Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Live chess everywhere

  I took my son Matt to Minnesota this past weekend to play in a strong tournament as a warm-up for the National Tournament of State High School champions in California in 2 weeks. After the 4 and a half hour drive Friday night, we got to the tournament site on Saturday morning. The tournament was at the Chess Castle which is a chess club in a rehabilitated warehouse district in Minneapolis. The Chess Castle is in a building with a church, a science fiction and anime aficionado club, a circus school, and the “Black Boys Wrestling School”. And that is only the groups I saw in the building. The club seems like a nice quiet place for the players but since I don’t like to be in the room where Matt is playing, I was relegated with the other parents to an empty warehouse space next door. My younger son Ben came with me. He is ‘retired’ from chess, but since my wife went to a high school reunion this weekend, I was the lesser of 2 evils. We visited a couple of bookstores while Matt was just starting his games so we could be back before he finished.

  The Chess Castle shares their wireless internet and also broadcast the games on the Monroi web site (free registration is required). The players use the Monroi handheld device to record their moves and a receiving station wirelessly receives the moves and transmits them to the web site for the public to view. It was very cool to be able to look at Matt’s games over the internet while he was playing. I did have to shut my computer down pretty quick in one instance when I looked up and there was Matt was walking towards me. He wanted to know what the lunch plans were.

At work this past week, I’ve been able to look in on the Dortmund (Germany) chess tournament at lunch. Every year this tournament matches 6 top grandmasters to play 2 games each against each other. This year, the top player in the field is former World champion Vladimir Kramnik. He is joined by 3 other super GM’s (Ruslan Ponomriov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Peter Leko), the top German player Arkadij Naiditsch, and the winner of the Russian Aeroflot tournament Le Quang Liem from Vietnam. The games have been reaching their conclusion during my lunch hour and the 6 combatants have played uncompromising chess during the first half of the event. Less than half of the games have been drawn and with so many decisive results, the second half of the event promises more fighting chess as the first half losers try to exact their revenge on their conquerors in their rematches with reversed colors.

Yesterday at lunch, the Dortmund players had the day off, but I was able to watch the Biel Chess Festival live from Switzerland. Every year Biel matches some of the top players in the world and this year is holding a Young Grandmaster tournament with the 10 players aged from 16 to 23. The headliners are the Italian champion (by way of the USA) Fabiano Caruana, World Junior and French champion Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and European champion Evgeny Tomashevsky from Russia.

  The last 2 weeks, my son Matt has been watching the US Women’s and US Junior Championships being broadcast from the
St. Louis Chess Club almost every afternoon. The club is the brainchild of multi-millionaire Rex Sinquefield, who bankrolled these 2 events and the US Championship earlier this year with the largest prize funds ever. The women’s champion is Irina Krush, while the junior championship was won by Sam Shankland. Both tournaments got international attention, but most of the coverage of the Junior tournament centered on the chances of Ray Robson, who at 15 years old is the youngest American grandmaster. Shankland has gotten on the bad side of the chess media by complaining about the lack of chances to get his final grandmaster norm. In order to qualify as a grandmaster, one must play to grandmaster strength in 3 tournaments and must also play a number of grandmasters in the tournament. While Robson had the means and opportunities to earn his norms in invitational tournaments, Shankland has had a tougher road and been denied norms by technicalities. I found it interesting that while the Chessbase and uschess web sites covered the junior championship extensively up to the final round, after Shankland won his last round game to force a 3 way playoff and then won the playoff the next day, Chessbase did not note his victory and the USCF web site did not see fit to write an article about it at all, only offering a link to the St. Louis chess club article. Maybe Shankland has a point about being treated unfairly. His victory is suspiciously out of chronological order with the other headline articles and is not even listed on the sidebar.

  Normally the top chess tournaments hold their games in the afternoon, but the reason I can see them at lunch is because of the time difference between Europe and the US. I don’t have the attention span to watch 5 hours of chess, but the one hour is just enough for me to wish I didn’t have a night job.


Jeremy said...

I think the big reason the chess press is not too happy with Shankland right now is that he doesn't really appreciate what he has already done. He hit a bit of a rough patch and suddenly announced that he was going to be quitting chess.

I could understand taking a break to regroup, but after nearly becoming a GM, I can't see just giving it up completely.

HankAnzis said...

I like the term 'chess press'.

Whether they are happy with Shankland or not, don't you think it's weird that he gets barely no mention on for winning the Junior championship in an almost fairy tale like scenario after the extensive coverage in all the other rounds? The press should be objective, but this seems more like the russian media only referring to the defector Korhnoi as 'the opponent' during his matches with Karpov and the other Russians in the 70's.

Now thay you are getting older, you will understand the term 'kid stuff' better. That is all the childish rantings from Shankland are. No reason to make him 'persona non grata'.