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Game changer: Volunteer creates chess club that gives kids all the right moves – NWAOnline

Posted: February 16, 2020 at 6:46 am

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Brothers Aaron and Abram Burnett are usually the first two to arrive at CPR Chess Club -- the CPR standing for Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving, Reading -- which meets from 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesdays at Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas in southwest Little Rock. They are in the advanced class.

A recent Tuesday finds Aaron, an 11-year-old fifth-grader at Scholarmade Achievement Place in Little Rock -- wearing multiple medals around his neck ... medals won in chess tournaments, which he's showing visitors. He has been part of the club for about five years.

"At first, I wasn't really interested" in chess, he says. Aaron's grandfather signed him up for it. "And then I just started coming and then I started to get interested in it. You know how in school some people don't really focus? It basically challenges you" to focus, he says.

CPR Chess Club member Aaron Burnett displays some of the medals he has won in chess tournaments. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)

Aaron got his first medal at his very first chess tournament.

"I just kept on doing chess tournaments. Like, the people that I play ... sometimes I used to hope that [beating them] would be easy. But then -- what's the point of playing 'em if you're just going to beat 'em? Usually when I play people ... that makes me better because I kinda see their strategies, and next time I know how to prevent it or use it against somebody."

Abram Burnett, 9, is in third grade.

"It's like life," he says of the game. "You have to strategize, out-think your opponent."

Tony Davis, nine-time Arkansas state chess champion, uses a hanging chess demonstration board to teach the movement of different chess pieces to young members of the CPR Chess Club. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)

In another classroom, nine-time state chess champion Tony Davis, a volunteer coach for the club, is teaching beginning players. He uses a vertical cloth chessboard with pockets to hold the pieces.

"The Queen always goes on the same color as her dress," he tells the students. "So the white queen goes on white. Black queen goes on black. ... Whoever has white always moves first."

Davis shows off a knight game piece.

"This is everybody's favorite piece. He's shaped like a horse, and he jumps over other pieces. He's the only piece that can do that. And when he makes his move, he makes a little L ... he can move over two and up one, or back two and over one. It can be a backwards L, a sideways L, an upside-down L ... Once you master how a knight moves, all the other pieces are easy because all the other pieces move in a straight line."

Davis demonstrates how the other pieces move ... pawn, rook, bishop, queen, king. In chess, the main goal is to capture, or checkmate, the opponent's king, so the direction in which each piece can legally move is vital to winning the game.

Going back and forth to make sure everything runs smoothly is Georgia Morris, the club's founder, who, ironically, doesn't play chess.

Georgia Morris, founder of CPR Chess Club, makes a few practice moves on the board with club member Hansika Ulaganathan, 7, a third-grader at Williams Magnet Elementary School. The club, which also has a Pine Bluff chapter, is a vehicle by which a diverse group of students learns life skills via chess. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Pradeep Parmer)

Morris, an Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield retiree, started CPR Chess Club in August 2013. Her idea for the club was born of a similar but simpler game: Morris' father, who raised her and her seven siblings as a single parent, showed them all how to play checkers.

As he taught, he was "telling [us] all this life-skills stuff, but I didn't really know it was life skills then," Morris says.

A dedicated community volunteer, Morris was pondering ways to work with youth when she met Davis at her former church, Hoover United Methodist. Davis' chess club, the Urban Knights, met across from Central High School. Morris visited the club gatherings to learn how to play. She never mastered the game but learned the basics and was intrigued by it.

"I started Googling, seeing how good [chess] was for kids," she says. "I know it was good for all this critical thinking and focusing and planning ahead -- everything that a child would need to kind of keep them on track," as well as help them in school. "So I decided that I was going to start a chess club."

Morris wanted the club to be near a church so that if the club kids wanted to go to church, they'd be within walking distance. That's what brought her to Mosaic, where she eventually became a part of the congregation. She asked church officials if they'd be open to hosting the chess club, and got a yes.

Morris asked for help from Davis, who did a youth program at Hoover and has worked with young people at several schools. "I've heard people for years talk about how they would [like to] learn to play chess and how they would like to do stuff like what [Morris is] doing," Davis says. "She's the first one I ran into that actually followed through."

She has done outstanding work, says Mark DeYmaz, founding pastor of Mosaic Church -- work "born out of Georgia's passion for young people and our community."

Morris' idea for the program fits in nicely with the church's mission, which was established not just to put on Sunday services but to "empower and free our members" to go after their callings during certain seasons of their life, he says.

"What might seem to be a limitation wasn't a limitation for her. It wasn't really about chess; it was about young people. Chess was a vehicle for their minds and their hearts."

This is evident on this particular Tuesday.

Tessa Vocque considers which chess piece to move during a meeting of the CPR Chess Club at Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas in Little Rock. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)

Settling at a table across from the Burnett brothers and three other boys is Tessa Vocque, a 7-year-old first-grader at Forest Heights STEM Academy. She has been coming to the club about four months.

She likes the fact that "it doesn't exactly matter who wins and loses," at chess, she says. Here, one doesn't lose. One learns.

"I also like that it's just fun to play," Tessa adds.

Her mother, Cindy Vocque of Little Rock, is just outside the classroom.

When she found out about the club, she felt it would be the perfect outlet for her daughter, Vocque says. "I thought this [would] be great to help her learn some self-control, planning skills, sitting still and just how to use strategies -- not only in a game, but ... in her community and her life."

She sees her strong-willed daughter learning to "self-regulate her emotions," Vocque adds.

Teaching the advanced class is Nate Martin, an architect with WD&D Architects in Little Rock and another of the club's volunteer coaches. Martin became involved with the club more than two years ago when he saw a segment about it on the evening news. He has been playing casually since he was a child.

"What I enjoy the most is when I see something click with a student," Martin says. "One minute they didn't grasp something, and another minute, they grasp it. ... And you see them build on that week after week.

"It's fun just watching the kids ... make some crazy moves and [seeing] what happens."

Darius McCree Sr. of Little Rock, a teacher and the chess coach at Dunbar Middle School, has been plugged into CPR as a coach for about two years. When his students graduated from middle school, he sought a way to keep them together despite them going on to a handful of different high schools. He got in touch with Morris and his former Dunbar students began to visit CPR, becoming members of the club's high-school team.

He uses chess to teach students about life, McCree says. "If you [want to] teach a kid discipline and maturity, chess is the greatest way I know to do that."

KenDrell Collins, a trial attorney at the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Eastern District of Arkansas, coaches young chess enthusiasts during a weekly meeting of the CPR Chess Club. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)

When he first came to CPR, McCree says, he was amazed at what he saw.

"I tell people all the time that I've been playing this game for 30 years but, I learned from a 5-year-old here. He was 5 when I met him but ... he talked like he was, like, 54."

Fellow coach KenDrell Collins of Little Rock also enjoys seeing the students learn life through chess. A federal public defender, Collins thought he was just going to be helping out here and there with the club. But now, he's teaching a beginner's class, populated primarily with children kindergarten age through second grade.

"In chess, if you make a wrong move ... it has consequences. You might lose that piece," he says. "I deal with people every day who made a lapse in judgment or ... didn't strategically think about an action, and then there was a consequence. So we kind of teach that on a small level, a micro level, to the kids."

Racquel Green of Little Rock is not only the mother of CPR member and trophy winner Kenneth Clay III, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Pulaski Heights Elementary School, but she's also a volunteer parent.

Davis, Green says, recruited her son to come over and play chess, which he began doing in late 2018. "And ever since, he's been right over here. He does not miss a Tuesday ... If he's had a stressful week, he's looking forward to Tuesday ... 'I have got to go and take this strategy out on chess.' So I like to hear that."

The club has coaxed the once-introverted Kenneth out of his shell, Green adds. "Now, he's more sociable. Now, he's more outgoing. Now, he's more ... proud of himself."

And Green is impressed that Georgia "just knew what God wanted for her to do."

"She didn't wonder how she was going to get the resources. She didn't wonder who was going to support her. She didn't wonder if she was going to have a kid. She just did it."

And Morris was instrumental in getting the Little Rock School District to change its rules about chess.

The district hosts chess tournaments, but these were once open only to the schools that had chess clubs.

Siblings Mert and Nur Korkmaz learn the game of life while play chess during a Tuesday-evening meeting of the CPR Chess Club. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Cary Jenkins)

Most of the school-based chess clubs were under the schools' gifted and talented programs. On several occasions, Morris went to the district's former fund and budget coordinator and pleaded with him to allow her club members to participate in these tournaments. He finally relented. The club went to the tournament for the first time in 2017.

"She was doing something that was virtually undone -- in fact, not just virtually undone here, but virtually undone anywhere in the country," Davis says.

Today, CPR's teams are the only community-based teams that can compete in Little Rock School District tournaments. On Feb. 8, more than 20 children from the club participated in the district chess tournament. Members have racked up numerous medals and team trophies; the club itself has garnered such honors as the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Service Award, KARK Pay It 4 Ward Award, and the Dunbar Community Award.

CPR didn't just grow bigger; it expanded outside Little Rock. Laverne Tyler of Pine Bluff is over the CPR Chess Club's Pine Bluff branch. Open to anybody and free of charge, it meets from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursdays -- and has an in-house tournament -- at the Trinity Annex Building, 2900 W. Sixth Ave. in Pine Bluff. The chapter currently has nearly 20 members ranging from first grade to junior high school. These children also participated in the Feb. 8 Little Rock School District chess tournament.

A member and past master with Cornerstone Lodge No. 1601, Prince Hall Masons in Pine Bluff, Tyler also coaches three youth football teams and shepherds a group of Junior Masons. Determined after a visit to a CPR meeting to take the program back to his own youth, he rounded up some of his football players, and invited a few more, to play chess. "They had never seen chess," Tyler says. "And probably about a month after that, they were playing chess like they'd been playing all their lives."

The game, he explains, "raised up their confidence level. All their teachers [are] saying their grades have come up, their attitudes have gotten better ... And then they're learning to work through difficulties."

CPR-Pine Bluff recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. "We've been competing and winning," Tyler says.

"For me to see them sitting and thinking -- it showed me the potential that exists within them."

Volunteers and donations are welcome at both CPR clubs (Tyler especially seeks male volunteers, whether or not they're chess players). Little Rock donations should go through Vine & Village, with the CPR Chess Program indicated. For more information, contact Morris at (501) 416-5348 or For Pine Bluff, contact Tyler at (870) 329-4398 or

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Game changer: Volunteer creates chess club that gives kids all the right moves - NWAOnline

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February 16th, 2020 at 6:46 am

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Chess: Guildford extend unbeaten run to 83 matches over nearly eight years – The Guardian

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This is a variant from the game Nana Dzagnidze v Valentina Gunina, Cairns Cup, St Louis 2020. Black has the brutal threat of Rh8, Qxh2+ and Rxh2 mate. Can you find Whites only move to escape?

Guildfords stranglehold on Britains Four Nations Chess League (4NCL) is set to continue for an eighth consecutive season as the Surrey club steamrollered two more opponents at Daventry last weekend, while their sponsored rivals from Yorkshire and the Isle of of Man lost ground on the leaders. Guildford last lost a match, 3.5-4.5 to White Rose, on 5 May 2012, since when the teams unbeaten run stretches to 81 wins and two draws.

Each of two sections qualifies four teams for the championship pool. Guildford lead the A group with 8/8 ahead of Chessable White Rose and Wood Green 6/8. The B group has Manx Liberty 8/8, Grantham 7/8 and Guildford B 6/8. Guildford have won all four matches by at least 7-1 so are already well ahead on game points.

A mix of experienced English and French Olympiad grandmasters form Guildfords core and it was a specially good weekend for Michael Adams. The seven-time British champion is aged 48 and has recently struggled to hold on to the England No 1 spot against his younger rivals Luke McShane, Gawain Jones and David Howell. But Howell had a form dip at Hastings while Jones has been held back by draws, whereas in the last few weeks Adams scored an unbeaten 7/10 at Gibraltar, then defeated GMs Stephen Gordon and Jon Speelman at the 4NCL.

The Cornishman has now recovered not only his England No 1 position but also a 2700 elite rating and is the second oldest 2700+ after Indias former world champion Vishy Anand. Matthew Sadler, the England No 2 four rating points behind Adams, is co-author of Game Changer, the acclaimed AlphaZero book, and an amateur GM who plays little apart from the 4NCL yet hardly ever loses. In his game against 3Cs Sadler won what he later described as his most AlphaZero-like game yet.

It was also interesting that Guildford fielded the Leicester GM Mark Hebden on bottom board. Hebden, who will be 62 on Saturday, played a key, though understated, role in the 1970s and 80s boom when England for a few years became the No 2 chess nation after the Soviet Union. Many opening novelties worked out then were developed on the weekend circuit where few games were published and where Hebden evolved a purpose-built repertoire which made him a prolific prize winner.

The Grand Prix, Barry and 150 Attacks were his weapons, with easy to understand strategies which attracted a host of followers and are still popular among online blitz players. Hebden was at it again last weekend, where his opponent seemed unfamiliar with the 150 Attack and was crushed in short order.

Blacks 7 a6? (better c6 to secure d5 for the f6 knight) was far too slow and could already have been met by 8 e5!, but Hebden preferred the classical plan of switching his queen to boost his K-side attack. Then 12Nbd7? put Blacks minor pieces in a tangle, and the position fell apart.

Mark Hebden v Aisha Benhamida (Guildford v 3Cs)

1 d4 Nf6 2 Nc3 g6 3 e4 d6 4 Nf3 Bg7 5 Be3 0-0 6 Qd2 Nbd7 7 Bh6 a6? 8 0-0-0 Nb6 9 h3 Be6 10 Qg5 c6 11 Qh4 Qc7 12 Ng5 Nbd7? 13 f4 Rfe8 14 Bxg7 Kxg7 15 e5 Nh5 16 g4 h6 17 Nxe6+ fxe6 18 gxh5 1-0

When Manx unleashed Hungarys world No 14, Richard Rapport, against Guildford in last seasons final match, it seemed this might be a foretaste of a sustained title challenge. This has not happened yet, as both Manx and White Rose have relied on their pre-sponsor squads. The challenging pair are expected to make their effort at the final league weekend in May when they will probably bring in some overseas heavyweights, but it will be a slim chance. White Rose have already lost a match while Guildford are already virtually assured of superior game points.

Irelands Gonzaga, newly promoted from Division Two, and Scotlands Alba, newly relegated from Division One, are both effectively national teams, though far from full strength. Both have the same basic problem.Their squads are expert level with a sprinkling of masters, and this formula is insufficient for consistent survival in the top division, so both may be in a pattern of yo-yoing between divisions.

A former world champion in action in Division Two is a rare sight. Chinas Tan Zhongyi, fresh from winning the 20,000 womens first prize at Gibraltar, played No 1 for Kings Head, the London chess pub team, and won two smooth strategic games.

On the international front,the central action this week is at the Prague Masters including six GMs from the world top 30. Chess fans will be watching Alireza Firouzja,16, in his second elite tournament following Wijk aan Zee, where he was wiped out 5-0 by the super-elite but scored well against others.

3658 1 cxb4! draws. If Rh8 2 Qc6+! Kg7 3 Qc3+! Kg6 4 Qd3+! when Black must repeat by 4..Kg7 since 4f5? loses to 5 Qd6+! when the BK must self-block by Kh5 or be mated. The Cairns Cup of 10 top women players is the female version of the elite Sinquefield Cup, and its final rounds can be watched free and live online this weekend.

More here:

Chess: Guildford extend unbeaten run to 83 matches over nearly eight years - The Guardian

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February 16th, 2020 at 6:45 am

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The new chess culture in Vienna – Chessbase News

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2/13/2020 In Vienna, chess is back in the public space. People play on streets and squares, in the Main Library, and even in coffeehouses where chess once was very popular. The driving force behind this movement is the Dutch chess activist Kineke Mulder. Who is very active indeed.

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The coffeehouse is the cradle of European chess club culture. A lot of clubs were founded in coffeehouses and the coffeehouses in Vienna arguably provided the archetype of a cultivated atmosphere that came with a cup of coffee, intellectual conversations and a few games of chess. Coffeehouses also offered an opportunity to play chess for money and to enter heated debates about the best move while analysing.

But in the last decades the classical chess coffeehouse has been on the decline. However, in Vienna, formerly a stronghold of the game and coffeehouse culture, chess is in the process of reconquering public space. Driving force behind this development is a woman: Kineke Mulder. Who hails from the Netherlands, from Groningen, another stronghold of chess. Which is fitting because in its heyday the chess culture in Vienna was also very international.

The idea was born in 2015/16, at a time when many people had fled their homes,were travelling around Europe and were looking for a place to stay. Many stranded in Vienna, did not know where to go and were literally living on the street. Kineke Mulder saw this and came up with the idea to give them at least an occupation: chess. Chess is easy to learn and connects people. Even if you do not speak a common language, you can quickly play a game of chess with each other. "We are all equal when we play," is Kineke Mulder's motto.

Soon Kineke Mulder found supporters and the project grew. Chess is now played regularly just like that on the squares and streets of Vienna and at street festivals. But not only there. The Main Library is also regularly imbued with coffee house atmosphere during the monthly chess tournament.

In the Vienna Main Library

Chess is also played at the junk goods market 48-Tandler. The blitz-tournament even attracted almost the entire women's national team of 1996, that is WIM Helene Mira, WFM Jutta Borek and WFM Maria Horvath.

The trio

Christian Hursky, president of the Austrian Chess Federation and member of the Austrian Landtag took part in the simul. Incidentally, this year the Austrian Chess Federation celebrates its 100th birthday.

And it is even back in its old stronghold the coffeehouses. Not in each and every one but nevertheless getting more and more popular.


E.g. with the "Chess Unlimited Krampusturnier" in the Caf Ritter, with sociable Dieter Chmelar (journalist, TV host, cabaret artist), Nikolo and Alma Zadic, minister of justice.

Prominent people at the Krampusturnier

The house was packed...

...the games exciting.

With Kineke Mulder and her friends chess in Vienna has also become more feminine, and thus more sociable. There is even a women's chess club in Vienna, for a few years now. For all women who want to start with chess, but don't quite dare to make the move, comrade-in-arms Eva Husar has a tip from woman to woman: chess can be crocheted first.

Photos:Little hussar chrochet. P.S: All materials are recycled. The little extra: the board is also the bag for the pieces.

As a trained advertising designer Kineke Mulder is also able to show what she and her chess friends do and recently she published a brochure (PDF) with the chess events of the last year. There were plenty of them.

Meanwhile, chess columns, e.g. Ruf & Ehn in the Standard, have noticed this new chess culture in Vienna and expressed their joy in a number of articles.

There's also a video about the new chess movement:

Translation from German: Johannes Fischer

Excerpt from:

The new chess culture in Vienna - Chessbase News

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February 16th, 2020 at 6:45 am

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Ascharin and Other Things –

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In 1843 Andrei Alexandrovich Ascharin was born in the Estonian coastal town of Prnu. His parents were of mixed origins: Alexander, of Russian extraction and Louise, of German extraction. This was common among the Baltic people at the time. His family moved from Prnu to Dorpat 80 miles due east. He went to the Dorpat High School and attended the Universitt Dorpat, now the University of Tartu, where he studied law, until 1874. After graduation he moved to St. Petersburg as a journalist for the German language newspaper Sankt Petersburger Heroldand then for it's competitor Sankt Petersburger Zeitung.

Ascharin learned to play chess while attending high school in Dorpat. There, his chief rival was his classmateHermann Clemenz who would himself become a strong player. His other chess friends included Friedrich Eisenschmidt, G. Vogt and Friedrich Amelung.

Here's a couple youthful games between Ascharin-Vogt and Ascharin-Clemenz. The mistakes (even blunders) show how far they needed to go but the ideas evidenced their potentials. It also demonstrates that Ascharin wasn't yet standing out from his classmates. Vogt was a talented blindfold player. Herr Stud of Dorpat had written in a letter published in the Neue Berliner Schachzeitung in 1866 which said "The talent of my friend Vogt in blind-playing has often given us the opportunity to watch such a production with six, seven and eight simultaneous opponents. Calmness, clarity of combinations and a lively presentation are very much in his mind."

As can be seen in the above 1892 photograph of Ascharin with Mikhail Tschigorin, our subject was a man of small stature. He also spend most of his life in somewhat poor health which eventually led to his premature death at age 53. In 1878 he married Alwine Runge. Together they had three children: a son, Fredja, born in early 1887 but who died from the dreaded scarlet fever on March 24, 1892, a son, Andreas, born Sept. 13, 1889 and a daughter, Lydia, born Dec. 30, 1891.

While in St. Petersburg, Ascharin was exposed to some of the great Russian players of the day such as Emanuel Schiffers, Ilya Shumoff and Mikhail Tschigorin. In fact in November of 1876 --Tschigorin had already started editing his chess paper, the Shakhmatnyy listok-- Ascharin, Tschigorin, Schiffers and Shumoff held a small tournament in the Caf Dominic. This knock-out tournament was won by Ascharin (two days after the completion of that small tournament, an even smaller one was held between Tschigorin, Schiffers and Shumoff).

A game from that event:

Between October and December of the next year another tournament was held, this time with more contestants and the venue was a restaurant/caf operated by a Mr. Prader. The competitors were:Ascharin, Schiffers, Tshigorin, Clementz (who had only arrived in St. Petersburg 4 weeks earlier) and Semyon Alapin. Tschigorin won this event (and the 15 rubles prize), followed by Schiffers, Ascharin, Clementz and Alapin.

Below is a game between Ascharin and Alapin from 1877, also at the Caf Prader, but several months prior to the tournament played there:

The Baltische Schachbltter of 1891 published an 1878 letter from Friedrich Amelung which gives a sense of the chess situation in Russia at the time, : the course of the last year 1877 three new strong Russian chess players became known, namely: Mr. Solowzow [Alexander Vladimirovich Solovtsov] in Moscow, who successfully played against Messrs. Urussov [Prince Sergey Urusov], Drosdow [Alexander Dmitrievich Drozdov (1838-1904)],and Schmidt [Dr. Eugen von Schmidt, an Estonia who moved to Moscow], also Mr. Alapin in Petersburg and Mr. Hellwig in Dorpat [A. Hellwig eventually moved to Moscow for at least a time]. In my chess report No. 1, 1877, I named strongest chess players of Russia: Mr. Winawer in Warsaw, Messrs Schiffers, Shumoff, Tschigorin, Asharin in Petersburg, Messrs. Drosdow, Urussow and Schmidt in Moscow, finally the provincial players Messrs. Clemenz, Chardin [Andrey Nikolaevich Chardin, a lawyer who moved to Samara in 1878. He lost a tightly contested match to Schiffers in 1874. A young Vladmir Lenin worked as his legal assistant in 1893. They were known to have played many games together] and V. Knorre [Viktor Knorre, the Russian astronomer, was originally from Dorpat, then moved to Berlin], i.e. a total of 11 chess players of the first rank along with several players of the second rank, to which we now add the three named players, and we are thus getting a handsome majority of strong chess players in Russia, like no other European or non-European country may be, except in Germany and England alone.

A game between Tschigorin and Viktor Knorre in 1874:

In 1877, after his little victory (1876) in St. Petersburg, Ascharin lost a close 9 game match to his chess mentor, Friedrich Amelung, 5-4. By 1879, Tschigorin had risen tremendously, winning the St. Petersburg tournament (after a play-off with Alapin) while Ascharin languished in 6th place out of the 9 contestants. When he secured a position teaching German literature and language at the Alexander High School for Men and the Lomonosov High School for Women in 1879, Ascharin and his wife, who also hailed from Prnu, moved back to the Balkins but this time to the Latvian city of Riga where they would live out their lives.

Riga provided a whole new chess frontier for Ascharin.

In 1880 there were no first class players in Riga other than Ascharin himself. His arrival seemed to spark interest in the game. Ascharin joined the Schachclub des Gewerbevereins, the trade association chess club which met at the Hotel Deutsches Haus and where he could give their best players knight odds. Bored with that poorly attended venue, he seldom frequented it himself, preferring the coffeehouses where chess was commonly played. The chief among these was the Caf Krpsch which had the reputation as being Riga's Caf de la Rgence. He also played visiting masters. The three columns below indicate "win, lose draw."

Below is one of the games between Emil Schallopp and Ascharin in 1890:

The above game was played in 1890. This was a hallmark year for Riga chess for this was when Ascharin organized the Riga Chess Club, which in turn elevated Riga into a first rate chess locale.

Before delving into that, three Riga chess enthusiasts are worth mentioning: the Behting brothers, Johann, Carl and Robert. All three were problemists, Though Carl and Johann were the most successful in that area. Robert, on the other hand won the 1st Baltic Championship (the Baltic Chess Union Congress) in April, 1899. Carl and Robert were also strong correspondence players.

The first discussions concerning the establishment of the Rigaer Schachverein (the Riga Chess Club) took place in March 1890 at a meeting which included Mr. Ascharin, Dr. Alex Helling, and Pastor N. Hugenberger (ironically, the latter two mentioned both died the following year). With C.arl von Reisner and Paul Kerkovius added to the commission, the Grand Opening took place on Dec. 4, 1890, A letter written by Ascharin dated Oct. 17, 1890 gives some insight:

Dear friend! - Our chess club is blooming mightily! We are already 50 members. We have rented a nice big restaurant consisting of two, large nicely furnished halls and a room for the deliberations of the bard . The cost [for the venue] for two game nights a week is 200 rubles annually. However, we receive 100 rubles a year from the Rigaer Tageblatt, a local newspaper, for the chess number [the chess column] that appears every two weeks. It is edited by three members of the chess club, P. Kerkovius, Ellinson and Carl Behting, the problem artist, under my supervision and, as can be seen from the magazines, receives many good reviews. The board consists of 5 members and 2 substitutes. President: Asharin, Vice President: Dr. med. Helling, Secretary: C. v. Reisner, treasurer: Kerkovius, archivist: Pastor Hugenberger. . . . The annual membership fee is 5 rubles and 1 ruble registration fee. . . . As a result of donations, our library already consists of around 40 chess books. We hold the German weekly chess, published by Schallopp, Heyde and Hlsen, and the Petersburg Schachmaty. It goes without saying that we bought the two issues of your latest chess opus.

Below is a game between Ascharin and fellow club founder, Pastor N. Hugenburger. Hugenberger taught Religion at Lomonosov High School. One can see the apparent skill disparity. Another founder, Dr. Alexander Helling had received his degree from Dorpat University in 1884. He set up practice in Riga in 1885 where he also operated a boarding school. He was known in the Riga music circles as a cellist. He died from pneumonia on May 14th 1892 at age 36. Paul Kerkovius (1868-1940) was the publisher of Riga's main newspaper, the Rigaer Stadtbltter. Between 1896 and 1916 Kerkovius was one of those involved in a famous series of correspondence games played between Riga and various foreign chess clubs such as Orel, Moscow, Stockholm and Berlin during an extended period of time. At the conclusion, although delayed by the war, a book was published by Helms and Cassel (both of whom owned and edited the extraordinaryAmerican Chess Bulletin). Due to the Riga's reputation for analyzing and compiling data, these matches, as well as the analyses, were considered very important at the time. The "Riga Defense," also referred to as the "Bohl Variation" was elevated from relative obscurity into prominence thanks to this series of games.

Above you can see Paul Kerkovius, Carl and Robert Behting in 1916.

Here is a game demonstrating Carl Behting's skill as a correspondence player:

And here are the two games from the 1896 Riga vs. Orel correspondence match:

The Riga Chess Club was already developing a reputation in 1892. That along with Ascharin's connections convinced a handful of world-class masters to visit the club. The club rented rooms in Riga's impressive Grossen Gilde or Great Guild, one of the oldest building in the Baltics.

Mikhail Tschigorin visited in September 1882. He conducted a 30 board simul (against 40 opponents since 10 played in consultation) that lasted almost 6 hours, non-stop. Tschigorin won 28, lost 2. He also played Ascharin in a 3 game match, winning all three. Ascharin compared their duel to that between Hektor and Achilles, with Ascharin as the doomed Hektor and Tschigoin as the invincble Achilles.

In March 1893, Emil Schallopp who had been to Riga on two previous occasions, gave a 21 board simul, winning 20 and losing one to Carl Behting. The simul lasted from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Ascharin played Schallopp in a three-game match, winning all three games.

Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch visited the club inNovember 1893. He also held a 30 board simul that lasted 6 hours. Of these he won 25, drew 4 and lost one to Carl Behting. On the second evening he gave a 6 board blind-simul, winning all the games. On the third evening Tarrasch was scheduled to play a mini-match with Ascharin but Ascharin was ill and had to forego that which he had probably been keenly anticipating. Instead, a hasty simul was arranged with mostly different players. Initially set up to be a 15 board event to lighten Tarrasch's load,, there were so many complaints that it was expanded to 30. The exhausted Tarrasch rushed through this second simul in 4 hours winning 22, losing 5 and drawing 3. Those beating Tarrasch were Messrs. H. Ehlert, R. Behting, Kandaurow, and the lawyers Wittram and Henrichson.

September of 1894 saw Emanuel Schiffers arriving in Riga where he played a 23 board simul against selected opponents. He won 14, lost 4 and drew 5. It was observed that Schiffers didn't take the battles as seriously and other masters. the simul lasted 5.5 hrs.

William Steinitz came to Riga in February 1896. the first evening, Feb. 10, he played a two game match at the CafKrpsch against Carl Behting, giving him Knight-odds, each winning a game. On Feb. 11 he gave a 30 board simul. Steinitz won 29 and drew one after 6 hours. A match between Steinitz and Ascharin had been scheduled for Feb. 15 but Ascharin was too ill to play. Instead, a consultation game between the team of P. Bohl, M. Ellinson and K. Kupfler (playing white) and Steinitz was hastily arranged. Steinitz won. A banquet following the game.

Tschigorin paid the Riga Chess Club a second visit in September 1897. Yet another 30 board simul was held. Tschigorin won 22, lost 4 and drew 4. It was noted that all 30 of the boards were in consultation. During the banquet in his honor, Tschigorin raised a toast to the departed Andreas Ascharin (who had died in December 1896)..

Having played against various masters, comparisons of their styles and conduct was inevitable.

(below are, in some cases, somewhat liberal translations using Google )

Tschigorin: Tschigorin is of medium height, slim, black, the bronze-colored face that reddened under the exertion of the brain, narrow, not too thin, the look friendly, harmless, but also penetratingly sharp. The whole appearance gives the impression of restlessness. . . . If Tschigorin does not finish a combination quickly enough, he gnaws on his thumbnail, or nervously runs his forefinger through his mustache or small full beard, or taps with the same index finger in quick succession, (calculating the variations). Of course, he doesn't have the unpleasant habit of speaking during the game. With the exception of a few brief replies, the five hours were almost silent.

Schallopp: The dark-eyed, brunette, hot-blooded Russian (Tschigorin), as he showed himself in the same lower rooms of our great guild in his 30 simultaneous games, plays violently, as a falcon quickly strikes and captures its prey; the bright-eyed, blond, cold-blooded German (Schallopp) follows his game calmly, evenly, indifferently removing the small obstacles, carefully clearing them out of the way before he makes the surprising ingenious advance; that is to say: he does not scorn a seemingly insignificant pawn who covers his dominion with his body, but quietly captures it in before he dares the main attack. Yet Mr. Schallopp still smiles mildly and kindly, like a man of gentle temper- while Mr. Tschigorin did not smile in the course of his nearly five-hour game. And while the latter face gradually reddened and his forehead shone in the sweat of effort, Mr. Schallopp remained chastely white and only at the last his cheeks shimmered in redness.

Tarrasch: Tschigorin plays like a hawk, sharp, hot and bold; Schallopp - like an armored dove, gentle, smiling, but greedy for food; Tarrasch - like a raven, looking wise, very deliberate, prey promptly before he attacks.

Schiffers: ...Schiffers is not attached to the game with body and soul, and still pursues physical interests: Tschigorin and Dr. Tarrasch did not smoke at all, Schallopp smoked coldly on a cigar, Schiffers smoked almost 25 cigarettes during the 5 hour game and drank a glass of beer, which his predecessors also carefully avoided. From all of the chess masters who have been seen here can be observed: they all boast enviable, thick hair, which, like Mr. Schiffers, has a mane-like appearance and gives his head a somewhat artistic appearance. How can one explain this phenomenon? Apparently, excessive thinking does not cause baldness, as some people want to believe.

Steinitz: Steinitz observes a deliberate, never rushing, downright relentless style of playing.... The big man is as small as possible in figure, round, stocky, the large, moderately hairy head with the reddish full head seated deep between his shoulders, his little nose is set apart only by his bulging nostrils, the forehead high and square, the small eyes as if protected from an overhanging hawk skin, the gently reddened, full face usually shines with a jovial smile. Beautifully soft; the hands with the pointed fingers are small and delicate, which old master Steinitz sometimes drums lightly on the table during play or makes an innocent fist, depending on the case. Otherwise he will not reveal any trace of nervousness.

Due to failing health, Ascharin resigned his position as president of the Riga Chess Club in 1895. Ottomar von Haken (Otomrs fon Hkens 1854-1929) was elected in his place. and served until 1899Paul Kerkovius took over.

In 1894 Ascharin published a little collection of his anecdotes, originally released in supplements (feuilleton) in theRiga Tageblatt, in a book entitled Schach-Humoresken.

During his life Ascharin had over a dozen other books published, mostly involving translations of Russian poetry into German. However, he also published a book of his own poetry in 1878,Gedichte von Andreas Ascharin. Below is an example of his writing (with English translation assistance kindly provided to my own interpretation by member @white_castle27)

An Unsterblichkeit zu glauben, Bringt unzweifelhaft Gewinn, Keinem will den Trost ich rauben. Da ich selbst unsterblich bin.

Deine Augen geben Kunde Von der Liebe Himmelreich, Und ein Ku von deinem Munde Machet mich den Gttern gleich.

Believing in immortality Undoubtedly yields profit I don't want to rob anyone of solace. Since I am immortal myself.

Your eyes give honor From the love of heaven, And a kiss from your mouth Makes me like the gods.

Upon his death on Christmas Day 1896, the Baltische Schachblatter was filled with memorials celebrating his life, his legacy but even more so his gentleness, kindness and generosity.

[While Wikipedia and several other places online list his death as Dec. 24, Jeremy Gage, as well as most contemporary reports tell us it was Dec. 25]

and we finish up with a strange, but fun, little odds game:

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Ascharin and Other Things -

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2/10/2020 Chess compositions have been around for over a thousand years, and composers aim to tap not only the practical but also the aesthetic sense of solvers. Recently AZLAN IQBAL has investigated the potential of fully-computer-generated chess problems, and here he presents some conclusions about what passes the threshold of beauty.

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Perhaps the earliest recorded chess problems were by al-Adli who was reputedly the author of the first book about chess (or rather, an earlier but still recognizable form of the game) and lived in the 9th century CE. He is also said to have played it in the presence of one named, al-Mutawakkil, and therefore was not likely just or even primarily a composer of problems [1]. In the 21st century, however, composing original chess problems is no longer something that only humans can do autonomously. Chesthetica, a program I developed, has been doing so for years now with no end in sight. It composes, quite literally, like a machine. Also, it does not use any kind of machine learning but a totally different approach I call the Digital Synaptic Neural Substrate or DSNS, for short. There is, in fact, no learning going on at all despite having the word neural in it (related books on the subject can be found here).

The feedback I have received over the years about these compositions from the general chess-playing community has been largely positive. However, among master or even grandmaster composers, less so. This is despite some of Chestheticas compositions being intriguing enough for publication in a chess problem magazine [2]. Perhaps the first ever to publish compositions composed entirely and autonomously by a computer program.

Personally, I lack the necessary experience (and frankly interest or inclination) to be able to appreciate all the intricacies of traditional chess problems, which apparently put them on a higher aesthetic level than anything Chesthetica has produced so far. I suppose the same could be said for other artificial intelligence (AI) systems even with far more resources behind them that generate things like paintings and music. The best human painters and musicians are still better. Perhaps they always will be as far as humans are concerned.

Regardless, in this article I wanted to share with readers what the general global chess community, not just master players and composers, apparently find appealing when it comes to chess problems. For that purpose, I exported the post data from the Chesthetica Facebook page between May 26th and November 21st 2019 (Facebook only allows up to the last 180 days). This showed various statistics regarding all the chess problems published there within that period. Pundits may prefer to just call them constructs, a type of chess problem, since the expression of themes (in particular) is not a critical component. I had been sharing these problems composed by Chesthetica to a selection of large chess problem/puzzle communities that are also on Facebook. Each post there can potentially reach tens of thousands of people. None of these posts were ever boosted by me, by the way (e.g. with money to Facebook or requested assistance from anyone).

Since every few weeks Chesthetica composes far too many problems for any one person to go through in detail individually, for the purpose of online publication (and with the help of more filtering tools I have programmed into Chesthetica), I am able to choose some and reject others based on certain criteria. The process undoubtedly means I would have rejected some problems that others would likely have found appealing and this cannot be helped. To be fair, some problems are also just bad, weak, too weird or make no sense in my view and rejected for those reasons too. The information of primary interest to me in the exported data was what Facebook calls lifetime engaged users which they define as, the number of unique people who engaged in certain ways with your page post, for example by commenting on, liking, sharing, or clicking upon particular elements of the post.

For the given period mentioned earlier there were 87 posts that included mates in 3, 4, 5, and study-like constructs. Even the main line of the solution was selected by Chesthetica. After ranking them in terms of lifetime engaged users, I could contrast the top 5 compositions by Chesthetica versus the bottom 5 which presumably reflects what most people like (and dislike) about these compositions. Here they are (with the Chesthetica version number that produced them):

Tip: You can play against each diagram to checkmate!

It should be noted that aesthetics is a significant but not the only aspect that attracts people to chess problems. My experience working in this area for over a decade (with chess as the primary domain of investigation) suggests that, rather obviously, different people tend to like different things. Even so, there are still clearly bad compositions and clearly good ones that most of us (i.e. with a working knowledge of the game or better) would generally agree on if we are not told in advance what to look for. Perhaps in a thousand years some of Chestheticas compositions would also have survived and be marvelled upon, if not for their aesthetics then maybe due to the fact that a computer program back then could compose original chess problems autonomously at all.

Having said all that, do you, dear reader, agree with the ranking of a sampling of the general global chess community as shown above or would you arrange the compositions in a different order?

Let us know in the comments!

Want to learn more?

The top 5 and bottom 5 problems shown above (click or tap a game in the list to switch)


What do people really find attractive in chess problems? - Chessbase News

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Palo Alto, Calif., February 12, is teaming up with Chessparty 2020 to present the live PRO Chess League Finals in Oslo, Norway this May.

ChessParty 2020will include the PRO Chess League finals but will first and foremost be a major social event. For three days the Oslofjord Convention Center will transform into a party for everyone, where activities like football, skating, swimming, boating, beach volleyball, table tennis, and barbecuing will provide the entire family with the finest experience Norway has to offer.

Tickets and accommodations begin at 40 Euros per day and 31 Euros per night, respectively. Tickets for children under the age of 18 begin at 20 Euros.Click here to purchase.

For the first time in league history, will be bring its premier online event to Europe," said Danny Rensch, Chief Chess Officer at "We're delighted to be teaming up with the Norwegian Chess Federation, the Oslofjord and most importantly our title sponsor ChessParty 2020 to make this dream a reality."

Chessparty 2020 will bring several guests from the chess community including World Champion GM Magnus Carlsen. In addition, GM Fabiano Caruana, GM Wesley So, as well as top streamers like WFM Alexandra Botez, IM Anna Rudolf, and GM Eric Hansen will be in attendance for the finals. Attendees will have the opportunity to play in ongoing chess events for players of all skill levels, including an open Fischer Random tournament.

The event will take place on May 22-24 at the Oslofjord Convention Center in Sandefjord, a picturesque coastal town just an hours drive outside Oslo, which hosts many of the nation's top sporting and cultural gatherings

Like last year's event, the PRO Chess League live finals will feature the season's semifinals, third-place match, and finals in front of a live audience.

"As huge fans of the PRO Chess League, we are super excited over having the honor to host this years finals. For our ambitions with Chessparty 2020, to have's PRO Chess League as a partner, is a dream come true," said Harald Christian Sagevik, Marketing and Communications Director of the Norwegian Chess Federation.

"We will do our best to make this event as incredible as possible for both the contestants and the spectators," Sagevik added. "We cant wait to show the world the beautiful venue situated by the Oslofjord and with all the extra tournaments and activities we have to offer. In the program, you will find something for everyone, including a lot of non-chess activities. And, best of all, we have managed to do so at very affordable prices."

Tickets for the event and accommodations can be purchased herewith day pass tickets starting at 40 euros for adults and 20 Euros for children under the age of 18, while accommodations are priced starting at 31 Euros per person, per night.

About ChessParty 2020: As a newly-launched joint venture by Kjentfolk AS and the Norwegian Chess Federation, ChessParty 2020 will leverage the Oslofjord Convention Center's outstanding venue to launch the world's first truly global chess party featuring the best players in the world and activities for players and fans of all ages and skill levels.

About is the worlds largest chess site, with a community of more than 33 million members from around the world playing millions of games every day. Launched in 2007, is the leader in chess news, lessons, events, and live entertainment. Visit to play, learn and connect with chessthe worlds most popular game.


ChessParty 2020: Marketing and Communications Director Harald Christian Sagevik Director of Business Development Nick Barton


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Staff report

The Taos Knighthawks had an all-around good week in Albuquerque when they participated in the NMAA State Chess Championships, as the team finished in third place in the combined Class 4A and 5A Large School Division.

Taking place on Thursday and Friday (Feb. 6-7) at the Ramada Hotel, the Knighthawks, who were highly seeded after their regional co-championship appearance, faced a trio of teams on their way to their third-place finishing.

In the first round, Taos faced off against Hope Christian and cruised to an easy 5-1 victory. Hope Christian was a top 10 team in the state prior to the match.

Taos picked up another easy victory when it faced Kirtland Central High School, a top two school in the northwest region.

But the Knighthawks finally met their match when they faced Los Alamos in the third round on Friday, and lost 4-2. Taos head coach Dennis Hedges said that due to a pairing error, the two teams faced off and it was one game that made the difference by the end of it.

For third place, the Knighthawks faced Oate High School, the best school from the southern region, and came away with a big victory. Kian Morgan and Nitis Morgan, who were playing on the top two boards, prevailed with "crushing victories."

Robbie Gersten and Jaimie Ritchie picked up victories on board three and four, respectively. Aidan Heflin, who hadn't competed in chess in over five years, finished with a 4-0 record throughout the event.

Sean Ritchie, an Anansi Charter School seventh grader, also attended the state tournament but couldn't compete due to his age. Because of that, he played in a side tournament with high schoolers and won a first-place medal by the end of it.

Hedges said that, for having no seniors, he was proud of his team.

"It was great seeing the team come together for the event," Hedges said. "The older boys hadn't been concentrating on chess the last few years, focusing more on soccer and high school academics. But they sure hadn't lost their skills that they had developed as young players. And with no seniors on the team, they [can] return next year as even more of a powerhouse."

- Staff report

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Around the time of the furore and excitement surrounding the so-calledDa Vinci Code, the Times sent me a weirdly futuristic looking chess diagram and asked me to explain what was happening. If anything, it resembled the Max Ernst surrealist chess design of 1944, but in fact it was taken from amasterpiece of the early literature of chess, which had recently resurfaced after being thought lost for five centuries.

My response forthe Timeswas that the rediscovery of this book was of much more than scholarly or antiquarian interest, for it had been suggested that its chess puzzle diagrams were not only designed by Leonardo da Vinci, but also drawn by him and, the most tantalising prospect of all, perhaps even composed by him.

This book,De ludo schacorum(about the game of chess), was written by the Renaissance mathematician Luca Pacioli, who lived from the mid-15th century to the early 16th century. The so-called new chess, which considerably enhanced the powers of the pieces, was introduced around 1475 and Paciolis long-lost tome was said to be a series of educational positions and chess puzzles featuring both the old and new styles of chess the latter known asa la rabiosa(with the mad or angry queen), because of the vastly extended powers of this new piece. This is the form of chess that is prevalent now. In my column forThe Articleabout Shakespeares knowledge of chess, I explained the rules of the older version, Shatranj, which had reached Europe via Arabic culture.

The puzzles showing the new chess were rumoured to have been composed to demonstrate how the fresh powers of queen, bishop and pawn truly functioned on the open board. However, Paciolis book had been lost and doubts were raised that it had even been written at all. Then, suddenly,the book resurfaced from the 22,000-volume library of Count Guglielmo Coronini, and facsimiles were in preparation, showing the strange and rather beautiful diagrams in red and black, illustrating the powers of the pieces in action.

The Guardianhad just published the only readily available puzzle from the book, with a commentary by its chess correspondent at the time who conceded that he did not have the foggiest idea what the puzzle meant or whether it was taken from the old or new style of chess.And quite right too.The difficulties included: no indication as to whether it was white or black to move; no clear identification of which symbols represented which pieces and finally no evidence of a question, such as White to play and give checkmate in two moves. A real Da Vincian conundrum, with of course the elephant on the board being the supreme question: did Leonardo design the pieces and even create the puzzle?

Having had time to examine the puzzle more closely, I established that it was definitely the newrabiosaform of chess, which we still play now. I also worked out that there was a fiendishly difficult forced checkmate from the puzzle position.

I found this to be amazing. Since the new chess had been in existence for only a few years when the book was written. Given its relative novelty, the person who composed this puzzle was evidently a chess genius.

As well as being highly advanced for its time, the solution also succeeded brilliantly in its didactic purpose of showcasing the sweeping new powers of queen and bishop as well as the potentially devastating weapon of a humble pawn now being able to promote to a mighty queen. Normally this would end the contest in the promoters favour. However, in this puzzle the losing side even manages to promote to a queen with check, yet still succumbs.

What about Leonardo da Vincis involvement, as suggested by the owners of the book. the Fondazione Coronini Cronberg?

The standard chess history by Richard Eales, of the University of Kent, confirms that this shows how the new chess quickly captivated leading intellectuals in Renaissance Italy the kind of people in Leonardos circle, even if his own role remains tantalisingly unprovable.

Pacioli and Leonardo were associates, and it is recorded that Leonardo provided illustrations for Paciolis work on the mathematics of the golden mean,De divina proportione. Both men fled from the court of Ludovico Sforza in 1499 when the French attacked Milan and both were protected by Isabella dEste, a chess enthusiast who possessed various chess sets. She has been tentatively identified as playing chess in a late Quattrocento panel in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, once attributed to Francesco di Giorgio, c. 1485, and more recently to Liberale da Verona.

My conclusion forthe Timeswas that Leonardo did not draw the main corpus of puzzle diagrams for the book. However, he may well have sketched the original designs for the pieces. These, we now know, are shown in array at the start of the book and they are artistically superior to the diagrams which follow in the text, which are unambitiously redrawn copies. The owners suggest that the original design of one key piece, for example, is almost exactly identical to Leonardos design for a fountain in his so-calledAtlantic Codex. Others contend that this type of design could easily be generic.

Finally. There is the alluring possibility that Leonardo himself composed the problem.

Contemporary books about the new chess are exceedingly rare, and the few we do have tended to concentrate on a few puzzles, which subsequent authors simply copied.

However, as Richard Eales says, nothing like this puzzle has so far been found in other publications, or the older manuscripts or printed chess books. Furthermore, the diagrams are stunningly different from anything else of its day. The possibility that Leonardo did compose this puzzle is enticing and by no means impossible.

In the puzzle,as I reconstructed it in the diagram below, it should be noted that Black is in check from the white bishop one4yet both kings are in serious danger and could easily fall prey to a sudden checkmate.

With both sides clinging to a precipice, the fact that White has the initiative conferred by the bishop check annihilates both of Blacks two principal defences.

Solution One:1 Qxe4+ 2 Qxe4+ Ka7 3 Ra3+ Bxa3 4 Qe3+ Rd4+ 5 Qxd4+ Kb7 6 Qd7+ Ka8 7 Qxe8+ Kb7 8 Qb8 checkmate.

Solution Two:1 Rd5 2 Ra3+ Bxa3 3 Bxe5 f1Q+ 4 Kxd5 Nd6 5 Ke6+ Ka7 6 Bd4+ Bc5 7 Bxc5+ Ka6 8 Qb6 checkmate.

At the time, I wrote that only a powerful intelligence could have devised the puzzle and the solution, which would tax the mental powers of most strong players even today and in its complexity and richness could only really be solved easily by a computer. The evidence of a commanding intellect behind this chessboard conundrum is palpable indeed.

Sadly, it now transpires that in my enthusiasm for connecting the puzzle to Da Vinci, I had over complicated the solution by incorrectly identifying the two kings and queens in the original diagram. They should be the other way round, in which case the puzzle (White to play and checkmate) becomes rather banal. I am indebted to Martin Kemp, the great Leonardo expert and prime endorser ofThe Salvator Mundias a genuine Leonardo, for helping to pour a dose of cold-water reality on my desire to link the mystique of Leonardo to this puzzle.

In fact, once the whole book became available it immediately also became clear that the piece one5should be the black king and the piece ona8the black queen.

Similarly the piece onc4should be a white queen and the piece onb1the white king.

Da Vinci perhaps played chess with his friend Pacioli, he may even have sketched the original design for the pieces, but it now seems more than unlikely that the great Renaisssnce man had anything to do with creating the chessboard puzzle.

To read the fascinating storyChess: The History of a Gameby Richard Eales, please see here.

Click here for a lecture on the Pacioli piece design.

For more on Leonardo, please see How to think like Leonardo Da Vinci, a bestseller written by the American Leonardo expert Michael Gelb.

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St Louis in the US has become the unofficial global chess capital due to the billionaire and FT reader Rex Sinquefield, who hosts the annual Sinquefield Cup and other major events. St Louis 2014 was marked by world No2 Fabiano Caruanas brilliant start of seven wins in a row, while Magnus Carlsen, the world champion, has won the Cup twice.

A special moment came in 2017, when the all-time No1 Garry Kasparov made a cameo reappearance to hold his own against the US top trio in an invitation speed contest.

Now there is the womens Cairns Cup, derived from Jeanne Sinquefields maiden name, which is in its second year and can be watched free and live online from 7pm GMT daily until February 17.

The entry includes Chinas reigning world champion Ju Wenjun and Indias world No3 Humpy Koneru, and yet to really take off as a must-watch event it needs to aim still higher. The retired but still legendary Judit Polgar, the current No1 and Oxford student Hou Yifan, and the rising star Aleksandra Goryachkina are the trio who could make the Cairns Cup a historic landmark.


Mariya Muzychuk v Humpy Koneru, Cairns Cup 2020. White played 1 R4xh5+ gxh5, and the commentator, former US No1 Yasser Seirawan, predicted 2 Rxh5+. Why was the grandmaster wrong, and can you find Whites better and winning choice? Click here for a link to the complete game.

Click here for solution

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Norway's Magnus Carlsen has won the last four World Chess Championships and is BetOnline's -300 favorite to win again this year. Photo by: Lennart Ootes (Wiki Commons)

Magnus Carlsen is the king of competitive chess.

People who are awed by the 15-game winning streak of the NBAs Toronto Raptors need to get to know Carlsen. The 29-year-old Norwegian is unbeaten in his last 111 consecutive classical games. Thats a world record.

Carlsen has also won the last four World Chess Championships. The planets elite grandmasters of chess gather next month in Yekaterinburg, Russia for the 2020 edition of this biennial competition.

Carlsen is the overwhelming favorite to make it five titles in a row. BetOnline pegs Carlsen as the prohibitive -300 chalk.

Odds taken Feb. 12

Russias Garry Kasparov and Germanys Emanuel Lasker share the record, each with six consecutive world title wins.

Indias Viswanathan Anand had won five world titles, including the last four, when Carlsen beat him in 2013. He beat Anand again for his second title. Carlsens added two more crowns since.

The Norwegian prodigy is described as the Mozart of chess. Last month, he shattered Sergei Tiviakovs world unbeaten mark of 110 consecutive matches.

One more world title and the value of Carlsens rookie card really figures to soar. Kasparov, probably the most famous chess master of them all, won six straight world championships from 1985-95.

Lasker was a turn of the 20th century star who earned his six successive global chess crowns between 1894-1910.

They are among eight players whove won at least four world chess championships but only five of those players managed to win as many as four in a row.

Top 8 Entertainment Betting Sites

If the NFL operated in the same manner as the World Chess Championship, the Kansas City Chiefs would already be one of the teams in Super Bowl 55.

As defending champion, Carlsen is anointed one of the two available spots in the championship final. Meanwhile, eight other contenders will square off in whats known as the Candidates Tournament.

This is a double-round robin competition. The survivor of this event earns the right to meet Carlsen for the world title.

American Fabiano Caruana is among the eight candidates. He lost the 2018 world championship final match to Carlsen.

Chinas Ding Laren is another potential finalist. He was chess Grand Champion in 2019. Azerbaijans Teimour Radjabov has recorded wins over four world champions, including Kasparov and a 2014 victory against Carlsen.

Every great champion eventually falls. Is this the year Carlsen takes a tumble?

If you arent anxious to play Carlsen at such negative odds, thats understandable. Those seeking a value bet on the World Chess Championship can take advantage of BetOnlines Carlsen vs the field prop wager.

Rather than rolling the dice on which of the eight contenders will emerge victorious from the Candidates Tournament, this wager gives you all eight challengers rolled into one.

Still, its difficult to see anyone winning this other than Carlsen. Hes been at the top of his game for several years. At 29, he hasnt even reached his prime years yet.

Pick: Magnus Carlsen (-300)


An industry veteran, Bob literally taught the course on the history of sports at Elder College. He has worked as a Sports Columnist for Postmedia, appeared as a guest on several radio stations, was the Vice President of the Society For International Hockey Research in Ontario, and written 25 books.


An industry veteran, Bob literally taught the course on the history of sports at Elder College. He has worked as a Sports Columnist for Postmedia, appeared as a guest on several radio stations, was the Vice President of the Society For International Hockey Research in Ontario, and written 25 books.

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