The Chess Drum’s Highlights of 2023

Our chess highlights of 2023 will show how controversy served as the mainstay of headlines. We even saw a player busted for impersonating a woman! The Carlsen-Niemann controversy was still bubbling as the chess community saw a dismissal on one count of the $100 million lawsuit in June. FIDE finally released a statement and, on four counts, fined the former World Champion Magnus Carlsen 10,000 euros for unceremoniously quitting the Sinquefield Cup without cause and without following procedures for filing a complaint.

The last op/ed piece of the year was, “Has cheating (accusations) in chess gone too far?” This was the culmination of a year when further accusations of players cheating in online competitions were swirling. Vladimir Kramnik accused top streamer Hikaru Nakamura of violations of fair play. What’s ironic was that Nakamura was at the center of the cheating accusation of Carlsen against Hans Niemann. Now he finds himself as the target. What a year!

The Good Stuff… Titles!

We started out the year asking whether classical chess (particularly over-the-board) was dead, given comments by Magnus Carlsen predicting it would be phased out. It doesn’t appear so despite Carlsen’s focus on quickplay. Carlsen emphasized his preference by his World Rapid & Blitz triumph in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, just a few days ago. However, classical is still the gold standard. After spending the year reflecting, we ran an article on why classical chess is here to stay. Many changes are needed in the current championship format, but it remains the ultimate litmus test of how players are judged in history.

This was the year of FM Brewington Hardway. The 14-year-old earned three IM norms (#1, #2, #3) and one GM norm in 2023. To clinch his 2400 rating and IM title, he earned 100 Elo points in a month! His title will be conferred at the 1st FIDE Council in 2024. Hardaway certainly has a high ceiling, and hopefully, in 2024, he will have chances to complete the other two norms.

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Brewington showing his norm certificates
Photo by Ikuko Hardaway

Speaking of titles, we saw Benjamin al-Shami of Cleveland, Ohio, earn the title of U.S. National Master just before the end of the year. While the age record for becoming a master has lowered over the years, it may be even more difficult to earn as you get older. Kudos Ben! Gregory Acholonu finally got his FM title two decades after qualifying. This is common; some players may not know they have earned titles.

While IM Kassa Korley is seeking his GM title (two norms), he also works for In addition, he was featured in Amazon’s “Mind Games” as part of an experiment to see how physical training affected performance. IM Dylan Berdayes became Cuba’s 47th Grandmaster.

Dylan Berdayes

Also, Cuban Women’s Grandmaster Oleiny Linares Napoles won her 4th national title and later came to the 2023 Chicago Open where The Chess Drum interviewed her.

GM Fidel Corrales (interpreter), Daaim ShabazzWGM Oleiny Linares Napoles
Photo by Adia Onyango

Interview by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

National Champions… More Interviews

11-year old Nigerian Deborah Quickpen won her first national title, the youngest in the nation’s history. Joseph Mwale, known as “GM Fear” on the African continent, won his 8th Malawian title. There was also Jaden Shaw’s first National Championship of Jamaica months after he was given a sportsmanship award at the 2022 Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India. Shaw was also seen at the Pan-American Youth Championship in Chicago, Illinois. During that event, The Chess Drum interviewed FM Warren Elliott, one of the delegation’s coaches.

Keeping with the trend of interviews The Chess Drum sat down with Jimmy Canty III who has become a media sensation and recently released his own Chessable course on the “Jobava London.

Daaim Shabazz & FM James Canty III. Photo by Nathan Kelly
Daaim Shabazz & FM James Canty III
Photo by Nathan Kelly

Video by Daaim Shabazz/The Chess Drum

Also, Adia Onyango was featured in an interview during the Chicago Open. Known as the “chess traveler,” she was the impetus behind starting one of the most popular chess Facebook groups known as “Chess Connections.”

New Ideas!

This year saw the 1st HBCU Classic organized by students at the Atlanta University Center. This initiative is designed to get more Black university students involved in organized chess and benefit from all the qualities that chess brings.

Dr. Kevin James and GM Maurice Ashley join the real stars at Morris Brown College.
Photos by Daaim Shabazz/ The Chess Drum

Reflections on the 1st HBCU Chess Classic!

The founders of the Black Chess Odyssey are already busy putting the plans together for the next spring event to take place in April 2024. Another initiative was launched in Edgewood, Maryland, called “Coming of Kings,” designed “to involve boys in positive interaction with positive, successful men in preparation for adolescence and adulthood.”  Great story!

“Battle of the Masters” was an exciting event that brought together area masters to battle in a three-on-three team event. The event was organized by Inez Kelly (in honor of her late brother Armand Kelly) and Aggrey Duncan. The Chess Drum did not attend the New York event, but there were some great photos taken.

“Battle of the Masters”

Saturday, September 23rd, 2023
Harlem, New York

From left: Harlem Knights (NM Jerald Times, FM Josh Colas, IM Justus Williams),
Majestic Lions (NM Chikwere Onyekwere, FM Joel Adebayo, IM Daniel Jere)

FM Todd Andrews also wrote a new book on IM Emory Tate with the support of Emory’s sons, Andrew and Tristan. It is a collection of Tate’s chess ideas with instructive games. It had been six years since Triple Exclam was released, and more projects have been sprouting up. Not to mention that Emory’s sons have become social media sensations. Their controversy has been quite a force in social media. This book is a tribute by Andrews with a blessing from the sons, who have profusely praised their father’s lessons. It’s worth a look.

Ding Would be King

We have a new World Champion in China’s Ding Liren. We covered the news here with great interest. The match was hotly-contested and ended in tiebreaks, with China getting their first overall World Chess Champion. They currently hold both the overall and women’s titles. One of the stories circulating is Ding’s absence from tournament play after winning the title. It is described as “health-related,” but surrounded by mystery. Some have questioned Ding’s commitment to chess, but perhaps 2024 will see his emergence. How can he possibly top 2023?

Let’s hope chess is on better footing after a year of controversy. The Chess Olympiad will be in Budapest, Hungary, in the fall, and we have recently covered the announcement of the bid for the 2028 Olympiad in the UAE. It will be tough to follow Chennai, but it has set a new standard for excellence. Perhaps the UAE will replicate its 1986 success. When will the U.S. host an Olympiad? We shall see, but until then, we will settle on covering this fascinating event!

Ding Liren is the new World Chess Champion













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