Chess | St. Louis Public Radio

Chess

Garry Kasparov (facing camera) and Veselin Topalov compete in the Champions Showdown Chess960 event at Saint Louis Chess Club in September 2018,
Lennart Ootes | Saint Louis Chess Club

The opening is considered by many to be a sacred part of chess. Over the course of chess history, an enormous amount of theory has been developed covering the vast branches of possibilities resulting from the starting position.

In the modern era of professional chess, grandmasters will memorize thousands of opening variations, supported by thorough computer analysis. While robust opening preparation is a necessity for any top player, it has led to adverse effects for the sport. Elite competitions are seeing a growing percentage of draws, as it’s becoming more difficult to crack a well-prepared opponent.

On Chess: Three co-champions take home the Sinquefield Cup

Aug 31, 2018
Fabiano Caruana, world champion Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian share the crown as winners of the Sinquefield Cup in August 2018.
Tatev Abrahamyan | Grand Chess Tour

Three players were crowned as winners of the sixth annual Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis. Normally, a playoff takes place to determine the sole winner of a tournament, but in an unprecedented turn of events, the players decided to share the title. 

World Champion Magnus Carlsen, his challenger Fabiano Caruana and the Armenian superstar Levon Aronian disliked the rule of eliminating one player by drawing lots and came to the unanimous decision, approved by the chief arbiter, to share the title. Thus, the “no-repeat-winner” tradition of the Sinquefield Cup was broken, as all three have won the previous editions.

Jason Stokes, 10, reaches to make a move Friday, July 13, 2018, during a St. Louis Chess Club summer camp at Saint Louis University.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

The giant chess piece outside the St. Louis Chess Club in the Central West End grew even bigger this spring to regain its title as world’s largest.

It’s a fitting play as the club celebrates its 10-year anniversary on Tuesday.

Volunteer Sam Roth, right, plays chess with a Biddle House shelter resident on July 9, 2018. The chess club began in 2016, the same year the shelter opened.
Shahla Farzan | St. Louis Public Radio

Terry Austin eyes his opponent across the chessboard, then deftly captures his knight.

A few moves later, opponent Ed Rataj admits defeat.

The two play in the communal living area at Biddle House, a shelter for people who are homless near downtown St. Louis. Austin is a resident. The Biddle House chess club began in 2016, the same year the shelter opened. Twice a week, shelter residents gather to play chess with volunteers from the community.

Chess joins the esport arena

Apr 26, 2018
Watching the PRO Chess League, an online rapid chess league, can be an intense experience.
Eric Rosen

Pressure is a major element in chess. Pressure to find the right move. Pressure to use your clock time wisely. Pressure to beat your opponent. Pressure to win the tournament.

The PRO Chess League, an online rapid chess league, has used these elements to provide a great viewing experience on its weekly Twitch.tv stream.

Taking a programming cue from the fantastically popular esports world, PRO Chess recently hosted its second finals in San Francisco with the top four teams — the Ljubljana Turtles, Chengdu Pandas, Armenian Eagles and Saint Louis Archbishops.

On Chess: The 169-year-old modern chess set

Apr 5, 2018
England: Jaques 50th Set - Lord Vernon, 1855. King size: 4 ½ inches. Box is 5 ⅛ x  8 ⅜ x 6 inches. Ivory. Collection of Jon Crumiller.
Michael DeFilippo | World Chess Hall of Fame

Chess has been called a universal language.

On Chess: The potency of the present

Jan 25, 2018
Grandmaster Peter Svidler contemplates a move.
Lennart Ootes | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

“Playing chess is hard.” All players — from novice to grandmaster — have uttered this phrase. As competitive activities go, chess is one of the least forgiving.

If I hit a double fault while playing tennis, something I’m quite familiar with doing, it’s not the greatest feeling; however, in the end, it only costs one point. I go up to the line to serve again as if nothing has happened. You get to start fresh. Granted, some points have far greater importance than others, but ultimately you always get to start anew.

Chess does not work this way. 

World Champion Magnus Carlsen at the Champions Showdown in St. Louis
Lennart Ootes | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

Eight of the top players in the world headlined the recently completed Champions Showdown in Saint Louis.

The Saint Louis Chess Club has been hosting exhibition matches each November for the past few years as a more experimental and fun scenario, having formats that are not the traditional way of playing chess at the top level.

Members of the Saint Louis University Chess Team
Steve Dolan |Saint Louis University

Working on chess at higher levels is definitely a different experience than when you first experience the magic of the sport. The leaps and bounds that a beginner can make are quickly rewarded. Learning simple concepts such as common checkmating patterns, tactical devices, even the relative value of pieces, is enough to propel someone to be a solid participant at the club level.

World team shows dominance at St. Louis tournament

Aug 3, 2017
Former world champion Garry Kasparov and members of the U.S. and world youth chess teams.
Lennart Ootes | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

In an attempt to popularize chess and help it reach wider audiences, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis hosted the Match of the Millennials.

 

From July 2-29, youngsters from all over the world got a taste of what it’s like to be treated as true professionals and play in the same room as world champions.

 

Held just before the Sinquefield Cup, the youth match was a team event pitting players from the United States against international competition.

On Chess: St. Louis to host chess legends in 2 tournaments

Jul 27, 2017
Former world champion Garry Kasparov and grandmaster Wesley So compete in 2016.
Lennart Ootes, Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

The biggest chess event in the United States will fittingly be hosted in the chess capital of the nation. The Sinquefield Cup, which is the third leg of the Grand Chess Tour, will take place Aug. 2-12 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. The top players in the world will compete for $300,000 in prize money, tour points and the coveted title of the 2017 Sinquefield Cup Champion.

Elshan Moradiabadi and Sabina Foisor
Lennart Ootes | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

From March 27 until mid-April, I had the chance to be grandmaster in residence at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Being at the “mecca” of chess was already a great privilege but what doubled my luck was coinciding this period with the most prestigious chess event in the United States: the U.S. Chess Championships!

I had the chance to observe this event from three perspectives: grandmaster and professional player familiar to the demanding nature of this sport, coach, and spectator (I was closely following the event and commenting for other spectators). I happen to be the fiancé and coach of WGM Sabina Foisor, who came in as an underdog and won the event in style.

The Winter Chess Classic Tournament Hall, located on the second floor of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center March 2017
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

In this column, we usually talk about some of the most prestigious events in the entire world: The U.S. Chess Championship, rhe Sinquefield Cup, the Olympiad, the Candidates, the Women's World Championship. However, very rarely do we talk about the path to the top.

On Chess: A look at the Tradewise Gilbraltar Open 2017 contest

Feb 23, 2017
Gibraltar Champion GM Hikaru Nakamura at the Tradewise Gilbraltar Open in 2017.
Lennart Ootes

The Tradewise Gibraltar Open is considered one of the strongest open tournaments in the world. The 2017 tournament was held Jan. 24 through Feb. 2 with an exceptionally strong pool of players, including super Grandmasters Fabiano Caruana of St. Louis, as well as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura Mickey Adams and many more. 

Not only is Gibraltar a strong tournament, but it is a great destination for chess players in the winter months. Also, as in previous years, the 2017 Gibraltar contest attracted the strongest female players in the world with one of the largest prize funds for the best female players, 15,000 GBP.

Wesley So is the current lead of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, pictured here at last year's London Chess Classic.
Saint Louis Chess Club and Spectrum Studios

Every year the first and longest elite tournament starts in January: Tata Steel!

The Wimbledon of Chess, as it is known, started Jan. 14 and ends Jan. 30. Traditionally held at the town of Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands, this tournament attracts the best of the best. The event lasts for two weeks and 13 rounds, so physical fitness plays a crucial role in this prestigious tournament. 

Fabiano Caruana and Veselin Topolov speed through a game at the recent Champion Showdown.
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

I don’t mean to go rogue, but one of the more controversial topics in the chess world currently is the amount of time a chess game should take.

There are the chess purists, who believe high-level chess games should be played at the classical time control (those games take 4-5 hours usually), and then there is a growing group of the chess community which thinks faster chess is better chess. That said, the games may not be better, but the idea is that the speed may be better for excitement and gaining more of a general audience.

 Norwegian Magnus Carlsen was challenged by Russia's Sergey Karjakin
Lennart Ootes | Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

The World Chess Championship is the pinnacle event of the chess world. The process to earn the right to challenge the reigning world champion is grueling, and the match itself is by far the most intense event in chess. The championship is 12 games played over three weeks.

This year's championship was held at Fulton Fish Market in the South Seaport neighborhood of New York City. The reigning world champion, Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, was challenged by Russia's Sergey Karjakin, the youngest grandmaster in the history of chess. The prize fund? A cool $1.1 million.

Gold medal winners: Rochelle Wu in Girls under-10 and Nikhil Kumar in Open under -12, give a thumbs up
Irina Krush

The U.S. team did amazing in Batumi for the World Youth Championship, winning two gold and one silver medal from six sections. Both our gold medal winners, Rochelle Wu in Girls under-10 and Nikhil Kumar in Open U-12, went on a tear after my mid-tournament report following round 6. After the free day, Nikhil won four consecutive games to guarantee first place with one round to go. Rochelle drew for the last time in round 7, then took four games en route to the title.

From left, Veselin Topalov, Fabiano Caruana, Viswanathan Anand and Hikaru Nakamura
Chris Bauer | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis has been the epicenter of chess momentum in the United States since its inception. The magnitude of the events organized has been easily surpassing anything seen on a national, and even international, level. On Nov. 10 another event – the Champions Showdown – is set to delight chess fans all over the world and, as is fitting, the Chess Club will host.

On Chess: USA wins gold at Baku Chess Olympiad

Sep 14, 2016

Rio was not the only city to host an Olympics in 2016. Baku, capital of the oil-rich nation of Azerbaijan, just hosted the 42nd Chess Olympiad, over the last two weeks. The Olympiad featured more than 1,600 players from 180 countries. When the dust settled, the United States finished at the top, earning gold for the first time in 40 years.

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