Brian Jerauld

Brian Jerauld is a chess instructor to area students, including his own children, and a student of the game himself through the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. He is also a Mizzou journalist with a decade of experience writing about boats, sports and other odds and ends. This column is a weekly look around St. Louis, the U.S. Capital of Chess.

Fabiano Caruana
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Fabiano Caruana is coming home.

The world’s No. 3 Grandmaster has declared intentions to once again play under the American flag, applying for transfer to the U.S. Chess Federation on Tuesday. Assuming the paperwork process goes smoothly, the 22-year-old will reunite with the U.S. right here in the Central West End, at the 2015 Sinquefield Cup this August.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, head of FIDE
A.Slavin | Wikipedia

I want to believe.

On the possibility of aliens, I absolutely want to believe that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, ruling president of the World Federation of Chess (FIDE), has been visited by friends from another world. By now his claim has been openly discussed for more than a decade, the story well known by details easily researched, ranking as the No. 1 evidence when describing the Russian oligarch’s widely accepted, eccentric behavior.

Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis
chess

Two years ago, the inaugural Sinquefield Cup lured World Champion Magnus Carlsen to his first-ever American chess game -- and the St. Louis super tournament, then-celebrated as the strongest in U.S. history, was opened with rousing success.

The follow-up turned out to be the mother of all upgrades.

Garry Kasparov, with Rex Sinquefield in the background
Lennart Ootes | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

When the king moves, every piece, on every corner of this checker-boarded earth, takes notice. That is why most of Garry Kasparov’s moves around St. Louis these days often come and go in secret.

Small circles know that the world’s greatest living chess legend sneaks into the Central West End a time or two a year; but for the non-privy, he simply appears at the front door of the St. Louis Chess Club, with no less surprise than if he had stepped from a sudden poof of smoke.

Grandmaster Yasser Seirawan plays a seven-board simul during a Venture Cafe gathering in the Cortex Innovation Community in early March.
Provided by Cortex Innovation Community

The United States Chess Federation, the governing body for chess competition in the U.S., recently announced that it has opened an office here in the nation’s capital of chess. The new St. Louis hub looks to handle marketing and development efforts for the organization, which received 501(c)(3) non-profit status last year, while customer and membership services continue to operate from its headquarters in Crossville, Tenn.

Hikaru Nakamura is currently ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 7 in the world.
Provided by Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Just one problem with being at the absolute peak of your game: There is nowhere to go but down.

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, the longtime American No. 1, is on absolute fire. A man on a mission, he spent the last half of 2014 making good on his intentions to become a World Champion candidate, and has spent the early portion of 2015 trampling on some of the world’s finer events.

Irina Krush
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Like a bulldozer, she has been demolishing American women for over a decade. Or maybe decimating. Obliterating. The aftermath of her participation often leaves these competitions looking more like massacres. Or maybe slaughters. Exterminations.

And best of all, just like her methods, her name is Krush -- a pun that would have worn thin years ago if it all weren’t so blatantly obvious.

Wu-Tang Clan leader RZA, looking at a portion of the WCHOF's Bobby Fischer exhibit during October's opening ceremony of Living Like Kings.
Carmody Creative | World Chess Hall of Fame

Last chance to experience Living Like Kings: The Unexpected Collision of Chess and Hip Hop Culture, as the endgame nears for the two-floor, multifaceted art installation on display at the World Chess Hall of Fame. The continuously evolving exhibit, exploring how chess has interwoven within the urban subculture, has included rotating features of music, art, dance and spirituality and now enters final stages before its close next month.

The St. Louis Metro Class Chess Championships pair players with similar rankings.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

The St. Louis Metro Class Chess Championships were held recently at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center, drawing in a record 60-plus participants looking to cash in on a quick title.

Chess classes have been shown to have educational benefits.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

The rhetoric has floated around for decades.

 “It develops your memory, improves your test scores — chess is good for your brains!” They always say. “It boosts your math! And it helps your science! Chock full of cognitive benefits, indeed!

Hikaru Nakamura
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

The 2015 U.S. Chess Championships are due back in St. Louis in April, marking the seventh consecutive year that America’s chess capital will present the national crown. The two-week tournament will once again be hosted by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in the Central West End, inviting 12 of America’s top Grandmasters to fight for the throne, as well as 12 of our best women to compete for the title of U.S. Women’s Champion.

Hikaru Nakamura
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis | File Photo

The acquisition of Grandmaster Wesley So was the big news coming out of 2014. The Philippine-born prodigy and former Webster University star joined the U.S. Chess Federation after cracking the world’s top 10. But just a month into 2015, So is already setting new headlines -- the latest causing a literal stir on the top.

Ray Robson
File photo | 2012

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis has once again received the bid as host to the annual U.S. Chess Championships: The 2015 event, along with the U.S. Women’s Championship, will be a 12-player round robin held March 31 through April 14 in the Central West End. It will mark the seventh consecutive year that St. Louis has hosted the national title event.

Wesley So
Courtesy of Susan Polgar

He arrives in the U.S. as a promising recruit from the Philippines, and in two years makes the jump from the top 100 to No. 10 in the world. He becomes an instant collegiate star, a freshman phenom who leads St. Louis’ powerhouse Webster University program to back-to-back national titles — and then plays the nation’s heartstrings by announcing that his promising future will be played under the red, white and blue for the burgeoning U.S. Chess Federation.

file photo | St. Louis Beacon

There should be excitement for what may come in 2015, as each passing year has proved better than the last. As we say goodbye to 2014, here are a few monuments St. Louis built in 2014:

Chess History Unfolds In St. Louis

The patented death stare of American Grandmaster Sam Shankland is now being felt on the international stage.
Provided by Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

If you haven’t before, today is a great day to say hello to Sam Shankland – especially when you know just how close he almost came to saying goodbye.

Wesley So has performed brilliantly for the team
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Championship droughts are no laughing matter. And there’s no doubt things have been feeling a little stale around here lately: It’s been three whole years since St. Louis touted a championship title.

Tonight, however, our great city’s sport sufferings may come to an end.

Hikaru Nakamura is currently ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 7 in the world.
Provided by Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

You’re back in town for the Showdown in St. Louis, a five-round match for $100,000 against the World No. 4 player, Levon Aronian. The Showdown is not a world-circuit event in which you normally play -- is an event like this still important to you, even though it’s just an exhibition?

Hikaru Nakamura is currently ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 7 in the world.
Provided by Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Next week, the Central West End chess club will again be joined by the  top player in the United States, Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, who returns for a special exhibition match with one of his main rivals from the world stage, Armenia’s Levon Aronian.

Walter Browne in 1972
Wikipedia

It is, perhaps, the pinnacle chess week of the year, with several dazzling headlines labeling every level of the sport. When things get chaotic, keeping track of your lines can be difficult ... scattered thoughts, like pawns, need attending:

Aviv Friedman
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

The title of Grandmaster is the highest a chess player can achieve, a moniker that translates literally as one of the best of the best. These titles are awarded by FIDE, the World Chess Federation, and are without a doubt quite rare: Not more than 1,500 players in history have been officially named Grandmaster.

The St. Louis Chess Club, however, has found someone even more special: The Grandmasters’ coach.

First-grader Jay Mainard, far left, uses the weekly chess club at the Miriam School in Webster Groves as a tool to combat learning disabilities.
Provided by the Miriam School

Not long after kindergarten began, Jason Mainard began noticing problems in his son’s mood. Socially, the boy wasn’t adhering to the way other kids played. Emotionally, he wasn’t responding the way most kids do in their first year of school. Traditional characteristics that describe a first classroom experience were few, replaced instead by signs of depression, signs of frustration.

Calls home from teachers confirmed the father’s concerns.

Millionaire Chess Open organizers Amy Lee and GM Maurice Ashley award Webster University GM Wesley So with a $100,000 birthday present.
Billy Johnson | Millionaire Chess Open | 2014

Las Vegas will do just fine if it never sees Wesley So again. The brand-new adult celebrated his 21st birthday in the right city, but he did it in all the wrong ways.

He didn’t pull a single slot, didn’t throw a single die. And he never once relied on the hilarious notion of luck during a week-long visit in a town that banks off the very idea. He was not spotted out late, stumbling around the Strip any night -- and to the contrary: The work So put in each morning is circumstantial proof that he achieved bedtime at an hour likely outlawed in the City that Never Sleeps.

Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

This Saturday, Oct. 11 is National Chess Day -- though only unofficially, because nobody cares.

That’s not from a lack of continued effort on the part of chess players, however, as plenty have cared about such a recognized holiday dating all the way back to its inception in 1976.

Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

The Central West End has been recognized as one of the Top 10 Great Neighborhoods in America by the American Planning Association, for reasons that won’t surprise anyone from around here.

Ashritha Eswaran playing chess
Provided by the family

Local Grandmaster Ben Finegold is in Durban, South Africa, this week representing Team USA as part of the 2014 World Youth Chess Championship. The international competition separates its field into six categories, from under-8 to under-18 in both girls-only and open sections, and crowns 12 World Champions annually.

Magnus Carlsen in St. Louis earlier this month
Lennart Ootes| Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St.Louis

It’s not often that the World Champion of Chess gets his thunder stolen but, while here in St. Louis, GM Magnus Carlsen's moment away from the spotlight allowed him to tackle a serious decision.

Rex Sinquefield prepares to make a move as Grandmasters look on. Behind, from left, are commentator Maurice Ashley, Garry Kasparov, Yasser Seirawan and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
Lennart Ootes | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

It is a question commonly posed to Grandmasters -- business-suit wearing giants with perennially furrowed brows, constantly wrinkled above troubled looks of genuine stress -- can you still have fun?

Fabiano Caruana
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

When you’re claiming a page of history, you just never know who might write on it.

Lennart Ootes | CCSCSL

Make no mistake, we want him back.

In for his first visit to the U.S. Capital of Chess is Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana, one of only three players in the world with a chess rating that has surpassed the 2800 watermark. He’s here to pick a fight with the other two, Armenian GM Levon Aronian and World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen, as part of the 2014 Sinquefield Cup -- billed as the strongest chess tournament ever, for obvious reasons.

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