Northeast Denver chess club won't let one bad move block winning strategy – The Denver Post

Laffeyette Smith’s tattooed hands reached across a chess board as he moved his king while his opponent, Jamar Holmes, groaned as he realized he had made a mistake.

A slight grin crept onto Smith’s face as Holmes cried, “I’ve got to take a walk,” and stepped away from the chess table with his arms folded over his head. Holmes had thought he was on the verge of his first victory against Smith, but his mistake had led to a stalemate.

Within seconds, Holmes was back with his arm extended for a handshake, and the two started playing again.

“I had him early and nearly lost,” Smith said. “I need to slow down.”

It’s a piece of advice Smith had for the chess game. And for life.

The two men belong to Make A Chess Move, a non-profit club based in Northeast Denver that teaches young people how to play chess and how to apply the strategy in the game to decision-making in life.

“That’s our motto — make your next move your best move,” Phillip Douglas, Make A Chess Move’s founder and executive director, said.

On July 22, Make A Chess Move was dealt a hard life lesson because Douglas himself did not make the best decision.

That day the organization held its annual luncheon with a lofty goal of raising $5,000 to kick off activities for the 2018-2019 school year. It was the first big fundraiser after gaining federal tax-exempt status in April.

Douglas had placed the donation envelopes with money in his car after cleaning up the site of the luncheon. Then he went to spend the night with his children.  When he woke the next morning, the car had been broken into and the donations — along with two chessboards — were missing.

“I was happy they took the chessboards, but damn…the money,” Douglas said.

He filed a report with the Aurora Police Department. No one who gave Make A Chess Move their credit card information has reported identify theft, said Ken Forrest, a police spokesman. Police are investigating but have no suspects.

Because Douglas hadn’t opened the envelopes, he has no idea how much money had been donated.

Sonya Ulibarri, a board member, said they had to try to recoup the losses.

“What lesson would we be teaching the kids if we didn’t try to get it back,” she said.

Douglas said he was angry at himself for leaving the money in the car. But the board of directors told him they would do their best to raise more money and make up for the loss.

“We can’t let what put us down keep us down,” Douglas said, “We’ve got to bounce back. Everything is a lesson.”

Douglas has spent the better part of his life bouncing back from mistakes.

Born and raised in the Five Points neighborhood, Douglas grew up in a Crips gang family. He learned to play chess from an older brother, and when his older brother was sent to jail, Douglas began practicing with the goal of one day beating his big brother when he was released.

But Douglas also got caught up in the criminal lifestyle.

In 2007, he and some family members were indicted in a federal drug trafficking case. Douglas refused to cooperate and was sent to federal prison. When he got home in 2010, he decided to do more with his life. He started working for various programs dedicated to changing young people’s lives.

Then in 2012, another life-changing event happened.

Douglas’s mentee, De’Quan Walker Smith, also a Crips gang member, was gunned down in the streets. De’Quan Smith was brilliant and a history buff with an incredible recall for dates and events.

“He was also out in the streets and not making the best moves out there,” Douglas said.

In honor of his friend, Douglas founded Make A Chess Move to draw parallels between the game and life and to try to draw young people toward a new way of thinking.

Today, four of De’Quan Smith’s cousins, including Lafeyette Smith, are in the club.

Lafeyette Smith, who has his late cousin’s nickname tattooed on his hands along with his birth and death dates, said an older cousin introduced him to the club when he was a freshman at Manual High School. But he didn’t get too involved and by the next year he was serving time in a juvenile detention facility.

When Smith got out of detention, he tried chess again. But he got more serious after getting shot twice while attending a concert.

“My cousin said, ‘You’re running out of options. You better join,’” Smith said. “I ended up liking it.”

In the coming weeks, Smith will begin his sophomore year at Miles College in Birmingham, Ala. He’s the first member of the Smith family to go to college, and he credits chess for helping get him there.

“It helped me break down the mental process of how I make my steps,” Smith said. “If I move pieces on one end of the board, it could affect something on the other side that’s right in front of me.”

On Wednesday night, Smith was one of 12 people — ages 11 to 24 — playing in an open tournament for the chance to win $50 in a community room at the Mental Health Center of Denver. Outside, soul music played on a loud speaker, a woman fussed to another about something going on in her life and the scent of garlic wafted from a cooking class next door. Inside, the room was quiet except for the clicks of pieces being moved across the boards.

Brownie Wright, 19, plays a game against ReaAsia Hollins, 15, during a Make a Chess Move tournament on August 1, 2018 in Mental Health Center of Denver in Denver, Co. Make a Chess Move is a small, non-profit based in Northeast Denver that teaches teenagers how to make decisions in life and measure consequences through the game of chess.

Shaban Athuman, The Denver Post

Brownie Wright, 19, plays a game against ReaAsia Hollins, 15, during a Make a Chess Move tournament on August 1, 2018 in Mental Health Center of Denver in Denver, Co. Make a Chess Move is a small, non-profit based in Northeast Denver that teaches teenagers how to make decisions in life and measure consequences through the game of chess.

Elijah Beauford, 19, won his first game and was waiting for the second round. Money is the reason he started playing.

He noticed Douglas playing other students in the Manual High School cafeteria with a $100 bill lying on the table. Anyone who could beat Douglas would get the money.

Beauford said he still hasn’t beaten Douglas but he’s getting better. And now he works as a facilitator for Make A Chess Move, spreading the love of the game and the life lessons.

“It’s a metaphor,” Beauford said. “In society, you have to be one step ahead of everybody else or you’re going to get left behind. Once you master it and you know how to control yourself, the game gets easier. Like in life.”

How to help: Make A Chess Move started a GoFundMe campaign to make up for the theft and reach its goal of raising $5,000 before the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

On Chess: St. Louis showcases chess in Africa – KBIA

Inspired by the Grand Chess Tour, the FIDEC (Ivory Coast Chess Federation) teamed up with the Kasparov Chess Foundation (KCF) to bring out the best of African chess. These efforts culminated in the Cote d’Ivoire Rapid (25+10d) & Blitz (5+3d) Invitational that took place July 25–29. The field included 10 players from 10 different African nations, each of them being the top-rated player from their respective countries. The field was as follows:

  • GM Amin, Bassem Egypt 2680
  • GM Haddouche, Mohamed Algeria 2495
  • IM El Adnani, Mokliss Morocco 2450
  • IM Rakotomaharo, Fy Antenaina Madagascar 2421
  • GM Solomon, Kenny South Africa 2418
  • IM Ssegwanyi, Arthur Uganda 2389
  • GM Belkhodja, Slim Tunisia 2386
  • IM Kayonde, Andrew Zambia 2385
  • IM Silva, David Angola 2319
  • IM Adu, Oladapo Nigeria 2270

With a total prize pool of $15,000, the event also brought the largest purse for a rapid/blitz event in the history of Africa. But of arguably greater consequence is that it provided the ideal stage for some lesser-known players to showcase their skill and prove what many already suspect: that African players are alarmingly underrated.

This was also a historic moment for African chess, because the St. Louis Chess Club provided live commentary. This was my first time doing commentary, and it was thrilling to play over games where I had to articulate what went through my mind on the spot.

First, as it pertains to live commentary, I would not be surprised if this quicker-time-control format overtook classical chess in the future. Blitz chess, in particular, allows for a much more engaging experience with the viewer. When I first learned that I would be the commentator, I quickly turned to one of the most entertaining chess events I ever saw: the 1988 World Blitz Championship in Saint John, New Brunswick. Not only was the event top level, but so was the production value and the commentary. The fact that I still hold it in such high esteem and have watched the whole thing several times speaks volumes. I would not go so far as to say that blitz will rule the chess world (as Vladislav Tkachiev proposed in a very interesting interview), but it could definitely be carved out and perfected as a niche.

Secondly, I am impressed by the raw talent and uncompromising style of the participants — which I assume is a microcosm for the continent, as it was a truly representative event. I am optimistic about the future of African chess and hope the players, especially the youngest ones, get the needed support and opportunities to work and perfect their craft. At the end of the tournament, it was grandmaster Amin Bassem who came out on top of both the rapid and blitz portions. As African chess continues to grow and prosper, I am optimistic that we will see more top-level events like this one.

Even though the Cote d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz has come to an end, the St. Louis Chess Club will start up another round of commentary for the last two stops on the Grand Chess Tour: the St. Louis Rapid & Blitz, and the Sinquefield Cup. Don’t miss all the action live, starting Aug. 10 on

Robert Hungaski is a grandmaster from New York City. He has won several medals at the Pan-American Junior Chess Championships and served as the coach for the U.S. team at the World Youth Championships in 2013 and 2014. Hungaski has been Grandmaster in Residence at the Saint Louis Chess Club once before and recently joined the broadcast team for the Cote d’Ivoire Rapid & Blitz. 

Tunisian Chess Federation pledges for 7-year-old Israeli girl to compete – The Jerusalem Post

JUNIOR CHESS champion Liel Levitan wins the gold medal.

JUNIOR CHESS champion Liel Levitan wins the gold medal. .
(photo credit: Courtesy)


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The Tunisian Chess Federation issued a letter Tuesday stating players from all countries are invited, “without exception,” to an international chess championship it will host next year. The letter came in light of mounting pressure to allow a seven-year-old Israeli chess champion to attend the 2019 World School Championship chess tournament in Sousse, Tunisia, despite Tunisia’s current policy of not allowing entry to Israelis.

The federation had responded to an inquiry by the World Chess Federation (FIDE), which threatened to revoke Tunisia’s hosting privileges if the country did not issue visas to Haifa native Liel Levitan and other Israelis ahead of the event.

FIDE was approached by the Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs earlier this month, seeking clarification on whether Levitan would be allowed entry to participate in the tournament.

StandWithUs started an online petition that prompted hundreds of letters from people across the world asking the country to reverse its policy. Tunisia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations, and Israelis are required to have pre-arranged visas before entry.

The letter added that “as a sports federation, we will be very proud and honored to receive participants from all over the world and we will ensure hospitality to all.”

While Levitan was referred to only as the “Israeli child,” or the “Israeli participant,” the Tunisian Chess Federation said it had not yet received notice of participation or preregistration from Levitan, as of Tuesday. Still, the organization emphasized that preregistration was open to all participants.

StandWithUs Public Affairs Director Gilad Kabilo said the organization is in touch with Levitan’s family, which is currently on vacation, and that she still has adequate time to register for the tournament.

Kabilo said this is the first example of civil action he can recall that has led to this type of response.

“You don’t get a lot of examples of that in the real world, unfortunately,” he said.

The statement from the chess federation did not specifically indicate whether Levitan or any other Israeli would be granted a visa.

Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev released a letter Tuesday to FIDE deputy president Makropoulos Georgios urging him to stop any planned boycott of Levitan.

“I believe that sports should bring people of different nationalities together,” Regev said. “Therefore, I ask you, our dear friend, to follow [International Judo Federation] president Mr. Marius Vizer’s justified and brave decision to cancel the Grand Prix and Grand Slam in Tunisia and Abu Dhabi – Arab states that do not abide by the customary Sports Charter. Mr. Vizer’s decision should set an example to all international sports organizations. Israeli sports competitors should not be banned. They should be given equal opportunity.”

Kabilo said the federation’s statement is unprecedented progress for Arab countries to welcome Israeli athletes to competitions.

“We’ve been looking at the issue of boycotting Israeli athletes for a long time,” Kabilo said. “Honestly, I don’t know of an instance where online civil action led to a world sports body to pressure an Arab country to let Israelis play and get a written commitment to that effect.”

Mamedyarov Beats Carlsen, Wins Biel With Round To Spare –

An excellent tournament turned into a brilliant tournament for Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who today beat Magnus Carlsen for the first time in a decade and won the Biel Chess Festival with a round to spare. 

For the last time Mamedyarov beat Carlsen in a classical game, we have to go all the way back to the Baku FIDE Grand Prix tournament in 2008, won by Carlsen, Wang Yue and the late Vugar Gashimov.

Ever since, Mamedyarov was Carlsen’s “client” (or “bunny”, as GM Ian Rogers called it!), like Hikaru Nakamura was too, for several years. But things have changed.

Rogers was discussing it with GM Danny King in the live broadcast of the ninth round. Their explanation was that, whereas Carlsen’s openings were never his strongest suit, his talent and hard work at the board made him a dominating player anyway.

But in recent years, many of his colleagues have adapted in areas where Carlsen used to excel. Now, “the technique[s] of others have improved to cope with the Carlsen pressure,” as Rogers put it.

As a result, Carlsen isn’t winning tournaments with high margins anymore, and he also doesn’t win as many tournaments anymore. After today, Biel is out of reach as well.

Mamedyarov Carlsen Biel 2018

Another impressive game by Mamedyarov. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Biel International Chess Festival.

“Magnus played very risky. He wanted to win, and he didn’t want a draw,” said Mamedyarov. He admitted that Black was (more than) fine out of the opening, thanks to the excellent 8…d5. After that, White would really like to have his pawn on e2, instead of e3. “I think White has to look for equality there,” said Carlsen.

Black could have equalized with 14…Ne5, but also after 14…Nb4 he was still solid. Asked where things went wrong, Carlsen started with: “First of all I would like to congratulate Shakhriyar on a wonderful tournament victory.”

Then he explained: “It’s only later that a combination of many, many oversights on my part and very precise play on his part that he managed to get something. Nevertheless, I thought I had drawing chances right at the end but I just made two blunders in a row and that was it.”


Magnus Carlsen Biel 2018

Many oversights on Carlsen’s part today. | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Biel International Chess Festival.

With a plus-one score, Carlsen is now tied for second place with Peter Svidler, who drew with David Navara. The Russian GM explained his strategy in the endgame as steering the game as much as possible into a Grünfeld structure (mostly, the two-vs-one on the queenside) because as a life-long Grünfeld player, he understands that!

That reminded Navara of a joke, which he recited:

What does a mathematician do when the house is on fire? He starts filling a bucket and throws water over the fire.

What does a mathematician do when there is no fire? He starts a fire, because he knows how to solve this problem.

David Navara  Biel 2018

Navara’s special sense of humor is hard not to like! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Biel International Chess Festival.

Nico Georgiadis can be satisfied with his “grandmaster draw” vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Although he made an oversight in the opening, Black’s edge in the endgame was only minimal.

“The position wasn’t very easy for me to play for a win, but at the same time it was quite interesting,” said MVL. The Frenchman thought he had some chances in the endgame, but then Georgiadis played a few very accurate moves.

Biel 2018 | Round 9 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pts SB
1 Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar 2801 2943 ½1 ½ ½1 11 7.0/9
2 Carlsen,Magnus 2842 2781 ½0 ½½ ½ 5.0/9 22
3 Svidler,Peter 2753 2769 ½ ½½ ½0 ½½ 11 5.0/9 17.75
4 Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime 2779 2732 ½1 ½ 4.5/9
5 Navara,David 2741 2698 ½0 ½½ ½ 4.0/9
6 Georgiadis,Nico 2526 2498 00 ½ 00 1.5/9


Games via TWIC.

Round-10 pairings (Wednesday): Svidler vs Mamedyarov, Carlsen vs Georgiadis, Vachier-Lagrave vs Navara. Wednesday’s games start two hours earlier, at 12 p.m. central European time (3 a.m. Pacific, 6 a.m. Eastern)

You can follow them in Live Chess. The Chessbrahs are providing daily commentary with GMs Yasser Seirawan, Eric Hansen and Aman Hambleton, which you can follow on and

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