2017 Women’s World Chess Championship
February 10th-March 4th, 2017 (Tehran, Iran)
Match Scores (Round #4)
Pairings
1 Ju Wenjun
CHN
½-1½
Tan Zhongyi
CHN
2 Dronavalli, H
IND
2½-1½
Dzagnidze, N
GEO
3 Muzychuk, A
UKR
1½-½
Stefanova, A
BUL
4 Kosteniuk, A
RUS
1½-½
Ni Shiqun
CHN
Drum Coverage
| Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 |
| Semifinals | Finals |

A nation of over a billion people are cheering after Dronavali Harika advanced to the semifinal round of the Women’s World Championships in Tehran, Iran. After defeating Nana Dzagnidze in the tiebreaker, she is on a history-making quest to become the first India woman in history to win the title. The other three countries represented in the final four have all had champions, including Alexandra Kosteniuk who was world champion in 2008.

Mariya and sister Anna after advancing to the final.

Will Anna claim the glory like younger sister Mariya?

Anna Muzychuk is trying to make history by being the first sister duo to hold world championships in chess. Her younger sibling Mariya Muzychuk won the last knockout tournament two years ago. Tan Zhongyi attempts to add to the Chinese dominance and become the fifth Chinese player to hold the title. Hou Yifan will abdicate her crown.

In round four, perhaps stamina becomes a factor. Former champion Antoaneta Stefanova lost focus an erred with after 34.d6! Qe6?! (34…Kh8) 35.dxc7 Nd5? Approaching the 40th move, Muzychuk sealed the result with 36.Qb5 when black’s position collapses. In Dronavali-Dzagnidze, the Indian positionally outplayed the Georgian and scored a smooth win.

Games from WWCC2017 (Round 4, Game 1)

In the second game, Dzagnidze came roaring back to equalize the match in an English. Dronavali’s pieces got tangled and she ceded a pawn in the middlegame. She was confident she could hold the draw in the rook ending, but even with her active rook, she couldn’t manage. She was slowly pushed back and Dzagnidze converted the point to level the match 1-1.

The biggest upset of the round was Ju Wenjun falling to Tan Zhongyi. In fact, it was revealed in the post-game press conference that Tan has had quite a bit of success against Ju and won another tiebreak match against her in a Chinese tournament. The top seed allowed black good play and there was a buzz in the air after 16…Bc2!

Bad news for Ju. The move 16.g4 was definitely a risk that came to hurt her later. After 19…Bd6! the white queen was overloaded and she had to donate material. In a weird ending white had two knights and a bishop versus two rooks, but the active rooks demolished the clumsy minor pieces. Ju blundered in time pressure with 37.Ke3?? and 37…Rxe2 wins trivially.

Alexandra Kosteniuk is attempting to reclaim the crown and made a statement that she had already done better than expected. She was facing a 19-year old upstart who had already beaten two of her Russia compatriots in Valentina Gunina and 2015 finalist Natalija Pogonina. This game would be one of the close study and the ending was definitely better for white with her two bishops and extra pawn.

Kosteniuk probed and probed until she found the right plan and set up a cute finale with a deflection mate in two. Out of the ten Russians who made it to Tehran, there was still one standing… and she is perhaps the best candidate given her experience.

Games from WWCC2017 (Round 4, Game 2)

There would only be one tiebreak with Dronavali and Dzagnidze. In the first tiebreak game, Dronavali opted for 1.e4 and faced a Kan Sicilian. The game got tactical, but when the queens were traded, white had a slight advantage with the two bishops and space. What more could you want? As the bishops zipped around the board, black’s pieces could not gain any mobility and was slowly squeezed.

Black managed to simplify into a rook ending, but white’s rook on the 7th and aggressive king was compensation for the pawn. Dronavali showed a bit of technique and ended the game with the smart 47.Rxa3! when white pawn will go through. Dzagnidze resigned a few moves later. In the second tiebreak game, Dzagnidze ran out of gas and was also outplayed, but the Indian offered a draw in a winning position.

Games from WWCC2017 (Round 4, Tiebreaks)

Official Website: http://tehran2017.fide.com/
Live Games: http://tehran2017.fide.com/live/live.html
All PGN Games (TWIC): http://www.theweekinchess.com/

FMs Josh Colas and Justus Williams are competing in the IM St. Louis Winter Invitational taking place at Chess Club and Scholastic Center in St. Louis. Both are looking to earn their last norms to complete the requirement of three. Both would then have to eclipse the 2400 FIDE barrier. Both are currently finishing their first years at Webster University. There is also a parallel GM Invitational.

Josh Colas and Justus Williams have come a long way
from their time in New York parks.
Photo by Elizabeth Vicary.

Format

Two 10 player round-robins
Game in 90 minutes with a 30-second increment

Schedule (EST Time)

Round 1: Thursday, 16-Feb, 5:00 pm
Round 2: Friday 17-Feb 11:00 am
Round 3: Friday 17-Feb 5:00 pm
Round 4: Saturday 18-Feb 11:00 am
Round 5: Saturday 18-Feb 5:00 pm
Round 6: Sunday 19-Feb 11:00 am
Round 7: Sunday 19-Feb 5:00 pm
Round 8: Monday 20-Feb 11:00 am
Round 9: Tuesday 21-Feb 11:00 am

Live Coverage: https://chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/st-louis-winter-2017-IM#live
CCSCSL: https://saintlouischessclub.org/

2017 Women’s World Chess Championship
February 10th-March 4th, 2017 (Tehran, Iran)
Match Scores (Round #3)
Pairings
1 Ju Wenjun
CHN
3½-2½
Girya, O
RUS
2 Padmini, Rout
IND
2½-3½
Tan Zhongyi
CHN
3 Harika, Dronavalli
IND
3½-2½
Guramishvili, S
GEO
4 Dzagnidze, Nana
GEO
1½-½
Shen Yang
CHN
5 Muzychuk, A
UKR
2-0
Pham, Le Thao
VIE
6 Stefanova, A
BUL
1½-½
Khurtsidze, Nino
GEO
7 Kosteniuk, A
RUS
4-2
Cramling, P
SWE
8 Ni Shiqun
CHN
1½-½
Pogonina, N
RUS
Drum Coverage
| Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 |
| Semifinals | Finals |

The cream is starting to rise to the top as the round of “Sweet Sixteen” featured marquee matchups. There were the young hopefuls hoping for another upset and veterans hoping to keep them at bay. Former champions Alexandra Kosteniuk and Antoaneta Stefanova will try to reclaim the title while several elite Europeans and a contingent of seven Asians vie for the crown.

In the first game, there were victories by Anna Muzychuk and Nana Dzagnidze, but the win by Stefanova ended in a bishop and knight mate.

Nino Khurtsidze played on, but it was apparent that Stefanova had the technique and got the formation to execute the “W” technique.

The idea is to get the same formation on the h-, f-, d- and b-files. You lose a tempo, deliver a check with the knight and then checkmate with the bishop on a1. Interestingly enough, Khurtsidze resigned instead of allowing the checkmate. The question being, why test your opponent’s technique until two moves before mate then deny her the chance to present it?

Games from WWCC2017 (Round 3, Game 1)

Most of the favorites were winners of the matches, but Natalija Pogonina was sent home by 19-year old Ni Shiqun of China. Ni, who admires Boris Gelfand, won the second with a powerful performance. She stated that she never had an idea that she would be close to a championship title, but faces former champion Alexandra Kosteniuk who beat the legendary Pia Cramling. There would be four tiebreaks to decide the quarterfinalists. Dronavali Harika, who is one of the favorites to win the crown, would have to go to tiebreaks to keep her dream alive.

Games from WWCC2017 (Round 3, Game 2)

Padmini Rout

India’s Padmini Rout

The tiebreaks were very tense with Ju Wenjun and Olga Girya trading wins in the rapids and the Chinese player winning in the last 10+10 game. Tan Zhongyi who had lost the first rapid game against Padmini Rout and had to bounce back quickly in the second and promptly equalized. Rout played a horrible opening in the second 25+10 game and was crushed. In the first 10+10 game, Rout sacrificed an exchange, but did not get enough compensation and was behind a game. In the second 10+10, Tan played the Pirc Defense and equalized easily to become the third Chinese player to advance.

Alexandra Kosteniuk who won a thrilling encounter over Pia Cramling when the Sweden blundered in time pressure of the first 10+10 game. In fact, Cramling was an exchange for a pawn with clear winning chances when disaster struck. Cramling was trying to get the queens off the board, but lost her sense of danger in time pressure after 47.Qd2?? Kosteniuk belted out 47…Qf1+ 48.Kh2 Be5+ winning back the exchange. White’s exposed king was defenseless as black gobbled up two more pawns and developed a deadly battery on the diagonal. Cramling resigned. Heart-breaking loss for the Swede, who always charms chess fans for her humility and graciousness.

Games from WWCC2017 (Round 3, Tiebreaks)

Official Website: http://tehran2017.fide.com/
Live Games: http://tehran2017.fide.com/live/live.html
All PGN Games (TWIC): http://www.theweekinchess.com/

2017 Women’s World Chess Championship
February 10th-March 4th, 2017 (Tehran, Iran)
Match Scores (Round #2)
Bracket 1
1 Ju Wenjun
CHN
1½-½
Zhu Chen
QAT
2 Bodnaruk, A
RUS
0-2
Girya, O
RUS
Bracket 2
3 Zhao Xue
CHN
1½-2½
Padmini, Rout
IND
4 Tan Zhongyi
CHN
4½-4½
Ushenina, A
UKR
Bracket 3
5 Harika, Dronavalli
IND
2½-1½
Saduakassova, D
KAZ
6 Buksa, N
UKR
3½-4½
Guramishvili, S
GEO
Bracket 4
7 Dzagnidze, Nana
GEO
2-0
Zimina, Olga
ITA
8 Shen Yang
CHN
1½-½
Savina, Anastasia
RUS
Bracket 5
9 Muzychuk, A
UKR
1½-½
Kashlinskaya, A
RUS
10 Goryachkina, A
RUS
½-1½
Pham, Le Thao
VIE
Bracket 6
11 Stefanova, A
BUL
2½-1½
Melia, S
GEO
12 Batsiashvili, Nino
GEO
4-5
Khurtsidze, Nino
GEO
Bracket 7
13 Kosteniuk, A
RUS
2½-1½
Gaponenko, I
UKR
14 Paehtz, E
GER
1-3
Cramling, P
SWE
Bracket 8
15 Gunina, V
RUS
0-2
Ni Shiqun
CHN
16 Pogonina, N
RUS
3½-2½
Huang Qian
CHN
Drum Coverage
| Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 |
| Semifinals | Finals |

Ju Wenjun will lead the Chinese in the next round. Photo by David Llada.

Round two of the Women’s World Championship was filled with twists and turns. There were seven tiebreak games with two going into Armageddon. Tan Zhongyi showed resilience by staving off three different elimination games to force a final sudden death game. The last game Tan had black with time-odds deficit and was able to hold. It was a good day for the Chinese as they maintained four candidates, the highest number of any federation.

It was a disastrous day for Russian players. Russia started with 10 and are down to two. One of the biggest casualties came at the hands of Ni Shiqun, an unheralded player from China who was more than a hundred points lower than her highly-fancied opponent, Valentina Gunina. Russia lost five matches, but national team members Olga Girya, Alexandra Kosteniuk and Natalija Pogonina went through. Gunina was brutally crushed by Chinese upstart Ni Shiqun.

Games from WWCC2017 (Round 2, Game 1)

Games from WWCC2017 (Round 2, Game 2)

Georgia started with a eight players and have two remaining. Two of their survivors won thrilling matches with two Georgians with the names “Nino” battled until the Armegeddon game. This match was an even affair, but it was Nino Batsiashvili who had better chances throughout. In the Armegeddon game, she was completely winning and somehow allow Nino Khurtsidze to turn the tables.

Georgian Sopiko Guramashvili certain won the award for best photo in the round and her chess-themed hijab seemed to yield results. Photo by David LLada.

After 125…Rg2+ Buksa played 126.Kxe3 when 126.Ke1 would have secured the draw and the match. Heart-breaking.

In a brutal fight against Natalija Buksa, she was down a point and needed a win to stay alive. Despite outplaying Buksa she ended up a piece up in a R+N vs. R ending. It seemed that Buksa was easily hold the draw and move on, but a bit of fate occurred during the time scramble. In the diagrammed position, instead of 126.Ke1= (126…Rxa2 stalemate) Buksa blundered with 126.Kxe3?? and 126…Rxa2 ended the game. The chess community was aghast at the turn of events, but Guramashvili simply signed the sheets and walked off as if it were an expected result.

In the last 5’+3″ game, Buksa fell behind in the opening, lost the tactical thread on the position and dropped an exchange. With her wrecked pawn structure and passive knight, she was unable to hold and Guramashvili would advance.

Games from WWCC2017 (Round 2, Tiebreaks)

Two Indian players will advance. Dronavali Harika and Padmini Rout have been seen enjoying the experience. Harika has a strong support system and has brought her grandmother along! Photo by David Llada.

So the tournament goes down to the last 16 players. Apart from the Indian duo, four Chinese, three Russians, three Georgians remain. In addition, there is one player from Bulgaria, Ukraine, Vietnam and Sweden.

Press Conference with Pia Cramling

Interview with Pia Cramling.

Pia Cramling may be the story as the congenial 53-year old has been at the top longer than some of the players have been alive. Always very gracious and humble, she looks forward to her epic match with Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Official Website: http://tehran2017.fide.com/
Live Games: http://tehran2017.fide.com/live/live.html
All PGN Games (TWIC): http://www.theweekinchess.com/

2017 Women’s World Chess Championship
February 10th-March 4th, 2017 (Tehran, Iran)
Match Scores (Round #1)
Bracket 1
1 Ju Wenjun
CHN
2-0
Lane, N
AUS
2 Zhu Chen
QAT
1½-½
Sukandar, I
BLR
3 Hejazipour, M
IRI
4-5
Bodnaruk, A
RUS
4 Girya, O
RUS
*-*
Foisor, C
UKR
Bracket 2
5 Martinez, A
ARG
1-3
Zhao Xue
CHN
6 Danielian, Elina
ARM
½-1½
Padmini, Rout
IND
7 Tan Zhongyi
CHN
1½-½
Foisor, S
USA
8 Ziaziulkina, N
BLR
½-1½
Ushenina, A
UKR
Bracket 3
9 Shamima, Akter Liza
BAN
1½-2½
Harika, Dronavalli
IND
10 Saduakassova, D
KAZ
1½-½
Nechaeva, M
RUS
11 Hoang, T
HUN
1½-2½
Buksa, N
UKR
12 Guramishvili, S
GEO
2½-1½
Khademalsharieh, S
IRI
Bracket 4
13 Dzagnidze, Nana
GEO
4-2
Khaled, M
EGY
14 Zimina, Olga
ITA
1-3
Khotenashvili, Bela
GEO
15 Arribas Robaina, M
CUB
1-2
Shen Yang
CHN
16 Socko, Monika
POL
2½-1½
Savina, Anastasia
RUS
Bracket 5
17 Mezioud, A
ALG
0-2
Muzychuk, A
UKR
18 Cori, D
PER
½-1½
Kashlinskaya, A
RUS
19 Goryachkina, A
RUS
1½-½
Zhai Mo
CHN
20 Pham, Le Thao
VIE
1½-½
Javakhishvili, L
GEO
Bracket 6
21 Stefanova, A
BUL
2-0
Marrero Lopez, Y
CUB
22 Melia, S
GEO
2½-1½
Atalik, E
TUR
23 Gvetadze, S
GEO
0-2
Batsiashvili, Nino
GEO
24 Zhukova, N
UKR
½-1½
Khurtsidze, Nino
GEO
Bracket 7
25 Kosteniuk, A
RUS
2-0
Latreche, S
ALG
26 Gaponenko, I
UKR
1½-½
Kovalevskaya, E
RUS
27 Pourkashiyan, A
IRI
½-1½
Paehtz, E
GER
28 Cramling, P
SWE
1½-½
Nemcova, K
USA
Bracket 8
29 Ni, V
USA
0-2
Gunina, V
RUS
30 Mkrtchian, L
ARM
½-1½
Ni Shiqun
CHN
31 Pogonina, N
RUS
1½-½
Zhou Qiyu
CAN
32 Charochkina, D
RUS
1-3
Huang Qian
CHN
Drum Coverage
| Round 1 | Round 2 | Round 3 | Round 4 |
| Semifinals | Finals |

The opening round kicked off in Tehran, Iran leaving behind a cloud of controversy. As the clouds passed, the opening ceremony officially kicked off the championship and pairings released. Russia brought ten players, while Georgia had eight and China had seven. During the Opening Ceremony, there was a moment of silence for Cristina-Adela Foisor who had passed away prior to the tournament’s start. Her daughter Sabina-Franseca Foisor received gifts and condolences from the attendees. It was a touching moment.

WGM Sabina Foisor receives tributes, the statue of a knight (horse) and flowers, from Iran’s Minister of sport and youth affair, Masoud Soltanifar, and president of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Photo by Reza Mahdipour

Sabina-Franseca Foisor receives condolences from the Iran’s Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs, Masoud Soltanifar, and President of FIDE Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Photo by Reza Mahdipour.

With the opening of the tournament, there were some complaints about the air conditioning which prompted an inquiry from the Association of Chess Professionals (ACP), but they were soon rectified.

There were a couple of upsets including Elina Danielian (Armenia), Natalia Zhukova (Ukraine) and Lilit Mkrtchian (Armenia). Mona Khaled of Egypt scored an upset victory over Nana Dzagnidze putting the Georgian player at the brink of elimination.

It was the first victory for an African player in the women’s championship. However, she could not clinch the match as Dzagnidze came storming back with a win. The Egyptian player then won the first rapid tiebreak game, putting her a draw away from advancing. Again… she could not clinch the match. She ultimately lost in the 10’+10″ tiebreaks.

Mona Khaled of Egypt

Mona Khaled of Egypt had her chances.
Photo by Reza Mahdipour

Sopiko Guramishvili plays Saradasat Khadmalsharieh in the tiebreak. The Georgian prevailed. Photo by Reza Mahdipour

Sopiko Guramishvili plays Saradasat Khadmalsharieh in the tiebreak. The Georgian prevailed. Photo by Reza Mahdipour

Official Website: http://tehran2017.fide.com/
Live Games: http://tehran2017.fide.com/live/live.html
All PGN Games (TWIC): http://www.theweekinchess.com/

The Chess Drum, http://www.thechessdrum.net/

Dear friends and supporters,

During this Black History Month in the U.S., there are usually many stories about the history of people who have made tremendous contributions to the evolution of history in the country. Many of these figures would be unknown and obscure to most, but may also include figures that extend across the African Diaspora.

Carter G. Woodson founded “Negro History Week” to highlight the accomplishments of these figures and it later became “Black History Month.” There have been some who scoff at the fact that February is the shortest month of the year, but certainly we are to celebrate this history throughout the year.

Since February 12, 2001, it has been my mission to highlight the accomplishment of Black chess players around the world and provide a forum to show the universality of chess. The beauty is that chess has touched every corner of the earth and practically every demographic segment. Some stories would not usually see the light of day. There are also those human interest stories that are so much more compelling than who won a particular tournament in a certain year. “Queen of Katwe” was one such story that was covered at The Chess Drum extensively. This beautiful story showed a value in chess apart from its competitive nature. It demonstrated triumph over tragedy.

The Chess Drum has also covered many important events in its sixteen years. The first event was the Wilbert Paige Memorial in Harlem, New York, but the site has provided coverage to several Olympiads, national championships, and elite tournaments. In October, we were beating the Drum from Atlantic City to cover the Millionaire Chess Open and in November, we carried live coverage of the World Chess Championship in New York. In a couple of weeks, “Triple Exclam” will be released to the public and highlight the life and games of IM Emory Tate. While Tate was known for his tactical wins, his story will evoke discussion about this multifaceted figure.

To date, The Chess Drum is posted dozens of interviews, thousands of news articles, and tens of thousands of photos. Where does the site go from here? In coming months, the site will focus on a number of book projects and less on news coverage. There will still be the pursuit of human interest stories to highlight rare stories and unheralded heroes with some emphasis on video productions.

Thanks for your support and keep the beat going!!

null

Dr. Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum


2017 Women's World Chess Championship, Tehran, Iran

The Women’s World Championship is underway in Tehran, Iran with 63 women vying for the world title. Apart from the pre-tournament controversy, the event would begin on a somber note after the unfortunate passing of Romanian Cristina Adela Foisor. She passed away just over two weeks ago on January 22nd at age 49. The organizers could not fill the position, so her opponent Olga Girya will automatically advance.

Despite the absence of the world champion Hou Yifan and perennial top-tier Indian player Humpy Koneru, the event will be hotly-contested. Some of the players scored well in the Gibraltar Masters and will be coming will high expectations. Anna Muzychuk, the winner of World Rapid and Blitz, will be one of the front-runners as will China’s Ju Wenjun, the tournament’s top seed.

There will be several former world champions in the field including Alexandra Kosteniuk, Zhu Chen and Anna Ushenina. Unfortunately, the last knockout winner Mariya Muzychuk declined her invitation. There will be three Iranians playing host, but looking to make and impact in front of the supportive country of nearly 78 million. Mitra Hejazipour will be joined by FIDE selections Atousa Pourkashiyan and Sarasadat Khademalsharieh, Iran’s rising star.

Ju Wenjun in Women's Grand Prix, Tehran, 2016. Photo courtesy of chessdom.com

Ju Wenjun, shown here at 2016 Women’s Grand Prix in Tehran, will be top seed. While the tournament lists her at 2583, her live rating is currently over 2600. Photo courtesy of chessdom.com

Official Website: http://tehran2017.fide.com/
Live Games: http://tehran2017.fide.com/live/live.html

On February 10th, the Iranian capital of Tehran will begin hosting the 2017 Women’s World Chess Championships months after the “hijabgate” firestorm led by current U.S. women’s champion Nazi Paikidze. Given the heightened political U.S.-Iran tensions after the election of Donald J. Trump, it is unlikely that the two boycotting Americans would have felt comfortable, but the issue surrounding the mandatory head covering played into the adversarial narrative.

Paikidze, the current U.S. champion, decided to take a stance by boycotting the event stating that the mandatory hijab is an unreasonable demand. Her story got extensive media coverage (mostly in her favor), and she received support from a few chess celebrities. While some took a measured approach to criticism, other arguments were rather specious and uninformed about Islamic tenets and its diverse cultural practices. Still others, including Paikidze, equated the head coverings with “symbols of oppression.” While there were legitimate concerns, some in social media circles used the opportunity to justify their hatred of Islam and its adherents.

The hijab is a modest covering worn by many Muslim women. Apart from basic styles shown here, head coverings have become a bit more fashion forward, colorful and varied in their expressions. Photos from herbeauty.co

There was another issue broached concerning Iran’s right to host the tournament. In what quickly became a political fight, British chess legend Nigel Short contended that FIDE (World Chess Federation) awarded the event to a country that violates the bylaws of the body. Short, a former coach in Iran, cited in his argument FIDE statute 1.2 that “rejects discriminatory treatment for national, political, racial, social or religious reasons or on account of gender.”

Many (in retrospect) opposed the bid due to what they perceive as a violation of human rights. Some have countered that the U.S. and other western European nations lack moral high ground and have their own history of human rights violations against many different groups of people… including against Muslims. The event has unfortunately become a political football with U.S. vs. Iran, U.S. vs. FIDE, and other anti-FIDE battles.


Why did 159 FIDE members vote
in favor of the bid (with no objections)?


The Islamic nation earned the right to host the event given a vote at the 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, where the federations successfully passed by a 159-0 vote at the FIDE General Assembly (GA-2016/31). It is widely-known that Iran has hosted international events in which a head covering was required by the organizers. Instead of the hijab, a headscarf was also permissible. It is what some of the players decided to wear. If there were complaints or concerns about the requirement, dissenters did not voice them on the floor of the General Assembly. Thus, the voting nations need to take the brunt of the responsibility for the decision.

Iran at 2012 Asian Team in Zaozhuang, Shandong, China.

Iran at 2012 Asian Team in Zaozhuang, Shandong, China.
Photo by Mehrdad Pahlevanzadeh.

Of course, most travelers know that every society has laws that bind its citizenry and all who have permission to visit the country. Some are cultural, while some may be religious. Iran is a very complex Persian society with cultural and religious prescriptions for men and women (see Iran Chamber Society). The issue here seems to be that the mandatory head covering only pertains to women, which includes foreign visitors.

Many Muslims see the hijab as a symbol of modesty, and it is one of a multitude of styles for the head/body coverings. It is interesting that practically every major religion has had head coverings or adornments for women in their respective histories. In most cases, it is encouraged, but no longer compulsory except in some places of worship. What is shameful is how Muslim coverings have been targeted by Western media, often without the proper context or understanding.

Several of the women players have weighed in on the issue, and three decided to boycott the event. Susan Polgar released statements in her capacity as Chair of the FIDE Commission for Women’s Chess (WOM). When told women had previously complained of having to wear a head covering, Polgar told CNN,

This is news to me as not a single player spoke up or addressed it with WOM to date. The only thing that I heard was the event was well organized. So if these players would have informed WOM or FIDE about their problems or concerns at that time, the Women’s World Championship may have been awarded to a different organizer. … As you can imagine, it is a very difficult task to please everyone as players have different cultures, religious beliefs, political views, and at times personal interests. I can safely say that it is unlikely that 100% of the participants will completely agree with any particular issue. … Because of this delicate situation, we have to respect EVERYONE and handle things professionally and diplomatically in a proper setting.

In a public statement and a series of tweets, Polgar urged the “respect of local customs and regulations.” Such behavior is expected in any country requiring such a cultural prescription. For example, if you are in a Muslim country during the month Ramadan, you are encouraged to abstain from eating in public during the daytime fast, even if you are not a Muslim. In most of India, it is unlawful to slaughter a cow and eat its flesh, even if you are not Hindu. In Singapore, chewing gum, spitting, jaywalking and even drinking on public transportation is prohibited and subject to fines. Of course, other cultural rules (i.e., removing shoes before entering a home, or not exposing the sole of one’s shoe) are merely social taboos that can lead to awkward situations or derision, but not arrest. In suggesting that one adhere to Iran’s local customs, the chess community attacked Polgar ruthlessly.

However, Paikidze’s claim is not merely due to the hijab requirement. After she had gathered more information on Iranian society, she cited human rights issues that concerned her. Her protest received widespread support, but with reservations by some Iranian activists. In fact, British-based, Iranian activist Ghoncheh Ghavami stated that “hijabgate” reinforced the oft-heard narrative that Muslim women are timid, weak and not progressive. While respecting Paikidze’s right to protest, Ghavami felt the boycott would be used for political opportunism by Iran’s enemies.

Obviously, I recognise Pakidize’s right – and that of every other human being – to choose how to dress and I applaud her insistence on her rights as a woman. But I believe that her choice to boycott the games is misguided. A reductionist approach to the mandatory hijab has, in the past, functioned as a pretext to reinforce a rift between Iran and the west, as well as insinuating that Iranian women are passive beings who simply lack the will to improve their situation.

While Iran has many detractors in the West, the negative portrayals
about its people could not be more wrong.
Photo by Charles Glass

Women’s equality is a global issue and America is a country where President Trump has received harsh criticism for his “fat-shaming,” sexually suggestive, and crude comments about women. Millions of women around the world assembled for the “Women’s March on Washington” a day after Trump’s inauguration to protest what many saw was his tendency to engage in sexist hyperbole.

In the end, Paikidze found other reasons to nix the trip. She also opined that it is not safe for women around the world to play in Iran and posted the U.S. Department of State long-standing travel warnings for Americans. Perhaps one reason cascaded into others, and certainly, she is within her right to abstain if unable or unwilling to follow the law.

Current women’s world champion Hou Yifan has decided to exit from the women’s cycle to focus on playing elite competition. She also disapproves of the championship format which features a knockout tournament determining the world champion. Humpy Koneru of India withdrew for unknown reasons. The three not competing due to “hijabgate” were Pakidze, seven-time U.S. women’s champion Irina Krush and Mariya Muzychuk, a former world champion.


The hijab means different things to different people. Some see it as a symbol of oppression while
some see it as a symbol of liberation.


Nevertheless, countries are known for their unique cultural prescriptions, and some are holding dear to their traditions, regardless of whether other countries accept them or not. A personal protest not to wear a hijab or head covering is one thing, but to add that Muslim women in Iran (and elsewhere) should not wear it because it’s oppressive is quite presumptuous and ethnocentric. The consensus seems to be that women should have the prerogative to wear whatever they want. However, the tendency in this debate has been to discourage Islamic coverings and to encourage styles of dress that suit western standards of beauty.

U.S. fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad received wide acclaim for wearing the hijab during the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where she won a bronze medal. Some Muslim women see coverings as a source of liberation from beauty objectification. Photo by Jason Getz (USA Today Sports)

Ecuadorean master Carla Heredia offers the view that no woman should be forced to wear a hijab or be forced to remove it if she chooses to wear it. The hijab has been a lightning rod for controversy and France had banned the head covering and other Muslim garments such as the “burkini,” the full-body beach covering worn by women. What would happen if Catholic nuns showed up on a French beach in their habits? This is what occurred in the famous burkini ban after a Muslim woman was made to disrobe in public by the police! Nuns showed up on the beach but were not made to remove their garments, so the discriminatory motive of the law was immediately noted.

The hijab means different things to different people. Some see it as a symbol of oppression while some see it as a symbol of liberation. The idea of hijab as a “symbol of oppression” further perpetuates stereotypes of Muslim women, fans the flames of Islamophobia that puts Islam and its adherents into ideological boxes. Profiling is the very reason that millions around the world protested the so-called “Muslim travel ban” signed by President Trump. The ban was ultimately overturned by the judicial branch.

While Muslims are being supported on the one hand, they are condemned on other counts. The world is entirely schizophrenic at this time as Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” is upon us. Nevertheless, this is a critical moment for countries seeking to maintain cultural or religious traditions. How does any country (Muslim or otherwise) proceed in a world where national cultures are eroding, traditions lost, and a global culture is emerging? This is a question all nations must address and is the crux of the raging debate on religion.

Official Website: http://tehran2017.fide.com/
Live Games: http://tehran2017.fide.com/live/live.html

The Millionaire Chess organization has released a press release announcing that there would not be a tournament in 2017, but there are possibilities for future events. Maurice Ashley and Amy Lee cited lack of sponsorship as the prime reason and appealed to the chess community for assistance in finding support.

Amy Lee working hard to make MC#1 a success.

There have been three wonderful events (2014, 2015, 2016), all relative successes. The first in 2014 (won by Wesley So) had the most glitz and glamour while the second (won by Hikaru Nakamura) added the wildly popular “Confessional Booth” and “Millionaire Square” game show. The last (won by Dariusz Swiercz) was a scaled down version held in Atlantic City, but better conditions and stellar operation… ironically a smaller crowd.

Scene from Millionaire Monday at MC#2!

Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

* * *

Official announcement: No Millionaire Open in 2017

Quite a number of people have written to MC in the past few weeks asking about details for the next event. Unfortunately, due to lack of sponsorship, the decision has been made that there will be no MC Open in 2017. This announcement does not preclude the possibility of editions in future years. The dream of high-stakes events that promote the great game of chess to mass audience remains very much alive and is something the company, particularly co-Partner Maurice Ashley, continues to believe in as a worthwhile cause.

Corporate sponsor

If you know a corporate sponsor who might be willing to work with MC or have any other ideas on how to continue this budding tradition, please let us know. We can be easily reached at contact @ millionairechess.com.

Naturally, should there be any further developments regarding funding and sponsors, we will quickly announce our plans for upcoming years. In any case we will keep you updated via this newsletter and our social media channels. Thank you so much for the continued support.

Thank you

Once again a very big thank you to everyone around the world. 2017 promises to be a very busy year for the partners in the company as both Amy and Maurice will be traveling the world on a variety of exciting ventures. We wish you all the best for the new year and look forward to seeing you once again sometime soon. Much success to you all and thanks for being a part of the Millionaire Chess experience.

Best Wishes,
Amy and Maurice

Amy Lee and Maurice Ashley


MILLIONAIRE CHESS

email address: contact@millionairechess.com
website: http://millionairechess.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HighStakesChess
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/millionairechess
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/MillionaireChess


* * *

Hikaru Nakamura receives his winners cheque for £23,000 and trophy from Tradewise Chairman James Humphreys (left) and Tradewise Chess Festival Organiser Brian Callaghan. Hikaru scored 8/10 (+6,=4) and then won a playoff 1½-½ to take first prize. Photo © John Saunders

Hikaru Nakamura receives his winners cheque for £23,000 and trophy from Tradewise Chairman James Humphreys (left) and Tradewise Chess Festival Organiser Brian Callaghan. Hikaru scored 8/10 (+6 =4) and then won a playoff 1½-½ to take first prize. Photo © John Saunders.

Hikaru Nakamura has won the Gibraltar Masters for the third time (2015, 2016, 2017) after winning the playoff over David Anton Guijarro. Nakamura stated in an earlier interview that he enjoyed the environment of Gibraltar, the weather, the scenery and conditions. It would actually be his fourth victory at the event, first winning in 2008.

Tania Sachdev asked Nakamura about the tournament and he mentioned the stellar play of Anton, but mentioned that he was confident after beating Yu Yangyi. In terms of the three wins, he stated that while his 2015 victory was smooth his last two victories required him to make a late push. He did take some satistfaction to win a tournament with two higher seeds. He looks to “three-repeat” in Zurich and has the U.S. Championship and the Grand Tour ahead. Here was Nakamura’s reflections on the tournament.

Official Site: http://www.gibraltarchesscongress.com/
PGN Game: http://www.thechessdrum.net/games/gibraltar2017.pgn

U.S. Chess Line Online ranks its top articles each year and The Chess Drum’s feature on FM Josh Colas made the cut at #8. Colas is a freshman at Webster University and at the time of the article had just earned his first GM norm. The article features the evolution of this humble product of White Plains, New York. Below are the judges’ laudatory comments.

The Judges Sound Off

“This inspiring article written by Daaim Shabazz is a great tribute to Joshua Colas and his family. I especially appreciate the biographical style of the article covering Josha’s upbringing, his family life, school life and his future plans to attend Webster on a scholarship. Knowing what kind of talent Webster churns out, it looks like Josh’s journey has just begun!”

-Jennifer Vallens

“I certainly connected with this piece on a personal level. Josh and I followed similar paths over the course of our childhoods by taking advantage of the countless opportunities in American scholastic chess. We now both study at Webster University and competed for our C-team at Panams. Daaim does a great job of documenting Josh’s journey and highlighting the triumphs and obstacles along the way. The words “?Keep him interested” is some of the best advice for the parents of a young chess player. Josh has undoubtedly kept interest!”

-Eric Rosen

“Josh Colas’ rise in U.S. chess is well chronicled by Shabazz who writes engagingly about our nation’s young talents, national and international chess. Josh annotated his masterful victory over GM Jinshi Bai for this article. His annotations are clear, precise and demonstrate awesome technique in what was a difficult endgame to win. ‘Young Josh will be looking to make history of his own,’ writes Shabazz. We agree wholeheartedly!”

-Michael Ciamarra

“This interesting story describes the journey of young Joshua Colas from a sharp 7 year old playing his father to an experienced master battling a Chinese Grandmaster with the IM title at stake. These are true words of wisdom from the talented rising star himself. ‘After earning his GM norm, Josh stated, “My parents constantly remind me that if I work hard and believe in myself, nothing is impossible.”

-Michael Aigner

Thank you judges… hopefully I’ll be writing another article about Josh very soon.

Revisit the article here!!

Here is Josh blitzing with his father (Guy Colas) at the 2006 World Open. This was the year he started playing. He’s all grown up now.

Josh Colas at 2015 World Open in Arlington, Virginia
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

Wesley So was at a low point a couple of years ago placing last in the 2015 Sinquefield Cup. Now only 16 points behind Magnus Carlsen while bolting ahead of Fabiano Caruana. Caruana is currently playing in Gibraltar where he was upset by Nigel Short in the sixth round. This allowed So to overtake him on the live rating list.

Wesley So in action against Radoslaw Wojtaszek of Poland
Photo by Alina L’Ami

Both Carlsen and So seem to be going in opposite directions on the rating ladder. Carlsen came in 2nd in the 2017 Tata Steel, but struggled throughout to find his footing. So played solidly and was worse in only one encounter (against Rapport). The Filipino’s victory was his third supertournament victory in a row along with the Sinquefield and the London Classic. Carlsen was busy with the pre- and post-match World Championship affairs and didn’t participate, so this was the first tournament So has won with the reigning World Champion competing.


“Winning this tournament is huge, with the world champion in it —
the best player in the world.”


He credits his success to his faith and surrogate family. During his run of 56 unbeaten games, he has become a fixture in top-level chess. Many have pointed out his humble persona and unpretentious manner. After winning two gold medals at the Baku Olympiad, he has made a nice run on the tournament circuit.

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

In this tournament, he scored +5 including three wins in a row against Richard Rapport, Loek van Wely and Pentala Harikrishna. As Carlsen struggled with consistency and Sergey Karjakin was off form, So held off surges from 17-year old phenom Wei Yi and Baskaran Adhiban of India. It was enough and So would take home his first Tata winner’s cup.

There were some interesting moments in the tournament such as several opening experiments (Karjakin’s 6.a3!?) and Adhiban’s King’s Gambit! The good thing about Tata 2017 was the new faces as opposed to the usual suspects of yesteryear. It gets to be tiresome seeing the same ten players competing in every supertournament, but this one had an air of newness. Gawain Jones will join the Masters group next year after winning the Challengers’ section on tiebreaks over Markus Ragger. Both ended with 9/13.

Official Site: http://www.tatasteelchess.com/
Videos: (YouTube, Chess24)
Games: (Masters, Challengers)
Drum Coverage: http://www.thechessdrum.net/

Photo from Getty Images

Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson was in a recent ChessBase feature recounting an interview he granted during the World Chess Championship in New York. Sixteen years ago, he was voted, “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” and his appeal is also based on his down-to-earth approach to physics. He is the Director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium and often gives mesmerizing facts about the universe such as the fact that…

…the universe has a sextillion stars (1 followed by 21 zeroes); 95% of all Earth beings have gone extinct; possible chess games (102500). In the interview with Albert Silver of ChessBase, he addresses a number of questions about his involvement with chess. Tyson got involved with chess through his son whom he taught how to play.

By the time he was 13 or so, he would beat me 29 out of 30 games, so I was done. So he joined clubs and things and doing so I would travel around with him to tournaments … he played through until he was 13 or 14, and then he took on other interests, but I kept up the interest.

Here is his appearance at the World Championships…

Video by worldchess.com.

While Tyson famously said that role models are overrated, he has been quite an inspiring figure who makes one of the most enigmatic sciences approachable. A literal celebrity scientist, some say he blurs physics with pop culture. The Bronx-bred, astrophysicist has known to break into a “moonwalk” during his presentations. Levity aside, he talks about what he thinks about chess, but if you want to see some of his concepts, watch some of his videos. Whether you agree with his theories or not, you will certainly be enlightened.

Link: http://en.chessbase.com/post/in-conversation-with-neil-degrasse-tyson

* * *

Videos with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Video by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Video by Max Schlickenmeyer

Shayne Fairman, “Richards-Porter Happy Earning From Chess,” Jamaican Gleaner (jamaica-gleaner.com), 24 January 2017.

WIM Deborah Richards

WIM Deborah Richards-Porter
Photo by Ian Wilkinson

While some Jamaicans may not earn a comfortable living from their professional sporting pursuits, Woman International Chess Master Deborah Richards-Porter says that chess has taken her places and has given her a business from which she can live comfortably.


“More has to be done from our side in terms of pushing sports that are not track and field and football so that we can get our recognition.”


Richards-Porter is the first Woman International Chess Master in the English-speaking Caribbean. Besides playing the sport she loves, she operates her own business, teaching chess to over 100 students. It is set up at different schools, while during summer and Christmas holidays, she has specific programmes tailored for her clients.

“I have a chess business; I have chess as a profession, and seasonal programme for students who are interested in learning every day,” Richards Porter told The Gleaner.

“You can make a decent living from chess, because I graduated from the University of the West Indies (UWI). I was doing research, and I stopped it to come and teach chess,” she outlined.

Richards-Porter presenting trophy
to one of the prize winners at DRP Women’s Chess Festival.
Photo by Jamaica Women’s Chess Committee

Like most things, however, the flag-bearer says it depends on who you are and how you go about marketing and doing it.

“It (chess) takes up a lot of my time, most of my life is chess right now, and working is more fun than work for me,” she reasoned.

NOT ENOUGH RECOGNITION

According to the veteran, Jamaicans need recognise chess as a sport.

“No, I would not say I have gotten adequate recognition as a player. I think most people don’t know what is happening in and round chess. More has to be done from our side in terms of pushing sports that are not track and field and football so that we can get our recognition,” she underlined.

Jamaica vs. Trinidad & Tobago (women)

Jamaica vs. Trinidad (women)
at 2016 Chess Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan

Jamaica Trinidad & Tobago Jamaica Trinidad & Tobago Jamaica Trinidad & Tobago

The player began her career at 16 and described it as kind of a coincidence” how she started, as she was a former table tennis player.

“Seven months after playing, I became national champion, and about a month after that, I was on my first plane ride going to Slovenia to play the chess Olympiad at the time,” she continued.

Richards Porter added, “I found out within the first year that chess could take me places.”

She has represented Jamaica at five Chess Olympiads, dating 2006, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. She was named the RJR Sports Foundation Woman Chess Player of the Year.

Deborah Richards-Porter accepting highest accolade for female chess players.

WIM Deborah Richards-Porter accepting the RJR “Female Chess Player of the Year” from Grammy-winner Orville “Shaggy” Burrell. Photo by Jamaica Observer.

Link: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/sports/20170124/richards-porter-happy-earning-chess

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

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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!

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