Chess Gets Physical:  IM Dean Ippolito’s Simul World Record Attempt

Chess Gets Physical: IM Dean Ippolito’s Simul World Record Attempt

| 14 | Chess Event Coverage

Chess Gets Physical: 

IM Dean Ippolito’s Simul World Record Attempt

written by

Donna (RookedOnChess) and Mark (ChessMarkstheSpot)



   On April 9, 2011, the energy of expectation and enthusiasm permeated the comfortable and airy cafeteria at St. Ann’s Elementary School in Raritan, New Jersey. The first U.S. attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for a Chess Simul was heating up. IM Dean Ippolito, with a current rating of 2555, was the man about to meet that challenge. Not having been nervous, Dean slept through the night, having actually overslept by an hour; he arrived at the event well-rested and excited. A former competitive weight lifter and track star, he is very fit, though mentioned he hadn’t worked out seriously for at least six months, and his legs were sore the day before, so he wasn’t sure how well he would endure the miles of walking (on a hard, tile surface). Considering that Dean is admittedly a very competitive person by nature, having won his first championship at age 10 while suffering with pneumonia, sore legs probably weren’t going to be an issue.





Most players would feel somewhat intimidated by the physical aspect of a Simul, and in this case, the mental aspect was also steep with 15 of the 91 challengers being experts and masters (at Board 1–FM Karl Dehmelt, rated 2321). During his chess career, having won over 20,000 Simul games without a loss, Dean was confident in facing such a test. He classifies himself as an intuitive player, and once he’s playing, it’s very hard to be distracted—he plays on auto-pilot.




("Masters' Row:" Boards 1-5 from R. to L. FM Karl Dehmelt-2321,FM Steve Stoyko-2211,NM Jim West-2200, NM Ken Chieu-2188, Matthew O'Brien-2106)




   Once the announcements and introductions were made, the action began as Dean, playing white on all boards, made his first move at about 10:30 a.m. At intervals throughout the day Dean’s wife, Dawn, offered him nutritional snacks, Gatorade and 5-Hour Energy drinks to support his stamina. He was very clear to point out that his wife’s presence and support serve as his “mental comfort” and a large part of what invigorates him; he needs it and feeds off it emotionally. (They seem to be a very loving, cohesive couple.)


   About 2 to 3 hours in, Dean found himself in troubling positions in some of the games, but worked out of them. There were games in which resignation by his challengers was obvious, but many chose to continue playing more for their own purpose, largely to see how long they themselves could last. Dean said that more experienced players would have chosen to resign rather than play unnecessarily. This ultimately added to the physical burden and length of the Simul; a couple of hours could’ve been shaved from the overall time. It also turned out that most people Dean offered draws to, refused and he ultimately beat them. His main concern was to meet the 80% winning percentage.

   As the hours ticked by, his competitors gradually dwindled, the room became quieter and Dean’s treks were longer between boards, now being more spread apart (the boards stay in their original positions at the tables). Amazingly, Dean’s stamina and smile never faded (he said running track in high school helped). He never took a break until his first Simul loss ever to FM Steve Stoyko, 9 hours in, at 7:30 p.m. That was when he finally visited the Rest Room and returned quickly to play the few remaining players for another hour, losing to three more players (listed below) before it was all over at 8:40 p.m. when the last player, 15-year-old Sasha Romayev, was checkmated. The Simul totaled 10 hours of playing time. This is remarkable, considering this event lasted twice as long as Dean’s previously longest Simul, and this being a relatively casual event, opponents conversed and had time to ponder their moves, while Dean had mere seconds to make each of his.


                                 Steve Stoyko and his final position.


   Dean’s final score results were: 67 wins, 4 losses and 20 draws with an 84.6 % winning percentage. According to the new standards set by Guinness, Dean has met the qualifications with his opponents having a rating of 1000 or higher, along with at least an 80% winning percentage. It’s just a matter of time awaiting acceptance by Guinness and the World Record Association, along with the determination of the validity of the previous Guinness World Record attempt by GM Mahjoob of Iran. In addition, this was the fewest number of losses in a Simul this large against such strong players, having a high-average rating with his 91 opponents. Just as impressive is that these four losses were Dean’s first in his two-decade career of Simuls. Though Dean has not necessarily broken the Guinness World Record, he has broken a few National Records with this attempt, one of which is playing the largest number of master-level players simultaneously.

   In looking toward the future, Dean is considering another Simul World Record attempt, perhaps a year from now, with 200 challengers rated between 1200 and 1800. We can only hope! And when asked why, when he could possibly become one of the top 10 highest-ranked players in the U.S., he doesn’t pursue Grandmaster status, Dean explained it’s a matter of priorities. Not only does it not make sense financially, but he values quality time with his family (his wife and two children) and teaching through his academy much more than climbing the “status ladder” in the chess world. He feels he is meant to be a coach more than a player. Seeing as he’s trained 3 of the 5 youngest National Champs in the U.S. (Eric Liao being one, in 2001), he must be right.


Dean’s Chess Life outside Simuls:

   Dean loves working with kids, and he himself having fallen in love with the game as a child, is passionate about encouraging the same passion in other children. He does this through Dean of Chess Academy. His chess philosophy is the culmination of a lifetime of personal experience. He encourages a good work ethic, stating that he believes 90% of talent is hard work (a recent topic on’s “Pardon Our Blunders”). Dean teaches what he’s learned through his own successes—and mistakes, and what he has learned about the game itself and what it takes to play well. And it’s not just about chess; he incorporates life lessons through his teaching chess because “chess is more than a game.” He imparts to them that in life, just as in chess, you alone are responsible for your actions, your successes and failures—every move has a consequence—on the board and in life.


   With that said, one thing he feels very strongly about is helping kids to not fear risk, to not become timid.  The reason behind this thinking stems from his childhood. At age 9, Dean beat GM Anatoly Karpov in a Simul because he refused a draw! It influenced his play that much more—to take risks. But when he began losing more through risk, he became timid and it was ultimately detrimental to his playing style. It took him years to break out of it and revert to his aggressive style; he wants to help other children avoid that mistake. He tells them “if you don’t take a draw and lose—you’ve already won.” He pointed out that there were kids who played in the Simul that day that could’ve won, but didn’t take the risk.

   Joe Ippolito (Dean’s father) said chess is growing at a phenomenal rate in New Jersey, and both he and his wife, Michele (a teacher for Special Needs) feel strongly about chess being worked into school curriculum. They mentioned scholarships for chess, one of which Dean received.


The Four Winners:

   Steve Stoyko, a 63-year-old FIDE Master with a current rating of 2211, was the first-ever to win a Simul game against Dean. Steve is one of the most well-known and respected chess players in New Jersey. Among his many accolades, Steve was a 3-Time N.J. State Champion: 1973, 1983, and 1988, and the 2005 Kenilworth Chess Club Champion. He stated that when Dean was 7 years old, he was a challenger in one of Steve’s Simuls at Allied Chemical; with the rating cap having been lifted for Dean’s “World Record” attempt, enabling Steve to participate, he was happy to return the favor. Dean’s father, Joe, mentioned to Steve what a great impact his Simul had on Dean as a boy. Steve then recalled his own experience at his first real tournament in 1964, which also had a great impact on him having played in a Simul against GM Arthur Bisguier. Steve emphasized how you never know what will impress young chess players, often influencing them to pursue a lifetime chess career. He said, “Chess is a bottomless game; no human mind can encompass it, and if you get tired with one area, you switch to another.” Dean later stated that, going in, he knew if anyone was going to beat him, it would be Steve.

   Michael Wang, a 22-year old with a rating of 1625 also won. He said he felt Dean should’ve won, but made some small mistakes. Dean said Mike played really well and thought it would be a draw but Dean himself made a blunder.



Kevin Santo, a 16-year-old player with a rating of 1923, was the winner of the third game. He tried to get Dean in a complicated position, eventually tricking him. Kevin competes in tournaments hoping it will help with college tuition.





   Marvin Shumowitz, a 56-year-old Candidate Master with a rating of 2024, was the proud winner of the 4th game.


What some competitors and spectators had to say: 

   Board members of the NJSCF (the New Jersey State Chess Federation, of which Dean is a Collegiate) dappled the room, most of whom participated as competitors in the event:




Roger Inglis (NJSCF President), enthusiastically took his place at his board.







Joe Ippolito (NJSCF Past President), is a teacher by trade (2nd grade through high school and college). He first taught his son, Dean, the basics of chess when he was a mere 2 ½ years old. Dean started playing in tournaments at the age of 6 at which time he competed at Carnegie Hall and won a trophy. It sparked Dean’s life-long passion for chess. Though Dean has always been very athletic (when in high school he was the fastest runner in track and could’ve played soccer), he preferred the mental sport of chess. Competing in tournaments was not his parents’ idea, but his own. Dean, having been afraid to fly until he was about 14 years old, they drove from tournament to tournament ultimately traveling country wide.



Bill Bluestone (NJSCF Secretary), a man who resembles Santa more than a chess player, has an obvious zeal for the game. He said, “You know what’s good about chess? You can walk into any chess club in the U.S. and immediately make two friends: the first is a guy who beats you and wants to show you how he did it, and the second is the guy who plays such an interesting game with you that you don’t care if you won or lost.” He tells this to his students (and their parents) all the time. His rating is 1473.

DSCF0031.JPG  Ken Thomas (NJSCF Treasurer and Senior Affairs Chairman), was accompanied by his friend and mascot: Elmo. He spoke enthusiastically about the event and Dean. Ken also runs many chess events including weekend quads, and hosts the Amateur East Individual over Memorial Day weekend. To find out more, visit his website: . His rating is 1700.




Glenn Petersen (NJSCF Archivist), was the former editor of Chess Life Magazine; now editor of Chess Life for Kids. He started as a freelancer and worked for the Atlantic Chess News in 1973. He covered Dean’s Simuls when he was a young 9-year-old player.




   Noreen Davisson (NJSCF Scholastics Committee) was the “go to” person for this event, having begun with the Academy as a teacher in elementary schools, ultimately ending up in the office, serving as the organizer for many of the Academy’s activities, including Tournament Director.


Formidable contenders:

DSCF0007.JPG  NM Jim West, is a USCF Life Master (and member) whose current rating is 2200. Jim is one of the most active New Jersey chess players, with decades of playing rated games practically every weekend and during the week also. He frequently visits the Polgar Chess Center in Queens and is a member of the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan. West is also an accomplished author.



  Thomas Stanics (Atomic Patzer), who is no stranger to tournament play, and has also participated in the Dean of Chess Academy Friday League, was the second-to-last challenger left standing, having played strongly. His rating is 1550.




Some of Dean’s students:


Dwight Moran, a very young man who is rated 1324, said it was Dean who sparked his interest in chess, having taken some classes at his elementary school. He and his parents found out about the event through flyers and drove an hour to participate in helping Dean break the record.



   Jason Fiammetta and Morgan Lawless, two teenagers both rated in the 1400+ range, joined forces in traveling to participate in the event which they heard about through USCF emails and the National Scholastic Chess Foundation.



Taran and Roshan Idnani are 8-year-old twin boys (ratings about 1000-1150) who have attended the Dean of Chess Academy for two years now, and were there to support their teacher by competing in the event.



   Several members of were present, though we weren’t privy to all of them, so cannot list them all here, but wish to mention a few:



Matt (Petrosianic) O’Brien, from Allentown, PA., is friends with one of the winners (Kevin Santo). They drove to the Simul together, Matt also having participated. A strong player himself, he attends Dean’s Academy and plays Dean regularly. He was happy and excited to have been a part of such a special event.




Rich (xup) was also an anxious and enthusiastic participant.






   In the end, IM Dean Ippolito’s attempt at breaking the Guinness Simul World Record was an exhilarating experience for all involved, and hopefully we will have another to look forward to, perhaps in 2012.

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