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Jen on Burning Boards II and the USCL Bubble Print E-mail
By Jennifer Shahade   
April 11, 2008
FM Elliot Liu

In the first installation of "Burning Boards", held at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York, artist Glenn Kaino created a tournament with a twist: the chess pieces were lit candles that descended in height from king to pawn.  A second edition of Burning Boards was held last weekend in San Diego, at a 20-car garage that was converted into an art gallery by Eloisa Haudenschild, who has one of the world's most extensive collections of contemporary Chinese art.

 Burning Boards was the headliner in the weekend of art programs entitled, "Disorderly Conduct." (More on the non-chess programming on my personal site.) Last year, Glenn paired chessplayers with artists, but this time he decided to level the competition, so I played against FM Elliot Liu. The San Diego local, who will be attending Stanford in the Fall, was a great sport during the game. He helped me de-wax my tongs and place pieces on squares that reached from the back would cause a domino fire effect. Nf6, in particular, was hard to play without his help. 

Jennifer Shahade  

It began as a normal chess game, a Classical Dragon in which White is slightly better. The black candles burnt down much faster than the white ones, for reasons that are still unclear to me but should be resolved for future editions of this event. When Elliot infiltrated with his queen, he didn't even play Qxa6 and Qxd6 as the game score below suggests, as those pawns had already completely melted. That’s actually why I played Bxd4, I was hoping to get rid of b5 and a6 before they disappeared.  I think that in a real game, I'd prefer to hold on to the dark-squared bishop. Even playing b5 and allowing Nc6 is probably OK, as long as I can contest the light square domination with e6 at some point.  

Melting pawn structure

Although none of the events mentioned in the rest of this blog involve fire of any kind, most have some unusual element.

Upcoming and Ongoing

Americans GM Gregory Kaidanov, IM Irina Krush and Eric Moscow are all playing in a strong round robin in Norway. Check out the official website, and look for future updates on CLO. Meanwhile, Hikaru Nakamura is playing and blogging on his progress in the French League. 
Chessbase reports that the Kamsky-Topalov match is likely to occur in Lvov, Ukraine; Look for more details on CLO after confirmation.

FM Mike Klein will update us on the Carolina battle between Chris Mabe of N.C and Timur Aliyev of S.C. finishing this weekend (April 11-13.) For games and information on the match and the junior title won by Jonathan McNeil, see www.scchess.org.

After my lament a few days ago about the lack of norm opportunites for two-time Dos Hermanas champ Jorge Sammour Hasbun, I received word from organizer Chris Bird that Jorge will play in the New England Masters (August 11-15.) 

The Western Massachusetts Chess Association is running a weekly Game/100 out of the Ludlow Library. (April 19-May 17, 413-209-9450 for more info.) Organizer Frank Kolasinski encourages New Englanders to get off their computers and step up. He told CLO, " Internet competition has…propel(ed) the level of chess strength far beyond anything we've seen since Fischer's ideas and insights revolutionized the game. There will never be any substitute for the excitement and experience of tournament chess, face to face." 

I'm thinking about playing otb again myself, in the 2008 Curacao International , partly because unlimited pina coladas, sunshine and beachside wireless make it my ideal chess tournament. I have little time to prepare, so I’m not 100% sure yet. You can help me decide by emailing advice on good openings that require zero preparation, especially against 1.d4 and 1.c4.

Also coming up is the 2nd annual Fantasy Chess competition in conjunction with the Frank Berry U.S. Championship. I just got the Monroi PCMs (Personal Chess Managers) in the mail, and as sad as I am not to keep one, I'm happy to announce that two lucky CLO readers will own them next month! Fantasy Organizer and vice-commissioner of the U.S. Chess League, Arun Sharma, will post the rules next week and registration will begin in early May.
U.S. Chess League Withdrawal

Speaking of groundbreaking events, if like me, you are suffering from U.S. Chess League withdrawal, you can console yourself by checking out the April Chess Life Magazine, where commissioner IM Greg Shahade wrote an article, or by checking the Game of the Year standings, which are down to the bubble pick. I am second to last in the judges competition but I am excited to see if my top four picks, none of which have been selected yet, will finish in the order I ranked them. The final six games are posted below. Feel free to post your own rankings or top pick in the comments section.

Letter problems

Interacting with artists who are also chess fans last weekend caused me to rethink the annoying inaccesibility of chess. For people who don’t play chess, are any moves actually aesthetic? Beautiful chess moves are usually about hidden values like depth, paradox or a sea change in the evaluation.  For non-chessplayers, aesthetics in chess must have something to do with either the way the pieces look or the configurations they make, which to chessplayers seems like the most watered down type of chess beauty, sort of like judging a story by its font.

Composed problems in the shapes of letters are rare antidotes to my last paragraph's complaint. Look out for Gary Kevin Ware's article on "Letter Problems" later this month, which will present this theme.

A Final Thought Experiment

I'd like to show chess fans who know the rules but not much else ten of the most beautiful chess positions of all time and ten ordinary positions. If I ask them to pick out the ten real gems, do you think the results would be totally random or the classic positions would rise to the top? Post or e-mail your hypotheses. Perhaps the results will show up on this blog, in which case I promise it will not be an  April Fool's Joke.