Have You Tried "Really Bad Chess"? And Other News

Have You Tried "Really Bad Chess"? And Other News

| 17 | Misc

The much-loved GM Vugar Gashimov had an elite tournament organized in his honor only a few months after his death in early 2014. Now, his native Azerbaijan has honored him in an even more lasting way. The Vugar Gashimov Chess Academy began operations last month. That story kicks off our coverage of "In Other News" for November.

Unlike most months, there's not a lot of negativity in our sampling of monthly stories. Enjoy this feel-good edition of In Other News.

Vugar Gashimov Chess Academy Ready For WoodPushers

The second-highest-rated player in history to compete under the Azeri flag, the late Vugar Gashimov, now has his name emblazoned on the newest chess academy in his home city.

The Vugar Gashimov Chess Academy's ribbon cutting in Baku was attended by current members of the national team, as well as his family.

A statue to the national hero. | All photos courtesy

According to the article, the center's aims are broad: to promote the game, support promising juniors, organize tournaments, and to host special master classes.

Perhaps the only pity is that the club opened its doors on October 1, just a few short weeks after chess players from all over the world competing in the Olympiad could have stopped by to pay their respects.

Gashimov's friend and former coach, Viorel Iordachescu, spoke at the opening.

For those that want to know more about the life of Gashimov, here's the obituary that Peter Doggers wrote in 2014.

Chess960 On Steroids?

Bobby Fischer wanted to shake up the starting position, so he helped popularize a randomization of the back-row starting position called Chess960 (which now exists on's live server). But what if you mixed up all 16 pieces, and you weren't guaranteed anything but having a king?

For those that are enticed by such chaos, a new app may be for you. "Really Bad Chess" not only might give you say, five bishops, four knights, three rooks, two pawns, a queen and a king, but your opponent might get a completely different arrangement of pieces.

Really Bad Chess: It's like Scrabble meets chess. | Images courtesy of

"For advanced players, the shuffled-up board turns chess from a game of patterns and speed to a game built entirely around tactics and ingenuity," said the game's designer, Zach Gage.

Gage has done this before: taking games with ancient rules, like solitaire, and shuffling up their codified rules.

The designer said one of his reasons for attempting to shake up chess is that the game's "perfect balance turned me away." Really Bad Chess is thus more like poker, where you can be dealt a bad hand from the start and have to work around that.

The game's complicated algorithm assigns pieces according to your level in the game (so presumably weaker players will get more queens!), but it does not account for starting piece placement.

We think we know what passionate chess players' comments will be to this idea, but are they more severe than "Farmer Tom" in the article? "There are dumb ideas, and then there are amazingly, incredibly, stupendously, dumb ideas. This is no mere dumb idea."

Chess Fever Hits Another Baseball Team's Clubhouse 

This season turned out to be quite the marriage between chess and baseball. Several months after the St. Louis Cardinals placed several chess sets in their clubhouse, the Baltimore Orioles followed suit.

Does this make these two teams the smartest in the game? Well, they have combined for 14 World Series Championships between them, and both finished second in their division this year.

Much like in the Cardinals' locker room, the pitchers seem to enjoy the game the most. (For those uninitiated to the game, pitchers almost never play every day, giving them much more off time.)

Baltimore Oriole Dylan Bundy: Would you rather face him at the plate or over the board? | Photo: Keith Allison, Wikicommons.

"Now we've got five or six boards in the clubhouse back home," Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman said.

Along with fellow pitcher Dylan Bundy, Gausman has a heated rivalry. Perhaps they use the chess board to settle a tiebreak on who can pitch harder. Gausman's fastball tops out at 101 mph, while Bundy used to throw that hard in high school before elbow surgery cost him a few miles per hour.

"Ask Amy" Asks Chess Life Editor

When a professional advice columnist got a technical chess question from a reader, who did she turn to for help with the answer? Her phone-a-friend turned out to be Dan Lucas, longtime editor of "Chess Life" and Director of Publications for U.S. Chess.

Chess Life Editor Dan Lucas, now an advice columnist? | Photo courtesy Chess Journalists of America.

The query dealt with more than just chess. Also on the table was the right to capitulate, male-female dynamics, and the anthropomorphizing of the queen.

Read the article to see what advice the editor had for the bewildered.

New Chess Journalism Record

Chess writers were in the news again this past month, as the chess columnist for "The Guardian" entered his seventh decade writing for the British newspaper.

Leonard Barden truly became the bard of chess journalism by completing 61 consecutive years of writing his weekly column. He eclipsed the previous mark held by Tom Widdows of the "Worcester News" who wrote from 1945 until 2006. (This article about Widdows at the turn of the 21st century claimed that, as recently as 16 years ago, there were 100 chess writers just in England and Scotland.)

The Dean/Bard of Chess Journalism: Leoard Barden. | Photo courtesy Linda Nylind for The Guardian.

Barden also played on England's national team in several Olympiads in the 1950s and 1960s. He has authored more than a dozen books on chess. Barden's perspicacity regarding future chess talent showed when in 1975 one of his columns was headlined "World Champ 1990" and referenced Garry Weinstein (Kasparov). He was wrong by a few years, but he also predicted Nigel Short, age nine, would be a contender for the title.

Barden's writing record was even more impressive since he also wrote a record-breaking daily column from 1956 onward in the print and online versions of the "London Evening Standard," breaking the daily mark set by George Koltanowski of the "San Fransisco Daily Chronicle."

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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