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Chess Pilgrimage to St. Louis
An Historic Moment in Chess, Captured Here in Words and Pictures
Video at the Bottom of the Page
to my chess adventure! On September 6, 2011, I embarked on the
chess journey of a lifetime. Leaving my wife
and young children at home to fend for themselves for a whole
week, I loaded the car with my best chess sets and traveled
over 1000 miles north, to the new
epicenter of world chess. (By the way, the red
letters in this text are links to related web pages...)
me, wholesome devotee of chess, with my tent pitched on the
outskirts of town. There I established my base of operations
for what was to be an extraordinarily chess-filled weekend.
Nice peaceful accommodations — not to mention saving a
bundle in what would have been hotel fees.
here it is! Just waiting for the eager chess enthusiasts
to sever the virginal yellow ribbon and venture into the history,
the majesty of the eternal chess realm. A three-story remodeled
old brick building dedicated to the history and drama of chess.
And who should
we come upon just across the street bantering over classic
endgame conundrums but resident Grandmaster
Ben Finegold giving his daily instruction only to
be joined by one of the world's most outstanding young
chess geniuses — Hikaru Nakamura! Just another day
of chess in St. Louis.
Nakamura recently relocated to St. Louis, the best
place to be for high level tournaments and all things
chess. Nakamura is now the 6th highest rated
chess player in the world, having recently outshined the
best of the best in the world at the
Aan Zee tournament in Holland.
An amiable young gentleman, Nakamura brings a dynamism
and adventurous spirit to the board rarely seen in high
level tournaments. Having already established himself
as the best one-minute
"bullet" and Fischer
random "chess 960" chess player in the world,
he is now making his presence felt in every level of tournament
A future world
champion? I wouldn't doubt it!
Sinquefield, whose vision and patronage are key to making
this all happen, Grandmaster Andy
Soltis, being honored that day as a great
chess author, player and proponent of the game ... and even
one little chessling just about ready for his first lesson.
Barrett, Director of Art and Culture and procreator of future
chess lovers; Lauren
Stewart, Special Events Manager, and then, becuase this
is a special event, a string quartet through the evening. Now,
let's have a sneak preview of the new museum ...
a teaser, let's look at a
few museum pieces in the modern section! Here we have a
screaming chessboard, with accompanying text and video on the
left, an anything-goes insane chess hodge-podge on the right
... and in the center — are you old enough to remember
John Lennon's white suit in a white room, playing a white piano?
Well, it's still happening. This is a white chessboard with
white pieces on white table with white chairs... yes, it's a
chess piece by Yoko Ono! But before we see the really good
stuff, let's have dinner with some chess geniuses:
let's get back to the museum to look at the Dean Collection.
Do you remember Fabergé,
jeweler and Russian Czars, fancy eggs and all that? Well, it
so happens that the Fabergé studio is known to have made two
— just two — chess sets ever,
Dean now owns both of them! Here's the one I like.
A stunning set made of quartz, jasper, jade, serpentine and
silver. But what an elegant and straight-forward design! It
would be a pleasure just to play a game of chess on it ... but
we just looked this time
here's something really a bit much. A HUGE chunk of
chess, played on a board big enough to house a mid-size dog.
And look at the craftsmanship we're talking about here! Ivory
carved faces set into gold and silver, detailed with jewels
— what more could you possibly ask for?
Dean himself, going from case to case, telling the tales
that go with each set ... where they came from, how they're
made ... and how on earth he came to acquire them. Focus here
is on a really rather fancy Chinese Ivory set. Notice the base
of each piece, divided into 8 panels, with a tiny little perfect
scene carved into each one!
fellow at the left here with the outrageous glasses is none
other than show curator Lary
List. Chess collectors know him as curator and editor of
the chess show and book The Imagery of Chess: Revisited.
Besides being a brilliant curator, with great vision and precise
methodology of handling items of astronomical value, Larry is
Great Guy! He became my buddy for the weekend -- I can't wait
to see what chess sets he gets his hands on next.
the Father of Chess Collecting again, Dr.
Dean, telling us once again how our illustrious and self-congratulating
society of chess collectors came into being — now also
telling us a little about his huge and dazzlilng illustrated
coffeetable book, Chess
Masterpieces, which showcases many of the sets on display
over the weekend. I've always said that if I can't own and handle
the chess sets I've always wanted, the next best thing is to
have great pictures of them — and Dr. Dean's book delivers.
Next up is Jon
Crumiller. Now, Jon also has a world class best-imaginable
chess collection and he just happens to be a computer data base
genius. The result? An extensive searchable data base covering
just about any collectable chess set you could ever come across.
Chess collectors need wonder no more! Your chess set is known
and findable. Also a picture of him showing one of his many,
many spectacular sets.
the chess fun is just beginning. Saturday afternoon found us
out in the street again, flanked by the Chess Museum on one
side and the St. Louis Chess Club on the other. The event here
is a human chess game, performed by the Boy Scouts to celebrate
a "chess turning point" in their organization. Now,
for the first time every, thanks to that group of dedicated
Scout Masters (above on the right), boys can earn a highly esteemed
based on their chess knowledge and prowess.
Of course, the Boys played out a game which was begun a few
weeks ago between Planet Earth and an orbiting astronaut, and
the astronaut himself was here to give a talk about space, chess
and Scouting. Another great leap for Boy Scouts as they take
small steps into the 21st century.
we have a high level chess tournament! Here, awaiting the first
move in the Kings vs. Queens "Battle of the Sexes"
tournament, stands an electronic sensing board, which instantly
relays the moves of its players to the analysis room, two flights
down. Evenly matched world class players were selected to create
a men's team and women's team for a true chess gender clash.
Round 1 (of 5) began Saturday afternoon.
The brash, young player on the right? Just happens to be a Boris
Spassky in his younger days, among many chess icons gracing
the Chess Club walls. What hair!
Collectors meeting wouldn't be complete without an awards dinner,
would it? Here we have Rick of AncientChess.com
self-photod in the luxurious hotel men's room; then we have
our fearless leader, Floyd Sarisohn, honoring the undisputed
top patrons of chess in North America, Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield
— being photographed here by 1996-99 Woman World Chess
Champion Susan Polgar. We get a wave from CCI organizer Bill
Fordney ... and over there tucked into the corner is Duncan
Pohl. Duncan thrilled the group with his research on American
chess sets and we and he and his his wife are two of the nicest
chess collectors anyone needs to know about!
finally, My Show! The Chess Collectors International
meeting ends with a Chess Fair — and I didn't hold back.
Carefully packed in my little Toyota Corolla were 55 of the
greatest cross-cultural chess sets you're every likely to come
across. Hurriedly set up, They're laid out here on 3 long tables.
For sale of course, and viewable at AncientChess.com
my Dad, something a little
different: Chess Through the Looking Glass. A novel invention
that allows you to play out a chess game, and see it from the
opposite perspective in the mirror view. Notice the demonstration
above where White has played P-K4 (e4) and Black is replying
P-QB3 (e6) — but in the Mirror world Black has begun with
P-K4 (e5) and White is responding P-QB3 (e3). The pieces and
even the squares of the chessboard change color in the mirror
view. A real mind-bender and perspective enhancer, teaching
the player to see both sides at once as never before.
more of those unique and cross-culutral sets. I had so much
to show! (You can get a good look at some of these sets in my
as the brief Chess Fair drew to a close, with much packing,
I took it all back into my car (except a few sold items) ...
and so ended the great 2011 meeting of Chess Collectors.
the tournament rages on! Here, in the lower level of the Chess
Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, the Stellar and
soft-spoken chess super-genius, author
and innovator GM Yasser
Seirawan confers with 2002 & 04 U.S. Woman Champion
and author WGM Jennifer
Shahade. The issue at hand are the moves made and dramas
sparked on 5 chessboards, now entering the 2nd round of the
Kings vs. Queens challenge. I had followed Jennifer and Grandmaster
Maurice Ashley on their internet broadcast of the U.S. Championship
2011. What a treat to sit in the studio audience and watch it
live! You can see full videos of this match at the Kings
vs. Queens web page.
as all unbelievable chess adventures must come to and end, Sunday
evening marked the completion of my great odyssey. Sad to leave,
but feeling the call of my Life with Children 1000 miles away,
I headed out of the spectacular arched city of St. Louis. Passing
through many great American cities, including Nashville, with
no time to stop and catch a Taylor Swift concert ... I pushed
on, alternately driving and resting for 2 days. Final picture:
my kids greeting me through the glass door.
below to see the video clips of my trip.
It's about 25 minutes of random, raw, unedited video,
so feel free to skip through to get to the good parts. Happy
Use the >| button (above) to skip ahead to
the next clip. You don't have to watch it all!
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