St. Louis Cardinals Take Up Chess And Other News

St. Louis Cardinals Take Up Chess And Other News

SamCopeland
NM SamCopeland
May 25, 2016, 6:44 PM |
17 | Misc

This edition of In Other News sees chess celebrated by professional athletes, YouTube stars, union workers, actors, and even Canadians! Join us on another tour of the major chess stories celebrated in popular media this month.

St. Louis Cardinals Train With Chess

St. Louis Cardinal manager Mike Matheny has long been a chess player and a supporter of the Saint Louis Chess Club. Matheny espouses the virtues of chess to the team, and he recently put chess lover and supporter Rex Sinquefield's money where his mouth is when the team installed a chess table, courtesy of Mr. Sinquefield, in the Cardinals' clubhouse.

The chess table has proven so popular that the club recently installed three more tables. Consequently, the team members organized their own tournament.

Matheny believes that playing chess helps the team build camaraderie that is valuable on the diamond.

Chess Ratings Visualized

Youtube user Abacaba's animation of the top chess player ratings throughout time has gone viral with nearly 100,000 views. Abacaba previously published a viral animation of the top Go players of all time in the wake of the AlphaGo vs. Lee Sedol match. That animation restricted itself to Go players from 1974 onward and used a single rating system for all players which allowed for great comparability.

Abacaba uses a combination of EDO (historical chess ratings by Rod Edwards from 1809-1920), CMR (ChessMetrics Performance Ratings by Jeff Sonas from 1910-2005) and FIDE (2000-2016). Comparing different rating systems across times is fraught with difficulties, and will surely generate loads of contentious comments , but witnessing this depiction of the long of arc of chess progress, which we also covered in ChessCenter last month,  will doubtless move chess lovers.

African American All-Girls Team Thrives At Nationals

Detroit and the surrounding local communities have not been blessed with much in the way of good news lately as the city has had to declare bankruptcy in 2013 and the Flint water crisis has revealed massive community health abuses.

Fortunately, there is a local ray of sunshine in the University Prep Science and Math chess team, which recently claimed first place in the under-14 section at the 13th annual KCF All-Girls National Championships. The team was lead by sisters Jaidyn and Jada Hamilton, who finished with 4.5/6 and 4.0/6 respectively.

The team is active in the Detroit City Chess Club and credits its chess pursuits with improving performance in school subjects such as mathematics.

Detroit Girls Chess Team Places 1st In National Championships -blogged by @avah_taylor - An all-black #Detroit girls chess team placed 1st in the 13th Annual KCF All-Girls National Championships held in #Chicago on Sunday (April 24). According to the Detroits News, the five University Prep Science & Math students, Jaidyn Hamilton, Lauren Bradford, Sa’Nya Burton, Gisele Motley, and Jada Hamilton, won in the tournament's "Under 14" category. Eighth-grader Jada Hamilton (Jaidyn Hamilton's twin sister) led her team to victory in the final round by checking her opponent's king then forking her bishop, the Detroit News reports. Head coach Kevin Fife said it was a "significant win" considering his team was this year's "underdog. " Organizers said the girls were among more than 440 players who competed. #blackgirlmagic #blackgirlsrock

A photo posted by Baller Alert ( @balleralert) on

Vancouver Mall Cowed By Chess Community

Vancouver chess players have won a battle with the Park Royal Shopping Centre, who recently tried to eject them after the players had been meeting regularly in the mall for 25 years. The mall's relationship with the chess players had been a good one; the mall even had a giant chessboard installed in the atrium in the past. Also, the players had paid to install dedicated chess tables in the mall. Those tables were removed several years previously.

The mall's position was that the chess players were taking up space needed for other food court customers. The players protested that they were paying customers as well. After some threats from the mall and much sympathetic publicity for the chess players, the mall is providing a dedicated space near the food court for the players to use. 

Vancouver players in a tournament way back in 1948 (Photo: Jack Lindsay).

Online Poker Depleting Chess In Russia

It has been 14 years since Russia last won gold -- at the 2002 chess olympiad in Bled, Slovenia. Prior to that, Russia (and the Soviet Union) won 12 consecutive gold medals from 1980 to 2002! While Russia remains a strong chess country, it is clear that it is no longer the untouchable juggernaut it once was. What has changed?

If you ask Gregory Matthieu, writing for the Chicago Tribune, he states that Russia's newfound vulnerability is attributable to the rise of online poker. Top players such as Alexander Grischuk, Dmitry Andreikin, and Almira Skripchenko (Ukrainian-born, now French) are extremely successful in online poker. The poker winnings available to them often dwarf those attainable through pure chess activities.

Matthieu's argument is compelling on the surface. Online poker did explode between 2001 and 2004 from near non-existence to a multi-billion dollar industry. However, one must not mistake causation for correlation. Other chess-playing countries have also had many chess players migrate to or dabble in online poker without a consequent reduction in national results. WGM Jennifer Shahade is but one notable example. 

Lev Alburt's Defection

In a time of increasing tensions between East and West after a prolonged thaw, GM Lev Alburt took the time to ruminate on his experience defecting from the Soviet Union.

His account emphasizes the pressures he felt living in the Soviet Union. Alburt defected in 1979, emigrated to the United States, and rapidly became one of the strongest players in there. Alburt first won the U.S. championship in 1984 and repeated in 1985 and 1990.

Go West, young man.

Union Worker Breaks Strike To Teach Chess

Local Chicago teacher Joseph Ocol recently broke with a union strike to teach chess. Mr. Ocol teaches a popular chess program at the Earle STEM Academy in Englewood.

In the context of an ongoing strike, Mr. Ocol couldn't abide the thought of telling his kids that there would be no chess.

Ocol received a warning from the union for his actions.

The Economics Of Professional Chess

The nitty-gritty of making a living in chess is a complicated business. In a recent piece for Yahoo Finance, GM Maurice Ashley, discussed how the typical chess professional pulls together the pennies necessary.

Ashley estimates that World Champion Magnus Carlsen makes around three to four million dollars a year. Below that, the top 20 players may make six figure incomes primarily through playing chess. For all others, it is currently necessary to combine incomes from coaching, simuls, appearance fees, books, etc.

Ashley theorizes about what it would take to raise the income of chess players. He postulates that the key is in faster time controls and better commentary. What say you? What do you think is necessary to make chess appealing to viewers, sponsors, and advertisers?

Woody Harrelson Playing Chess In Asheville, NC

Actor Woody Harrelson was recently spotted in Asheville, North Carolina's Pritchard Park playing chess. The actor is known to be an avid and skilled chess player. He was in Asheville to film for his upcoming movie, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a Martin McDonagh film which also stars Peter Dinklage and Sam Rockwell.

Harrelson has been seen playing chess during filming before. For instance, in 2005, he hobnobbed with the internet chess royalty that is #teamscandi (i.e. IM John Bartholomew) while filming A Prairie Home Companion in Minnesota.

Local Ashevillains (That's what you call them, right?) playing on a standing board at Pritchard Park.

Tourism At The Chess Olympiad

In a novel business venture, David Kerans is arranging tours in and around the next two chess olympiads in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2016 and Batsumi, Georgia in 2018.

Kerans is uniquely qualified to be a tour organizer as he is both a chess journalist and historian.

For chess lovers not fortunate enough to qualify for their national teams, the tours represent a unique opportunity to combine a holiday with one of the most pedigreed of all chess events.

The Bibi-Heybat Mosque — one of the incredible sights in Baku.

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