World Peace Through Chess, The Triple Crown, And Other News

World Peace Through Chess, The Triple Crown, And Other News

| 17 | Misc

In this edition of "In Other News,"'s monthly odds-and-ends of chess news, you'll see that the chess "Triple Crown" is about as rare are horse racing. Chess is also used several times to advance world peace, and also the go-to metaphor for the way the media describes a certain orange-haired politician.

Enjoy this lightning round, or should we say, "blitzkrieg," of chess in the news.

The Triple Crown Of Chess

It took 37 years for a horse to win the three premier races for three-year-old thoroughbreds, but it only took NM Max Lu one weekend to win his triple crown

Main photo: American Pharoah wins the 2015 Belmont Stakes. By Mike Lizzi via Wikipedia. 

At May's Supernationals VI in Nashville, TN, which became the largest American chess tournament ever held, Lu won all three premier national events. He won Thursday afternoon's K-6 Bughouse Championship, then that evening won the K-6 Blitz Championship. Over the next three days, he won the K-6 National Championship to complete the triple crown.

Just for good measure, the former youngest-ever U.S. master also won the preceding 5th Grade National Championship in December, 2016.

I guess the only question is: Who would you rather announce the final chess moves in a triple-crown attempt: GM Maurice Ashley or Tom Durkin?

Kasparov-Deep Blue: Real And Fake News

Much was written last month about the 20-year anniversary of GM Garry Kasparov's loss to Deep Blue, but this enjoyable mini-documentary by the BBC explores the thinking of the IBM team. Both programmers and grandmaster helpers (Joel Benjamin) reflect on that history-making day:

For a more lighthearted take on the after effects of that match, you can read the parody/satire site "The Onion," which claimed Kasparov's ex-wife celebrated quite a different anniversary with Deep Blue.

Does Chess Make You Smart Or Do Smart People Play Chess?

This is one of the seemingly endless questions in chess. For years the general consensus was that chess could promote intelligence, but as this news report in March showed, the science is not so sure.

Chess educators may want to turn away as this report adds another weight onto the "chess doesn't affect cognitive ability" scale. However, the comprehensive review of studies did notice some correlation, before writing it off to small sample sizes and, actually, a placebo effect.

So now it's a "red pill-blue pill" question: If playing chess only makes you think you are smarter, and therefore you perform better at cognitive tasks, doesn't that produce the desired effect anyway?

Two Chess For Peace Events

Many people derive the most happiness in their life while at a chess board, but one chess player is pure Happiness. Ten-year-old Happiness Mutete personifies how Central Africa has moved beyond the horrors of the mid-1990s.


Ten-year-old Happiness Mutete of Rwanda finished with 3/6 and was the third-place female in the Open Section. | Photo: James Karuhanga.

This year's fourth edition of the Genocide Memorial Chess Tournament took place earlier this month in Kigali, Rwanda, the same country that lost between 500,000-1 million people in only a little over three months in 1994. The event invited other neighboring countries like Uganda and Burundi (who were also affected by the genocide as the place where Tutsi refugees sought safety).


The Genocide Memorial itself in Rwanda's capital. | Photo: Jerome Deveix.

The Ugandan players were the top seeds and four of them finished in a tie for first in the International Section: FM Haruna Nsubuga, Allan Ssonko (not a bad chess name!), FM Harold Wanyama, and Simon Gonza.

USA Vs. Russia Vs. Norway

Another event meant to bring cultures together didn't match rival tribes but rather Cold War foes. American and Russian civil servants squared off recently in a chess tournament at the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C. (well, Norway too, since you can't have a chess event without Norway these days!). This was even a prequel of sorts to the World Team Championships that are currently underway (all three countries are competing there, too). 

This "Chess For Peace" tournament was begun by Russia Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak as an add-on to the recent 2016 World Championship match (which of course featured a Norwegian, a Russian, and held in the U.S.).


Norway and Russia also used the tournament to build bridges, which can't hurt since the two share a land border of recently-increasing attention.

As mentioned in the article, the idea is reminiscent of the "Ping Pong Diplomacy" that came out of the 1970s with the U.S. and China.

The winner was David Sherman, an American federal government worker who appears to be this 2000 FIDE-rated player and National Master in the US Chess Federation. His prize was two business-class seats on Aeroflot to Moscow.

"I'm a chess player, where am I supposed to go? To Tuscaloosa, Alabama? No, I go to Russia," Sherman said.

Kislyak said he hopes to have the event every year. Although neither GM Magnus Carlsen or GM Sergey Karjakin attended in person, Karjakin sent in a video explaining that chess can unite cultures and bridge demographic differences. He said he saw this first hand in New York last November when U.S. fans warmed to him as the world championship match went on.

Chess As Political Metaphor

It seems no comparison of which side of the aisle is outthinking the other is complete without intoning "chess" these days. You've heard it before: One side is playing checkers while the other is playing chess. 

The newest metaphor, which is already become hackneyed, is that President Donald Trump is playing "three-dimensional chess" while his opponents are only operating on the standard two dimensions. (This reporter began to track the usages and there's been at least 10 utterances of this idea in the last month.)


3D Chess: From "Star Trek" to U.S. politics. (Image: Wikipedia)

Here's an evaluation of that very phrase by "The New York Times." We will leave it to you to decide if it is appropriate!

The Father-Son Dynamic Through Chess

Did you forget to get dad something for Father's Day? How about sit down and read this article together, then play a game.

It's about what all fathers eventually come to realize: Their kids will eventual surpass them in everything. Chess very much included.


This month's "long read" comes from boxing and chess writer/filmmaker Brin-Jonathan Butler. In case you haven't flown Southwest Airlines in a while, check out his fantastic first-person examination of what chess and Jose Capablanca means to Cuba. (And also recall our own Peter Doggers blog about his chess-filled holiday there last year!)

The island nation of 11 million has produced more than 40 grandmasters according to Butler, an astounding number. He writes that it was due to Fidel Castro's banning of professional sports and subsequent channeling of resources to baseball, boxing, and chess.


The final resting place of Jose Capablanca in the Cementerio de Cristobal Colon. | Photo: Peter Doggers.

Butler knows his way around the country, and around chess. He had already written a book about Cuban boxing and he also has a documentary coming out about Cuban-American relations through the prism of boxing. Butler was also on site with notebook in hand at several high-level chess events in the past year; expect more from him on chess in the near future.

One quibble in the article: Butler quotes an anonymous handler named "Fernando" who claims that no "top" Cuban players have ever left the island. While it's true that the very top have remained, there are several Cuban GMs who have defected or moved to the U.S.

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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