Best of CLO 2011: Meet the Judges and Runners-Up
January 19, 2012

Janis Nisii
The Best of CLO 2011 competition is a look back at some timeless articles from last year, that you may have missed during the rapid pace of online news. For an idea of how it works, see the 2010 results, 2009 results and 2008 results. Look for the countdown one weekday at a time, starting tomorrow, January 20th. Without further ado, meet this year's judges!

Meet the Judges

Aignerfpawn.jpgMichael Aigner hopes to recover enough from an extended illness to play at tournaments once again, and watch his star students battle with Grandmasters. In the meantime, he pushes wood on ICC and other chess websites under the username "fpawn."  Follow him on Twitter at or read his Blog at

Myron and Rachel Lieberman have been involved with chess organization and promotion for a combined total of 101 years. They helped prepare the USCF Executive Board and Delegates' Meeting minutes and other documentation through the 2000s. Both have served as judges for the CJA and CLO. Myron is a USCF National Tournament Director and FIDE International Arbiter. He has attended all USCF Delegate meetings since 1974 and served on the USCF Policy Board (the predecessor to the Executive Board) from 1978 through 1987, holding the offices of Secretary (1978-81), Treasurer (1981-84), and Vice President (1984-87). He is currently the Secretary of the US Chess Trust and a USCF Delegate at Large. Myron wrote the chapter on history and statistics in The Best of Lone Pine by Grefe and Waterman. Myron Lieberman became the primary chess organizer and TD in Central Arizona for all of the major local clubs. Myron Lieberman's primary chess interest currently is to help others get involved with chess, chess instruction, chess clubs, and chess events and to promote chess as much as he can. He is the Chair of the USCF's Outreach Committee.

Liebermans.jpgRachel first became involved with chess in 1963 when accompanying Myron Lieberman to the Motorola Chess Club and the Tempe Chess Club. She realized the importance of chess to society when she saw firsthand the positive effect that chess had on youth who attended the Tempe Chess Club. Rachel Lieberman is a very active advocate of chess for prevention and presented a paper entitled “Chess – A Positive Alternative and a Powerful Tool for Prevention” to an annual meeting of the National Organization for Parenting, Pregnancy, and Prevention (NOAPP). She has been an officer of the Tempe Chess Club, the Arizona Chess Association and the Arizona Chess Federation, Inc.. She served as an Arizona USCF Delegate and is a Delegate at Large. She also served on the USCF Policy Board as USCF Secretary from 1993 through 1999. Rachel Lieberman has been given the title of “Director of Prevention Programs” (She is an unpaid volunteer.) and continues to let the outside world know of the benefits of chess.  (Myron and Rachel conferred and determined their rankings together and will count as one vote.)
erikchess.jpgErik Murrah began playing chess in late 2007 after battling an addiction to gambling. He decided to focus his competitive energy on something far less destructive and sank his passion into chess. "My peak rating is 1760, and I work extremely hard to improve. In 2009, I gained 434 USCF rating points.  I have two beautiful children, an amazingly hot wife (especially for a chess nerd) and I do public relations work for a law enforcement agency."

He runs a fun, light-hearted chess blog and has a web comic at  ( Eric frequently creates digital wallpaper for chess enthusiasts (all of which can be found at 

He also volunteers at a local elementary school teaching chess to at-risk school children. In 2009, Eric became the South Carolina Amateur Co-Champion.   Follow him on Twitter @weaksquare.

Janis Nisii (pictured above) is an international chess journalist and has reported on several major elite tournaments for magazines such as New In Chess, Chess (UK), 64 (Russia), Jaque (Spain), Europe Echecs (France) andSchach (Germany). She is a regular contributor to Torre&Cavallo-Scacco (Italy).
This year, ICC published her two-part audio interview with Aronian - Part I (45 minutes) and Part II (1 hour including his annotated game).

Janis lives in Rome, Italy, together with her cat Alice and works as a manager in the insurance industry.
She claims that her beloved cat Beppe (1995-2009) was able to play some chess, even if his skills were rather dubious, Beppe’s trademark opening being 1.a3 2.Ra2 (a rare example of so-called pet’s pet openings). :)

Jessicastudent.jpgJessica Era Prescott (neé Martin) has been a chess teacher for more than 14 years in Tucson, New York City, and Charlotte.  She has worked for non-profits, local, and national organizations, and started her own organization in 2008: Over The Chessboard.   

Jessica developed and organized the Girls Chess Academy at The International School with 9Queens in Tucson.  She continues the Queens Academy in Charlotte, North Carolina.  The International School of Tucson has since created a scholarship in her name.

Jessica has been ranked in the top 100 women chess players in the U.S. Jessica is also a writer and the co-editor of Plume Zine, a hand-bound zine.  She is a weekly author for and she tutors home-schooled children in reading comprehension and English.  Find more details about Jessic'a upcoming Kings and Queens Championship on January 28th at

Galen160.jpgGalen Pyle is an avid chess player who owns the Portland Chess Shop LLC in Portland, Oregon. As a passionate games player and international traveler who has been to twenty-nine countries, Galen has received Grandmaster chess lessons in Armenia, joined the Bangkok Go Team in Thailand and played poker cash games at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Reed College where he studied the philosophy of mathematics. Inspired by the RZA's Hip-Hop Chess Federation, Galen is trying to make chess cool in urban culture. At his storefront, Portal Games, Galen sells a full-line of chess products and hosts rapid chess tournaments. The Portland Chess Shop's tournaments in 2012 will be broadcasted live at The games from the tournaments will shoutcasted by FM Evan Ju and Galen at Galen also works as a systems administrator for Colville Consulting in Portland, Oregon. In that job, he delivers cloud computing to hedge funds.

Born in Costa Rica, Alejandro Ramirez relocated to the United States to attend the University of Texas at Dallas and is now one of America's top Grandmasters. He became a GM at just 15-years old and played in several Olympiads for Costa Rica.  He now plays for the United States and is currently rated 2594 FIDE and 10th in the country at 2668 USCF. Alejandro is also known as a lucid teacher and commentator. He has recently commented on games and also contributed a story for Chess Life Magazine on his 2010 US Open victory. Ramirez graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a masters degree in Art and Technology.


This year's Best of CLO competition was highly contested and all of the following articles were just a few points away from #10. The first runner-up was:

The Reincarnation of the Fight Club by GM Josh Friedel January 19, 2011
GM Josh Friedel plans to write another article for CLO on the same event, the Northern California International, held this year in Fremont at the NorthCal House of Chess. Follow Josh on his official website and twitter.

A very peculiar report of a tournament, which starts like a short  novel with a lot of ‘behind the scenes” told in a brilliant and humoristic style. The games provided are quite interesting and the commentary of the tournament is very entertaining, probably helped by the fact that the tournament showed some good fighting chess. Great article- Janis Nisii
Greg on Chess: the Trouble with Round Robins by IM Greg Shahade
IM Greg Shahade is one of CLO's most popular and controversial writers. See his latest pieces on norms part I and part II and "Stop the Draw." Also see Greg's personal website and check out the website of the TV show pilot he created with CLO editor Jennifer Shahade and Daniel Meirom, the Xtreme Chess Championships. 

The best way to stop cheating is to remove incentives since you can't legislate ethics. IM Shahade makes the point well that when there are minimal incentives to cheat Round Robins are OK- Myron Lieberman

Fascinating and horrifying!  This article clued me in to things I was not aware of (cheating!) and was very enticing--Jessica Era Prescott
Nicky and Melinda's Tournament Adventures by Melinda J. Matthews  
Melinda writes personal and lyrical accounts of chess trips with her son Nicky. Recent pieces for CLO by Melinda include a report on the National Youth Action East and a piece on the Barber/Denker and the US Open in Orlando.

This is a good human interest story and I appreciate and fully support Ms. Matthews' attitude toward coaches- Rachel Lieberman

Excellent perspective article!  It’s critical to have the point of view of parents regarding these major events if we want to continue to encourage our kids to participate.  I was blown away by the storm of the story-- Jessica Era Prescott

The Staunton Code Part I, Part II and Part III by Bob Basalla
The Staunton Code by Bob Basalla is a lyrical fictional story. Set aside some time and read all three.

This is an excellent story that can appeal to the general public as well as to chess players. It is essentially an  adaptation of the very successful “The DaVinci Code” to the chess community- Myron Lieberman

I must confess that I have always been biased towards non-fiction chess articles, such as tournament reports and instructional pieces.  This short story struck a nerve and made me consider something completely different. While most chess players are familiar with the art of the Staunton set, it is a pleasure to read this colorful description of the pieces: "castle turreted rooks, horse head bust knights, mitered bishops, scallop tiara-topped queens and cross tipped kings."  --Michael Aigner

Nakamura: Second and Going Solo by Macauley Peterson
Macauley Peterson is a chess journalist and multi-media producer. He has also been recognized as "Chess Journalist of the Year." See his most recent piece for CLO on Nakamura and Kamsky in Wijk aan Zee. You can also follow his radio show, "The Full English Breakfast" at the official website, twitter and facebook.

The protagonist of the story, Hikaru Nakamura, is the strongest US chess player and I am always interested in learning about his trials and tribulations battling the chess elite. This article reviews Nakamura's highs and lows with respect to chess in the past year and does a good job of speaking about his psychological disposition. I like that the author focuses on Nakamura's achievement in the London Chess Classic and his short-lived collaboration with Kasparov--Galen Pyle

The US Chess School Comes to Saint Louis by Victor Shen
The first runner-up was in a near tie with the #10 article, The US Chess School Comes to Saint Louis by Victor Shen. Victor, a freshman at Columbia University, just won clear first at the Liberty Bell Open. See the US Chess Scoop video here. Victor's story about the US Chess School session at the Saint Louis Chess Club was both informative and fun to read.

I find the US Chess School articles to be especially valuable for their instructional value, both for adults and youngsters aspiring to achieve rapid improvement- Michael Aigner

I enjoyed this article because I liked the pictures and player's profiles in the "Meet the Students" section- Galen Pyle

Look for the countdown of articles 10 to 1 with one article announced each weekday starting tomorrow, Friday, 1/20/12.