Drum Interviews @ ’14 World Open

The World Open is a bonanza that attracts so many chess aficionados far and wide. Each year, droves of competitors assemble on the tournament not only to play, but to socialize and to participate in America’s most well-known tournament. The 2014 World Open would be memorable for a number of reasons.

Dominique Myers earned his National Master title at the World Open. Photo by Charlotte Chess Center.

The Chess Drum was able to conduct some very interesting interviews during the tournament. These interviews always capture the diverse backgrounds and reveal what makes people so passionate about the game. This year the interviews ranged from up-and-coming players to mid-level masters to retired legends to world-class Grandmasters! Please sit back and enjoy these interviews and feel free to give your feedback!

NM Dominique Myers (USA) – This Charlotte native discusses his quest to earn the National Master title. The full-time college student left the scholastic scene in 2010 and finally broke the 2200 barrier at the 2014 World Open. He cites FM Ron Simpson as an inspiration and dedicated his title to him. He joins an elite group of players representing the top 1% of players in the country. He also joins the coveted “Drum Majors” list of masters of African ancestry. 5:23 minutes

Walter Harris, a Fischer contemporary on the March 1964 cover of Chess Life.

NM Walter Harris (USA) – This is a classic interview for the mere fact that National Master Walter Harris had not visited a chess tournament in 30-40 years. Harris shares pearls of wisdom in recounting his experiences as a player emerging in the 50s. He is known to The Chess Drum audience as the first Black player to earn the U.S. National Master title, a feat earned during his 5th place finish at the 1959 U.S. Junior Open.

He proceeds to discuss the legend of Bobby Fischer, the Marshall Chess Club, the Hawthorne Chess Club and the chess scene as it was then. He even recounted his exchanges with Fischer as an up and coming player. Fischer had later befriended one of Harris’ mentors Archie Waters. It would be Waters who helped sponsor Harris on his way to becoming a Master. Fascinating! 26:10 minutes

Walter Harris chats with old chess contemporaries Philip Collier and Fischer biographer Frank Brady.

Dr. Kimani Stancil and Dr. Daaim Shabazz flanked by legends NM Walter Harris and NM Frank Street. Photos by Daaim Shabazz.

NM Frank Street on the cover of the July 1965 Chess Life for winning the U.S. Amateur.

NM Frank Street (USA) – Mr. Street is a familiar face to World Open participants not because he is playing on the top boards, but because he comes every year to observe the games and socialize. Street is known by is 1965 U.S. Amateur Championship and was on the cover of the Chess Life & Review (left). He spoke about his life in chess and a very amusing anecdote about his initial exposure to the game in high school. Most of us can relate to this story. 🙂20:25 minutes

IM Kassa Korley (USA) – This senior at Duke University has had a wonderful year. He has spent this past year in Denmark for study abroad where he played in a number of tournaments. Already having one norm in 2011, he earned a second norm at the DC International two weeks before earning his third and final at the New York International. Thus, he has completed the requirements for the International Master title. In this interview, Korley discusses about some deep philosophies about his approach to the game. Very insightful! 22:32 minutes

Pairings are up for under-2400! Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

IM-elect Kassa Korley playing Alekhine against Cuba’s Lazaro Bruzon.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

IM Farai Mandizha (Zimbabwe) – In the absence of Robert Gwaze, Mandizha will man the top board for Zimbabwe in the Tromso Olympiad. He talks about his evolution as a player, the chess scene in Zimbabwe, African chess, his work in chess education, his new marriage and what he thinks of World Champion Magnus Carlsen. 21:35 minutes

Zimbabwe’s IM Farai Mandizha
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

FM Philip Corbin (Barbados) – A legendary figure in Bajan chess… seven-time national champion and author of acclaimed book, “Calypso Chess“. Known as the “Caribbean Tal” he loves to play swashbuckling chess and still employs tricky openings such as the Elephant Gambit. This is his first World Open since 1985, a tournament in which he played a memorable game against Peter Chubinsky. He discusses a wide variety of topics including why he came out of retirement to play in the World Open. 14:41 minutes

Calypso Chess by Dr. Philip Corbin

Dr. Philip Corbin has had a very venerable career in Barbadian or “Bajan” chess. He is perhaps known most for his swashbuckling attacking style and affinity for the Elephant Gambit (seen in the photo). Get a copy of his book Calypso Chess here!

Uche Agu (Nigeria) – Uche trekked all the way from Nigeria with 11 other players. He discussed his impression of the tournament and what it means to the chess culture of his country. He mentions the new administration and their quest to market chess to the youth. Chess is on the rise in Nigeria. He also talks about Nigerians’ love for quick chess and why! He speaks about Millionaire Chess and appreciation of The Chess Drum! 19:31 minutes

Open Section. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Uche Agu was among 12 players traveling from Nigeria.
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

GM Eshan Ghaem Maghami (Iran) – Iran’s top player talks to us about his experience at the World Open. Coming to the U.S. for the third time, he shares his impressions of the tournament and the chess scene in Iran. Despite suffering jet lag from a long flight, he recovered and tallied 6.5/9. We discussed the Iran’s participation in Olympiad and the rise of chess in the Asian region. Interesting to hear from a place that is often maligned in the media.10:54 minutes

GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami of Iran (near right) waits to begin his game. No clock. In my interview with him he complained about having to bring own equipment. This scene highlights one of the issues foreign players have when playing here. Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

Alisa Melekhina (round 1)

FM Alisa Melekhina shown here at the 2012 U.S. Championships. Since then she has graduated from law school and started sublite.net. Find out how she does it! Photo by CCSCSL.

FM Alisa Melekhina (USA) – Perhaps one of the most versatile players in the female circuit. A classical ballerina, her father exposed her to chess at an early age and she rose quietly and steadily to the point of qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Championship. Having just finished law school at the University of Pennsylvania, she was at the World Open visiting friends while also studying for the New York bar exam. She also shed light on her entrepreneurial endeavors and shared how she was able to multi-task so successfully. The interview also discussion women’s chess and whether there should be gender-based tournaments and titles. She also touts Maurice Ashley’s “Millionaire Chess“. 23:20 minutes


  1. Interesting interview with I.M. elect Kassa Korley. Especially liked his acceptance of an element in chess that usually constitutes an advantage and building his chess around that. I believe the Super GM that uses and seeks the two BBs (Bishops) is Sergey Karjakin in his games. Amongst the old masters I recall someone writing that David Janowski was quite enamored with the two bishops Excellent interview with chess insights revealed.

  2. This was an honest interview by the young IM-elect Kassa Korley. However, it’s vital to note that it’s not having the bishop pair that made the noteworthy change in Kassa’s chess attitude; rather, it is his amplified awareness of how to really function with the bishop pairs that made the considerable difference. Some of us are boxers while others are wrestlers, just like some like the bishops and others prefer the knights. In my opinion, it’s a matter of taste and what you fee is more suited to your style that matters most. So for the aspiring IMs out there, don’t start thinking you’re going to become instant IMs if you start using the bishop pairs; it’s a lot more than that, but it worked for Kassa. To say the least, I am very pleased to see that we are adding young talents to the elite club of IMs more rapidly than in the past. Onward to GM, Kassa!

  3. Pingback: Daily Chess News Links July 11, 2014 | blog.chesscafe.com
  4. How can one contact Mr. Walt Harris? Seems an online tournament in his name, as the first African-American Master would be in order.

    Rob Jones
    Senior TD USCF

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