Ben Finegold | St. Louis Public Radio

Ben Finegold

Ben Finegold, Grandmaster

Grandmaster Ben Finegold learned the rules of chess at age 5 and was dubbed “The 40-year-old GM” after receiving the title in 2009. In between, Finegold was a U.S. Junior champion in 1989, a recipient of the prestigious Samford Chess Fellowship in 1993 and a competitor in nine U.S. Championships. He is a popular scholastic coach and commentator for elite events.

Chess legend Gary Kasparov signed copies of his book at the Super Nationals Chess Tournaments in Nashville. May 2017
Karen Boyd

The biggest chess event of all time was held May 12-15 in Nashville. In total, 5,577 players vied for prizes in the three national events which are held together at the same site at the same time every four years. 


The event is a mix of four tournaments, the Nationals, the Elementary Chess Championships, the Middle School Chess Championships and the High School Chess Championships. These four competitions are normally held on different weekends and in different cities in the spring. However, every four years, they are held simultaneously at the same site.

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.

Annie Wang at the 2015 U.S. Women's Chess Championships
Spectrum Studios

2016 has been an exciting year for chess and the World Youth Championships are no exception. The World Youth Chess Championship, for children aged 18 and under, has sections for both male and female players who are under 18, 16, 14, 12, 10 and 8. However, with so many sections (12 in all) and with so many players, coaches, parents, arbiters and other officials, the World Chess governing body, FIDE, separated the events based on age.

The older group (under 18, 16 and 14) recently played the 2016 World Youth Chess Championship in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

Veselin Topalov plays in the 2015 Sinquefield Cup.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Once again, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis held the strongest tournament of the year, but this time there was a little extra! The Sinquefield Cup, which began at the end of August and ended a few days into September, was not only a great tournament but one of the events in the newly created Grand Chess Tour.

Hikaru Nakamura has reason to celebrate: His birthday fell on the off day halfway through the tournament.
Spectrum Studios

The 2015 London Chess Classic had its first, and only, rest day Wednesday, Dec. 9, just past the halfway point. Thus far, five rounds are complete and almost everyone still has a chance to win the tournament.

From left, Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Every two years FIDE, the International Chess Federation, holds a World Chess Championship. One of the qualifying events to earn a seat at the tournament is the World Cup. The World Cup is different than most chess tournaments because it is a 128 player knockout event. Most chess competitions are Swiss-system or round-robin (all-play-all) events. However, the World Cup is similar to the NCAA March Madness as half the players are eliminated every round. The tournament takes a few weeks compared to most Grandmaster level events taking a mere 9-13 days.

The tournament is underway.
Austin Fuller | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

For the sixth consecutive year, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is hosting the U.S. Junior Closed Championship. 

The Junior Closed is a round-robin (all-play-all) event comprised of 10 of the strongest male American chess players under the age of 20. This year, the prize fund has doubled from the 2014 event with more than $20,000 being distributed.

Youngsters can learn the basic of chess.
Provided by the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

When I was learning chess, my dad was a chess master, my brother was better than me, and I wondered at which age I would excel. My dad told me that 35 years old was the age most chess players peak. Well, that was in 1975, and in 2015 it seems most of the best players are around 20! In fact, 35 is ancient in today’s chess world. Gone are the days of world champions older than 50, like Wilhelm Steinitz and Emanuel Lasker.

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

At the beginning of the 2014-15 FIDE Grand Prix cycle there was just one American attempting to qualify for the Candidates Tournament; but by the end of the series, two American flags topped the leaderboard. As previously reported, American-born Fabiano Caruana changed federations mid-cycle to once again represent the U.S.

Garry Kasparov addresses graduating students at Saint Louis University May 2015
Steve Dolan | Saint Louis University

The greatest player the chess world has ever seen has become a frequent visitor to our city lately, calling St. Louis “the world capital of chess.” But On May 16, Garry Kasparov's time wasn't all about chess, not directly. He visited Chaifetz Arena to deliver the 2015 Saint Louis University commencement address.

File photo | Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

Most sports have decisive results. You don’t see draws in tennis, basketball or baseball, and if there is a tie in soccer or even the NFL, at least you know both teams were pushing for victory until the very end.

Unfortunately, chess has some issues with draws.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 8, 2012 - In just the past few days, St. Louis has become the new home of collegiate chess in that U.S. Lindenwood University and Webster University have become the two latest institutions to offer chess scholarships, and each is committed to a developing a world-class program.

This article first appeared in th St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 3, 2012 - The current women's world champion, 17-year-old Hou Yifan of China, is having a fantastic tournament at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Congress. She has beaten three super grandmasters in a row: Hungarian GMs Zoltan Almasi and Judit Polgar, and the Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem. Hou is currently tied for first place.

The article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 11, 2012 - It is 2012, and everyone has a resolution or two. I recommend playing more chess!

Improving your chess game is a great resolution because it is beneficial for your mind, and it can be a lot of fun as well. Here are a few steps to help you along your path to chess success in 2012:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 4, 2012 - St. Louis' own Hikaru Nakamura is crushing the competition at the Super-Grandmaster tournament being held in Reggio Emilia, Italy. Hikaru has been playing often of late and has more than made up for his bad performance in Moscow at the Tal Memorial (last place) with back-to-back fantastic results!

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 28, 2011 - And what a year it has been! 2011 started with St. Louis' own Hikaru Nakamura winning the 2011 Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Holland, against the world's best chess players. It was the biggest tournament victory for an American since Bobby Fischer, and his performance catapulted him to No. 7 in the world rankings. Although he has experienced some ups and downs this year, Hikaru is currently holding onto the No. 10 spot in the world and is looking forward to an exciting 2012.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 21, 2011 - Each month, the Chess Club holds an unrated beginner tournament for people who have never played in a rated chess event. These monthly tournaments offer a great introduction to the fun of tournament chess and help people learn some of the basic rules of tournament play.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 14, 2011 - St. Louis resident Hikaru Nakamura captured second place in the recently finished London Chess Classic. This stellar result catapults Hikaru back in the top 10 after his less-than stellar performance in the Tal Memorial in Moscow, where he finished in last place. Another player, Vladimir Kramnik, had a similar turnaround. Kramnik finished next to last in Moscow, but he came back to win the London Classic.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 7, 2011 - Chess at the top is not easy. After a tough tournament in Moscow, St. Louis resident Hikaru Nakamura headed to London (after stopping in New York City for a few days to see his family) to play in the London Chess Classic.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 1, 2011 - When I have a chess student who is doing poorly (which I'd like to think rarely happens), I remind them of an important lesson: strong competition breeds success.

Most people want to get better -- at everything. They think when they do, they will simply start winning and winning and winning (just ask Charlie Sheen). But let's look at the facts. The better you get and the higher you rise through the ranks of any professional sport, the more difficult the competition gets.