Greengard's ChessNinja.com

A REAL Chess Ninja

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Yow, finally back and yes, I'm still alive. Thanks for asking. San Diego was nice, or so I hear. I never saw it other than the trip from and back to the airport. I did get into the La Jolla for two hours on the last day I was there. Monday was supposed to be my free day to check out the area and my girlfriend Ann came from NY for the last few days. Instead I ended up doing exciting things like trying to update the official site with final info while everything was being torn down and packed up around me.

Ann's a video artist and was also put to work, filming the last days of the tournament for ChessBase Magazine and on Monday filming my interview with new champion Hikaru Nakamura. We also did a quick "commercial" with Nakamura for the AF4C to send to the Tonight Show. I suppose they wanted to see if the new chess star had whatever qualities they are looking for. (How bad can you be next to Jay Leno?) Hikaru won't need much work on his comic timing. "One advantage I had in winning the championship is that most of my opponents were old guys, like 30 or 40!"

Some footage Ann got Sunday night will make some chess fans drool in anticipation. The same day he wins the US Championship, Nakamura is in the lobby of the hotel playing game after game of 1-minute chess against all comers, mostly with Gata Kamsky! I've never seen Anand play 1-minute games, but let's just say that if Ilyumzhinov's next brilliant plan is to make the world championship a one-day 1-minute knock-out, we could have an American world champion sooner than we think. Unbelievable.

Nakamura, who turns 17 today, is currently in Cuernavaca, Mexico for a six-game match against 14-year-old Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine. It's classical chess and the first game is today. We'll be covering it at ChessBase.com.


You have footage of Nakamura and Kamsky playing 1-minute blitz? Send that to Leno !!


Just a "Thank you!" for all your hard work! You rock!


Mig, just wanted to say that I think your work on the official site set a standard that future US Championship sites will be hard-pressed to meet!

The ChampBlog was a stroke of pure genius! It fully accomplished the incredible feat of providing an unusual (yet important) perspective to the event while simultaneously revealing the personalities of the top US players so many of us know only by (often mis-pronounced) name.



Awesome, dude... awesome!! I truly believe you've broken some new ground here! Agree with the above that the ChampBlog was a true stroke of genius...

Maybe for next time we can talk about *daily video* reports - I have camera, PowerBook... will travel and edit!

Seriously, though... the site and coverage were both tremendous. Major, major kudos, and thank you!

Put a site like this in place for the Scholastic SuperNationals in Nashville this coming April (5000 young chess enthusiasts estimated to compete) and you bring a whole generation into the Ninja fold. Maybe transform the entire US chess scene....

Awesome coverage!! Look forward to seeing more.


When will Nakamura be on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno???

While following some of Nakamura's games on the Internet, I noticed that he plays fast. Will this hurt him when he starts playing against the 2700+ club?

Sorry...one more question about Nakamura. In one of his games, Nakamura played on until he had stalemated his opponent. White had set up a fortress, and at least 10 moves earlier it was clear that the position had to be drawn.

What was Nakamura's reasoning for playing on in such a position? Could he have believed there was a win? I know that it is considered rude to keep playing in a position that's obviously lost. Is there a similar convention for positions that are obviously drawn?

The Tonight Show people requested the actual tape we made of Nakamura, so Ann FedExed it to them this morning. (She'd put up an online version of them to watch. No, you can't have the URL.) If they have any brains they'll take Nakamura on the Leno show. It's a natural.

Last night at the reception for the women's Olympiad team I was talking to two guys from Sports Illustrated about Nakamura and they thought it doubtful they'd mention him in the magazine. Ridiculous. It's a frigging weekly that spends dozens of pages on violence and drugs in basketball and baseball and can't find a paragraph for a 16-year-old becoming US champion against a field of veteran stars. They certainly give space to sports less popular than chess. They just don't seem to consider chess a sport anymore. I remember they covered the Kasparov-Karpov matches.

Regarding the Serper-Nakamura stalemate, as long as you don't spend a tremendous amount of time on it, forcing a stalemate isn't rude. It adds a curious element to the game, sort of like playing an obviously drawn pawn endgame down to bare kings, which is also seen regularly. I see actually playing the stalemate sort of like allowing the mating move after a nice combination, at least in this case since it was a nice defense.

It's interesting that the fortress defense by Serper was forced, according to both players. Other knight moves lost to zugzwang.

All right there Mig, thought you did a fine job with the US Championship site. What a great idea the ChampBlog turned out to be!

PLEASE tell us that you can put the footage of Nakamura playing 1 minute chess online somewhere. Especially against Kamsky, wow. It does seem that Kamsky's been very laid back about it all.

That's strange about Sports Illustrated. I did a short stint there in New York many years ago. They had something called "Faces in the Crowd" section... I think that's what it was called. This is where they spotlight about four scholastic athletes who made some great acheivement. Of course, this is much more than a scholastic achievement. I think people still differentiate between what THEY believe is a "sport" and what they believe is a "sporting activity." One day SI will jump on the band wagon, but it'll will have to be big... like Nakamura winning the World Championship.

The question is: Which two guys from Sports Illustrated were you talking to, Mig? Was it two writers, two editors, or two guys low on the totem pole? Nakamura winning the US Chess Championship at 16 is a STORY. If SI doesn't want to cover it, then their loss. Among aother things, Chess Is A Sport.

Where is Paul Hoffman when you need him? I hope Paul is working on a kick-ass article for TIME, SMITHSONIAN, or THE NEW YORKER as we speak. Oh, Paul? Paul! Where are you, Paul? Hoffman seems like the type of guy who has the types of connections we need to get these types of articles done.


Considering SI has covered chess in the past, I'm surprised they wouldn't be interested in giving him a mention. Oh well. This is still the first chess story in a long time that I've seen picked up by every major American newspaper, CNN, MSNBC and just about anyone else you'd expect to cover a real story. Granted, the AP wire story has a major factual error (there was no seperate women's tournament, just a women's 'class', so to speak), but it's a start.

As I recall... SI will lay out seven issues in advance, but they have room for changing the content if a major story breaks. Given what I know, Alexander Stripunsky winning the U.S. Championship WOULD NOT be a story, but Hikaru Nakamura WOULD BE considered, but not probable. Nakamura has the type of story that is intriguing and makes for an interesting read in chess magazines, but SI operates under tight parameters.

In those editorial meetings, they decide on stories that are going to grab the reader. What angle would the story take? What is the emotional stirring point of such an article? A 16-year old winning a chess championship may not necessarily be appreciated by SI readers who still think chess is some distant, esoteric, "unathletic" activity they cannot comprehend. There would also be some concern about how Nakamura would connect with the reader demographics. There is no question in my mind that it SHOULD be a story, but there are always these editorial questions.

The American media (and incompetent sports writers) has done so much to misinform people about the sport of chess and continue to run meaningless stories about some 4- or 5-year who learned the moves, or how much of a miracle it is when a human beats a computer. The writer will have to be very skillful in putting Nakamura's victory into some type of context. It also has to be in vivid language and draw on Nakamura's intriguing persona. An article for SI can't read like a Smithsonian (or even a TIME) article. SI is in a league by itself. Unless you have someone who is not only enthusiastic, but can really write competently about chess (as a sport), SI won't look at it. Maybe Hoffman is that person.

Just looked at the latest (12/20/04) Sports Illustrated, and there's a (roughly) half-page "Q + A" with Garry Kasparov promoting his "Garry Kasparov on Fischer" (sic; I'm not sure if that's the real title) book.

Perhaps: SI is making up for snubbing Nakamura (not likely); Garry is much more marketable to SI readers and the USA in general (definitely); Garry has a much better PR rep / press agent than Nakamura (definitely); the AF4C / USCF (or whoever is responsible for awarding the US Championship title) dropped the ball with respect to promoting their new champion (possible).

Wow, that was fast. I just talked to them about photos on Monday. Did they use my photo/s of Kasparov in that Q&A? My father, charmingly out of touch with my reading habits, gave me a subscription to SI last Christmas. I usually donate it to my local library. Now when there's something in it I want my subscription probably just ran out!

It was of course the Fischer angle that attracted SI, as well as many book buyers. Vol. 4 will outsell 2 and 3 combined from the looks of things.

Yes, they used your pic! There were two photo credits: Mig Greengard/Chessninja.com (headshot of casually dressed GK) and Marcelo Del Pozo/Reuters (GK playing).

I'm not overly fond of the magazine, but subscribe via an unused frequent flyer miles deal.

You're of course right re. Fischer. Dunno how that skipped my mind.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 9, 2004 8:16 AM.

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