In chess, the history of the Simultaneous Exhibition (“Simul”) is a rich one. As with all World Records, many have sought to break the Simul record, setting a new and higher level with each attempt.
To mention a few:
· In 1922, the then new World Champion, Jose Raul Capablanca, played 103 people in Cleveland. It took a little over seven hours to complete the event; he lost only one game and won the other 102, for an amazing win percentage of 99.5%. This was the best result ever in Simul history for an event that took place on over 75 boards.
· Over the years, Paul Morphy and Garry Kasparov have played “Grandmaster Only” Simuls.
· At London’s St. James Chess Club in 1859, way before the term “Grandmaster” was used, Paul Morphy played five Masters considered to be among the Top 10 players of the day, scoring a 3-2 victory.
· Kasparov’s Simul against the 1992 West German team at Baden-Baden, consisting of Vlastimil Hort, Eric Lobron, Matthias Wahls, and Gerald Hertneck, where Kasparov won two and drew two, was one of the best results of “Grandmaster Only” Simuls.
The list of notable names having successfully accomplished amazing Simuls is impressive; now another name is set to be added to that list: IM Dean Ippolito.
This challenge came into Dean’s life for good reason. Through his company, “Dean of Chess Academy,” he has done some great work with children and adults, but he wanted to bring attention to chess on a grand scale in America. In June 2010, when he began thinking of ways to do that, his thoughts turned to the Guinness World Book of Records.
Remarkably, Dean has not lost a Simul game (an astounding 15,000+ games since 1991) and has been training for this event, both physically and mentally, since summer 2010. Along with a workout regimen he began with a personal trainer (the event could last up to 20 hours), he conducted two warm-up Simuls as the world-famous Marshall Chess Club in NYC in which he played against over 30 people with ratings over 2100, and many experts. He drew two games and won the rest in 3 1/2 hours. Not only does Dean have 25 years of tournament experience as a player, but 15 as a coach for National Championships. Adding to that impressive resume, he is also one of 58 Americans to qualify for, and play in, the U.S. Championships.
Now, concerning recent Simul exhibitions, there has been an interesting (and very costly to Ippolito and his Sponsors) sequence of events:
GM Morteza Mahjoob, with the full support of the Iranian government, had destroyed a previous 360-player record by playing 500 at once in which he met the required 80% win percentage, but the qualifications of those he played were vague and thought not “to be of suitable standard.” Originally, Dean was scheduled, in November 2010, to attempt breaking that record by playing over 500 players, but four weeks prior, Israeli GM Alik Gershon beat him to it; he broke that record by playing 517 people, winning 86% of the games. The thing is—this wasn’t the real kicker! Both Iran and Israeli governments accused the other of cheating. These last two attempts, steeped in controversy and mired with accusations of cheating, resulted in Guinness officially retiring the event—all this just TWO WEEKS before Dean’s November Simul!
The good news is that Guinness reinstated the event, setting higher standards for a “professional” World Record in which the challengers are required to have a minimum established rating of 1200 USCF or FIDE. There is also a minimum win percentage of 80 percent. So now, after all the upheaval, the first attempt following the newly-instated rules, was going to be by Ippolito on April 9, 2011, playing 100 challengers, BUT—only a few weeks ago, the aforementioned GM Mahjoob claimed the first record by playing 135 players. This is the record Dean must now beat.
In wanting to hear what Dean had to say about all this, I posed a few questions.
Mark : For an event of this magnitude with over 100 opponents of different ratings, moving from board to board, throughout a very long day of virtually continuous chess, it will obviously be taxing on both mind and body. How do you prepare mentally?
Dean: For this event, I prepare mentally by visualizing the setup and participants. I will draw from my experience as I have played 500 simultaneous exhibitions since 1991 without a single loss, including many games against masters. Rest is extremely important and I will be spending a quiet evening at home Friday night in order to be focused on Saturday. The support of my family and friends is undoubtedly crucial also.
Dean: Back in September I began working with a trainer. I have been running 3 miles every other day and weight lifting. I am breaking in new sneakers for that day too.
Mark: What inspired your desire to break this record?
Dean: I wanted to bring attention to chess in America. Chess has not been in the limelight as it is in other countries and my mission is to get National attention for such a beneficial game. In addition, I have always pushed myself to the limit. This record is the ultimate mind and body challenge for me.
Mark: What made you decide to attempt it, originally in November 2010?
Dean: Again, I wanted to bring chess into the limelight and have people who are not familiar with the game see that there is a “uniqueness” to it that no other game possesses.
Mark: Do you feel it is more challenging now that Guinness set more professional standards?
Dean: Definitely. Each game will require more concentration and there is definitely more room for error. Some players will be rated over 2100.
Mark: Does the event have more meaning, to you personally, now that the standards have gone up?
Dean: Absolutely. I feel that the record has much more validity now that there are actual defined standards. Before Guinness just required that players be of a "suitable standard". Iran and Israel's records had pre-school players participating. Not that some preschoolers are not accomplished, but a professional category is much more challenging and I think will be more respected by the chess community.
Mark: Considering the rich history of chess with the recorded results of Simuls throughout the years, most notably Capablanca in 1922 where he played 103 people in Cleveland and only lost one game, you’re going to be part of that recorded history along with other great chess players. How do you feel about that?
Dean: I am honored to be in such austere company. I will do my best to live up to those that have preceded me.
Mark: Do you think this event will bring more positive attention to chess with hopefully more people getting into it, and its history, due to the exposure?
Dean: Yes, I do. The press release that we created was picked up by nationally syndicated television, web and newspaper outlets. After this is accomplished, it is my hope that people reading the daily newspaper will be intrigued and perhaps pick up a chess set.
On April 9th, 2011 at St. Ann’s Elementary School in Raritan, N.J., starting at 10 AM, Ippolito plans to break Mahjoob’s record by playing over 135 challengers. Originally, a max rating of 1800 was put into place for this Simul, but that has been removed since Dean needed to open the field to recruit the additional players in time for the event. Though the World Record challenge is a major focus, it is not the only one; all the proceeds from the concession stand will benefit the Knights of Columbus (Dean is a Knight and his wife, Dawn, is a Columbiette).
For event details and FREE sign up for prospective challengers, visit chessworldrecord.com. There will be hourly drawings held with prizes valued as high as $800! The school is also located right next to the train station, making travel arrangements convenient for those without cars or other means of transportation. It promises to be an exciting event not to be missed!
EDIT: The requirements have been updated and the minimum rating to participate has been lowered from 1200 USCF/FIDE to 1000 USCF. Please sign up if you are now about this new minimum rating.