Who gets to play the World Champion ?

By Leo Solal, Premier Chess Business Development Manager

The Candidates Tournament is approaching as we’re getting closer to the end of the year. It will be held in Russia in March-April of 2020. There are several ways to qualify for this throughout various tournaments and other invitations, based on statistics, and past achievements. For instance Fabiano Caruana is already in since he was the 2018 Word Championship pretender. On the other hand whoever wins the FIDE Grand Swiss Tournament 2019, which is actually being held at the Isle of Man, will also secures himself a spot for the Candidates. By the way whoever wins the Candidates Tournament will be challenging the Word Champion for the title of the strongest chess player.

While the end of the year is arriving, qualifications are becoming more and more scarce. In fact two seats will get taken away by the top two finishers of the FIDE Grand Prix 2019, which takes a huge spotlight on the chess world. Indeed the FIDE Grand Prix is a series of four chess tournaments and only the strongest players get invited. There is still Hamburg (4-18 November) and Tel-Aviv (10-24 December) left to be played but at the moment Shakriyar Mameyderov and Alexander Grischuk have gotten the most points.

Finally there is a wild card (who is eligible based on past results in some of the qualifying tournaments and picked by the organizer, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave is at the moment qualified to be the wild card) and whoever has the highest rating average will also make it there (Anish Giri right now). Obviously the top two finishers at the 2019 World Cup, Teimour Radjabov and Ding Liren, have the right to compete for the 2020 FIDE Candidates. So who do you think is going to be playing Magnus Carlsen at the end ?

How to consistently get stronger over the board ?

By Leo Solal, Premier Chess Business Development Manager

Chess requires consistent practice and an objective state of mind to keep on getting to the next level. Unlike other sports where presuming that you’re the best may give boost your self-confidence and push you to greater heights, doing so here is probably going to do more harm than good. I’m not saying that believing in you is bad, on the contrary we should believe in ourselves but similarly to other activities, doing something over and over again will get us to where we want only if we employ the right methodology. But which training technique is going to make us improve and should we all have the same approach to become stronger players ?

Opening knowledge is quite primordial when it comes to getting a decent middle-game position and our comfort level with the position we get. For instance at club level the dragon is quite popular at and the likelihood to reach some tabiya is pretty likely. So you’re an e4 player and you’ve noticed that you’ve been getting this exact same position in the Sicilian and you decide to do some homework, which is a wise thing to do since the dragon is a dangerous opening.

After a while you memorize a couple of more moves and you go back to your local club and end up with a nagging edge around move 20. But how did that happen ? Remembering moves and just re-playing a line in which White ends up with a slight advantage is enabling you to get good position out of the opening but now what ? And is this chess is supposed to work, just pure memorization ? Anyway your clock is ticking and we must dive back into the game as the you’re out of the opening in even deeper water.

Now you and your opponent traded a few more pieces, you’re a pawn up but the position looks even more unclear to you as you’re not familiar at all with this situation since you’ve never played so good against Jeffrey. Then what are the conditions to be considered an experienced and knowledgeable competitor who is able to convert some sort of advantage into a winning endgame. Well since there are less pieces at this point of the game brute calculations and forced lines should be popping in and out out of your brain. Whether it’s figuring out the best way to bail out of a dangerous situation where your opponent’s pieces are dangerously aiming at your King or thinking through how to rightly put in motion the combination of moves that will allow you to simplify the game into a simple and much better endgame, calculation will be a big part of the equation.

At this point your clock is ticking down to a few remaining minutes and you’re struggling to even remembering if you know how to win this rook endgame. A pawn up but it’s your king is somewhat far away from it and your opponent’s king is getting closer and closer to your only hope for winning. Well in times like that experience may be of importance as far as not feeling overwhelmed by the time pressure and just losing your ability to play right, but more importantly your knowledge of endgame is quite primordial, and nothing better but to do endgame puzzles for that.



Preceding the Caro-Kann Defence

By Leo Solal, Premier Chess Business Development Manager

Chess players have reputation, just like openings. Indeed a person with good manners may tend to play a solid and sound opening while a lesser civil individual might go for strategies that are perceived as unreliable. The Caro-Kann Defence belongs to the first group. Not played so much at the really high level anymore (except maybe by Anand) this solid chess variation has had its time during the Short era. Nowadays it is adopted by players who may expect to just outplay their opponent through maneuvering during the middle-game or just better pawn-structure knowledge through the endgame. Evan Rabin, just tried it out during the Canadian International Open last weekend, so let’s see what happened !

National Master, Evan Rabin came back with 4/5 points, tying for 2nd place in the B Section. This game shows how he outplayed his opponent from the end of the opening throughout the remaining of the game. Well played Evan !

Have you ever been to the Chess Forum ?

By Leo Solal, Premier Chess Business Development Manager

Two weekends ago I met with my friend Frank at the chess forum. We had already agreed to get together there on Sunday, in order to play some friendly chess games. He’s got strong chess foundations, but he says he’s somewhat rusty. Quite a while ago Frank used to play in the Banker’s league in New-York, and he knows his way around the chess crowd. Originally from Italy he moved to New-York with his family when he was just a few years old. Chess has somewhat popped in and out of his life, but he’s always maintained a certain habit of playing, practicing and enjoying the game. Now he’s retired from working with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and is looking forward to get back in shape chess wise.

On the other hand Otar is in his thirties and lately, he has been regularly practicing his chess game. He regularly comes by to the chess forum, and he’s one of the few players that gives me tough games. Otar is in great physical shape and likes to show up during the evening. You can see him playing against Frank on this picture, against who he won most games. It was a great fight that I witnessed, from two players with drastically different background and distinct chess background.

The chess forum is a place I enjoy going to after work to wait out for new players to come in and play, or just to talk with tourists on their perspective on the city and their experience. If you ever come by don’t hesitate to ask for us and if we’re around we might play some fun chess. The great thing about this place is that they don’t charge kids and only 1$ per hour for seniors. So if you’re looking for a place to take your grandparents or your grandchildren out this might be a good choice. Besides the owner is really friendly and also has a bunch of atypical chess sets on sale. Imad Khachan has made the chess forum grow for over 20 years now, and we appreciate his constant effort to promote chess throughout Greenwich Village. Indeed you will find this place by 219 Thompson Street, 2 block away from Washington Square and this is where I met (NM) Evan Rabin, CEO of Premier Chess !

Otar and Frank at the Chess Forum
Otar (left) playing with Frank (right) a chess game


What does the National Chess Day could remind us of ?

By Leo Solal, Premier Chess Business Development Manager

Chess is a game of skills, focus and dedication like many other sports but unlike soccer, basketball and many other popular athletics only practice doesn’t make perfect. Playing against an experienced and talented player without the required preparation is comparable to making a lightweight fighting against a heavyweight in boxing. Failures and crushing losses are more likely to arise, and more than once, when trying to perfect our chess understanding but there are some misunderstanding around that beautiful art – “I understand, as any history chess has been surrounded by many myths” – Garry Kasparov.

Today is the official National Chess Day, October 9th, supposedly celebrated the 2nd Saturday of October, and proclaimed in 1976 by the 38th President of the United States, Gerald Ford – “For both professionals and amateurs, chess is a game that sharpens the mind, tests human faculties and encourages healthy competition. It has captivated the attention of players and spectators world-wide and will continue to do so as long as competition and excellence challenge mankind.”

Nowadays it is widely accepted that this is one of the greatest game that we ever created, and geopolitically appreciated as a sport. There could be an argument to make on the physical conditions necessary to be a good chess player but there is none to be made regarding its thousands of miles of years it went through to be where it’s at today. Indeed if we look back it’s fair to say the rules evolved quite a bit over the years, as much as seeing chess variants appearing such as “Go” in China and “Shogi” in Japan.

Originally appeared in India around the 5th century, chess was later introduced to Persia and was perceived as a characteristic of education and power. The pieces were already divided in different classes that were representing the four divisions of the military : infantry, cavalry, elephantry and chariotry. After the Islamic conquest of Persia (9th century), the Muslim would transport “chaturaṅga” (chess) to Western Europe via North-Africa over the courses of centuries. Let’s call the rest history, since it is already somewhat universally known that it is in Europe that it took its modern form.

It is great to see the energy that chess brings around its development and proliferation all over the United-States. Tournaments are happening every now and then and more and more programs are appearing in the public and private school sectors. In fact we are happy to be here to notice and take part at chess’ expansion and positive vibration. Actually Premier Chess’ CEO Evan Rabin is going to Canada tomorrow to play in the Canada International Open that brought over 200 players last year among of which 15 countries were represented.

Finally Saint-Louis has taken a prominent place in the chess world as America’s embassy. With barely half a million of population, and some discontinuous societal hardships, Rex Sinquefield invested in the town’s center by building a 6000 square ft communal’s center for chess enthusiasts, which became the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St-Louis. In 2009 it hosted for the first time the U.S Chess Championship which bring over some of the strongest players (Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura …). Now it has also flourished in a popular chess club where players from different background and skill levels can better themselves over the board by listening to various chess teachers giving lectures such as GM Akhobian or GM Seirawan.

Jumping forward Saint-Louis was proclaimed chess capital by the United States Congress in May 2013. Shortly after the new heart of American Chess Culture opened its door to the first Edition of the Sinquefield Cup with a serious cash prize of 170 000$. It is pleasant to observe chess still receiving major contributions and getting more and more recognition as a real sport and a true culture and not just a common game. There are many more tournaments ahead of us and if you would like to learn more about those check out the United States Chess Federation’s Website.