A Princess, Don Corleone, And A Minted Grandmaster

A Princess, Don Corleone, And A Minted Grandmaster

| 10 | Misc

The metaphorical chess universe has been more geographically spread than the actual universe of late. With stories from Africa, Europe, Siberia, and the mainstream Olympics, here's our monthly look of chess mentions we didn't cover yet.

As always, fill your coffee and click the links for a more detailed explanation of the various ways chess made the news around the world last month.

Winter Required, Good Sense Optional

Have a Russian lake nearby with water just slightly above freezing? Grab a travel chess set and small iceberg and "immerse" yourself in some polar bear chess like these hearty souls did. usually loves a good social media campaign, but upon consultation with our legal team, we've decided not to make this a contest. If you ignore our advice and insist on attempting, make sure you watch the video and follow what seems to be "grandmaster technique" -- keeping your hands above the waterline to make sure you can still operate your fingers.

As for this reporter, the baths of Budapest were my choice, while another member of the news team played the "Geothermic Gambit" in Icelandic waters:

Legendary GM Turns 100, Minted On Coin

After last summer's announcement that Estonia's most famous chess player would have his centenary remembered with his face on a coin, Paul Keres is now circulating again.

The Bank of Estonia said coins with his likeness are now available, and since the country is a part of the Eurozone, you may want to check your pocket next game you're given a €2 coin in change. Previously, Keres appeared on the five Krooni banknote before Estonia adopted the Euro in 2011.

It really is worth €2, but for chess players, it's perhaps worth more. (Photo: Eesti Pank)


Don't want to leave it to chance? Coins are already appearing on Ebay or you can buy one directly here.

Keres would have turned 100 on January 7 of this year. Here's's report on the Keres Memorial rapid tournament in Tallinn.

New Kasparov Book Equates Putin To Mafia Crime Boss

This monthly news wrapup has previously mentioned "Winter is Coming," the new book on East-West relations by former World Champion Garry Kasparov and Mig Greengard. Since the book is almost exclusively political, we did not write a review for this site, instead leaving that for another reporter's beat.

In this review by a former Moscow bureau chief, writer Jill Doughtery explains that Kasparov equates Russian President Vladimir Putin with the head of an organized crime syndicate. Kasparov's chosen proxy was Don Corleone, made famous by the actor Marlon Brando in "The Godfather."

Russian President Vladimir Putin with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov at the 2014 World Championship in Sochi, Russia.

Another choice quote from Kasparov on Putin:  "[He's] an aggressive poker player facing weak opposition from a Western world that has become so risk averse that it would rather fold than call any bluff, no matter how good its cards are."

Bids Open For 2020 Olympiad

The next two Olympiads are known -- Baku, Azerbaijan in September 2016 and Batumi, Georgia in 2018 -- and FIDE is continuing its "usual" cycle of being four years ahead. Bids are due by the end of March and require a $350,000 USD "successful bidder's fee."

Traditionally, FIDE decides where the Olympiad will be four years, hence at the General Assembly in conjunction with a current Olympiad. As such, voting on bids is scheduled to take place in Baku, concurrent with the Olympiad.

Every Olympiad since 1992 has been in Europe or a former Soviet state. In 1992 the event was in Manila, Philippines. The last time the Olympiad was held in the Western hemisphere was 1978 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

New Meaning Of "Spice Chess"

Capitalizing the letters of "spice" usually denotes the acronym for the "Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence," but this kind of spice chess has no hidden meaning. Competitors actually compete with herbs from their cooking cabinet.

It begs the question -- can you require your opponent to sniff a captured piece? If so, the Cochrane Gambit might be a plausible choice if your king's knight was played by cayenne. 

You may have to go to the market for your next chess set.

If your kitchen is not stocked, the artist-inventor of the game has also created sound chess, weight chess, and wine chess (red versus white wine)!

Who Would Magnus Carlsen Like To Face?

In the pantheon of retired and deceased players, the current champ recently announced that his favorite "historical" matchup would have been Bobby Fischer in the years leading up to his title. This intriguing Q&A via Twitter gave his explanation: "Because the precision and energy that he played with is just unmatched in the history of chess."

He later demurred somewhat on that pronouncement when asked the related question of who he'd play if it were his last game. For that he chose a "pre-1984" Kasparov. Of course, they did play in real life, in quite a famous game.

Read on to see Carlsen's thoughts on computers, male-dominance in chess, his dietary habits, and more.

New Country To's News Section

Most countries have received at least a tangential reference on these pages over the years. Consider: Surinam, three references; Liechtenstein, four references; Bahrain, one reference. 

One country, which has never fielded an Olympiad team and isn't listed at all on the FIDE website, is about to have that change, sort of. Benin, a country of 10 million people in West Africa, doesn't seem to have much chess, but Benin City in neighboring Nigeria does!

The ancient Benin City, Nigeria (photo: Wikimedia Commons 4.0, user Ewinosa).

So it's a technicality that "Benin" gets it first mention, but does have plans to increase its coverage of chess on the African continent. Here's a link to a report on the Third Benin Chess Tournament, organized by national instructor Princess Omoyemwen Adeyinka Afolabi. The tournament was sponsored by 7UP, which must be trying to challenge Red Bull and Isklar's hegemony in the chess sponsorship world.

GM Charged, Flees U.S.

In the news of the weird and tragic, GM Andre Diamant of Brazil, in the U.S. on a chess scholarship, was charged last month with child endangerment from an August 2015 incident outside St. Louis.

The Webster University team member and two-time champion of Brazil was accused by police of giving money to his six-year-old son to drink wine. According to reports, the child became ill afterward.

GM Andre Diamant at the 2015 U.S. Open, where he tied for second. His U.S. Chess ratings page shows it was the last event he played in the U.S.

The report stated that the child identified "sake" as the drink, which Diamant claimed to his son was "tea" and offered $20 per shot. Diamant was apologetic to police and explained that he was celebrating a tournament.

Police think Diamant went back to Brazil after being arrested and released. His FIDE page shows that he has played in three tournaments since then, all in Brazil.

"Be Prepared," For Chess

A Boy Scout's highest honor is Eagle Scout, which requires the accumulation of merit badges (one of which can be for chess!). But young men must also complete a service project, which often involves neighborhood or civic improvement.

Daniel Le Breton of Greenwich, Connecticut, decided to work with his local parks and recreation department to build an outdoor chess park

Le Breton explained that his love for chess was reignited when he became injured and he played more chess to increase his mental and even cardiovascular fitness.

"Chess is great mental exercise and it is able to get my heart pounding as hard as any of the sports I love to play," he told the Greenwich Free Press.

Chess Back In Olympics?

Chess has been a demonstration sport in various Olympics, and this report claims that it will return again, this time to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. This reiterates FIDE's report last summer that the organizing committee invited FIDE to take part.

The world championship rematch between Carlsen and Anand took place in Sochi, in November 2014, site of the 2014 Winter Games nine months prior. The Olympic Rings remain outside the Sochi Airport.

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov met with the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko alongside the European Rapid and Blitz Championships in December in Minsk. Ilyumzhinov has tasked himself with convincing national olympic committees to adopt chess and participate in 2018.

Is Your Child A Genius In Waiting?

This month's long-form piece rehashes an old argument in chess circles. Could everyone be great at chess, if exposed to its theory rigorously and daily?

Of course there's not a much better case study than the Polgar sisters, which seem to be low-hanging fruit for nearly any publication studying the question. Laszlo Polgar's method of raising his three daughters is examined, and together with first-person interviews with all three sisters, the writer attempts to also examine the famous "10,000 hour rule" for genius.

For a good chuckle, make sure you read the correction at the bottom of the article.

GM Judit Polgar, now seeking to teach chess to other youths with her annual festival (photo courtesy Judit Polgar).

We close this month with melancholy news of the death of Luis Rentero, creator of the famous Linares Super-Tournament. Rentero's obituary was written by famous El Pais Chess Correspondent Leontxo Garcia.

The tournament began in the 1970s and ran more or less every year from 1988 until permanently ending in 2010. Winners included Kasparov, Karpov, Anand, Aronian, and Topalov. To give a better idea of the tournament's strength: every winner since 1989 had been at least 2790 at one point in his career, except Peter Leko.

Rentero's tournament may not exist anymore, but Garcia credits it as popularizing international events all over Spain. Its tentacles spread over tournaments worldwide. As Peter Doggers explained on ChessCenter, Rentero was also responsible for certain "anti-draw" measures that are still in use today. 

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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