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

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

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

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

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

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

Lebron James... 3-time NBA Champion

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

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

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

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

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

Message from Cleveland Heavy Hitters…

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


Egypt Egypt Egypt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



GM Pontus Carlsson (Sweden)
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

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

Perpetual Podcast #29 (82 minutes)


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

Hikaru Nakamura making several statements today.

Nakamura at 2016 Sinquefield Cup
Photo by Lennart Ootes

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

Perpetual Chess #32 (94 minutes)



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

This is the beginning!

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

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

Sedrick “Big Pawn” Prude

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

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

Make your way to…

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

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


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

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

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

~Tom Murphy

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

~Dr. Ani Deshpande

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triple Exclam at the 2017 World Open

Jerome Works (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Dr. Ani Deshpande (South Bend, Indiana)

Glenn Umstead (Atlantic City, New Jersey)

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

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

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


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


Farai Mandizha (Zimbabwe)
Photo by David Llada

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

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

Following are three of his games from the tournament:

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

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

Photos by Daaim Shabazz

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

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

17-year old Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kazakhstan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other sections, the winners were:

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

PGN Games:

See you next year!

All photos by Daaim Shabazz (unless otherwise stated)


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

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

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

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

Memphis vs. Chicago

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

Memphis vs. Chicago


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

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

Memphis vs. Chicago

It’s on!
Photos by Nathan Kelly

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

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

Here King shows some technique against John Porter

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

Memphis vs. Chicago

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

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

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

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

Here is Shimera Paxton trying to break through against Tim Donahue

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

Memphis vs. Chicago

Memphis vs. Chicago

Weaver-Porter almost 33 years later!

Memphis vs. Chicago

Dwight Weaver and John Porter
Photos by Nathan Kelly.

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

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

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

Memphis vs. Chicago


Memphis vs. Chicago

Peter Pritchett (Memphis) and Tom Murphy (Chicago)

Memphis vs. Chicago

John Porter (Chicago) and Shimera Paxton (Memphis)

Memphis vs. Chicago

Job well done!
Photos by Nathan Kelly

Memphis vs. Chicago

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

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

Video by Nathan Kelly

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


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

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


Charles Kuwaza

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

National Master Lawyer Times
2017 Massachussetts State Champion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

FM James Canty IIIDaniel X Jones

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

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

Detroit vs. Chicago

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

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


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

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

Now… let’s get it on!

Main Event: Canty vs. Jones

Interviews by Nathan Kelly, video production by Louie Green

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

Daniel X Jones vs. FM James Canty III

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

Daniel X Jones vs. FM James Canty III

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

Watch the action of games 6-8 below.

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

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

Press Conference

Video production by Nathan Kelly and Louie Green

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

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


Videos by Johnnie Strapp

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


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

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


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

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

Organizer: Beatriz Marinello
Telephone: 917-553-4522


Each city has its chess history. There are even genres within chess history. One of the most captivating (and overlooked) aspects of its history is street chess. Out of this community comes the life and dreams of every chess player to make a name for his or herself. The venues… barber shops, beaches, coffee shops, bars, parks, basements, street curbs and even alleys. Toe-to-toe, mortal combat, no-holds-barred fighting on the 64 squares. Perhaps there needs to be a catalog of these stories because it shows the psychological impact that chess on society. Granted many of these players don’t follow chess news and may not know the top-level players, but perhaps have as much passion for the game than anyone else. There is something much deeper in playing the game.

Even though I know the players are not thinking about it in these terms, but as a child psychiatrist, I know that issues that are important in a person’s life very often get expressed in games they play… and the games get played over and over and over again.

~Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing

Over the years, The Chess Drum has presented some of these stories such as the famous New York’s Washington Square Park, DC’s Dupont Circle, Chicago’s Harper Court and San Francisco’s Market Street to name a few. These conspicuous places were the venues to cut your teeth on… a theater, a pit and a classroom all in one.

National Master Kofi Tatum
Photo Kofi Tatum (LinkedIn)

Kofi Tatum of Los Angeles has recently released a video titled, “Snapping Pieces” about the chess scene in the “City of Angels.” It is a raw look at the testimonies of various personalities, but more importantly, it explains the cultural importance that chess has in the community in vibrant fashion. Many of the cities mentioned earlier have developed vibrant communities with a social hierarchy, rules and a sense of familial ties. The Los Angeles chess scene has long had a presence since the days of IM Stephen Muhammad at the Santa Monica chess park. The tradition continues!

“Snapping Pieces” is a 47-minute documentary culminating in the Equinox blitz tournament featuring more than 20 players (including one Master and three Experts). Tatum gives an overview:

The event was held sometime around September of 2006. It offered a 1st place prize of 1,000 dollars. As well as several other prizes, from 1st all the way down to about 7th place or so. There was even a prize for best female player. Which I believe was one by the ever talented, former women’s state champion, Collette McGruder.

There is also a cameo appearance by the late and great Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing, who authored a landmark book, The Isis Papers. She sees parallels between battles waged over the board and battles waged against social oppression.

I see when the people are playing the game very vigorously. In many settings, but in your setting in Los Angeles, where Black men are playing this game… I think that they’re playing out the warfare that is racism/white supremacy. Sometimes that warfare is playing out in terms of police brutality, or driving while Black or walking while Black. Even though I now the players are not thinking about it in these terms, but as a child psychiatrist, I know that issues that are important in a person’s life very often get expressed in games they play… and the games get played over and over and over again.

Whether one agrees with Cress Theory of Color Confrontation, it is undeniable that there exists certain dualities in society based on a number of demographic and social factors. Chess allows one to articulate the hopes and dreams and even allows one to externalize social problems and use chess as a way to solve them. This documentary is an ode to the lessons learned from chess. Great job!

Video by Kofi Tatum


On the campus of University of Cape Town

There are many ways to describe the African continent. Some know it as the “Cradle of Civilization” and by others as the “Dark Continent.” Rest assured, this massive land mass has a complicated history, but its complexity may be softened by the sheer diversity and beauty. Each time I travel to Africa, I get a different perspective since there is so much to absorb.

My recent trip to Africa would cover five countries in two weeks. This may not seem like enough time to become immersed in the daily hustle and bustle. However as you will see in the following photos, Africa’s biodiversity is vast and thus you don’t have to search far and wide to see it. It is truly a photographer’s haven. I marveled at the panoramic views worthy of a National Geographic photo spread. However, I was hoping to compete with their photographers.

The two-week trip was part of a faculty tour hosted by the Center for International Business, Education and Research (CIBER). Its purpose is to exposure university faculty to the international business environments of different countries for the instructional purposes. This trip was hosted by the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore B-School. I was the only professor from Florida A&M University (FAMU).

South Africa

The initiative is funded by the Department of Education to further internationalization of university curricula. This would be my 5th CIBERT trip and 3rd (with the organization) to Africa. This would be my 4th trip to South Africa and 2nd with Michael Shealy. This time my group stayed in the Commodore Hotel which was within walking distance to the mall. I visited the area back in 2006, and not much had changed. I did find a very nice smoothie shop with an adjoining health food store.

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

Arrival, Commodore Hotel, Waterfront area and mall, wellness health food store

Before my CIBER group got into our itinerary, I took a cab ride to Table Top Mountain. I missed going back in 2006, and my other two trips were to Johannesburg. This is a must see and here is what I saw…

…and breath-taking shots!

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

Table Top Mountain (21 photos)

Many tourists come to Africa for such sites, but I was also there to interact and engage with local professionals and academics. We visited the University of Cape Town which was located next door to the Commodore. On my first trip to South Africa, I stayed in their hotel. We met with the Director of the Graduate School of Business Dr. Mills Soko, a very dynamic figure who spoke candidly about his freedom-fighting background, the current state of South Africa and his vision for the business program.

University of Cape Town, Graduate School of Business

Dr. Mills Soko, Director of the Graduate School of Business
at University of Cape Town

FAMU’s Daaim Shabazz with Teddy Taylor, U.S. Ambassador to South Africa
and FAMU alumnus!

2017 FDIB Africa Program Participants at University of Stellenbosch

We also visited Gordon’s Bay Township Middle School full of enthusiastic students were treated to songs by the school choir and even engaged in a soccer match! No photos of that since I was playing. The stop at the University of Stellenbosch was also nice as we got a chance to walk the campus a bit. We also visited the home of U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Teddy Taylor who I found out was a FAMU alumni!

One of the highlights was the trek to the Cape of Good Hope. The route is overlooked several cliffs and gorges and is a photographers haven. Boulders Park was the home of the penguins, and the Cape of Good Hope is a popular tourist stop. However, instead of climbing to the top of the tower, I decided to walk the trail of jagged rocks all the way to the Cape. It takes about 30-40 minutes but can be quite intimidating with fierce winds and the cliff only two meters to your left.

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

University of Cape Town (24 photos)
Gordon’s Bay Township & University of Stellenbosch (52 photos)
Boulders Park, Cape of Good Hope, Clarmont Chess Club (64 photos)

In general, I always seek out the chess community while in foreign countries, and I was able to contact Reuben Salimu whom I know from Facebook and who runs African Chess Cafe website and Claremont Chess Club. After an impromptu blitz tournament, I presented a copy of my book, Triple Exclam: The Life and Games of Emory Tate, Chess Warrior.

I did meet (and lose to) a young Seth-Riley Adams who uncorked a nice Nd5 shot! Sadly, this would be my only chess in Africa. It’s interesting since both contacts in Zambia and Botswana were too far away from my locations. The purpose of the rest of this article is to show you the beauty of the African continent. It’s a nice place for a tournament!

Playing Charles De Villiers at the Claremont Chess Club in Capetown

Reuben Salimu receiving a copy of my book “Triple Exclam”
at Claremont Chess Club, Cape Town, South Africa


As we boarded the plane in Cape Town, I was excited at the prospects of seeing the famous natural wonder at the Zambia-Zimbabwe border. I had only seen videos and photos of the famous Victoria Falls, initially in Basil Davidson’s eight-part documentary “Africa.” It is a must-see when visiting the region.

Aerial shot of Victoria Falls

Hours later, I would finally get my chance. As we soared over Livingstone, Zambia I could see the ominous presence of Victoria Falls. With my Samsung Galaxy 7, I took some shots of “Vic Falls” and could not imagine a site more impressive. I learned later that there was helicopter ride over the Falls. While I decided not to take that excursion, I saw the falls from practically every other angle. What was so impressive was the power of the water tumbling down into the gorge into the Zambezi river! I learned that this was high season for the Falls and later in the year you can walk across. Hard to imagine such a powerful force going into hibernation.

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

This was my first view of the falls, but I was not prepared to cross the bridge. The next day, I got a plastic parka, swimming trunks and flip-flops and set out to view the falls again. This time I crossed the bridge under a sheet of water from the falls and then took a trek to view different angles. What exhilaration! After that I took a 30-minute trek to bottom of the gorge known as the “Boiling Pot.”

With my flip-flops, I carefully navigated the rough downward slope and jagged rocks because one miscalculation would mean a trip to the hospital. Definitely. It is advisable to wear sturdy shoes and you have to be in reasonably good shape. Also take your time and plant your feet before proceeding. On the bright side, the climb up less treacherous than the climb down, but more tiring.

Victoria Falls Bridge from Zambian side. Nice!

Descending down into the “Boiling Pot” gorge. Its quite steep and very jagged rocks. Nature can be unforgiving.

The Boiling Pot… beautiful view of Zambezi River and Victoria Falls Bridge!

Soaked from the falls and sweaty from the descent, but it was all worthy it!
Watch video!


On the next day, a group of us planned to walk across the bridge to the Zimbabwe side of the Victoria Falls. It was longer than I expected and I had on my flip-flops again. Bad decision. We would walk for hours and flip-flops are not made for long walks. On the way back, I thought my Achilles tendons were going to snap. Instead of visiting the falls again, a group of us decided to visit the Victoria Falls Hotel on the Zimbabwe side and have lunch and shop. It turned out to be a pleasant walk. I even saw a sign “Dead Slow,” a term not used in the U.S. That must mean really, really slow!

Along the way, we saw hawkers selling the famous “Zim notes,” or the hyper-inflated Zimbabwean currency. They were selling in dominations of millions, billions, and even trillions. I walked away with several currency notes to show my students. You can buy them off of eBay, but to say you got them in Zimbabwe adds a bit more authenticity.

The overhead view of the “Boiling Pot.” It was the previous day that I stood on the rocks below.

Zimbabwean view of the Victoria Falls Bridge
Yes… we walked quite a distance!

Squash just dropped a new album! Check out “Ngikulindile”. Very nice! 🙂

Livingstone, Zambia (30 photos)
Victoria Falls and Boiling Pot (18 photos)
Zambia-Zimbabwe (23 photos)


Now onto our next adventure. We would leave Livingstone invigorated by nature’s power and the beautiful accommodations at Avani. We would drive 90 minutes to Kasane, Botswana to visit the Chobe National Park. The drive gave us an opportunity to view Zambian people, the landscape and the “hustle and bustle.”

As we got closer to the border, an amazing scene unfolded. There was a long line of trucks carrying various types of cargo. As Zambia is one of the world’s largest producer of copper, there were trucks lined up with sheets of the metal stacked on their beds. It was a plain look at the daily business cycle of Africa. There is a method to the madness, so to speak. It is common for the driver to wait days to clear his load! Then there were the “fixers” with large wads of cash hoping to get hired by someone need to help sort out paperwork with the proper fees.

When we got to the dock, Zambian hawkers were selling all types of wooden crafts. They were not overly aggressive but certainly wanted to get the last bit of foreign currency before we decided to spend it in Botswana. We boarded the speed boats to get across the Zambezi River… just 750 meters. It is in this spot that four countries meet: Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia.

The trucks we saw coming in would cross via Kazungula ferry. For us, we piled into several speed boats, and within 15 minutes, we were across the river in Botswana. Many years ago at a chess tournament in Chicago, I met a Botswana chess coach named Oscar Mayisela. We became friends and kept in contact through mail. I told that I would one day visit his country. I kept my promise!

Since my Canon 80D was left in Johannesburg, I had to get by with my Samsung Galaxy 7 camera. The confusion came when they told me I had to check my carry-on bag due to its size. It was a back pack and there was plenty of room on the plane. Unfortunately, I thought they would check it all the way through Zambia, but I later learned that I had to go all the way to baggage claim and get it. It was a disappointment because one of the reasons I bought a brand new camera was for the Botswana tours. However, I must give a shameless plug to Samsung for making such great cameras. You will soon see what is possible. Here are some of my shots from the boat tour and land tour.

First on the boat…

…then next day on land!

So… I did OK with my cell phone but decided to go on a special photography outing where I was supplied with my own… Canon 80D! Yep. It’s the same camera I have except it has a wide telephoto lens. I will spare the details and present these full blast!

Malachite Kingfisher

Monitor Lizard

Pied Kingfisher

Baboons eating a piece of fruit as offspring watches


Cape Buffalo eating while elephants come to join the party

Life and death… there is even beauty in a dead tree

Chobe boat tour (43 photos)
Chobe land tour (29 photos)
Chobe photography tour (32 photos)


Me and FAMU colleague Dr. Annette Jackson
at the University of Swaziland

Last stop was Swaziland, a country encapsulated by South Africa, but with a unique character. Ruled by King Mswati III, an absolute monarch who has 13 wives, the small country is relatively poor but has an unbelievably well-developed road infrastructure. The landscape is dotted with mountainous terrain and winding roads, but the most redeeming quality of the small country is its people. Fortunately, we were able to visit the University of Swaziland where my FAMU colleague Dr. Annette Jackson is a Fulbright Professor. She attended a CIBER trip a few years back and was so inspired that she applied for the Fulbright fellowship.

While we did not have access to the natural landmarks, we visited a number of small businesses, small market sponsored by the Taiwanese and even the U.S. Embassy. One of the most interesting visits was to CONOCO, a Coca-Cola company that makes the syrup concentrate that the bottlers make into the fizzy stuff. What appears to be a very simple process is actually quite complicated. We were able to take a tour of the factory floor, but not allowed to take any photos.

There are intricate multilevel steps to make the trademark syrup, but perhaps the most amazing fact is that one container makes about 20,000 liters of the product. Also impressive was the variety of syrups available for the different drinks. With a little bit of calculation, it is evident that the amount of profit for the bottlers is tremendous! Back in 2010, I visited a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Nairobi, Kenya and saw how the product was made from the syrup. Quite a marvelous exercise in chemistry. The resulting drink has captivated billions around the globe.

Beautiful baskets from “Gone Rural” shop

One of the hundreds of stunning candles being made in
the Swazi Candles Craft Centre

Another remarkable thing about Swaziland is the incredible amount of talented artisans. I saw some of the most stunning baskets, glass art and candle-making in my life. These are products you’d see in places like World Market or retail stores featuring exotic imports. We also got to see an inspiring dance performance at a replica of a village. It was a poignant look at the hierarchical rules of the community including polygamous arrangements and line of succession.

So here is the last batch of photos. They illustrate the vision of society showing the determination and hope of a people… looking for something better each day.

In conclusion, I traveled to five African countries in two weeks. It was at a breakneck pace, but I was able to take perhaps hundreds of photos to document this trip. More importantly, I will be able to share them with my students, family and friends. So you may ask, “What is the ‘Chess Lens’ Daaim?” Apart from being able to get both “Africa” and “Chess” in the title for searching purposes, I believe it is clear to say that I viewed Africa with a very strategic eye. I tried to capture the authenticity, the beauty, and the character while leaving enough for curiosity to explore further. As for my chess audience, if you were patient enough to get through the entire article, you may be inspired to travel to Africa, enjoy its natural beauty, and play some chess there!


Swaziland (125 photos)


The 2nd Emory Tate Memorial took place at the Lion’s Den Chess and Martial Arts Academy in Chicago on a gorgeous summer day. There was excitement building up for the tournament along with the buzz of the pending match between Daniel X Jones and FM James Canty. Excitement for chess is high these days on the south side of Chicago. Unfortunately, the turnout was not as large as expected. Initially, eight players registered with Zambia’s Kela Kaulule being the top seed. Twelve players in total participated. Gwayne Lambert won last year’s event of 14 players.

Zambia’s Kela Kay Kaulule

Kaulule has been in Chicago the last month visiting a relative and has been adjusting to the U.S. chess scene. While stating that he played “badly” in the Chicago Open, he scored a respectable 4.5/7 in the under-2300 section. The Zambian native was challenged by the second-seeded Daniel X Jones. Jones, a third-degree black belt and owner of the martial arts studio, has been a positive force on the southside for mentoring his students and for promoting both chess and martial arts.

Jones, who is married with three children, told The Chess Drum that the recent buzz in Chicago chess is certainly helping to lift the profile of the game. “I love the ideas Maurice Ashley put on the table, and I want to partake in revolutionizing chess. So much so that chess “professionals” can be devoted and make a living full time,” said Jones. The Tate Memorials have certainly been a boost, but of course, the groundswell is still in its formative stages on the southside.

Tom Murphy (2085) with an optimistic glance against George David (1752)

Stephen Faulkner of Louisville, Kentucky

The tournament had a number of visitors including a local master, Marvin Dandridge. Some came from long distances to participate. Stephen Faulkner drove four hours from Louisville, Kentucky to be a part of chess movement and also to meet some of his chess contemporaries.

There were some very tense moments in the tournament including the second round showdown between Kaulule (2240) and Jones (2074). Jones, playing black, won a pawn right out of the opening and seemed to be holding his advantage throughout the middlegame.

In the second round marquee matchup Kaulule-Jones, black sacrificed a piece for a dangerous passed pawn. After …Nd4, white has to proceed with caution since Kf2?? would lose to c1(Q)! What to do?

The game’s intensity ratcheted up as the Zambian was fighting to hold the position. Interestingly, it was discovered that Kaulule missed an opportunity to simplify matters earlier and end up a full piece! As it turned out, the game got complicated, and white had to return the piece and fought to draw the position. Great battle!

In the third round, Jones-Murphy and Ford-Kaulule were going to be grueling battles and would most likely set the stage for who would take the top positions. Jones prevailed over Murphy while Kaulule was in a pitched battle with Chicago’s blitz legend, Sam Ford (1929).

Sam Ford (left) on the move and possibly examining e5! He didn’t play it, but it would have led to dynamic complications.

Ford went astray at a critical moment and Kaulule’s victory moved him into joint first with Jones and Tim Donnahue (1915) with 2.5/3. Before the last round, lunch was served and there was presentation of Triple Exclam, the Emory Tate biography written by Daaim Shabazz. In last year’s inaugural event the book was in the production phase. The book was officially released to the public in March.

Shabazz spent time recounting key moments in Emory’s life as well as some of the highlights of the book. There was a bit of nostalgia in giving tribute to one of the most colorful and artful figures in America’s chess history. The recurring theme was Emory’s contribution of chess as an art form and his eagerness to show its infinite beauty.

Angelo Armistead came to the tournament to get his signed copy! Both Armistead and Shabazz competed in tournaments together back in the 80s. Armistead is one day older!

In the final round, Jones would face Donnahue who had beaten Madison Loftis and William Cuevas. Kaulule would play Murphy who was trying to recover from a tough loss in the previous round to Jones. Tension was thick in the air, and there were spectators milling around the boards.

Things heated up in the final round as National Master Marvin Dandridge (standing left) looked on intently. Tom Murphy faced Kela Kaulule and Daniel Jones took on Tim Donnahue.

Tension was thick!

Both Jones and Kaulule were able to prevail in tough games to tie for first place with 3.5/4. There was a little matter of the tiebreaks, but both received trophies as joint champions. It was a great event, but the number of participants was below expectations. On the eve of the opening of the new club, there has to be sustained support to keep the activity going on the southside. The memorial tournament hopes to be bigger and better next year and will most likely be in the new location. Thanks to Daniel X Jones for hosting the event, Nathan Kelly and Edwin Walker for directing, and Roger Hickman who provided sponsorship.

Kela Kaulule and Daniel X Jones receive trophies from tournament director, Nathan Kelly (right). Sam Ford looks on.


2nd Emory Tate Memorial
Saturday, June 10, 2017
Lion’s Paw Chess and Martial Arts Academy
7928 S. King Dr., Chicago, Illinois
Final Results
No. Name Rating pts. 1 2 3 4
1 Kaulule,Kela 2240 3.5 W12 D2 W5 W4
2 Jones, Daniel 2074 3.5 W8 D1 W4 W3
3 Donnahue, Tim 1915 2.5 -H- W8 W10 L2
4 Murphy, Thomas D 2085 2.0 W7 W10 L2 L1
5 Ford, Sam 1929 2.0 L10 W11 L1 W8
6 Faulkner, Stephen 1775 2.0 -U- -U- W11 W10
7 David, George 1752 1.0 L4 L9 L8 W11
8 Loftis, Madison 1654 1.0 L2 L3 W7 L5
9 Kelly,Nathan 1367 1.0 -U- W7 -U- -U-
10 Cuevas, William 1235 1.0 W5 L4 L3 L6
11 Hocker, Finis 715 0.5 -H- L5 L6 L7
12 Winick, JD 1795 0.0 L1 -U- -U- -U-

Photos by Daaim Shabazz, The Chess Drum


GM Pontus Carlsson facing off against Kennedy Shane in Lusaka, Zambia.

During Pontus Carlsson’s trip to Zambia, he excitedly told me about an 8- year old player who had held a draw against him in a simul. He said, “The small boy that drew me in the simul is a coming star with the right training. I think his name was Kennedy Shane. He has the skills, the strength and the interest. He forced me to play another game today and it was another draw.”

It is no surprise that Zambians are some of the most talented players in Africa and have produced a cadre of decent masters including Amon Simutowe, the first GM in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kennedy’s breakthrough may be ahead as he attempts to gain international exposure at the Commonwealth Championship in Dehli, India.

Unfortunately, funding is scarce and there are efforts to raise funds for the budding star. SK Dhillon of Canada has begun a gofundme campaign to raise funding and currently donors have contributed one-third of the targeted US$3500. Mulenga Cliff Mulenga has made this appeal,

On behalf of Yofoso Chess Academy, I wish to sincerely thank everyone for the donations, as we have managed to exceed a tenth our our target. We also want everyone for helping spread the word out there. With this effort, exhited in the coming days, our young Chess player will hedge closer to participating in the 2017 Commonwealth Chess Championship! Together we can!!!

Kennedy is from the YOFOSO Academy in Lusaka, Zambia and the Under-9 African Schools Champion and Africa’s youngest titled chess player ever.


The Chicago Chess Blitzers community will host the 2nd Emory Tate Memorial on June 10th, 2017 at Daniel Jones’ Lion’s Paw Chess Academy on the city’s south side. Last year’s inaugural event was surprisingly won by Gwayne Lambert. Given the excitement generated from the Chicago Open, the club hopes to draw a larger crowd than last year’s event.

The chess community has gained momentum in the last year and will soon open a location on the south side. The upcoming tournament is expecting a larger turnout than last year’s. The event will include a book-signing for Triple Exclam, the biography of Emory Tate and a brief talk by it’s author, Daaim Shabazz. The festivities will start at 10am.

Emory Andrew Tate, Jr. is a hero in the annals of chess history. Daring, brash and unapologetically rebellious he gave a type of energy to chess that was rarely expressed by a master-level player. Tate, a quintessential chess performer, passed away last year October 17, 2015 and left behind a memorable legacy (death, obituary, funeral). We will celebrate him through his games and the edible memories he left behind.

2nd Annual Emory Tate Open
Hosted by Chicago Chess Blitzers

Lion’s Paw Karate & Chess Academy
7928 S King Dr., Chicago, Illinois 60619
Saturday, June 10th at 10:00AM CDT

To download PDF flyer click here!

YouTube (Nathan Kelly):

* * *

Nathan Kelly displaying Triple Exclam in Chicago McDonalds on 95th Halsted

Nathan Kelly displaying Triple Exclam
in Chicago McDonald’s on 95th Halsted.

IM Farai Mandizha (ZIM) vs. IM Emory Tate (USA)

Video by Daaim Shabazz (The Chess Drum)


A total of 984 players showed up at the 2017 Chicago Open causing the organizers to scramble to arrange proper space. Having been edged out by a wedding, the tournament converted a skittles room into a playing hall and certainly created initial chaos, but the tournament was able to adjust. There was still the problem of repairing sections because people did not report their results on time and/or withdrawing from the tournament.

Site of Chicago Open

The field is not a strong as in previous years, but has a cadre of young players from university and scholastic programs. The game has continued to get younger as the top sections are dominated by young players looking for scalps and norms. The question may be why did this tournament break records for attendance, but only attracted one player over 2600? Interesting question. It’s peak time for chess and players have options, but it is apparent that Chicago is an appealing place for tournament play. Perhaps, higher-rated players are tired of losing ELO points to the young scholastic sharks in the field… and there are many!

GM Samuel Sevian (left) kept the lead throughout and nudged GM Illia Nyzhnyk to win the 2017 edition. Photos by Daaim Shabazz

Samuel Sevian came into the competition seeded 4th behind Grandmasters Illia Nyzhnyk, Vladimir Belous and Andrey Stukopin. Cagey veterans such as the legendary James Tarjan, the ever-dangerous Alexander Shabalov entered the fray. New GMs such as Ruifeng Li and Akshat Chandra would make a run. IM Luke Harmon-Vellotti of Idaho, just graduated from UCLA, landed a position at Google, and at the age of 18, would see if he could test his mettle. FMs Josh Colas and Justus Williams of Webster University were looking for ELO points to try to confirm their IM titles. Everyone had their own motives.

FM Josh Colas (right) lost against GM Vladimir Georgiev,
but scored a respectable 5.5/9.

IM Luke Harmon-Velotti (center) scored his second GM norm
a few weeks after graduating from UCLA at age 18.

IM Awonder Liang scored his 3rd and final GM norm.

Sevian actually held the lead for the entire tournament with his torrid pace of 6.5/7. He beat a surging Harmon-Vellotti in round 7 to cement his lead over the field by one point. He closed out the tournament with draws with Nyzhnyk and Josh Friedel, who both scored 7/9 along with IM Michael Brown. On 6.5/9 were GMs Vladimir Belous, Andrey Stukopin, Eugene Perelshteyn and IMs Awonder Liang and Daniel Gurevich.

GM John Fedorowicz analyzed games of participants.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

GM norms were notched by Brown, Liang and Harmon-Velotti. This will be Liang’s final GM norm. For IM norms, Matthew Larson, Robert Perez, Sam Schmakel and Aaron Grabinsky all had strong performances with 5.5/9.

Daniel X Jones
(under-2100 co-champion)
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

In the under-2300 FM Andrew Hubbard won clear 1st with 6.5/7 followed by Zhaoqi Li with 6/7. Li, a recent immigrant, is only on record as playing in one U.S. tournament ten years ago with a provisional rating of 1798. This performance gives him a provisional rating of 2483 from 14 games! In the under-2100 section, both Roderick Scarlett of New York and Daniel X Jones from Chicago split $7500 1st place with 6/7. The under-1900 had a five-way tie for 1st with 6/9. All the class sections were won with 6.5/7… (under-1700) Christopher Autera-Polzin, (under-1500) Anatole Sullivan, (under-1300) Ivan Mitkov and (under-1000) Edward Li.

PGN Games:


On the plane to Africa reading “Active Pieces: Practical Advice from America’s Most Relentless Tournament Player” by IM Jay Bonin

While on my 15-hour flight for a four-country African tour (actually five), I read through Jay Bonin’s Active Pieces: Practical Advice from America’s Most Relentless Tournament Player, a book about his chess career. I don’t do many book reviews, but seeing that I just wrote Triple Exclam, I wanted to see how this book was put together. Bonin professes to be another product of the “Fischer Boom” and through his games tells quite a number of nostalgic stories about the New York chess scene. In my opinion, “The Big Apple” can still argue that it is the “Mecca of Chess” in America.

The book has a rather straightforward, but effective format and is very readable. One of the first things I enjoyed about the book was the variety of recognizable names of opponents. Given Bonin’s activity, it is not a surprise that he has played practically everyone who has ever played in New York since 1972. I easily recognized the household names, friends of mine, as well as some of the players long forgotten. It is rare to have a book with such diverse games. I was surprised to learn that he had played opponents hundreds of times! Of course, a player who average 400-500 games a year (and at his peak going up to 700-800) is going to have regular “customers.”

IM Jay Bonin
Photo by New York Masters

The book is laid out into nine chapters with the last being a compilation of tactical puzzles of various games. The good thing about this (and perhaps I could’ve used this idea) was to present the entire game in the solutions and giving a diagram at the critical position. It’s a way to see how the position unfolded and more importantly, presents more games.

I have never played Bonin, but remember meeting him briefly during my only trip to the Marshall Chess Club several years back. He is a rather unassuming and unpretentious man, but certainly, his passion for chess totally consumes him and spills over onto the board. In this book, he coins some words in his lingo. Who can forget that he prefers endgame maneuvers featuring his “Bonin Knights”?

The games in each chapter center around a theme. The first chapter “Keep It Complicated, Stupid” is advice to ensure that you give your opponent (especially lower-rated) enough opportunities to go wrong. Given Bonin’s proclivity to venture into unique positions he can steer, many of the games were lessons of positional chess.

“If a grandmaster offers you a draw,
whatever you do, don’t take it!”

~IM Jay Bonin

In Chapter 2, “Oh No – Not You Again,” Bonin goes into the psychology of playing the same player multiple times. He also shares his daily routine and how he prepares for tournaments. What approach should one take when facing the same opponent three or four times in a week, and sometimes with the same color? “Should I switch it up, or do I risk repeating the same opening variation?” he inquires. Nowadays, chess databases make this a constant issue. His three games (in two weeks) with Ted Belanoff are interesting.

Chapter 3 gives some interesting, yet controversial advice. “If a grandmaster offers you a draw, whatever you do, don’t take it!” Now Jay… is this so?? Ironically, he gives a loss to legendary Romanian Grandmaster Florin Gheorghiu as a case in point. The only issue I have is that we didn’t see the game. He also offers a couple following tips in the chapter: (1) offer a draw after making a capture and (2) never accept a draw offer from a GM. Interesting. I like the first piece of advice better. 🙂

Chapter 4 “That’s No Way to Treat a Lady” is an ode to the idea of when to trade queens. Bonin favors queenless games and knights over bishops.

Swapping the ladies early decreases the chances of falling into a mating attack; it can create psychological discomfort for my opponent who may not have been expecting a queenless middlegame; and it allows me to steer the game towards my favorite types of ending more quickly without too much risk.

So one may ask, how does the jibe with chapter 1?? Is there a way to strive to trade queens, yet keeping the game complicated? Indeed!

Unlike other game compilations, Bonin does not try to pretend that his games are slugfests filled with mating patterns and kamikaze attacks. His examples are simplistic and very instructive… including his treatment of the Smith-Morra Gambit against Michael Shapiro. There are even games with two familiar names to readers of The Chess Drum: Stephen Muhammad and Jamaica’s Russel Porter (see above). All provide some practical advice about the importance of understanding endgame structures; an idea lost on many class players and even Masters!

While exchanging queens may increase drawing chances, Chapter 6 “The Endgame” gives an idea of how to avoid lifeless symmetrical games. Here is a pearl of wisdom from Bonin:

My approach to Swiss System tournament is not glamourous: I do not seek to win any brilliancy prizes to spring theoretical novelties on my unsuspecting opponents – I leave this style of play to the chess youth who have infinitely more energy for study and memorization than I do. Instead, I focus on grinding out queenless middlegame and drawish endings for hours on end until my opponent cracks, one by one. Please note, I am not suggesting that I am particular talented in the endgame or that I am the second coming of Capablanca – I consider myself unworthy to even shine his shoes – it’s just that in my career as a chess player I have noticed that most tournament players are so incredibly inept at handling endgame positions that it is infinitely easier to rush towards an equal ending where they have plenty of subtle errors to discover on their own, than it is to try to out-calculate them in a complex middlegame where I may be unpleasantly surprised by a cunning opponent who is more familiar with a particular position than me.

Alas, he proved this in his win against a young Josh Colas on page 131. In Chapter 7, “Rope-A-Dope,” he advises that when playing young players, steer the game into endings since it is a phase where they are the weakest. Practically every young player in the New York area has to go through Bonin and certainly Colas, now an IM-elect, learned quite a bit from the wily veteran. It’s hard to fathom Bonin’s activity over the years, and I can only imagine the stories that he has to tell. While this is not a total compilation of his experiences, it provides insights to his passion.

“When facing young players, I always steer the contest into and ending because they usually struggle in that phase of the game.”
~IM Jay Bonin

Bonin beat some very notable names including Larry Christiansen, Gata Kamsky and legendary figures such as Sammy Reshevsky, Robert Byrne, Lev Alburt and Anthony Miles. With such a handsome collection of wins over GMs, the inevitable questions of norms will arise. Of course, it is the same question asked of Emory Tate who scored approximately 100 wins over GMs. Bonin did not mention the earning of any norms, but the fact is GM norms are extremely hard to earn on the American circuit.

In Chapter 8, “Beating Grandmasters,” here is an exciting encounter with a 16-year old Hikaru Nakamura. You’ll have to get the book to get the full annotations, but there are a few given.

I learned a great deal from Active Pieces. You don’t have to be a top-level GM to write a useful book. In fact, some of the most useful advice can come from the non-professional ranks. While Bonin doesn’t pretend to be Mark Dvoretsky, his advice is certainly practical and applicable to tournament play.

Finally, Bonin gives another treat with 100 tactical puzzles. These are not going to be the dashing sacrifices leading to mate in 10, but there are some “clean hits.” The sheer variety of games and opponents make this chapter quite a treasure! The book is not without a few errors here and there, but of course, it is hard to imagine a “perfect book” in chess. I learned this in writing Triple Exclam. The best editing occurs after you’ve already published the piece!

One issue is that Bonin could not display all games to completion which (I presume) was due to the games being in faster time control. It is a minor detail, but certainly would help to show how he closed the deal in some of the games. In the puzzle section, he could have added variations of the winning lines since there is no way to tell if the best defense was played.

All in all, it’s a good read and a tribute to a legendary figure of New York chess. Support a living legend!

Active Pieces: Practical Advice from America’s Most Relentless Tournament Player
Authors: IM Jay Bonin and Greg Kenner
Publisher: Mongoose Press (Boston, MA)
List Price: $24.95 (softback), $11.99 (Kindle)
Amazon Listing:


Cape Town is one of the places that one must see when visiting South Africa. It has a complicated history, but also has a charm that is comparable to that of any other well-developed city. During my trip I visited the Claremont Chess Club and met with Reuben Salimu and other club members. I will provide a more extensive report later.

Reuben Salimu and Daaim Shabazz

Reuben Salimu and Daaim Shabazz

Front Row : Basil Adams, Spiwe Baloyi, Seth-Riley Adams, Cosmas Mairosi Back Row: Dione Goredema, Reuben Salimu, Nkuna Mchuchisi, Charles De Villiers


Robin Samson has been running the DC Girls Chess Club for several years and has brought the joys of chess to girls and young women. On April 15th, she hosted the 2017 DC Girls Citywide Tournament with a 1st prize of $1,000. Amanda Loseff of the Alice Deal School won the prize and will represent Washington, DC in the All Girls Nationals in July.

Amanda Lossef accepts 1st prize check from Robin Samson

The striking image of this event was that the girls seemed to enjoy themselves and were not tethered to worrying about the clock… since they did not use them! About 50 players participated in the event. Ben’s Chili Bowl Foundation, Pepco, City First Bank, The Black Benefactors Giving Circle, The African American Womens Giving Circle, Think Ahead Chess, The DC Chess Center were sponsors of the event. There were a cadre of volunteers, parents & friends in DC area who helped make this event a success.

Chess Girls DC (Facebook):

Support DC Girls Chess!

Is this Irene Sukandar the top woman player from Indonesia??? 🙂

Not the 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5 variation? 🙂 Bernard Parham would love this!

All photos courtesy of DC Girls Chess


Club Capablanca will be one of the venues featured in the documentary. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

In January, Karney Hatch contacted The Chess Drum about a documentary he was filming on chess in Cuba. He had read the blog posts on the Drum here and here from the 2012 visit. The filmmaker mentioned that he was still casting for the project and had enlisted the help of Claudia Muñoz.

The Texas Tech freshman delighted in the film and told The Chess Drum, “The Texas Tech Chess Team will be competing in two different competitions in Cuba and I will get to be apart of it,” said Muñoz. A very popular chess player in social media circles, Muñoz will also have her coach Alexander Onischuk and teammates at Texas Tech to play a part in the feature. On the Indiegogo fundraising page, it reads:

The film will be a character-driven adventure story about a group of foreigners visiting Cuba for the first time, while at the same time diving into the back stories of the Cuban chess players as well. In the process, we’ll get a slice-of-life look at life in Cuba in 2017 through the eyes of both Cubans and outsiders.

Cuba is a chess “wonderland” with tremendous support by the government and society in general. The 1966 Olympiad was famously held at the Habana Libre Hotel. At that tournament, Bobby Fischer scored 15/17 and photos from that tournament are still displayed throughout the hotel. Chess reverberates throughout the entire society and can be found played on the streets, in back yards, on the front porches and in shops. Artistic chess motifs dot the country.

Hatch seeks to examine the vibrant chess culture of Cuba and the evolving relationship between the U.S. and Cuba since the thawing of relations under the Obama administration. He is currently conducting a fundraising campaign to reach an $11,000 mark. Below is a short video about the project.



18 APRIL 2017


David Thomas (Under-12 Champion)

Kingston, Jamaica – 18 April 2017: After seven rounds of play in the 2017 CARIFTA Chess Championships, Jamaica regained the team title which they last won in 2013, when the event was first staged in Jamaica.

In the Under 12 (Absolute) Category, the number one seed Jamaica’s Candidate Master (CM) David Thomas took the Under 12 title, after defeating fellow Jamaican Coy Wilson in the final round to top the standings with 6.5 points from seven games.

CM Leigh Sandiford of Barbados got past Jamaica’s Darren McKennis to take second place in the Under 12 Category on tiebreak over Jamaica’s Nathan Walsh, as both players ended on 6 points from their seven games. Walsh secured his 6 points with a final round win over compatriot Mikhail Bond.

Johmoi Blake

Johmoi Blake (Under-12 Girls Champion)

In the Under 12 Girls Category, Jamaica’s Johmoi Blake was declared the champion on tiebreak over Vanessa Greenidge of Barbados, after both players ended tied on 6 points. Third place went to Trinidad and Tobago’s Zara La Fleur who ended on 5.5 points.

Jamaica’s Joshua Christie had to settle for silver in the Under 16 (Absolute) Category after losing to the defending champion, Alan-Safar Ramoutar of Trinidad and Tobago in round 6. At the end of round 7, both players were tied on 6 points, however Ramoutar was declared the Champion on tiebreak, having defeated Christie in their head-to-head battle. Third place was copped by Jamaica’s Jhustice-Dimonte McDonald who secured 5.5 points from his seven games.

Alan-Safar Ramoutar

Alan-Safar Ramoutar, Trinidad & Tobago
(Under-16 Absolute Champion)

Adani Clarke

Adani Clarke, Jamaica
(Under-16 Absolute Champion)

In the Under 16 Girls Category, Jamaica’s Woman Candidate Master (WCM) Adani Clarke reigned supreme after defeating Pritika Kandamaran of Barbados to end alone atop the standings with 6 points. Despite suffering two defeats on day 3 of the Championships, top seed Taqesyah Marcos of Curacao rallied on the final day to secure two wins and second place behind Clarke. Third place was shared by Jamaicans Ashanti Blackwood and Aulani Kidd, who each ended on 4.5 points.

Sheanel Gardener

Sheanel Gardener, Jamaica
(Under-20 Girls Champion)

In the Under 20 Girls Category, top seed Sheanel Gardener of Jamaica recovered from a poor start to take the overall title with 5.5 points, after securing back-to-back victories against Tian Henry and Deidre-Ann Johnson in her two final games. Second place went to another Jamaican Akelia Donaldson on tiebreak over Nickaylah Curwin and Gabriela Cumberbatch of Barbados, after the three players ended tied on 4.5 points each.

Orlando Husbands, Barbados
(Under-20 Champion)

Despite good showings from Jamaica’s top Under 20 players, the coveted Under 20 (Absolute) Category was won for the third year in a row by Barbadian FIDE Master Orlando Husbands, who ended on 6.5 points from 7 games. Second place went to the number 2 seed Barbadian FIDE Master Yu Tien Poon who was also unbeaten with 6 points. Third place was shared by Jamaica’s Malik Curriah and Aruba’s Jomar Benschop after each player ended on 5 points.

After the overall points were tallied, Jamaica was declared the Champions at the awards ceremony which followed the final round. Second place went to Barbados and third was Trinidad and Tobago.

Ian Wilkinson accepts team trophy for Jamaican team!

Ian Wilkinson accepts team trophy for Jamaican team!

The next CARIFTA Chess Championships are scheduled to take place next year in Suriname.

The tournament was sponsored by the Knutsford Court Hotel, the Sports Development Foundation, the Kasparov Chess Foundation, the Magnificent Chess Foundation, JAMSPORTS and the Ministry of Tourism, Burger King, Craft Wicker and Things, the RJR Group and WATA.

~Ian Wilkinson, President Jamaica Chess Federation


Triple Exclam was announced to the public March 11th and the reception has been very enthusiastic. The biography of International Master Emory Tate has won some plaudits around the country and slowly making its way around the world. It has been introduced at book parties and will be featured in upcoming book signings.

The book made an appearance at the 2017 U.S. Chess Championships in St. Louis and was featured on the broadcast during the 11th round of the tournament. GM Maurice Ashley arranged the interview of author Daaim Shabazz and discussed aspects of the book.

Interview at 2017 U.S. Championship

Triple Exclam received valuable exposure and increased its profile. The book was also on display at the site of the championship where it was said a few of the participants had given it some praise. Thus far sales have been brisk and the book will make a summer tour at a few major tournaments including the Chicago Open and the World Open. Make arrangements to purchase this tribute of one of the most colorful personalities chess has ever seen!

Retail Price: $40.00
(full color, hard back)


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


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