This year was the 20th year for The Chess Drum. On February 12th, I posted a very lengthy chronicle of the site’s history with key moments each of the 20 years. I put a lot of effort into that post, but it was fulfilling to recount the special moments, not only for The Chess Drum, but for those who were being highlighted. Some of these highlights were also featured in an article I wrote for New in Chess (2021/1).
The year 2021 was one of intriguing transitions. After one year of online activity and the esport, many players longed for over-the-board interaction. Had there been online fatigue as there was “ZOOM fatigue” in the academic and business worlds? Perhaps.
There were a lot of online success stories that came out of 2020 and it continued in 2021 when Jimmy Canty and Frank Johnson signed eSports contracts. Followers of this site may know them for many years.
Hikaru Nakamura served as a catalyst for developing the online streaming platform. Starting his channel in 2018 on Twitch, Hikaru had been an online warrior for more than a decade. The old days of Internet Chess Club marathon battles were a faint memory, but with COVID sweeping the globe, the online platform exploded. Indeed, but we are so glad to be back OTB!
The biggest story of the year may the Magnus Carlsen retaining his championship title on December 11th. The World Championship in Dubai was hosted concurrently with the EXPO 2020 and The Chess Drum was there! Check out my reflections here.
(Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
— Daaim Shabazz (@thechessdrum) December 13, 2021
The result turned out to be disappointing, and Carlsen made a pronouncement that he could possibly leave the cycle if there isn’t an able challenger from the new generation. He named Alireza Firouzja, but there are others waiting as the World Rapid & Blitz demonstrated. During the final press conference, I asked both players what they thought of including other disciplines. Nepo nixed the idea while Carlsen was very open. In fact, his pronouncement after the match gave the impression that he had thought about this topic deeply.
Magnus Carlsen, 2021 World Chess Champion
Photo by Eric Rosen
There were some interesting discussions and the world was still buzzing about “Queen’s Gambit.” I did a piece on it titled, “Gambit and Katwe… Two Queens, Two Lessons,” but I also added an analysis including Phiona Mutesi’s “The Queen of Katwe.” This movie did not get the fanfare, but of course, the lessons of her life may have been unrelatable for most.
We saw some interesting stories including Levon Aronian switching federations due to dissatisfaction with the change in the political climate in Armenia. While Aronian is a big name who has been based in St. Louis, there is another St. Louis resident who is doing great things.
Justus Williams started his “Black Squares” initiative of exposing children to chess for personal development, particularly those in the Black community. The initiative seem to give Justus motivation as he went on to clinch his IM title by earning the requisite 2400 rating.
IM Justus Williams
Photo by CCSCSL
As far as other young talents, Tanitoluwa Adewumi and Brewington Hardaway had many bright moments. “Tani” earned his National Master’s title at 10 joining Hardaway who had also earned in at 10. Both are very active in tournament play and improving rapidly. Tani won the North American Youth under-12 in August.
Hardaway recently eclipsed the 2300 rating mark and won the 7th-grade national championship. Most will remember also that Abhimanyu Mishra broke the age record for the Grandmaster title. Young players are benefiting from the wealth of resources for chess, but most notably the sacrifices of their parents.
Speaking of young players, there was a touching McDonald’s commercial featuring three chess-playing girls from the southside of Chicago.
Video courtesy of the McDonald’s Corporation
There was an interesting story out of Kenya as Fred Sagwe walked 165 kilometers (102 miles) to advocate the inclusion of chess in the curriculum. It was a very creative and noble effort by the current Head of Chess-in-Schools. This led to a debate on the floor of the Kenyan Parliament! Speaking of policy, I penned an op-ed piece touting for increasing diversity of chess ideas.
Unfortunately, not all stories were happy. We lost a number of chess players although not as many as in 2020. Obituaries were presented here for the following players:
Jerome Works, 66
Philadelphia native, club manager
Joseph Gadson, 36 – Detroit native, coach, chess promoter (obituary)
FM Albert Chow, 57 – Chicago native, coach, writer
1994 U.S. Open co-champion
- The Chess Drum’s Highlights of 2021! (31 December 2021)
- Brewington Hardaway continues to climb! (31 December 2021)
- Reflections of 2021 World Championship/EXPO 2020 (30 December 2021)
- Ncube discusses youth tourney on Kenya TV (22 December 2021)
- Chess at Expo 2020 Dubai (21 December 2021)
- Magnus Carlsen retains title, winning 7.5-3.5! (12 December 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship: Game #11 (11 December 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship: Game #10 (9 December 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship: Game #9 (8 December 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship: Game #8 (6 December 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship: Game #7 (5 December 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship: Game #6 (4 December 2021)
- Orrin Hudson in Dubai for World Championship (3 December 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship: Game #5 (2 December 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship: Game #4 (1 December 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship: Game #3 (29 November 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship: Game #2 (28 November 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship: Game #1 (27 November 2021)
- 2021 World Chess Championship (Carlsen vs. Nepomniachtchi) (25 November 2021)
- World Championship 2021 kicks off in a few days! (24 November 2021)
- Chess brought before Kenyan Parliament (10 November 2021)
- Chicago chess legend FM Albert Chow dies (31 October 2021)
- 2021 International Chess Championship for Prisons (21 October 2021)
- Chicago, Chess, Girl Power and McDonald’s (18 October 2021)
- The Chess Drum on South African Twitch! (11 October 2021)
- Kenya’s Sagwe walks 165kms to promote chess (3 October 2021)
- Justus Williams clinches IM title! (12 September 2021)
- Philadelphia loses Jerome Works (1955-2021) (8 September 2021)
- NM Rene Phillips devastated by Hurricane Ida (5 September 2021)
- Brewington Hardaway 4th at NAYCC, wins blitz (28 August 2021)
- Burundi’s Chess President, Wilfried Ntamatungiro (25 August 2021)
- Tani Adewumi wins North American Youth under-12 (24 August 2021)
- Detroit’s Joseph Gadson passes away (15 August 2021)
- Inside Look at Kenyan Chess (8 August 2021)
- 2021 FIDE World Cup: FINALS (5 August 2021)
- 2021 FIDE World Cup: SEMIFINALS (2 August 2021)
- Justus Williams reaches chess heights on Black Squares (30 July 2021)
- 2021 FIDE World Cup: Round #6 (23 July 2021)
- 2021 FIDE World Cup: Round #5 (23 July 2021)
- 2021 FIDE World Cup: Round #4 (23 July 2021)
- 2021 FIDE World Cup: Round #3 (19 July 2021)
- 2021 FIDE World Cup: Round #2 (16 July 2021)
- 2021 FIDE World Cup: Round #1 (13 July 2021)
- 2021 FIDE World Chess Cup (Sochi, Russia) (12 July 2021)
- Niemann wins 2021 World Open (11 July 2021)
- Abhimanyu Mishra, youngest chess GM in history! (2 July 2021)
- Senegal crowns national chess champion! (27 June 2021)
- Pontus Carlsson wins 2021 Prague Blitz! (24 June 2021)
- Chicago Open excites… OTB in full swing! (22 June 2021)
- Ramón Mateo… Dominican trailblazer! (17 June 2021)
- GM Román Hernández Onna dies at 71 (12 June 2021)
- 2021 African Individual Chess Championship (2 June 2021)
- OTB chess resumes! (15 May 2021)
- Danielle Little… Young Royalty Chess Academy (6 May 2021)
- Tani Adewumi becomes Chess Master at 10! (3 May 2021)
- KasparovChess.com is back! (1 May 2021)
- Richards elected as St. Lucia’s Chess President (19 April 2021)
- Vote for Executive Board Members! (18 April 2021)
- After COVID year, FIDE Candidates resumes! (17 April 2021)
- More diversity needed in chess policy decisions (12 April 2021)
- ‘GMCanty,’ ‘Coach Frank’ sign up with Esports (28 March 2021)
- Charles Smith’s training book reveals Matrix method (19 March 2021)
- Chicago Public Schools learns about Black Chess! (18 March 2021)
- ‘Lifechangers’ changing lives in West Philly (10 March 2021)
- Costa Rica’s Tania Hernandez renewed chess passion (2 March 2021)
- What is Somalian “Ciyaarta Shataranjiga”? (2 March 2021)
- Brazil’s rising star Ryan Wesley Caetano (28 February 2021)
- Jerald Times… 2021 ‘Chess Educator of the Year’ (27 February 2021)
- Levon Aronian to play for U.S. after emigrating (27 February 2021)
- GM Román Hernández… Afro-Cuban trailblazer (20 February 2021)
- 20th year for The Chess Drum! (12 February 2021)
- “Black Squares” leaps into action (8 February 2021)
- New in Chess (2020/8) (31 January 2021)
- Acheampong is Africa’s under-9 champ! (17 January 2021)
- Anquandah, Felix… Ghanaian chess champions! (13 January 2021)
- Gambit and Katwe… Two Queens, Two Lessons (11 January 2021)
- The RZA featured in Chess Life (3 January 2021)
- Ted Talk with Eugene Brown… Life of a King (2 January 2021)