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 https://new.uschess.org 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:
https://new.uschess.org/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 governance@uschess.org.

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 mail.electionbuddy.com) 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.

FIDE

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)
Participants
#
Name
Title
Federation
Flag
Rating
1 Caruana, Fabiano GM USA
2842
2 Ding Liren GM China
2805
3 Grischuk, Alexander GM Russia
2777
4 Nepomniachtchi, Ian GM Russia
2767
5 Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime GM France
2767
6 Giri, Anish GM Netherlands
2763
7 Wang Hao GM China
2762
8 Alekseenko, Kirill GM Russia
2698
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: https://en.candidates-2020.com/
Regulations: https://www.fide.com/
Schedule: https://en.candidates-2020.com/about
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.

EARL HAMMUD
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.

Jimmy Canty

Online chess has experienced a boom and has been the subject of many news stories. The “Queen’s Gambit” TV series made a contribution, but chess streaming had catapulted chess into the spotlight through the platform, Twitch. Hikaru Nakamura was the first elite chess player to gain a footing after nearly 20 years of stardom on Internet servers. Earlier this month, chess.com announced that Frank Johnson and Jimmy Canty have signed on with Premier and Noble, respectively. Both have benefited from this wave and look forward to developing a larger platform for chess.

Now we’re in a new era and many players have taken on an Internet persona either through Twitch streaming or YouTube channels. The result has represented a boon to chess that some are calling the first since the “Fischer Boom.” The global pandemic has been a blessing in disguise with many being tethered to their computers through telecommuting and online education via ZOOM.


I believe that this new inclusion will fast-track competitive play not only for top-level players but also for players at the state and local levels. Chess as an esport also has the additional benefit of bringing even more potential players.

~Frank Johnson, ChessCoach.Net


chess-coach-net

An entire legion of streaming stars began to pop up around the world with some making into the six-figure salary including Canada’s Alexandra Botez and sister Andrea Botez. Canty and Johnson’s signings follow very steady followings of their online platforms.

As a university professor, I can attest to the weariness people feel at looking at screens for months. In fact, there was a recent article suggesting a “detox” from all the online activity. Conversely, many chess players are longing for over-the-board (OTB) action, and many chess organizations have announced a return to OTB play. However, the online chess platform is here to stay and there will be more options for chess competition. Chess organizers have filled a demand with online tournaments and even chess personalities like Maurice Ashley have jumped into the Twitch game.


“This is such a dream come true for me.”
~James Canty III


An entire legion of streaming stars began to pop up around the world with some making into the six-figure salary including Canada’s Alexandra Botez and sister Andrea Botez. Jimmy Canty and Frank Johnson were recently signed as premier esports personalities. This is after very steady traffic in their online platforms.

Both have had popular platforms while Canty has parlayed his skills as a chess commentator. After spending time as a participant in the National Blitz League, Canty started a Twitch channel after being inspired by Johnson. However, he also gives credit to the streaming trailblazers Nakamura and the Botez sisters. It should not be lost that “Coach Frank” and “Canty Cash” are two of the handful of African-American chess streamers with sizable followings. Ashley’s recent foray pushes him quickly to 27,000 followers and professional gameshow competitor Jonathan Corblahh joins this elite fraternity.

The Chess Drum salutes these pioneers!

Video by chess-coach.net

Brooklyn native Charles Smith is no stranger to these pages, and we are glad to announce the release of his new training book. For many years, he honed his chess education methods in Birmingham where he was locally recognized for his success. Founder of Magic City Chess University, he was honored by the Birmingham Mayor with the “2010 Hidden Heroes Award” and also worked with the Boys & Girls Club. In addition, he collaborated with the human rights organization NAACP to host a free program called the “Changing Lives One Mind At A Time Initiative”.

In February, Smith released a book titled, A Chess Primer: The Matrix Unleashed. Here is the Amazon description:

A Chess Primer The Matrix Unleashed is a beginner’s chess book teaching chess in a new way. This streamline approach is for anyone who ever wanted to learn the game of chess or teach it to their own or any children. What makes this book very different is the fun and easy approach invented by United States Chess Federation Level IV National Chess Coach Charles A Smith. The author’s proven method of rapid comprehension thru effective teaching is the key. The fastest way to learn chess and have fun doing it. Also great for chess coaches to use as their teaching method. This book will revolutionize the way chess is learned and taught. If you have ever wanted to learn chess or tried and gave up here is your chance to easily get it done. Chess On!!

Smith holding classes at Birmingham Public Library

Smith holding classes at Birmingham Public Library.

Three years ago, Smith has taken his talents to Seattle, Washington where he has taught a number of promising talents including Cadets Girls World Champion under-12 Rochelle Wu. “She played for my K-3 team and was the best in the country that year. The number two girl was my student also both out of Alabama!” Smith told The Chess Drum.

Smith has coined a method centered around quick comprehension and application of chess principles. “This method was used to get both of them understanding the game fast and that is where the fun is in chess understanding! The method is sound and could work for anyone who wants to learn teach or novices that would like to improve easily.”

Smith has taken his Matrix methods to Seattle

Smith has taken his Matrix methods to Seattle.
Photo from winningwithcas.com

When asked why he wrote the book, Smith stated that he thought it would be a way to teach chess in a far less complicated manner than most beginners books or programs.

“I also wrote it so people who try to coach or teach chess but lack the real skill set that would not run children and other people away from such a wonderful game and experience. All games are no fun if you cannot win. No game is fun to learn if it’s too complicated.”

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/
Winning with CAS: http://www.winningwithcas.com/about-cas

During Black History Month, Chicago Public Schools hosted a Black History Empowerment program featuring Howard University Chess Team and Daaim Shabazz of The Chess Drum. The “Howard Bison” (Michele Bennett, Malcolm Wooten, Azeezah Muhammad and Naomi Baptiste) talked about their successful participation in the 2020-2021 Pan American Intercollegiate Championship held last December on chess.com. David Heiser and Jourdain Gant of Renaissance Knights Chess were hosts of the program. While this video was finally made available, it goes without saying that Black History should be celebrated every month!

CPS welcomes The Chess Drum!

Video courtesy of CPS Academic Chess Programs

ZOOM link: Black History Empowerment Workshop (full program)
Passcode: R98#iSc3

The Black community is full of success stories in chess, but oftentimes the works of hardworking pioneers go unnoticed and underappreciated. Mikyeil El-Mekki is one of those figures tapping potential in Philadelphia youth in a city also known for prowess in athletic pursuits. El-Mekki presents founded the Paul Robeson Chess Club in honor of the great scholar, singer, orator, and athlete who lived his last days in Philadelphia with his sister.

Robeson House in West Philadelphia

Paul Robeson with wife Eslanda and son, Paul Jr.

Chess is often used as a tool to view the possibilities of life. Many organizations have a similar ring, but each approach changes with the environment. The concept of “life strategies” has deep roots in the city’s culturally-rich traditions. Philadelphia is home to a well-known chess pedigree with the Vaux championship teams.


“Life is the only thing that has more possibilities than a chess game.”

~Mikyeil El-Mekki


With so many social challenges in the Black community, youth are looking for constructive outlets and there is none more inviting than chess. It is an activity to help in the development of social skills and analytical abilities. Lifechangers made some bold pronouncements when interviewed for the CBS affiliate. Take a look.

Link: https://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2020/02/20/gamechangers-mikyeil-el-mekki-paul-robeson-chess-club/

Robeson House in West Philadelphia

Robeson House in West Philadelphia

Tania Hernández Álvarez was a prominent player in the Cuba’s women’s circuit haven competed in the national championship several times. However, she joined a large migrant population of chess players and she settled abroad in Costa Rica and renewed passion for chess. A few years ago, she obtained Costa Rican citizenship and now competes for the country in international tournaments.

WIM Tania Hernández Álvarez
Photo from fcacostarica.com

Costa Rica Costa Rica Costa Rica

Hernandez is from Central Havana and started her chess journey in the walking grounds of Cuban legend Raul Capablanca. She participated in many Cuban championships and represented her country in four Olympiad tournaments (1984, 1994, 1996, 1998). Apparently, things were very challenging economically and in 2010, she charted a new course in life and settled in Costa Rica.

According to an interview conducted two years ago, she felt her love for chess rejuvenate and she became a national teacher in her adopted country.

At what age did you start playing chess?

I started at the age of 12 in Cuba.

What caught your attention?

Renewed passion in chess!
Photo from fideamerica.com

As soon as I saw a chess game with my uncle-in-law (aunt’s husband), it struck me that it looked like a maze because I like everything that has to do with thinking, with the mystery, that there is beyond, and it caught my attention. Therefore, the other day I was already in a chess academy in Cuba, which had many very good ones. I did visit the next day after learning the game, which is normally learned very easily… in a few hours or a day.

Who prompted you to practice this discipline?

My uncle-in-law, my mother, the family taught me to practice discipline and my thing with chess was love at first sight.

What do you remember from that first game?

The truth is that I do not remember, but obviously it must have been in my favor because I stayed all the time in chess and it was a vice, an addiction that I had. I grew up very fast in chess, I studied many hours a day and was already beating the big boys. That first year I did very well.

How much do you dedicate to this sport?

I try to dedicate at least four hours to it, I can’t always do it for work.

How many sacrifices has it taken you to prepare well and become a national champion and climb to the FIDE level?

The sacrifices to prepare and be the Costa Rican champion have been immense, because I have had to change my whole mentality, to begin with. I am a diabetic, hence I had to change my diet, begin to prepare myself physically to endure so many hours in chess. I am 55 years old, which is a disadvantage compared to other girls, but I think that everything is in the mind, what you want, what you want. If you have the mental strength you can do it all.


It is my life, it is clear to me that it is an indissoluble marriage with which I will never separate, I am super in love, I have had several stages, even divorce too. When I arrived in Costa Rica I was totally discouraged, but Costa Rica healed me, made me fall in love with chess again, and rescue that marriage and that is worth gold.

~ Tania Hernández


What do you project in chess?

What I am projecting right now is to stay at the high level, because honestly, it is not only with being a chess coach, I had to get involved after having left being a player, because it helps me pay my expenses, and my passion for playing games, playing chess tournaments when I saw that I couldn’t pay taxes just by being a chess coach. And I want immensely since I became a Costa Rican citizen, thank God last year, to attend the next chess Olympiad playing for Costa Rica, I want to give that to this country, it deserves it for how well they have treated me, it is my project gold and if God allows me to bring me a medal, I will do everything possible to train myself to fulfill this project. I don’t think there are two athletes in the world who participate in two countries and have good results.

Tania Hernandez with Costa Rican teammates.

What is the adrenaline rush of being in a game?

The adrenaline that is experienced in chess games is immense, your heart from the moment you sit down beats very strong, you already know that you are going to have a battle with someone and that you have to get into their mind and try not to get into yours, therefore, that generates all kinds of things. In my case it fascinates me, I don’t know what to compare what one feels in those 3, 4, or 5 hours of play; And that is what sustains me and keeps me going in chess. If I lose that love, that desire, I will leave this sport, which has already happened to me in Cuba.

How much does a game wear?

It wears out a lot, especially at my age, you have to eat very well, think very well, have a lot of mental strength, it is very tiring. And as the game progresses a lot in my case, I have less chance of winning it because of my age, therefore, I am doing an extra job.

What does chess represent for Tania?

It is my life, it is clear to me that it is an indissoluble marriage with which I will never separate, I am super in love, I have had several stages, even divorce too. When I arrived in Costa Rica I was totally discouraged, but Costa Rica healed me, made me fall in love with chess again, and rescue that marriage and that is worth gold. So thank you very much Costa Rica, God bless you.

Tania Hernandez teaching Costa Rican school children. Photo from fideamerica.com.

Photo from fideamerica.com

Interview (Spanish): https://www.fideamerica.com/index.php/costa-rica/12174-tania-hernandez-costa-rica-hizo-que-me-volviera-a-enamorar-del-ajedrez
Games: https://players.chessbase.com/en/player/hernandez%20alvarez_tania%20regla/105315

Interview in Managua, Nicaragua at 2014 Subzonal 2.3
where she was coaching Costa Rica

Video by Tico Chess

Somalia

In a country will so much turmoil in the past five decades, it becomes important to try to find a way to bring normalcy to ever-present social challenges in Somalia. Chess is played in more than 200 countries with federations in more than 180. Somalia has also ushered in “Chess in Schools” and is fully engaged. Chess is described in many languages, but many probably cannot recall what the game is called in Somalia. It’s Ciyaarta Shataranjiga which simply means “Game of Chess.”

	
(front row, from left to right), Mohamad Roble (Bd. 1), Abdulle Jimale (Bd. 2), Maohamed Osman (Bd. 3) and  Sufi Hagi (Bd. 5); (in the rear, from left to right), Abukar Mohamud (Bd. 4), Abshir Osman (Bd. 6) and Ahmed Moalim Mohamed, (captain). Photo by Jerry Bibuld.

Somalia at 2002 Chess Olympiad (Bled, Slovenia)

(front row, from left to right), Mohamad Roble (Bd. 1), Abdulle Jimale (Bd. 2), Mohamed Osman (Bd. 3) and Sufi Hagi (Bd. 5); (in the rear, from left to right), Abukar Mohamud (Bd. 4), Abshir Osman (Bd. 6) and Ahmed Moalim Mohamed, (captain). Photo by Jerry Bibuld.

Recently, there was a Somali program on Facebook reporting on chess in Somalia. While non-Somali would have trouble following the broadcast, it is wonderful to note that there is an activity in the country. Somalia participated in Chess Olympiads in Bled, Slovenia (2002), Baku, Azerbaijan (2016) and Batumi, Georgia (2018). The segment below is in Somali language. It matters not that we do not understand, but rest assured they are celebrating chess!

Video by Astaan Sports


Photo by Hadalsame Media

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