Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Touch Move: Mortals Welcome

Its storefront home on North Ashland Avenue is small and nondescript, but from the moment it opened six months ago, the Touch Move Chess Center gave Chicago something it hadn’t had for a long time: a chess club that’s open more than one day a week.

Touch Move is the brainchild of International Master Angelo Young, and its mission, he says, is to “revitalize the chess club scene in Chicago through club tournaments, scholastic and adult training sessions, hosting small international chess tournaments . . . and providing a quality environment for chess socialization through friendly play.”

And he adds, “The Touch Move Chess Center cares about bringing chess to everyone and most importantly making chess fun!”

Almost immediately after it opened the center became a mecca for the top players in town. (A nice article in the Chicago News-Star certainly didn't hurt. Hat tip: Lamarr) A casual glance at recent crosstables reveals that habitues include masters Albert Chow and Aleksandar Stamnov and expert Isaac Braswell.

Sevan Muradian of the North American Chess Association—he’s Mr. FIDE in this neck of the woods—has made Touch Move the venue of choice for international tournaments of IMs, GMs, and those seeking to earn norms for those titles.

Fine for the masters, experts, and Class A players, you say, but what about us patzers?

As it turns out there’s a place at the table for us, too. The center is hosting a series of tournaments on Saturdays—June 2, 9, and 16—with a “U1400” section—for players whose chess rating is under 1400. Angelo is also interested in holding chess lectures if there’s enough interest, so if you are interested in lectures, please let him know.

For details on the upcoming tournaments go to the center’s Web site or the Illinois Chess Association calendar.

New York has the Marshall, San Francisco the Mechanics Institute, and Boston the Boylston Chess Club. Can the Touch Move Chess Center grow to take its place in this pantheon of great urban chess clubs? Here’s wishing it the best.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Opening Novelties

Before you learn how the pieces move, you must first learn simply to move them, period.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Be a Chess Piece

Part of the hoopla surrounding publication of the new Harry Potter novel will be a tournament of life-size chess games on July 20, hosted by the Renaissance Knights Foundation, at Oak Park's Harry Potter festival.

Games will be played on a huge chess board, with kids and adults acting as chess pieces while “special guests” call the moves from the stage.

It should be a lot of fun to watch—and to participate. If your child would like to play a chess piece in this event, get in touch with Renaissance Knights right away:

More information here. And keep an eye out for a forthcoming e-mail about another event from Renaissance Knights that will interest Ray chess players.

Chess Comes In from the Rain

Our first “Chess Alfresco” outdoor meeting didn’t work out exactly as planned, thanks to a driving rain that opened up right around 4:00 yesterday, but it turned out well all the same. The six intrepid chess players who showed up on the dismal Saturday afternoon—three kids and three parents—ducked into the University of Chicago’s “C Shop,” got some snacks, and played a few round of chess indoors.

Most likely the weather will be better next week, and we’ll play outside. Will you join us?

An intense game of blitz that turned heads among the normally blasé U of C crowd

Adults play chess too. Coaches Qing Dai and Emil Sidky battle it out in an exciting game that ended in a draw.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Disney Dominates Kennicott Meet

But Ray kids win trophies

Disney Elementary Magnet School under Coach Trevor Scott may be the hottest team on the city chess circuit these days following back-to-back victories in the last two tournaments of the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago. After winning first place in the beginner division at the Ray School tournament in March, Disney repeated the feat at the May 19 match at Kennicott Park.

Ray had a small squad at the tournament, as often happens this time of year, but two of our kids won individual trophies nonetheless. Sonam Ford, playing in only his second YCFC tournament, took first place in the intermediate division, while Phillip Parker-Turner finished second in the outstanding advanced field, where almost all the players are older than him. With a 3.5/5.0, Phillip finished just a half point behind Burbank Elementary superstar Christopher Velazquez. Sonam, meanwhile, beat 18 of the best elementary-school chess players in town to finish on top in his category.

Disney’s team victory was in no small part the result of the school’s top two performers, who finished first and second in the beginner category. Delvin Hajdarevic’s 4.5/5.0 landed him in first place, and teammate Jonathan Klein finished right behind him with 4.0/5.0.

Hyde Park was well represented in the standings, by Ancona’s Kamal Bilal and Lab’s Jason Chang, who finished third and fourth respectively on tiebreaks, each with 4.0/5.0.

Full standings here.

Congratulations to Trevor and the whole Disney team; to Christopher, Sonam, Phillip and all the other kids who won trophies.

And finally, thanks to the YCFC squad for another year of excellent tournaments: Mike Cardinale, John Lee, Val Halliday, Saadiq Sajjaad, and their many volunteer helpers. These folks make it look easy, though it certainly is not.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

An Offer You Can’t Refuse

Free USCF memberships for Ray students who play at June 9 tournament

Here’s an offer you can’t refuse. In an event that couldn’t possibly be more convenient, Chess Education Partners will host a citywide scholastic chess tournament on Saturday, June 9, at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.

The entry fee is $15, and your child has to be a member of the U.S. Chess Federation ($17 cost) to play.

However, the Ray School Chess Club has registered the entire school team and paid the entry fee, and for any chess club member who plays in the tournament and is not already a USCF member, the club will pay for a one-year membership.

In other words, a chess tournament right here in the neighborhood that could have cost you $32 to enter will cost you nothing, and your child will be a member of the U.S. Chess Federation, entitled to play in rated tournaments, earn an official rating, and receive the semi-monthly magazine Chess Life for Kids.

Sound good? Then please let me know as soon as possible if your child wants to play.

Toutnament details:

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Hyde Park Neighborhood Club,
5480 S. Hyde Park Ave., Chicago

Check-in at 8:00 a.m.; the first round will begin at 9:00 a.m.

Chess Alfresco

The outdoor chess season begins

Is there anything more fun than playing chess outside in nice weather? Maybe, but I can’t think of what it is. This Saturday afternoon, June 26, we’ll find out just how much fun outdoor chess is at the first meeting of the Ray School Chess Club’s summer season.

Will you join us? We’ll meet on Saturdays at 4:00 for as long as there is significant interest from club members. If the time doesn’t work for many people, we’ll consider changing it. But for now, here are the details:

What: Ray School Chess Club

When: Saturdays at 4:00 PM

Where: Hutchinson Courtyard, University of Chicago campus

Yes, I know, it’s Memorial Day weekend, and some people will be away. So if you’re out of town or otherwise occupied, skip this week’s meeting and come next week. If you are around this weekend and feel like playing chess, come join us. We’ll provide the equipment; kids should just show up.

We won’t meet on June 9, since there's a chess tournament at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club that day.

The U of C campus map is here. If you’re not familiar with it, the main campus, called “The Quads,” is bounded by 57th Street, 59th Street, University Ave., and Ellis Ave. It consists of one big, central quadrangle flanked on the corners by four small quandrangles. Hutchinson Courtyard is the small quad at the northeast corner of the complex. You can enter the campus from 57th Street (across from Regenstein Library) or University Ave. Write if you have questions. Otherwise, we’ll see you Saturday.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Chess at Chicago’s all-night party

Some people, I'm sure you realize, think chess players are generally nuts. So what would they say about the folks who showed up at the Chicago Cultural Center in the middle of the night a week ago to push the pieces around while the rest of the world was asleep?

Well, for starters, let’s be honest: not everyone was at home in bed on the night of May 11-12. In fact, thousands roamed the streets of downtown Chicago that evening in search of fun, during Looptopia, “America’s first dusk-to-dawn cultural and artistic spectacle showcasing the vibrancy and excitement of Chicago’s historic Loop neighborhood through musical and theatrical performances . . .” etc., etc.

Isaac with his prize

I’ll spare you the rest of the ad copy so we can get to the point, which is that unbeknownst to many, chess was actually a big part of the highly publicized all-night soiree. Scores of chess players came through the Cultural Center over the course of the night, either to join the 2:00 AM blitz tournament or just play a friendly game.

“Everyone had a great time,” reports Sheila Heiser of Renaissance Knights, authors of the midnight madness. “We had 40 boards out and we were packed all night! When we had to pack up to go some players could have played on for many more hours.” Sheila’s group works frequently with the City to incorporate chess into special events and was tapped to organize play for Looptopia.

Thirty-one players took part in the five-round blitz tournament. The winner was Chicago chess veteran Isaac Braswell, who recently earned an Expert rating. The final standings:

Isaac Braswell 4.5
Mslalm Campbell 4.0
Claude Barnes 3.5
Gabriel Gaster 3.5
Ramon Jones 3.5

The first three winners won a Saitek computer and clock. The others got chess books, and a number of medals were awarded as well. The tournament was free to enter.

“The only entry fee was to set up the chess pieces when done playing,” said Sheila.

Of course, even that can be a challenge at four in the morning.

(More photos here.)

All photos courtesy of Renaissance Knights

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Boul Mich

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Grand Finale

Scenes from the final indoor chess club meeting of the year

But watch this space for details about the forthcoming outdoor season, in which we will meet Saturdays at 4:00 PM on the University of Chicago Campus (Hutchinson Court), starting May 26. Pencil it in. More to come.

More photos here. All photos by Ms. Averill, Room 413 (Thanks, Jane!)

Give it up for Coach Emil Sidky!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Marco Beats a Master

It all started at Ray, says dad of former chess club member who defeated IM

Ten-year-old Marco Codenotti, a former member of the Ray School Chess Club, is making news in the chess world following his stunning victory with the black pieces over International Master Zivojin Ljubisavljevic on the Island of Elba earlier this month.

News of Marco’s achievement is being widely heralded in chess circles, not least by Grandmaster Susan Polgar, whose blog is perhaps the most popular in the chess world. Mida's Chess Corner has also figured mightily in spreading the word.

Surprising though it may seem, Marco’s achievement reflects the steady progress he’s made since leaving Hyde Park in 2005 and returning to his native Italy. In the two years since, Marco has focused intensely on chess and trained with leading masters. And while he’s become something of a celebrity in the chess world lately, he and his family haven’t forgotten where it all began.

“Everything for Marco started at Ray! So we are really grateful!” said Marco’s father, Bruno Codenotti, in an e-mail the other day.

Marco, who attended the early grades at Ray while his family was living in Chicago, joined the chess club in 2005. In his first tournament, the Chicago Public Schools championship, held at Lane Tech High School, he finished among the top players in the K-3 division. He later played well in tournaments by the Youth Chess Foundation of Chicago.

That summer, Marco did a nine-week stint with veteran trainer Wayne Smith, in the chess camp run by the Hyde Park Academy of Scholastic Chess. Unfortunately for Ray, his family returned to Italy right after that, taking Marco and his bionic chess skills with them.

The rest, as they say, is history. According to Mida's blog, Marco now has a rating of 1809 in Italy. A rating like that with the U.S. Chess Federation would make him the No. 6 ten-year-old in the country. Congratulations, Marco. We’re extremely proud of you.

Read more:

If you like, please leave a message for Marco in Comments below.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Tactics and Endgames

To improve your chess, practice the things that matter most

There’s a saying in real estate that three things matter most: location, location, location. Many chess experts have a similar maxim about most the important factors in the game. They are: tactics, tactics, tactics. It’s even been said that chess is 99 percent tactics, the quotation being attributed, I believe, to the great Richard Teichmann.

Wanna play?

Whether that’s an exaggeration or not, there is no question that tactics are important. Let’s be grateful, then, to two local chess players, Niles North High School star Ilan Meerovich, and another, screen-named SashaD, with whom I am not familiar, who have posted some online resources for tactical study at Go get ’em, and enjoy.

Another area in which all new chess players should be proficient is basic endgames, particularly where you have a rook and a king or a queen and a king against your opponent’s solitary king. These endgames come up frequently, though if you don’t know the technique for delivering checkmate, the game will end in a stalemate, and you will get a draw in a game you should have won. Learning the technique isn’t hard, and all young chess players should master it. Learn about rook endings here and here; queen endings here and here. To practice what you learn in a fun and interactive online setting go to Chess Magnet School.

Sad News. I received word earlier today from Brad Rosen, also known as Chessdad64, that his father, Gene Rosen, died yesterday, quite suddenly and unexpectedly. Brad is a pillar of the Illinois and the Chicago-area chess communities, and many people know him through his blogging, the successes of his son Eric, one of the strongest young chess players in the area, and Brad’s unstinting support for the growth and improvement of chess culture, especially for kids. I consider myself privileged to call Brad a friend, and my thoughts and hopes go out to him and his family at this sad time.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Last Chess Club Meeting Next Monday

Indoor season ends; outdoor season begins

Alas, all good things must come to an end.

Next Monday, May 14, will be the last regular weekly meeting of the Ray School Chess Club for this school year. We’ve enjoyed having your kids in the club this year, and we’re grateful for having had the chance to work with them.

We’re not closing down entirely. As the weather improves and the indoor chess season draws to a close the outdoor season gets under way. We’re going to try meeting outdoors on weekends somewhere in Hyde Park for any kids who are interested. Coach Emil Sidky will have more on this at next Monday’s meeting, and, as always, please come here to the blog and to our main Web site for the latest details.

There are also two tournaments in the weeks ahead, on May 19 and June 9, and I know some of you plan to attend those. They’re both in the Hyde Park area, and you can still sign up, so let me know if you’re interested.

Oh, yes, and though I neglected to mention it in my last e-mail to parents, we’d also like to have an end-of-year picnic or some other gala event, like the one we did last fall. Please let me know if you’d like to attend or, even better, help to plan it.

Whether we see you or not in the weeks ahead, have a great summer, play a lot of chess, and if you have any chess-related thoughts, stories, or experiences, please send them to me for publication on our blog. It’s going to need fresh material during those lean summer months.

Endgame: Details about the June 9 tournament at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club are now available. Don't worry about the entry fee; as long as we have some Ray kids playing the chess club will take care of it. But please do let me know if your kid wants to play. Thanks. . . . IM Angelo Young has updated the Web site of his Touch Move Chess Center with information about forthcoming events. I’m dying to know what the June 16 “Bulls Challenge” is all about. Do you start the tournament down 3-0 to a player from Detroit? Yes, I know, that’s gallows humor and arguably in poor taste under the circumstances. My apologies to any sensitive Bulls fans out there. . . . Note: The pictures here are from the Ray School Chess Club’s historical archives. With any luck we'll get some fresh ones at the last meeting.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Adults Only: Evanston Chess Club

Laid-back tournament this Saturday

Let’s face it, there just aren’t enough places around Chicago for grown-ups to play chess. But thanks to a handful of woodpushers up in Evanston, including chess supermom Maret Thorpe and veteran trainer Tom Sprandel, there’s now one more than there use to be. The Evanston Chess Club has been meeting on Tuesday nights since early last winter, and their watchwords are friendly and relaxed. Doesn’t that sound nice? Don’t you wish we had a place like that in Hyde Park? Me too. But until that day comes, you may want to check out the scene in Evanston.

This Saturday, May 12, wouldn’t be a bad time to start, because Evanston Chess is planning its first rated tournament, from 9:00 to 4:00. Don’t let “rated tournament” scare you away. This isn’t a bunch of grandmasters; these are regular people like you and me. Remember: friendly and relaxed. That’s Evanston Chess. And it’s only five bucks to enter. Details here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Chess Miscellany

A hodge-podge of unrelated items:

  • Tonight is Math Family Night at Ray School, and since chess and math are kindred pursuits, all chess players are hereby encouraged to attend. (And hey, how about that new Ray Web site?)

  • Congraltulations to Phillip Parker-Turner, who won another tournament last weekend.

  • Congratulations also to Sam Schmakel, a 5th-grader at Chicago's Decatur Classical School and possibly the best elementary school chess player in the state, who has been named “Chess Youth of the Month” by And let us take the opportunity to offer kudos as well to Sam's mother, Eileen Schmakel, a benevolent force of nature in the chess world, who, when time comes for a “Chess Mom of the Month” award to be given, will surely be one of the first.

  • New chess classes for players at all levels begin this weekend at Touch Move Chess Center, the new chess club started by IM Angelo Young, the defending Illinois state chess champion. Details here, or call or write for more information.