Sunday, June 5, 2016

US Chess School / Schein - Friedman chess camp in St. Louis

"The Best Things in Life Are Free"

The Camp

On June 2-5, the 6th Schein - Friedman Chess Camp, in collaboration with the US Chess School, was held at the world-famous St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center.  This exclusive invitation-only camp was offered to some of the most promising young chess players in the USA, and was not only tuition free, but also accommodation free!  The campers had to pay only for travel and food.

Naomi was invited to this camp (yay!) together with other young talents with high chess ratings.  There were 15 kids, of whom 4 were girls.  Incredibly smart, perceptive, top-notch youngsters whose parents should be genuinely proud.

The camp coach was IM Armen Ambartsoumian, a long time US youth team coach in world events.  The organizers and chess guides were FM Aviv Friedman (Schein - Friedman Scholastic Recognition Project) and IM Greg Shahade (US Chess School).  These three guys made it all possible, huge thanks to them, and to the main sponsors: Mark Schein, Dr. Jim Roberts and the Scheinberg family.

Also huge thanks to the St. Louis Chess Club for providing the venue and accomodation.  The camp was on the chess club second floor 10 am - 6 pm daily, with a lunch break.  We all stayed at the nearby historic Chase Park Plaza, absolutely free of charge!  That's unusual for chess parents, who are used to paying a lot.

The chess camp was very fun and entertaining for kids and parents.  After study, many kids and parents would go to the pool.  On the second evening, Naomi played in a local tournament in the St. Louis Chess Club.  She got into the top quad and played with two FIDE Masters and one National Master!  Almost won a couple of games ;-)

On the third evening, Naomi and her friends Nastya and Martha visited the marvelous, phenomenal City Museuм.

Timeline and photos

While the kids enjoyed chess, we enjoyed St. Louis.  Each day we took Uber after 10 AM, back before 1 PM to feed Naomi lunch, then Uber again after 2 PM, back before 6 PM.  

Here are the resulting photo albums, take a look!

June 2: St. Louis chess camp, Cathedral, Riverfront, Arch



June 3: St. Louis Chess Camp, Hall of Fame, Forest Park, Jewel Box, Fun Trolley Tour, Chess Quads



June 4: St. Louis Chess Camp, Art Museum, Botanical Gardens, City Museum



June 5: St. Louis Chess Camp, Zoo, Science Center



Social Media

Thank you letters

Dear U.S. Chess School, Scheinberg family, Greg Shahade, Dr. Jim Roberts;
Dear Schein-Friedman foundation, Aviv Friedman, Mark Schein,

Thank you so much for making the U.S. Chess School camp possible!

I haven't been to a camp with people who are both my age and my rating for a considerable amount of time, and I've certainly never been as captivated in a camp as I was in this one.

In this camp, I not only have learned of new ways to study chess from both my peers and the coaches, but more importantly I know now both my weaknesses and my strengths.

This camp instilled in me a new fascination with chess and invigorated me with the motivation to improve my chess skills, and for that I can thank people like you who sponsor and support this camp.

Naomi Bashkansky

Dear St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center,

Thank you so much for hosting this camp for us! I've never been in a camp more interesting, nor have I ever learned so much about myself in a camp before. It felt humbling to see the photos of some of the most elite chess players all stacked up in one chess club, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who hopes to be there someday as well.

Onto matters closer to the present day, my favorite part of the camp was when we played out positions that coach Armen showed us. Especially, for obvious reasons, the position with opposite-colored Bishops in which we all played against Greg, and I was the only one who found how to win.

And the hotel itself was one of my favorite parts as well, as it was wondrous to be able to see a hotel with such a classical structure, and there's also the fact that I got the room with the couch-bed all to myself. Though, to be honest, I liked the hotel elevators the best for the simple reason that I'd never imagined that the semi-circle and arrow above the elevator door existed in anything but movies.

Another thing I didn't expect was seeing dear old Benjamin on the hall of fame. I'd already know that he was many great things, but until visiting the hall I could never be sure with absolute certainty that he even knew what chess was. Even better than the hall of fame, however, was the studio.

At first I was bored and slightly confused, seeing seemingly random colors in either square or triangular shapes, but I got a shock when I realized that it was actually an entire game, represented rather creatively. I started trying to figure out the first moves in each game, and for one of the games I managed to figure out the first three whole moves (which I don't remember anymore, but it did help that I knew with over 99% certainty that the first move is not h3).

And then, there's the wooden King the size of a giraffe and many life-size chess sets (Right now, I'm just waiting until the year 2068 when there'll be Harry Potter movie-style animated life-size chess pieces).

And of course, I'm sure my parents are grateful for any excuse to visit St. Louis, take pictures of the arch, go to the zoo, the art museum, the botanical gardens, and whatever else it is they do when I practice and play chess.

This all thanks to your organizing the camp at your club. Thank you!

Naomi Bashkansky

Sunday, May 15, 2016

WA-BC Intermat 2016

Take Defeat in Stride
The 2016 Washington State vs. British Columbia International Annual K-12 Chess Match (Intermat) was organized by Chess 2 Inspire (BC) and Chess 4 Life (WA) in this great new location: University of British Columbia - Pharmaceutical Sciences Building.

Both teams consist of two players per each grade, playing two game rounds, against each same grade opponent.  In the first round WA played black and lost 9-17.  In the second round WA played white and also lost 10.5-15.5.  The defeat was not very subtle.

Naomi won her first game and lost the second game to her friend and perennial chess opponent, Luke.  Ethan lost both rounds, though he was very satisfied with the high quality of the games.  Between games we got pizza lunch, organizers made great efforts for everything to work out smoothly.

While kids played, we enjoyed the University of British Columbia tourist attractions.  Before lunch we went on a free campus tour with guides, joining prospective students and their parents.  The highlights were the UBC Botanical Garden, the Asian Garden, and the Rose Garden.

After lunch we visited the UBC Museum of Anthropology, devoted to world cultures, with an emphasis on the First Nations of the Northwest Coast. The museum has a splendid collection of totem poles, a mind-boggling array of artifacts from around the world, and a number of changing exhibits, including one from Papua New Guinea and some striking art by a First Nations artist.

just click >>> Photo album: 2016-05-14 WA-BC Chess Intermat <<< just click

In the end we even tried to descend very long steep stairs to Wreck Beach -- North America's most famous and busiest nude ("clothing optional") beach.  In the middle of this endless descent we got an email that both kids finished their games, so we had to go back up these long stairs -- empty-handed, so to speak... another crushing defeat of the day.  It was just not meant to be.

Arriving home, we found Naomi's birthday present delivered at the front door -- Huffy Ladies 26" Nassau Blue Cruiser Bike, whose assembly from a heap of parts packed in the box took a few hours next day.

This was a weekend of most pleasant memories.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

All-Girls National Chess Championship in Chicago

Chicago, Chicago, Chicago!

All-Girls National Chess Championship 2016

The annual All-Girls US Chess Championship in Chicago is a venerable tradition for us.  Naomi has played there four times (!): in 2012 -- Under 8 -- second place, in 2013 -- Under 10 -- first place, then in 2015 -- Under 12 -- first place again, and now in 2016 we threw her to the lions -- Under 18 -- which expectedly was a great learning experience for her ;-) with 3.5 points out of 6 and 10th place Under 18.  Still, not bad for our 12 year old youngling, among much older toughs.

This time we stayed at the ridiculously expensive Hyatt Regency McCormick Place hotel, because it was the playing venue, so Naomi was able to walk to the playing hall and back to the room by herself.  In 2015 we missed the tournament booking window for the Hyatt, and stayed at the more reasonably priced Chinatown Hotel, which is 8 minutes Lyft ride from the McCormick Place venue.  The Chinatown location was gastronomically great, but tied us up to Naomi's chess game timing.


What enticed us to Chicago was in part the desire to see StrandBeest (just click on that link!) by the artist Theo Jansen.  The Chicago Cultural Center had this StrandBeest exhibition, and we just couldn't live with the thought of missing it!

Garfield Park Conservatory

In Chicago, we use Lyft all the time - from the airport, between our hotel and attractions, and it works out great.

Just for the ride back to the airport Naomi asked us pleeease to ride the exotic Chicago metro.  Diagnosis: Public Transit Deficiency Syndrome (PTDS).  Prescription: One Ride Per Year (ORPY).  Prognosis: Full Recovery.

With the champion

All-Girls National Chess Championships in previous years


Blog post: Under 12 -- first place again + photo album:


Blog post: Under 10 -- first place first time + photo albums:


Blog post: Under 8 -- second place (go to "2012 Flashback" section) + photo albums (this is when we fell in love with Chicago):


In April 2010 Naomi was 6 years old and played for the first time in the All-Girls National Chess Championship, which took place in Columbus, OH.  She took 9th place out of 45 in the Under 8 years section.

It was so long ago that there was no Chess Travel blog back then yet!  So, no blog post to recall, just photo albums:

6 years ago

Future Plans

  1. Naomi has been invited to the 6th Schein - Friedman chess camp, in collaboration with the US Chess School, to be held at the world famous St. Louis chess club and scholastic center in June.  This invitation-only camp is offered to some of the most promising young chess players in the country. Sweet!
  2. Both Ethan (Open Under 18) and Naomi (Girls Under 14) will travel to the 2016 Pan American Youth Chess Championship in Montevideo, Uruguay. Yay!