Chess Trains, Merit Badges And Doughnuts

Chess Trains, Merit Badges And Doughnuts

| 18 | Chess Event Coverage

Last month had a varied collection of chess stories from all over the literal and figurative map. As is typical on these pages, "Karlsson" kept on winning -- read on to see how that happened.

Also in the news -- a chess teacher stopped an attacker, a chess tournament was hosted on a moving train, and yet another chess movie came out. Below you'll find all the chess news you may have missed!

Photo right: The chess train is in the station (photo: Anežka Kružíková).

5th Annual Chess Train Runs Rails Of Central Europe

One of the unique annual spectacles in the chess world takes place every October. Always departing from the Prague Train Station, the Czech Railways-sponsored tournament took players this year on a tour of Dresden, Germany; Wroclaw, Poland; Bratislava, Slovakia; Vienna, Austria; then back to Prague.

Past participant GM Ian Rogers has reported that in a typical year, at least half of the "participants" aren't players -- they just ride the train and watch the chess and the scenery. Of course many play too, and this year GM Lars Karlsson of Sweden took first.

GM Lars Karlsson, holding one of the few trophies that GM Magnus Carlsen has not won (photo: Anežka Kružíková).

Would GM Magnus Carlsen feel proud that his homophonic brother won the event? Likely not. Recently at an event for the movie "Pawn Sacrifice," Carlsen was asked about whether he would have like to have played chess during the Cold War? He joked that he couldn't relate, except that Norwegians and Swedes aren't particularly fond of each other.

Want to play next year? Rogers told that Czech Railways has agreed to sponsor the event at least through 2016.

Chess Teacher Stops Knife-Wielding Attacker

In one of the most talked-about chess stories of the last month, American chess teacher James Vernon, a veteran of the Vietnam War, credited his decades-old army training that helped him overcome an assailant in his chess club.

The 75-year-old Illinois resident was stabbed in the hand severely but successfully protected the children and families that were in a public library taking his chess class. Vernon subdued the teenage attacker despite the injury. The suspect was charged with attempted murder and other crimes.

Vernon was honored by the governor for his bravery. He will also be offered free memberships for all of his students to (a site owned by

Wales Ends Hunt For First GM

Many FIDE transfers see top countries receiving top players (as the Americans and Azeris have done this year), but sometimes smaller federations benefit too. Recently Wales, a FIDE federation despite not being a sovereign country, nabbed its first-ever grandmaster when GM Nigel Davies offered his services.

Prolific author and once-again Welsh GM Nigel Davies (photo: Wikipedia).

Davies has some Welsh heritage, and also lived there for a time and represented them in the past until just before he earned the GM title. However, family lineage does not appear to be the main reason for the switch. He's quoted in the Telegraph as saying that the English Chess Federation is headed by a "rag bag of chess amateurs who think they should be important but lack the knowledge and skill."

At least one of Davies's countrymen seems to have issues too:

Chess Computer Against Its Programmer

These past two years have been perhaps the most bountiful in history for chess movies. We've had "Pawn Sacrifice," "Computer Chess," "Endgame," "Algorithms," "Life of a King," "Brooklyn Castle," "Barbaric Genius," and "Le Tournoi," (all of which have been discussed at some point on Next month's news roundup will also mention "The Polgar Variant" and there's yet another major release schedule for next year -- "The Queen of Katwe." Maybe I even missed one here?

In fact, there is at least one more to add to that burgeoning list: "The King's Pawn," a short film about a programmer who must fight the machine he created. The plot seems to be a chessic mashup of "Wargames" and "Terminator" and you can watch the entire movie here!

The chess programmer from "The King's Pawn." 

IM Eli Vovsha was the chess advisor for the film. You can read about the film's allusions to the Kasparov-Deep Blue matches and his other comments here.

Mysterious "Chess Boy" Gives Lessons For College Fund

If the Yale Chess Team gets another strong member next year, this one will surely have earned it. The school that has graduated such players as GM Joel Benjamin and GM Robert Hess is the number-one choice for "Chess Boy," (real name "Gabe"), a high school senior who is giving lessons to be able to afford application fees.

This short vignette of the writer's time with him shows an innovative way for high schoolers to earn pocket money, though the claim that $20 for a lesson in New York City is a "bit of a high charge" shows the writer's ignorance of the market for chess tutoring in the Big Apple.

If you live near Columbia University, Chess Boy may be worth an hour of your time.

Weird Tournament Behavior Catalogued In Book

Two experienced tournament directors/arbiters surely have stories to tell, and they just did. Tim Just, the longtime editor of the U.S. Chess Rulebook, and Wayne Clark, together wrote "My Opponent is Eating a Doughnut: Tall Tales, Legends, Gossip, and Rumors from the World of Tournament Chess."

The book offers a glimpse into the peccadillos of tournament players, and the funny situations arbiters find themselves in. In one anecdote, a director comes over and sweeps the pieces off the board from two loud players he thought to be analyzing in the tournament hall. In actuality they were in severe time pressure and still playing their game. Oops!

More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Fischer's Chair

For those that saw "Pawn Sacrifice" or followed Fischer's 1972 match with Spassky, you'll know that the players' chairs were the subject of some discussion. The film depicts the examination of the chairs for contraband in the middle of one of the games.

Fischer and his chair ("Pawn Sacrifice" producer Gail Katz said they had to have the chair re-made for the movie). Photo:

It's well known that Fischer requested a Herman Miller Eames chair, and now you can read about the full backstory of the chair that was flown to Iceland for him. The Zeeland, Mich.-based company was even accused of planting something in Spassky's similar chair.

Chess Merit Badge Gaining Popularity

One of the top merit badges for Boy Scouts is chess. Although only in existence for a few years, the chess merit badge is the 11th-most-popular badge outside of those required for Eagle Scouts.

About 25,000 of these badges were sewn on Boy Scouts last year.

The most recent issue of "Scouting" magazine illustrates how best to teach the chess merit badge. On, there is an even-more extensive 10-part guide. Maybe chess can rise in the ranks for 2015!

St. Louis Keeps Piling On More Chess

Already home to the U.S. Championship, the Sinquefield Cup, the U.S. Chess League Champions, three university chess teams, the World Chess Hall of Fame, several top grandmasers, and much more, St. Louis has added chess in the parks.

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis helped open a "pocket park" with chess sets in Forest Park, the city's expansive green space (think Central Park, except with more museums and golf courses).

Bring your own pieces to the new Forest Park chess tables (photo: Forest Park Forever Facebook page).

St. Louis wasn't done last month. The World Chess Hall of Fame also announced several new exhibits -- Ladies' Knight: A Female Perspective on Chess, and the interactive Kings, Queens & Castles. Both opened in late October.

Math And Ajedrez

In a pair of related stories, two researchers just published a paper on the effects of chess on math test scores, which concluded that teaching the game to Danish children "leads to an improvement in subsequent math test scores of around 0.16-0.18 standard deviations."

Spanish educators will surely love to hear that, as this article states that a movement is growing to make chess ("ajedrez" in Spanish) mandatory in schools.

Armenia And The Olympiad

Several Armenians and players of Armenian descent played in the 2015 World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, seemingly setting the stage for the national team to compete there at the Olympiad in 2016.

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov met with Aremenian President Serzh Sargsyan several times according to this report, and is hopeful that Armenia will send a team. Sargsyan is a big supporter of the squad, often flying to the Olympiad for the closing ceremony when Armenia wins (which is often!).

Armenian GM Levon Aronian played in Baku this year and would lead his national team at the Olympiad.

Armenia and Azerbaijan were openly at war a century ago, and are currently at odds over the Nagorno-Karabakh region and other issues.

Players born in Armenia also must decide on their participation. The U.S. squad often chooses as a player or coach GM Varuzhan Akobian, born in Armenia (he also played in Baku this year). WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, U.S. women's board three, will face the same choice.
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