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Koneru Humpy pockets first world chess crown, clinches Women’s rapid title in Russia – Times of India

Posted: January 3, 2020 at 10:47 am


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Koneru Humpy has given another reason to google her. Indias first Woman Grand Master is the new womens World Rapid Chess Champion.

Her feat came at the King Salman World Rapid Chess Championships in Moscow, Russia, on Saturday. While Magnus Carlsen clinched his third world crown in the Open group, Humpy emerged winner among the Women.

Humpy, seeded 13th, was tied with Chinas Lei Tingjie collecting nine points each in 12 rounds.

To break the tie an Armageddon game was played between Humpy and Tingjie. After losing her opening play-off game, Humpy recovered in the second and clinched the title in Armageddon decider.

This is my first World Championship title and I am very happy and excited with this victory, Humpy said in an interview with Fide.

She added, People were expecting me to win the Classical WCH for many years. Nor I have been very good at rapid. So it was an unexpected victory for me. When I started my first game, I didnt have any expectations to finish first. I thought a finish in top-three would be a great result, she stated.

In the three-day rapid event of the World Rapid and Blitz Championship organised by the World Chess Federation (FIDE), Humpy, who has 2438 Elo ranking points, gave a performance rating of 2538. Shining on the world stage is not a new occurrence for Humpy. She has four World Championship crowns across various age groups as a junior.

Talking about the tie-breaks, Humpy said, I really didnt expect to play the tiebreak games. I managed to win my rapid games in the last two rounds and Tingjie lost in her last round where she needed a draw to win the title. And I got the opportunity to play the tiebreak.

In 2011, Humpy lost a World Championship match against Hou Yifan. There too in the tiebreak, she had endured a false start. Analysing her mental state, Humpy said, Of course, I lost my first game with White as I did not play quickly and lost on time. Since I was desperate to win the second, I chose the Modern defence and gambled which yielded positive results. In the final game, I had a pleasant position in the middle and managed to beat the time too.

In the 12-round rapid event, Humpy recorded seven wins, four draws and suffered a sixth round defeat to 24th seed IM Bulmaga Irina.

On her way to glory, Humpy defeated the lower ranked Margarita Potapova, Khomeriki Nino, Kovalevskaya Ekaterina, Girya Olga and Voit Daria before posting an upset win over ninth ranked GM Dzagnidze Nana in the eighth round and surprising sixth-seeded Tan Zhongyi in the final round.

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Koneru Humpy pockets first world chess crown, clinches Women's rapid title in Russia - Times of India

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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From Minecraft to Auto Chess: The 29 games that define the 2010s – VentureBeat

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At GamesBeat, we like to focus on the business, innovation, and technology of games. So were bringing that approach to our games of the decade list. You wont find just a list of the games we thought were the best from a critical standpoint (sorry, as much as I love you, Obsidian Entertainment, Pillars of Eternity isnt here). What you will find are the games we believe tell the story of this decades industry, setting up where we believe gaming will go in the 2020s.

When we consider the games that define the 2010s, we must look at the 2000s, for three of the games that frame the decades innovation, be it in design, economic models, or technology: Dwarf Fortress, League of Legends, and Minecraft.

The mechanics of one of these would filter into a number of genres, and believe it or not, it still hasnt seen its first retail release. Another would redefine both strategy games and esports, building a massive company, following, and genre and paving the way for Riot Games to thrive in the 2020s. And our final pick helped usher in the user-generated content revolution of this decade, turning mod makers on PC into well-known names in a community that numbers in the millions and showing, for the first time, that the idea of a walls were falling down around the game industry.

Please enjoy this journey with us, and again, thank you for supporting the independent journalism of GamesBeat and VentureBeat. We do not have a corporate owner. Were our own thing, and that you take the time to read us and support us means more to me, Dean, Jeff, and Mike than any of you will ever realize.

Jason Wilson, GamesBeat managing editor

Above: Theres an entire dwarf civilization in those ASCII characters.

Dwarf Fortress initial release on the internet was years before the 2010s, and its full publication on Steam wont happen until the 2020s. Yet its been one of the defining games of the decade despite this, alongside other 2000s games like Minecraft and League of Legends. The idea of the living game, one that resides on the internet, where content is continually added, and fans of the game can play it for years, has been possibly the biggest story of the 2010s, from mobile to blockbuster games.

Thats not the only way that Dwarf Fortress helped define the 2010s. Losing is fun went the tagline, which is a way of saying its a game about stories. Its a game thats as or more fun to experience other people playing, whether on forums, or via social media, or streaming. The 2010s were also about games becoming a group experience, blurring the lines between player and viewer. The rise of the roguelike generally, and survival strategy specifically, are directly tied to the idea of games as a shared experience.

Perhaps more than anything, the fact that Dwarf Fortress, a legendarily weird game, could end the decade being one of the most wishlisted games on Steam shows that the idea of what a game is and especially what a hit game is has changed dramatically. At the start of the decade, youd go to a store and pay $60 for a box with a completed game inside was still a default understanding of how games worked, with digital distribution starting to open other models up. By the end of the decade, that door is wide open, and what it means to have a hit game has totally changed. Rowan Kaiser

Above: Welcome to the League of Legends jungle.

Image Credit: Riot Games

I remember the first time I saw Riot Games League of Legends in 2009. I had no idea what to make of it. It was confusing. It was different. And I knew that I was looking at something that would change the way we play strategy games.

But I had no idea it would revolutionize esports as well.

Before League of Legends, strategy games came in two stripes: real time, where youre building your bases, gathering resources, and constructing an army as your opponent does the same. You scout, you probe defenses while coming up with a plan of attack, and you may also deal with some neutrals running around the map. You might even have hero units as well Or you played a turn-based game, which comes in many stripes, may have you working on economies, social agendas, and more as you build up a grand civilization, researching tech-tree upgrades, and so much more.

Warcraft IIIs Defense of the Ancients mod took all of this and made something new, something different, in 2003. And while others beat Riot into turning this style into a full game, Riot was the first to emerge with a smash hit. And weve seen League ripple through the game industry. Valve and Blizzard followed with their own takes, a genre wed come to call MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). A host of others followed, with many of them failing. The rush came to mobile, with varying degrees of adaptation and success. New twists emerged, such as Clash Royale (combining MOBAs and card games), and it later gave birth to a new genre thats on the rise at the end of the decade the auto-battler (think Auto Chess, Teamflight Tactics, and its ilk).

And as League of Legends gained traction, it found players and Twitch. Here, it continues to be a dominant force. Every day, tens of thousands of people watch top players defend the lanes or push for the goal. And as this viewership grew on Twitch, it changed esports. Before, competitive gaming was the realm of StarCraft and South Korea, along with Evo and a host of smaller fighting game tournaments. But as League of Legends grew, so did its competitive scene. And folks then realized that these viewers represented millions in untapped dollars.

And thus the esports revolution was born, and the likes of The International, the Overwatch League, and a host of competitions for card games, shooters, and other MOBAs. Jason Wilson

Above: Blockceptions Whiterock Castle was the No. 1 best-seller on the Minecraft Marketplace two months in a row.

Image Credit: Blockception

I dont play Minecraft. My kids do. Every day they get video game time, they spend some of it playing Minecraft on our Nintendo Switch. And what they create is amazing castles, forts, houses and farms. And as they create, they talk about what theyre doing, trying to figure out how to get the designs from their imagination on the screen.

Now, that alone makes Minecraft innovative. Weve had builders before, but none of them could match Minecraft in its limitlessness. Earlier in the decade, I remember how so many publications covered the amazing creations folks were making inside Minecraft. Someone did a computer in the game that works! And as Minecraft expanded, it knocked down the walled gardens, coming to just about every device that runs games be it a PC, a home console, or a smartphone or tablet. Im kinda surprised the screen on my fridge isnt running it yet. With more than 176 million copies sold, Minecrafts expanding to other genres and augmented reality.

But its done more than knock down walled gardens. In doing so, it heralded how corporate parent Microsoft was looking to get its games on new platforms. But it also showed a new way creators could make money selling things they make in the store. It built on how folks were selling hats and other materials for games like Team Fortress 2 on Valves Steam PC store, and now, people are selling millions of dollars worth on content there.

Minecraft shows how giving people the tools to create and smashing those walls between platforms can pay off not just for a corporate parent but for everyone. Jason Wilson

Above: Mario and Nintendo are at their best in Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Image Credit: Nintendo

In 2010, many of us were still in the middle of the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii era. It was a time of transition. The Wii was a huge success, but it was becoming apparent that its motion-control focus was not going to be the future of the industry, especially with casual gaming taking off in the mobile world.

But for console players, one game defined 2010 better than any: Super Mario Galaxy 2. That may seem like a strange claim. In many ways, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a safe sequel. It looks and plays a lot like the first Super Mario Galaxy.

Galaxy 2 is just better in every way. Nintendo gave a master class on how to create a traditional sequel. The levels were more creative and the experience was tighter. Even today, when it comes time to praise a sequel, you often hear people compare it to Super Mario Galaxy. And in the midst of the Wii era and stuff like Wii Fit, Super Mario Galaxy 2 reminded us that few are better than Nintendo when it comes to making fun video games. Jeff Grubb

Above: They should make a movie about what happens when you teach an A.I. how to fight a war.

Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Before it came out, you would have thought that StarCraft II would be one of the biggest hits ever. Instead, it did fine. Blizzard Entertainments real-time strategy game sequel showed us how times were changing. The original StarCraft was a dominant force in the world of esports, but MOBAs like League of Legends had taken over. This set a trend for RTS for the rest of the decade, as the genre saw a huge decline in the 2010s. Mike Minotti

Above: The beauty of Red Dead Redemption.

Red Dead Redemption could be the most impressive game of the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 era. Its detailed world, convincing acting, and engaging story set a precedent for triple-A games ahead of the launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Its still a standard that few have matched. Mike Minotti

Above: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim sure caught on.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was omnipresent throughout the entire 2010s. Bethesdas role-playing game came out early in the decade, and were still talking about it.

For one thing, its very good. Skyrim offers players a giant, detailed world thats worthy of exploration. It began to influence other open world games, even The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the VR game Asgards Wrath.

And then there were all those ports. Skyrim was originally out for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. Throughout the decade, it would come to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, VR, and even Amazon Alexa (well, kind of). Mike Minotti

Above: Come, sit by the fire and warm your Dark Soul(s).

Skyrim wasnt the only game we talked about during the entire decade. While its predecessor, 2009s Demons Souls, was technically the first in the series, Dark Souls established a new kind of action-RPG formula that focused on slower combat, tough boss fights, and punishing penalties for death.

And just like with Skyrim, Dark Souls would come to every platform imaginable. But while Bethesda has been slow to make a sequel for Skyrim, Dark Souls turned into a trilogy in the 2010s, and developer FromSoftware used its formula to make other hit games: Bloodbourne and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice.

Dark Souls would prove influential, as even Star Wars looked to it for inspiration in 2019 with Jedi: Fallen Order. In the 2000s, action role-playing games were all about fast-paced fighting and combos. Dark Souls changed that. Mike Minotti

Above: Crusader Kings II is one of Paradoxs breakout hits.

Image Credit: Paradox Interactive

By all logic of how video games should work before 2012, Crusader Kings 2 was a disaster. Here was an incredibly niche strategy game, well outside the Civilization or RTS style that made for a hit, and in its first month? It sold a mere 20,000 copies. And yet, persistence across digital distribution, word-of-mouth, and good reviews kept Crusader Kings 2 going. This games combination of strategy and character relationships was special. And that specialness was rewarded, eventually, as CK2 became a hit and an inspiration.

If any game exemplifies the Steam era of PC gaming, its hard not to pick Crusader Kings 2. Beyond that constant availability, Paradox kept it alive by keeping it alive with expansions, add-ons, and patches. The new model for the living strategy game wasnt a giant expansion or two then a sequel, but a steady flow of new content with new ways of playing the game, and patches to support the people who werent buying. The model proved sustainable as well Paradox used variations on it to prop up both their publishing and their development sides, becoming an ideal form of the new middle class of PC gaming enabled by digital distribution. Rowan Kaiser

Above: Clementine is one of the decades best characters.

Image Credit: Telltale Games

Crusader Kings wasnt the only middle-class game to succeed in 2012, a year that also saw the release of Telltales The Walking Dead. The adventure genre, long-dormant in the mainstream, got new life with The Walking Deads moral choices, major intellectual property, and most important, the connection of those choices with an episodic release structure enabled by digital distribution. Telltale itself would become a cautionary tale more than Paradoxs success, but both companies felt a rush of success in 2012 because they used digital as more than simply a distribution method, instead seeing it as a way to creatively develop new types of gaming experiences. Rowan Kaiser

Above: Mass Effect 3 is an intersection of the decades trends.

Image Credit: BioWare

Also in 2012, we have Mass Effect 3, which is unfortunately best known for its grand ending controversy, a firestorm of fans, press, and developers converging into an absolute mess of internet culture. This masks that ME3 is a great game. But also lost in the storm and fury was that the games multiplayer, a remarkable critical success, was also a remarkable success monetarily, as EA started added FIFA Ultimate Team-style lootboxes to more and different kinds of games.

Above: GTA Online changed Rockstar game-development model.

Image Credit: Rockstar Games

Grand Theft Auto V was a massive game in 2013. And everyone knew it would be. What we didnt know is that in 2019, it would still be a massive game. GTA V is an enormous success due in large part to the GTA: Online mode. This takes the gameplay into a shared multiplayer world where you can compete in quests, do online heists, and purchase digital items with a currency that you can get using real money.

I think the best way to put GTA Vs success into context is like this: During the decade leading up to 2013, Rockstar released one major new game per year. That included Manhunt, The Warriors, Bully, Manhunt 2, Grand Theft Auto IV, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire, and Max Payne 3. But since releasing GTA V in 2013, Rockstar has only released one game, 2018s Red Dead Redemption II.

Instead of putting out new games, Rockstar began working on new content for GTA: Online. That content is cheaper to produce because the studio is mostly just adding new stuff to a gameplay and design infrastructure that already exists. And unlike a new game that might make a lot of money on its first day of release, GTA: Online makes a steady stream of revenue. This makes tricky things like revenues and staffing needs much more predictable and easier to manage.

Maintaining GTA: Online with regular updates is a much less risky proposition than making a new game. And that is GTA: Onlines legacy especially in the 2010s. Every game developer and publisher wants their own GTA: Online. They want a game that can last for years with regular updates that brings in a steady flow of money. And based on its popularity and the popularity of other live-service games, its what consumers want as well. Jeff Grubb

Above: Dota 2 reaps the benefits of the live-service model.

Image Credit: Valve

In the same way that Rockstar made fewer games after Grand Theft Auto V, Half-Life developer Valve has made very few new games since launching Dota 2 in 2013 (after a lengthy beta). And Valves reasons are similar to Rockstars. But were including this MOBA because of how it shaped so much of the business of games.

Dota 2 popularized community items that people could design and sell on Steams marketplace. This is also the game that introduced the idea of battle passes or premium progressions passes. Players could buy an item called the Compendium that you would earn levels for by playing Dota 2 matches. And that process would unlock items over time. You could, of course, buy levels if you have more cash than time. Now, battle passes are a common feature in a wide variety of games.

The Compendium revenue, however, didnt just go into Valves pocket. Instead, the company contributed a portion to the prize pool for The International. This immediately turned Dota 2 into one of the premiere esports games in the world. Other studios have since mimicked this practice as well. Jeff Grubb

Above: Elizabeths A.I. received a boost from techniques folks use on the pitch and the stage.

Image Credit: Irrational Games

In trying to tell the story of the decade, its almost serendipitous that Grand Theft Auto V, Dota 2, and BioShock Infinite all came out the same year. They so encapsulate what happened over the last 10 years. Sure, every studio wants to have their own live-service game that generates profits for years. But what is so wrong with the old way of making a game as a product? Well, BioShock Infinite is what is wrong.

BioShock Infinite was the highly anticipated sequel to 2007s breakout hit BioShock. Developer Irrational Games started work in February 2008, and it took five long years to get the game out to fans. But more than the time, those were also expensive years. The game was so costly that even after selling 11 million copies, publisher 2K Games obviously didnt consider the game a success.

Suddenly, we were living in a world where a game could sell better than almost any other game and still end up as a failure. Following BioShock Infinite, almost no publisher wanted to fund a massive single-player narrative-based game especially in a world where mobile games that cost a fraction to make were generating $1 billion in revenues per year. Jeff Grubb

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From Minecraft to Auto Chess: The 29 games that define the 2010s - VentureBeat

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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Chess Team Makes Right Moves at Pan-Am, Advances to Final Four – University of Texas at Dallas

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Text size: campus

Dec. 30, 2019

For the 17th time in 20 years, The University of Texas at Dallaschess team will travel to New York to participate in the 2020 Final Four tournament. The finals berth comes after the team placed fourth in the Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Chess Championship this week.

The Presidents Cup, which is considered the Final Four of College Chess, will be held in April at the historic Marshall Chess Club in New York City.

The competition among the top collegiate chess programs has gotten fierce over the last few years, said Jim Stallings, UTDallaschess program director. For our chess team to make it to the Final Four tournament again is quite an achievement. Im very proud of our team members.

UT Dallas was among 63 teams participating in the Pan-Am tournament, which was held in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Dec. 27-30.

All credit goes to the guys for making the most of their chances when they came their way. While luck always plays a part in this tournament, our players were focused and ready.

UT Dallas chess team coach Julio Catalino Sadorra

The Pan-American tournament featured six rounds of play over four days. Some universities were represented by only one team, while others, such as UT Dallas, brought multiple teams to the contest. En route to the Comets fourth-place finish, UT Dallas squads defeated teams from Webster University, Saint Louis University, Texas Tech University and the University of Pennsylvania.

The UT Dallas team consisting of Gil Popilski, David Berczes, Craig Hilby and Angel Arribas Lopez earned the Final Four berth for the University with a 5-1 record.

UT Dallas chess team coach Julio Catalino Sadorra said he was particularly pleased that one of the UT Dallas teams defeated the reigning Final Four champion, UT Rio Grande Valley.

All credit goes to the guys for making the most of their chances when they came their way, Sadorra said. While luck always plays a part in this tournament, our players were focused and ready.

The Comets will face Texas Tech, Webster and Saint Louis University at the Presidents Cup tournament.

While the opponents are ranked higher than UT Dallas, Sadorra said he believes the team can again demonstrate a gritty, fighting spirit in representing the University at the Final Four.

On paper, our chances are lower. However, if we do what we did at this tournament, focusing on what we can control, we definitely have a chance to win, he said.

Media Contact: Phil Roth, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2193,[emailprotected] or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [emailprotected]

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Chess Team Makes Right Moves at Pan-Am, Advances to Final Four - University of Texas at Dallas

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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In chess game with Iran, Trump has only bad options – Haaretz

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Iran experts tell Haaretz that Novembers presidential election is a motivating factor for both Tehran and Washington: Trump doesnt want a war in an election year

WASHINGTON The Trump administration is facing a dilemma in Iraq. A day after the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was stormed by pro-Iranian demonstrators, the White House needs to decide how to respond to the attack which U.S. officials have no doubt was planned and orchestrated with Iranian approval. Trump has promised to punish Iran for its actions, but how far is he willing to go in this confrontation with the Islamic Republic?

The attack on the embassy was preceded by a week of violence in Iraq, during which an Iraqi Shiite militia operating as a proxy for Iran attacked an Iraqi military base, killing a U.S. civilian contractor and wounding several U.S. troops. In retaliation, the United States carried out three airstrikes on the same Iraqi militia, killing at least 25 fighters.

Listen: Under Trump, haters don't need an excuse to attack Jews. Ep. 55

These events, which took place during the last week of 2019, represent a violent end to a year of constant tensions between the Americans and Iranians. They are the continuation of a series of escalatory steps taken by Iran during the course of the year including an attack on two major oil installations in Saudi Arabia last September, and the downing of an American military drone over the Persian Gulf last June. But while the United States refrained from using military force in response to Irans provocations then, things were different this time. That is why several leading Democratic politicians warned Tuesday that Trump is risking an all-out war with Iran.

Iran is acting out because it is under a lot of pressure from American sanctions, says Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former State Department Middle East director who is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. The Iranians have been slowly and deliberately escalating their attacks, basically telling the United States: If you put us under pressure, we will put you under pressure as well. She believes the Iranian regime will likely continue this behavior in 2020.

The Iranians saw that there was no military response to their previous attacks, so they reached a conclusion that America doesnt want a military confrontation, Cofman Wittes says. The Iranians also dont want a military confrontation with the U.S. and thats certainly not what theyre trying to achieve with these provocations in Iraq. They have a different goal: Getting Trump to enter negotiations.

Risky moves

In May 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, which had been signed by his predecessor Barack Obama. The U.S. administration has since placed tough sanctions on Tehran, triggering a financial crisis there that has led to massive street protests across Iran. However, at the same time as imposing these tough sanctions, Trump has also frequently expressed interest in negotiating a new deal with Iran.

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Earlier this month, after Iran and America completed a prisoner swap, he tweeted: Thank you to Iran on a very fair negotiation. See, we can make a deal together!

Over the summer, direct negotiations between the two countries seemed imminent. Trump said he was willing to meet Iranian President Hassan Rohani with no preconditions. But the Iranian side had a clear demand: The Americans had to lift some of the sanctions placed on Tehran in order for a meeting to occur. Trump refused, and an opportunity for the two leaders to meet on the sidelines of Septembers UN General Assembly was lost.

Now, Cofman Wittes says, Iran is trying to escalate the situation in the hope that this will somehow lead to renewed diplomatic engagement. They want to pull in diplomatic attention from other countries such as France, Russia, China, Japan and others to somehow get America to the table. Their moves are risky, but theyre designed to bring about a diplomatic engagement, she says. This is what Iran needs more than anything at the moment: new talks that could perhaps lead to sanctions relief.

Haaretz reported last month that Israeli officials were still alarmed by the prospect of new negotiations between the United States and Iran. The Israeli perspective is that even if no sanctions are lifted, the mere spectacle of a meeting between Trump and Rohani would by itself lift some of the pressure from Tehran. Trump has rejected that point of view and sees no harm in holding a meeting.

The Iranians are going to keep going and going with these attacks if they dont get what they want, unless they become convinced that this could lead to a larger military escalation, Cofman Wittes says. Neither side wants that kind of escalation.

Last June, after the Iranian attack on the U.S. military drone, Trump approved a military strike in retaliation but then canceled it, fearing that a war with Iran could hurt his 2020 reelection campaign.

Grave mistake

The attack on the embassy in Baghdad is part of a larger chess match between the U.S. and Iran, says Michael Doran, a former Middle East director at the National Security Council under President George W. Bush, and currently a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Doran shares Cofman Wittes assessment of Tehrans objective: The goal of the Iranians is to increase the pressure on Trump during the election season, in the hope that they can rope him into a negotiation.

Doran, who has advocated a hawkish line against the Iranian regime and was a strong critic of the 2015 nuclear deal, adds that Iran hopes new negotiations will distract the United States from Irans problems at home, and in Iraq and Lebanon where there have been massive street demonstrations in recent weeks against political parties connected to Iran.

In addition, he says, Iran wants negotiations to lead to sanctions relief and to forestall further actions by the United States that would delegitimate Irans supposedly civil nuclear program.

In Dorans view, it would a grave mistake if Trump agreed to such negotiations. The protests that swept Iran, Iraq and Lebanon in November have changed the balance of power. Iran is experiencing unprecedented difficulty at home and abroad. If Trump were to sit with Iran now, he would look weak in the region, demoralize allies and give breathing room to Tehran.

If Trump doesnt opt for negotiations and doesnt want a direct military confrontation with Iran, what are his options?

The administration doesnt have really good options to choose from, says Ariane Tabatabai, an analyst at the Rand Corp. and an expert on Iran. The administration keeps saying that its policy of maximum pressure on Iran is succeeding, but what exactly have they achieved? she asks. They wanted to either lead to the collapse of the regime or to a significant shift in Irans behavior. So far, both have not happened.

Tabatabai says the only option for de-escalation right now is a diplomatic off-ramp that would allow both sides to get out of this cycle. But it doesnt look very likely to happen at the moment. The Iranians view Trump as reluctant to take military action, but they consider maximum pressure a form of war. From their point of view, this is already a war and they are being attacked through economic pressure. So they are going to continue testing the Trump administration.

Wanted: A strategy

All of the Iran experts who spoke with Haaretz agreed on one thing: The attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was an Iranian initiative and not a local protest, as some news reports described it.

This is telegraphed from Iran, straight out of the regimes playbook, says Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies a think tank that has advocated for tough sanctions on Iran.

The regime wants to spook America, he says. They hope to either get Trump to agree to negotiations, or, even better, to get America to withdraw forces and send a message of retreat. They would be happy to solidify the impression that America is getting out of the Middle East, whether its in Syria or Iraq. They are willing to take risks to make that happen.

Ben Taleblu says last Sundays U.S. airstrikes were very important, because they sent the opposite message: That the United States would not ignore Irans actions. But he warned that the administration needs to have an Iraq policy, not just a policy to fight ISIS in Iraq. Its clear to everyone what Iran wants to have in Iraq: control. They want to control Baghdad through their proxies. But what does America want in Iraq? Thats more difficult to answer.

Cofman Wittes also says the Trump administration doesnt have a strategy, or even clear objectives. They placed sanctions on Iran and have now responded for the first time with military force to one of Irans provocations. But what is the long-term goal they are trying to achieve? And what is their strategy for getting there?

The Iranian conundrum is further complicated by the political schedule in the United States. The Iranians, as Haaretz reported in August 2018, are betting that they can wait out Trump, who is up for reelection in November. So far, most of the Democratic presidential candidates have promised to return to the nuclear deal that Trump withdrew from. For Iran, this would mean the lifting of many sanctions and a return to the pre-2018 reality that was created by the nuclear deal.

But the Iranians also believe the presidential election will make it more difficult for Trump to take stronger military action. Trump campaigned in 2016 on a pledge to end stupid wars in the Middle East, and criticized his then rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for her support of the 2003 invasion of Iraq (which Trump himself also supported at the time).

Trump has been warned by some of his most influential supporters, such as Fox News host Tucker Carlson, that a war with Iran would harm his standing with voters who oppose U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, and could cost him the election.

The Democrats have already adopted a line of criticism against Trump, warning that he is leading the country to war through reckless policies in the Middle East. This could deter Trump from further military escalation. But he is also facing political pressure from right-wingers, especially his evangelical Christian supporters, who want to see a tough policy against Iran.

At the moment, it seems, Trump is taking political risks no matter what he chooses to do.

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In chess game with Iran, Trump has only bad options - Haaretz

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January 3rd, 2020 at 10:47 am

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Friedel on Anand the makings of a genius – Chessbase News

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Viswanathan Anand turned 50 years old last month, and will be in action at the board again beginning January 10th at the82nd edition of the traditional Tata Steel Chess Tournamentin Wijk aan Zee.

Frederic Friedel, the co-founder of ChessBase, met Anand in London for the first time when he was just 18 years old. Over the years Frederic has looked after or been close friends with World Champions Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik, Carlsen, as well as Judit Polgar and Hou Yifan, not to mention challengers Short, Leko and Caruana. The chance acquaintance with Anand in the late 80s soon grew into a close and lasting friendship. Anand visited Frederic at his home near Hamburg for no less than thirty-six times and became like part of his family. In a big video interview with IM Sagar Shah, Frederic speaks about how they met, how his friendship with Anand grew, his memory and speed, marriage, being an ever-humble role model and the revolution he created in Indian chess!

Master Class Vol. 12: Viswanathan Anand

This DVD allows you to learn from the example of one of the best players in the history of chess and from the explanations of the authors how to successfully organise your games strategically, consequently how to keep your opponent permanently under press

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Remembering Anand: a half-hour video interview with Frederic Friedel

by Frederic Friedel

Many years ago we developed ChessBase and had this fledgling program which has just been released. I think it was 1986 or 1987, I was in London at a tournament showing this program to the chess players there and at some stage somebody came to me and said, "I would like to introduce you to a young player who wants to meet you". I met him and he was an Indian, a young boy. I spoke to him and then continued working and told him that I would catch up with him in a moment. And then, half an hour later, he came to me and said, "I have to leave now!". I was embarrassed to have kept him waiting like that, I apologized and we had a short but intense conversation. I asked him how strong he was and he replied something like 2480 or 2500. I was really taken aback! So this was Vishy, always very gentle and unassuming. He had to play his next event only a week after that. He confided that he couldn't afford to head back to India. I asked him, "So what do you do? Stay in a third class hotel?" He replied, "No, fourth class!" So I offered him to come and stay at my place instead near Hamburg. He politely took note of my offer before leaving.

A few months later I got a phone call from him, he asked me whether I was serious about inviting him to my place. I assured him that he could come. My family was surprised, my wife said,"You have invited a chess prodigy home for a week? Okay, let's see how that goes!" Then finally Vishy arrived and after only two or three hours with him the whole family was enchanted. They said, "He's such a nice boy! We want to keep him, he can visit us anytime!"

Vishy playing with Frederic's son Tommy! Their score: 29:1 (Tommy flagged once!)

So we were all enjoying ourselves with him, and then came the first problem, in the evening, during dinner:Vishy was a complete vegetarian and didn't eat anything no egg, no cheese, no meat of course! We went into a panic, but somehow rustled up some vegetables that evening. And from the next day we started boiling vegetables. It was tasteless and we were terrible at it. But then we bought a book on South-Indian vegetarian cooking and began to prepare that kind of food for him. And we found it delicious. It was a problem solved!

We had just launched ChessBase at the time and Vishy sat with it in my study for hours. This was the first time I saw a grandmaster going through hundreds of games a day and enjoying himself immensely. He would come to the living room all excited and ask me to see some move that I would obviously not understand and then he would burst into laughter.

Vishy working with ChessBase 1, as Tommy looks on | Photo: Frederic Friedel archives

There's an anecdote that has remained with me over the years. One day at the breakfast, he sat at the table and said to me, "You know there are some errors in the database, some results are wrong or some games are repeated." I told him that this was raw data and it would be very helpful if he could keep track of errors he came across. The people in the office would then be able edit them. To my surprise, he immediately took a pen and paper and started jotting down the mistakes he had seen. He not only remembered the games but also their record numbers in the database. It was astounding how he could remember the game numbers of all the games that he had seen!

Vishy discussing possible improvements in the ChessBase software with Matthias Wllenweber (right), co-founder and head programmer of ChessBase

My Career Vol. 1

The first DVD with videos from Anand's chess career reflects the very beginning of that career and goes as far as 1999. It starts with his memories of how he first learned chess and shows his first great games (including those from the 1984 WCh for juniors). The high point of his early developmental phase was the winning of the 1987 WCh for juniors. After that, things continue in quick succession: the first victories over Kasparov, WCh candidate in both the FIDE and PCA cycles and the high point of the WCh match against Kasparov in 1995. Running time: 3:48 hours

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Vishy was not only able to study and learn databases but he used to do it at an enormous speed, and retain everything. Just show him a position and within a few seconds he will understand it and tell you the correct line. One day I was with him at a tournament, and we were walking across the analysis room, where the players sit after the games and analyse with their opponents. He glanced at one of the positions there while walking by and said: "Aha, very nice. Rook to e8". The player of the white pieces followed us and asked whether he had been watching his game. This was Joel Benjamin, he couldn't believe that Vishy was able to find the move while just walking by! He was fast! At times he used to play entire games in just six to seven minutes. I used to tell Vishy to slow down and think about his moves, and sometimes he would obey, think for many many minutes and then play the move he saw in the first seconds.

Vishy studying chess in Frederic's garden, with Tommy watching

I was absolutely sure that he would become the World Champion. He was so strong, he was right there at the top even without the systematic Soviet-style training. When Kasparov was eleven or twelve, or even younger, and they discovered that he was a super talent in chess, he immediately got two or three grandmasters who trained him. He got everything he needed to become the greatest player in history. But when they discovered that Vishy was was a very strong chess player his parents said. "Okay, you can go to the chess club, but first you must finish your homework." That was the difference. But still he made it almost to Kasparov's level.

Anand with his parents Susheela and Viswanathan

He was extremely talented and I was convinced that he would one day become the World Champion. In fact, I goaded him into it. For a year, I kept calling him "Average," because he wasn't improving as quickly as I wanted him to. I used to tease him, and once put up a diagram of a horrible loss he had suffered in the house when he came to visit. He hasn't forgotten that! But I was goading him into realizing his full potential and that he did. He became World Champion and he won five titles, and he has become the most charismatic person in Indian chess. From being just a friend, Vishy became a part of my family. He came thirty-six times to stay at my place, from anywhere between three or four days to a couple of weeks. I have proof of this in my guest book. My wife always says, "Don't exaggerate, he was there may be twenty times!". But no, over thirty times! And this was all very nice. We loved it and had a lot of fun. But then one day he got married and his rate of visiting us declined tremendously.

The Freidel family: Frederic, Ingrid, Tommy and Martin, with Susheela and Anand

My Career Vol. 2

Vishy Anand is one of the greatest chess talents of all times. On this DVD he speaks about his career, his views on chess, and presents the most beautiful and interesting games of his career.

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Vishy invited me to come to Chennai for his wedding. And he invited a very good common friend of ours, who was a top editor at the Spiegel Magazine. I said, "I can't go to Chennai, for heaven's sake. It's halfway around the world". But my friend was very insistent. So he and his wife and I got into a plane and went to Chennai. It was a marriage which takes two or three days and we attended the whole ceremony. Unfortunately I didn't own a video camera back then, so we could not make any videos but we took a lot of photographs. It was extraordinary and there were hundreds of people, a thousand at the reception at least.

Anand and Aruna at the reception ceremony with relatives

We saw the entire ceremony. He married a young girl named Aruna. When Europeans ask them, "Was this an arranged marriage?", if they are there with me, I say, "No, it was a catalogue marriage!". To tease them, I claim that Vishy and I actually looked through a catalogue of prospective brides! That is a joke of course. Actually I was driving home from the office in Hamburg one day, and Vishy said to me,"Frederic, I am thinking of getting married". "Oh wow", I exclaimed, "It's the right time. Go ahead, who is she?" And he said: "I don't know!" Which almost made me crash the car! "You are not going to do one of those arranged marriage things are you?", I asked. He said, "Sure, why not?" I tried to talk him out of it it was after all the end of twentieth century, he had to move into the modern world. But he insisted that it was okay, it was the best way.

Then one day I went to visit him and his family in Chennai, and on the way I stopped off in Bangalore where I was invited by an industrialist, a very influential person, for breakfast. I sat there for a South-Indian breakfast meal and he put his daughter opposite me. She was about 19 years old. After the meal I said to the father: "Congratulations, you have a great daughter. She is beautiful, she is intelligent. I had a marvellous time talking to her". The father was very pleased and handed me three cards. Later in Chennai I showed them to Vishy. "Why did he give me three cards?" I asked. He said it was "a marriage thing" and I was supposed to give them to young eligible bachelors I met!

Well, that evening we had dinner with Vishy and his family. He has a very traditional Brahmin family, and we were sitting there talking about marriage and things like that. I pulled out one of these cards and to Vishy's horror I gave it to his father! I didn't belong to the class who could do this. I am not a Brahmin, I am not even a Hindu. But anyway, Vishy's father took it and examined it carefully, before filing it away into a little index of his. I slowly came to realize that this was a really good system. Instead of trying to meet the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with in a bar or at a party, they find an ideal match. Then what happens is, they have an invitation where the girl comes with her entire family and visits the boy. The girl and the boy go into a room and drink a cup of tea together, and ten minutes later they come out. And at this stage both sides are able to say "No" without insulting the other side. Or if they are mutually satisfied they let negotiations continue (and the boy and girl get to share a Coke!). It is a very nuanced process and every single arranged marriage I have encountered so far has been tremendously successful!

Vishy and Aruna during their marriage ceremony | Photo: Frederic Friedel archives

Aruna also became a part of my family. She is the loveliest person I have ever met in my life. She came to my place quite a few times and taught us the fine points of South-Indian cooking and now we do it mainly for ourselves because Vishy doesn't visit us that frequently. He is engaged in other things, has a son, and lives permanently in Chennai.

Coming back to his wedding: we had a wonderful time and enjoyed all the elaborate ceremonies. There was also a grand dinner, and it was incredible. We came into this huge hall where there were long tables and benches around them. We climbed over the bench and sat there and my friend Hajo said, "Why are there leaves on the table?" I said, "That's your plate". He wasn't sure he was going to be able to do this! And after a while came a half-naked man with a big bucket and a huge spoon, dished out a large lump of rice that went 'plop' on each of our plates.

Meals being prepared for the wedding!

The food was served on banana leaves!

My friend Hajo and his wife Susanne were totally startled, they were reluctant to start eating with their hands, but slowly they joined in and got into the flow. By the end of the meal Hajo said to me, "Look Fred, if we hire three of them and fly them to Hamburg, we can get leaves from Africa and start a South-Indian restaurant of our own!" That's how easily you could initiate a North-German to South-Indian vegetarian food. I had a special time at Vishy's wedding and I wouldn't exchange that for anything.

A traditional pre-wedding ceremony: Vishy with his father, as his mother looks on

Vishy is different from a number of other World Champions I have known, in that he is accessible and always very polite and civil. The others can be quite brash, even impolite or hostile. I must tell you that there's a reason for that. I have accompanied Garry [Kasparov] to dozens of events and PR shows. He is not the most friendly person to journalists and the reason I know is that he is accosted by twenty to thirty people per day, wherever he goes. Therefore he needs a manager, which now is his wife. I did this for him for a while. If there was anyone trying to approach him, I would intervene and then only if it was really important I would take that person to Garry, and Garry in that case would be absolutely charming, because he would know that it has a purpose. Vishy however is such a nice person that he can't resist. If someone talks to him, he talks back. He is kind, he doesn't need a manager to shield him from the public or filter the public. It is just his nature.

Fred the journalist with Vishy the chess player at one of the London Chess Classics!

Chess was invented in India. I believe that one person sat there and invented the game in one week, and it has become one of the greatest games in the history of mankind. It was invented somewhere in the north-west of India in the 6th century. And then the country sort of slumbered away.

Anexample: In the late 1970s I asked German grandmaster Helmut Pfleger to come to Bangalore to play a clock simul. He was very interested. I told him that there would be eight players and asked if he wanted a particular rating barrier. Normally when playing a clock simul you do that, you say that the strongest player must not be stronger than 2200 or something. But Helmut wasn't interested in any ratings, he was ready to take on anyone. Well, if it was today, I would invite Helmut to play one on one against a 12-year-old, and he would be struggling. It would be tough. This is how Indian chess has progressed. No question of him playing that kind of clock simul today!

I have realized, after meeting all these young talents, that India is on its way to becoming the super-power of chess. In five or ten years India will dominate chess completely, and I can guarantee, that 20-25% of world's top 100 players will be Indians. And at least three of the top ten players will be Indian. I can even tell you the names. One is Nihal, the other is Praggnanandhaa, and then there's Gukesh. Many of them are actually from Chennai and this is all a result of Vishy Anand becoming a Chess God in this country. He has converted the entire nation into a chess nation.

Gukesh, Akhil Anand, Frederic and Aruna, at the Crocodile Park in Chennai

Isn't it shocking that Vishy has turned 50? For me he is still that young boy whom I met in London and who came at our house to stay, playing with my son Tommy, throwing him over his back, and I shouting "Just don't kill the child!" Vishy was a youngster playing in my home, and now he is fifty years old! But I am proud that he is still playing world class chess. No one in the chess world has been able to do this withthe exception of Victor Korchnoi. Kasparov stopped playing at the height of his powers, when he was in his 40s. Congratulations Vishy, this is amazing! Keep going as long as you can, and I will keep watching you as long as I can!

Endgames of the World Champions from Fischer to Carlsen

Let endgame expert Dr Karsten Mller show and explain the finesses of the world champions. Although they had different styles each and every one of them played the endgame exceptionally well, so take the opportunity to enjoy and learn from some of the best endgames in the history of chess.

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Friedel on Anand the makings of a genius - Chessbase News

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Chess builds up a lot of tension, you are constantly lost in your own thoughts: Viswanathan Anand – India Today

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Viswanathan Anand will be appearing in the New Year episode of India Today Inspiration in which he will be talking about his future in chess, the talent emerging from India in the sport and much more.

(Photo courtesy: Boria Majumdar Twitter)

Five-time world chess champion Viswanathan Anand is into his fifth decade in the sport but is showing no signs of stopping. Anand recently celebrated his 50th birthday on December 10th and also launched his book 'Mind Masters' just a couple of days later.

Anand, India's torchbearer in chess and the country's first-ever Grand Master, has inspired a legion of players over decades. But the fire inside him as a chess player is still burning and he is as hungry as ever to get back to winning the big tournaments.

2019 wasn't a great year for Anand and he himself was the first to admit that. He finished tied third spots in both the Tata Steel Masters in Wijk aan Zee and also at the 2019 Gashimov Memorial chess tournament in Shamkir, Azerbaijan.

But the New Year promises a new start for Anand and he is looking forward to new challenges against much-younger opponents.

"Chess builds up a lot of tension, you are constantly lost in your own thoughts, you have a lot of negative and positive emotions sitting inside and they are just knocking around.

"Given the demands of chess today and the pace at which it's going, this is quite hard. I am still able to play and cope and it is satisfying that I do so," Anand told in the New Year episode of India Today Inspiration.

So where is the next Anand coming from and is he happy with the future of Indian chess?

"About Indian chess, there are things that I like very much and there are things that we need to work on. I would like to work with a lot of these youngsters and help them because in the future, I'd be very proud of someone that I helped went on to become a world champion," Anand said.

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Chess builds up a lot of tension, you are constantly lost in your own thoughts: Viswanathan Anand - India Today

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Pt Fortin Chess Centre continuing schools initiative – Trinidad News

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Dr Jo-Anne Sewlal, second from right, and Raymond Aaron, right, co-founders of the NGO Creative Minds Development Initiative and the Point Fortin Chess Centre, are seen making the presentation to Maxx Creese, second from left, and Kevon Prince of Point Fortin West Secondary School. -

THE Point Fortin Chess Centre continues to intensify its efforts at developing its Chess in Schools initiative, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (St Patrick district).

At present, the game of chess has been introduced to the Point Fortin West Secondary, Point Fortin RC, Guapo Government, Vance River RC and Rousillac Presbyterian Primary schools. The Centre continues to provide support to the schools chess clubs.

To this end, the Centre has donated chess equipment to selected schools in the Point Fortin area, a venture made possible through the kind support of LNG production company, Atlantic. Equipment was donated to the Point Fortin RC Primary School and the Point Fortin West Secondary School.

The Guapo, Vance River RC and Rousillac Presbyterian school chess clubs have 11, 25 and 14 students respectively. They are all managed by Lincoln Joseph (trainer at the Point Fortin Chess Centre). Several students from the Rousillac club have earned trophies over the course of the past academic year in chess.

Point Fortin RC School boasts the largest club with 48 students, which is managed by Indira Samaroo and assisted by Charlene Mitchell, both trainers at the Point Fortin Chess Centre. Its recent accolades include its youngest member winning the Under-6 boys category at the Lynette Rampersad Foundation Schools Junior Chess Tournament.

The Point Fortin Chess Centre is proud that the game of chess is growing in popularity among the students of all schools as it continues to pursue one of its objectives which is to once again make Point Fortin a well-known centre for chess in the country.

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Pt Fortin Chess Centre continuing schools initiative - Trinidad News

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All India Chess Federation calls for meeting on February 9 to elect new office bearers – Scroll.in

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The conflict-ridden All India Chess Federation has called for a special general body meeting on February 9 in Ahmedabad to elect new office bearers. AICF Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan has called for the meeting.

According to the notice, retired Supreme Court judge Justice Arijit Pasayat will be the Returning Officer for the elections. The polls will be held to elect the president, six vice presidents, one honorary secretary, six joint secretaries and one treasurer.

1. Elections to the office-bearers for the term 2020-2023 for the following posts. One President, Six Vice-Presidents, One Hon Secretary, Six Joint Secretaries and One Treasurer, 2. To pass appropriate resolutions after the new office bearers are elected, 3. Any other matter with the permission of the Chair, the notice read.

The notice said 13 state associations Bihar, Meghalaya, Gujarat, Delhi, Chandigarh, Uttaranchal, Punjab, Haryana, Karnataka, Nagaland, Jharkhand, Himachal Pradesh and Assam had called for the meeting with an agenda to hold the elections. The February 9 general body meeting comes after the three meetings held in December (on 14, 22 and 28) last year.

At the meeting on December 28 in Bhopal, the AICF decided to conduct the special general body meeting on February 9 during which the elections would be held. The faction led by the AICF President PR Venketrama Raja had met in Chennai last month, where it was decided to hold the elections on February 10 in the city.

Chauhan said that the notice was given as per the decision taken at the December 28 general body meeting. Chauhan and the Federation President Venketrama Raja have been at loggerheads over various issues. Chauhan said there was no hurdle in holding the general body meet in Ahmedabad even though the AICF is headquartered in Chennai.

Meanwhile, AICF Treasurer Kishore M Bandekar, who belongs to the Venketrama Raja faction, said general body meets of the federation are held in the city where it is headquartered. He also accused Chauhan of calling for meeting as and when he wanted and said the February 9 meeting called by him was not valid.

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All India Chess Federation calls for meeting on February 9 to elect new office bearers - Scroll.in

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The sisters of Enrique Iglesias play chess in a bikini and show their perfect figure – themediatimes

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Cristina and Victoria Iglesias already have many fans on social networks

The twins Cristina and Victoria Iglesias, Daughters of the singer Julio Iglesias and Miranda Rijnsburger, made headlines last year when they reached the age of majority and attended the Dance of Debutants, the event attended by members of the high society.

But in their daily life, Enrique Iglesias Half-sisters like to share moments Instagram; Her publications show her great beauty, like the youngest, in which one plays chess by the sea in a bikini and the other in a white swimsuit.

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According to the message Cristina wrote next to the picture, she won the game. The girls have gradually become followers of this social network, showing their love of riding, fashion and wearing their bodies in bikinis, which reflects that beauty comes from the family.

Previous articleKarina Banda threw herself into the pool and exposed her best curves with a black bikini

The variety of video games always amazes him. He loves the hustle and bustle of OutRun as well as the tranquil walks of Dear Esther. Diving into other worlds is an incomparable feeling for him: he understood it when he first played in Shenmue.

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The sisters of Enrique Iglesias play chess in a bikini and show their perfect figure - themediatimes

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When at the mall, check the Internet – Warwick Beacon

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By JOHN HOWELL

I had a mission and less than six hours to accomplish it.

Obviously, I shouldnt have waited until Christmas Eve to conduct my search for a chess set for my granddaughter Sydney. Chess sets are not exactly rare, and I figured I would find what I was looking for at Barrington Books in Garden City.

Indeed, they had a set, but I wanted something substantial that would endure with time and years from now she might use to play with her grandchildren.

Thus, what I thought would be a simple task transformed into an adventure and an education in shopping.

My initial tactic was to ask others who were likewise engaged in a last-minute escapade to find Christmas gifts. There was no shortage of suggestions, starting with FYE (For Your Entrainment) at Warwick Mall and Target.

The next stop was the mall. The lot was jammed, and after finding a spot in the hinterlands and grabbing a bottle of water for the hike, I arrived at Macys.

Might they have chess sets?

I looked around for an associate but only saw shoppers. I would have tried a checkout counter; however, there was a line there. So, I made FYE my destination.

Shoppers were intently looking over CDs, and there was nothing that remotely looked like a chess set.

With a feeling of defeat settling in, I decided to head for Target. I hadnt taken 10 steps before hearing my name called. There was no mistaking the voice of Debbie Rich, who worked as press secretary for Lincoln Chafee when he was mayor and went on to the Division of Motor Vehicles after he became governor.

Debbie regularly walks the mall with friends before roosting in the food court for coffee and catching up on the latest scuttlebutt. Shes a news junkie and follows Rhode Island doings with zest.

Where are all the people? she said, looking down the expanse of the mall. I hadnt noticed it, but she was right. Surely people were walking from shop to shop, yet it wasnt packed, especially considering these were the final hours before Christmas. With all those cars, people had to be somewhere.

I told Debbie of my quest and suddenly it became her cause and that of her companion, her cousin Betty Ann Berk. They both took out their cell phones and started tapping furiously. They took turns showing me photos of chess sets ranging from less than $15 to more than $280. I found a classic set with a wood board that had a built-in drawer for the pieces.

Debbie and Betty Ann went to work.

I found it, Betty Ann announced excitedly as if shed discovered the Holy Grail. Its at Home Depot.

Home Depot? I never would have thought there.

As Betty Ann searched nearby Home Depots to see if they had one on the shelf, Debbie surfed the Internet for other possible outlets. She scored hits at Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohls and Target. Then Debbie dug into the nitty gritty. Were they similar sets, as the prices were all over the board? Most importantly, did anyone have a set in stock or would there be a wait?

Debbie and Betty Ann teamed up. Debbie made a call to Kohls as she wanted to verify the information she was getting before sending me there. Bed Bath & Beyond was out of the running and, according to their collective research, Target had a set just one although it wasnt exactly the one I had wanted.

When Kohls came up empty handed, Debbie went on the Target site and clicked on the single set they had found within a couple of miles radius of the mall. She wasnt going to let this slip away before I had the chance to walk to Target.

Then the thought occurred to her if she had reserved the set, would I be able to pick it up?

I told her I doubted chess sets are in such demand that someone would scoop it up before I had the chance to walk the length of the mall. She canceled her order and I hightailed it for Target, but not before agreeing with Debbie and Betty Ann that they should form the They Can Find It shopping company.

Yes, I secured the only set available at Target.

On Christmas Day, Sydney was intrigued by my story. She opened the gift and smiled. Then she warned me she would be honing her chess game, so I better watch out.

I couldnt have asked for more.

Thanks, Debbie and Betty Ann, for making my Christmas.

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