Welcome to the FIDE newsletter

Welcome to the #11 issue of the FIDE Newsletter. The current issue focuses on the handful of "over the board" events that took place during the past couple of weeks, now that normal chess activities are being resumed in different parts of the world. It is probably one of our most international newsletters so far, since we bring you stories from Australia, South Africa, the United States, and Poland, among other places. To conclude, we celebrate the birthday of a young prodigy who turns 15, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, and an illustrious veteran who turns 77, Helmut Pfleger.



Online Olympiad advances to the next stage:
Division 3

The Online Olympiad continued this weekend with its Division 4 stage: five pools from which the three best teams advanced to the next stage. These are the nations that have qualified for Division 3, which will begin on August 7:
Since this event has its own dedicated website where you can find complete information, we won't take much space on the newsletter to cover it. And if you don't want to miss a thing, we would also recommend that you follow FIDE's social media channels, where we are also posting pictures and positions from the most interesting games. Division 4 left us some memorable games already, like the King's March by IM Fadi Eid from Lebanon in his game against IM Oladapo Adu of Nigeria.

As it was announced right before the start of the event, on July 22 Gazprom became General Partner of the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad, the largest online chess event in 2020. Gazprom is a global energy company focused on geological exploration, production, transportation, storage, processing, and sales of gas and gas derivative products. Measured by the amount of reserves and volumes of gas production, Gazprom is the world leader in its sector, selling gas to Russian consumers and exporting to over 30 countries within and beyond the former Soviet Union. Gazprom is the biggest gas supplier to Europe and Turkey, and the number one in Russia in terms of electricity generation.

This event also receives the support of the Ugra Region as an Official partner, as well as the world's leading online platform, which is hosting the games and providing top-class commentary.
Kacper Piorun, Polish Champion 2020. PHOTO: Krzysztof Cwik
Polish power

It is great news that chess boards are being dusted off, as "real life" events cautiously resume. The 77th LOTTO Polish Individual Chess Championship was one of them, taking place in Warsaw from 21st to 28th of July.

It was quite a challenge to run the event during the pandemic, but the federation was granted special permission by the government for this tournament. The Championship was held under the patronage of Prime Minister Mr. Mateusz Morawiecki. And he was not the only high authority to support the event: Minister Lukasz Schreiber, an accomplished player rated 2100 and a former Polish Champion Under-10 (he defeated GM Wojtaszek back then!) was also a guest of honor during the opening ceremony.

For the first time in history, the Polish championship was held in a knock-out format among 16 players. This was considered a revolution in an event that has always been very traditional.  There have been 76 previous championships: only six of them were played using the Swiss system, the other seventy played as traditional round-robins.

Change always meets resistance and not everyone welcomed the new format, but according to the President of the Polish Chess Federation, Mr. Radoslaw Jedynak, this resulted in "a great marketing success that surpassed our expectations, and the most popular championship ever". The event had twice as many spectators as any other previous championship!

There was indeed a lot of drama in the event, which began with the shocking defeat of the #1 seed and four-time Champion Mateusz Bartel, by the #16 seed and youngest participant in the event, 17-year-old Pawel Teclaf. And the final between Kacper Piorun and Daniel Sadzikowski (who had knocked out another one of the favorites, Bartosz Socko) was also a thrill that had to be decided in the Armageddon, well after 10 pm. Kacper won this decisive game, securing the second title in his career

Radoslaw Wojtaszek, winner of the innovative "Biel Triathlon".

The celebration of the national championship was not the only cause of joy for Polish chess fans in the past couple of weeks, since one of their top players, Radoslaw Wojtaszek, emerged as the winner of the 53rd Biel Chess Festival. The Swiss event was one of the first festivals of its kind to be played over the board since COVID-19 lockdowns.

If this wasn't enough, Biel also tried out a new "triathlon format" for their Grandmasters tournament: ten participants playing each other one game with classical time control (4 points for a win; 1½ point for a draw; 0 point for a loss), one rapid game with colors reversed (2 points for a win; 1 point for a draw; 0 point for a loss) and two blitz games (1 point for a win; ½ point for a draw; 0 point for a loss). Radek topped the standings with 33 points, followed by Pentala Harikrishna (32,5) and Michael Adams (31,5).
P. Frydman, S. Tartakower, S. Rotmil, A. Rubinstein, K. Makarczyk, D. Przepiórka, M. Wróbel. PHOTO: (NAC)

It must be noted that a few days ago, on July 27, Poland also lived the 90th anniversary of their victory in the 1930 Chess Olympiad. An impressive team lead by Akiba Rubinstein and Savielly Tartakower won the only gold medal so far in the history of Polish chess. Will the team led by Duda, Wojtaszek, and Monika Socko be able to repeat this feat?
Nino Batsiashvili, Georgian Women's Champion 2020. PHOTO: David Llada
National Championships resume!

More "over the board" action: the 77th Georgian Women's Championship, one of the most prestigious female competitions in the world, was played under a round-robin format on July 21-30. The event, held at the Chess Palace in Tbilisi, boasted a very strong lineup with eight out of the top-10 national players taking part. The eventual champion Nino Batsiashvili started slowly with 1.5/3, losing to Salome Melia in the third round, but then she picked up tremendous speed winning five straight games. A draw against Bela Khotenashvili in the last round sealed the deal for Nino as she finished the event as a sole winner with 7/9. Meri Arabidze (6.5 points) came second with a slightly better tie-break over Bela Khotenashvili (6.5 points) who claimed bronze. This is Batsiashvili's third title, previously she won the Georgian championship in 2015 and 2018.

The Irish Chess Championship 2020 kicked off this weekend, with 32 players and strict Covid-19 protocols in place, "in the hope of keeping everyone as safe as possible and potentially offering a blueprint to bringing other events and competitions back", reads the official website of the Irish Chess Union. It is probably one of the youngest editions ever, with half the players being under 21 years of age. The top seed is the International Master Sam Collins (2459), who has won the two games played so far and leads a pack of four other players with a perfect score.

Tomorrow also marks the beginning of the 72nd MOKATE Polish Women's Chess Championship, which will feature all the top female players in the country: Monika Socko, Jolanta Zawadzka, Karina Cyfka, and Klaudia Kulon.
"Chess Life" and the new chess boom

"Chess Life", the magazine published by the US Chess Federation, wanted to dedicate its August issue to celebrate the global explosion of online chess and, in particular, the Twitch revolution. Its Art Director, Frankie Butler, commissioned the designer Neil Jamieson with the task of creating the cover, while IM Eric Rosen was in charge of writing the article that is available here.

To say that this cover generated a lot of excitement on social media would be probably the understatement of the month. Truly a commendable work of art, all the Twitch streamers who were included on it were proud to share it, resulting in this cover getting tens of thousands of "likes" and several thousand retweets and shares. As it usually happens with hot trends, a tribute to the "chess boom" ended up contributing to make the chess boom even bigger. This epic cover will probably be remembered for decades, as a symbol of this strange period.

The US Chess Federation, and in particular the Chess Life editorial team, deserve a lot of credit for the work they are doing with their magazine. An artistic cover like this, employing top-notch designers, contributes to filling a very important void in the chess world: the lack of good audiovisual materials, which are so important to promote the game of chess, or any sport, for that matter.

Probably this is a good occasion to remind all chess fans that in November last year, the US Chess Federation launched their "Digital Archive". Have you ever wanted to browse through nearly 80 years of "Chess Life" and "Chess Review" magazine?* This archive is available to the general public at no charge as part of US Chess' non-profit educational mission "to empower people, enrich lives, and enhance communities through chess". The archive does not contain the most current 12 months of Chess Life, since those are only available to US Chess members. But each month, a new PDF will be rotated in to keep the archive current. These PDFs are fully text-searchable; you can search for names, old TLAs, and even for every mention of specific moves such as 1.e4 or Bb4. If you have Adobe Acrobat PRO, you can text search your entire archive without the files being opened.

*Chess Life began in 1946. Chess Review began in 1933 and ended its run in 1969 when it merged with Chess Life.
Chess coach Eddie Bhila. PHOTO: Izizwe Rainbow Tours
A passionate chess coach from Msogwaba, South Africa

The chess revolution is not limited to big stars like Hikaru Nakamura taking Twitch by storm. Very often, it is the little things that will power a revolution, or as the old saying goes, "if many little people in many little places do many little things, they can change the face of the earth".

Today we bring you an example: the name of Eddie Bhila, from South Africa, is probably not known to most of our readers. Eddie developed a strong passion for chess when he attended university in 2010. Then, he made a decision to go back to his birthplace of Msogwaba (a small town of 17,000 inhabitants that you won't even find on Wikipedia) and devote himself to teach the game to the young people in his community.

“My aim was to help develop our community through chess. Teaching it will help to create new leaders who think cognitively and strategically. I visited Msogwaba Primary School and talked to the principal, and explained the difference that chess makes in a young person’s mind, that it shapes the young mind. She gave me permission to coach a group of pupils who were interested. I started coaching the learners, with only one chess set, and we took it from there. We started going to chess tournaments. The first one was not that great, but from the second tournament onward we always got podium finishes,” said Bhila in an interview with the local newspaper Lowvelder.

Banele Mhango, one of Bhila’s students, has represented the province and country. He became both the national and African champion. “I am happy that he has gone to be where he is now. He has added value to my efforts and my contribution,” says Bhila.

Recently, Eddie published a book in which he shares his experience teaching chess: "The Coach: Life Adventures Through Chess". "This book is not about chess but about social development and the need to create role models in our society", he explains. "I strongly believe that we should give back to our communities. Everybody has a skill that they can help the younger generation with, and we need to share it with them. That way we can have innovative and skilled youth in our communities. That is what the book is about".

Now, Bhila has also launched a Podcast where he talks "about the need to get chess to all rural communities as a development tool". You can find it on this link.  

Eddie Bhila might come from a small place, but he definitely doesn't think small, and he is making a big difference in his community. He is teaching kids about the importance of role models and, probably without even realizing, he has become a role model himself.
New appointments by the Australian Chess Federation

We just received the news that the Australian Chess Federation has appointed a new editor to their monthly newsletter. Keong Ang takes over and we would like to wish our colleague the best of luck, as well as to pay tribute to his predecessor, retiring newsletter editor and 2019 Purdy medallist, Frank Low. Frank’s issue numbered 20/6 ended a period of 4½ years during which 50 highly entertaining and informative issues were produced and distributed on schedule.

This was just one of several appointments confirmed during the ACF Council’s July meeting. The new appointments also include:

Assistant Secretary: Mark Stokes
Assistant Treasurer: Michael Caruso
Webmaster: David Esmonde
Assistant Webmaster: Dave Thomas
Newsletter Editor: Keong Ang

If you would like to subscribe to the Australian Chess Federation Newsletter, you can do it from this link. You can also check a list of previous issues here, or contact the editor at

Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa. PHOTO: David Llada

The young prodigy Praggnanandhaa turns 15 years old next week, on August 10. He is one of the members of the Indian team for the Online Olympiad, along with his sister Vaishali. Having won the World Champion Under-18 while he was still 14, "Pragga" can boast about yet another record: he is featured in the most-watched chess video ever on YouTube. His blitz match against Ganguly at the Tata Steel Chess India Blitz 2018 has accumulated 31 million views, and it keeps fascinating people.
Helmut Pfleger. PHOTO: David Llada

This week is also the 77th birthday of GM Helmut Pleger, one of the most charming gentlemen to have ever played our game. Helmut was among the strongest and most promising young players in the late 60s, but he chose to follow a career in medicine. However, he remained always connected to chess, mainly as an author and TV commentator. In fact, his latest column was published only a few days ago in the prestigious German newsweekly, Die Zeit. In it, Helmut pays tribute to another illustrious German of his generation: Chessbase co-founder Frederic Friedel, who turned 75 yesterday.

Every two weeks there are always many interesting characters who celebrate their anniversaries, and it is very difficult to make our picks, which are often subjective. Some of the important players who will celebrate their birthdays in the upcoming days are Wang Hao (tomorrow, August 4), Victoria Cmilyte (August 6), Leonid Yudasin (August 8), Parham Maghsoodloo (August 11), Alan Pichot (August 13), Baskaran Adhiban (August 15), and Elina Danielian (August 16).

Among the giants from the past whose anniversaries are celebrated these days, it would be worth mentioning the legendary Frank Marshall (New York City, August 10, 1877) and Alexander Alexandrovich Kotov (Tula, August 12, 1913).
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