FM Jorge Oquendo

FM Jorge Oquendo came into the 2018 Florida State Championship as the defending champion. The Cuban national lives in the Jacksonville and enjoyed “home-court advantage.” It would come into play in a field headed by GM Benjamin Finegold who drive in from Atlanta, Georgia. There were 131 players who trekked to North Florida for the tournament and the Marriott was the venue for the second year in a row.

Oquendo won his first two games against Experts Alex Sinnott and Ravindra Wijesundera before facing Arslan Otchiyev, who traveled all the way from West Haven, Connecticut. In fact Otchiyev is a professional mixed martial arts fighter from Turkmenistan. Here he is in action.

Video by WarriorNationXFA

Otchiyev would win that fight but lose his battle with Oquendo in the third round. It would be his only loss, but he could not rebound fast enough to catch Oquendo. In the 4th round Finegold and Oquendo drew quickly to leave the Cuban in the lead going into the last day. Meanwhile Finegold was held by Tampa native FM Corey Acor and couldn’t seem to gain momentum. He ended with four consecutive draws.

Perhaps a great story brewing was the performance of 14-year old Benjamin Chen who was undefeated after four rounds. After drawing with Bryan Tillis, he scored wins over Daaim Shabazz and Timur Annayev. He then drew with Troy Daly to sit 1/2-point behind the leader. His pending match with Oquendo would be a big challenge.

Tournament Organizer Kevin Pryor makes announcements to start the last day. Tournament Director Steve Lampkin is on the left.

There was some tension in the air as Jorge Oquendo was not at his board at the start of the 5th round. Ben Chen waited patiently while Ben Finegold faced MMA fighter Arslan Otchiyev.

Still waiting.

The game is on! A crowd gathers around the top board.

Oquendo finally showed up, and the game quickly drew a crowd. Ben, who is in the top 100 in his age category, fought valiantly but lost a long struggle in a rook ending. The Finegold-Otchiyev battle was drawn while Acor beat 10-year old Bach Ngo (2012). Acor would get a shot at Oquendo to earn a share of 1st place.

Acor took down the promising Bach Ngo

Raghav Venkat

In the final round it would be Oquendo (4.5) to face Acor (3.5) with Otchiyev (3.5) being paired with Kai Tabor (3.0). In fact, there were several players sitting on three points. Pre-tournament favorite Finegold (3.0) was in an improbable position of not competing for a tournament win and was paired with upstart Bach Ngo (3.0).

Ngo, a promising scholastic player, was having a good tournament despite losing the previous round to Acor. Bryan Tillis had already ended on 4.5/6 with byes in the last two rounds. However, he could theoretically tie for 1st if Acor toppled the defending champion.

In the end it was Oquendo ending with 5.5 points with a win over Acor and Oticheya winning against Tabor. Ngo ended a strong tournament by drawing Finegold and ending on +1 score and earning 63 rating points. Oquendo successfully defends his title, but will have his hands full in a much stronger field when the tournament moves to south Florida.

2018 Florida State Championship
Jacksonville, Florida

Final Results (six rounds)

Open: FM Jorge Oquendo, 5.5; Arslan Otchiyev, 4.5; Bryan Tillis, 4.5
U/2000 Winner: Marvin Gao, 5.5
U/1800 Winner: Cannon Farragut, 5.0
U/1600 Winner: James Zhang, 4.5
U/1400 Winner: Nicholas Di Mille, 5.5
U/1200 Winner: Carson Koppe, 5.5
Mixed Doubles: Sisira Yerrayennu and Advait Nair

Quick Championship: FM Corey Acor
Blitz Championship: NM Bryan Tillis


There were many interesting “faces in the crowd” at the state championship. Florida has made progress in producing a number of talented scholastic players. Several played in the Open section while others performed well in other sections.

Selected Photos from 2018 Florida State Championship

Intensely waiting!

Mach Deng playing bravely with …g5.

Raghav Venkat vs. Dylan Sunjic

Zoe Zelner

Vincent Stone trotting out his pet Dragon

Interesting position?

Youth vs. Veterans

Hakim Aquil of Academy Prep (Tampa)

William Bowman, outgoing President of Florida Chess Association,
taking on Grayson Cooke

Michael Young giving a pep talk his team captain Qinniun Varmah,
Academy Prep Chess Team

Academy Prep Center of Tampa

Left to Right (front row): Ralph Augustine, Edwin Mendoza (back row) Dameer Gay, Tracy Calloway, Bryan Romero, Coach Michael Young, Hakim Aquil, Qinnion Varmah, and Javaris Williams

Florida Chess Association

On Sunday morning, the Florida Chess Association Board of Directors met and handled the chess business of state. The new membership management system called WildApricot has been adopted to make the process of Florida players interacting with the FCA more efficient. The implementation of the system has helped produce an increase in membership and a more accurate reporting mechanism. The FCA is in a very stable financial state.

The Board has vowed to support scholastic and collegiate chess in Florida and also continue to lend sponsorship to the Pro Chess League Florida team. There was one bid for the 2019 Florida State Championship submitted by Bryan Tillis representing Palm Beach Chess and Boca Chess. The venue will be for the Palm Beach Gardens. The election certified the new Board of Directors for 2018-2019.

2018-2019 Board of Directors

President: Kevin Pryor
Vice President: Steve Lampkin
Secretary: Bryan Tillis
Treasurer: Scott Cavan
Northeast VP: OPEN
Northwest VP: Daaim Shabazz
Southern VP: Jon Haskel
Central VP: Paul Leggett
Western VP: Sam Sokavari
At Large: Harvey Lerman
At Large: William Bowman
At Large: Steve Cernobyl
At Large: Miguel Arrarat

L-R (clockwise): Daaim Shabazz (NW Vice President), Kevin Pryor (President), William Bowman (Past President/At-Large), Bryan Tillis (Secretary), Steve Lampkin (NE Vice President), Scott Cavan (Treasurer), Miguel Arrarat (At-Large)


(January 18, 1952 – August 9, 2018)

Funeral Information
Unity Funeral Home
Harlem, New York, USA
126th Street and 8th Avenue
Thursday, September 6, 2018
Viewing: 5pm to 6pm (service afterwards)

Recently, it was announced on Facebook Chess Connections that Peter Roberts had passed away. After friends noticed he was not in contact for days, they stopped by his home where they found him unresponsive. He was 66 years old.

Peter had competed in the 2018 World Open in Philadelphia about one month before his death thus ending a chess career spanning more than three decades. This year, there have been a number of losses to the chess community. Adia Onyango, who had a very high regard for Peter, made the announcement to the chess community:

It is with a heavy heart that I announce to the chess community that we have lost another great friend, teacher, mentor and player in the chess community. Peter Roberts was a professor at BMCC, however, while he was not molding the next generation in the classroom he was sharing his teaching skills with the chess community, running groups for anyone who wanted to come out on the weekends. Peter was a Nationally Ranked Expert and was active in various chess leagues in NYC, both as a captain (in the past) and as a player and teammate on the Kingsman team. I am so sad to find out of his passing and was told he passed last week. Sorry if you are just finding out as well. I will repost funeral information when I receive it. Sadly this is the second Kingsmen player that we have lost within a month and a half (RIP Bob Ali).


Peter Roberts at the 2015 World Open in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Photo by Adia Onyango


Adia Onyango (left) shown here next to Peter Roberts at 2018 World Open.
He scored 5.5/9 in the under-2200 section.
It would be his last tournament.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Many readers will not have encountered Peter, but sometimes it is the unheralded player who help us to see the joy in chess. He was interested in appreciating the inherent beauty of chess and was enthusiastic in spreading his passion. I met Peter Roberts at the 2002 World Open Chess tournament. He introduced himself to me and told me how much he enjoyed The Chess Drum. It was very touching for me.

He stood as one of the biggest supporters of the site and always gave an encouraging comment when I sometimes imagined that running the site was a thankless job despite the investment of time and resources. His support helped me to forge ahead. He was a regular contributor to The Chess Drum and always left insightful comments on several posts including one 10 days after Barack Obama was elected to Presidency.

As much as Peter was good-natured and generally upbeat, he never hesitated to weigh in on controversy. In 2003, he rebutted Nigel Short’s article which appeared to make light of slavery. The British Grandmaster later apologized profusely. In 2007, he was staunch in his defense of The Chess Drum against a detractor who deemed the site “racist.” (link)

Bernard Parham II (left) with Peter Roberts at 2002 World Open.

Bernard Parham II (left) chatting with Peter Roberts at 2002 World Open.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Peter saw the good in things and appreciated the efforts of those who were supporting the chess cause. He mingled easily and often introduced himself. Throughout the years, I enjoyed my interactions and conversations with him. He was always gracious and he showed tremendous passion for chess.

We both shared a common profession of being in higher education and while we never discussed academia, I gathered that he would be an influential figure at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC). His capacity at the institution was “Nontraditional Career Academic Advisor” which means that he was charged with guiding people toward a path of prosperity.

It makes sense that he advocated the learning of chess as a path because according to him it “helps students take command of the thinking process, it teaches them how to take victory and defeat in life as well assisting them in taking responsibility for their lives and planning their future.” (link)

Eric Kennedy of New York recalled a very interesting story about Peter’s role in turning BMCC into a collegiate powerhouse.

…my fondest memories of Pete was the times he would conduct study sessions at Blimpies, the legendary chess battles with Tim Harris (RIP) the many chess players he helped get into BMCC who otherwise could of went in a different path in their lives, the several people he helped get employed at BMCC. As a matter of fact, he was a HUGE reason BMCC was a powerhouse chess program in the early to mid 90s as they won three straight Pan Am championships against the top colleges in the country. I can recall the time GM Ashley played at BMCC (in those days he was an IM), Pete would gather as many of us as he could whether we were playing blitz at City Hall Park, or playing at Blimpies to visit BMCC to show support. That’s just the kind of man Peter Roberts was. I will never forget the blitz battles I had with him at City Hall Park. He was a very good blitz player even though he rarely played blitz. I am truly going to miss him because he was a beautiful human being.

During the 2015 World Open in Arlington, Virginia, my friend Donna came to visit me at the tournament. She had driven from New York to attend a friend’s wedding in Virginia. After chatting for a bit, I gave her a tour of the skittles room and the playing hall. I couldn’t quite convince her of the beautiful nature of chess, but she seemed to appreciate the environment.

Just before the round was to begin, we walked into the tournament hall and saw Peter who was preparing for his game. I introduced him to Donna who was pleasantly surprised at his Harlem shirt. Donna was a resident in Harlem at the time and needless to say, they had a warm exchange. Peter represented chess players very well and Donna seemed impressed with his genuine nature.

Donna knew exactly which piece to use!

The Black Queen wins again!

Peter beams brightly with Dr. Donna Cill
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

Last year at the World Open, Peter showed me his tattered copy of Triple Exclam that he ordered through the mail. He asked me to sign it. It had notes in the margins and was well-worn. He told me he had been through the Emory Tate biography and was going through it again, but needed to purchase another copy. He then begin looking through the book as if it were the first time.

It goes without saying that one cannot soon forget his smile and his expressive eyes. While the New York chess community will be able to share their own memories, I will never forget him supporting me in providing a “Voice of the Voiceless,” or a platform to express and display their chess talents. Peter represented the good of the chess community and while he is no longer physically with us, we can learn a lot from his example.

I will certainly miss him.

Thank you sir!



August 28, 2018

Zachary Ramsay, M.R. Games
Telephone 2948820

New Speed Chess Tournament an Exciting Success

Jamaica Jamaica Jamaica

Chess Masters Shreyas Smith and Malaku Lorne dominated the M.R. Games Chess Open that took place on August 25-26 at the University of the West Indies. The tournament was the first event for the new entertainment business and was a resounding success.


The rapid section on August 25 saw sixty-eight players battling over five rounds of games with each player having 20 minutes and 5 second increments each to finish. Smith, who was fresh off his victory at the Masters Knockout Invitational, had a remarkable start defeating National Women’s Champion Krishna Gray, Nathan Hinds, and National Master Andrew Mellace. However he suffered a demoralizing loss to FIDE Master (FM) Marcus Joseph of Trinidad and Tobago in the 4th round.


Tournament organizer Zachary Ramsay explaining a rule to Najeh Walsh


Cameron Coe won best under-10 in the rapid section

Smith made a simple tactical error to lose his bishop after a few moves in a sharp opening game. He was still able to recover and defeat FM Joshua Christie in the fifth round. There was a five way tie for 1st place with 4 points, but Smith successfully captured the title on tiebreaks. Former several time national champion FM Warren Elliott placed second, followed by Malik Curriah, FM Malaku Lorne, and Akeem Browm, all finishing on 4 points. Woman Candidate Master Margoe Williams was the best female player.

In the under-16 section Nicholas Lyn took first with 4.5 points, followed by Adani Clarke, Raehana Brown, and Justin Watts in second who all finished on 3.5 points. Daren McKennis captured the under 12 section, when he equaled Jaden Shaw’s 4.5 points but was better on tie breaks.


Adrian Palmer vs. FM Malaku Lorne


Andrew Mellace vs. FM Warren Elliott


Aulani Kidd of Campion College who played in the Under 16 Blitz

The blitz division, which took place on August 26, allotted 4 minutes with 2 second increments to each player to complete the game. FIDE Master Malaku Lorne showcased a blistering start with a perfect 8 points from 8 games. However he was set back and deteated by Andrew Mellace in an exciting 9th round clash.

FM Joshua Christie of St Jago High defeated Raheem Glaves in the 9th round to share first place. However Lorne took the title on tiebreaks, having beaten Christie in their head to head third round clash. Daren McKennis of Campion College and Christopher Lyn of Excelsior High were victorious in the Under 12 and Under 16 sections respectively.


IM Shane Matthews giving 20-board simultaneous exhibition
for a charity fundraiser.


Prize Winners of the Blitz tournament
Photos courtesy of MR Games (Zachary Ramsay)

International Master (elect) and seven time national champion Shane Matthews performed an intense and remarkable timed simultaneous exhibition with 20 junior players. This involved playing all the players at the same time with limited time for him to finish each game. That learning experience for the junior players was also a fundraiser for charity. Part proceeds from the event are to be donated to the National Children’s Home. The event was sponsored by PROVEN Wealth, Tastee Limited, The Gleaner, Marc Francis Ramsay & Company and Guardian Life Limited.

Video by MR Games

# # #


Open Section

1st CM Shreyas Smith
2nd FM Warren Elliott
3rd NM Malik Curriah
4th FM Malaku Lorne
5th NM Akeem Brown

Best female WCM Margoe Williams

Rating Between 1801 and 2000:
1st NM Malik Curriah
2nd NM Akeem Brown
3rd Nathan Hinds

Rating Between 0 and 1800

1st WCM Margoe Williams
2nd Christopher Lyn
3rd Jordan Valence

Under 16 Section

1st Nicholos Lyn
2nd WCM Adani Clarke
3rd Raehanna Brown
4th Justin Watts
5th Nathan Walsh

Age Group Under 14

1st Nicholos Lyn
2nd Raehanna Brown
3rd Justin Watts

Best Female Under 16 WCM Adani Clarke and Raehanna Brown

Under 12 Section Final

1st Darren Mckennis
2nd Jaden Shaw
3rd John Stephenson
4th Amy Stephenson
5th CM Anthony Lyn

Age Group Under 10

1st Cameron Coe
2nd Malachi Norgaard
3rd Ksenia Spaulding

Best Female Under 12 Amy Stephenson


Open Section:

1st FM Malaku Lorne
2nd FM Joshua Christie
3rd FM Marcus Joseph
4th NM Andrew Mellace
5th Adrian Palmer

Best Female WCM Margoe Williams

Under 16 Section Final

1st Christopher Lyn
2nd Nicholas Lyn
3rd Raehanna Brown
4th Justin Watts
5th Antonic Chung

Best Female Under 16 Raehanna Brown

Under 12 Section Final

1st Darren Mckennis
2nd Jaden Shaw
3rd Armani Dyer
4th CM Anthony Lyn
5th Zane Chung

Best Female Under 12 Ksenia Spaulding

# # #


Graphics courtesy of Spectrum Studios

In a first result of its kind, the 2018 Sinquefield Cup ends in a tie… a three-way tie at that. Fabiano Caruana had led the tournament for several rounds, but was caught at the finish line by Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen who both won their games in thrilling fashion. All three ended with 5½/9.

The tournament had a bunch of twists and turns and with the “Confession Booth” there were some light moments. In the 7th round, Carlsen and Caruana battled and the American seemed to be holding, but the champion was confident that he broke the resistance. He went to the “confession booth” and made this brilliant statement!

Kobe Bryant silenced quite a few crowds, but perhaps Carlsen imitation was a bit presumptuous.

Gesturing of the “silencer” is a very common gesture by NBA players when they hit a winning shot to silence a home crowd. Kobe Bryant is perhaps the most famous NBA practitioner. It is well-known that Carlsen is a big NBA fan and has been seen courtside at games. Unfortunately, for Carlsen, Caruana held the position. In the post-game interview, he laughed and admitted that the optimism had backfired.

Many of the observers were making a big deal about the importance of this matchup given that it is the last game they will play before their November match. In the pre-tournament press conference, there was a bit of banter between Carlsen and Caruana, but mostly there has not been much media buzz about the match which is only two months away. This was a good start to the pre-match buildup.

However, Grischuk had an interesting take on Carlsen’s gesture!

Carlsen flustered after having missed a big opportunity to score the win.
Photo by Lennart Ootes

Fast forward…

The 8th round had five draws so the standings held. Even Carlsen’s trebled pawns on the e-file against Shahkriyar Mamedyarov couldn’t produce any magical outcomes. Going into the last round, Caruana was holding on to his lead with Carlsen, Aronian, Grischuk and Mamedyarov all 1/2-point behind. Going into the last round, these were the pairings.

Graphics courtesy of Spectrum Studios

Levon Aronian won his final game in style with a 18.Rxf7! rook sacrifice with Alexander Grischuk in zeitnot. In the video broadcast, the Russian jostled in his chair looking for a response with his clock ticking down. Under the mounting pressure, he collapsed. Further analysis showed that he could’ve held the position, but even with time on the clock it would have been a difficult task.

In the Carlsen game against nemesis Hikaru Nakamura, the two battled into the 11th hour as the Norwegian was still fighting for 1st place. Nakamura had already cemented his Grand Tour victory, but wanted to end on a solid note. This battle would go on 97 moves.

Photo by Lennart Ootes

A number of viewers pointed out that this classic 4 vs. 3 position had been played several times including in Grzegorz GajewskiMaxime Vachier-Lagrave. Incidentally, Gajewski was in St. Louis as Viswanathan Anand’s second. It also appeared in Eltaj SafarliIlija Golichenko. It is one of those positions found in problem books, but of course each scenario is different.

Neither MVL, nor Golichenko could hold. The same fate fell onto Nakamura.

Nakamura extends his hand in resignation to Carlsen.
Tough loss in a salvagable position.
Photo by Lennart Ootes

With wins by Carlsen and Aronian, there emerged a three-way tie for first. While Caruana had drawn quickly and was not on site, the two other co-leaders had a conference with the Chris Bird and the three players agreed that instead of the playoff, they would simply share the title.

In fact Caruana, had to play a playoff against Wesley So to see who would qualify in the Grand Chess Tour standings to complete in the London Classic final. It was unlikely that Caruana would have wanted to play two playoffs in a day. So it was…

Graphics courtesy of Spectrum Studios

There were some interesting points in the tournament such as Carlsen’s Benko Gambit with …Bf5, Grischuk’s 1.f4, Aronian’s Rxf7, but there was one move that produced howls and whistles. Perhaps if the sound of gold coins could be made, we would have gotten a good shower. The game… the second playoff game of Caruana-So.

GCT Qualifier for London Classic Final

The next day Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So were poised to play two rapid games. The first two games would be 25 minutes with a 10 second delay. If tied the games would go to 5 minutes and 3 second delay for three iterations until a winner was determined. There has been a very interesting discussion on the delay vs. increment. The delay is less common, but it was noted that the Grandmasters had figured out how to milk the delay all the way down to the 9th second to avoid losing time.

Photo by Mike Klein/

The first game was relatively quiet Catalan and a rather peaceful handshake occurred after 33 moves. The second rapid game was also a Catalan and started out in similar fashion but quickly veered into murky waters after 15…f5?! This was criticized as “weakening” and soon white had a humongous space advantage.

With black trying to clamp down the dark squares, Maurice Ashley mentioned that the engine was suggesting a very peculiar move. He also reflected on going over games and seeing moves that seemed antithetical only to find (upon further) examination the deadly intent. So what was the move that created a shower of golden coins?

Venkat Saravanan (@reachvsara) covering live for ChessBase also weighed in…

The thematic 26.Ra2!! Gold coins indeed and Caruana went on to win with class. He was very humble in his remarks and didn’t seem to realize the excitement he caused. So the championship challenger will have an extended stay in London after his match!

Graphics courtesy of Spectrum Studios

Video by CCSCSL


In the last month until the Chess Olympiad begins in Batumi, Georgia, three candidates will be jockeying to lead the Africa Chess Confederation (ACC). Lewis Ncube of Zambia is the incumbent President facing stiff competition by credible opponents Dr. Essoh Essis of the Ivory Coast and Tshepo Sitale of Botswana. All three faced off in a debate hosted by Africa Chess Media last month.

Ncube touts over 40 years of involvement in chess and has spent the last 20 years in chess administration, first as President of Zambian Chess Federation and then for two terms as FIDE Vice President. Last week, The Chess Drum received his platform and it details his background, his ticket, and his platform. The 60-year old engineer has assembled a team that seeks “empowerment” and “sustainability” for African federations. His ticket includes some well-known figures as well as some new-comers.

The term EMPOWERMENT refers to “measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority. SUSTAINABILITY programmes will be to assist each national federation to progress their chosen projects from the conceptual stage to realization without hampering the continuing chess development process and competitive events within the federation.”

It is always upon the incumbent to list the accomplishments of the previous term and how those will translate into sustained growth. Four years ago, Ncube proposed an African Grand Prix to increase the competitive spirit of the players. While there was no mention of the progress of realizing an African Grand Prix, there was mention of partnerships with the ROEL Group, Global Commerce Forum, PUN Netherlands, ROMIE Investments Company and SPAR.

In an interview with The Chess Drum in 2014 Chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway, Ncube made similar pronouncements. 23:03 minutes In a 2015 interview with Nigeria’s Akinyele Akinseye, Ncube spoke at length about Chess-in-Schools, a familiar theme in campaigns. The amount of African members in FIDE has increased to 47 and a number of events (including the recent African Youth Championship in Kisumu, Kenya) were successfully hosted.

Despite these highlights, Ncube has had some serious challenges. At the FIDE Presidential Board meeting in April (Minsk, Belarus), he faced accusations about mishandling US$30,000 loan to establish an ACC headquarters in South Africa.

While he has moved forward to address these issues head-on, they still serve as obstacles to his bid for re-election. Ncube denied allegations that his executive committee misappropriated funds for ACC and has made public statements to that effect.

“If there are certain lapses in terms of documentation that is fine, but I am 100 per cent sure that there were no abuse of funds by anyone in the executive. If they want, they can get independent auditors to come and get the accounts, and check the financial statement. Absolutely, there is no abuse of funds,” he said.(link)

As far as his endorsements, Ncube was a staunch supporter of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov during his tenure, but now publicly supports Arkady Dvorkovich. The two discussed empowerment models for African chess federations and Mr. Dvorkovich confirmed his full support for this vision.

On Africa, Mr. Dvorkovich wholeheartedly agreed with the business linked approach to towards the empowerment and self-sustainability of African chess as announced during the deliberations of the 2018 Extraordinary Congress of the African Chess Confederation held in Sousse, Tunisia on January 21, 2018.

Lewis Ncube with Arkady Dvorkovich in Kisumu, Kenya
during 2018 African Youth Championship
Photo by Chess Kenya Federation

The FIDE battle will be hot and contentious at the presidential level with candidates (FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos and GM Nigel Short) throwing constant barbs at each other. To complicate matters, the ACC battle has seemed to draw associations with the candidates. It will be important that Africa can remain independent as a bloc and that there are no “package deals.”

The election tore the continent apart in 2014 as Africa could not even rally unified support to get South Africa the Olympiad bid for 2018. Ncube admitted that the election was the “most divisive” he had ever seen and that it would be the ACC’s challenge to “heal the rifts.” He then offered that, “some of the rifts are still there and will take time to heal.” We will certainly see if Africa will come out more united regardless of who wins.

Lewis Ncube with Malawi’s Kezzie Msukwa,
a member of the “Empowerment and Sustainability” ticket

See Campaign Manifesto!

Please post your questions & comments below!


Tshepo Sitale
Photo by Botswana Chess Federation

Botswana Botswana Botswana

Tshepo Sitale of Botswana has traveled the continent touting his platform to lead African Chess Confederation (ACC) for next four years. He announced his candidacy earlier in the year and participated in the ACC debate last month. His two competitors incumbent Lewis Ncube and Dr. Essoh Essis. All have selected Pan-African All-Star teams representing a mixture of skill sets.

Sitale announced his candidacy in the spring. When clarifying his intentions to be the voice of Africa, Sitale stated in the debate that ACC will be an independent entity. It is certainly time for Africa to assert its position as a force within FIDE apart from their voting power.

*Politically* by virtue of being Confederation (ACC) we should understand that we are independent. Hence as an organization we elect our own Board. We are at par with other Continental bodies and how we allow FIDE to treat us depends on how we project ourselves.

Very strong words indeed.

Sitale, 37, led the Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) during a successful era and was credited with aggressive branding of the federation. This included hosting a sitting World Champion (Viswanathan Anand), expanding chess education and developing the website and logo. In 2012, he was honored as the “Sports Administrator of the Year” at the 33rd Botswanan National Sports Council Awards. Most importantly, his family has been supportive of his chess pursuits and his wife Shandya Sitale has helped him to partner with WIM Boikhutso Mudongo in running “Chess Kids Academy” in Gaborone, Botswana.

Tshepo Sitale receiving generous sponsorship from Metropolitan Bank.
PHoto by Keenese Katisenge (BCF PR-Director)

According to his dossier,

“Sitale is Town Planner by profession and a sports administrator. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Town & Regional Planning and Masters in Development Studies. Tshepo is a Prince2® Project Management Practitioner and hold various Sports management certificates. He is currently Deputy President of Botswana National Olympic Committee and was previously President of Botswana Chess Federation (2008-2013). In FIDE he is part of the Executive Board and serves a member of the Verification Commission & Chess in Schools Commission.”

Recently, The Chess Drum was able to pose some questions to Sitale in his bid for ACC Presidency. He was kind enough to submit to these questions. He mentioned that he had been in Greece to meet with the FIDE Verification Commission and finally was able to present these answers. Enjoy.

Interview with Tshepo Sitale (BSc, MA)
Past President, Botswana Chess Federation
Candidate for President of African Chess Confederation (ACC)

Tshepo Sitale receiving World Champion Viswanathan Anand in Gaborone, Botswana. Photo by Booster Galesekegwe

Daaim Shabazz (DS): What do you see as the three most vexing problems with chess development in Africa?

Tshepo Sitale (TS): Africa is challenged because of we have various regions which have unique challenges and the most prevalent is the socioeconomic state of most countries, which in turn affect chess and sport in general. Most leaders in Africa are still inclined to football and more resources are pumped in football to the detriment of other sports or games such as chess. But I see an opportunity for Chess if marketed right, more so that the majority of the population in Africa is youth and there is need to shift the mindset of kids and the best tool is chess.

DS: There has been a constant problem of keeping African membership dues current. What is the current number of African nations holding FIDE membership and how do we fix the constant problems with arrears? (FIDE list)

TS: The issue is not really about the dues to FIDE; the challenge is that some Federations are not active and hence can’t hold events and generate funds. How? FIDE offers rebates to all Federations in level 3-5, and this is are levels where most Federations in Africa are found. Which means if they host rated events, FIDE has to refund them all the FIDE fees collected in those events and that could be used for administration and even to pay FIDE fees. NOT only that! Most federations in Africa, at least I can safely say Anglophone countries, are supported by the Sports Commissions with a small budget which can cover administration. The Francophone countries also have their associations that assist them. We need to master how to do more with less!

DS: You have served in various capacities including President of the Botswana Chess Federation. What have been some memorable highlights of your career?

TS: My all time high, was hosting the then World Champion Vishy Anand in 2009. I had just come on board and the then NIIT (now Botho College) came on board to bring Vishy in Botswana (link).

Anand with Botswana chess community and a NIIT representative. Photo by Booster Galesekegwe.

Anand with Botswana chess community and a NIIT representative.
Photo by Booster Galesekegwe

DS: What is the state of FIDE and what does the organization need to move forward?

TS: FIDE is an evolving Federation and like other sport, it is challenged with the need to change and become relevant in today’s world. The game is now getting popular beyond former Soviet Union regions and we see the boom in India and in Baltic areas such as Norway. Furthermore, the game is now easily available online and there is need to capitalize on this platform considering that e-sport is the next big thing.

DS: Does FIDE need a totally new vision?

TS: I don’t think FIDE needs an overhaul, I am a believer in continuous improvement and I will be happy to see new ideas being brought on what already the organization has kept over time, such as inclusiveness and where the General Assembly is allowed to vote for host cities of major competitions and all votes are very much equal whether big or small. This is something that other sport organizations have lost, you have Boards and certain Delegates empowered to take decisions for the rest of the membership.

DS: There are now three candidates for the office… Arkady Dvorkovich, Georgios Makropoulos and Nigel Short. What has been your interaction with each candidate?

TS: Interestingly, so far only Makropoulos has had time to call me and we actually had a meeting in Zambia where we agreed and disagreed in some issues surrounding Africa Chess. The other two candidates, I only read about their programs and plans online.

“The 2014 situation was sad! I hope as Africa we will never go back to that era where there were two General Assembly meetings for Africa (one supporting Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and the other Garry Kasparov). I could say going into this election though that there are three camps, but we will come out of this election united. Why? Because we have started dialogue for the need to develop and grow chess in Africa irrespective of which side one is on politically.”

~Tshepo Sitale on prospects for 2018 FIDE election

DS: In the WhatsApp debate, there was a point made by Dr. Essoh Essis that you were urged to stand for ACC President by Makropoulos. Can you clarify your position?

TS: I found this to be a bit of political mischievousness, as Makro does not vote in Africa nor is he a delegate in Africa. I received nominations from over 10 Federations in Africa when the names for Candidates were called for, these were the people who have shown confidence in me. These nominations included Africa powerhouses in Chess such as Egypt, Angola, Zambia and Algeria.

DS: Which candidate do you see as being able to provide Africa with most support in terms of chess development?

TS: I am biased as so far only Mr. Makropoulos has engaged me on Africa’s issues. But since I am on the Verification Commission, I have seen Makropoulos steer the ship to safe waters financially. Three years ago FIDE was at the brink of bankruptcy and today we have reserves of over 1.5 million euros and that should count for something for the current Acting President. For me this indicates that FIDE does not necessarily need a President who is rich and acts as a Patron for the organization donating money all the time. We can open the Organization to sponsors and allow FIDE to survive on its own.

Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

DS: There has been a very polarized situation in the past FIDE elections. Past campaigns have divided entire continents, zones and even federations! At the 2014 Chess Olympiad, Africa was caught in the middle of a contentious election. Has the continent recovered from that experience?

TS: The 2014 situation was sad! I hope as Africa we will never go back to that era where there were two General Assembly meetings for Africa (one supporting Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and the other Garry Kasparov). I could say going into this election though that there are three camps, but we will come out of this election united. Why? Because we have started dialogue for the need to develop and grow chess in Africa irrespective of which side one is on politically.

Tshepo Sitale (center) in Norway for the 2009 Arctic Chess Challenge
with Kenya’s Lawrence Kagambi and Mozambique’s Donaldo Paiva.
Photos from

DS: Can you give us the theme of your election campaign and how will it differ from previous administrations?

TS: I take my main message in this ACC elections is that we are “stronger together”. Attached herein is my Vision and I have a team of experienced leaders across Africa who will help unite Africa and grow chess in our beautiful continent.

DS: In your platform (posted on Facebook), you have a promoted good governance, transparency, branding, partnerships capacity building, tournament organization and fundraising. Your plan is quite ambitious. I’m interested in knowing more about your ideas for marketing and branding of chess in Africa. It has been a very difficult challenge and federations have to scrounge for funds to support their activities. What is the formula that will help to change the perception of chess in the minds of sponsors and government officials?

TS: I have said before that there is so much potential in Africa. Why yes! I’m optimistic and ambitious because if we can collectively have s strategy as Africa leaders and put resources to best use, we can take chess to another level in Africa. FIDE offers 40% of the Development budget to Africa and there is need to maximize this budget for development. FURTHERMORE, we have many donors from Europe and the U.S. who have availed resources. We need to tap into such resources driving the mandate of the donors. I will give you an example, there are campaigns to kick out Malaria, Polio and HIV/AIDS, all this targets places where youth gather and events; having chess tournaments and chess clubs in schools can easily allow information dissemination and we in turn benefits from the resources availed for such programs.

Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) Executives, Lt. Colonel Botsang Tshwenyego (left), Bernadette Moruti (second left), Tshepo Sitale (second right) and Michael Moroka at the BNOC ordinary General Meeting in Gaborone, 26 April 2014. Photo by Felicity Male/Daily News

DS: As you well know, Africa has not developed as a region while activity in Asia has exploded. While it is difficult to compare the regions, what lessons can we learn from their growth and which of these strategies are actually feasible in an African context?

TS: Asia has grown the game especially in schools, and there is a vast population of chess players. This is the very route we need to take as Africa, we need to have Chess in Schools programs and over 50% of Africa’s population is young people. We would easily get many young people taking up the game. Chess is cheap as compared to other sport or games and we have to capitalize on that besides the obvious benefits of helping children improve their thinking ability, strategy and memory. BUT we have some stories of hope. For example, in Lesotho chess is now a subject at Primary schools. We have the likes of Egypt with strong Grandmasters, slowly we are getting there.

As the President of Zone 4.3 in 2014, Sitale is seen here speaking with Barbados’ Allan Herbert of FIDE Development Commission about the challenges of chess development in Africa. Lack of funding and development structures still hamper the chess outreach. Photo by Tebagano Ntshole/Daily News.

DS: Do you see any possibilities of building a more conducive environment for talented Africans to pursue higher levels of play?

TS: Yes! We need to collaborate with various Chess centers around the world and also take advantages that some countries like the US and European countries have their embassies in Africa offering scholarships. If we identify talent early enough and expose them, we could soon have strong players and Grandmasters.

DS: What are your short- and long-range goals for the next four years?

TS: I have outlined this on our Manifesto and will say have a look at the seven agenda points which we want to have as the basis of growing chess in Africa.

DS: Are there any closing comments you want to make about your candidacy?

TS: My ticket is made of men and a woman who are experienced and we offer experience and above all, we are very much for the idea that Africa has to rise and do it ourselves. We can’t rely for external forces to help us, we can all come together and pull our resources for the benefit of all. My team and I have proven track records and that should be a strong indicator that we are capable!

See Ticket, Campaign Manifesto!

Please post your questions & comments below!


With the Chess Olympiad and the World Championship coming up this fall, the Sinquefield Cup will round out the summer’s last Grand Tour event before the London Chess Classic in December. The London event will follow the Championship which is also held in London and will feature two of the GCT participants, World Champion Magnus Carlsen and Challenger Fabiano Caruana. Carlsen will not participate in the Classic, but will certainly be ready to try to win his second Sinquefield Cup. In fact, Carlsen tweeted his inspiration.

The 2018 Sinquefield Cup is not very different from last year’s edition with the exception of Alexander Grishcuk’s return (from 2015) and the hottest player in the past year Shakriyar Mamedyarov replacing Russians Ian Nepomniachtchi and Peter Svidler.

In addition, the previous four GCT tournament (this included) will serve as qualification events for the finale which will be held in London. The format has been tweaked over time and this year means that players have to fight more vigorously to compete for a lion’s share of the prize money.

The Sinquefield Cup sees Magnus Carlsen and 9 more of the world’s best players compete in the Saint Louis Chess Club from 18-27 August 2018. The event is the last leg of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour before the final in London, with Carlsen joining the tour regulars as a wild card. In addition to tour points the prize fund is $300,000, with $75,000 for 1st place.

Players receive 100 minutes for 40 moves then 60 minutes for the rest of the game, with a 30-second delay from move 1. A tie for first place will be decided in a 2-game rapid mini-match (10 min + 5 sec delay), only between the top two, and if necessary an Armageddon game (5 vs. 4) on 28 August at 13:00 local time.

Rex Sinquefield presenting some words about the Sinqufield Cup’s role as part of the 10-year history of the St. Louis Chess Club. Sitting on the dais from left to right are: Shahkriyar Mamedyarov, Viswanathan Anand, Wesley So (partially hidden), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Fabiano Caruana, Sinquefield, Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura, Sergey Karjakin, Levon Aronian. Photo by Lennart Ootes

This is the 6th edition of the Sinquefield Cup and since it’s start as a four-player tournament has blossomed into a round robin format that includes 10 players. Mamedyarov has vaulted over the 2800-level to join Carlsen and Caruana while the other players have essentially shuffled positions. The same core of players are participating this year with the return of Carlsen. This will be a tuneup for the pending match as he will not compete in the Olympiad.

The venue is the Chess Club and Scholastic Center at 4657 Maryland Avenue, Saint Louis, MO 63108. Full information available at the official web site. Live commentary will be given by an eminent line-up of Maurice Ashley, Jennifer Shahade, Yasser Seirawan with commentary at Kingside Diner by Grandmasters Alejandro Ramirez and Cristian Chirila. Games start at 13:00 local time (14:00 New York, 19:00 London, 20:00 Paris, 21:00 Moscow, 01:00 Mumbai).

For more information, visit or follow along at @CCSCSL.

2018 Sinquefield Cup
August 17th – August 28th, 2018 (St. Louis, USA)
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (4657 Maryland Ave.)

Rank Name Rating Country Flag Age
No. 1 GM Magnus Carlsen 2842 Norway
No. 2 GM Fabiano Caruana 2822 USA
No. 3 GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2801 AZE
No. 6 GM Wesley So 2780 USA
No. 8 GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2779 France
No. 9 GM Hikaru Nakamura 2777 USA
No. 10 GM Sergey Karjakin 2773 Russia
No. 12 GM Viswanathan Anand 2768 India
No. 13 GM Levon Aronian 2767 Armenia
No. 14 GM Alexander Grischuk 2766 Russia
Official Site


2018 CIV Invitational (Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire)
Cote d'Ivoire Cote d'Ivoire Cote d'Ivoire

While Ivory Coast is known more for draughts, chess is beginning to make a bold presence. Under the leadership of Dr. Essoh J.M.C. Essis, the Fédération Ivoirienne des Echecs (FIDEC) and the Kasparov Chess Foundation (KCF) hosted the strongest closed tournament of its kind in Africa. There have been stronger African Championships with more GMs, but the historic value of the tournament cannot be put into words. It goes without saying that this is a very important moment to showcase some of Africa’s finest talent from every region.

Players of CIV Invitational

L-R: (top row) GM Bassem Amin (Egypt), GM Kenny Solomon (S. Africa), IM Mokliss El Adnani (Morocco), IM Andrew Kayonde (Zambia), IM Fy Rakotomaharo (Madagascar), (bottom row) IM Arthur Ssegwanyi (Uganda), GM Slim Belkhodja (Tunisia), IM David Silva (Angola), GM Mohamed Haddouche (Algeria), IM Oladapo Adu (Nigeria) | Photos by Alina l’Ami

For many years, there has been discussion on how best to foster chess development on the vast continent. One of the suggestions had been to attract Grandmasters to play in African tournaments to provide highest level of competition. Of course, there needs to be sponsorship for that.

The other option is developing internally. Of course, Africa is an expansive continent and very difficult to navigate in terms of air travel. In the past there has been difficulty in holding major events, but currently there is a push to hold first-rate events and FIDEC succeeded with the help of KCF.

All politics aside, Garry Kasparov has led the charge to help in this initiative. Graham Jurgensen, director of the Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa and co-organizer of the CIV Invitational has been very proactive in his pursuit of expanding chess throughout the 54 countries (47 African countries are members of FIDE).

The first CIV Invitational was held Wednesday 25th July 2018 until Sunday 29th July 2018 in stellar condition at the Hotel Tima in Abidjan. In addition to FIDEC and KCF, Vivendi also lent sponsorship. The tournament featured round robin formats: rapid play (25m + 10s) and double round-robin blitz (5m + 3s). The rapid games award twice as many points as the blitz games.

There was ample coverage of the event on Facebook and several reports were posted on ChessBase with outstanding photography by IM Alina L’Ami. There was daily coverage by Ben Simon and GM Robert Hungaski hosted by the St. Louis Club. All games were broadcast live on Chess24, and the Follow Chess Mobile application. Ogunsiku Babatunde of African Chess Media would provide daily onsite reports.

There were some interesting interviews that took place prior to the tournament with Alina L’Ami conducting a set of scripted questions. A general observation was that many of the players started chess relatively late and were self-taught players with minimal support. Most did not believe that one could make a living solely playing chess in Africa, but that coaching and training would provide an opportunity to raise the next generation of players. When asked about the upcoming Carlsen-Caruana match all but one or two chose Carlsen. In terms of the candidacy for FIDE President, GM Nigel Short seemed to be the choice over Georgios Makropoulos and Arkady Dvorkovich.

Pre-Tournament Interviews

Videos by KCF/FIDEC and conducted by Alina L’Ami

This historic moment was about to begin and Dr. Essis could be seen beaming in photos. There were local children brought in to watch the opening. This should be a moment that all of Africa can celebrate with pride. The Ivory Coast, not known as a chess power in Africa, had put the continent in the spotlight. As fans watched the proceedings, the ten players listened politely to the opening ceremonies and then the action would start!

Rapid (45 PGN Games, standings)
Blitz (90 PGN Games, standings)

Players of CIV Invitational

Dr. Essoh Essis, President of the Ivorian Chess Federation makes the ceremonial first move. Grandmasters Bassem Amin of Egypt and Slim Belkhodja of Tunisia look on. Photo by Alina L’Ami


We have lost another legend, a sage, a walking library, legal scholar and an avowed chess enthusiast. George Neves Leighton has passed away on June 6, 2018 at the age of 105 at Veteran’s Hospital in his home state of Massachusetts. The cause was pneumonia. He practiced law in the state of Illinois until the age of 96 and provided legal counsel until age 99. The Cook County Courthouse (26th California) in Chicago is named after him.

The Honorable George Neves Leighton
October 12, 1912 – June 6, 2018

As a teen, I saw Judge George Leighton on a number of occasions competing in Chicago-area tournaments. While I did not know of his history in detail, I knew he was a judge. I would later learn through a friend Attorney Darryl Porter (whose father was also a judge) that he remembered them getting together for chess meet-ups. Leighton was very active and frequently traveled for major tournaments. He stopped his regular activity in 1997 and his last tournament of record was 2002 U.S. Masters. In the 80s he eclipsed the 2000 rating barrier and was very proud of his win over strong Russian master FM Leonid Kaushansky. Leighton was 69 at the time of the game and I remember seeing his comments about the encounter. Here is that game with a back story in the April-May 1982 issue of Illinois Chess Bulletin:

“Leonid Kaushansky lost his round one game vs. Judge George Leighton and then withdrew — his second disappointing tourney in a row. The judge has achieved an Expert’s rating after years of aiming in that direction and if recent results are any indication, should race through that category — and catch the 2200 magic number.”

Leighton looks on as chess organizer Richard Verber (left) and Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley launch a chess promotion.

Richard Verber, a large-than-life chess icon (literally), had so much regard for Leighton that he would jokingly threaten chess players that he would get the accomplished judge to rule against them. A very stately man with his signature eye glasses, he was a renaissance man who fought many battles in life and many over the chess board. According Tim Redman’s September 2011 interview with him Chess Life (pp. 26-29), Leighton revealed that he learned chess from Mary Hayden, the operator of a local boys’ club.

Besides his love of chess and law, Leighton was a family man and married Virginia Berry Quivers of Washington, DC. They raised two daughters, Virginia Anne Reynolds and Barbara Whitfield. His wife preceded him in death in 1992 after nearly 50 years in marriage. They were blessed with five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

The Life & Times of Judge George Leighton

Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts on October 12, 1912, George was born George Neves Leitão. His parents, Anna Silva Garcia and Antonio Neves Leitão, Cape Verdean immigrants from the coast of Africa and had six other children. A bit of trivia… the name “Leighton” was suggested by his teacher who asserted that she could not (or perhaps did not want to) pronounce “Leitão” which is Portuguese. His parents agreed.

Young George actually left school before the 7th grade to take a job on an oil tanker in the Dutch West Indies. After years of working to help the family, he applied to the prestigious Howard University. After an initial rejection, was actually accepted as an “unclassified student” without a high school diploma. He was aided by a $200.00 scholarship won in an essay contest. Leighton performed in stellar fashion at Howard, was also a Lucy Moten fellow and graduated June 7, 1940 with Phi Beta Kappa honors and magna cum laude.

During his time at Howard University, Leighton pledged and was initiated into the Xi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. on May 2, 1938. In an interview, he recounted the importance of the organization in his establishing a network for his eventual success. One person who befriended him was Leroy Woodson, a member of Kappa Alpha Psi. It was Woodson who recommended him for the position of the Assistant to the Dean of Men. This gave Leighton free housing and tuition and gave him access to influential people at Howard. Unfortunately, he lost touch with Woodson after graduation, but there’s more to that story later.

George Leighton, World War II veteran

After a sparkling academic experience at Howard, Leighton entered Harvard Law School based on the strength of his academic record. Two years into his studies he was called to serve in World War II and enlisted in 1942. Army units were still segregated and the “Colored” units were often given some of the most dangerous missions. Leighton served in the 93rd Infantry Division. His son-in-law Robert Whitfield stated,

“Whenever we’d talk, he said he wanted to be buried at Arlington. I said I would look into it. He used to marvel nothing happened to him during the war. Bullets would fly by. He felt God was with him. He was never injured and everyone around him was being shot.”

Leighton was stationed in the Pacific Theater where achieved the rank of Captain was awarded the Asiatic Pacific Service Metal and a Bronze Star. In an interview with members of his fraternity, he recalled an interesting story. While still in the Pacific region he received an order to return to the U.S. While at the Army base in Philippines, Leighton was told by the Major that he had no official transport for him, but he could go into the tent to see a gentleman who could arrange his travel back to the states. When he entered the tent, who did he see? Leroy Woodson! This was to drive home the point of the powerful friendship that he had made at Howard.

Leighton with members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

Leighton returned to the U.S. where he was discharged returned to Harvard on October 24, 1945 and graduated with and LLB degree on November 25, 1946. He passed the Massachusetts Bar (1946), but less than two weeks later moved to Chicago and was admitted to the Bar of the State of Illinois (1947) where here would embark on an esteemed legal career. In 1951, Leighton helped to establish McCoy, Ming and Leighton, a predominantly-Black law firm in the Chicago area.

He made his mark in several civil rights cases including that of Harvey Clark who sought to rent an apartment for his family in the White enclave of Cicero. He successfully argued the case, but he was targeted after a fierce round of protests which including the apartment building being burned down. Riots ensued. All allegations and charges of inciting a disturbance against Leighton were dropped. Legendary Justice Thurgood Marshall intervened on his behalf.

In 1964, he became Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County (1964-1969) and began teaching a course at John Marshall Law School. After his stint in the circuit court, he became Judge of Appellate Court (1969-1976) and was appointed to the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois (under President Gerald Ford) and served until 1976-1986.

In 1987, he retired at age 75 to become counsel to a Chicago law firm, Earl L. Neal and Associates. He retired from the firm at age 99. In a 1999 interview, Judge Leighton credited his longevity to good genes and a healthy lifestyle. He was particularly influential among the coterie of Black lawyers in Chicago and saw the rise of an obscure Senator named Barack Obama.

“I never smoked, I don’t drink alcoholic or carbonated beverages, and I eat two meals a day.”
~ George Leighton on longevity

As far as chess is concerned, Leighton had a long career of play and appeared to take great joy in competing. Even after he retired from tournament play, he kept up with current chess events. Leighton was a lifetime 1.d4 man and enjoyed Stonewall systems. With black, he played like the more positional French Defense, but played the King’s Indian with black.

Looking at his tournament record, he played in major tournaments around the country such as Eastern Open (DC), New York Open, World Open (PA), National Open (NV), New England Open (MA), Michigan Open, American Open (CA) and of course the Chicago Open. He also played in the strong Bermuda International Open in 1993 and 1995. Below are a few of his games with light annotations.

Leighton was a trailblazer in many regards and made his mark in a critical time in the country’s history. He also served with honor and used to mention that he hoped to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. An effort was fueled by his daughter Barbara Whitfield and son-in-law Robert Whitfield to have him buried as a soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

Senator Dick Durbin supported the plea by several Chicago Aldermen: Gilbert Villegas (36th ward), Chris Taliaferro (29th), Milly Santiago (31th), George Cardenas (12th), Danny Solis (25th) and Edward Burke (14th). In June, a specialist from Arlington stated that he had met the requirements and would receive a burial with full military honors. Langdon Neal, the executor of Leighton’s estate, stated triumphantly,

I cannot adequately express my overwhelming joy and gratitude for this news. I thank all those who have undertaken the laboring oar to achieve this wonderful result. We should notify our distinguished supporters of this decision and I will leave this to others to deliver this news. God Bless George N. Leighton.

Judge Leighton will be missed.


Orrin Hudson

Orrin Hudson, Founder of Besomeone

Orrin Hudson is still making moves encouraging the youth to “be some” with his organization of the same name. Recently he held a back-to-school chess camp with the idea of preparing students for the coming year.

Consider this a “warm up of the mind” for our children. Over these five days, we will teach kids how to engage their minds, how to think ahead and how to make strategic decisions that are guaranteed to lead to success. Chess is much more than a game, and our participants will be energized as they return to school. Instead of dreading the new year, they will be eagerly ready to show what they learned at the Be Someone camp.

Decades ago, children generally looked forward to the new school year. It meant new clothes, new supplies, new friends, a new teacher and a new adventure. Today, with the reliance on technology and shorter attention spans and it is more important that the students develop critical thinking skills in an ever-increasing competitive environment.

Orrin continues to extol the virtues of chess as a metaphor for life and has a raft of proverbs such as “Brains Before Bullets,” “Think it Out, Don’t shoot it out,” and “Heads up. Pants up. Grades up.” Motivated by a shooting in Queens, New York which resulted in seven killed for $2400, Hudson created Besomeone organization in 2000. Since then he has trained over 60,000 youth with a target of 1,000,000.

* * *

Orrin Checkmate Hudson, Speaker & Master Strategist & Motivator
949 Stephenson Road
Stone Mountain, GA
30087, Tel: 770-465-6445


Paperback: $35.00

FM Sunil Weeramantry’s reputation precedes him. The famed scholastic coach has gained his notoriety by his writings and coaching a generation of chess players including his stepson, Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura. Years ago he authored the popular Best Lessons of A Chess Coach which has become a staple for chess instruction. Several months back he released a new book titled, Great Moves: Learning Chess Through History.

This book is an enjoyable journey through the history of chess with instructive exercises of classic games. In the age of computer-assisted learning, the book is very interactive and will make for a good guide for students. In a time where children are not reading as much (or as deeply) as previous generations, it will be quite a benefit for the student who can work through all the lessons.

FM Sunil Weeramantry
Photo by CCSCSL

There are also questions after the short lessons invoking discussion. Not only will the book give the player and parent an appreciation of chess, but will provide them with a memory of immortal games. In fact, the book ends with American champion, Paul Morphy. Here is one of his games that is a popular teaching tool.

Sunil has launched a fundraising campaign to expand his efforts of the NSCF. Here is a letter from Robert McLellan, Director of Communications & Development:

Hello Everyone,

I am writing to folks with whom I have previously, at some point in the past few years, been in contact with on behalf of Sunil. He’s never been one to focus on fundraising for the NSCF, but this effort might be of particular interest, especially to those who have known Sunil for any length of time, and those who perhaps read his Best Lessons book once upon a time.

I have just put up a fundraising campaign on the NSCF website to help us create an entirely new edition of Sunil’s book (co-written with Ed Eusebi) “Best Lessons of a Chess Coach.” We are taking a bit of a crowdfunding/kickstarter approach to this effort so there are rewards so we can acknowledge support and it’s still a tax-deductible donation to the NSCF. This year (2018) marks the 25th anniversary of the original edition, but Sunil, Ed and I are working on an entirely new production. Based on the original recorded lectures still, the book is being extensively re-written, with 2 new lessons added, and other updates throughout. We hope that this new book (both print and interactive online edition) will be a useful instructional tool for new generations of players.

If you are interested in reading about what we are working on, please visit the Crowdfunding – Best Lessons of a Chess Coach page on our website. If you can help us along, that would be great. If you know others who might be interested, from Sunil’s many friends in the international chess world to his many students, please feel free to pass this along.

Thanks for the consideration,

Robert McLellan
Director, Communications & Development
Tel. 818-469-2063 •

A new curriculum project from NSCF. Published by Mongoose Press
Great Moves: Learning Chess Through History
a blended learning book that teaches chess and social studies
Order now from NSCF


Adisa Banjoko has been making moves amidst the showing of the mind-blowing hip hop exhibit at the Oakland Museum. More on that later. On July 29th, Banjoko was on panel discussion titled, “Protect Your Queen” which focused on hip hop, martial arts and the symbolism of protecting the Black woman (Queen).

Adisa Banjoko

Banjoko dropped some pearls of wisdom in discussing the powerful role that women played in society including ancient African societies where matriarch governed led warriors into battle. One may remember the military guard of Wakanda in the movie, “The Black Panther.” He also mentioned the legendary MGT of the Nation of Islam, a paramilitary women’s group. The name of Matamba’s Queen Nzinga was invoked as Banjoko discussed the very survival of societies depended on the sanctity of womanhood.

As for the Oakland Museum exhibit, “RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom” it tells the story of one of the most vibrant and far-reaching cultural movements of the 20th century. Once passed off as a fad, hip hop has swept the globe and has given rise to a number of social platforms. The museum describes the exhibit this way…

Hip-Hop is one of the widest reaching cultural and social movements of the last 50 years. Discover the under-recognized story of how Hip-Hop changed the world, starting from its roots on the streets before rap, DJing, graffiti, breakin’ (breakdancing), and street fashion launched into mainstream popular culture. Through photography, video, art, music, dance, fashion, and interactive gallery features, explore how Hip-Hop provides a platform for creative self-expression, activism, positive social change, youth development, entrepreneurialism, and education. Created in collaboration with and participation from numerous members of the Hip-Hop community, RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style & Wisdom tells a fresh story of the evolution of this global phenomenon, and includes a spotlight on Oakland and the San Francisco Bay Area’s influence on Hip-Hop culture.

The exhibit began in March and ends on August 12th. Recently the exhibit was featured on PBS

Video by PBS

Oakland Museum:


As the election campaign for FIDE positions heats up, candidates are taking to social media to get their platforms to the chess community. There are three candidates for FIDE President and each of the regions will have their election for continental President.

Many of these candidates will not wait until the FIDE and regional Congresses to make their bids for office. What is interesting is that Grandmaster Nigel Short challenged the other two candidates to a public debate. This invitation has yet to be accepted by FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos and Arkady Dvorkovich.

However, the idea is a good one and was not lost on the African chess community. In fact, Africa Chess Media ( hosted the first such debate between African candidates for continental President on July 21st, 2018. The three candidates for President of African Chess Confederation (ACC) are: Zambia’s Lewis Ncube, incumbent President of African Chess Confederation, Dr. Essoh Essis, President of Cote d’Ivoire Chess Federation and Tsepho Sitale, past President of Botswana Chess Federation.

Lewis NcubeDr. Essoh EssisTshepo Sitale

Lewis Ncube Zambia Dr. Essoh Essis Cote d'Ivoire Tshepo Sitale Botswana

The debate was hosted by a Pan-African moderators via WhatsApp group “ACC 2018 Debate” at 21:00 CAT (19:00 GMT, 15:00 EST). It was moderated by African Chess Media team:

Bruce Mubayiwa, Co-Founder (Zimbabwe)
Ogunsiku Babatunde, Co-Founder and CEO (Nigeria)
Olayemi Ajibade, Business Development Executive (Nigeria)
Cosmos Chipepo, Director of Content (South Africa)
Paras Gudka, Director of Web Operations (Kenya)

Before the debate, the moderators requested the platforms of each candidate. They received documents from Essis and Sitale. The debate occurred in three rounds of questions. The wrinkle was that in phase three, each candidate could ask one question of one other candidate! The discussion was spirited and informative and lasted more than three hours. The following transcript has been edited for readability. Kudos to African Chess Media for hosting the event!

African Chess Confederation 2018 Debate


Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

In the latest twist on the FIDE campaign, the organization’s Treasurer Dr. Adrian Siegel addressed a July 18th inquiry by Andrey Filatov (Russian Chess Federation) concerning federation debts. Citing a FIDE letter, Filatov wrote Executive Director Nigel Freeman concerning federation debts and their relationship to voting rights. Filatov asserted that federations must cover their financial obligations by July 23rd or they will not be allowed to participate in the FIDE Olympiad and FIDE President elections in Batumi.


FIDE Treasurer Dr. Siegel replied to Filatov’s inquiry by stating:

“…In the invoices sent to all federations there is no mention at all that they cannot participate at the General Assembly if they don’t pay prior to July 23rd. Thus, even if the arrears are not paid federations can vote at the election. This electoral rule has already been applied in the past election and I don’t know why the Russian Chess Federation tries to make up a case against FIDE’s administration without any facts…” (link)

Dr. Adrian Siegel, FIDE Treasurer
Photo by World Chess

On the same day, Arkady Dvorkovich (candidate for FIDE President) had sent the following e-mail to a list of chess officials with the concern that their voting rights would be abrogated if debts were not settled. As mentioned by Filatov, some of the federations receiving the letters were not included on the arrears list.

De: Arkady Dvorkovich
Assunto: A letter from Arkady Dvorkovich
Data: 18 de julho de 2018 10:01:58 GMT+2

Dear chess friends!

Yesterday we got an information about some national chess federations receiving letters from the FIDE office. In this letter FIDE informs federations about their debt. The debt that must be covered before July 23 – or the respective federation won’t be allowed to participate in FIDE Olympiad and FIDE President elections in Batumi.

Please pay attention that these Federations are not listed in the debt list on the FIDE website ( This sort of non-transparent approach is typical for the current FIDE leadership. It allows to manipulate and press certain federations, creating an advantage for one particular candidate in the forthcoming FIDE President elections. Very important information that must be publicly available is hidden. We consider this situation unacceptable and we will stand against such a policies.

Please check your debts. We believe that coming elections are crucial for the future of FIDE and entire chess world, and we hope that every delegate will be able to cast their vote in Batumi.

All the best,

Arkady Dvorkovich, Candidate for FIDE President (link)

…and to Dvorkovich, Siegel replied,

On July 16 and 17, we have sent to all the federations the invoices for the usual charges (event fees, trainers fees, arbiters fee, etc.) of the first six months of 2018 (as we have done in past years). In all these invoices no deadline for payment was given, i.e. we have not said that federations cannot play at the Olympiad or that they cannot participate at the election if they don’t pay their debts by a certain date. (link)

The list of federations in arrears has 14/22 being from Africa. Of course there has been a lot of discussion on Africa and their influence on the outcome of the upcoming election (here and here).

It is ironic because this issue came up in 2008 when Freeman (then FIDE Treasurer) threaten to ban three nations (Nigeria, Ethiopia and Uganda) from participating in the Dresden Olympiad due to arrears. After tense negotiations and frantic fundraising efforts, those nations were finally cleared.

Incidentally, the FIDE Handbook under “03. Financial Regulations” (section 6.3) reads,

“On 1st July and 1st January the Treasurer lists on the FIDE website those countries that are deemed to be over six months in arrears. Until the arrears have been paid off, players from these Federations cannot participate in any FIDE events that are under the aegis of

a) the World Championship & Olympiad Commission or Events Commission,
b) Continental competitions that provide qualifiers to any of the aforesaid competitions.” (link)

Arkady Dvorkovich, Candidate for FIDE President
Photo by Vladimir Barksy

Could it be that the Dvorkovich campaign is referring to the FIDE regulation listed in the handbook? Perhaps. The Chess Drum contacted Dr. Siegel (with a reference to the regulation) and he indicated,

“You are absolutely right regarding the Financial Regulations. However, in the past years our goal was rather to see teams playing and not sanction them due to late payment. Personally I prefer this procedure. Of course this should mean that teams cannot be banned due to non-payment but prior to an election this would give a very bad spin. Furthermore, some candidates might come up with the idea that they will get the vote of a federation if they pay the arrears.”

The last point is an interesting one. It is ironic that Nigel Short made the following tweet on yesterday:

Both Siegel and Short may have different political stances, but it is clear that arrears are a strategic point of concern. The issue of federation dues (and arrears) been debated for many years and was part of a stinging debate at the 2004 General Assembly (See 2004 Minutes, section 2.2.1 from 75th Congress – MS-WordPDF). Indeed, in an election year, that policy will undoubtedly have to be revisited.

FIDE is still grappling with the ability to handle its financial affairs due to sanctions brought on by the U.S. Department of Treasury. FIDE funds were transferred to two fiduciary accounts on May 4th after the closing of its bank accounts by UBS in Switzerland. Just a week ago, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was suspended by the FIDE Ethics Commission on July 18th. It appears that everyone is scrambling to fill the vacuum of a pending post-Kirsan era.


Fédération Internationale des Échecs  (FIDE)

The Chess Olympiad is less than two months away and it will be a very exciting event as usual. However, what will make the event more compelling is the FIDE Presidential elections. There are three candidates remaining after Kirsan Ilyumzhinov bowed out of the race after being adamant on his quest for reelection. FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos, GM Nigel Short and the latest entrant Russian-backed Arkady Dvorkovich will be standing for election. There are rumblings about other possible candidates, but additions at this point are unlikely.

Tshepo Sitale
Photo by Botswana Chess Federation

Of course, there are other continent-wide elections and one of the most contentious will be the one to lead the 47-member African Chess Confederation (ACC). Three candidates have vowed to stand for the position: incumbent Lewis Ncube (Zambia), Dr. Essoh Essis (Ivory Coast) and Tshepo Sitale (Botswana). Sitale has posted an extensive platform which touts good governance, transparency, branding and fundraising as a few of the cornerstones of his platform. Recently Essis announced his ticket which promote similar objectives in his very attractive campaign dossier. He also gave an extensive interview here at The Chess Drum.

Typically what will distinguish these candidates from each other (and the incumbant) is how well they build coalitions. Relationships on the African continent are very complex and the last election in Tromso, Norway demonstrated how loyalties can become divided. In fact, members of the same federations sometimes support different candidates. The reality is that there are no clear voting patterns and the three candidates will have a challenge in securing a standard majority. Not to mention that the issue of “proxy votes” is still unresolved.

Lewis Ncube of Zambia (center) is the incumbent FIDE Continental President for Africa. Here at the 2014 Chess Olympiad Ncube chats with Kezzie Msukwa of Malawi. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Ncube, long associated with Ilyumzhinov, has now thrown his support behind Dvorkovich. Incidentally, Ilyumzhinov was suspended by FIDE and subsequently lost any credibility to assume the position. While Makropoulos seeks to distance himself from the Ilyumzhinov era, Short has been on the attack accusing him of continuing the agenda.

The soft-porn site Short referred to is the one run by Canadian Grandmaster, Kevin Spraggett. Makropoulos has indeed used Twitter with the support of his running mate IM Malcolm Pein, Short’s fellow compatriot. Exchanging barbs with Short, Makropoulous even solicited input from Garry Kasparov, a strong critic of the Russian bloc.

While all of this is stewing, the African campaign is stepping in high gear, but there were other issues besides the ACC candidates. There was a very informative article written on Africa Chess Media titled, “The Chess Olympiad, Africans and Finance.” The article details the history of subsidies for African federations and the predicament of securing those funds every two years.

Why is this of utmost importance? These funds may have an impact on the ability of federations to attend the Olympiad and thus affect the election results. Africa Chess Media reported on the one million two hundred thousand euros (€1,200,000) that FIDE is using for federations needing travel subsidies. Here were questions raised:

  • According to Mr Zurab Azmaiparashvili, Georgia have paid the subsidy to FIDE, can it be confirmed that this has truly happened?
  • If the funds have been remitted to FIDE, what is the allocation criteria that FIDE would use to determine which federation gets what, from the subsidy?
  • Four years ago, the list of beneficiaries was released on the 21st of June, and now we are in July, when will the list be made public?
  • Considering the fact that most African federations need to book their flight tickets early to save costs, when would these funds be made available to each federation? Before, during or after the Olympiad?

As far as the list, FIDE had released details of travel subsidy on July 13th.

FIDE is pleased to announce the travel subsidy for participants for the Chess Olympiad & Congress, Batumi, Georgia 2018. All federations will receive more travel subsidy in 2018 than they did for Baku in 2016. Many teams that did not receive a team grant in 2016 will do in 2018. They are Nigeria, South Africa, Bhutan, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia, Thailand, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine & Wales. In addition the ECU will be paid 30,000 euros to assist federations that are not receiving any travel subsidy. (details, country listing)

While FIDE finances suffered as a result of sanctions from the U.S. Department of Treasury, the organization is seeking to rehabilitate its financial standing. The sanctions resulted in FIDE’s limited ability to raise and deposit funds for its operations. In previous Olympiad periods, African federations have been mired in financial shortfalls, visas glitches and other logistical challenges. It appears that these issues are not yet sorted out and many will require resolution.

Deputy President Georgios Makropolous in a fierce exchange with Dr. Essoh Essis during FIDE Congress in 2014. Both are campaigning for office. Could they work together if they assume their respective offices? Dr. Essis believes so. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Arkady Dvorkovich with President Vladimir Putin

Arkady Dvorkovich with Russian President Vladimir Putin
Alexei Nikolsky/AFP via Getty Images

In terms of the presidential election, a recent ChessBase article showed the respective tickets and the distribuion of nominations. Makropoulos had 64 nominations for his ticket. This is more than the other two parties combined (Dvorkovich, 13; Short, 6).

Arkady Dvorkovich entered the race just one month ago and is a relative outsider in this campaign. Although not a chess competitor, he is an able chess politician with the weight of the powerful Russian Chess Federation, where he served from 2007-2014. Meanwhile, Nigel Short has presented his ticket to all federations and launched his hashtag and website called “cleanhands4fide.” However, it’s still too early to make an assessment given the dynamics that will play out at the General Assembly and Congress.

It is clear that this will be a very contentious campaign and a bitter election. Each of the candidates will have to answer questions about their executive experience, record of effectiveness and ability to build coalitions. One of the unknowns will be whether the elected ACC President can make any progress in working with the new FIDE President. There are some complicated relationships brewing and it will be interesting to see who supports whom.

(Update: There have been accusations by Makropoulous of tampering through “bribery” and a FIDE anti-corruption committee has been set up to head off such these attempts. Both Dvorkovich and Short scoffed at these efforts and a Twitter war ensued. An interesting article run by targeted some African officials of receiving tickets to the World Cup in Russia from Dvokovich.

It appears that Africa is the only region being targeted as recipients of “gifts” which seems to be a bit unbalanced. Is Africa (again) being made the scapegoat of failings of the electoral process? It appears that many still fall prey to universal stereotypes and cannot believe that an African can attend the World Cup on their own funds. It is apparent that Africa is painted as a destitute continent, but assuming that all Africans are poor is very presumptuous.)

Party Information

FIDE President

Georgios Makropoulos (@makro_chess, FIDE Forward)
Nigel Short (@nigelshortchess, #cleanhands4fide,
Arkady Dvorkovich (@ADvorkovich)

ACC President

Lewis Ncube (Facebook)
Dr. Essoh Essis (Facebook, platform)
Tshepo Sitale (Facebook, platform)


Last week Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) made an appearance at Nativity Academy, a predominately-Black middle school in Louisville. He was in an upbeat mood before he entered the building, but made a comment that created a firestorm. He posted the following video to his Twitter account:

Governor Matt Bevin (R) playing chess at the Nativity Academy
in Louisville, Kentucky.

Despite the positive theme of the video, there was a social media backlash. Bevins contention that children in “this section of town” would not typically be involved in chess hit a sour note. He was later berated by David James, a councilman representing District 6. James accused the governor of having a narrow view of his district.

After the video clip went viral, many begin to repost various articles and photos showing youth chess activities within the Black community. The point was clear that perhaps there was a gross misconception about the lure of chess and its wide reach. While it’s not clear if Governor Bevin was referring only to Louisville’s West End or “inner city” areas in general, it shows that these prevailing perceptions persist.

“I really don’t have much to say. We’re focused on just providing our youth with the best opportunities to play this game and to be the best that they can be.”

~Samuel Johnson, Director of Youth & Development Education, Louisville Urban League

While non-traditional sports such as golf, tennis, fencing, gymnastics, swimming and ice-skating have seen all-time great champions from the Black community, chess still struggles for a breakthrough at the top. Even poker has its iconic figure in Phil Ivey. Chess Grandmaster Maurice Ashley has had the highest visibility since earning the coveted title in 1993. A 2016 inductee of the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame, Ashley has helped to provide national exposure, but chess rarely makes the news cycle.

While African-American chess players have been traced back into the 1800s, it was initially a game of the aristocratic, elite class. That has changed dramatically over the past few decades, but the outdated perception remains to this day. The game did not make significant inroads into the Black community until the rise of the prodigy Bobby Fischer during the late 1950s and 1960s when the first Black chess masters emerged. The Fischer-Spassky match in 1972 set off a wave of interest, and the number of Black chess masters rose dramatically during the 1980s.

Vaux Junior High School chess team with President Jimmy Carter.

Philadelphia’s Vaux Junior High School chess team at the White House with President Jimmy Carter in 1979. The team won six consecutive national titles from 1977-1983.

Earle STEM Academy in one of Chicago’s roughest neighborhoods. The Chicago Public School budget cuts have made it difficult to continue this chess program. Efforts were made to keep the program going. (article on Tamya Fultz)

The question is why there is such a perception that Black children have less interest in chess? Is it because they are shown excelling in athletics so often? Is it due to the prevailing, but the false stereotype that chess is the game of choice for socially-awkward “nerds”? Is it that chess is perceived as a snobbish activity for the upper-class Caucasians? Is it the notion that Blacks are less interested in these cerebral activities?

Chess still suffers from stereotypes, but it has become a game for the young over the past 20 years. Demographically all of the various ethnicities, nationalities, income classes and educational levels are represented. That being said, Blacks are still underrepresented, but the enthusiasm for the game remains high. In fact, the Louisville chess community had just released a news story about their activities in the community weeks before the governor’s comment.

Video by West End Louisville Chess Club

Azola Martin of Detroit City Chess Club. Photo by Ricardo Thomas/The Detroit News.

Azola Martin of Detroit City Chess Club.
Photo by Ricardo Thomas/The Detroit News.

While the governor’s comments were scripted, they did show a palpable amount of ignorance and naivete. The main issue undoubtedly demonstrates a lack of awareness, and it may very well be the fault of the chess community for not illustrating the vibrancy and attraction of the game among all demographics. During the social media controversy, a number of these articles were reposted and retweeted, some from this site.

It is understandable that the non-chess public would have no reason to visit The Chess Drum or a chess site in their spare time unless they are conducting research or helping their chess-playing child. Unfortunately, the mass media often elicits an expression of amazement when chess is played in the “inner city.” It is high time that the chess community does a much better job of extolling the joys of chess to show its universality.

Impressions from Chess Camp sponsored by
West End Louisville Chess Club (Facebook, website)

Article Links


The World Open is a marquee tournament drawing over 1000 players each year. Many things have changed over the past 20 years. Of course, the venue has changed and the Adams Mark Hotel has been long gone. The iconic 23-story building was demolished in 2006 and the property now hosts a Target department store.

Kishan Clarke (Jamaica)

The demographics of the World Open have also changed. With the arrival of online chess and the employment of databases, chess has successfully matched the ancient game with technology and young “digital natives” could represent up to 30-50% of any major tournament. It is also very apparent that youth of Asian ancestry have dominated tournament halls for the past decades. Chess has become more “multicultural” attracting people of every conceivable demographic.

The World Open can be a magical tournament because of the prize fund, but also because it attracts many rising stars and international players. It is also the place where many players of African descent have traditionally come in relatively larger numbers. Several players from Nigeria were present this year, but not the scene five years ago when a dozen players flew in from Africa’s most populous nation. Other nations are represented and this year as Kishan Clarke held the Jamaican banner. He is a former under-10 national champion and scored 5/9 in under-1600.

NM Stephen Colding

What is clear is that we are in a transition and many of the Black masters of the 80s have either reduced their activity, retired or passed away. IM Kassa Korley is most likely preparing to travel overseas after earning his first GM norm. Life Master Stephen Colding is the veteran who doubles as a player and coach/mentor during tournaments. He is often seen giving encouragement to young players.

One of the players who benefited from such mentorship was FM Josh Colas. Managed by his father Guy Colas, he is one of the young stars with Grandmaster ambitions. He ended his tournament on 6/9 toppling GM Thal Abergel of France in the last round. He is currently going into his junior year at Webster and is looking to complete the requirements for his IM title soon.

FM Justus Williams was missing from the event, but is poised to round back into form. Another talented young player missing was Tyrone Davis III, one of the young masters who showed promise at the 2016 World Open. Since then he has primarily played in local tournaments in the New York area.

FM Josh Colas

GM John Burke and IM Farai Mandizha analyzing
with Philly’s Robert Gist kibitzing.

Roderick Scarlett turning the screws on Jeremiah White’s position.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

IM Farai Mandizha of Zimbabwe has been a consistent presence in top U.S. tournaments for the past 10 years. He is actively seeking opportunities for his last GM norm. Other masters like Kola Adeyemi and Tyrell Harriott are New Yorkers with Nigerian and Jamaica ancestry respectively. Majur Juac, originally from the Sudan, keeps an active schedule in the New York area and is a positive presence as a coach in the New York area.

Adia Onyango

Adia Onyango is a mainstay in the major tournaments and is the one of the few African-American women playing with any consistency. She also makes valuable contributions as an organizer, coach while running the popular “Chess Connections” Facebook group. Kimani Stancil has always been up to the challenge of tough competition and is a regular in the Open Section. William Del Castilho of Ecuador is another player living in the New York area, so the African Diaspora is well-represented. The numbers are much larger in the under-2200/under-2000 sections. Roderick Scarlett, of Jamaican ancestry, scored 7/9 winning 3rd in under-2200.

I am often asked why there are not more players of African descent in tournament play. There are many reasons and I have written on this extensively, but be that as it may, there is work to be done. Even the World Open’s blitz scene is not as fierce as it once was. Many players have decided to forgo the Philly trip because the skittles room at the Marriott has a lot more restrictions than the old Adams Mark. Those scenes were electric and will be remembered for the ages.

New York crew was well-represented. In the foreground, Anthony Bennett (with West 4th St. cap) analyzing with Rafael Calderon with Benedict Odafe watching. Tyrell Harriott was playing blitz and Baltimore’s Kimani Stancil and Jeremiah Smith looking on. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Recently, the Kentucky governor lamented that we wouldn’t expect to see chess played at an inner-city school where Blacks were attending. Of course this is based on stereotypes that chess has no market in the Black community, but of course we can point to a wealth of history saying otherwise. The problem is much of this history is not reported except on this site and in social media. Let it be known that the African Diaspora made a presence at the 2018 World Open! Below are some of the shots taken.

2018 World Open
CLICK to see larger images. Hover to get descriptions.

James Jeffery with Triple Exclam!

Drs. Kimani Stancil and Daaim Shabazz


More than 1,000 players and a few hundred spectators came to the Downtown Marriott in Philadelphia to compete in the 46th World Open. As much as journalists struggle with correctly writing the name of “Illya Nyzhnyk,” they will have plenty of practice after his topping the field at the 2018 World Open.

The recent Webster graduate rebounded from a lackluster Chicago Open to win the tournament after key wins over Samuel Sevian and former teammate Le Quang Liem. He wrapped up the tournament with a quick draw with his friend Alex Shimanov.

Le-Nyzhnyk battling in the penultimate round. Dariusz Swiercz and Alex Lenderman drew. Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Nyzhnyk’s game against Le was a fortuitous turn of events. After dominating throughout the game, the Vietnamese player blundered at a critical stage. Nyzhnyk told Jamaal Abdul-Alim about the turning point after Le’s 84.g4?? “As he was about to finish me off, he made a terrible blunder and lost the game in one move,” said Nyzhnyk. One of the players at the World Open had a t-shirt with the message on the back… “The harder you work, the luckier you get.” Certainly, one can argue that there is no luck in chess, but its sheer intensity create such opportunities to capitalize off of human error.

After Nyzhnyk’s quick draw in the last round, the attention went to the game between Cuba’s Lazaro Bruzon and Sevian.

Lazaro Bruzon trying to win his way into a tiebreaker against Sevian.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

The Marshall Gambit followed theory and the game was quickly drawn in 20 moves. After that Nyzhnyk could breath a sigh of relief and there would be no tiebreaks. The Ukrainian national finished with an impressive 7.5/9. The runner-ups were Shimanov, Lenerman, Tigran Petrosian and Liem finishing on 7/9 ($4700). GM Irina Krush would win joint 1st (2300-2449) with IM Joshua Sheng scoring 6.5/9. IM norms were achieved by FMs Brandon Jacobson, Levy Rozman and Justin Wang.

In the under-2200 section, the battle came down to the top two boards. Actually Marc Dicostanzo and Davis Zong played in another location. Dicostanzo won leaving the remaining two games to determine if it would be clear or joint 1st. Kanan Hajiyev was anchored on the top boards with five consecutive wins before losing to Abhimanyu Banerjee.

Hajiyev started another streak before ending up on board two against Ernesto Malazarte. This was a very positional grind, but Malazarte told The Chess Drum that he made an uncharacteristic blunder of a piece. Fortunately he had maintained pressure on a pinned knight. In fact, white was left to shuffling pieces around. When black finally won the piece he had an overwhelming advantage and finished him nicely.

A crowd assembles at the top boards of the under-2200 section with Kanan Hajiyev-Ernesto Malazarte (0-1) and Kireet Panugant-Roderick Scarlett (0-1). Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Panugant-Scarlett ended in a flurry.

Scarlett was the beneficiary of the “reenter” option. He played in the five-day, but scored one point out of the first three rounds and decided to pay another registration fee and play in the three-day. This necessitated that he play five rounds in G/35 on Friday. Brutal.

In the end, it worked out. His wife Pauline was on hand to witness his feat and mentioned how proud she was of him. With five children, the winnings will go a long way.

Scarlett with his copy of “Triple Exclam.” He was able to play a couple of queen sacrifices in the tournament so the book was an appropriate gift.

New York was well-represented. From left to right: Pauline and Roderick Scarlett, James Jeffery, Alex Assivero, Stephen Colding, Justin Dalhouse

In the under-2000 section, Oliver Lombardi came out of a five-year hiatus to win with a stunning 8.5/9 score. As a result, he goes from a rating of 1890 to 2082! His last tournament was a lackluster performance at the 2013 World Open in Arlington, Virginia. He certainly had the tournament of his life and earned $12,000 first prize.

Open: Illya Nyzhnyk, 7.5/9
Under-2200: Marc Dicostanzo, Ernesto Malazarte, 8/9
Under-2000: Oliver Lombardi, 8.5/9
Under-1800: Gavriel Genger, Nick Groh, Sina Jahandari, Aaron Caveny, 7.5/9
Under-1600: Stephanie Gu, 8/9
Under-1400: John Flynn, 8/9
Under-1200: Avtandil Chanadiri, 8/9
Under-900: Seth Kessler, 8.5/9
Unrated: James G Mccarron, 8.5/9

PGN Games:


The 46th edition of the World Open is currently taking place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the iconic home of the tournament. While the final count is unknown, the tournament typically draws about 1300 competitors from around the country and world.

Philly’s newly-unveiled emancipation exhibit

Some interesting new sites around Philadelphia. The Uber driver pointed out the new Comcast 58-story building, the latest fixture of the skyline. There is also an interesting sculpture depicting the 15th amendment by City Hall. Of course the tournament site is conveniently located next to the Reading Terminal Market, a bustling place of activity with a potpourri of cuisines. There is even a artistic chess scultpure behind the Marriott, the tournament’s playing site.

GM Jeffery Xiong at 2018 World Open
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

This year the 4th of July affect on the tournament was muted since the holiday was in the middle of the week and the celebrations were over by the time most players arrived in Philly. To use the worn cliche, they would hope to bring fireworks to the board.

While some of the mainstays were absent, the headliners include GMs Le Quang Liem (2728), Dariusz Swiercz (2663), Alexander Ipatov (2650) Lazaro Bruzon (2646), and the highest-rated U.S. player, Jeffrey Xiong (2655). So far junior player Max Jiahua Li (1788) sits on 3/3 after beating two IMs! The three-day event will start on today and the sections will merge tomorrow. The Chess Drum is on site and will be featuring photos and perhaps a few interviews. Stay tuned!

Live Games:


I found a very touching story that ran last year in On Cuba magazine featuring Oleiny Linares Napoles, silver medalist in the 2008 Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany. She has been featured on The Chess Drum several times and is one of the strongest women of African ancestry.

Oleiny Linares Napoles at her home in Santiago de Cuba. It appears that she is reviewing the final Carlsen-Karjakin game from 2016 World Championship match. Photo by Emmanuel Martín

The story is written by Emmanuel Martín in Spanish but one can receive a online translation. The English translation via Google is not perfect, but readable. The story details the beginnings of chess for Martin and Linares under the tutelage of FM Omar Garcia in Colón, Matanzas. It was during this stint that Linares had an encounter with a destitute woman in town, gave her money and reflected that her generosity was from God.

Oleiny Linares at 2012 Chess Olympiad
in Istanbul, Turkey
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Martin wrote of her humility coming from such a modest community in Santiago de Cuba where she still lives. The city of 400,000 is accented by the strong Afro-Cuban presence created when Spanish explorers brought Africans to the West Indies in the early 16th century.

Antonio Maceo Grajales is perhaps one of the most important Afro-Cubans from Santiago de Cuba. He was a respected General in the early Cuban independence revolution against Spain and is considered a national hero.

One of the things that make chess players so different is the variety of backgrounds in the different countries. While we sit in the same tournament halls and maybe across from one another, we cannot imagine what the lives of our opponents must be like. Linares comes from humble beginnings and has remained close to her roots. Last year, Martín wrote:

The Olympic runner-up today has to hang her family’s clothes on the street. He lives in the same place since birth, 34 years ago. She has two daughters: Mirtica, 15, and Ruth, 4. She is married under the orders of the Pentecostal Church, but she prefers to call it the Church of Christ.

Linares on the podium receiving a silver medal at the 2008 Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany. She scored an incredible 9/10. She reached rating ceiling of 2378 in 2012. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Of course, this article was written last year, but Oleiny is still active. She competed in the local and regional championships, the Carlos Torre Memorial and Women’s National Championship in January. Unfortunately, she will not be on the Olympiad team this year. She recently scored +1 in the Capablanca Memorial that also featured Peruvian WGM Deysi Cori.

For such a strong player, life has not been a crystal stair. After going off to college in Havana, she got pregnant with her first child and returned to Santiago de Cuba. She got married and years later was carrying her second daughter while competing at the 2012 Olympiad! During a notable career, she continues to find a balance of family and chess. This challenge is part of an ongoing debate. Linares story has been so intriguing that a local film maker produced a short film on her life.

Linares reflected on how the majority of her colleagues remain unmarried while others had children and divorced. On the contrary, Linares has raised her daughters and has had to deflect criticism that her religious beliefs have hindered her chess goals and material wealth. While she remains is a modest dwelling, she stated candidly,

“Lo del dinero y la casa es cierto; lo de la Copa Mundial que me perdí, también, responde sin arrepentimiento. Pero en la vida no se puede tener todo… hay que saber hacer concesiones. Yo no cambio a mis dos hijas ni por todo el dinero del mundo.”

“The money and the house (I have sacrificed) is true; the World Cup that I missed, too. But in life you cannot have everything… you have to know how to make concessions. I would not change having my two daughters for all the money in the world.”

Pursuit of materialism is something eschewed in many religious beliefs and the lessons are not lost on Linares. Martín takes note of her generosity while enjoying the slice of cake she has brought him. “Eternal life is not negotiated with Satan,” she offers. True to her values and passions, she is seen in the above picture going over a game from the Carlsen-Karjakin match with the coup de grâce 50.Qh6+!! It is befitting that such a beautiful game would end with the woman sacrificing her individual gains for a team victory.

There is no information readily available about the short film on Linares’ life, but it would be quite an eye opener! What a fascinating journey!

Link: (in Spanish)


Shane “The Magician” Matthews earned his moniker by his resilience in pulling out sparkling victories. Over his career, Matthews has represented Jamaica in a number of Olympiad teams and is a 7-time national champion. He is one of the many legends from a small nation who has a story to tell.

Matthews began representing Jamaica early on by learning the game in 1974. Less than 10 years later he was representing his country at the 1982 Chess Olympiad in Lucerne, Switzerland (+5-4=2).

In 1998 he earned scored 6½/11 at Elista Olympiad (+5-3=3). This stood as a solid result, but Jamaican officials requested an arbitration to argue that he should have qualified for the FM title. FIDE rules say that a player earning 6/9 or 66% at an Olympiad can qualify for the FM title. While 6½/11 is not 66% Matthews had indeed scored 6/9 before ending the tournament on ½/2. It wasn’t until 2011 that the case was heard and the FM title granted.

FM Shane Matthews

One would say that Matthews is one of the veterans in Jamaica and has inspired a younger breed of players. He is still active and recently competed in the 2.3.5 subzonal hosted by Jamaica. In a very interesting twist he scored an undefeated 7.5/9 to win the tournament and in the process earned the International Master (IM) title. It is a sweet victory for Matthews since his chances of earning titles may be diminishing with his reduced activity.

While there were no International Masters competing, Matthews qualifies to win the automatic IM title with the tournament victory. FIDE grants automatic titles to specific international tournaments such as subzonal and continental championships. Thus, he becomes the 2nd Jamaican International Master after Jomo Pitterson who also earned the title by winning the 2.3.5 subzonal in 2010.



Four years ago, Emmanuel Carter accomplished a feat that relatively few chess players are able to do. He earned his National Master’s title at the age of 14. Nowadays, the age threshold continues to be lowered as the youngest master has accomplished it at age 9. However, earning the Master’s title at any age is to be commended and Carter traveled through an unlikely path.

Emmanuel Carter at 2015 World Open
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

The Tennessee-born, Charlotte-bred teen has found a niche as the state’s top high school player for the past four years. He is recent graduate of Lee Country High School in Sanford, North Carolina. Recently, he was the subject of an interview recounting his life as a chess player, his inspirations, and his aspirations.

Lesley Boney of North Carolina State University interviewed Carter as part of “First in Future” segment. Reflecting on how he used to cry after losing games, the youngest of three chess-playing siblings, he took the lessons as a point of motivation and begin to improve rapidly. This is despite having no formal training and no coach.

One issue that came up is the assertion that Black people do not have a tradition in chess. We most certainly do and Carter has helped to build on the tradition. There are about 20,000-30,000 pages on this site detailing the highlights. Of course, Carter’s modesty in letting his classmates know that he excels at chess may one thing that unknowingly keeps this fact in obscurity. These feats need to be known! Carter will be starting at Central Carolina Community College this fall.


Chess tournaments probably have the greatest diversity of competitors than any activity. In many large events you can find people from various nationalities, ethnicities, educational levels and professions. It is interesting that tournaments tend to be an elitist arena where we judge people by their rating. It may be the only information we have, but a very incomplete assessment.

Rodney J. Thomas III
Photo by UT-Dallas

The irony is many players (even of lower classes) have successful careers and may even be very high-level executives, professors, physicians and lawyers. Imagine finding out that a 1400-rated player you just beat owns a multimillion dollar company… or the 2100-rated player you met is an orthopedic surgeon. There are tons of Ph.D. holders that you’d never suspect. Yet another may be a high-powered lawyer or even a world champion in shogi! Many times we have no idea who we’re playing. There are even a few judges who play so we have to be very cautious about what we say!

Rodney Thomas is one of those players you may have seen at a tournament, but not realize that he has enjoyed quite a bit of professional success. An active 1800-rated player, he earned his chess stripes in his native New Orleans before moving to Dallas with his wife Tracey to embark on a long professional career.

During the time he was matriculating at Harvard University, he started at IBM in 1979 as a Systems Engineer and ultimately held a number of executive positions. He has been involved with the University of Texas-Dallas program as President of the Advisory Board and has helped UT-Dallas remain a perennial collegiate power.

Rodney Thomas speaking with GM Maurice Ashley
at St. Louis Chess Club in 2014.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Thomas with Daaim Shabazz at Kingside Diner in St. Louis

Thomas with Daaim Shabazz at Kingside Diner in St. Louis, 2015
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

After recently retiring from IBM, he has accepted a fellowship from the Naveen Jindal School of Management (UTD) as a fellow of the Center for Finance Strategy Innovation. In this position, he will “promote the visibility of the center and to do that based on how well it’s positioned to lead in this world of these emerging digital technologies.” As a seasoned professional in the area of technological solutions, this six-month stint seems like a good fit.

As an outstanding chess citizen, we are wishing Mr. Thomas the best as a UTD Fellow!



Duke alumnus Kassa Korley went back to his stomping grounds to take a shot at a GM norm. Since his graduation the the Raleigh-Durham campus a few years ago, Korley has been seeking invitationals, both at home and in Europe. The New York native currently plays under the Danish flag, the home of his paternal grandparents.

IM Kassa Korley
Photo by CCC

In actuality, there were four norms tournaments Group A/B (GM) and Group C/D (IM). Korley competed in Group B of the GM/IM Invitational after having a solid 5/9 result in the March GM norm edition. The June events were part of the Charlotte Chess Festival which also hosted an open called the Carolina Classic and an elite chess camp.

Korley, now 24, has been covered extensively at The Chess Drum over the years (making master, IM title) and still has one of the most popular interviews at the site.

(Listen 22:32 minutes)

However, he recently granted an outstanding 90-minute interview to Ben Johnson’s Perpetual Podcast. Some very profound insights on his pursuit of the GM title and the pro and cons of totally dedicating one’s self to chess versus taking a more gradual approach. He has also been doing a series of his own videos which you can find at his YouTube channel. He is also popular on and Twitch (handle is Kassablanca) and plays banter blitz with interesting commentary.

“I made a choice to go to college. I made a choice to work in ‘real world.’ I made a choice NOT to invest everything in chess. Theoretically, one could consider investing everything into chess and being a 2650… and still struggling in the real grand scheme of things.”

~IM Kassa Korley

Over the years, we have watched Korley grow into a young man, but still have the ambition and drive to improve his game. His skills were on full display in the tournament as he only dropped one game (to fellow IM Farai Mandizha). He scored +2 against the three GMs. After the tournament Korley, got 6.5/9, pocketed a GM norm and earned a career-high rating of 2556 USCF.

He is one of five players of African descent to cross 2500 USCF. Maurice Ashley reached 2606 USCF while other players eclipsing 2500 are: FM William Morrison (2535), IM Farai Mandizha (2515), and IM Emory Tate (2508). He mentioned earning the GM title and stated that there need to be more African-American GMs. Well-stated. There will be more and Kassa is on his way!

IM Kassa Korley (2420-Denmark)
# Player USCF Nation
1 FM Justus Williams 2347 USA
2 GM Tanguy Ringoir 2543 Belgium
3 IM Farai Mandizha 2390 Zimbabwe
4 IM Michael Brown 2505 USA
5 Mika Brattain 2402 USA
6 IM Advait Patel 2474 USA
7 GM Nikola Nestorovic 2476 Serbia
8 GM Magesh Panchanathan 2480 India
9 IM Denys Shmelov 2456 Ukraine
Score: 6.5-2.5 (GM NORM)

Main Page:


Samuel “Sammy” Barton
Photo by Daaim Shabazz

Samuel “Sammy” Barton, an icon of street chess, passed away after battling serious health challenges. He was 55. Sammy was known as a mainstay in the greater New York scene and is considered to be a legendary figure. Called “Bubba” by his sisters, he attended Lincoln High School in Coney Island and played football as a youth. He learned chess at community center events in Coney Island.

Chess is a world unto itself each country having its own chess character and culture. With each nations there are a number of communities, but one of the most eclectic is the street chess community. Sometimes seen on the streets and in the parks, they make a commanding presence by their charisma, trashtalk and playful banter. One of the most visible players in the New York street chess scene was Sammy.

Watch him in Miro Reverby’s “Men Who Would Be Kings” playing a hapless Tony Springer.

Video by Miro Reverby

New York is the chess hub of the U.S. with so many legendary players that have trolled the parks and streets of the Big Apple. One of the most accessible platforms for chess is the form played on the streets. Unfortunately, chess tournaments are hidden away in posh hotels, community centers or churches. The contribution of street chess is that it shows the game’s true grit up close and personal.

Sammy had many challenges in life, but like so many others he found a refuge in chess. You could find him around the many parks of New York holding court and being at his best. There is something intriguing about players who have spent their entire lives loyal to the pursuit of a personal goal. At one point, it is said that he actually received chess training in Russia.

Some assert that chess is a way to take a daily introspection of one’s well-being. Others say that chess offers a cathartic release of daily stresses. For Sammy and players like him, it appeared to be the spirit of competition… and the thrill of winning with something on the line!

New York blitz legend

Sammy blitzes with GM Amon Simutowe
at 2010 World Open (Valley Forge, PA)

2015 World Open (under-2200)
Photos by Daaim Shabazz

The late James “Black Knight” Taylor told me before he died that street chess should be chronicled. While it would be difficult to focus on their results, it’s not always the rating or the games they played. Who can forget Sammy after seeing the video above?

What becomes important to us is the spirit they conveyed and the memories they have left to inspire us. Even when he was ill, Sammy wanted to be at the chess board. Even when he was not in the best of health, he wanted to do battle. We can all agree that Sammy, also know as “Sandman,” made his own contribution to chess. He will be especially missed in the New York scene.

He is survived by three sisters (Maureen, Regina, Julia), one nephew (Josef), four nieces (Sierra, Chelsey, Elizabeth, Paris), one uncle (Thomas) and a host of other family and friends.

Memorial for “Sammy” will be held at
St. Nicholas Chess Club
Saturday, June 30th @ 3:00 PM

Contact: Al Pertilla (212-234-1114)

Sammy Barton
(March 5, 1963 – June 9th, 2018)


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