GM Román Hernández

Román Hernández Onna passed away early this month on June 1st from a lengthy illness. The Cuban Grandmaster and former national champion was 71 years old. As a pioneer, Hernandez had a long résumé before he ventured abroad and faced some of the world’s elite competition. Recently, The Chess Drum featured his contributions to chess.

Born November 23rd in 1949 in Santiago de Cuba, Hernandez gained notoriety by defeating Mikhail Tal and Bent Larsen, both elite players of their day. However, he was already a known entity in Latin America and the Caribbean before taking on the world’s elite player. Having represented Cuba at the Olympiad eight times, first in 1970 and last, in 1990, he scored.

After spending decades as a professional, Hernandez became known as a coach of young prospects and earned the title of Coach Fide in 2014. By some accounts, Hernandez is credited with helping to strengthen the island nation’s international reputation Here is a sample of his career.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, Román Hernández Onna was one of Cuba’s leading chess players. He won Cuban Chess Championship in 1982. One of the his greatest successes in the international arena was in 1977 in a strong chess tournament in Las Palmas, where Román Hernández Onna shared the 4th place with Mikhail Tal and Walter Browne behind Anatoly Karpov, Bent Larsen and Jan Timman, and won parties against Larsen and Tal. In the same year, he also shared the 2nd place with Oscar Panno and Ulf Andersson in Biel Chess Festival behind Anthony Miles. His other chess tournament successes include: 3rd place in Kecskemét (1975, behind Károly Honfi and Ratmir Kholmov), shared 2nd-3rd place in Bogota (1978, behind Efim Geller), shared 3rd-4th place in Quito (1978), 2nd place in Havana (1978, behind Silvino García Martínez) and the first place in this city in 1983, as well as two third place in the ‘Premier’ tournaments in Capablanca Memorial (1999 and 2003).

Here is the miniature win against Tal in an Accelerated Dragon. Truly an embarrassing performance by the World Champion, but a win against Tal is never a trivial matter.

The Chess Drum has featured many Afro-Latino players, but one of the unfortunate realities in the chess world is that much of the content is geared toward the English language. Because of this, a large amount of chess content does not reach the critical masses. There are a number of sites on “ajedrez” (the Spanish word for chess), but quality information often goes unreported in English sites. This is particularly true with Cuba being one of the strongest chess nations, but without such reporting on the quality players.

GM Roman Hernandez Onna

GM Roman Hernandez (center) analyzing
Photo by MI ICCF José Guillermo de la Rosa Solórzano

There were a number of tributes given to the Cuban legend. In fact, the University of Cuban Sports made a very interesting admission on the ancestry of GM Hernandez.

“Chess Grandmaster Román Hernández Onna passes away. Our university mourns the physical loss of chess player Román Hernández Onna. Born in Santiago de Cuba on November 23, 1949, he is the world’s first black Grand Master (GM). Román graduated from International Master (IM) in 1975 and Grand Master in 1978. It is a unique case in Cuban chess, since his IM and GM standards were completed in competitions held in foreign lands. Our condolences extend to all your family and friends”. (link)


  • In 1970, at 4th board in the 19th Chess Olympiad in Siegen (+7, =7, -2)
  • In 1972, at 4th board in the 20th Chess Olympiad in Skopje (+6, =7, -2)
  • In 1978, at 2nd board in the 23rd Chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires (+0, =9, -2)
  • In 1980, at 1st reserve board in the 24th Chess Olympiad in La Valletta (+1, =1, -3)
  • In 1982, at 4th board in the 25th Chess Olympiad in Lucerne (+3, =2, -2)
  • In 1984, at 1st reserve board in the 26th Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki (+3, =2, -1)
  • In 1988, at 2nd reserve board in the 28th Chess Olympiad in Thessaloniki (+4, =3, -0)
  • In 1990, at 1st reserve board in the 29th Chess Olympiad in Novi Sad (+2, =3, -1)

Team Chess Championships

  • In 1963, at 1st reserve board in the 10th World Student Team Chess Championship in Budva (+2, =3, -3)
  • In 1969, at 3rd board in the 16th World Student Team Chess Championship in Dresden (+5, =2, -6)
  • In 1971, at 1st reserve board in the 1st Panamerican Team Chess Championship in Tucuman (+1, =0, -1) and won team silver medal
  • In 1972, at 2nd board in the 19th World Student Team Chess Championship in Graz (+3, =7, -0)
  • In 1976, at 3rd board in the 21st World Student Team Chess Championship in Caracas (+5, =4, -1) and won team bronze medal.
  • In 1989, at reserve board in the 2nd World Team Chess Championship in Lucerne (+1, =4, -1)
  • In 1991, at 1st reserve board in the 4th Panamerican Team Chess Championship in Guarapuava (+3, =0, -1) and won team and individual gold medals

Román Hernández

For those who are descendants of Africa, there is an excitement in seeing success from within the Diaspora. While there is a lesser-known awareness of Afro-Latino chess players, this group has certainly made its own set of contributions.

From the tradition of trailblazers like the legendary Jose’ Raul Capablanca to former national champion Rogelio Ortega to the younger Cubans excelling at home and abroad, Hernandez demonstrated that players from small federations could compete with the elite.

Looking at the Spanish-language sites, it is easy to see he was highly-regarded in the Americas. Hernadez was mentioned in this light by International Arbiter Uvencio Blanco

“In addition to his recognized humility, he is one of the American chess players with the greatest culture and understanding of chess.”

Daaim Shabazz, GM Román Hernández… Afro-Cuban trailblazer, The Chess Drum, 20 February 2021.

Fallece el Gran Maestro cubano de ajedrez Román Hernández,”, 2 June 2021.

Malawi Malawi Malawi

Susan Namangale
President of Malawi Chess Federation

This past year has been one with a bit of intrigue as the continent of Africa seemed to increase chess activity online. There were a number of staged “cage matches” and many federations organized friendly matches. Social media groups were abuzz about the prospects of African chess and the possibilities post-pandemic. One discussion that often surfaces is how the rest of Africa will break the stranglehold Egypt seems to have on the region’s supremacy in chess. Will the 2021 continental championships show a bit of intrigue as the sub-Saharan activity seemed to be lively?

Leading up to the championship there was great anticipation for the African Individual Chess Championship (AICC). After one year of combating the coronavirus players from around the continent assembled to vie for qualification spots for the 2021 World Cup tournament.

The AICC took place in Lilongwe, Malawi, from 18th to 28th May 2021. The country was the site of the 2007 Africa Junior Championships and they would look to increase their chess profile. From all accounts, the organization was stellar and the pandemic protocols were in place to ensure a safe event. Malawi Chess Association President Susan Namangale gave her assessment:

“The tournament surpassed our expectations, considering that it was only confirmed two months ago. We had a total of 93 players from across the continent, there were no appeals, and all participants seemed enthusiastic.”

Twenty-one nations were represented with Egypt bringing the big guns fielding four Grandmasters, including 2700-rated Bassem Amin. As expected, host Malawi had the most participants (in both sections combined) with 18 along with Nigeria (12), Senegal (11) and Kenya (10) in double-digits. Continental President Lewis Ncube gave these historical comments about registration at the Opening Ceremony:

Video by Khisho Chess Africa TV

In 20 years of coverage at The Chess Drum, Egypt is still at the top of the food chain of African chess, but is the gap really closing? By all accounts, the games showed that there is some improvement in the overall quality of African chess. In the end, it was the Egyptians again who rose to the occasion in the Open Section, taking the top four positions.

A victorious Ahmed Adly presented the championship trophy by Minister of Youth and Sport Ulemu Msungama with Egyptian Ambassador Maher Ely-Adawy (left) and President of African Chess Confederation Lewis Ncube (right).

A victorious Ahmed Adly presented the championship trophy by Minister of Youth and Sport Ulemu Msungama with Egyptian Ambassador Maher Ely-Adawy (left) and President of African Chess Confederation Lewis Ncube (right).

The Egyptian quartet was led by Ahmed Adly who won his 4th championship (2005, 2011, 2019, 2021), Bassem Amin (2009, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018) Adham Fawzy (2019 African Jr. champ) and Hesham Abdelrahman (2016). All will qualify for the 2021 World Cup to be held in Sochi in July 6th-August 6th.

(Note: In a new twist for World Cup qualification each of the federations in the top 100 will have a chance to nominate a player to compete in the 206-player tournament. See regulations)

Here are Adly’s games from the tournament:

National Anthem

Despite, Egypt’s dominance, the favorite son of the host nation saw their national champion FM Joseph Mwale place 5th with 6/9 along with fellow Malawian Chiletso Chipanga. Others scoring +3 were Zambia’s IM Gillan Bwalya, Angola’s IM David Silva, South Africa’s FM Daniel Barrish and Algeria’s GM Bilel Bellahcene. The France-based Algerian was left off the medal stand this year and suffered and upset loss to Mwale. This sent shock waves through the tournament hall and the local media.

Joseph Mwale on his way to upsetting Algerian GM, Bilel Bellahcene

A moment of pride for Malawians as Mwale received his well-deserved commendation. Namangale looks on.

A moment of pride for Malawians as Mwale received his well-deserved commendation. Namangale looks on.

I am very excited about this win. Everyone I have talked to is excited. This is history, it’s rare for someone of Joseph’s ranking to beat a grandmaster. I truly cannot express just how happy I am. My team has made me proud.

~Susan Namangale

African Individual Chess Championship - Standing (Open)

PGN Games:

The women’s championship had eight players from host Malawi and five from Senegal including national champion Nadezhda Marochkina, originally from Russia. South Africa and Kenya were represented by three women. While the numbers were up in this year’s edition, there were key players missing from the field. Shrook Wafa (four-time and defending champion) was unable to make the trip, but her sister Shahenda Wafa would be a main competitor and top seed. Would the Egyptians hold onto the title?

As it happened, South African women’s champ Jesse February broke through the pack in the 6th round scoring a key win over Wafa after the Egyptian blundered. Here games are presented below (except round five).

Because she scored 4.5 in the last five rounds, it appears that her win in the penultimate round gave her enough cushion to draw in the last round and clinch the title in the event of tiebreaks.

South Africa
National Anthem

One of the questions we raised to a WhatsApp African chess group is when African ladies will begin to play for general titles rather than the “W” titles. This appears to provide women incentives to gain accolades, but it does not encourage higher achievement. This does little to give the impression of equality in chess and the gap will persist.

African Individual Chess Championship - Standing (Women)

PGN Games:

OTB chess resumes!

Chess & COVID-19

Over-the-board (OTB) chess resumes as things are beginning to normalize as far as social interactions are concerned. The COVID-19 virus is still wreaking havoc in parts of the world including India, one of the top chess countries in the world. However, medical authorities have begun loosening restrictions on masks and social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

Chess organizations had already started to host in-person tournaments as the Tata Steel tournament (won by Jordan van Foreest) and World Candidates tournament (won by Ian Nepomniachtchi) went on without a problem. There were many small OTB tournament this year with mask requirements… not adhered to strictly by some players.

The World Championship will take place in Dubai, UAE this fall with Magnus Carlsen defending his title against Nepomanichtchi. In addition, the Olympics and the Olympiad are set to take place. Apart from this, smaller tournaments have increased as the Continental Chess Association (CCA) has announced the holding of its Chicago Open with a limit of 800 participants… one game per table.

Wheeling Westin

Westin Chicago North Shore Hotel, Wheeling, Illinois
Home of the Chicago Open

Masks required – entry is limited. We expect to play 1 game per table, and will need to close entry if capacity is reached. We are not yet sure what that capacity will be, but estimate about 800 players.

While online chess realized a surge in activity, players were ready to resume OTB play. Bill Goichberg has already announced a full slate of tournaments including the marquee event, The World Open. He has stated that masks will be required. So far there is no limit posted on the number of participants. The key point in this transition is to ensure the safety of the participant which will include avoiding crowds by the pairing charts. More from the CCA…

COVID precautions: Masks required, temperature checks, no spectators, no eating in tournament area (drinks OK). Players are urged to receive pairings by text or email; some sections have different starting times to minimize crowding before rounds begin.

Hand sanitizers have become a fixture at chess tournaments. Photo by Kevin Pryor (Florida Chess Association)

Latest guidelines from the Center for Disease Control say that those fully vaccinated can go without masks indoors and do not have to abide by “social distancing.” Yet it is hard to distinguish the maskless who are fully vaccinated and those who are not. There are also those who never wore masks and do not believe the virus is dangerous. To complicate matters, there is news of infections of those fully vaccinated, but with minimal symptoms.

What does all this mean? It means that players should still take precautions at tournament sites and follow hygienic guidelines for disinfecting chess pieces after each game and perhaps limiting large crowds in the event that there are those who simply don’t understand the danger. Some vow to continue wearing the mask since the information from medical organizations seem to be changing frequently.

Chess is an inherently social experience and we all look forward to resuming play this summer. The COVID-19 outbreak has changed chess in that there are more options and some organizations may offer multi-site tournaments where one can choose to play at the physical site or virtually.

Are you ready? Let’s get it on!

Danielle Little

Danielle Little, Young Royalty Chess Academy

If it is true that little is sometimes better, Danielle Little has executed a vision that has evolved over her decade of chess activity starting in upstate New York. The Buffalo native started chess as a preteen and almost immediately started engaging in “chess activism.” Last year, Little started the Young Royalty Chess Academy designed to instill the virtues of chess into local youth.

Little uses chess as a vehicle to teach decision-making, strategic planning, and analytical thinking skills that studies have associated with the game. She also drives home the point that the game is not as much of a mystery as the public believes. This has been echoed by many community chess organizations and sometimes it is the smallest steps that make the most progress.

“With chess, there’s a lot of connotations and ideas that it’s only for smart people, or you have to have some crazy IQ- it’s not that at all, you just need the right teacher.”

The movie, “The Queen’s Gambit” certainly drew attention to chess and Little noticed a surge of activity during the pandemic. Young Royal Chess Academy was named the “2020 Black Business of the Year” by BBB-accredited minority business directory, That Brown Bag. Her academy has been involved in outreach activities and was featured in the Buffalo Showcase Recap to celebrate Black economic empowerment.

Young Royalty Chess Academy (Danielle Little)

Chess has become a new platform for empowerment through harnessing intellectual capital. Training one’s mind to realize full potential has been one of the greatest challenges in society, but there is an increasing role for using chess to train one’s mind, and Danielle Little plans to show us how it’s done.

Danielle Little, Young Royalty Chess Academy
(Facebook, Instagram)
(716) 446-6190

National Master Tani Adewumi
Photo courtesy of Facebook (Kayode Adewumi)

The star has continued to rise for Tanitoluwa “Tani” Adewumi who earned his title of National Master at 10 years 7 months and 29 days. The story of Tani broke on these pages a few years back when his family decided to emigrate to the U.S. from Nigeria.

When Tani earned 96 points to vault over 2000 last March, it was a forgone conclusion that he was on course to attain master-level. With the support of his family and guidance from his coach, National Master Shawn Martinez and Angel Lopez, he was able to thrive in a place that is historically thought of as the “Chess Mecca”.

This past weekend, he won the CCFC G/30 Club Championships in Norwalk, Connecticut to net a handsome 58 points and earn the title of National Master.

Here are a few of his wins…

Most have been able to follow Tani’s progress due to the publicity he has received. When he wasn’t playing at the Marshall Chess Club, he was hobnobbing with the likes of former President Bill Clinton and famous chess personalities. He visited the St. Louis Chess Club and met commentators Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley, and Jennifer Shahade. He even got a chance to play Hikaru Nakamura in a highly-publicized game of blitz.

There was the concern that all of the initial exposure would put entirely too much pressure to achieve his lofty goals. Seeking to become the youngest Grandmaster in history, he has worked extremely hard at improving and actually had time to write a biographical book, My Name is Tani… and I Believe in Miracles.

Now sitting at an official 2223, he will prepare for Qualifiers May 8th-9th, and if he qualifies, SuperNationals held online June 12th-13th. National Master and “Teacher of the Year” Jerald Times weighed in on the feat by stating, “Tani accomplished this task in three years which measures 119 events. It is quite an accomplishment and shouldn’t go unnoticed.”

This shows incredible passion at an early stage. If Tani wants to earn the title of Grandmaster there needs to be a plan that will involve playing in strong tournaments and getting an appropriate trainer to suit his skill set. At this point, he is young enough, ambitious enough, but needs to establish the proper environment.

Now that he has reached National Master he will proceed to play in the strongest sections and play will be more consistent among his more experienced opponents. His parents Kayode and Oluwatoyin along with his brother Austin will be supporting his rise. New York may have unearthed another gem. The work begins!

Puzzle Rush vs. GM Hikaru Nakamura

Video by Hikaru Nakamura is back! The first “Kasparov Chess” chess portal created in 1999 and included “KC magazine,” current news from around the globe, interviews, an event calendar, a discussion board, and a wealth of resources. At that time, Kasparov’s site was one of the leading content providers for chess as other sites begin to emerge. Garry Kasparov has decided to join the fray with the relaunch of an online platform. The new platform is a partnership with the French media conglomerate Vivendi.

PARIS, April 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov and global media company Vivendi announced today the launch of The site is a new multimedia content platform for chess lovers of all skill levels launched by Vivendi, through its subsidiary Keysquare. Built to offer features for all players, whether they are enthusiasts or beginners, including thousands of chess puzzles, online matches, in-depth tutorials, articles, documentaries, and even an exclusive masterclass with Kasparov himself.

Back in the “dotcom era,” chess websites were in their infancy as were chess servers. The Internet platform was rapidly growing into an attractive to place to do anything from buying hard-to-find books, to selling old personal items online to finding a game of chess. Of course, pioneers like the Internet Chess Club (ICC) and Free Internet Chess Server (FICS) were attempting to fulfill an increasing demand in this digital marketplace.

Fast forward to the 21st century, mainstays such as, chess24, joined the ICC in offering online chess communities. The market has become highly-competitive (or perhaps complementary) with chess streaming via Twitch represented a so-called “boom” in chess activity. While the “Queen’s Gambit” was a huge success, its impact built on the momentum that had been building up over the past decade. We may not be finished yet.

On April 15th, Kasparov announced his venture with Vivendi which has a membership structure of $13.99 monthly and a yearly subscription of $119.99. It is seeking to fill a unique niche in a competitive market with his own “Master Class” series and guest lectures by top-level Grandmasters. It also has coverage of news of diverse nations similar to his earlier initiatives in Kasparov Chess Foundation. In looking at a demo version of the site, it has a little of everything. The foundation centers on interviews, podcasts, puzzles, and instructional videos, but there is also a playing option.

KasparovChess in 2021
KasparovChess in 2021

Back in 2000, I had been searching for information on chess in Africa and the Caribbean for years and came across articles written by Mark Rubery. There were articles about Nigeria’s Odion Aikhoje, South Africa’s Watu Kobese and Zambia’s Amon Simutowe. Aikhoje had bagged the gold medal at the Elista Olympiad in 1998. Two articles on Simutowe helped to start me on my search for the Zambian player. Kobese was interviewed and led to a profile on these pages.

Kasparov Chess in 2000

As the site began to gain a steady viewership, there was an expansion of functions including a chess server. At the time, ICC was the leading chess server and ChessBase also had a fledgling platform. However, the site began to expand quickly and the momentum seemed to die along with many other dotcom experiments. An image of the first version was posted in December 2001. Twenty years later, the shift in the industry has moved to live streaming and video channel content. KasparovChess new initiative hopes to bring something new to the table.

St. Lucia St. Lucia St. Lucia

Tris-Ann Richards
President of St. Lucian Chess Federation
Photo courtesy of Tris-Ann Richards
(St. Lucia Chess Federation)

The island of St. Lucia has turned over a new leaf after their Annual General Meeting on Thursday, April 15th. During an online meeting, members of the St. Lucia Chess Federation (SLCF) elected their Executive Board. The relatively-new member of FIDE continues to gain momentum a year after being admitted to FIDE, the world chess body.

At the 90th FIDE Congress in 2020, St. Lucia ushered in a new era when they were welcomed into the community of chess federations holding membership in FIDE. Just before the pandemic brought chess activity to a grinding halt, St. Lucia joined Cayman Islands, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Grenada, and St. Kitts and Nevis as new member federations during the meeting.

On an island of roughly 183,000, St. Lucia had been active previously holding chess activities as early as 2005 when they launched a pilot project under the Chess-in-Schools (CIS) initiative involving 25 schools. This was supported by National Community Foundation (NCF). During this time, the then-President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was touting Chess-in-Schools as a catalyst for chess growth. However, these activities were not sustained over time.

More recently chess has returned with the formation of the St. Lucia Chess Federation in 2018 and joining FIDE in 2020. During the first administration, Andy Alexander assumed the Presidency and led the federation to its membership in FIDE. Both British Grandmaster Nigel Short and Jamaica’s Ian Wilkinson QC were instrumental in helping the federation establish credibility. In addition, chess got a boost from positive pubic relations, and Tris-Ann Richards, a Jamaican-born transplant, gave chess a pleasant face.

On April 15th, Tris-Ann Richards assumed the Presidency of the St. Lucian Chess Federation. Richards who started out playing chess in Jamaica will continue to seek popularization across the island and will continue her “Chess With Tris” which can be followed on Facebook. NCF and the Peace Corps are local organizations that have signed on to help the chess revolution in St. Lucia. The Chess Drum community congratulates Ms. Richards on her election victory and look forward to assisting your leadership.

Last October, U.S. Chess announced the formation of a new committee to recruit, screen, and endorse candidates to serve on the Executive Board. That committee was elected at the State Delegates Meeting in 2020.

2020-2022 Nominating Committee Members

Joy Bray (MO), Executive Board-appointed
David Grimaud (SC), Delegate-appointed
Randy Hough (CA-S), Delegate-appointed
Michelle Martinez (AZ), Delegate-appointed
Sophia Rohde (NY), Delegate-appointed
Daaim Shabazz (FL), Delegate-appointed
Hal Sprechman (NJ), Executive Board-appointed
Chris Wainscott (WI), Delegate-appointed
(USCF Notice)

In December, this Nominating Committee completed that process and presented a slate of four candidates. These persons all have achieved goals in chess leadership and have served admirably. Their statements are listed below.

The candidates for the Executive Board are:

Randy Bauer (Facebook)
John Fernandez (Facebook)
Kevin Pryor (Facebook, campaign website)
Ryan Velez (Facebook)

They were vetted and met the criteria. In May, all will stand for the election. It goes without saying that the members should be of high integrity, have a track record of leadership and be innovative thinkers.

Far too long, U.S. Chess has had talented leaders, but one of the aspects the committee looked for in candidates is fresh ideas. Gone are the days when we can settle for the same programs or rest on the laurels of past success. Let’s capitalize on the positive media attention that chess has received.

If you would like to participate in the May election, you must change your status to VOTING MEMBER. Go to your U.S. Chess membership profile dashboard and change it. Select mail or e-ballot. The deadline is May 1st. Below are the details:

US Chess

NEW Online Voting Option!

Thank you for being a registered voter with US Chess

If you are receiving this email, you are currently registered to vote in the 2021 Executive Board election. To be sure that you remain registered, do not let your membership lapse for more than 28 days between now and May 1.

Two ways to confirm your voter registration

Log in to and check your dashboard. If your Voter Registration line indicates “Active,” you are already registered to vote.

You can also search for your name on our list of registered voters:

Our Online Voting Option

Those members who were initially registered to vote in our previous system are set to receive a paper ballot in the mail. However, all registered voters now have the option to vote online. You can choose this option by clicking the “Update Registration” button on the Voter Registration line of your dashboard. You must have a current email on your member record in order to select the online voting option.

You can change that preference between “Ballot by mail” and “Vote online” up until May 1. The ballot type selected as of May 1 will be the one used for this year. If you were registered in our previous system, your ballot preference will be set to vote by paper ballot by default.

If you encounter technical problems, you can request that staff implement changes to your ballot type by sending your US Chess ID number and whether you want to vote online or by paper ballot to

Voting Process

What you can expect when you choose the online voting option

US Chess will be using Election Buddy to conduct the election, with oversight by the US Chess Election Committee. We will send you a link to participate in the Election on the same day that paper ballots are mailed. That email will come from US Chess (invitations at and will have the subject: Vote now: US Chess – 2021 Executive Board Election. If your invitation does not arrive on the day it is expected, please check your spam folder before contacting US Chess to request a replacement link.

You will have the option to use the link and vote until the same date and time as those sending in paper ballots by mail. To cast your ballot, click on the link in your email and select up to 3 candidates. You must select at least one candidate to have your ballot counted. Once you have selected your choices, submitting them is a 2-part process.

First you must click the orange “Verify your selection” button at the bottom of the ballot. On the next page, you will see your choices and must click the orange “Submit your ballot” button to complete the voting process. Once your ballot is submitted, you cannot reopen it and US Chess will be unable to provide a new link for you to vote. Upon submission, you will be emailed a confirmation message noting that your ballot was submitted.


On April 19th, the 2020 World Candidates tournament will resume after being postponed to due the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the globe. There is optimism and relief that over-the-board chess will resume this season after the world essentially hibernated to ride out the pandemic.

Early last year, it appeared that the tournament would be in jeopardy after Teimour Radjabov pulled out and others were concerned about the looming threat of the virus. Ding Liren had to quarantine two weeks prior to the tournament’s beginning due to his leaving the virus epicenter. Wang Hao expressed his objection to continuing the event. Despite these concerns, FIDE and the Russian hosts decided to continue with the tournament with added precautions.

Neither Grischuk, nor Wang Hao enjoyed the first half.
Photo by Lennart Ootes

As the tournament wore on, anxiety increased as reports of rapidly spreading infection. Grischuk weighed in on the experience by saying, “I have a clear opinion that the event should be stopped. The atmosphere is very hostile.” Midway through after the 7th round, officials decided to postpone the tournament due to the inevitable closing of borders.

Wang Hao praised the decision.

During the whole tournament, I felt I was distracted. I was worrying about flights, seeing bad news about China… Now if we enter China, we will be quarantined for two weeks. I could just have arrived from Tokyo to Beijing and quarantine at home, now I don’t think that is possible.

The second half will be hotly-contested as only two points separate the field. After seven rounds of play, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France shares the lead with Russia’s Ian Nepomniachtchi with points. Fabiano Caruana (USA), Anish Giri (Netherlands), Wang Hao (China) and Alexander Grischuk (Russia) are all in joint second with points. Ding Liren and Kiriil Alekseenko round out the field with points.

2020/2021 Candidates Chess Championship
April 19th-April 28th, 2021 (Yekaterinburg, Russia)
1 Caruana, Fabiano GM USA
2 Ding Liren GM China
3 Grischuk, Alexander GM Russia
4 Nepomniachtchi, Ian GM Russia
5 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime GM France
6 Giri, Anish GM Netherlands
7 Wang Hao GM China
8 Alekseenko, Kirill GM Russia
Main Site

For the chess world, the pandemic has had a silver lining. Chess actually blossomed during the pandemic as players streamed to the online platform (pun intended). Streaming chess had been called the “second boom” as players around the world competed in all types of tournaments. Apart from the activity was the fact that communities were built and new friendships and alliances were formed.

That being said, the sentiment is spreading that while online chess filled a void, players were longing for the social interaction that is the foundation of chess competition. Playing on a vertical screen with a digital chessboard and a mouse isn’t the same as the OTB experience. The online platform can be a stop-gap for any interruption of tournament play, but will never replace the very thing that attracted us to the game. Which of us learned chess playing blitz? OTB classical is here to stay and glad it is back!

Main Site:
Video Coverage (FIDE): YouTube, Twitch

US Chess

Dear Chess Community,

At 2019 Delegates Meeting in Orlando
Photo by Kevin Pryor

As a state delegate and a former board member of the Florida Chess Association, I have had the honor to participate in the decision-making process of our governing body. The Executive Board and Delegates meetings are exciting arenas for exchanging ideas about chess and learning how the organization functions. I remember being critical of an organization I was a member of until I worked for the national headquarters. Sometimes you can’t see the complete picture as a mere member. The same is true in U.S. Chess.

In my view, there needs to be more diversity in chess policy. In this, I am not merely talking about the ethnicity of people making the decisions, but the diversity of ideas.

Being involved in chess policy-making is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Most of us started as players and some as chess parents. All of us have our preferences. Have you ever thought of why people have taken the roles they take in chess? Why do some of us enjoy directing tournaments? Why do people like Bill Goichberg decide to make his legacy in hosting and directing tournaments? Why have I spent 20 years in chess journalism instead of focusing my energy on tournament chess? You also have people like the recently deceased Harold Winston who became a life-long chess politician after running scholastic tournaments in Chicago. I enjoyed playing in them and thanked him years later.

Presenting Harold Winston with a copy of Triple Exclam at the Delegates’ meeting. I played in his scholastic tournaments held at the University of Chicago. Attorney Winston passed away in early April. Photo by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

Ability of a Disability

In my 40 years of tournament participation, and my 20 years of covering chess activities in the Black community that the number of this segment competing in chess tournaments is proportionally low. U.S. Chess collects no demographic data on ethnicity. However, with some level of certainty, we can say that the level of participation is not proportional to the population (13.4%).

Currently, there is a lot of effort in focusing on gender issues, and since those data are known, the numbers are easier to analyze and address. There are commissions to engage more girls and women to play chess. It’s a good thing. There are also new initiatives for seniors (50+) and juniors. On the other hand, the public has always been skittish about discussing racial demographics because of the sensitive nature of the subject. Race/racism is still a hot-button topic, and it has even tarnished chess. FIDE made a statement on racism (as did U.S. Chess) and I penned a response on these pages.

Besides ethnic segments, there is also limited attention given to the disabled. I remember Joe Kennedy, Jr., a quadriplegic player from Indiana who won the blind championship eight times as a Expert-rated player. I watched his family wheel him to the table and position him near his braille board. In between moves, I would check on his games.

I remember a horrible event that may discourage a visually-impaired player from playing in an over-the-board (OTB) tournament. It is already a challenge, but then there may be implicit bias. One player forced a visually-impaired player to move a piece he grabbed accidentally. When the player insisted that he move the touched piece, he says, “I’m legally blind, and you make me move the piece?” After winning the game, the accusing player simply gathered his things, said nothing, and walked away. It was awful.

Not every blind player is as adept as Albert Sandrin, who played on a regular board with his brother Angelo Sandrin, recording the moves for him. I once saw a Grandmaster showing Sandrin his game by telling him the moves. It was intriguing to see this, even though I knew he could follow the game easily. Sandrin won the 1949 U.S. Open and the U.S. Blind a couple of times.

These are fascinating stories. Perhaps there are many more stories like this, but disabled players remain on the fringe. The U.S. Blind Championship seems to get little attention and the U.S. Blind Chess Association is barely known. Alex Relyea has been a noble advocate for disabled chess players. Incidentally, the U.S. team placed joint 10th in the 1st Online FIDE Chess Olympiad For People With Disabilities.

The U.S. Chess Open, a Chess Bonanza

My first foray into chess politics when I served three years on the Board of Directors of the Florida Chess Association under both William Bowman and Kevin Pryor. Florida is a very long state (eight hours drive from Tallahassee to Miami), so logistical challenges move many state-wide activities toward Orlando. Florida is very tournament friendly with the demographic suiting both juniors and seniors.

I visited the 2014 U.S. Open in Orlando as a spectator, but was fully engaged as a player and delegate at the 2019 U.S. Open in Orlando. In addition to playing in the Open tournament, I represented Florida in the 2019 National Senior Tournament of Champions!

Scored 3½-2½ in 2019 National Senior Tournament of Champions. Photo by Kevin Pryor

Scored 3½-2½ in 2019 National Senior Tournament of Champions
Photo by Kevin Pryor

2019 Florida Delegates
William Bowman, Bryan Tillis, Kevin Pryor, Jon Haskel, Daaim Shabazz
Photo by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

State Delegates: Larry Weston (Arkansas), David Blair (Kansas),
Daaim Shabazz (Florida)

It is understood that most in the chess community merely want to play chess, not organize tournaments, direct tournaments, coach scholastic players, or engage in policy decisions. Many are happy playing in whatever tournaments they can. However, it is important to be aware of policy decisions that affect the ability to participate in these tournaments.

There was an air of optimism in the Executive Board and Delegates meetings, and President Allen Priest was very able in navigating the agenda. The business meetings were very interesting, and workshops are held designed to improve different functions of the organizations. In the delegates’ meeting, I got a chance to meet some of the other state delegates, some familiar faces, and many new ones.

I also attended some of the many workshops. Some committee meetings were: Rules, College Chess, Ethics, Communications, Scholastic, Senior Chess, and Women’s Chess. I attended the rules committee and was able to bring up the issue of death at the chessboard, an issue that I have written about on these pages.

Stand Up and Be Counted!

Jennifer Shahade encourages girls at the award ceremony of the 2019 Haring Tournament of Champions. Photo by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

“Women’s Chess” has been receiving a lot of momentum with Jennifer Shahade and others leading the initiative. The chess community lends active support to increasing the participation of girls and women, which is a very positive development as far as the growth of chess is concerned.

As much as we applaud these efforts, it is very simplistic to believe that increasing the participation of girls/women is a goal desired only by that group. It would be equally naive to accept that only the disabled would advocate for the rights of those disabled or that Blacks would be the only ones pushing for more ethnic representation. Unfortunately, that is the way it is has been in American society. Every group segment initiates the fight for its own cause. This is understandable, but this represents neither a diversity of thinking nor a holistic way of problem-solving.

On a personal level, I have memories of two individuals who openly advocated for more participation of Black chess players. Without professing an agenda, my coach Tom Fineberg provided an arena for greater participation on the southside of Chicago. It was a passion of his until he passed away. There was also the legacy of Jerry Bibuld was often criticized for his advocacy of Black players. These men not only had diversity in their thinking, but more importantly, sought to create a favorable outcome for chess.

GM Alexander Shabalov is still dangerous over the chessboard, but is an advocate for “Senior Chess.” Photo by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

Senior chess has gotten a boost with the new “Senior Tournament of Champions.” Alexander Shabalov praised the move at the Banquet and pridefully announced the U.S. gold medal at the 2019 World Senior Team Championships (50+ section). They would repeat in 2020. With the changing of demographics in chess tournaments, perhaps there are more needs as far senior issues are concerned.

In my particular circles, I frequently hear chatter about the lack of Black representation in the upper echelons of chess. Yes, these issues do matter, but what do we do about it?

Community Engagement

What does all this mean? Perhaps we need more creativity. That pertains to addressing topics like outreach for underrepresented communities, more engagement with FIDE and international standards for tournaments, and more creative initiatives to elevate the profile of chess (i.e., Olympiad, World tournaments). There is also a tremendous void in writing about diverse topics in terms of chess content. If underrepresented communities within chess want to affect change, we have to become more involved at the state, national and international levels of chess.

Trenton New Jersey Maximum Security Prison
Photo by Oliver Fluck

Running The Chess Drum for 20 years has given me a chance to visit communities in different countries, to cover high-level events, and to see the beautiful world of chess in its glory. While I am primarily known for covering chess of the African Diaspora, I have written articles on prison chess, chess for the disabled, gender issues, and unheralded players in obscure locations. In my particular circles, I frequently hear chatter about the lack of Black representation in the upper echelons of chess. Yes, these issues do matter, but what do we do about it?

There is a way to have these issues addressed, but it is not to merely complain, show ambivalence, or disengage. Initiatives will initially come from within the affected segment or through those who express diversity in thinking. Bibuld organized the “Wilbert Paige Memorial Tournament” which was celebrated worldwide as a bold attempt to showcase master-level players of the African Diaspora. We all should be interested in seeing the chess community grow in different ways, and not when it only benefits our own special-interest group. Far too often, that is the prism through which problems are seen in the U.S.

One Last Reflection

I have cherished memories of my high school coach Thomas Fineberg lugging his tattered bags of chess sets and boards to Tuley Park on Saturdays. That made a deep impression on me and showed me how someone could be selflessly dedicated to chess. In addition, this corpulent, grey-bearded, asthmatic man gave every bit of his time to chess with the blessing of his wife, Maxine. What was even more important to me is that he provided players on the south side of Chicago the opportunities to play competitively.

With my high school coach, Tom Fineberg

Those who have been involved in chess and have professional backgrounds could serve chess in many constructive ways. Perhaps it is as a Tournament Director, coach/trainer, tournament organizer, photographer, or journalist. Maybe we may vie for a position on the U.S. Chess Executive Board or serve on a FIDE committee. We are not talking about choosing people for particular positions based on their ethnicity, gender, or age. For me, the issue is to bring up diverse topics and diverse thinking to advance the cause of chess.

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