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First Moves


dozens of games including several chess-based competitions, such as speed chess, Chess960 and bughouse. Over tea near Etan’s art gallery, Tenderpixel, he explained the rules and inspiration behind Diving Chess. Players compete using a floating chessboard and waterproof set—you can only think about your moves underwater. Once a player emerges from the water, he must move within five sec- onds. If he fails to, he receives a penalty. Three penalties equals a time forfeit. “If someone surprises you with a tactical trap, it’s hard to hold your breath for over a minute [to analyze the lines].” Etan said, “It’s a way to bring the physical into chess.” When you


hear chess and physical, I can’t blame you for thinking of chess- boxing (though in my case, I think of hula chess!). Chessboxing, a striking visual combination, was invented by Berlin-based artist Iepe B.T. Rubingh and has since exploded into a phenomenon, with its own organization and clubs from India to Los Angeles. The hybrid sport has been featured in news networks all over the world, and draws hundreds to events for the fight cards, and also to London, which has one of the most active clubs. Malcolm Pein, organizer of the London Chess Classic, said it’s thrilling to call the play to hundreds of spectators at chessboxing matches. It’s the most accessible analysis he has ever ventured. Malcolm points out the most esoteric things for non-chessplayers is algebraic notation. “I never call out the name of a square (i.e.- g5) unless I’m sure it’s highlighted on the screen.” Malcolm is also the manager of the London Chess Centre, which


was just a block away from my hotel on the famous Baker Street, home of fictional Sherlock Holmes. At the shop I met Sabrina Chevannes, an energetic chess expert, promoter and founder of the Chevannes Academy. She also works with Malcolm on various proj- ects, including publicity for the London Chess Classic. Sabrina told me about her passion for promoting women in chess. Like in the U.S., many people she spoke to about sponsorship and support took a hyper-logical approach that constantly asked questions like “Why support a female player who would not get any special atten- tion for her accomplishments if she was male?” rather than asking a question we both felt more connected to: “Why is promoting women in chess important to bringing more players and attention to chess?” Sabrina organized the 1st English Women’s Rapid Play, which featured over a dozen players including Jovanka Houska, the number one woman player in England. Although I’d love to see a higher ratio of female players in all tour-


Diving chess: The latest idea for combining physicality with our mind game.


From Diving Chess to Painted Games: Adventures in British Chess


Chess Life Online Editor Jennifer Shahade reports from England


CHESS CAN LITERALLY take your breath away in “diving chess,” a new form that Etan Itfeld debuted at the Mind Sport Games in Lon- don last August. Imagine being engrossed in the intricacies of a pawn endgame or a complex Sicilian, while your thinking time is limited by the strength of your lungs. Itfeld, who previously lived in Cali- fornia, is the organizer of the Mind Sport Games. The one-week competition series held annually in London in August consists of


10 Chess Life — February 2012


naments, there is much to be proud of stateside. When I told Sabrina about the prize fund, structure and publicity scope of the U.S. Women’s Championship, she was impressed. At the British Championship, women play in the overall competition along with the men. The women’s prizes and title goes to the player who scores the most points. In 2011, IM Jovanka Houska scored 7/11 and received 1,000 pounds (about $1,600) for winning the British and English women’s titles. Anna Zatonskih earned over ten times more ($18,000) at last year’s U.S. Women’s Championship at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. My final adventure in British chess promotion was at the Univer-


sity of Greenwich at a gallery show by Lizi Sanchez and Tom Hackney, The Knight Turns its Head and Laughs. Many of Tom Hack- ney’s paintings were abstract works, painted according to chess games. Paint is applied whenever a piece travels through a partic- ular square, leaving a visual impression of the most heavily trodden paths of a chessboard. Over traditional pub fare by the river Thames, Hackney and I spoke about his work and the intersections of chess and art. He told me he uses the moves of a chess game to “gener- ate form, whereby that form is encoded.” His painted abstract works feature games from the Spassky versus Fischer match as well as two victories by Marcel Duchamp. “Working with Duchamp games is kind of like playing a guitar Johnny Marr (of The Smiths) played.” This was more than just a cute metaphor—Hackney once strummed the legend’s guitar at a friend’s apartment. The annual London Chess Classic made the city an interna-


tional chess center, piquing American interests as we watch our Hikaru Nakamura battle the likes of Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand. From diving chess to painted chess games, my trip to London showed there are plenty of chess adventures to explore under the surface.


. uschess.org


PHOTO: ETAN ITFELD


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