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Human Chess

Human Chess

The topic of human chess is more emotional than you might think. For the most part, it is a fun, almost theatrical, presentation of the ancient game by real people dressed-up according to each chess “character.” Some see it as a mixture of chess, twister, yoga, and drama. Purists, view it as an unsavory representation of what should strictly be played in board-game form only.

Unfortunately, the topic of human chess has sparked controversy related to the Holocaust. Earlier this year, the Auschwitz Memorial issued a formal statement condemning the inclusion of “human chess” in a recent Amazon show called Hunters.

The controversy arose when Holocaust experts disagreed with the show’s assertion that Nazi’s forced Holocaust captives to play a macabre form of human chess. “Auschwitz was full of horrible pain and suffering documented in the accounts of survivors,” the Auschwitz Memorial tweeted. “Inventing a fake game of human chess . . . is not only dangerous foolishness and caricature. It also welcomes future deniers. We honor the victims by preserving factual accuracy.”

The creator of the show, David Weil, who is also the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, responded with a statement of his own:

While Hunters is a dramatic narrative
series, with largely fictional characters, it is inspired by true
events. But it is not documentary. And it was never purported to be. In
creating this series it was most important for me to consider what I
believe to be the ultimate question and challenge of telling a story
about the Holocaust: how do I do so without borrowing from a real
person’s specific life or experience?

It was for this reason that I made the
decision that all of the concentration camp prisoners (and survivors)
in the series would be given tattoos above the number 202,499. 202,499
is the highest recorded number given to a prisoner at Auschwitz. I
didn’t want one of our characters to have the number of a real victim or
a real survivor, as I did not want to misrepresent a real person or
borrow from a specific moment in an actual person’s life. That was the
responsibility that weighed on me every night and every morning for
years, while writing, producing, editing this show. It is the thing I go
to sleep thinking about and the thing I wake up working to honor.

Hopefully, this controversy will blow over so human chess can be viewed as it should be–a fun, light-hearted presentation of a classic sport. At the same time, I think the Holocaust Memorial has a point, which should be discussed. Is it okay to fictionalize any part of the Holocaust as part of a creative project (e.g. a movie)? Does it cheapen and compromise the preservation of historical facts?

Something to ponder while you play your next game of chess. . . .

Magnus Carlsen creates tourney with $250,000 prize

Magnus Carlsen creates tourney with $250,000 prize

The king of Chess is in the news again, only this time it’s not for a tournament he’s won but rather an online chess tournament he’s launched. In an effort to bring more awareness and general involvement with the game, Magnus Carlsen has created an online chess tournament which will bring $250,000 to the final champion.

“I would like to contribute to professionalising chess as a sport for the benefit of players, spectators and fans,” Carlsen told an ESPN interviewer. “The starting point is that I hope many more will discover and enjoy chess the way I do. Compared to most major sports and some Esports, chess has huge untapped potential.”

Carlsen’s full ESPN interview and information on how to participate is available at ESPN.com

The Krakow Cloth Hall and the best wooden chess sets

The Krakow Cloth Hall and the best wooden chess sets

Krakow, Poland Sells the Best Wooden Chess Set

Krakow is one of the oldest and largest cities in Poland.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Schindler’s List” you’ve seen Krakow. It was the home of Oskar Schindler’s metal factory where he saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them at the factory. His story was memorialized in the book “Schindler’s Ark” later produced in 1993 as a feature film titled “Schindler’s List”. The factory building still stands today and has been repurposed as a museum honoring Mr. Schindler.

Krakow is only 66 kilometers from the Auschwitz concentration camp.

With centuries-old castles scattered throughout an otherwise modern metropolitan cityscape, Krakow perfectly blends the old with the new to create one of Europe’s best kept secrets. Furthermore, it is home to some of the best hand-carved, wooden chess sets in the world.

As a chess player and globetrotter, I have visited every populated continent and am always in search of great handcrafted chess sets to add to my collection. Usually, I am disappointed as most vendors simply cut corners and source their sets from factories in China who have discovered ways to convincingly mass produce folk arts such as hand-carved chess sets.

Krakow’s Chess Secret

The best place on planet Earth to buy a hand-carved chess set is at the Krakow Cloth Hall. It one of the most popular destinations in the city and is home to some of the best Krakow folk arts available for purchase in the country. You haven’t visited Krakow if you haven’t visited the Krakow Cloth Hall. In addition to being an excellent place to buy wooden chess sets, the building itself (sans vendors) is worth the visit. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was constructed during the Renaissance!

Because vendors come and go, it will not suffice to simply draft a list of suggested stops in Krakow’s Cloth Hall. Instead, I highly recommend you spend an afternoon exploring the shops and vendors in search of your treasured hand-carved Polish chess set. You will find it. Trust me.

For a modest $150-200 USD, you’ll walk away with the chess-set-find-of-a-lifetime. As such, please take care of it. Keep it away from children (I know something about this. My beloved wooden chess set from Krakow is missing one of its bishops). Also, each year, take 20 minutes and carefully polish each piece and the board with a gentle wood cleaner like Rustic Touch from Melaleuca or Oil Soap from Murphy.

If you’re like me, you might have too many chess sets to display. However, the wooden chess set you purchase in Krakow is one you’ll definitely want to show off. Display it proudly.

Only, again, remember to keep out of the reach of children!

Japanese team combines technology with centuries-old game to reinvent chess for a cyberpunk era

Japanese team combines technology with centuries-old game to reinvent chess for a cyberpunk era

With all its complexities and long history, chess is unquestionably a regal game, but it hasn’t really changed that much over time. The basic rules have remained steadfast, which is actually kind of great if you’re looking to compare games past and present. But what if someone took modern technology and applied it to this hallowed game?What would it be like?

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Chess Is Being Forever Changed by Technology

Chess Is Being Forever Changed by Technology

Since its origins in 600 A.D., chess has truly proven to be a timeless game. What started in India as a war game called Chatarung, evolved throughout the centuries.Anything that lasts 1500 years has a tendency to pick up traits directly related to the eras in which its weathered. For instance, the NBA wasn’t always the fitted suit, patterned bow tie, faux-glasses league it is today. The 1970’s offered large collars, heavily patterned suits, and lush fur coats .

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Technology is helping people cheat at chess—and helping tournaments catch them

Technology is helping people cheat at chess—and helping tournaments catch them

When mediocre chess player entered Italy’s prestigious International Chess Festival of Imperia, was ranked 51,366th in the world.They never stood up, always sat with arms folded and thumb under armpit, and blinked constantly and unnaturally. When festival officials inspected, they discovered that pendent was a video camera and that concealing a Morse code box connected to a computer that was either running a chess program or being monitored by an accomplice.

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Machine teaches itself chess in 24 hours, attains international master level without being told the rules

Machine teaches itself chess in 24 hours, attains international master level without being told the rules

A student has built a computer that managed to teach itself chess, and in just three days attained a level of skill comparable with some of the world’s most skilful players.In the last two decades computers have become exponentially more powerful, but the “brute force” method of evaluating 200 million moves per second that Deep Blue employed was still the norm.Caissa instead trained a “neural network” using example situations from real games of chess.Rather than searching through all possible future moves and calculating the best one.

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