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Chess Under a Rocket: US Chess Celebrates National Chess Day Print E-mail
October 14, 2015
The King's Pawn:

A new short film was released on October 10, National Chess Day called, "The King's Pawn." IM Eli Vovsha, who worked on the film told US Chess, "It is a fictional take on the Man vs Machine matches from the 90s, and it is rather unique among chess-themed films in its sensitivity to chess detail."

Find out more about the film on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheKingsPawnFilm

Simul 4.jpg
Photo Scott Wilhelm

National Chess Day in Alabama

Space rockets, scholastic chess, and our nation's veterans

By Michael Ciamarra

Kicking off the National Chess Day weekend, the State of Alabama issued a proclamation declaring October 10 as ‘Chess Day in Alabama'.   With that recognition, several Chess Day events around the state ‘celebrated' chess and were geared to attract new players.

Importantly, the state's proclamation did not overlook the tireless work done on behalf of chess by schools and volunteers, "WHEREAS, Alabama's school chess coaches are to be commended for their promotion of chess to children. Educators who encourage all schools and community centers in the United States to engage in chess programs to promote problem-solving and critical thinking should be commended....and chess is a universal mind sport - that transcends all cultures: NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert Bentley, Governor of Alabama, do hereby proclaim October 10, 2015, as Chess Day in the State of Alabama."
Under the space rocket

The Madison City Chess League observed their National Chess Day weekend by inviting GM Alexander Stripunsky to Huntsville (known as Space City) to give a simultaneous under the Saturn V Rocket at the US Space and Rocket Center's Davidson Center for Space Exploration.   Stripunsky and IM Jake Kleiman then conducted a day-long chess camp on Saturday.

Executive Director of the Madison City Chess League, and school board member Ranae Bartlett was impressed with GM Stripunsky, "He is such a gentleman and very gracious with his time and talents while working with children who are at the beginning stages of their chess development.  He is also intense whether instructing in class or conducting recreational soccer activities with the kids during breaks.  It was a lot of fun watching him interact with our students."

"Beginning the weekend with a simul under the Saturn V rocket was truly magical.  During the simul one could hear a pin drop at times as the students were thinking while parents observed.  It was something very special for the participants and observers," Barlett explained.

Bartlett also said that was the first time the Davidson Center for Space Exploration hosted such an event and the first time a GM has ever appeared in Alabama for such an exhibition and chess camp.

Simul 7.jpg
Photo Scott Wilhelm

Benefit for Children's Hospital

What has now become a tradition on National Chess Day, the annual Chess Day Scholastic Tournament was held at the Brookwood Village, in Homewood, which is a suburb of Birmingham. The event was jointly sponsored by Books A Million, Children's of Alabama and CaesarChess.

Chess organizer, tournament director and coach Caesar Lawrence is a man on a mission. "Our goal has always been to showcase our sport," Lawrence said.  "Hundreds of people who are shopping will stop and watch the scholastic players.  Many people have no idea about organized chess activity.  I always have parents come up to me and ask how they can get lessons for their child or when is the next tournament."
National Chess Day Scholastic Tournament at the Brookwood Village shopping center Photo: Lori Graveling

All funds raised through the tournament entry fees were donated to Children's of Alabama.

You couldn't miss the rows of chess boards, clocks and young players focused on their games. The tournament was held right in the middle of the shopping center.  Chess handouts, Chess Life magazines, chess coaching information, chess web site information and a flier on the rules of the game were all available to the public.

For 14-year-old Nash Kreitlin, who joined the US Chess Federation and played in his very first tournament, it was a memorable day. "I won second place in my section.  I enjoyed playing and learning. I made some new friends. We are going to keep in touch and play online. I will continue to play in tournaments."  

"That is what National Chess Day is all about," Caesar Lawrence said.   

Lawrence organizes and directs chess tournaments throughout the year in Alabama and other states.  For the Chess Day Scholastic, he was assisted by Mark Stribling and Alabama's reining high school champion and Denker tournament participant, Jonathan Rasberry.  Alabama's state chess champion Scott Varagona came out to watch and encourage the young players.

Final Standings

Birmingham National Chess Day Scholastic:   Rook Section (K-12) 1st Place and 2nd Place - Cooper McCombs and Esther Graveling; 3rd Place - Anand Viswanathan; other prize winners: Andrew Robertson; Raj Patel; Robert Flynn; Amateur Section - 1st Place - Joseph Graveling; 2nd Nash Kreitlein; 3rd Eboni Wilson; other prize winners: Landon Opitz; Nathan Deese; Jaylon Jones; Novice Section - 1st Place - Jhordyn Porter; 2nd Luke Strole; 3rd Allen Frazier; other prize winners: Jaylen Frazier; Chayce Key; Adams Kings

Chess Day for our Nation's Veterans

Chess at the Birmingham Veterans Medical Center. National Chess Day was a day to ‘celebrate’ by these brave veterans who love to play chess for recreation and for a brain healthy lifestyle. (Photo: Michael Ciamarra)

National Chess Day was also part of the Birmingham Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC) Blind Rehab department.  Veterans who are blind and low-vision gathered Saturday morning to play chess, learn tactics and about chess playing opportunities for older adults and blind players.

"Chess is very popular with the Veterans," Seth Williams said. Williams works for the Veterans Affairs hospital in the blind rehab department.  "The Veterans tell me it helps with their memories, keeps them sharp and focused," Stacey Stephens, a rehab therapist at the VA, said.  Both Williams and Stephens are avid chess players themselves.

The Birmingham VAMC chess program "Mind Sports for Healthy Living - Checkmating Alzheimer's," is offered every Saturday morning to patients and area older Veterans.

Cedrick Jackson, is retired from the US Army and is going blind but that is not stopping him from playing chess. "I am glad to be here on National Chess Day. I enjoy chess so much. Chess helps me in so many different ways," he said. "I was afraid that I would not be able to ever play chess again because of my eyesight. I have learned to use the tactile chess set.  Now, tell me, did he just play the Bird's Opening (1.f4)?"

A good time had by all!


By Alan M. Kirshner

Hundreds of children and adults attended Saturday's, October 10, 2015, National Chess Day at Weibel Elementary School in Fremont, California, the mecca of scholastic chess in Northern California.  While all the outdoor chess activities were free there was a small charge for the Weibel Chess Quads, an annual Fall event for the last fifteen years.  I made one change this year.  I did not charge for any player who had never attended a U.S. Chess Federation tournament before.  All they had to do was join the U.S.C.F.   To be honest, I was disappointed that I did not have many takers.  The Quads drew 180 players. About the same I have had for many years.  This helped cover the cost of all the free events.

NorCal House of Chess, this year's U.S.C.F. Chess Club of the year, helped out by supplying not only 15 tables for our stations, but also brought along two Grand Masters to analyze games-GM Sevillano and GM Oliver Barbosa.  I missed Ted Castro, the owner of the NorCal House of Chess.  Ted was in Las Vegas attempting to win some money in the Millionaire Chess Competition. I owe a lot to Demetrius Goins, Director of the Shoreview Chess Club, who supplied the truck I used to haul equipment to and from the school.  Two other Clubs set up stations, Hanley's Chess Academy and Torres Chess and Music Academy.  Hanley's Chess Academy has recently made a presence in Northern California from their base in Southern California.  Chris Torres, the owner of the Chess and Music Program, brought the Susan Polgar Foundation National Open for Boys and Girls to the Bay Area last year and will again this year.  I have it from a reliable source that there might be some even bigger news from the Torres Chess and Music Academy for the chess world in a few months.

A few other chess celebrities were present. 


Jay Stalling, here from Southern California, set up a table to exhibit his Chess Academy program for scholastic players.  His booth was crowded all day long.  Hal Bogner, co-founder of Chess Magnet School, came by. 

NM Eric Schiller came to not only sell his numerous books, but to give a lesson on the Morra Gambit. Frisco Del Rosario, author of the First Book of Morphy and Capablanca, A Primer of Checkmate drew students to his usual inspiring presentation. 

IM Emory Tate played a blindfold simul against five individuals.  I have added his commentary on a draw he received below.

1. e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5
I decide to lunge in,  I had no idea of the rating of my opponents or their knowledge of theory.
4...d5 5.ed Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7. dc bc
Now I realized that I was a bit messed up, because black has played this at the highest grandmaster levels and holds well.. I knew that my opponent had skill and knowledge.)  Deep breath. 
8. Qf3 

I play a move which I do not understand, only to try for tactical confusion.
A calm response... showing that white is not really attacking, rather defending.
9. Be2
Played after some thought.. maybe Ba4, but the positional nature of such a move promises a very long game.  With five simultaneous games and no eyesight, long positional struggles are my enemy.  I must invite risk. 

Not to disappoint my young opponent puts me on my 'back foot".
10. Ne4 Ne4 11. Qe4
I made a clean escape with an extra pawn... and I await tactics  
An aggressive queen sally
12. d4! 
Top form move.  
12...Bd6 13. f4 (oops)

I am losing control after my opponent shocks me with his next..  Better moves exist. In particular, Expert Francisco Anchondo (and his new dog) suggest Bd2 with super-strong play.
Breaking my strategy, and now the California heat is making me sweat, just a bit.
14. Qe3 cd4 
The famous Zwischenzug.. in between move.. I am in critical condition here on board one.
15. Bb5+ 
A Zwischenzug of my own! 
15... bc6 16.Qe4!

A move played to create confusion!!! Most blindfold players would have a hard time seeing it.  My opponent even stuttered (Qe4?)  Yes.  And the battle continued. 
16...Rc8 (A mature move) 
17.fe Qe5 18.Qe5 Be5 19. Bc6 Nc6
I feared Rc6 more but I was prepared to resist.. maybe even Kd1?  I do not use computers, before or after, so I am not sure.
20. Bd2  AND I was happy to see the Queens disappear... I offered a draw with my last analysis running
21...d3 c3 Nb4 (tactics) Na3

with approximate balance.  Finally, had black decided to castle short.. I had Na3.. Knight on the rim, but holding on to life. Yes, I saw this.  Draw agreed!

NM and FWM Uyanga Byambaa went over chess games and taught chess to beginners and advanced players during the day.  She was not alone as other stations were staffed by some of our outstanding Northern California coaches and teachers. 

Eswaran Ramalingam and his staff introduced XCELL Chess to the public for one of the first viewings. XCELL Chess is a new online all-encompassing chess program.  This program when completed will provide about everything a chess student, a chess player, a chess parent, a chess coach and chess tournament director will need to improve their activities.  I am excitedly awaiting its appearance because one of the things I have been missing is a program that works with my Mac computers that can also transmit information in real time to those participating in a tournament.

One of the most popular, if not the most popular activity, was the Chinese Chess booth.  Two parents, Rob Chan and Mike Show, explained and taught Chinese Chess to a myriad of ethnic people who came by.  One of my favorite tables, staffed by Rob's Daughter Angela Chan, was Celtic Chess.  I just loved seeing the Isle of Lewis Chessmen being played in a board with concentric circles.  I wish I had had time to sit down and learn to play this early variation of chess.  I used a DGT board to transmit the top board in our Quads to an outside audience as analysis of the game in progress was done.  One of those analyzing the games was a former Weibel student Kevin Moy.  Kevin, whose top rating was 2180, also did a simul that was open to twelve players.  Chenyi Zhao, a current sixth grade student at Weibel whose top rating is 1917, played her first ever simul.  Neither Kevin nor Chenyi lost a game. Chenyi defeated a National Master in her simul debut.

Thanks to those that made Saturday, October 10, 2015 an exciting National Chess Day in Northern California.

I beg forgiveness for not mentioning everyone and all their contributions, but there are two more person who without their help this great event would not have taken place:  Tigran Darbinyan, my trusted Assistant and Christy Lin, the parent coordinator and excellent mapmaker.  Christy produced a site map of the day's activities that was posted large at the site and was available to those who came by to help us celebrate.


By Arlene Kleiman
Get out the Vote: All Pawns on Deck


The Incumbent King is facing difficult opposition in this year's campaign.  His Challenger is throwing everything he has into play.  While the current administration is reacting well to external threats & surrounded by a formidable support staff himself, it looked like it was anyone's game....

This year's National Chess Day tournament at the University of Memphis was held in the shadow of a closely contested Mayoral election, and while the buzz of politics was in the air, the contests over the board proved no less exciting for its 53 participants.  A welcome to the players was given & games were opened by the recently-elected President of the Tennessee Chess Association, Alan Kleiman.

The Scholastic sections (both USCF rated for returning players & unrated for those new to competitive play) saw decisive results up and down the pairing sheet.  With the exception of the youngest K-2 players, draws were practically non-existent, as tactical brilliancies or blunders allow fortunes to be made or lost in an instant, only to be repeated the following round.  Special recognition goes to the perfect-score champions in each section: Vikram Srinivas (UNR K-2), Andrew Derwin (UNR 3-6), & Aneesh Achanta (U900); as well as the clear champion with 3 of 4 in the remaining section, Adithya Suryaram (U500).


In the Adult/Over 900 section, the Youth were staking claim to the future. Devon Puckett, former Tennessee State Middle School Champion & Barber Tournament representative, not only upset the second seed Alain Cierna (an Expert), but was on the pressing side of a draw with top seed Graham Horobetz (a Master) on the top board in the last round, where time pressure & the exceptional endgame skills of his opponent prevented him from achieving solo victory. 

Such exciting contests provided thrills for players and spectators alike, who crowded around until the final results were verified.  In the end, it's not so much who wins or loses the campaign - it's how the contest is held & whether or not it engages those involved and those around it.  This National Chess Day, the choice was clear... Chess for Everyone!
Westwood, MA

By Nicholas P. Sterling, Ph.D. NESA, USCF Chess Tournament Director

Thanks to all the players who came to NESA in Westwood, MA for National Chess Day (in face of stiff competition elsewhere).   We had 10 players altogether, and one of them, Vittal Ranganath, gave me a tremendous game that ended in a dramatic draw.   This great game helped Vittal to earn the Silver Medal, and in addition to the Medal, Vittal took home as prize the book Weapons of Chessby Bruce Pandolfini donated by the Gold Medal Winner Eddie Griswold.   Much appreciation to Eddie for his generous donation, and congratulations to Vittal for his prize-winning performance.

Find more information about NESA here. 

Orlando Autumn Open and National Chess Day Scholastic

119 players participated in the Orlando Autumn Open

John Ludwig
John Ludwig (2398), who had taken a few weeks' vacation from chess, came back in style, defending "his turf" by scoring 5-0 in the 24-player Premier Section to win the top prize. Juan Pereira (2057) was a clear 2nd finishing at 4-1. The only other Master in the event was Corey Acor (2370), Florida's new Blitz and Quick Chess champion, who finished 3½ (losing only to Ludwig) and tying with Nikhil Kumar (2044) for 3rd.

Ryan Hamley and John Givler tied for 1st/2nd in the Under 2000 Section, while Nestor Reyes took a draw in the last round of the Under 1700 Section to guarantee his 1st place finish with a 4½-½ score.

In the Under 1400 Section unrated players Sathyanarayanan Nanuramamurthi and Christopher Budd did well with the former (Should we call him "Sathya" ?!) finishing 5-0 for the top spot (and a new 1690 rating), while Budd's score of 3½-1½ (far behind Sathya's) allowed him to receive a 1345 rating and  tie for 2nd/3rd with two others.

In the Scholastic (Under 1200) Section, Anish Bandharam (1150) gained 55 rating points as he also finished 5-0 and alone at 1st and with the top trophy. Shrey Gupta and Benjamin Chen tied for 2nd, with Gupta winning the Under 1000 trophy on tiebreaks. Neel Sahai (383) won 250 rating points as he won the Under 800 trophy over three others.

The event was run by Steven Vigil, organized by Harvey Lerman and held at the Double Tree Hilton at SeaWorld in Orlando.

Masterminds in Philadelphia

By Bradley Crable


The MasterMinds CC in Philadelphia, PA enjoyed a great day of chess! Our National Chess Day tournament consisted of a four round Scholastic Swiss and open quads. The most active area scholastic teams were out for this event, Minor Threats, Tri-Bridges, Paul Robeson, Enon Connected Pawns, and Masterman just to name a few of the fourteen teams present. We had players from the Tri-State area Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware competing for trophies! There were many exciting games with the kids from Masterman taking the first place team trophy and Enon Connected Pawns earned the second place team trophy.

There was a strong field of 20 in the Quads also from the Tri-State area. The clear winners were Don Battle, Torin Kuehnle, Dan Bell, and Akili DeBrady! Several of these games came down to last second conclusions as the games had cold hard cash on the line! We/re looking forward to NCD 2016!

National Chess Day, Where to Play?

By Larry Cohen

National Chess Day on October 10, 2015 and I had to decide where to play.  I decided that it would only be appropriate to play in a chess city.  However, there was not tournament in Chess Draw, NM or at Chess Reservoir, WY or in Chess Creek, ID.  Also, there were no tournaments in Knight, LA or Bishop, TX or Rook, PA or Queen, NM or King, NC.  Finally I did not see a tournament in Pawn Run, MD and I have never heard of any tournament in Sac City, IA.  So, I decided to play in Saco, ME on National Chess Day.  There were others who also came to play in order to celebrate our love of this wonderful game.

National Chess Day cake in Memphis, TN

Look for more reports from events on National Chess Day, including the Millionaire Chess Open (see Vanessa's West report on key tactics from the event ), the Washington Chess Congress and the Armed Forces Open.