On June 6th this year one of the all-time greats of chess, Viktor Lvovich Korchnoi, passed away. In his final years, debilitated by a series of strokes and bound to a wheelchair, he attended the Zurich Chess Challenge each year, in fact playing a match himself in 2015. To honor the unforgettable chess legend there will be a special memorial tournament from April 13th to 17th, 2017 in Zurich. Take note of these dates – you can participate as well.

In honor of the unforgettable chess legend Viktor Kortchnoi, who passed away June 6th, the Zurich Chess Club will organize at Easter time, from April 13th to 17th, 2017, at the Kongresshaus in Zurich a grandmaster tournament with the two world champions: Vladimir Kramnik and Viswanathan Anand, and the world class players Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Hikaru Nakamura, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Peter Svidler as well as the best player of the “Nutcrucker Event” 2016 in Moscow and the best Swiss chessplayer Yannick Pelletier. They will play seven rounds with a time control of 45 minutes and 30 seconds per move and a Rapid Tournament with a time control of 10 minutes and 5 seconds per move on the last day.
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At the same time a strong Open Tournament is organized, to which all chess friends around the world are wellcome. Seven rounds will be played with a time control of 90 minutes and 30 seconds per move.
More information about both tournaments will be provided in January 2017 on the official web site.
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Viktor Kortchnoi was one of the truly great chess players, a legend. He played in three matches that produced the World Champion, but in each case lost to Anatoly Karpov. It made him the strongest player never to have won the title. In 1976 he defected from the Soviet Union and took up residence in Switzerland, where he continued to be active into his eighties in spite of a stroke. Now he has gone and leaves a grieving chess community.

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Mar 06, 2018

Tal Memorial Blitz 2018

Sergey Karjakin warmed up for the Candidates Tournament in style with a supreme performance in the Tal Memorial blitz, winning seven games and losing just one on the way to taking first place ahead of Hikaru Nakamura. No-one else could match that consistency, with fast starters Vishy Anand, Dmitry Andreikin and Vladimir Kramnik fading badly, while Candidates top seed Shakhriyar Mamedyarov finished second last after managing to win just two games out of 13.

The Tal Memorial Blitz was a 14-player 5+3 blitz tournament that took place in the Botvinnik Central Chess Club in Moscow on 5th March. You can replay all the games using the selector below – click a result to open the game with computer analysis or hover over a player’s name to see all his results:

See also:

  • Official website  
  • All the rapid games with computer analysis on chess24
  • Tal Memorial, Day 1: Mamedyarov snatches lead
  • Tal Memorial, Day 2: Anand catches Mamedyarov
  • Tal Memorial, Day 3: Anand is rapid king, again!
Jan 09, 2017

The language of chess

The dust has barely settled on last year’s World Chess Championship match in New York: Norway’s Magnus Carlsen defended his title against the tough challenger Sergei Karjakin, in a close match. The event got me thinking about the language of chess strategy, and tactics, and the curious history, and multicultural origins of chess terminology.

Chess has been around for centuries and The Game and Play of the Chess was among the first books printed in English by William Caxton in the late fifteenth century. It is not actually a book of chess instruction in the modern sense. Rather it is an allegory of medieval society with a king, queen, bishops, knights, and rooks, and with pawns representing various trades. Each chess piece has its own moral code, together representing a kingdom bound by duty rather than kinship. Caxton used a French translation as the basis for his book and the English word chess is a borrowing from the Middle French échecs. But the story is older and more complicated than that.

Chess comes from the 6th century Sanskrit game chaturanga, which translates to “four arms.” The arms refer to the elephants, horses, chariots, and foot soldiers of the Indian army, which evolved into the modern bishops, knights, rooks, and pawns. The chaturanga pieces also included the king or rajah and the king’s counselor, which would later be reinvented as the queen. In chaturanga, the game ended when the rajah was removed from the board—when the king was killed.

Chaturanga was introduced to Persia around 600 AD and the rajah became the shah. Persian chatrang became Arabic shatranj and made its way to Morocco and Spain as shaterej. The word check, meaning an attack on the king, was adapted from the Persian shah. A player would say shah to announce an attack on the king. The expression checkmate came from the situation in which the king is attacked and has no defense: shāh māt means “the king is dead” and this connotation of regicide persists in the Russian name for chess: shakmati.

In Latin, the game was not named after the killing of the king, but after the attacks themselves—the checks. It was called ludis scaccorum (game of checks) or, when shortened, scacchi. The Latin word for check later gave us the Middle French eschec, which became échecs in the plural and chess in English.

Along with the modern name, French is also the source of some of the game’s fine points, such as the en passant rule, which permits the capture of an opponent’s pawn when it moves two squares on its first move passing a pawn of the opposite color. It is the source of the expression j’adoube, used when a player wishes to adjust a piece without moving it. For a time too, players would announce gardez when the queen was under attack or en prise. But the warning is no longer customary.

French also contributes to the confusing noun stalemate. The Middle English word stale is probably from Anglo-French estale which meant “standstill.” When a player did not have a legal move, that counted as a win, so stalemate was a victory by standstill. Today a stalemate in chess counts as a tie, and the word has been extended to a more general description for a deadlock. En passant, j’aboube, gardez, and en prise have been less successful as general terms. The same can be said for the Italian word fianchetto, from the diminutive of fianco which means “flank” and referring to a particular deployment of one’s bishops.

German is the source of a number of chess words, such as Zugzwang, referring to the situation in which players have no moves that will not weaken their position Zugzwang has been extended to refer to situations in which the pressure to do something is counterproductive, as in the following examples from Zugzwang fan Nate Silver (from 2008: “Either way, it is a reminder of the state of zugzwang that McCain campaign finds itself in” and from 2016: “For Clinton, this is a zugzwang election where she’d rather stay out of the way and let Trump make the news”).

German gives us the monosyllabic term luft (“air”) referring to a flight square made by moving a pawn in front of a king’s castled position, which we find in Luftwaffe and Lufthansa, and the derisive patzer, used to describe a poor player (cognate with the verb patzen meaning to bungle). The German verb kiebitzen (“to look on at cards”) makes its way to Yiddish as kibitz and refers meddling in games by spectators.

Many modern tactical terms are of English origin. There are pins (when a piece cannot move because it would expose a more valuable one) and forks (double attacks), both terms dating from the nineteenth century. Twentieth century coinages include the windmill (when a rook and bishop work together to both check the king and capture material) and the x-ray or skewer, where a piece indirectly attacks an opposing piece.

One of my favorites terms though is the smothered checkmate, a term which dates from about 1800. This occurs when the king is surrounded by its own pieces so that it has no flight squares and is checkmated by an opponent’s knight. It is a rare occurrence but when it happens it will take your breath away.

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Jan 06, 2017

Susan Polgar is committed to inspiring more girls in chess

Very few women play chess, and no wonder,” Webster University chess coach Susan Polgar said. “When a woman goes into a chess club, she’s the only one. It’s an unnatural and unhealthy social environment when you are a minority in a certain group.

Chess is a game long dominated by men. The world champions have always been men. The Grandmaster title — the highest title in the game — is carried by more than 1,500 men and just 33 women. Two years ago, Chess.com created an imaginary tournament that pitted the 16 greatest chess players of all time against one another. All 16 were men.

Susan Polgar is not a man. But at 15, she catapulted to the top ranking in female chess and held a position in the top three for 23 years. She broke gender barriers — first woman to qualify for the Men’s World Championship Cycle, first to earn the Grandmaster title and first to win the U.S. Open Men’s Blitz Championship — and now, after retiring from competitive play, she hopes to bring chess to the masses of young girls who, for centuries, have been neglected by the male-dominated game.

In late October, Polgar sat before a blue-and-white chessboard in the Clayton Plaza Hotel, outside St. Louis, where she was holding her annual Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE) Cup. She’s now a coach for Webster University in Webster Groves, Missouri, but Polgar’s focus remains on young women. She hopes to make chess more accessible for young girls by organizing and traveling to all-female tournaments around the world: Geneva, Switzerland; Baku, Azerbaijan; Santa Clara, California.

Sitting in a room filled with long tables and chessboards, Polgar began explaining the game that shaped her life and made a young girl from Budapest the face of a female movement.

“Imagine a real-life war,” Polgar said in a soft Hungarian accent.

She’s talking about openings: the first few moves a player makes in any game.

“You have your soldiers and your tanks, your missiles — whatever tools you have to fight with, you get them ready to fight,” she said.

The game is built on initial equality: two players, two sides, 32 pieces, 64 squares, infinite moves, no flirtation with chance. But two sides are hardly ever equal. In the United States, roughly 12,000 of the 91,555 chess players rated by the United States Chess Federation (USCF) are women. It’s a numbers game — a war, if you will — and it’s one Polgar is hoping to equalize.

She began talking about her upbringing in a home that preached equality. Polgar grew up in Budapest, the oldest daughter of Laszlo Polgar, a teacher and child psychiatrist, who believed genius could be taught. Susan discovered the family chess set tucked away in a cupboard just before her fourth birthday. She loved chess, and her father patiently taught her — describing the game like a fairy tale, filled with kings and queens, horses and knights in shining armor. He believed he could help his children become prodigies.

Within months of learning the game, Polgar won the city championship for students twice her age. She began competing in tougher tournaments, with older and more experienced opponents, and she took trips to the local chess club with her father. Before she turned 10, Polgar got her first glimpse of inequality within the chess world. Men told her to go play with dolls, that women were dumber than men, that a woman’s place was in the home — not the chess club.

“Very few women play chess, and no wonder,” Polgar said. “When a woman goes into a chess club, she’s the only one. It’s an unnatural and unhealthy social environment when you are a minority in a certain group.”

The easiest way to combat the discrimination was winning. And she did plenty of that. But even in the 1980s, when Polgar competed for the Hungarian national team, a male teammate couldn’t fathom a woman earning the Grandmaster title.

“I like you. I have nothing against you,” she remembers him telling her, “but don’t make insane statements that you want to be a Grandmaster yourself. That’s impossible”

Less than a decade later, she earned the game’s highest title — the first woman to do so through conventional norms. Chess has always been a game of war for Polgar, both on and off the board, and she credits her success to a mindset she and her sisters developed early.

“It was an ‘us against the world’ mentality,” she said.

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