The Kids Are Alright: A GM Eagle Scout And A Champion Cancer Survivor

The Kids Are Alright: A GM Eagle Scout And A Champion Cancer Survivor

| 16 | Misc

With Dortmund, Bilbao, Biel and the Sinquefield Cup all lined up back-to-back-to-back-to-back, you might mistakenly believe that late July and early August couldn't offer up any more chess stories.

Along comes our "In Other News" column to correct the record; once again we offer up some "offbeat" stories from the meandering chess circuit. This edition is chock full of youngsters and is fairly evenly split between feel-good stories and those that are less positive. Something for everyone, depending on your disposition!

We will start with the good and end with the bad. Luckily, there is no ugly.

Kayden Troff Is First GM With Eagle Scout Title

Thanks to the Jeanne Sinquefield, chess patron Rex Sinquefield's wife, the Boy Scouts now offers a chess merit badge. While the Sinquefields honored GM Kayden Troff for becoming an Eagle Scout in the middle of the 2016 U.S. Junior Championship, his journey began long before his cherished game earned a place on his sash.

GM Kayden Troff's Eagle Scout project was to host a chess camp for disabled children in his native Utah. (Photos courtesy Austin Fuller for the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.)

Roughly five percent of Boy Scouts attain the highest ranking — Eagle. That amounts to about two million young men in the last century. Troff is the very first young man to have the duel-designation of Eagle Scout and GM. The grandmaster title didn't even exist when the Eagle Scout title came to be.

While he could probably get into college with these achievements alone, they didn't help him this year as he tried to repeat his U.S. Junior triumph from 2014.

More than 100,000 boys have earned their chess merit badge according to Jeanne Sinquefield. That makes it around the 10th-most-popular activity of the non-required disciplines in scouting. Not surprisingly, Troff has secured his.

Troff received his award in the newly-created chess pocket park inside Forest Park. Jeannie Sinquefield presented his certificate and was joined by Thomas Kroenung and Rex Sinquefield (far right).

To help other scouts earn their badges, be sure to read this 10-part series on, discussing all the necessary elements to the chess merit badge.

A Knight's Tour Like You've Never Seen

Jenny Logan, whose interests include ballet, fencing, and chess, helped create this unique musical knight's tour composed by Jason Kouchak. Eat your heart out Koltanowski:

In the past, Logan has also teamed with Ray Morris-Hill, a frequent photographer at British chess events like the the London Chess Classic. Here's a mashup of ballet, fencing, and chess, all in one.

"Chess and dancing are so similar with all the patterns and invisible lines," Logan told "I am now a dancing queen who has learned the knight's tour through music. Maybe this will inspire more girls to play chess."

From Cancer To Castling

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia before grade school. Chemotherapy. Almost one year in complete isolation. And now, chess champion.

"Aadish," from Hyderabad, India, has quite a life story. He was one of only 15 children selected to compete in chess at the "World Children's Winners Games" in Moscow. Only children who've been stricken with oncological diseases are eligible.

Apparently the sportsmanship was so ubiquitous that this player shook hands with someone two boards away!

Aadish finished just outside the medals. Cancer-survivor Kristóf Szabolcs Kovács of Hungary who finished with gold. Several grandmasters offered their time at the event, as GMs Mikhail Antipov and Alexander Morozevich both played simuls against all comers.

Chess And Gender In New York City

Shifting from obscure Indian online journals to America's newspaper of record, chess was back in the New York Times last month. The U.S. Chess School, an elite series of camps that is the brainchild of IM Greg Shahade, was front and center. Full disclosure: I once helped organize one of these camps with Shahade in my hometown.

Specifically in question is the hackneyed topic of girls in chess. You're welcome to read over the thoughts of those in the chess community, but instead we will just print some choice quotes from NM Carissa Yip, the youngest-ever female chess master in the United States and video author!

When Shahade balked at her one-move written answer to a complicated puzzle, she said, "It's a brilliant move... You're so needy."

"It's much better to be a girl. In chess if you're 2200 and you're a guy, that's not really that important." (Thanks very much Carissa.)

Her dad, Percy, is probably glad he didn't stick to the usual culture of "taking girls to dance class." After all, she was leading the U.S. Women's Championship this year after three rounds.

Egyptian Wins African Individual Championship

Sure, that may not sound like a surprise considering that four of the top five players were from Egypt (and three of them GMs) in last month's competition in Kampala, Uganda. Actually, it was the fifth-highest Egyptian, and overall eighth seed, IM Abdelrahman Hesham that beat all others with 7.0/9.

Here he is with an inspired attack in round seven. The idea of 13...Nxf2 doesn't immediately appear playable, but White has a hard time getting his forces over to help guard f2. Still, the attack seems to stall several times, but Hesham keeps the initiative burning.

Other important tournament events include top-seed GM Ahmed Adly (2607) not getting an automatic qualification to the next World Cup. He drew an FM in round one and lost to another in round seven.

That second errant game came against FM Andrew Kayonde of Zambia, who earned the IM title and also finished second. Along with Hesham, he qualified for the 2017 World Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Three-Time Champions Out Of Olympiad

As reported on an earlier episode of ChessCenter, team Armenia will not be traveling to Azerbaijan for the 42nd Chess Olympiad next month. The country won the gold medal in the open division in 2006, 2008, and 2012.

Although several Armenians, both those living in Armenia and those living in other countries, competed in last year's World Cup in Baku, tensions between the two countries have been on the rise since then.

The Armenian team will not get to add to their gold collection, as they did here in 2012 in Istanbul. interviewed Armenian Chess Federation Vice President GM Smbat Lputian. Here's his explanation, in full:

"At the level of the would-be participants, professional chess players themselves are best suited to determine to what extent it is possible or not to represent their country in the best way. After internal discussions on this issue, the Armenian chess players refused to take part in this tournament. Not as the Vice President as the Chess Federation but as a chess player I understand the decision of our chess players as taking part in this kind of important tournament they have to possess inner and external peace in order to show their best results. It's a pity that according to chess players given the current situation Armenian-Azerbaijani relationship the latter is not possible. As a representative of the Armenian Chess Federation I would like to mention that when FIDE had not yet decided upon the locale of the largest team event in the chess world, the Armenian delegation suggested that a non-controversial locale be chose so as not to cause conflict, as naturally as Armenia wished to take part in the tournament in a fair manner. We regret that our offer was not accepted. And I regret that the tournament will be held without a recent 3-time Champion team, clearly an outcome that no fan of the sport would like to see. I would like that the whole world would be in peace and love, and that there would be competitions in sport and cultural events where there would be fair play and the winners and the losers would be friends."

Other players of Armenian descent will also not be competing, including would-be American women's board three, WGM Tatev Abrahamyan (far right). also asked the organizers of the event about the omission of the Armenians. We were referred to this interview with Baku Chess Olympiad Operating Committee Director and Azerbaijan Chess Federation Vice-President Mahir Mammedov.

"We provided the Armenian team with security guarantees," Mammedov said. "We are still ready for their arrival. If they do come, we will receive them."

Chess Dips In The Philippines

To be fair, this article detailing the decline of chess in the Philippines came out before GM Wesley So won the biggest tournament of his career. Well, actually So's departure is part of the problem. 

Despite hosting an olympiad, having a past FIDE president, growing Asia's first grandmaster, and other feats — the profession of chess player seems to be on the decline there. The main reason seems to be shrinking government support and a lessened monthly stipend afforded to top players.

GM Rogelio Antonio Jr. ("gmjoey") had his Philippine Sports Commission stipend cut by more than 75 percent recently. (Photo courtesy WGM/IM Alina L'Ami).

It would be unfair to only cite So. As the article describes, GMs Mark Paragua and Oliver Barbosa have been in the U.S. for a while. GM Richard Bitoon is also moving to Lubbock, Texas, presumably to be part of the Texas Tech college team. GM Julio Sadorra also went to college in Texas and remains in the U.S. too.

GM Rogelio Antonio Jr., better known as "gmjoey" remains, and he makes his second home here on He will be back at the Olympiad this year, representing his country once again.

How To Make Your Own Chess Set

Sure, you can go out and buy one in minutes, but where's the fun in that? Instead of going through the process, we will let the pictures do the talking.

Follow these steps for a wooden set.

Here's a brass queen in the making.

A recycled set for our "green" members.

The "Tesla" chess set uses vacuum tubes as pieces.

Do you have insects encased in amber around your house? Put them to good use in this organic chess set. Captured pieces go in a "specimen drawer."

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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