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The 1907 World Chess Championship, Memphis TN

Did you know that in 1907 the World Chess Championship was held in Memphis, TN? The contenders for the title were Dr. Emmanuel Lasker the reigning World Chess Champion and the contender was Frank Marshall. Here you will find a review of the event.


Recognition for the research and presentation of this article goes out to Frank Wranovix and Dwight Weaver. Also, to leave comments on this article and for more on Memphis, TN chess history, go to: http://memphischessclub.blogspot.com/2014/04/world-chess-championship-in.html)


The Queen’s Gambit Declined, Semi-Grunfeld

We know from chess openings like the Grunfeld Defense (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5) that Black may control the center with pieces instead of pawns. But what about the Grunfeld’s poor cousin, 1.d4 d5 2.c4 g6, clearly a member of this hypermodern family? The first issue of Kamikaze Times (November, 2002) called this line the “Alekhine Defense” against the Queen’s Gambit. Alekhine did play this opening, but the editor correctly notes that Blackburne takes precedence. Unusual and seldom seen, there is not much theory to learn nor many games to consult; those who enjoy offbeat chess openings may investigate further. First we have Blackburne at work:


Chess on Reality TV

The game of chess has seen a number of attempts to make it on television, the best being The Master Game which ran on BBC from 1976 to 1982. Good, solid chess entertainment and instruction. Today we learn of a new TV series called American Chess Star featuring chess bitch Jennifer Shahade among others – a show aiming to compete in the crowded television “reality” genre. Apparently the show’s host will conduct players through several challenges, producing a winner. After watching the trailer below one might think the whole thing a hoax; after all, the atmosphere feels like a cross between Blue’s Clues and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. But the show is produced by the Xtreme Chess Champs, a group which certainly exists on Facebook and Twitter. Make up your own mind, but we rather hope this project confines itself to a series of obscure web episodes, the better to limit the embarrassment of all chess players.

ChessCentral’s Free Chess Area

One of the great things about chess is is the amount of free online chess that’s available to anyone. ChessCentral has always been at the front of free chess for all – see the Chess Exchange  our free online forum and our extensive online Chess KnowledgeBase of tips and helps for chess players. Even the ChessCentral FAQ  pages offers free chess technical support. In other words, if you want to learn how to play a chess game or improve your chess playing skills for free, then ChessCentral is here to help!

By far ChessCentral’s most in-depth free chess source is the Free Chess Area, which not only offers plenty of free chess to the casual visitor but makes available a special Member’s Area – free to join,  naturally. A quick look around reveals a host of free chess software programs, free online chess game collections, chess art and free chess articles. Chess players can download free chess e-books or browse through chess lessons for improving players. Any chess player of whatever strength will find free chess information to help learn more about the game of chess.

In addition to ever expanding free chess content, all Members of the Free Chess Area receive the Weekend Warrior chess newsletter, telling of the latest updates, new chess products, and amazing discounts on everyone’s favorite chess stuff. If you’re not a Member yet why not try the best in free chess? It’s only a matter of clicking here  to join now, and get your login details by email in moments. The internet’s top spot for free chess is the Free Chess Area – and remember, it’s absolutely free!

Chess Openings for Beginners (Part 2)

If we follow the advice of Sigmund Tarrasch, then chess beginners and novice chess players are busy learning endgames first and middlegame ideas second. Simple chess endings to more complex examples, then middlegame strategy (pawn structure, weak squares, etc.) and tactics (chess combinations, Kingside attacks, etc.). On this foundation we can build our knowledge about chess openings – and for now we only want an opening “system”, a chess opening to get us safely past the first 12-15 moves.

To be fair, when Tarrasch finally introduces the opening phase of chess he provides a general survey, a little taste, of all the main chess openings. It’s okay to peek ahead and get a feel for what lies ahead, because someday we’ll adopt a few of these standard King’s Pawn or Queen’s Pawn chess openings as our own. But at this point in our career let’s find a simple and universal way to get through the opening of a chess game.

In fact, let’s save study time and find a true “stereotype”, a chess opening we can play with the White and Black pieces both. One obvious example is the King’s Indian:

Depending on what the opponent does we’ll advance our e-pawn or c-pawn two squares, staking a claim in the center. Move order is flexible, so we can play 1…g6 or 1…d6 (as Black) in answer to 1.e4 and still reach the diagrammed position; the Queen’s Knight can also be held back for deployment elsewhere. As White this layout is called the King’s Indian Attack, and as Black it’s the King’s Indian Defense or (after 1.e4) the Pirc/Modern complex, but they’re all clearly related.

Another “automatic” chess opening might be called the “Queen’s Indian” formation:

We can play Nf3, Be2, 0-0 and then push a pawn to c4 or d4 as our center play. Again we have a wide choice of follow-up plans, with a safe and solid position. Here White is playing the “Larsen Attack” and Black the “English Defense” but again the opening concepts have much in common.

It is interesting that both chess opening systems described above can lead to the “Hippopotamus Opening”, in which we redirect our King’s Knight to the e2-square:

We might plan a c-pawn push followed by Qc2, and we’re practically in the middlegame already.

Each of these chess opening “systems” pass muster – that is, we exit the opening quickly and in good order with either White or Black. It must be understood, however, that these chess openings are essentially counter-punching strategies; the enemy is free to grab the chess board’s center while we ponder how to strike back or die. This pleasure is paid for by creeping around on the first three ranks and not attacking or threatening anything. A sophisticated proposition, perhaps, for the beginner or novice at chess. But we are at least getting our chess pieces organized, and can trust to win the game with our superior new skills in middlegame chess strategy and endgame play.

The “universal” chess openings just described, playable for both White and Black, are certainly worth a look. No other plans of development fit the bill, although some chess openings come close. Bird’s Opening with 1.f4 is typical, and can be played with White or Black (the Dutch Defense) equally in all cases – except, that is, when we’re Black and White has played 1.e4 on his first move. Another near miss is 1.Nf3 and 1…Nf6 against anything, which we reject because 1.e4 Nf6 is Alekhine’s Defense and 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 leads to a crush of Grandmaster chess opening theory.

But there is another chess opening that can be played with White or Black, one that offers more piece activity than we’ve seen yet, and one that applies more directly to the “standard” openings we’ll want to learn later. Next time let’s examine ChessCentral’s favorite opening system for beginner and novice chess players!

Your Chess Club

Most serious chess players eventually join their city’s chess club, where strong competition can be found and lasting friendships formed. Some players become fixtures at these establishments, waging their silent battles and passing on our chess heritage to youngsters or beginners. Stories and anecdotes build up around such characters, the solid pillars of any chess club – and then they’re gone. That old guy who used to sit at the corner table, reading chess magazines and taking on all comers. What was his name again?

Chess Club Player

John Hurt, Memphis Chess Club

His name was John Hurt. He started winning chess tournaments in 1933, and when he moved to Memphis in 1961 Mr. Hurt became a dominant force there for the next 25 years. Many times city and club chess champion, this gentleman gave countless exhibitions for schools and youth groups. He published a pamphlet on gambits, and loved to attack your King. John Hurt handed the game of chess to a new generation of Memphis players; he was the guy at the corner table reading chess magazines, taking on all comers.

We know these things because the Memphis City Chess Club has done an excellent job of preserving their history. The club historian, Dwight Weaver, maintains a web page  to this end with lists of champions, past tournaments and notable events. We find that the Memphis Chess Club was founded in 1877 and that a 1901 simul by Pillsbury energized the members, growing their numbers and stimulating regular chess tournaments. We learn that a World Chess Championship game was played in Memphis, between Lasker and Marshall in 1907, and of other visits by famous Grandmasters.

US Chess Open Trophy

US Chess Open Trophy, 1900-1914

Even the US Open trophy used between 1900 and 1914 is housed here, and has been in the Memphis Chess Club’s possession for nearly 100 years.

Many such American chess clubs have a long and proud history, and not just the top names in big cities. This second and third tier history, this “secret” chess history, is where our royal game really lives – in that corner seat where the old guy reads chess magazines and takes on all comers. He’s there because another fellow sat there before him, and another before that. So sit down and have a game; it’s your club’s future history being made.

Queen to Play

Queen to play: A film about Chess

Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda) and the luminous Sandrine Bonnaire (Vagabond) square off in this stylish and sophisticated dramedy of new-found passions and mid-life triumphs, set on the postcard-perfect isle of Corsica.

Lovely, repressed and quietly intelligent, French chambermaid Hélène (Bonnaire) discovers she has a knack for chess. This obsession—much to the chagrin of her husband and teen aged daughter—leads her to seek the clandestine tutelage of a reclusive American doctor (Kline, in his first French-speaking role)—a liaison that radically transforms both of their lackluster lives.

Starts April 1, 2011.

This unique film is in French with English subtitles. You can check out the opening schedules here:

Stay turned. ChessCentral is working with Zeitgeist Films for poster giveaways.