Chess | St. Louis Public Radio


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.

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.

On Chess: Bringing the game to the classroom

Sep 1, 2016
Students at Walnut Grove Elementary School provided a rapt audience for the unveiling of a new chess program.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis | File photo

In addition to a place for enjoying chess, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is an educational institution doing work both inside the club and in the community. It is now gearing up for a record year of providing high-quality chess programming to St. Louis area schools.

This academic year will be a watershed, not only because of the unprecedented scope of the program’s reach, but also because chess instruction will be an in-curricular offering in nearly 10 schools in the St. Louis Public School District.

Alejandro Ramriez (the author) and Fabiano Caruano play on the giant chess board outside the World Chess Hall of Fame.
Courtesy of Lennart Oots | Chess Club and Scholastic Center

St. Louis has established itself, without a doubt, as the capital of chess in America. The most important series of tournaments annually, the Grand Chess Tour, has its only North American stop here for the Sinquefield Cup, and the club hosts such important events as the U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship, which results in great talent migrating to St. Louis.

Levon Aronian, left, defending Sinquefield Cup Champion and Fabiano Caruana, defending 2016 U.S. Champion play in last year's Sinquefield Cup.
Lennart Ootes | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

As athletes from all over the world are headed to Rio for the summer Olympics, the best chess players in the world will gather in the chess capital of the U.S. to battle it out over 64 squares. The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis will once again host the Sinquefield Cup. This year, the tournament runs from Aug. 5-16 and has a prize fund of $300,000.

Chess Pieces
Adrian Askew | Flickr |

The game of chess has a rich and somewhat elusive history. Where did it come from? Who invented it? Perhaps most intriguingly: What makes it so special? Why has it continued to exist when other games have not?

Kayden Troff, standing, plays chess in Forest Park.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Achieving the grandmaster title is a huge feat. The hours spent every day studying, the days spent in airplanes, buses and airports just to travel to tournaments, the weeks spent at tournament halls, the months trying to perfect every strategy, truly are countless. There is a reason many people dedicate their entire lifetime to this sport without ever being able to reach the coveted title.

Jeffery Xiong, a grandmaster, is the favorite in this year's juniors tournament.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

For the seventh consecutive year, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis will host the U.S. Junior Closed Championship. The most prestigious junior event in the country will take place July 8 through July 17.

A program for women learning chess has become a popular outing for participants.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

In many competitive sports like ice hockey, soccer and gymnastics, there is an expected pattern of an athlete's life. First, children start practicing their chosen sport at a very young age to have a chance of becoming professional athletes. Around the age of 4 or 5, they join a sports team and cultivate their potential. Then in their late teens and early 20s, athletes master their technique and abilities and reach their personal best.

2 Americans lead at halfway point of Grand Chess Tour

Jun 22, 2016
Leuven, Belgium, hosted the second leg of the Grand Chess Tour.
Provided by the Grand Chess Tour

The chess world is awaiting the third leg of the Grand Chess Tour, the fourth annual Sinquefield Cup, to begin in St. Louis on Aug. 1. This series of four tournaments is spread over different parts of the world, attracting the very best chess players to test their skills against each other.

On Chess: Grand Chess Tour approaches second stop

Jun 16, 2016
Hikaru Nakamura celebrates.
Spectrum Studios | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

The Grand Chess Tour was introduced to the chess scene in 2015 to give the world’s very best players a new series of tournaments to compete in and also to promote chess to the general public. Not only were the players treated as superstars and got to play in three of the most beautiful places in the world for a large sum of money, but each tournament hosted many activities for the chess fans.

Levon Aronian playing Veselin Topalov
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Chess fans are in for a special treat today as the second annual Grand Chess Tour begins. This year, the tour will consist of four legs and will have a slightly different format than its predecessor.

The first leg of the games will be June 9-12 with the Paris Grand Chess Tour; the second will be in Brussels-Leuven, Belgium June 17-20 with Your Next Move. The third stop on the tour is the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis Aug. 4-16, and the final leg takes place in London Dec. 8-19.

On Chess: Memoirs of a chess square

Jun 1, 2016
Tom Hackney, Chess Painting No. 71, (Marcel Duchamp vs. E.H. Smith, Hyéres, 1928), 2016, Gesso on linen, oak frame 16 ½ x 16 ½ in.
Courtesy of Francis M. Naumann Fine Art, New York

At the beginning of many prestigious chess tournaments, players sign their name on particular light squares of commemorative chessboards, often with no intent beyond the thought, “On which square will my signature appear most elegant?” or, “Which square is left to sign?” And yet, specific squares hold so many memories of sacrifices both successful and failed as well as nightmares of a sacrifice or in-between move.

On Chess: Young guns get ready to be tomorrow's stars

May 26, 2016
Sam Sevian, Garry Kasparov, Kayden Troff and Jeffery Xiong at the KCF Gala last year. Credit: Kasparov Chess Foundation
Kasparov Chess Foundation

Being a genius is pretty helpful in the chess world, but it is far from enough. When Bobby Fischer toppled the Russians in the famous 1972 World Championship match against Boris Spassky, he didn't do it out of magic or in-born talent alone: surely there was plenty of that, but his true strength came from hours upon hours of dedication to studying the 64 squares.

Sam Sevian was previously the youngest grandmaster time to earn the title during 2014 Saint Louis Invitational.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Chess, unlike most other competitive sports, maintains a system of titles granted to players of exceptional skill and talent. The highest title awarded in the world of bishops and knights is International Grandmaster (GM). While it sounds mysterious, the title’s origins are tied to the conception of mastery, like that of an artist or craftsman who has attained the highest level of achievement recognized by one’s peers.

Chess Painting No. 2 (Duchamp vs. Crepeaux, Nice, 1925), 2009
Provided by the World Chess Hall of Fame

There is a conversation that exists between living artists and their predecessors. Marcel Duchamp, arguably the most influential artist of the 20th century and whose impact is still remarkably present today, began many of these conversations during his prolific career as both an artist and a chess player.

Wesley So and Garry Kasparov
Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

The 2016 U.S. and U.S. Women’s Championship ended April 25 but the chess tournament in St. Louis had one more surprise for the fans all over the world: the Ultimate Blitz Challenge! In what could easily be considered the most anticipated blitz event in the world, Garry Kasparov was summoned by the patriarch of modern chess, Rex Sinquefield, to take on the best players in American chess and arguably in the world. It was an exciting return from someone who many be considered the best chess player who ever played the game.

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

The 2016 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women’s Championship that concluded April 25 will not only go down in the history books as the strongest event but also as arguably the one with the most dramatic finale. Entering the final round, both tournaments had one clear leader as well as one or more players trailing by half point. The tournaments were reaching their crowning moment, the players’ nerves were at their peak, and the tension could be felt in the air.

On Chess: Music and chess harmonize at Hall of Fame

Apr 21, 2016
Composer Spotlight Series
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Chess and music are topics that intertwine frequently at the World Chess Hall of Fame.

Through exhibits such as Living Like Kings, visitors learned about how the birth of hip-hop coincided with a surge of interest in chess among Americans. In Cage & Kaino: Pieces and Performances, revolutionary 20th-century composer John Cage and contemporary conceptual artist Glenn Kaino produced works that highlight the sense of community created by chess, especially when interwoven with music and art.