"...watching Beth Harmon was like time travelling back to my own childhood..."
Several times in these reports I've stated that what chess needs the most is more female players playing over the board tournament chess. Now due to the tremendous popularity of the Netflix movie "The Queen's Gambit" that may happen. Of course first we have to get past the damn COVID pandemic and there is at last good news on that front. A vaccine is in the pipeline, so there is light at the end of the tunnel. Yet it will probably still be months before we can safely resume normal in-person DCC Tuesday night activity or schedule DCC weekend tournaments.
I am most pleased to have two Colorado female chess players contribute greatly to this report with their thoughts and impressions of the "The Queen's Gambit" Anthea Carson is a well known Colorado chess player now living in California and teaching young chess beginners at the American Chess Academy. The advanced students at the Academy are coached by WGM Tatev Abrahamyan, who was a guest of honor at the 2019 Denver Open. Tatev is one of many prestigious instructors who are or have taught at the Academy. A list that includes GM Vishy Anand.
Anthea Carson's painting of Bobby Fischer at the board. Ready for anyone.
Anthea had this to say about the Netflix "The Queen's Gambit" film. Quoting Anthea Carson: "I’ve really been enjoying Queen's Gambit. This movie captures so much about what I and many others love about the game. If I had had the talent to play chess in my head as a child, and that’s exactly what I would have done. Beth Harmon is living the dream. Not every chess female plays at such a level. It’s fun to watch her victories, even if she is maybe the fictional female equivalent to Bobby Fischer. This movie is repopularizing the game, just like he did!" - Anthea Carson
Anthea at work in her home studio.
Ms. Carson is a talented artist who hand paints famous chess players and other personalities then applies the images to t-shirts and coffee mugs that she has for sale. If you are interested in obtaining one of these cool shirts or cups contact her at her website or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann Davies is also very well known in Colorado chess. She learned to play chess from her mother and in turn has taught her daughter, Lara, to play. She has served on the CSCA board of directors off and on for years. Ann's thoughts on the film, the pandemic, and CSCA projects, are perceptive and informative. Well worth your time to read. Quoting Ann Davies: "Goodbye 2020 and good riddance! This dumpster fire of a year has been like no other, forever marked by a worldwide pandemic the likes of which most of us have never encountered. It speaks volumes that 'pandemic' was Merriam-Webster's top word of this year.
We were all in it together. Everyone felt the impacts of this crisis in one way or another. We have been consumed with dreams deferred, sacrifice, hardship, loneliness, and isolation. More importantly, however, too many have suffered and paid the ultimate price, losses upon losses and death upon death. As a global pandemic raged, chess players retreated to their libraries and computers, no longer able to compete over the board, and turned to the online chess community for a lifeline. The players played on, happy and content, losing themselves in their limitless terrain of 64 squares. Since chess is well suited for online practice and competition, it was a silver lining of sorts allowing more time for study and play than in prior years.
This film is doing wonders for promoting female participation in chess tournaments.
The house bound masses of the world sought some relief from streaming services like Netflix. Just when everything that could be streamed had been, along came Netflix's The Queen's Gambit, premiering on October 23, 2020. The film is based on a fictional novel written in 1983 by Walter Tevis about an orphaned girl who discovers chess and falls in love with the game. Soon after it premiered, Netflix announced The Queen's Gambit had become its most watched series with 62 million accounts streaming it in just 28 days.
Stop the clock! What just happened? In a crazy, topsy turvy year when norms were turned on their head, up was down and black was white, chess suddenly became cool - and not just cool, but popular as well. Did I somehow get transported into another dimension?
No doubt, The Queen's Gambit has already been transformative for chess. Here are a few statistics for the true chess nerds who may still be reading this. Chess.com has added nearly 13 million new members in 2020 and 2.3 million have joined recently, at or just after the premier of The Queen's Gambit. According to marketing research group NPD Group, sales of chess sets spiked by 87% in the US, and chess book sales rose 603%. A representative from Goliath Games noted that chess set sales were up by one thousand percent from last holiday season. Note: The facts mentioned regarding chess sales and chess internet memberships, etc. have been borrowed from and can be attributed to articles appearing in The Washington Post and NBC News.
Before I had a chance to watch The Queen's Gambit, no less than four separate women (none of whom played chess), recommended the show to me. Incredible! One person even stated it was the best thing she had streamed during the year. Intrigued by these testimonials, I decided to watch it before there views would ruin it for me.
The Queen's Gambit is an extremely well-made miniseries that captures the chic retro 60s look, style and sound. The story is a fictional account about a female chess player, Beth Harmon, who discovers an affinity for chess. The heroine is captivating both on and off the chessboard, which itself takes on a larger-than-life meaning as the great equalizer across age, class, gender and nationality.
This guy is no doubt thinking - "All these spectators and I'm losing to a girl"
The audience cheers on Beth as she copes with the circumstances of her life and rises above her challenges. This inspirational tale was just the thing we needed, at just the right time, transporting us to a world where the protagonist ultimately empowers herself and controls her own destiny. It allowed us a momentary escape from our reality. The ending was everything we wanted it to be. Spoiler alert: the camera follows Ms. Harmon walking into a park in the city where she finds someone to play chess with - with the Royal Game serving as their common language. Isn't that what it's all about for chess enthusiasts?
Kudos to the filmmakers for recruiting Gary Kasparov and Bruce Pandolfini to be special consultants on the film. It is regrettable that they did not enlist the insights of Judit Polgar whose achievements in chess are numerous. Polgar is the only woman ever to be ranked and included in the world top 10 players in2005. At 15, she became the youngest grandmaster in the world breaking the record previously set by Bobby Fischer. In 2005, she became the first and only woman to surpass 2700 Elo and was ranked as the No. 1 woman chess player in the world from 1989-2014.
A young fearless Judit Polgar at the board. The dude don't know what he's in for :)
Ms. Polgar commented on the film in another article stating "They were too nice to her." Recalling one of her own experiences, she stated, "The first grandmaster I beat was hitting his head in the elevator after the game." Judit Polgar's perspective on a story about a female chess prodigy and champion would have been invaluable. How ironic is it that the filmmakers did not consult Ms. Polgar on a film about a woman chess champion in the 60s. Instead, they sought out Kasparov and Pandolfini for their insights. I suppose that even in the 21st century, the idea of equality for women, even in the chess world, is still 'fictional'.
In her prime, Judit Polgar was able to hold her own against anyone. Up to and including World Champion Garry Kasparov.
From my own perspective, watching Beth Harmon was like time travelling back to my own childhood in the 60s. My mother taught me the game and like Beth, I had no idea about the books, clubs ,tournaments, openings, endgame theory, strategy, tactics and history. At the time, it was just another game, like Monopoly or Life. In high school, I even joined a chess club just like Beth Harmon; but unlike the heroine, I was not a prodigy. It was only after I embarked on my teaching career and accidentally took over the school's chess club that I discovered the many intriguing aspects of this game. Before I knew it, I joined the Westminster Chess Club and soon began competing in tournaments. At that time, I was surprised to discover so few girls and women actually played chess. Through the years, I have been asked countless times for my opinion as to why this is the case and to this date, I have no idea and can only guess at an answer.
Current Women's World Champion GM Wenjun Ju playing GM Valentina Gunina at the annual Carin's Cup tournament. Organized by Jeanne Sinquefield, who along with her husband, Rex Sinquefield and the St. Louis Chess Club, is promoting women's chess big time.
It is my hope that as more opportunities are created for girls and as women achieve true equality there will inevitably follow a corresponding increase in the number of girls and women who play chess. I have endeavored to help further this along, in my own way, by teaching chess to girls. The 2019-2020 CSCA Board, which I served as Secretary, also strived to increase girls' and women's participation in chess. These efforts were a direct result of Kevin McConnell's and Lior Lapid's, (fellow board members), vision regarding increasing the number of girls and women playing chess. That year, the CSCA Board made great progress towards these endeavors as evidenced by the accomplishments listed below:
Created free after school chess classes for girls at three Title 1 schools taught by myself. This brought chess to approximately 60 girls who could not otherwise afford after school activities.
Created the CWCWC (Colorado Women's Chess Wine Club) a free chess club for women taught by Gracie Salazar. Attended the Museum of Science Girls in Science STEM day where Kevin McConnell, Lior Lapid, Sravyasri Lankipalle, (a young and wonderful rising Colorado chess star), and I played chess all day long and introduced countless girls along with their parents to the game.
Attended the Museum of Science Girls in Science STEM day where Kevin McConnell, Lior Lapid, Sravyasri Lankipalle, (a young and wonderful rising Colorado chess star), and I played chess all day long and introduced countless girls along with their parents to the game. Do not ever miss the chance to listen to Lior Lapid comment or teach about chess. He is engaging, entertaining, informative and his lessons are magical.
Obtained a grant in the amount of nearly $6,000 designed to promote and increase girls' participation in chess by teaching ten classes at ten Title I schools during the upcoming schoolyear. Unfortunately, this has yet to be implemented due to the pandemic.
Created (by Kevin McConnell in the Spring of 2019) the First Annual Girl's Colorado State Championship, a tournament just for girls.
The Colorado Women's Chess and Wine Club also promises to bring more women to Colorado chess.
The 2019-2020 Board had hoped to build upon his success and hold a Second Colorado State Girl's Championship. Lior Lapid was able to secure the attendance of a special guest, Phiona Mutesi, whose life is depicted in the film Queen of Katwe. Unfortunately, the pandemic forced the postponement of this tournament. Although the 2020 pandemic resulted in the postponement of efforts to expand chess for girls and women, Netflix's The Queen's Gambit has, without a doubt, succeeded with increasing global interest in chess, especially among girls and women. The irony is not lost on me. The interest in chess sparked by The Queen's Gambit may well result in increased participation and opportunities for players around the world for years to come. Simply Amazing." - Ann Davies. I am indebted to both Ann and Anthea for their contributions to this report. Thank you both very much.
The film has spawned many news reports and articles. Creating The Queen’s Gambit | Netflix - YouTube -- Chess player says she dealt with more sexism than 'The Queen's Gambit' - Insider -- How ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ Is Inspiring Women to Take Up Chess - The New York Times -- 'It's electrifying': chess world hails Queen's Gambit-fuelled boom | Chess | The Guardian -- Checkmate! The chess business is suddenly booming -- Chess is booming, thanks to Queen’s Gambit and the pandemic - The Washington Post
As we all are, I am waiting impatiently till we can all play live in person over the board chess on Tuesday nights at the Denver Chess Club, and really hoping to see an influx of female players.
1) v-trash vs BrianWall How does Brian Wall force a rare Gunnar Andersen resignation?
3) BrianWall vs. thinkneil (Neil Bhavikatti) Pawn Wave Guy has a passed pawn. Neil knows resistance is futile and resigns. Brian having over 2 minutes and Neil being down to 5 seconds may have also influenced Neil's decision :)
5) BrianWall vs. shivensaxena (Shiven Saxena) After 21...Qd7-c6 How does the Super GM win material?
6) BrianWall vs. SunBear69 (Charlie Flaxbeard) Black has just played 18...Bc8-e6 What did he overlook?
7) de_grave_digger vs. brianwall 17. Qd2 attacked the Knight on b4. I'm thinking 17...a6 was a mouse slip. I'm sure Mr. Wall meant to play ...a5. But like they say in the NFL, there are no excuses. It only matters who gets the 1 and who gets the 0.
There has been 40 of these Lichess tournaments so far, and Gunnar Andersen has played in nearly all of them. He has maybe two 2nd place finishes. In all the rest he has taken the 1st place prize money. He is fast, accurate, and tactical as all hell.
9) DuWayneinCo vs. v-trash Incredibility the same position arose between the same two players in a previous tournament, and we see why the above comment is true since this time DuWayne takes the Bishop.
11) v-trash vs. de_grave_digger. Gunnar brezerked and Kevin played with the full 3 minutes. The players have just traded Rooks on d6 and Black played 43...Bc6. Black I think must be winning but Gunner with only 32 seconds - against a minute and a half for Kevin - holds the draw.
12) v-trash vs. thinkneil After a tactical sequence around the Black King, White could take the bishop and be winning or play what else to win immediately?
Ms. Wilinsky has put a lot of time, effort, and money into these Lichess tournaments. The DCC is most grateful. Here is a couple of her games.
13) shivensaxena vs. PseudoQuasi (Alayne Wilinsky) Black has just played 36...g4+ and White has a choice of King moves. Why was 37. Kh4 not the best?
14) SunBear69 vs. PseudoQuasi After 15. Qd1-d4 find the winning move that Alayne plays now.