On Chess | St. Louis Public Radio

On Chess

The U.S. men took silver at the 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia on Oct. 5, 2018.
Goga Chanadiri

The United States made history with its victory in the 2016 Chess Olympiad held in Baku, Azerbaijan, its first success in the biannual team event in 40 years.

It nearly repeated this triumph two years later in Batumi, Georgia, tying for first with China and Russia, but finishing second to the former on tiebreak.

One of Harry Benson's iconic photographs of Bobby Fisher in Buenos Aires, 1971. From the collection of Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield.
Harry Benson

Harry Benson, world-renowned photographer and International Photography Hall of Fame inductee,was the only person to have private access to Bobby Fischer during the 1972 World Chess Championship match in Reykjavík, Iceland. Benson captured intimate images of this time with Fischer and was the first person to deliver the news to Fischer that he had won the match.

Benson began photographing Fischer when on assignment for LIFE magazine in 1971. He was sent to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to cover the 1971 Candidates Match, and began to cultivate a relationship with Fischer, who was known for being notoriously camera-averse, guarded and socially awkward. Fischer defeated Tigran Petrosian at the Candidates Match, qualifying him for the World Chess Championship match.

The American "Big Three" at the Batumi Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia in 2018. From left, Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Caruana's coach and Wesley So.
Lana Afandiyeva

When Americans hear of a “Big Three,” nostalgia might take their minds to competitors in the automotive industry or the early television networks. Fans of the runaway NBC television hit "This is Us" may shed uncontrollable tears when hearing the phrase.

Today’s American chess fans know Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So as the “Big Three.” They represent the United States. St. Louis and the St.Louis Chess Club and have played an integral role in raising the standards of American chess.

The first of 10 straight U.S. and U.S. Women’s Championships held in St. Louis were played in 2009, with Nakamura, then a newly-minted 2700 FIDE, reigning supreme for his second title.

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: The Batumi Chess Olympiad

Sep 13, 2018
The 2018 U.S. Olympic team. Seated (left to right): Hikaru Nakamura, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So. Standing: Ray Robson, John Donaldson, Sam Shankland.
Dilip Vishwanat / World Chess Hall of Fame

The Georgian resort city of Batumi, located on the Black Sea near the Turkish border, will host the 43 Chess Olympiad. More than 1,600 players from 185 countries will compete in the bi-annual event, which is separate from the Summer and Winter Olympics.

The two-week-long tournament, running from Sept. 24 to Oct. 6, will see the United States' team attempt to defend the gold medals it won as the top finisher in 2016 in Azerbaijan, its first victory in 40 years. Perennial powerhouses Russia, China and Ukraine, along with newcomers Azerbaijan and India, are among the other top-ranked teams in an event that traces its history back to 1927.

Garry Kasparov (left) talks with Maurice Ashley at the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz in 2017.
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

Last year, the legendary Garry Kasparov made headlines when he came out of a 12-year retirement to compete in the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz as part of the Grand Chess Tour. This year, he’s returning, yet again, to take part in a unique chess competition. From Sept. 11-14, the St. Louis Chess Club will host 10 of the world’s top players in the Champions Showdown.

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.

Hikaru Nakamura won the second Annual Rapid & Blitz tournament which took place Aug. 10-16, 2018. Nakamura, center, displays his trophy alongside St. Louis Chess Club founders, Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield.
Austin Fuller | Grand Chess Tour

Another week full of chess action has just finished, and we are fast approaching the end of the regular season of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour. This year, the format of the tour consists of five events: Your Next Move in Belgium, Paris GCT, St. Louis Rapid & Blitz (USA), Sinquefield Cup (USA) and the Grand Chess Tour Finalin London, which features the top four finalists from the previous four events.

On Chess: The view from a commentator's chair

Aug 16, 2018
Maurice Ashley, right, interviewing Garry Kasparov during the 2017 St. Louis Rapid & Blitz.
Grand Chess tour

I am a chess commentator. That is a sentence I write with pride.

For more than 20 years, I have been blessed with a front row seat watching the game’s greatest players spend hour after hour in pitched battles, trying to rip each other to shreds.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave won the 2017 Sinquefield Cup.
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

The 2018 Grand Chess Tour arrive in  to the United States for the second annual St. Louis Rapid and Blitz from Aug. 10-16, which will be the third leg of the tour. It will be followed by the Sinquefield Cup from Aug. 17-28, the only classical event of the tour this year.

Going into the second half of the tour, two Americans, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura, are leading with 21 and 20 points respectively as the competition for the top four places heats up. They are closely followed by Sergey Karjakin who has 19 points and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave with 15 points.

On Chess: St. Louis showcases chess in Africa

Aug 2, 2018
Grandmaster Bassem Amin of Egypt won the Cote d'Ivoire Rapid and Blitz Invitation in July, 2018.
Graham Jurgensen

Inspired by the Grand Chess Tour, the FIDEC (Ivory Coast Chess Federation) teamed up with the Kasparov Chess Foundation (KCF) to bring out the best of African chess. These efforts culminated in the Cote d'Ivoire Rapid (25+10d) & Blitz (5+3d) Invitational that took place July 25–29. The field included 10 players from 10 different African nations, each of them being the top-rated player from their respective countries. The field was as follows:

the 2018 U.S. Junior Champions, Awonder Liang and Carissa Yip.
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

After the first two rounds of this year's U.S. Junior Championship it was anything but clear who was in the lead. Defending champion, grandmaster Awonder Liang, was at a 50 percent score with two draws in a row. 

To make matters more complicated, of the five grandmasters competing, two players ranked in lower half of the field. International master Advait Patel and FIDE master Alex Bian, were performing exceptionally well.

Awonder Liang and Akshita Gorti, with our executive director Tony Rich and founder Rex Sinquefield.
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

The U.S. Junior Championship is an invitational tournament featuring the highest ranked juniors in the country. It has always been an iconic component of American chess. Winning the championship has served as a stepping stone for many great players over the years, including Bobby Fischer, Yasser Seirawan and Hikaru Nakamura.

Showcasing the increasing strength of America’s juniors, the championship grows stronger every year. In just three years, the tournament has gone from having no grandmasters to featuring five (half the field)!

Hikaru Nakamura (left) won the Paris GCT in late June and Wesley So, who won Your Next Move in Leuven, Belgium in 2018.
Lennart Ootes | Grand Chess tour

The first two events of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour (GCT) took place in Leuven from June 12-16 and Paris from June 20-24. After 10 grueling days full of brilliance, blunders and inspiring chess, two Americans are leading the tour, putting themselves in an excellent position to qualify for the finals in London at the end of the year.

On Chess: 'Grand' chess exhibition from St. Louis travels to Belgium

Jun 21, 2018
A close up of artist Gregg Louis' "Untitled (Chess Set)" on display in Leuven, Belgium.
Lennart Ootes

For the second year, the World Chess Hall of Fame has organized "Grand Chess Tour: Art of Chess 2018," a traveling exhibition of chess artifacts, in conjunction with the Grand Chess Tour, an international circuit of chess events with the world’s best players.

Fabiano Caruana enjoyed a well-fought victory at the 2018 Norway Altibox Chess tournament.
Lennart Ootes

St. Louis resident, Fabiano Caruana, the candidate for the title of the chess world champion, wins again. This time he scored a tournament victory in Norway, the homeland of the current world champion, Magnus Carlsen.

The 2018 edition of Norway Altibox Chess  (May 27-June 8, in Stavanger, Norway) gathered a remarkable field of players: Carlsen, Caruana and seven other players from the top 10 in the world. “The weakest” player, #11 in the world rankings, was former world champion, and current world rapid champion, Viswanathan Anand.

A scene from the 2017 Your Next Move event in Leuven, Belgium, the location of the first stop of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour.
Lennart Ootes | Grand Chess Tour

The fourth annual Grand Chess Tour is right around the corner — this time with a new format. Instead of the London Chess Classic being just a stop of the tour, it will be the final stage for the Grand Chess Tour. At the end of the Sinquefield Cup, the top four players with the most points accumulated across the four events will proceed to the finals in London, where they will compete in a series of matches for additional prizes and the title of the 2018 Grand Chess Tour Champion.

Kamil Dragun (left) won Group B and Vasif Durarbayli won Group A in the 2018 Summer Chess Classic
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

The Summer Chess Classic has come to an end. After 10 long days, nine grueling rounds and one exciting playoff, the winners for Group A and Group B were crowned. Before we discuss the winners and their grand style, let’s review the tournament’s purpose, format and fields.

An instructor teaches chess at the Gateway Middle School.
Austin Fuller | St. Louis Chess Club

As a chess coach and active player, I am constantly thinking about the ways that I can help my students and myself to improve our chess skills using both contemporary (let us call it post-engine era) material and earlier classical (where ideas and concepts were more important than concrete, move-by-move calculation and use of pre-existing knowledge).

Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana and a large number of media outlets attended the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz tournament last year. May 16, 2018.
St. Louis Chess Club and Spectrum Studios, published with permission

The U.S. and U.S. Women’s Chess Championships recently concluded at the St. Louis Chess Club. During the tournament, the Chess Club played host to a number of journalists from publications from around the world. Many of the articles resulting from these visits will become part of the World Chess Hall of Fame’s  collection of periodicals related to chess history.

Many of these publications are chess-centered periodicals such as Chess Life, Chess Review, American Chess Bulletin and New in Chess. However, the collection also contains many magazines that show chess’s broad appeal. Among these are general interest magazines like LIFE and Sports Illustrated, which translate the events of the game to a wider audience.

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