Tuesday, September 24

Too weak, too slow!

During my vacation, I leave this video to entertain readers of all ages.  World #1 Magnus Carlsen (wearing green shirt) plays an over-the-board bullet match (1 minute game) against the speedy Laurent Fressinet, the #3 ranked Frenchman at 2708.  Is Magnus really too weak and too slow?  Watch for the unexpected checkmate at the end!

Monday, September 16


Setting up one of the famous Beer Tents at the Oktoberfest in Munich.

The Alps near Berchtesgaden.
Once again, I will spend much of the fall season on vacation in Germany.  No, this extended trip has little to do with chess.  Instead, my parents and I plan to spend time with family and old friends in the shadows of the grandiose Alps.  The itinerary includes a day among the throngs of tourists at the real Oktoberfest--gleefully singing while drinking beer by the mug and devouring 2-foot-wide soft pretzels!

Despite the change in scenery, I usually begin to miss sunny California after a few weeks.  Fortunately, I expect to have reliable internet access.  And I might even get to push wood at the Traunstein Chess Club. Schachmatt! 

Saturday, September 7

Sinquefield Cup Starts on Monday

Carlsen plays basketball at Webster. Photo: Truong
Aronian plays blitz with amateurs. Photo: CCSCSL

Over the next week, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis hosts an unprecedented chess event.  Never before have Grandmasters rated above 2800 FIDE squared off in a tournament on American soil.  Indeed, the four participants average an astronomical 2797 in the international rating system.  The Sinquefield Cup, named after chess club benefactor Rex Sinquefield, pits the two highest rated players in the country against the top two in the world for a prize fund of $170,000!

Final Standings
  • 4.5 Magnus Carlsen (2862)
  • 3.5 Hikaru Nakamura (2774)
  • 2.5 Levon Aronian (2802)
  • 1.5 Gata Kamsky (2741)

The spotlight will fall upon the two visitors, in particular #1 Magnus Carlsen, the challenger and heir apparent to the reigning World Champion Viswanathan Anand in November's title match.  The 22 year old Norwegian has become a jack of all trades, moonlighting as a fashion model and chess coach for little children, along the way rubbing elbows with TV comedians and powerful billionaires!   At the chess board, he has exhibited few weaknesses and broke the all-time record rating achieved by his mentor, ex-champion Garry Kasparov.  He carries the mantle of favorite, although this event distracts from preparation before the Anand match.

If Carlsen has bigger fish to fry, then the other three Grandmasters will no doubt take advantage.  World #2 Levon Aronian hails from the chess mecca of Armenia, where as a child he studied with Melik Khachiyan, the gregarious Grandmaster now residing in Los Angeles.  The strongest Americans, Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky, won a combined seven US Championships, including the last five.  Nakamura currently holds the higher rating (by 31 points), but the veteran Kamsky narrowly missed playing for the world championship four times, twice in the mid 1990s and twice within the past five years.

The Sinquefield Cup kicks off on Monday with the pairings Carlsen vs Kamsky and Nakamura vs Aronian.  The double-quad format runs six rounds, daily except for the rest day on Thursday.  The CCSCSL promises a spectacular multimedia presentation for the Sinquefield Cup, with Grandmasters Yasser Seirawan and Maurice Ashley conducting live analysis of every round.