The Dog and Pony Show

Typically that’s how I think of opening/closing ceremonies, and to some extent press conferences in the world of chess.

Generally you assume that nothing too exciting is going to happen, so why bother even trying to score an invite.  You can plan on hearing the same accolades and the same platitudes so what’s the point?

However, for the Saint Louis Rapid & Blitz my feelings are pretty much the polar opposite of that.  Why?  A few reasons.  First, the CCSCSL typically puts on a pretty good event with these.  Who can forget Caruana’s answer to what he was going to do with his prize money in 2015 when he replied “Yeah, I think I’d buy a goat. I think I could afford it with the money I earned, and this goat I think could see tactics better than me.”

Second, Maurice Ashley is a pretty good MC for these types of events.  He has a wicked sense of humor and is able to hold his own in the quip department.  He also has a sense of passion and enthusiasm for chess which easily comes across when he speaks.

Lastly, and let’s face it, far more important that anything else that could be mentioned, the return of Garry Kasparov was the main driving force for my desire to attend this event.

So I applied for media credentials and was initially told that the event was completely invite only.  I then was told by one of the players not to worry, that I would be going with him, so I figured I was in.  Then the club re-contacted me to clarify that they were allowing all media members who wanted in to attend so they would put me on the list.

So I went and I have to say that it did not disappoint.

First of all before the event began I was able to chat with Czech GM David Navara.  I told him that I visited Prague last year when I played on the Chess Train and that I can’t wait to go back some day and see the city again, hopefully with more time to enjoy the sights.

He said it was his first time in the US and that he hopes that it’s not his last.  He seemed quite excited to be in the States for this event.

I was also able to talk with recently retired NFL player John Urschel who is visiting with his friend GM Robert Hess.  John seems like a genuinely nice guy.  I had a chance to talk with him a bit at the chess house on Friday night and his love of the game and desire to play more shines through when he speaks.

All of this while enjoying a nice glass of red wine and some hors d’oeuvres that were being circulated by the friendly wait staff.

Then it was time for the ceremony itself to begin.  You can watch it here.  Skip ahead to the 27:35 mark for the actual beginning of the event.  Some highlights included Hikaru getting in a little trash talk on Garry (who responded in kind!) and Rex and Maurice digging at each other a bit.

So far this trip has been amazing.  Tomorrow is my final day, and I’m expecting it to be exciting as I will get to see Nakamura – Kasparov in round two!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

It’s That Time Once Again – Sinquefield Cup

Well, it’s time once again for my semi-annual pilgrimage to the Central West End of Saint Louis.

I more or less come here each year for both the US Championships and for the Sinquefield Cup.  I say more or less since I have missed one of each since 2013.

I sit here typing this having just gotten back from enjoying a nice sushi dinner at the Drunken Fish after watching Round Eight of the Cup, which is the first of the two I am here for.

For the US Championships I tend to come for the final three rounds, but for Sinquefield there’s a dance that needs to be done.  If you come for the final rounds you see the best action but if you come for the beginning you get to go to the autograph session where you can get stuff signed by all of the players.

I have boards signed by all participants from both the inaugural 2013 edition and the 2015 tournament as well.  Also, the picture I use for masthead of this site is from Sinquefield 2013.

Well this time the choice was easy and I decided to come for the final two rounds of the Cup, since two days later a rapid and blitz event starts and Garry Kasparov is coming out of retirement to play in that event.  It will be his first rated event in 12 years.

There will be an autograph session this Sunday featuring Kasparov so of course I decided to attend the final few rounds of the Cup so I can fit that autograph session in to my schedule!

So the plan as it sits now is:

Friday: Going to Webster in the morning.  Haven’t made it out the last couple of times I’ve been here to see Paul and Susan, so I’m making a point to go this time.

In the afternoon I’ll head back to catch the final round of the Cup.

Saturday: This is the true off day.  I’ll probably spend the first few hours of the day recovering from the Friday night after party.  After that it will be time to go for a long walk in Forest Park, and then try to finish an article I’m working on for Chess Life.

Sunday: Afternoon will be the autograph session.  I am really looking forward to getting a board signed by Garry Kasparov.  It’s hard to describe how excited I am about this.  Kasparov was my boyhood hero and I never would have ever thought that I would get a chance to watch him play since the Soviet Union was such a foreboding place.

Evening is the cocktail reception and press conference.  I originally tried to RSVP as media by virtue of my position as Associate Editor with American Chess Magazine and was denied as I was told it was invite only.  I was then invited by one of the players who I am friends with, only to then have the club contact me back and tell me that they will put me on the list as they are inviting all media who are requesting to go.

So either way I’m going, lol.

Monday will be day one of the rapid portion of the Rapid and Blitz.  I’ll be here for those rounds and then heading home afterwards.

So all in all a fun few days!  If YOU haven’t come to check out an event at the St. Louis Chess Club you have no one to blame but yourself!

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott

Just Back From the US Championships

First of all, let me begin by saying congratulations to both first time champions, Wesley So and Sabina Foiser.

I know it’s been a while since I was able to write any updates here on anything, but I’ve been away.

Some memories I will take with me for some time to come…

Meeting not only Sabina, but also her fiancé, Elshan Moradi Abadi.  What a great guy (not to mention strong GM!) he is.  I was fortunate to have a drink with them on Sunday night as she was celebrating her victory.

The Sunday night get together at the Chess House.  It was fun to see everyone socializing and getting some bughouse/blitz action going.  Not only do the players and commentators get together, but there are always a dozen or so other titled players in the form of seconds, journalists, visitors, etc.  I had a wonderful time getting to hang out with folks like Hikaru and Yasser and the gang.

Eric Hansen.  This guy really delivers on the “Canadians are nice people” stereotype.  He’s a damn fine commentator who seems to have a very bright future both behind the commentary desk and over the board.  I promise you I will be rooting for the Montreal Chessbrahs in 2018!

A Taste of Lebanon.  Great restaurant in the Central West End.  It’s been there forever but this was the first time that I ate there.  I highly recommend the falafel and the spicy potatoes.

Gata Kamsky.  What can possibly be said about this guy that hasn’t already been said a million times over.  We have a good friend in common and so I have been lucky enough to spend a little time around Gata.  He’s always an interesting conversationalist.

The Saint Louis Chess Campus.  OK, at this point I’ve been there numerous times over several years, but really, it can’t be said enough…this is a great place for chess fans to be.

Now I have a couple of articles to work on for various topics.  One for Chess Life Online and another for American Chess Magazine.  So it’s back to the grind.

While gone I did some work on chess as there was a lot of live analysis between friends and I at the US Championships, along with solving some tactics.

Tonight I also get back to work on some Quality Chess books to get back on that horse as well.  I have a new tournament starting in two days.

Til Next Time,

Chris Wainscott