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A Gender Divide in The Ultimate Sport of the Mind

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originally played on NPR

August 15, 2010

International Master Irina Krush Courtesy of St. Louis Chess Club

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is no run-of-the-mill chess club. It’s a palace with a designer black-and-white interior, carved tables with inlaid rosewood boards, and a fleet of big screens looming like Jumbotrons. And last month, everyone there witnessed a brilliant performance by International Master Irina Krush. She stormed through the Women’s U.S. Chess Championship without a single loss.

Women have been competing with men at top chess events since the late ’80s, but there’s still a big performance gap. In the most recent list of the Top 100 chess players, only one was a woman. While the gender divide in sports like

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is no run-of-the-mill chess club. It’s a palace with a designer black-and-white interior, carved tables with inlaid rosewood boards, and a fleet of big screens looming like Jumbotrons. And last month, everyone there witnessed a brilliant performance by International Master Irina Krush. She stormed through the Women’s U.S. Chess Championship without a single loss.

Women have been competing with men at top chess events since the late ’80s, but there’s still a big performance gap. In the most recent list of the Top 100 chess players, only one was a woman. While the gender divide in sports like hockey makes sense in some ways — men are generally bigger and stronger — chess isn’t a physical game, it’s a game of the mind.

The International Chess Federation ranks the world’s players and awards titles. The two most difficult to earn, Grandmaster and International Master, are open to anybody. But below those is the title of Woman Grandmaster. Krush holds that title, but doesn’t use it anymore since she also holds the gender neutral International Master title.

“I just don’t see the point having these separate women’s titles,” says Krush, who was born in the former Soviet Union but grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. “I’m not sure what they indicate. Women can play with men — they do play with men now. They can earn the same titles as men.”

Women-only titles may add to the problem. At least that’s what International Master Sam Shankland thinks.

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“For women to actually make marks in the chess world, we need to have some women really get toward the top,” Shankland says. “For that to happen, they need to jump through all the same hoops men do, because if they just get free cookies now and then, they’re not going to have as much incentive to improve.”

The theory behind such arguments is that doing away with women’s titles, tournaments and the associated prize funds will force women to raise the level of their game in order to compete.

“I always say that women should have the self-confidence that they are as good as male players, but only if they are willing to work and take it seriously as much as male players,” says Grandmaster Judit Polgar who is regarded by many as the greatest female player in chess history. “If they would have a higher goal, they would also reach higher.”

Polgar is the only woman to ever beat Garry Kasparov and the only woman to reach the top 10 on the mixed gender list. She could easily be Women’s World Champion, but she never plays in women’s events. Her opinion about women’s tournaments, though, isn’t shared by everyone in the chess world.

Jennifer Shahade, author of 'Chess Bitch'

EnlargeCourtesy of St. Louis Chess ClubJennifer Shahade, author of Chess Bitch, signs a book at the 2010 U.S. Women's Chess Championship in St. Louis. She says eliminating women's tournaments would be disastrous for the developing cadre of female chess pros.

Jennifer Shahade is a two-time American women’s champion and author of the bookChess Bitch. She says women’s tournaments are crucial and that eliminating them would be disastrous for the developing cadre of female chess pros.

If you eliminate the prize money associated with women’s tournaments, says Shahade, women would “just get other jobs and stop playing chess.”

Krush earned $16,000 in this year’s U.S. Women’s Championship. That may be less than half the prize collected by the male winner of the overall championship, but it’s enough that she can devote her time to chess and be a role model for a new generation of girls.

Inspiring girls to play chess in greater numbers could have a direct impact on the performance gap. Research published in the journal Psychological Science shows that when girls aren’t outnumbered, they play just as well as boys.

In the meantime, some have proposed eliminating titles like Woman Grandmaster, while retaining women’s tournaments. As Shahade put it, there are plenty of women’s colleges, but graduates don’t hold women’s Ph.D.s.

10 Glass Ceilings Yet To Be Shattered

By Kate Dailey
BBC News Magazine

Jill Abramson takes over as the executive editor of the New York Times on Tuesday, the first woman to do so in the paper’s 160-year history. So what other top jobs have yet to be taken by women?

There are a dozen female Fortune 500 CEOs, so it’s easy to forget that some very visible positions have only ever been held by men.

Here’s a list of some big jobs that have yet to find the right woman to fill them.

1. White House chief of staff
CJ Cregg of TV’s The West Wing might make the list for best chief of staff of all time, save for the fact that she’s fictional. Unfortunately, she’s also the only female chief of staff on record.

2. Secretary General of the UN
Since its inception in 1945, the UN has only had eight leaders – all male. There’s also never been a female head of the European Union or the Organization of American States.

3. Navy Seal
Due to current legislation, women can’t serve in ground combat units, meaning no female members of the Seals, Army Rangers or Marine special ops members. Earlier this year, a commission on military diversityrecommended changing this policy and in the summer, the head of the military’s special ops division told ABC News that it was high time for a female Navy Seal. Women operatives, he said, have different strengths and skills than men, making them an effective complement to the existing force.

10 years of broken barriers

The past decade has seen a lot of top talent boldly go where no woman had before:

  • Solo news anchor Katie Couric (2006)
  • Conductor of a major American orchestraMarin Alsop (2007)
  • New Hampshire primary winner Hillary Clinton (2008)
  • Four-star general Lt Gen Ann E Dunwoody (2008)
  • Winner of an Indy car race Danica Patrick (2008)
  • Nobel Prize winner for economics Elinor Ostrom (2009)
  • Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (2010)
  • President of the IMF Christine Lagarde (2011)

4. Fields Medal Winner*

Maths’ highest honour has thus far gone only to men. But don’t let that feed into any stereotypes about women, maths and sciences: numerous women have won Lasker awards, given to physicians and scientists who contribute to treating and eradicating diseases, and women have won in each of the Nobel prize categories.

5. Governor of New York
Or the 23 other states who have never had a female governor, including Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Iowa. Currently, there are six female governors, and that number looks to remain low, says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics, at Rutgers University. “We haven’t had as many women running as we need to have, it becomes a kind of domino effect,” she says, noting that fewer women are seeking seats in the state legislature, which usually creates candidates for governor. To help combat this, the CAWP has launched an initiative recruiting women from non-political fields like science and technology to run for state office.

Kathryn Bigelow Kathryn Bigelow’s Oscar win made her the first female director to receive that honour

6. Head writer for The Simpsons
The show’s been on for more than 20 years. It might take another 20 to see a woman rise to the top spot: there have been more than 100 writers credited with Simpsons scripts; only about 10% of them were written by women.

7. Baseball general manager or NFL commissioner
Women have owned major sports teams in Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League for decades, but the heads of the leagues have always been men.

8. Chess world champion
There have been female grandmasters, but none has achieved chess’s highest distinction. This prize is open to both men and women, so while a separate women’s world champion rank exists, some top female players choose not to compete for it. Just this week, the world’s top female player, Judit Polgár, beat the number-one seed at the chess World Cup. Meanwhile, younger female chess players are slowly making their way in the sport. “I’m seeing more girls playing chess than 10 years ago, but it’s still not even close to half,” says Jennifer Shahade, author of Play Like a Girl and an advocate for women in chess.

9. News network president

Michele BachmannMichele Bachmann wants to be the first female president

The past five years have been good ones for women in journalism (see Abramson and Couric). But there’s yet to be a woman overseeing an entire news network, and there’s never been a woman director general of the BBC.

10. US president
The United States is one of the last Western countries to have never had a female head of state. And if that particular glass ceiling is to be broken in 2012, the most likely person to do so is Michele Bachmann, the only female candidate, although speculation persists that Sarah Palin may enter the race.

This article originally misprinted the name of the maths award.

Crowning Queens at Chess Fest

By Johanna Willett
Zocalo Magazine

Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk, on the right, at the 2009 9 Queens event at MAST Boutique. Photo: Jeff Smith

Say “checkmate” to chess royalty this Cinco de Mayo at the fifth annual Chess Fest. That is, if you’ve got the right moves.

Tucsonans of all ages and skill levels have a chance to face Alexandra Kosteniuk, the former Women’s World Chess Champion Grandmaster.

Hosted by the local non-profit organization 9 Queens, Chess Fest situates what many see as a quiet game into the heart of downtown Tucson, blending face painting with chess lessons.

“We welcome chess enthusiasts and the closet chess players who don’t always play,” said Jean Hoffman, the co-founder of 9 Queens. “It’s not a traditional chess event. It’s free, it’s outdoors, and it’s downtown. It’s much more of a party.”

Hoffman founded 9 Queens with Jennifer Shahade, a two-time American Women’s Chess Champion, in 2007. Beyond hosting chess events, 9 Queens seeks to empower at-risk youth and girls through chess.
Chess Fest will take over the Hotel Congress parking lot, checkering the asphalt to create a living chessboard that transforms people into a pawn, bishop, or queen.

“Chess is inherently an urban game,” Hoffman said. “In New York City, you see people playing speed chess in the parks. It’s exciting and fun. There’s trash talk, and it’s such a diverse group of people. This fits really well in downtown Tucson.”

Kosteniuk began playing chess at the age of five, and since then, the community aspect of the game has kept her involved over the years.

“Playing [chess] internationally, I wanted to continue to play and see my friends in future chess tournaments,” Kosteniuk said in an email from a chess championship in Turkey. “Chess has allowed me to meet many very nice people and to travel across the whole world.”

A visitor to Tucson in 2009, Kosteniuk was “impressed by the diversity and strength of the Tucson chess community.” Events like Chess Fest popularize chess, and 9 Queens also sponsors chess instruction in schools.

Right now, first and second-graders at Johnson Elementary School periodically get chess as part of their classroom curriculum. Learning to play chess improves problem-solving skills and boosts confidence by providing kids a positive outlet. A four-year study including about 4,200 second-grade students found that students who learn chess experience spurred IQ increases, according to statistics on the 9 Queens website.

“When you teach a kid chess, you’re teaching them how to look at a position and come up with their own plan,” Hoffman said. “It’s the same kind of problem solving that you want people to use off the board in real life—applying for a job, doing school work, whatever.”

Kosteniuk has seen the cognitive influences of chess in her own life.

“I have learned to think before acting and that my actions will lead to consequences,” Kosteniuk said. “Chess has also taught me that you cannot achieve anything without hard work.”

For both Hoffman and Kosteniuk, this is part of the beauty of chess—the equal playing field it creates.

“Only brains count [in chess],” Kosteniuk said. “I am very happy when a kid beats a grown-up and runs to his parents to tell them. I see the parents so proud of their child.”

Kosteniuk will play regular Tucsonans in a simultaneous exhibit, giving Tucson’s kids (and adults) a chance to challenge a champion. Anyone who wants to play can sign up at the festival, and Kosteniuk will play everybody at the same time.

“I cannot think of a hobby that has as many benefits as chess,” Kosteniuk said. “Chess does not care if you’re very young or very old. The only thing that matters is what moves you make.”

Catching Up With… RZA

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By Corey DuBrowa
Originally posted from Paste Magazine

Paste-Magazine-LogoIt was an admittedly odd scene: nearly 2 a.m., the tour bus surrounded by autograph seekers, dope peddlers and various hangers-on, all hoping to catch a glimpse of someone from the band. For most late nights at Portland, Ore.’s hot and compact Hawthorne Theater, that “band” would’ve meant someone of a punk or indie persuasion. But tonight, the situation now included the Wu-Tang Clan’s famed founder and producer Robert “the RZA” Diggs and the nine-piece L.A. funk/soul act Stone Mecca, who’d provided musical backing for him all evening.

Having issued the controversial Wu-Tang album 8 Diagrams last year (“controversial” in that Wu members Ghostface Killah, Method Man and Raekwon all dissed it, and the RZA’s production effort, quite loudly in print following its release), the RZA has moved on to one of his various alter egos, the pleasure-seeking Bobby Digital. His third album in this guise, Digi-Snacks(KOCH), includes a much more organic, live-band approach to his music, supplementing the diabolical samples for which his work is typically known with Stone Mecca’s subtle grooves and jazzcat-inflected singing (“Drama,” in particular, is a revelation).

The RZA also continues to keep his hand in the acting game (having made an impression in last year’s Denzel Washington vehicle American Gangster) and recently drove the launch of Wu-Chess, a paid membership website focused on the RZA’s favorite game.

Paste had the opportunity sit down with RZA in his tour bus, post-gig—track suit, sunglasses and massive ‘fro still intact from the evening’s activities—to talk with him about his current solo tour and to try to get a bead on what’s next, if anything, for the Wu-Tang Clan, given the drama surrounding how the group left things last fall. From the looks of things, 8 Diagrams may very well be the final group album we’ll get from the vaunted Staten Island collective.

PasteHow did you hook up with the Stone Mecca guys? Did you know them in some way before you recorded Digi-Snacks?

RZA: I met them maybe seven years ago, and I got interested in having them play samples “over” for me. I used them to do some stuff when I was working with Raekwon on [the as-yet unreleased] Cuban Linx Pt. II, using them to play my samples. I liked how they emulated the music I made; they played the way that I wanted it to sound, know what I mean?

Paste: I think a lot of people have operated under the assumption that you sample more than you do. My perception is that there’s more “live” music on the average Wu release or on your solo stuff…

RZA: …than they realize, yeah! I think for some of my fans it’ll be new to them because they only expect a certain thing. But those who take the risk and come out, they get the hook up, you know? (laughs) That’s what I feel comfortable about; on this tour, I’m really comfortable with what I’m doing on stage. Because I can change at any moment: “You know what? This band shit’s not cool any more, I’m gonna hit the reset button, go to instant replay.” (laughs) But I’m havin’ a great time, the audience is havin’ a great time. Nothin’ wrong with a good time, yo.

Paste: The cool thing about a live band is that you have the ability now to reinterpret parts of your back catalog too, like you did tonight going back to some of the old Wu stuff on the first album, which the live band gives a completely different flavor.

RZA: We also played “1-800-Suicide,” which was a Gravediggaz song, and it sounded good enough—maybe 80% to the record?—to do with the band. To be in the club listening to that thing go off, you may be onto something there, you know? (laughs)

Paste: Let’s talk about 8 Diagrams for a minute. There were things in the press afterward that gave the impression that people like Ghost, Meth and Raekwon were unhappy with how it came out. What are the chances of you guys working together again any time soon? Because you’re working on the sequel to Cuban Linx with Raekwon now, right?

RZA: No, I haven’t worked with the Clan since then. I’ve done shows with them, but that’s mostly what I’m planning to do with them in the future. Uphold that W, know what I mean? Our creative ideas are going in different directions right now. I’m an MC, too, you know? Some people [in the Wu] have stuck with what Rakim once said, “Hip-hop don’t need a band, just a DJ and his two hands/as hip-hop was and still stands.” I understand the point he was making, but even Rakim is on tour with a band right now, you know? (laughs) He’s the one who said it, too, yo! Sampling came from bands, scratching came from the music made by bands. When all we HAD was a sampler. But it made me become more of a musician; now I play a guitar to express my feelings. I got a band, and it can be a little sloppy ‘cause I’m new with it. But it’s how it’s supposed to be, how I’m learning.

PasteBut isn’t that rawness you’re talking about just the next extension of the whole “realness” thing that hip-hop people have been talking about for decades? I would think this is why people like Kanye West, the next generation of young creative guys in hip-hop, have singled you out. He’s said that you’re the reason he got into the game to begin with. So maybe this approach to live music will have a similar impact.

RZA: That’s respect, yo. And I got respect going right back to him, to see him take it to another level where he can feed people with his shit, where people are still getting something good out of it, where it’s still available. That’s a blessing. I’m proud of that, yo.

PasteHow is your Wu-chess venture going? You just launched the new site, I’m just wondering how it’s fared so far from a business perspective [given that membership is nearly $50 a pop to join]?

RZA: I haven’t had time to check on it since I’ve been on the road, but I’ve been going to different events while I’m out on tour. We stopped in Tucson, Ariz., with the 9Queens Association. It was great to see all these kids come out. Actually, mothers, husbands andtheir kids! Couples there with their children, which is a beautiful thing to see anyway! (laughs) They was all playin’ chess and feelin’ good and that’s what Wu-chess is about. I’m proud of what it’s doing. I got some flack from people who said, “Why does it cost money to join Wu-chess?” But hey, everything I do costs money, you know? (laughs) I gotta pay for this bus, yo, it’s killin’ us! It all costs money! Bringin’ a band out increases the costs of a tour like this, but if the fans have a good time, it’s worth the risk. I’m willing to take it.

Paste: It’s possible that a whole generation of kids out there might be introduced to a fairly complicated game—one they can develop, follow, play for life as a pursuit—because someone they respected took the time to introduce it to them, to teach them. Make chess cool, fun, something they could relate to. Something accessible.

RZA: Respect. That’s what the lady from 9Queens said, too. I’m gonna name some of my friends who play chess, I hope they don’t get mad at me, but Forrest Whittaker and Jude Law both play chess. Two of the elite. A lot of people play it and love the game. That’s the whole point.

Paste: Speaking of actors, I caught your turn in American Gangster, as did a lot of people, and wondered if there’s more acting or film work in your future. It seems to come pretty naturally to you. I understand you’ve got a few projects in the works now (Gospel Hill, Repossession Mambo); how do you have time to fit that in?

RZA: Acting is definitely one of the most fun things you can do. To me, it’s a new girl, you know? (laughs) But I gotta finish some work over there [points at the stage] in this music thing. Acting, we got something big in November…

PasteFormula for the Cure has become known as kind of the RZA’s “Black Album.” There’s even a brief, confusing YouTube trailer about it, or related to it. Will fans ever hear it? Is it done and sitting on a shelf somewhere, or have you buried it? Are there plans for it to be released at some point?

RZA: That is sitting on the shelf. I never made the music for those words. I know the words are powerful, they’re timeless, in the sense that I hope it’s not too late before someone else hears me say it. (laughs) I’ve thought about that a lot!

PastePeople have heard more about it than they’ve heard of it, clearly. That’s where all the curiosity comes from.

RZA: I know what you mean. I’m looking forward to the day when I can record that and deliver that, yo. I think I’m close.

Paste: I’ve been living with Digi-Snacks for the past three weeks in the car. It strikes me that what you’re doing with it live is to stretch well beyond what’s represented on the record, which is the essence of great live music, right? Not just replicating the record live, which, aside from freestyling and battle-rapping is most of what hip-hop has been throughout the years, but “interpreting” it. Seems like there’s a long way left to go with this idea, not just recording and playing with the band, but composing with them, collaborating with different people. The same concept as the Wu in some ways: each person brings ideas, and what emerges is in the middle somewhere. The band’s almost like Santana in certain moments!

RZA: Every night we’ve been coming with something. Look, James Brown is themotherfucker, right? (laughs) We all saw what he did up to the age of 70. So I got a long way to go, but I’m at least starting somewhere different now! To get to that level. We havin’ fun, man.

<PasteWell, last time I checked, that gig’s open now, right? (laughs)

RZA: Ol’ Dirty would have been the man for that one, right? (laughs) Nothin’ but a party, yo.

WuChess Fest good for the whole clan

by Chris Carter on Jun. 12, 2008

Wu-Tang co-founder RZA believes chess is key in helping youth learn how to think before acting.Wu-Tang co-founder RZA believes chess is key in helping youth learn how to think before acting.

Most people don’t associate rap music with chess. But Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA is a master of both. Next week, the rap star will pair with local nonprofit organization 9 Queens to host WuChess Fest at Hotel Congress.

“The event is to help promote chess awareness and change the stereotype that people have about chess and chess players,” says Jean Hoffman, co-founder of 9 Queens. The event will offer free prizes, matches, a speed chess tournament and face painting.

Later that night, RZA will take the stage at the Rialto Theatre as his alter ego, Bobby Digital.

RZA, who learned to play chess at age 11 but only recently just started taking it seriously, says the game is extremely helpful.

“It was about two years ago when I really learned about the analytical power chess has,” he says in a phone interview. “The game of chess is like a swordfight. You must think first, before you move.”

It was after discovering chess as a learning tool that RZA created WuChess, an online community for players to meet and compete.

“I thought it would be a helpful tool for young people and realizing what chess can add to a community; to think before they act spontaneously. I decided it could be a good outlet for all walks, for all minds to get the chance to gather and sharpen their minds.”

Hoffman, too, sees the benefit of having chess introduced to a community.

“Chess is a great educational tool proven to raise test scores and help self-confidence,” she says. “It can also help people learn social life skills and teach kids how to think. It’s cheap, fun and when introduced can really make a difference.”

RZA agrees with Hoffman and says the game is especially important for people in urban communities.

“They find themselves in situations needing to think quick. And they don’t properly think,” he says. “I think chess helps develop people’s thought process. People need to stay out of jail, not commit crime and young ladies not get pregnant. You need to think.”

But don’t expect Hoffman and RZA to do a lot of thinking against each other in a battle of sponsors.

“I don’t want him to beat me, but I’ll play him if he challenges me,” Hoffman says with a laugh.

RZA wants to make sure that people understand that chess is not about winning and losing.

“It’s about the skills you get from it. That’s more important than winning and losing.”

After the tournament, RZA will step away from the chessboard and become Bobby Digital, his bold, genre-blending alter ego, who will perform at the Rialto.

“I think Bobby Digital has more freedom and is more uncontained, and I think you will see that,” he says. “The RZA has a few lyrics, mixed in with the rest of the members of the Wu-Tang Clan here and there but Bobby Digital is the whole thing.”

Jen on ChessFest and Queens vs. Rooks

By Jennifer Shahade
May 16, 2008

I went to Arizona last weekend for ChessFest 2008, an event put on by the non-profit I co-founded, 9queens.   ChessFest went down at the Hotel Congress, also a famous nightclub. On the night of the chess fest, Hotel Congress was hosting the indie rock band, Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin, which made me laugh, although I am definitely not an advocate for the self-piteous ad campaign, “Someone Still Loves You, Chess.” In fact, in Tucson, it seemed an opposite slogan was in the air, “Everyone Loves Chess.”

Finding a balance between fun and competition is a major challenge for chess celebrations, because too much of either will bore half the crowd. 9queens co-founder and native Tucsonian Jean Hoffman , who organized the event, found a great mix.  She arranged a serious blitz tournament run by the smiling and super-competent TD and FM Robby Adamson. There were also spectator friendly events, such as a two-board blindfold simul by Leo Martinez and the day’s highlight, the coolest human chess game I’ve ever played in. The costumes, donated by a local toy store, Mrs. Tiggy Winkles, were more conceptual than literal: tutus for the queens, Rodees for the Knights, Groucho-Marx glasses for the pawns.


Jennifer Shahade with the two human chess queens. Photo Demion Clinco


Wide view of the human chess game.


Leo Martinez gives a blindfold simul with National High School Championship team Catalina Foothills students watching. Photo John Wright.

One of the prizes for winning the blitz tournament was playing against me in the human chess game, so I battled 14-year-old ChessFest champ Kevin Zhang (2076). Both of us stood on large orange ladders, exposed to the blazing sun, ten feet above our pawns and knights. This exhibition was fun, but also really difficult. I didn’t want to lose, but it was chaotic and I got a terrible position out of the opening:

I forgot that in this line, I should play e5, either on move nine or ten. As it turned out, I salvaged my position anyway because Kevin played too impatiently. Check out my ridiculously long-winded knight maneouver: Ng8-f6-d7-b6-a8-c7-e6. I really shouldn’t have played that in front of kids, as one coach joked: “Now all my students are going to be playing Na8!”

In the final position, instead of taking a draw by perpetual check, I should have captured on a2 and  shoved the h-pawn. I took a draw for three reasons:
1.    I didn’t realize how easy it was to win;I thought it would take a while.
2.    The kids were about to get REALLY bored. This is the problem with most human chess games; they get really boring for the pieces and spectators. Because Jean and I knew this, we set a time control of 8 minutes+10 second delay. Despite the quick time limit, the younger amongst the pieces were already antsy.
3.    I had less time than Kevin, about two and change  to his three and change.


USCF Expert and ChessFest Blitz Champ Kevin Zhang

So Chessfest wrapped the day up with a draw, a closing ceremony and co-founders with sunburns in desperate need of Aloe Vera.

The Tuscon community was very supportive of ChessFest. Mayor Bob Walkup spoke at the opening ceremony and council woman Karin Uhlich even played in the event. Tuscon’s chess elite also came: The new 2008 U.S. Chess League team, the Arizona Scorpions were represented by the aforementioned Leo and Robby as well as Ken Larsen. Blindfold legend and psychology professor Eliot Hearst attended.  Two-time National High School Championship Team Catalina Foothills High volunteered, teaching novice kids the pawn game and basic tactics. A crew from chesspark /wu-chess flew in from as far as Florida, and we had some amazing Mexican food.  Can you believe I traveled the world but never had mole before?


 Robby Adamson and Ken Larsen, both signed up to play on the newly inducted U.S. Chess League Team, the Arizona Scorpions.


The mayor of Tucson, Bob Walkup gives a hint to council-woman Karin Uhlich.


9Queens co-founders Jean Hoffman and Jennifer Shahade



Any takers for a cactus chess game?

One Queen vs. Two Rooks

I was preparing a lesson for a 9Queens Academy when watching Daniel Yeager’s clutch win against Michael Thaler in the National High School Championship:

This victory earned Yeager a perfect 7-0 and clear first.

Coincidentally, when I was watching this game, I was preparing a lesson on the relative strength of two rooks vs. a queen. I used chessbase to search for games with the imbalance, and was surprised that the overwhelming majority of the games I found favored the queen over the two rooks. It’s not because the queen is stronger… it’s that creating a queen/two rook imbalance usually features open positions, which obviously favor the queen. The above game is a perfect example. Once the queen vs. two-rook trade went down, White’s position was already totally disheveled.

The most impressive two rooks vs. queen game I found was a brilliant and subtle victory by Anand. I was looking for something a bit more direct for teaching purposes, but I was still thrilled to find this game. Is it famous? If not, it should be.

As the Nationals season closes, CLO is gearing up for the summer open season, not to mention the ongoing U.S. Championship. But we’re quite through with the Elementary Nationals yet- Look out for games and photos from Elizabeth Vicary’s students from I.S. 318, who won the K-6 Championship section. CLO will also publish an interview between Dynako and Josh Waitzkin, who was in Pittsburgh promoting his new foundation and his book, The Art of Learning.

Sammour-Hasbun Prevails

The U.S. Chess League Game of the Year competition prevailed with Jorge Sammour-Hasbun’s win over Kuljasevic taking the 1000$ grand prize. Boskovic-Becerra, which I ranked as first, came in second place for 500$. Greg’s strong comments about why he thinks Martinez-Zilberstein should have easily won the competition gave me pause to reconsider my own rankings. Despite my theory that judging things inherently leads to “over-thinking” (are you reading this, Ms.Bacheorlorette?), I maintain that my own rankings were perfect, or in the words of a new book title, Mistakes Were Made, but Not by Me.

9 Queens: Empowerment through Chess

9 Queens is dedicated to empowering individuals and communities through chess by making the game fun, exciting, and accessible.

Player Spotlight


Varga Luna

(playing for 4 years)

“I became interested in chess when I was about four. I like chess bc you get to have fun and learn some things. You get to be more patient. You get to focus and concentrate. ”