-Adams was another Guioco Piano Where the five-time World Champion got nothing special. Adams, who had a rough start with two losses held his second game and seems to be steadying himself… or a least increasing in confidence.

After 21.d5! and 22.dxc6 white seemed to be on top after the ensuing complications.

In Kramnik-MVL, a Grunfeld saw the sharp 7…e5!? as theory continues to take new turns. There was some fireworks in the middlegames with 13…f5!? 14.Nc5 c6 15.Bb2 Qd6 16.e3.Nxc4!? but black did not equalize… not just yet. White increased his advantage with the powerful 21.d5! as black’s pieces were flat-footed on the first rank. It appears after white’s 22.dxc6! he is clearly better. There was a frantic exchange of pieces and when the smoke cleared, white was a pawn up with a superior bishop over the knight. However 28.Kf1 may have allowed black adequate counterplay and MVL scrambled for the half-point.

The decisive game of the day was Hikaru Nakamura coming off a win over a former world champion, faced another in Veselin Topalov. This game had an interesting sidenote with the retrograde opening of 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 c5!? which ventures into a type of French without the c8-bishop being hemmed in. Immediately, the game became un-French like with violent skirmish in the opening.

Topalov watching the new powers in chess pass him by. Photo by Lennart Ootes

Topalov went in for a speculative queen sacrifice after 17.Nxe7 Rb8 18.Nxf5 Rxb5 19.Nxg7+ Ke7 20.cxb5. White had three pieces for the queen, but was unable to coordinate them due to the far-reaching tentacles of the black queen. If one puts this game into a database and play the moves from move 22 forward, notice that the black queen roams the entire board hunting down and devouring white material.

In the end, the queen had devastated the white army and after 53…Rc6 was ready to deliver mate. This game would make a good drama tragedy! Tragedy indeed. This is what describes Topalov’s performance thus far. He has now dropped to #19 on the live rating after being over 2800 in last year’s London Classic. The question may be swirling, “Is this it for Topalov?” Is he readying for retirement from professional chess? Certainly appears so.

Round Highlights

Video by GM Daniel King

Full Broadcast (Round #4) 5:33:19

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Live Coverage: http://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/

2016 London Chess Classic
1 Aronian, L
ARM
½-½
So, W
USA
2 Adams, M
ENG
½-½
Giri, A
NED
3 Nakamura, H
USA
1-0
Anand, V
IND
4 Vachier-Lagrave, M
FRA
½-½
Topalov, V
BUL
5 Caruana, F
USA
½-½
Kramnik, V
RUS
Official Site

Round #3: Sunday, 11 December 2016
Hikaru rebounds… continues domination of Anand

The only decisive game of the round was not the most exciting, but there is a sidenote. It is known that Hikaru Nakamura has difficulties against Magnus Carlsen losing 11/12 decision games against him. However, his win over Viswanathan Anand pushing his score to 8/9. It is interesting that players are psychologically-affected when facing a particular opponent. Mikhail Tal used to lose consistently to Viktor Korchnoi and of course Vladimir Kramnik won 14 games against Judit Polgar without a loss. What is it? Hard to tell. However, Anand’s meltdown was shocking.

Hikaru Nakamura seems to be one of the few players to have Viswanathan Anand’s number. Photo by Ray Morris-Hill.

Anand played a provocative 8…g5 (which weakened the light squares) had been played many times before at top level. In fact, the game followed the path of Vitiugov-Aronian 2015 until 12.a3. Anand’s 13…Kf8 looked suspect and Nakamura quickly began to work on loosening up the king’s cover. The key moment came when Anand played 22…Rhe8. Theory states that the rook has to stay on h8 in case more defensive measures are needed.

After 23.fxg5 hxg5 Nakamura punched out with 24.e4! While the move does not win, it threatens to blast open the position which would be perilous for black. On 24…Nxe4 25.N5xe4 dxe4 26.Rxe4 white was winning after 26…Rxe4?? Anand had to donate his queen after 27.Nxe4 Qg6 28.Nf6! Qxf6 29.Rxf6 Kxf6 30.Qc3!

In the ensuing position, black tried to coordinate pieces for a fortress, but the weakened kingside would not offer adequate cover. The fleet-footed queen was poised to pick off another piece in the end.

Aronian-So after 10.Rxc1. No.. this was not a handicap game with move odds.

The most hard-fought game today was Aronian-So with the leader of the tournament almost taking a loss. The game featured a line in the English not seen in top level chess since the 70s and 80s. On 1.c4 c5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nb4 6.Bc4 the sharpest line was 6…Be6!? 7.Bxe6 Nd3+. However, So played 6…Nd3+ 7.Ke2 Nf4+ 8.Kf1 Nd3 9. Qe2 Nxc1 10.Rxc1. He played this line for this position???

Look at the position. Five developed pieces to a measly pawn on c5? Many gambit players would dream to get this piece play at the cost of a couple of pawns, but Aronian has not sacrificed anything! We have seen a lot of rules broken in this tournament, but this type of recklessness almost cost So a full point.

Aronian went on the offensive with 11.h4! However, he is not going to shove the h-pawn, but after 11…a6 12.e5 Nc6 he essays 13.Rh3!? This move looks aggressive and perhaps like Topalov yesterday he wants to attack the kingside or maybe swing rook over to the queenside. While Aronian was enjoying the warmth of afternoon tea, it was So who had to sweat quite a bit.

It is hard to believe that black’s Swiss cheese queenside could give black adequate shelter. White tried to blast through with 26.d4, but black tried to use white’s own pawn as a blockade on the c-file. It worked and So found resources! White had no way to break through and when the queens came off there was nothing better than to sue for peace.

The other three games ended in instructive rook and pawn endings. In Caruana-Kramnik, black got two rooks on the 7th rank but white’s active rooks held easily. In MVL-Topalov, there was a Berlin on the board, but leave it to the Bulgarian to spice things up. When 12…g5! was thrown on the board, many gasped, but actually MVL has seen this before… in one of his own blitz games!

Black had a strange position with trebled pawns on the c-file and an airy king. However, he found some counterplay with 25…f4! and now white was trying to hold the position. Topalov kept throwing more wook on the fire with 29…Nh5! and seemed to be readying himself for a knockout punch. MVL responded with the computer-like 30.Rg1! Topalov may have missed his chance after 30…cxd5 and should’ve opted for 30…Qf5! after 30…cxd5 heavy material came off and a draw was academic in 10 more moves.

Adams-Giri breathed fresh air with a Rossolimo Sicilian. This line is similar to Chekhover variation after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4!? Nc6 5.Bb5. The game the knight is on d7. In the middlegame was a typical Sicilian theme… battle over d5-square. Usually if black gets in d5, it’s trouble for white. So Adams overprotected d5 with knights on c3 and e3, but guess what? Black played d5 anyway gambitting a pawn and achieving equality rather smoothly. In fact, it was white fighting for the draw. However, Adams set up a well-known fortress and split the point.

Round Highlights

Video by GM Daniel King

Full Broadcast (Round #3) 6:21:39

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Live Coverage: http://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/

2016 London Chess Classic
1 Kramnik, V
RUS
½-½
Aronian, L
ARM
2 Topalov, V
BUL
0-1
Caruana, F
USA
3 Anand, V
IND
1-0
Vachier-Lagrave, M
FRA
4 Giri, A
NED
½-½
Nakamura, H
USA
5 So, W
USA
1-0
Adams, M
ENG
Official Site

Round #2: Saturday, 10 December 2016
Boards blaze! Wesley So sizzles; Caruana swindles

After the World Championship match, the gap closed between Magnus Carlsen and the rest of the world. Only 14 points separate the World Champion from #2 and Wesley So seems to be gaining. After winning the Sinquefield Cup, two Olympiad medals and now winning his first two games at the London Classic, So eclipses 2800 for the first time at 2803.2. It seems only a short time ago that 2700 was the level of super-GM status. It was actually 30 years ago when only a few had reached 2700. Now the #45 player is 2700 and only three are over 2800.

Ironically So’s win over Michael Adams was his second in as many games and he did it from the slimmest advantages. So used the Catalan, which in the hand of his colleague Vladimir Kramnik, has been a killing machine. Adams attempted the interesting maneuver of 11…Ra6 tried first in an amateur game in 1991 and then by Peruvian Julio Granda Zuniga against Valery Salov six years later. After 13.Qc2 Adams deviated from 13…Bxf3 in Ruck-Moor (2005) with 13…h6.

In a critical line, after 18.Bxc6, Alejandro Ramirez pointed out three lines… 18…exd4, 18…Rxc6, 18…Bxc3. Adams went for the first option and got a playable position. However, he ceded the two bishops after So played 19.Bf3. So’s bishop pair was superior as the vice slowly tightened. Despite not being in time trouble, Adams blundered with 37…Nc7?? which loses material. In fact, after 38.f5! Qg5?? 39.Be5! forces Adams to donate a piece since Bf4 and e5 wins the queen or cedes mate. In the post-game interview, he Englishman was noticeably rattled after a second blunder in as many games.

While So-Adams made history, most exciting game of the round was undoubtedly Anand-MVL. This Najdorf Sicilian entered full hand-to-hand combat within the first ten moves after white’s provocative 9.g4. Of course this has all been seen many times and Anand’s preparation is legendary. In the other corner stood MVL, a noted Najdorf Expert who would be a credible foil. The game got tense in the middlegame after black sacrificed a pawn for fluidity in piece play.

Anand’s 24.Rxd5 was a bold try
in a critical position.

Anand kept a grip on the position with his pawn armada on the kingside and a strong bunker on the queenside sheltering the king. The move 19.Qf2! put an end to black’s violent incursion and MVL tried regrouping. In the meantime, Anand got a killer bishop on e5 and pieces melted off the board with 21…a4 22.bxa4 Bxc3 23.Bxc3 Nxd5 (diagram) 24.Rxd5! sacking the exchange for another pawn after 24…Rxd5 25.Bxe4. With two pawns for the exchange it appeared to be dynamic equality, but then black made a misjudgement by trading queens and a pair of rooks. The bishops controlled the knight and rook and the game ended on a well-known motif with 33.Bxb7! Indian fans were justifiably excited. Anand got an early birthday present.

Another “cracker” of a game was Topalov-Caruana. The Bulgarian made his intentions known early on with 13.Rh3 after 7.h4.

Caruana missed a star move in this position after 30.Re1. Can you spot it?

So… a French with white essaying a crude attacking formation encouraged Caruana to castle queenside and played the characteristic jab of 15…f6! Now white would try to raid the kingside after 17.Rg3 Be8 18.Nh4 Bd6 19.Rg7. The board exploded after 19…e5 and it would be clear that someone’s king would fall in this game. It appeared to be the American’s. White is completely winning after 25…Nd3 26.Bxd3 exd3 27.Re1. Caruana missed 27…d2! while still losing, confuses the issue.

There was a beautiful line pointed out after 27…Bc5 28.Re6 29.Qg5 Bd4 (better is 29…Bxa3! 30.bxa3 Qb5!) 30.Re1?? (diagram) Caruana played 30…Bxc3 missing 30…Rxg7!! On 31.Rxg7 Rh8!-+ wins and on 31.Bxd4 Bxg5 32.Bxb6+ Kxb6 black is much better. Topalov was still better until 35.Nd2?? dxc3, but missed 36.Nc4 Re8!! which wins on the spot. Tough ending for Topalov who has blundered two games in a row.

The two non-decisive games were tense with Aronian-Kramnik getting a wild position after 20.e5 Bxg2 21.exf6 Qb7 but the game petered out rather quickly. In Giri-Nakamura, the Dutch player bore in to the weak d6-square for the entire game, but there was clearly not much to play for in the position and a draw was the normal result.

Round Highlights

Video by GM Daniel King

Full Broadcast (Round #2) 4:47:29

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Live Coverage: http://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/

2016 London Chess Classic
1 Aronian, L
ARM
1-0
Adams, M
ENG
2 Nakamura, H
USA
0-1
So, W
USA
3 Vachier-Lagrave, M
FRA
½-½
Giri, A
NED
4 Caruana, F
USA
½-½
Anand, V
IND
5 Kramnik, V
RUS
1-0
Topalov, V
BUL
Official Site

Round #1: Friday, 9 December 2016
London bridges falling down! Three decisive games in first round.

Broadcast coverage of Nakamura-So encounter
Video image taken from londonchess.com

Hikaru Nakamura turned 29 today and wanted to repeat the theme of birthday success of Magnus Carlsen. Unfortunately, he got saddled with a shock losing to teammate Wesley So after forgetting his analysis in a Grunfeld. Nakamura had been seen on social media enjoying his time off and commenting on the World Championship match. Even after a loss he may still be a contender in this long tournament.

So hits Nakamura with the shocker 13…Nxe4!

In Nakamura-So, it was a sharp Grunfeld with 9…e5!? which had been first tested in Dokhioan-Svidler, Copenhagen 1991 with 10.dxe5 Qxd2+ 11.Kxd2 Rd8+ 12.Kc2 b6! 13.Bc4 Bb7 14.f3 Bxe5 and black was fine. More recently in Biel 2016, Svidler-MVL went 10.dxe5 Qxd2+ 11.Kxd2 Rd8 12.Kc2 Bd7 13.f4 Bc6! and black went on to win. On 10.dxc5?!, black gets good play after 10…Qxd2+ 11.Kxd2 Be6. The game continued on and after Nakamura opted for 10.d5 Nd7 11.c4 f5 12.Bg5 Nf6. At this point, Nakamura played 13.Ne2? and was hit with a cold shower after 13…Nxe4!

Complications favored So after 14.Bxd8 Nxd2 15.Be7 Rf7 (Anand suggested 15…Ne4 16.Bxf8 Bxf8 with blockade on d6.) 1 6.Bxc5 Nxf1 17.Rxf1 b6! The pawn structure is under pressure and the white king is a perilous position. So expertly opened up the position for his Ginsu bishops and wrapped up the point with a the nice 29.Re8! Nakamura painfully resigned, but there are still eight rounds left.

Another matchup was Kramnik-Topalov, two rivalries who still do not shake hands due to the “Toiletgate” scandal from their 2006 match. This game was filled with pre-game drama, but this game was a complete disaster for Topalov. Kramnik uncorked a novelty 9.Nb5! After the game Kramnik mentioned that he was surprised that Topalov went into this dubious line.

On 9…cxb2 10.Bxb2 Bd7 11.Qb3 Bc6 12.Rfd1 Qc8 13.Rac1 with a strong initiative. Kramnik drove the pawn to c7 tying up black’s army. Topalov suggested that instead of 20..e6?? he could play 20…Qb7. In fact, the engines say that the position is approximately equal. After the calamitous 20…e6 black’s position collapsed after 21.Nb5. Kramnik finished with another knight romp with 28.Ng5! Topalov resigned in lieu of 29.Nxe6. The two did not shake hands, but Kramnik was asked about the tension.

Hmmmm.

There were a number of missteps in the round as Michael Adams dropped a piece against Levon Aronian in a tense position. This Guioco Piano went into known theory but when Adams equalized he went in for 18…Bxd3?! 19.Qxd3 e4 when white goes 20.Qd4! Black was still OK, but after Aronian got play with two bishops, he goaded black into an uncomfortable choice. On 33.Qxe5+ black had to play 33…Ka7 when 34.Qxc5 Rxd1+ 35.Bxd1 Rd8 is equal. Adams erred with 33…Ka8?? which tosses a piece after 34.Rxd8+ Rxd8 35.Qf6!

Caruana’s 29.d4! looked to be a full front assault, but the former champion held him off.

Caruana-Anand had some critical moments out of an English. The turning moment came on 28…Qb1 and Caruana’s aesthetically provocative 29.d4! The U.S. Champion thought this provided white with chances and Anand stated he lost the thread a bit after 29…exd4 30.Bxd4 31…Rc8. After Caruana’s 32.Ba1, the game started to veer toward dynamic equality. Caruana thought 32.e5 was a better chance, but there was not much left after the queens came off. This was the round of two bishops vs. two knights.

Lastly, there was MVL-Giri Najdorf Sicilian which was done in 24 moves after a three-fold repetition. The side story here was the 6.h3 line which has picked up steam given the resources black has against the 6.Bg5 (Poisoned-Pawn), the staid 6.Be2 and the over-analyzed 6.Bc4. The latter was a favorite of Bobby Fischer and inspired others to play it during the “Fischer Boom.”

One such player was IM Emory Tate who scored many spectacular victories with the weapon. His son Emory “King Cobra” Tate III was at the venue hanging out. The four-time kickboxing World Champion has been on British reality shows lately. A book on his father will be released within the next few weeks.

Key matchup in Round #2 will be a battle to two first-round winners Kramnik-Aronian. Caruana will be looking to get in the win column against a beleaguered Topalov who was over 2800 in last year’s event (now 2760). The Bulgarian stated in the Sinquefield Cup that he no longer competes with as much determination as in the past. His cavalier approach to elite events has resulted in the shedding of Elo points, but may be taking a spot from a player who is a bit hungrier and in need of elite-level experience. Let’s hope he doesn’t repeat his performance in last year’s event with -4.

Full Broadcast (Round #1) 4:50:40

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Live Coverage: http://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/

With a recently-concluded World Championship match coronation of Magnus Carlsen, the other elite players will be pawning off in London, England for the last leg of the Grand Chess Tour beginning today, December 9th. The field will feature staple players in these elite events and mostly likely the next contender to challenge Carlsen in 2018.

In fact, the Grand Chess Tour features the same nine players plus a wildcard selection which in this case is England’s #1 player, Michael Adams. The “Sofia Rules” will be enforced such that no draws will occur in the first 40 moves. The tournament will adopt the football scoring of three points for a win and one point for a draw.

Wesley So makes his statement.

Wesley So giving victory speech at 206 Sinquefield Cup.
Photo by Lennart Ootes

Carlsen dropped out of the event earlier this year to focus on the match. The top seed in this event will be Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2813) followed by Fabiano Caruana (2808) and Vladimir Kramnik (2808). So was a new addition to the tour this year after being a wild card at the Sinquefield last year. He won the Sinquefield event in August. Surprisingly Wesley So is leading the Grand Chess Tour by a whopping 8.25 points.

The field is as follows…

In what may be a preview of the Candidates tournaments next year, there are no new faces, but players such as Ding Liren and Wei Yi may be waiting for their turns in years to come. The larger question seems to be whether the Grand Chess Tour is a viable model.

When Norway pulled out of the tour, two rapid events were added in Paris, France and Brussels, Belgium. So far, the London Classic has been wildly successful with IM Malcolm Pein using the tournament as a platform for his Chess in Schools and Communities initiative. Carlsen will not be participating in the tournament, but there will be a screening of a biographical movie named, “Magnus.”

Along with the 8th London Chess Classic, Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) has announced additional events. The British Knockout Championship semi-finals will feature four of Britain’s top players in a format that is certain to bring excitement at the Conference Centre in Kensington, London. There is the 4th Pro-Biz Cup designed to involved the business community with chess promotion and charity.

There is also a London Chess Conference and the FIDE Open event (December 9th-16th), a 9-round Swiss format with a £20,000 prize fund and possible norm opportunities. The Super Rapidplay Open will return on 17th-18th December and will be a 10-round FIDE rated open with all players playing in the same section and competing for section prizes.

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

2016 London Chess Classic
December 9-18, 2016 (London, England)
#
Name
Title
Federation
Flag
Rating
1 Caruana, Fabiano GM USA
2823
2 Kramnik, Vladimir GM Russia
2809
3 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime GM France
2804
4 So, Wesley GM USA
2794
5 Aronian, Levon GM Armenian
2785
6 Anand, Viswanathan GM India
2779
7 Nakamura, Hikaru GM USA
2779
8 Giri, Anish GM Netherlands
2771
9 Topalov, Veselin GM Bulgaria
2760
10 Adams, Michael GM England
2748
(Official Site)

Video by CCSCSL.

Official Site: http://www.grandchesstour.com (live games)
Live Coverage: http://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/

The Gateway Arch
All photos by Daaim Shabazz (unless otherwise stated)

I have been to St. Louis, Missouri many times. In fact, while I was a child, my parents would drive to East St. Louis, Illinois where their parents grew up. It was on this trip that we rode on Route 66 and saw the “Arch” as the indication that we were close to my maternal great-grandmother’s house on 17th and Broadway. We called her “Big Momma.”

E. St. Louis is a small, impoverished town across the bridge from St. Louis once known for factories, traditions from the deep south (turpentine and sugar), talented musicians and athletes. It survived a race riot in July 1917 during which my great-aunt stated that her uncle came in the house with “boots full of blood.”

Nevertheless, I used to enjoy my time at relatives’ homes in the lively town. Those were great times, but things changed. Major business enterprises fled and the economic stability collapsed. Abandoned factories proliferate the desolate landscape leaving only their ravaged shells and pollution from hazardous materials. Asthma and other respiratory problems devastated the town including my mother’s side of the family. Destitution grips the town to this day.

Abandoned factory right next to where my “Big Momma’s” house once stood on 17th and Broadway in E. St. Louis. I used to look out the window at the factory and would hear the whistle blow four times a day. The company made cardboard boxes. Photo from mapio.net

In most recent years, trips to St. Louis has been to cover a number of events including the first three Sinquefield Cups and a couple of U.S. Championships. Chess has been a double reason to visit the area. Before I write any further about St. Louis, let me say a few things about the New York trip.

I drove two hours from Tallahassee, Florida to Jacksonville, Florida to get a flight to New York to attend the World Chess Championship. I planned my flight so that I was traveling on the rest days of the match. I have always enjoyed New York and once spent a summer there working at Time-Warner for Sport Illustrated magazine.

Queensborough Bridge

Does anyone know the name of this building?

Club Quarters Hotel in Wall Street district

During the match, I stayed in Club Quarters Wall Street which was within walking distance of the Fulton Market. I was unable to secure my press credentials for Game #9, but took pictures of the venue, did an interview with IM Kassa Korley and went back to the room to watch the match. Game #9 was drawn. The next day, I headed to the venue with ticket in hand. I met Alex Velasquez who put me in touch with Andrew Murray-Watson and my media credentials were cleared for Game #10.

There was intense excitement in the venue as it was as many had spent the holiday at the match chomping on sandwiches and potato chips while taking in the action. It would be an epic day as it would be Carlsen’s only win during the classical games. I enjoyed being in the media room as you can see the enthusiasm in the room with journalists banging away on their keyboards. Leontxo Garcia was hunched over and an obvious contingent of Norwegian and Russian journalists were in the room.

Journalists from around the world were covering the match.

Peter Doggers of chess.com was shuttling between the press room and the commentary booth providing viewers with unique insights. Mike Klein briefed me on the press room and Grandmaster turned-journalists like Cristian Chirila and Alejandro Ramirez were representing U.S. Chess and ChessBase. I had a chat with Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam of New in Chess and Lennart Ootes who has done work with chess24 among other organizations. Good company!

World Chess Championship (New York)
CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.


I met Zambian Grandmaster Amon Simutowe who is working in New York and we went for a quick drink at a fast food joint, one of the few places open on the holiday. As we analyzed the position on our phones, it was clear that Carlsen was poised to win. I told Amon I had to get back to see the press conference in case the game finished in the next few moves. I got back to the venue just as the press conference was about to start.

As I was coming up the escalator, I heard a loud cheers, raucous applause and scrambled to get my camera ready. My battery was dead. I hurried to the press room to get my spare battery. When I knifed through the crowd to get near the press section, I saw a relieved Carlsen beaming and in a great mood. However, after the press conference, he bolted toward the exit. Tomorrow would be a rest day.

Press conference after Carlsen’s win in the 10th game of the match.

After spending a few days in New York for the World Chess Championship, I headed to LaGuardia Airport to attend my great aunt’s 102nd birthday party in “Saint Louie.” Weeks prior to the visit I told Paul Truong, that I was planning a trip to St. Louis and perhaps wanted to pay Webster University a visit. I also wanted to check on Justus Williams and Josh Colas who are both freshman at Webster. Shawn Swindell is a sophomore there. I had extended an invitation to take all three to dinner. Justus and Josh were playing in the Thanksgiving Open at the St. Louis Chess Club. Shawn eagerly responded, but given the unpredictability of the round ending, he opted for basketball.

So I contacted Paul and drove by Webster University for a visit. It was a rather cool and brisk night. The campus was rather quiet, but I did notice a line of protestors holding various signs voicing discontent. I learned that these protestors were reacting to the election results of two weeks earlier. Paul came out to greet me and gave me the history of the library that had been vacated. I wondered why until he revealed that it is the SPICE Headquarters. A new state-of-the-art library had been built across campus.

SPICE Mission

  • To be the premier center for chess education, research, technology, and outreach in the nation
  • To be a leader in promoting chess as a vehicle for enriching the education of children
  • To be a leader in promoting women’s chess
  • To recruit outstanding undergraduate and graduate students to Webster University
  • To bring national and international recognition to Webster University
  • To support and promote competitive chess at the college level
  • To support the nation’s most elite chess program

The SPICE building is situated on the first floor of the old library and as one walks in there is a large, spacious room that is normally used for tournaments. He then showed me the SPICE training room. Susan Polgar was in her office meeting with Ray Robson. It was a very nice facility that included numerous shelves of classic works indexed by subject. There was even a lounge in the back of the facility.

I went into Susan’s office where she had just completed her session with Ray. She had been tweeting regularly during the match and the Webster students were keenly following the proceedings in New York. I got a glimpse of her commendations that were arranged on the walls. Susan has always been a gracious host and serves as a mentor to the players as well as a trainer. Given all of the awards on the wall, it is evident that many appreciate her service.

Webster University’s SPICE (St. Louis)
CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.




As I went out in the playing area with Paul, Susan served some hot tea, a welcoming beverage on a blustery, chilly night in Webster Groves. I had a long conversation with Paul about a number of topics including some of his personal history as a scholastic player, his personal challenges and the funny story about how he became endeared to the basketball players at City College of New York.

We discussed Webster and the formula of success, the challenges of the program and of course the future of chess in the U.S. I also inquired about the relationship between Webster and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, also called the St. Louis Chess Club. Paul is a person big on ideas and it was clear that he plays a big role in the success of Webster. Susan sat for a brief moment, but had to prepare to leave for her pending trip to Europe where she was being honored in Austria.

After my visit to Webster, I went to the famed Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis to observe the Thanksgiving Open in progress. There were several of the other Webster players participating, but of course my eyes set on Josh and then Justus, both of whom were gripped in tough games. I also noticed Fidel Corrales, Akshat Chandra, Ashwin Jayaram and Doug Eckert.

Chess Club & Scholastic Center of St. Louis
CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.



After the round, I took Josh and Justus to a Lebanese restaurant that I frequent every time I visit the club. Justus teased me about my “baba ghanouj” which incidentally is some of the best I’ve ever had. It was good seeing them and the point was just to see how they were doing. They seem to be enjoying their experiences, but the adjustment is not always easy. After we finished dinner, I took them back to their dorm and said my goodbyes. I remember them playing a match when they were 11 years old Candidate Masters. It was good to see them as young men.

Dining with Justus Williams and Josh Colas at Taste of Lebanon restaurant (331 N. Euclid Aveunue, St. Louis), right around the corner from CCSCSL. The “baba ghanouj” is excellent!

After a night’s rest, I get ready to attend my paternal great-aunt’s birthday party in E. St. Louis, Illinois. From my hotel, it’s only about 10 minutes across the bridge and her house is near I-64 on 13th street. I got there with my birthday card and a check for $102.00, a tradition started by my grandfather (her brother) who lived to be 96. I am told that their paternal grandfather lived to be over 100. I bought her 100 roses a couple years ago, but it would be hard to top that this time. My cousin Carole answered the door and my great-aunt was sitting in the front room in her wheelchair. She had to be reminded of who I was, but it’s OK. Her short-term memory is weak, but when encouraged to speak about a particular time in life, she’ll rattle off dates, places and names that would challenge any chess player. I suppose she needed a keen mind to keep up with her 12 children!

Mattie Francis Malone … 102 years old!!
CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.


I spent several hours with my great-aunt and cousins. I even recorded her berating her 73-year old son Paul who had grown a beard that she didn’t approve of. Even at 102, she said, “I’m 102 and you have more gray hair than me!” We could only laugh. It is interesting the treasure trove of stories even as her memory is failing her. Her oldest daughter was trying to get her to recall stories of her mother Lydia Fair Bolden, a task master. One story I remember from my great-aunt was her mother’s disapproval of a shorter boy who took a liking to her. As she came into the house, her mother was shaking her head and said, “Don’t go with no boy where you can eat off the top of his head.”

Happy Birthday Aunt Mattie!

After I said my goodbyes to my great-aunt and my cousins, I got back on I-64 back across the bridge and stopped by the St. Louis Chess Club one more time. Unfortunately for me, Yasser was not there this evening. I had intended on interviewing him about the World Championship match and what he thought would transpire. Nevertheless, I caught a quick glimpse of the tournament games, acknowledged Justus and Josh, picked up food from the Lebanese restaurant (again) and went back to my hotel to work on my World Championship report. Another draw in Game #11. Fortunately for me, there was another rest day on my travel day. Yep… I saw a few moves ahead. On Sunday, I arrived in the sunny Jacksonville and prepared for my two-hour drive to Tallahassee. Back to the world. Until next time…

TIEBREAKS
Carlsen beats Karjakin 9-7 to defend crown!

Carlsen hoists champion's trophy.

Carlsen hoists champion’s trophy.
Photo by chess24

After beating Karjakin in Game #10, Magnus Carlsen said that he was able to “break” Sergey Karjakin. It was a pivotal moment of the match as the champion decided that with new life, he would head for the tiebreaks. “The idea was to make Sergey prepare hard for the twelfth game, while I was already looking at the rapid tiebreak.”

Would Karjakin dethrone Carlsen? Tiebreaks could be a tricky affair. Both players limped into the the tiebreaks bloodied, bruised and exhausted. So what happened? The tiebreak turned out to be a brutal flogging of Karjakin and ended with a picturesque mate for the ages. With his lucky NBA socks on, Carlsen finished the deciding game with a flourish. GM Yasser Seirawan probably would have exclaimed something about “gold coins” being thrown on the board.

Carlsen eased into the tiebreaks after an uninspiring Game #12. A minor controversy erupted as disgruntled fans and commentators scoffed at the 35-minute game. This strategy worked like a charm and Carlsen was clearly dominant during the tiebreaks. Karjakin admitted after the match that he wasn’t able to use his preparation, a major failure for his team. This was the subject of several tweets…

It is certainly true that Carlsen seemed better prepared despite the pre-match concerns about the Russian colossus. So… lets rewind and look at the four tiebreak games. A quick synopsis shows that Karjakin was not ready to switch gears and it is doubtful that the match preparation included this transition. Karjakin admitted this difficulty.

Tiebreak: Game #1 (Karjakin-Carlsen, 1/2)

This game was a “feeling out” game of sorts. In a short match you don’t want to do anything to drastic in the first. It is a way for each player to adapt to the new situation. This game while it had its moments of tension, had little in the way of tangible imbalances. Karjakin was very unambitious throughout the match and in his first white game got no advantage. The game started slow and after rapid-fire exchanges, the game petered out to a draw.

Notes by GM David Navara (ChessBase)

Not much in the discussion here. However, the next game would feature one of the most sensational defensive efforts in modern chess history. The ending will be included in instructional endings for many years to come. It was after this game that many thought would give Karjakin the motivation he needed to push for more with the white in Game #3. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Karjakin’s defence was only made necessary after getting a losing position.

Tiebreak: Game #2 (Carlsen-Karjakin, 1/2)

In this game, a Italian Game broke out. It occurred in Game #5 with Carlsen’s bughouse-like 14.Bxf7+ drawing early praise. Actually he was fortunate not to lose if Karjakin had played 43…Rh8! The Russian opted for 43…Bd5 and Carlsen was able to find counterplay after returning the pawn. This game took a different path. The champion built up pressure and then 23…cxb5 changed the game after 24.Qxe4! Qxc1 25.Qxd5. Two bishops versus a rook. Carlsen slowly tightened the noose after the queens were swapped. The ending was epic!

Notes by GM David Navara (ChessBase)

Wow! There was so many superlatives on Karjakin’s defensive effort. Adding to his title of “Minister of Defense” were a few gems.

Finally… a more visual depiction of Karjakin’s defense.

Karjakin's Defense

It turns out that Carlsen missed several winning continuations, but of course he is not playing a computer with a seven-piece Tablebase. Thus, he was able to survive by sacrificing one pawn, another pawn, his rook and then a third pawn. Exhilarating game! With Carlsen not being able to win, many feared he was be upset and press too hard to win the next game. The championship was riding on the next two games and Karjakin would have white in Game #3.

Tiebreak: Game #3 (Karjakin-Carlsen, 0-1)

Karjakin had shown nothing with white, won his only game with black in Game #8 and was near winning with black in Game #5. In this game, there was another Ruy Lopez (seen 11/16 times in the match). Karjakin had nothing and Carlsen seized the initiative with a kingside attack and nice shot with 30…e4! Black seized control only a few moves thereafter.

White could’ve saved the game with some care. Some beautiful lines are given by Navara.

Notes by GM David Navara (ChessBase)

Karjakin’s defense let him down with the final blunder of 38.Rxc7?? effectively ending the match… or not? Carlsen was visibly excited and gave a Michael Jordan/Tiger Woods fist pump after Karjakin resigned. Russia’s Minister of Defense looked demoralized, but had one more bullet left. What would he trot out? Not a Berlin of course. It is amazing that 1.e4 make a comeback with 1.d4 only appearing three times. So…

Tiebreak: Game #4 (Carlsen-Karjakin, 1-0)

… a Sicilian it was!!

Finally, we are going to get hand-to-hand combat and not fighting from a distance as is often the case in a Ruy Lopez. However, there was an interesting Tweet that said if Sicilian was good enough to play for a win, then why not use it earlier? Good question. It shows that Karjakin was given a match strategy and he followed it to a tee. That is, until he fell behind.


“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
~Mike Tyson


Tyson said it best! Perhaps, Carlsen’s win caused a desperate act and the Sicilian was as good a weapon as any… better than most. The game went into a Maroczy Bind setup with black not getting the typical Najdorf or solid hedgehog. He got a hybrid setup which didn’t work well in the end. GM Maurice Ashley didn’t like 19…h5 but it seemed to be black’s best practical decision… and a move often seen to loosen white’s e4-f3-g2 cover. However, black’s pieces were simply not positioned to take advantage of white’s fearless 29.gxh4 move. White’s king was exposed, but white had too many resources. In fact, the 50.Qh6+!! parting shot was one for the ages (Note: GM Judit Polgar announced before Rc8+). To end the game with such a move is like making a game winning shot in the final game to win a championship.

Scintillating!

Notes by GM David Navara (ChessBase)

Indeed!

So Magnus Carlsen has twice defended his title, but rivals are salivating at a chance at wresting the crown from what seems like a vulnerable champion. Navara’s notion that the “Norwegian’s throne isn’t unshakable” is correct. It demonstrated Carlsen’s character… more like Achilles than Thor in this match. There is a chink in the armour, but of course difficult to pierce. This may be motivation for the 26-year old “Mozart of Chess.”

This match was closer than many thought. We will see what happens in two years time. Many changes could occur and new faces can emerge in that time. For the time being, Carlsen will be the champion and he will not duck competition. It is with a sense of satisfaction that he won a closely contested match and it will do him good in future matches. For now it appears that Carlsen got the best present on his 26th birthday. Double congratulations!

Final Press Conference

Video by agadmator (YouTube Channel)

Video by GM Daniel King.

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