Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Hip-Hop Chess in SF

| Permalink | 31 comments

The Hip-Hop Chess Federation (HHCF. Really.) has announced an event in San Francisco on October 13. You can get details at the HHCF blog or even check out their Myspace page, which has a soundtrack you just can't miss. Ubisoft, publisher of the Chessmaster software series, is a co-sponsor of the 1st Annual Chess Kings Invitational. The HHCF had an event last May, also in SF. Anything with The RZA can't be bad, I always say. IM Josh Waitzkin and his book are also involved with the project.


Well I went to a hip hop tourney just the other day, and I said to the players...what you say? Well they looked at me and they surmised, he not gonna win any prize.

Give me a break, I'm a white boy.

My God. That myspace page and music. I haven't felt such cringing, no-self-awareness embarrassment for a long, long time. It was like watching the worst open-mic night at a comedy club ever. Reminds me of Clint Ballard's "brilliant" plan of revolutionizing chess' popularity by "simply" getting the world's biggest movie stars like George Clooney and Angelina Jolie to make TV commercials extolling their love for chess coupled with a blanket-coverage media blitz. Must be nice to live in your own little world with your own little rules everything abides by.

I wonder if the HHCF has "coolness" requirements in order to become a member. Do they have a "urban" dress code? Do you need to perform a streetwise chest-bump, man-hug type handshake successfully to qualify? Or a freestyle rap about chess for 1 minute to show your cred? (And yes, I'd buy that DVD compilation instantly.) Does the bar only serve Cristal and Patron Ultra Premium? Does the HHCF crib have a bouncer at the door with his invitee list to keep the hot chicks level high and the tragically unhip out?

If not, I expect their membership to look like just about every other chess club's I've ever encountered, despite the HHCF's slick myspace pics. Namely this:



You sound like a big o reactionary. After reading your post, I had the feeling that "Must be nice to live in your own little world with your own little rules everything abides by." applies to you. Oh the irony.

I guess it would be better for me to join your world, where female companionship is only achieved by leaving a stack of money on top of the dresser, eh chesstraveler? No need to check ID for age, of course. You could run for a position at the USCF under the "Sam Sloan" campaign strategy of personal character, yet you want to question mine.

Talk about a lack of self-awareness. I'm sure you are still proud of your willingness to admit such things on internet boards. Especially since you believe we've all done such things in our youth (patently absurd and delusional).

But look at the bright side! You now qualify to join the HHCF as a "playa" since you've proved your pimp-hand is strong! Remember to call them "ho's" and not prostitutes when you regale your tales within the hallowed halls of the HHCF.

If you want to believe that the HHCF is not unintentional comedy gold, I'll let arbiters compare my reality to yours any day. I've already sent the link to their myspace to dozens, the response has been tremendous.

You da man Stern and your unmitigated racism shines brightly in your posts. One can always count on your self-centeredness and negativity to always be at the forefront of whatever thought processes you try and display in your "writings."

"Arbiters?" Do you really take yourself that seriously?

Don't be too hard on Stern. What sort of reaction were you expecting, when you just insulted his personal religion -- that chess and cool can never, ever co-exist in the same space.

If you think hip-hop /(or mainstream crap music) is cool - you don't know what cool is.

I'm afraid to read any but the last comment that pops up at the top of the admin based on the first few words of each that show down the rest of the list. Let's hope MonRoi doesn't have Al Sharpton's mobile number.

I'm no hip-hop connoisseur, but the material RZA has put together for various Quentin Tarantino pics is great stuff. The Kill Bill soundtracks are loads o' entertainment.

Thanks for the link, Stern. It's the best part of this post yet!

Okay, after a quick scan I'm mostly aghast that no one has taken the opportunity to come up with a new HHCF notation to replace algebraic for their events. Sort of like descriptive, with 1.P-PHB4 (pawn to pimp-hand bishop four) instead of 1.c4. But what's the other hand? They quote Jay-Z saying he's a chess lover and I'm sure he could come up with something better. Perhaps based on his wittily redundant hit "Money, Cash, Hoes" or the even more romantic "Big Pimpin'" I'd link to the lyrics but I'd probably end up on a Net Nanny list for doing so.

I'm not clear on the racism mentioned above. Hip-hop has a beyond-parody over-the-top culture that hasn't been limited to one race for a long time. Some of the most successful hip-hop acts make a good living making fun of the well-earned "money, cash, hoes" stereotype. Kanye West lampoons it even while playing it up himself, often on the very next track.

The "chess is cool" concept is worth of discussion. One of my basic tenets of faith is that more people playing chess is Good. If that comes at the cost of bad chess-themed music, that's a small price to pay. But we all have our lines in the sand. I wouldn't want to see million-dollar chess events all over the country if it meant every top event had to be blitz, for example. I still want good chess, not more chess at any price.

That's where the purists come in. Chess is chess and shouldn't change for the dubious benefit of it becoming more popular. More chess columns and bigger tournament prizes might result from steady mainstream growth, but the nerd cache and the general obscurity of chess are points of attraction for more than a few fans. If all the guys at the bar on my block (http://www.yelp.com/biz/aRgDpON2eHhjXitgQpsjxw) were cheering for Kamsky instead of Jeter, there would be countless repercussions for the current class of fan and player (Fedorowicz excepted).

Racists. At this blog racism is encouraged. Stern is a clear example. Mig & Stern sounds like two dinosaurs. Disgusting. Not the first time. “Chess is chess and shouldn't change for the dubious benefit of it becoming more popular.” What is dubious about getting more popular. You need to change style with times. But apparently some prefer going back to Neanderthal level.

"Can you believe what those Europeans have done! They've changed the pieces of our beloved shatranj to knights and bishops and queens and castles. What will those heathens do next .. give the queen fast and loose powers????"

Abd-al-Rahman, emir of Cordoba, 822 AD.

"I'm not clear on the racism mentioned above." Hmmm.


I had never heard the quote you posted before. It's certainly appropo to a couple of posts above. Thanks.

Sorry "jork" but calling someone racist for fun is asinine. Is the word "pimp" now racist? Is making fun of idiotic gangsta culture racist? You need to learn what the term means before you use it to make yourself look ignorant and reactionary. I think the hip-hop tournament and HHCF program in general are great, why not? That doesn't mean the unlikely combination of chess and rap music isn't comedy gold.

Speaking of stupid, I'm not one of the purists I was talking about. I clearly (I thought) stated I believe it's good for chess to become more popular. (As if my spending the last 10 years trying to achieve that weren't proof enough.) I also mentioned some of the possible drawbacks. Popularity often comes at a cost. The game itself can be distorted, for one. KO tournaments and fast time controls destroy much of what many people, me included, enjoy about the game (i.e quality). Two, the traditional culture can be wiped out. Many people (not me) enjoy chess's marginal, exclusive position. I'm sure there are many old poker pros who aren't happy with the tidal wave of enthusiastic amateurs that now dominate the game, even though it means more money for those pros most of the time.

Nice fictional quote, RP, but around 400 years too early!

Mig - Yes, I was just trying to add a little levity, and tone down the self righteous tone of this thread.

So some guys who are into hip-hop culture are also into chess, and want to expose their peers to the game ... isn't that what all of us chess fanatics do?

Regarding the fictional quote .. if such words were ever spoken, and I think the odds are high that the sentiment was expressed by someone, the year 822 may not be that far off. Raymond Keene's "Chess, An Illustrated History" states that by 1000, chess was popular throughout Europe. So the introduction had to have happened earlier. And David Shenk in his book "The Immortal Game", speculates that 822 may have been the year that the game came to the Islamic court in Cordoba, and therefore became exposed to European nobility.


Well, I don't believe that a certain individual on this thread was thinking of Hip-hop as poly- denominational, so-to-speak, when he unloaded his babble. His track record over time tells me otherwise. Also, his "argument" that follows is taken entirely out of context, which speaks volumes to me. I'm going to let it go at that.

You have apparently never been to a place like Detroit where hip-hop culture is not separated by race. The fact that you see it as a race issue kinda makes you look like the racist. Don't throw stones...

Most times when I hear that stuff blasting out of somebody's car, vibrating the entire block, I look over.....and it's a white guy. I'm always tempted to yell, "Hey man, that music is really BAAAAAAAAAAD."


Bad is good. They'll take it as a compliment. =8-)

Been away for a while, look like I missed out on the fun. Being called Racist after insulting those with limited intelligence was predictable. It's nice to see people like Jacobs still so bitter about being shown what a illogical fool he is that he's still looking for opportunities to lash out like a baby. I really got to you, didn't I?

At what point did I bring race into the discussion? Everything I talked about is well defined in Hip Hop culture, which the HHCF (the very topic of this thread) chose voluntarily to associate themselves with. Those calling me racist give me too much credit, as if I alone can define and categorize the tenants of Hip Hop by a simple Internet post, instead of its own billion dollar industry doing just that - in music, in movies, in video, in clubs - for me. Pointing out what is in Hip Hop culture is simply pointing out facts they themselves established.

I'm not going to deny the truth - Hip Hop is associated with Blacks more strongly than other races. But focusing on that misses the point of why the HHCF is unintentional comedy. The comedy stems from people, of any race or non-race specific, trying to be what they are not. That is why the middle-class white teen blasting gangsta rap about poverty and oppression from his SUV in a nice suburban neighborhood cited in the post above is unintentional comedy too - same as trying to combine chess players with Hip Hop. My point with the HHCF is - why do so, as you will only alienate both groups you are trying to meld and make both groups feel hesitant about joining.

Jacobs is so bitter after I showed that he makes his 'facts' up on-the-fly to fit his view of the world, and he does so again trying to paint with with a villain-brush. Keep making up your facts Jacobs, like how rich and prosperous chess players are in the U.S. I'll rely on those with objectivity to evaluate my words themselves instead of having a bitter, delusional old man like you do it for them. Those who jump on your bandwagon are those who's opinion I won't care for anyway. It's like an efficient filtering system.

Despite what he says, I have no problems with chess players, or being introverted, or "not mainstream cool", whatever that means. I consider myself as leaning towards the geeky, towards the introverted, and fully acknowledge that my field was more like the insular world of chess before a recent boom in popularity.

What I find worth of parody and ridicule are those who want to pretend they are something that they are not, who *themselves* belittle their status by not accepting who they are and being fine with it, but rather try to latch on to something else when it is wholly unnecessary.

I'm fine with being called geeky and fine with acknowledging that I'd rather talk about problems in math than go clubbing. I'm not fine with feeling inferior to those who choose otherwise and thus force-changing my image to fit other's concepts of cool. I'm not knocking what others choose to do with their lives, but I do think the introverts get the raw end of the deal when it comes to acceptance. Anything that makes extroversion seem 'right' and introversion seem 'wrong' should not be encouraged. And I would be just as offended and quick to ridicule light-weight socialites if they wanted to form a math club and work on the Riemann Hypothesis too.

Besides, people who go to the HHCF myspace page and see the images and hear that music, and THEN play the video clips on that page and don't laugh out loud are really missing a sense of humor. After all, nothing screams Hip-Hop like that cute kid from Saving Bobby Fischer droning on with a deer-in-headlights look, or that Swedish Pixie girl popping up in little pop-up-video-thought-bubbles effects praising the HHCF in Swedish (we assume, who knows?) with that goofy I-don't-even-know-what-a-ghetto-is voice and smile (so nice, they posted her twice). Hi-f-ing-larious.


Your long post makes absolutely no sense. From reading your e-mail, you don't sound like you are in tune with any type of chess community. All types of people play chess. How could you not be aware of this?

Hip-Hop and chess and not mutually exclusive. Many chess players like hip-hop and lots of people into hip-hop play chess. What's so hard to see about this? That is... unless you believe people in a certain population segment (or who happen to like a particular music) cannot be attracted to chess. Your stereotypes of both chess and hip-hop is laughable.

The HHCF is a novel concept and could do more common good if in fact melding does take place. Both chess and hip-hop are a lot more universal than you are presenting it. It is a commendable effort.

I'm curious... what type of things have you done to promote chess?

Looking at bitter old man Stern's voluminous vat of vitriol above, and then looking at my own prior two-line post -- my only one on this thread -- in which I actually defended him from the racism charge... I am both stunned and chagrined to see the extent of the impact that our previous encounters must have had on his fragile psyche.

The man's got issues, is all I can say.

I think I'm going to lay off Stern from now on. I wouldn't want it on my conscience if he should get so worked up over something I said that he ends up doing something to himself.

I tried to tell you guys about his "track record." He's all over the place with his impertinent babble directed at others all too often. There are a few people on this blog that I classify as a bully blogger. He's one of them. I could care less if he gets "worked up." I see no reason what so ever to "lay off" of him. If your going to act like a pompous, self-rightous jerk all the time, then look forward to being treated as such. I don't give a rodents rump about his so called "introversion," or possible mental state or whatever. It has gone on much too long and a jerk by any other name...

All the personal stuff aside, the myspace page *is* a bit over the top.

All myspace pages are over the top! What do you want from a hip-hop oriented chess site? Have you ever seen one before this one?? (smile)

Yeah, I have a few myself. I know that they are primarily advertisements, but this one just was a little too cheesy for me. I don't have a solution to make chess more popular, but I doubt HH Chess is going to be too successful. Who knows, though, I could be completely wrong: some people may see that myspace site and think "Wow, I had no idea chess was so street! Let's go push some wood!"

There is "over-the-top" for a website, then there is "over-the-top" for a myspace site. But like I said, I could be completely wrong here...

...after all, I'm clearly not your target audience.

btw, I just looked at your website, and I have to admit that it is pretty cool! I like the design and the relative clarity.


I finally got around to reading your article in ChessBase about Amon. Nicely done! I admire his accomplishment.


Well... that's part of the "street" allure, but that is not what its about. It is about the youth and exposing them to chess. Hip-hop is only used as the hook... the attraction.

I do believe the HHCF has something here. Whether it becomes something or not remains to be seen. They get a lot of publicity (worldwide) and are getting lots of support.

Thanks guys for the feedback!

On Amon... a good example of making the most from very little. Few people knew about him, but he had played all over the world. He was also well-respected by Grandmasters... including Kasparov! I was told Kasparov made some flattering comments about him when he was still a teenager.

Thanks guys for the feedback!

On Amon... a good example of making the most from very little. Few people knew about him, but he had played all over the world. He was also well-respected by Grandmasters... including Kasparov! I was told Kasparov made some flattering comments about him when he was still a teenager.

Twitter Updates

    Follow me on Twitter



    About this Entry

    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on August 28, 2007 12:37 PM.

    Youth Movement was the previous entry in this blog.

    The Fogies Fight Back is the next entry in this blog.

    Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.