Wednesday 17 June 2020

International Chess Challenge: The Queen Dancing With Knights

We have some new moves in our international chess challenge between Hutt International Boys' School (New Zealand) and The Links (England).

Here is the position when we last saw it on this blog.

The Links now played 14 ...Nd4, placing the knight directly in the centre of the board. The knight attacks the pawn on f3, but White has a choice of ways to defend the pawn.

Hutt chose 15 Qh3, defending the pawn with the queen. Other moves, including Be2, Bg2, f4 and Qg3 were all considered too.

The Links looked at two main moves here, before deciding on 15 ...Nh5 (15 ...Qd7, offering a swap of queens, was the other main contender).

We now have this position.

Hutt International Boys' School (New Zealand) and The Links (England)
White to play

It is not usually a good idea to move a knight to the side of the board, as its options are greatly reduced. However, it does look like The Links are shaping up to move the knight again in the near future, possibly to extend the dance of the queen and the knights.

Over to New Zealand...!

Thursday 11 June 2020

An Interview With Kineke Mulder: Part Three

Today we present the concluding part of our interview with Kineke Mulder.

Previous instalments can be found here:


Part One

Part Two

Photograph © Kineke Mulder

Do you local chess clubs offer any support - and have any of them gained new members from your initiatives?

I never asked local chess clubs for support.

Yes, chess clubs gained members from my initiative. Rasoul, Mo, Ben, Moshe, Iradj, Erwin, Siona, Teresa, Manfred... For the refugees it is a great opportunity to meet with Austrians on a regular basis.

Photograph © Kineke Mulder

Are you an active chess player? If so, where do you play (local club, tournaments...?)

Yes, active, but just for fun. Sometimes I join an Open tournament. When I join a Rapid tournament in Vienna (at a friendly chess club) my performance drops fast, due to all the “Weißer Spritzer” I drink during the event. Right now, when I join an online tournament, I am hanging around in the chatbox, neglecting my game...

Photograph © Kineke Mulder

Do you have the time to work on your own game?

Yes I have. So I should. Or could. But don't really.

Sometimes I do puzzles or watch videos. What I like the most is when a strong player takes the time to analyse a game of mine. I love the game and I get easily in a flow while playing chess. I love that state of mind and hope that is additionally good for my mental health.

In December 2019 you delivered an excellent presentation about Chess Unlimited at the London Chess Conference. I found it very inspiring. What were your impressions of the conference? Did you enjoy the experience and would you be willing to return for similar events?

Thank you for that fine feedback. I love the London Chess Conference and the organisers John and Stefan; I attended twice already. I found it very inspiring in total. Not only the speeches and the workshops but also – or especially – the talks in between. Yes, I would definitely like to take part again.

Photograph © Andreas Wuchte

And finally, what does chess mean to YOU?

A lot of fun and interaction. It is a great tool to get to know people and to keep the brain sharp.

Thank you very much, Kineke!

Kineke is already working on the return of outdoor chess events and while we discussion the interview she sent me this flyer.

A report on the event could well follow here on this blog!

Wanted: More people with Kineke's determination, commitment, resilience and faith. The world needs such positive role models more than ever before.

An Interview With Kineke Mulder: Part Two

Yesterday we presented the first part in our major interview with Kineke Mulder, who specialises in outdoor community chess events in Austria.

Kineke's fascinating and inspirational project is something which could - and should - be tried in many more places once the current emergency is over.

Yesterday we paused just after Kineke told me the outdoor events had achieved a record attendance of 70 people. The figure for the whole of 2019 is over 1,800 people, all of whom played at least one game of chess. Members of the local chess clubs also attended.

1,800 clearly represents a highly significant footfall, by anyone's standards, and is a sign of what can be achieved with determination, commitment, resilience and faith. 

We now resume the interview...

It must be very frustrating for you to put everything on hold during the current emergency. How will the world look after the lockdown recedes? Do you think there will be any lasting impact on your own activities?

I would say it's a pity. I know for some of my regulars, the Friday night chess event is the highlight of their week. But really painful is the suffering, loss, existential fear and other cruel fates which come with the pandemic for a lot of people worldwide. It seems to hit the poor the hardest. Who would have guessed.

This year will be a major hiatus... Worst case: No sessions at all; let’s hope for next year.

Photograph © Kineke Mulder

What are your plans for the future of Chess Unlimited?

Since its beginning, Chess Unlimited has been in a state of constant evolution. In the future it will just as well adapt to “the new normal”, what ever that is going to be. I have always ideas popping up in my mind and I am confident it is going to stay that way.

It is a major project. Are you if need of any help and, if so, in what form? (Do you need equipment, more publicity, more local help...?)

First of all, I have my husband who is the biggest help of all. He is a Jack of all trades.

I love to network and exchange ideas with the chess community. If a lot of “chess people” know about my initiative, there are good chances to get valuable input, which can help optimising my project. To answer the question, I would say publicity is great. So... thank you for having me!

You are very welcome!

I have a lot of chess friends who are members in various chess clubs. There are very supportive people amongst them. For example, when I need an arbiter or chess material to borrow. Last Autumn I needed some strong players to challenge a chess club from Amsterdam. WIM Katharina Newrkla, WFM Maria Horvath and FM Peter Sadilek came running to play outdoors in a cold night. At other times FM Joe Wallner and GM Rainer Buhmann both played a simultaneous chess session for my crowd, for free!

Photograph © Kineke Mulder

But I am also making a lot of associates outside the chess world. That is not only important to find interesting venues for tournaments, or to join street festivals and other urban hustle to add chess fun. I think it is also important so chess can gain popularity outside the existing chess community.

Although it’s a big project I like to keep the framework of each event manageable and I don't want to rely too much on outside help. It is great to stay self-contained.

All very interesting, Kineke. We will be back with the third and final part of our interview at the same time tomorrow.

Wednesday 10 June 2020

An Interview With Kineke Mulder: Part One

Yesterday we posted a teaser for our interview with the inspirational Kineke Mulder.

Today we present the first of the three parts of the interview.

How long did it take you from having the initial idea to setting up your first outdoor chess session?

Actually my very first action was taking the chess sets to the train station, which is a kind of outdoor environment. Wind and rain find their way easily into to the main hall; the huge doors are always open. 

Photograph © FM Christian Srienz

Were people initially reluctant to approach your chess sets or was it an instant success?

Since its beginning – the initiative was born in 2015 and named in 2016 – all chess events Chess Unlimited has organised have been very well received! My experience is that chess sets are magnetic. People just pop up as soon as you set the table. I think they hide in trees and jump down as soon as here is a chessboard in sight.

Were you nervous about the first sessions?

Yes. Very. And every time I come up with a new idea and execute it for the first time, I am anxious again.

What does chess bring the people that other activities do not?

Chess is magic. Almost everybody knows the game. Even if they can't play, they like the look of it; it's a graphical feast for the eyes. Also, there is the concentration, tension, fun and interaction, children, women and men feel while playing chess. 

Photograph © Kineke Mulder

A significant number of the people with whom you engage are refugees. Do their stories affect and/or upset you? Do they have stories for you?

Most of them don't tell stories. At least not in so many words. But, for example, I remember Mustafa telling me, he doesn't mind losing a chess game, playing chess is always fun for him. Losing his family on the Afghan-Pakistani border, that is something that troubles him. (Mustafa's story can be found here).

Photograph © Kineke Mulder

Several refugees are scared and therefore very polite to everybody. If there is brouhaha around, if people start talking more hectic to another and use more gestures, you see them getting alert. They try to understand what the fuss is about. Most refugees who participate my urban chess sessions are very adaptable with all kinds of flâneurs and city roamers.

Have you ever encountered awkward moments or trouble at your events?

Well ... sure. Imagine a bunch of strangers, a continuous changing group of people, for hours at one table, all “being themselves”. Around that table there is the always moving crowd of a city. People of all ways of Life, who stop to see what is happening, to take pictures, to interfere, comment or join the chess. Or simply ask for spare change.

But, especially with that being said in mind, really very minor issues. We managed to settle almost everything among ourselves, no police needed.

Have you encountered any people who have been negative about your plans (perhaps in terms of the men of the chess scene having negative thoughts about a women taking the lead in a chess initiative?) If so, how did you combat their negativity?

No, never! Not even with my lousy chess skills in mind. Funny thing though, when people have chess related questions, they ask the man who seems in charge. In my case recommendable – remember the mentioned chess skills – but still ... Therefore, if they want to know where they can buy a beer or find toilets, I am the one they ask.

What is the largest number of people you have had at one of your outdoor events?

Around 70.

70 is a significant number of people, as any tournament organiser here in the UK will confirm. Stay tuned for part two of our interview, which will be posted tomorrow.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Coming Soon: An Interview With Kineke Mulder

Kineke Mulder of Chess Unlimited was a key speaker at the 7th London Chess Conference in December 2019.

Photograph © John Saunders

Kineke presented a particularly inspirational piece on her hugely impressive outreach work in Vienna, which involves utilising public places to set up a series of constantly evolving chess scenes.

Photograph © John Saunders
I chaired the session and can confirm that it made a deep impression on the delegates at the time and also received plenty of highly positive feedback for the remainder of the weekend and beyond.

One quote in particular from Kineke should strike a universal chord:

'The magic of chess is...that it leaves no time for prejudice.'

We have kept in touch since the conference and the regular contact has been particularly welcome for me as I greatly appreciate the friendship support of highly positive people (even more so during times such as these).

Kineke and I both came up with the idea of interviewing each other for our respective sites at the same time.

Kineke interviewed me via Skype - details of which can be found here - and then it was my turn to ask the questions.

Photograph © Kineke Mulder

The first part of my interview with Kineke will go live tomorrow on this blog.

Thursday 4 June 2020

Summary of Activity

Here is the latest summary of activity on the chess front. 

Clearly, the current emergency is far from over and we have no idea when things will start to return to anything resembling normality.

Meanwhile, we are doing our best to keep people connected. We are also maintaining a steady stream of top quality chess material, accessible to all, so please feel very free to share as appropriate to your pupils, teachers, parents, chess clubs, libraries and whoever else you think may find the content of interest.

A reminder to all schools that the UK Chess Challenge is now an online Summer Festival of Chess and the time to enter is NOW.

Lessons 14 and 15 are now available at the CSC website. All of the other lessons are there too, making it easy to catch up with any you may have missed or would like to revise.

My two latest CSC lockdown blog posts - which are aimed at novices and parents - cover 'Pins and Skewers' and 'The Fork'. They can be found here.

A reminder to all of our schools that you were sent information and links to sign up every pupil for ChessKid accounts and there is still time to join in.

My personal view on the current emergency can be found here.

My latest Chessable blog posts are here:

The London System

The Art of Attack

Steinitz Memorial, Day Three

Steinitz Memorial, Day Two