Hawaiian Chess Warfare Training lives
By Keahi Renaud
As the year 2012 was wrapping up on a warm December week in Hawaii, people
were either worrying about last minute Christmas shopping, planning for the
end of the world, or attending to the Event of the Century… GM Timur Gareev’s
First Annual Polynesian Chess Workshop. But with something as monumental as
a visit to Hawaii by the "Uzebek Dragon", we should wind the story
back to the beginning.
Close to five million years ago, the earth’s core waged an epic battle
with fire against the vast depth and volume of the Pacific Ocean. As the eight
major Hawaiian islands were born and continue to grow to this day, the archipelago
itself has become a haven of techtonic superlatives.
The Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii is the home of Pele, Hawaii’s goddess of
the volcano, and is the most active volcano in the world. Hawaii is the remotest
island mass on the planet, as it sits perched on the largest mountain range
which also forms the tallest mountain (from base to peak) in the world, Mauna
Because of its altitude, the summit of Mauna Kea has become the home of the
most powerful telescopes in the
world [scroll to the right for a full panorama with the telescopes on the peak]
In Hawaiian belief systems, the descendants of Goddess Pele as well as other
deities in the cosmogonic pantheon of Hawaiian gods populated the islands and
established a vibrant society of industrious farmers, resourceful hunters and
gatherers, robust Pacific navigators, and skilled warriors and chiefs. Two thousand
years of almost complete isolation developed a uniquely Polynesian system of
traditional practices and cultural beliefs. Prior to regular Western contact
(circa 1778), the ruling chiefs of Hawaii had begun the process of unifying
all the islands into a single kingdom under the rule of Kamehameha the Great.
This kingdom lasted nearly a century before the sovereign government was illegally
overthrown by a group of western business leaders who had the backing of the
much larger United States military forces present in Hawaii at the time. Hawaii
has never been the same.
A remnant of this monarchy is Iolani Palace, the only royal palace in the United
States. In 1959, Hawaii was admitted as the 50th State. It is the most western
state as well as the most southern state. Hawaii has now become a premier tourist
destination for nations across the globe. And with the presence of GM Gareev,
it may well now become the premiere chess destination of the Pacific.
On any given quiet weekend, most people would recognize a vacation in Hawaii
as one with cool breezes wafting through stands of palm trees along warm sandy
beaches washed by tropical tides. In such an intoxicatingly exotic surrounding
the casual tourist might be oblivious to the fact that Hawaii has a long and
arduous history of transpacific seafaring, survival on isolated islands, and
generations of ensuing warfare. This is an almost forgotten cultural foundation
for those born and raised here and who call Hawaii home.
However, chess “combatants” who continue to believe in such traditions
were all called to arms by GM Timur Gareev to his First Annual Hawaiian Warrior
Chess Camp, 2012. The Hawaii Chess Federation sponsored this rare opportunity
which brought together master chess competitors in close proximity to hungry
chess learners. The experience was organized by Guy Po'olanui Ontai, Scholastic
Director of the Hawaii Chess Federation and avid chess coach. All of this excitement
and tactical learning was held at an ideal yet indiscrete location called Washington
Middle School in Honolulu.
While most people were fighting the Christmas mobs at shopping malls, over
thirty motivated students and adults dedicated an entire week in December to
conduct intensive chess combat training under the tutelage of GM Gareev (2756),
chess gladiator Cornelius Rubsamen (2239), and chess warrior Chet Gionson (2100).
The participants were of all ages and from all walks of life. There were pre-schoolers
to professors, engineers to English teachers, physicians to fishermen. But the
one common denominator was an unquenchable warrior spirit for chess stemming
from Hawaii’s long history of hand-to-hand battles, turf war, and kingdoms.
It added a whole new Hawaiian mindset to the chess board turf, kings and queens,
and chess strategy. It is not often that such exceptional chess instructors
are able to converge to and train so many warrior chess students in the surroundings
of such a paradise backdrop.
The lessons were atypical but based on time-tested methods to strengthen mind,
body, and spirit. There were didactic presentations, peer instruction, strategy
analysis, game debriefings, and of course a lot of intense chess playing. The
five-day chess camp also included life lessons in health, nutrition, career
goal planning, and the importance of planning “several moves ahead”
with everything in life.
The crescendo of excellence occurred as GM Timur Gareev offered to break the
Hawaii State record for blindfolded chess simul. He agreed to challenge 27 simultaneous
players while blindfolded. It was an impressive feat to behold by any measure
of mental acumen and cerebral sophistication.
In keeping with this penultimate polynesian program, there was the highly-competitive
Warrior Chess Jeopardy Challenge.
Tanner Siu's (in black) chess may be head and shoulders above most others,
NM Cornelius Rubsamen's expert coaching has clearly taken it to the "next
Though an astute PhD student and graduate assistant at the University of
Hawaii, "Kumu" (teacher)
Cornelius has not forgotten how to reach deep and get down and dirty into the
center of strategic chess tactics.
It is has been proven time and again in the sport of chess that physical size
doesn't always matter. However, with the 6-Time State Chess Champion looming
over your every move, Cornelius has become a giant in the eyes of these Hawaiian
budding chess champions. The lesson is that though there may be a three-foot
height difference, in chess, opponents can still battle toe-to-toe!
And then we wrapped up all the intensively deep learning and chess growth with
a "no-holds barred", "everything-goes" Hawaiian talent show.
This eclectic event was punctuated with ukulele music, rasta rapping, classic
keyboard concertos, mathemagical manipulations, and some unusual talents which
were beyond normal public consumption. It suffices to say, chess players clearly
have several other hidden talents. But as the chess coach of Washington Middle
School, Mr. Eric Floro leads the extravaganza by ripping chord progressions
in his mesmerizing voice and melancholy melodies of the workshops most memorable
moments... and quite a few jokes thrown in.
As this first annual event was wrapping up, plans were already in the offing
to make next year's event more novel, more native, and profoundly more Polynesian.
In time, people will no longer think of Hawaii as just a paradise destination
of sun, sand, and surf... but it will go in the annals of ChessBase.com as a
culturally historic place where unprecedented chess warfare took place on the
64-squares. See everybody next year.
Keahi V. Renaud
- Professor of Hawaiian Religion, Language, and Polynesian Leadership
- Mechanical & Enivornmental Health Engineer at Alaka'i Consulting &
- Traditional Hawaiian Cultural Practitioner, Mentor, and Indigenous Teacher
- Humbled student of the late Kumu John Lake (Kumu Hula & Master Chanter)
Keahi Renaud is a native Hawaiian who is a mechanical engineer, Hawaiian cultural
professor, a youth mentor, and an avid supporter of the Hawaii Chess community.
Through Guy Ontai, Keahi was introduced to and has been helping support the
multiple chess tournaments going on six years now. He also works with a number
of the chess students in cultural enrichment opportunities, paid summer work
programs, and currently career counseling and scholarship planning.
Video – Keahi dances Hula style. This one you have to watch!
Earlier reports on Hawaii
||Aloha Vishy! The World Chess Champion visits Hawaii
30.08.2012 – During his recent stay in Hawaii
Vishy Anand visited a scholastic tournament, thrilling the pants off the
local students. There was a motivational speech, prizes, autographs. Our
reporter Beau Mueller used the occasion to discuss the subject of chess
in schools with someone who has recruited one and a half million students
in 16,000 schools to
take up the game.
||Aloha Vishy! The World Chess Champion visits Hawai'i
27.08.2012 – Waikiki, the beautiful beach on
the southern coast of the Hawaiian island of O'ahu, is a tourist magnet.
It was recently "blessed to count among its visitors the World Chess Champion,
Viswanathan Anand, his wife Aruna, and their sixteen-month-old son, Akhil,"
writes Beau Mueller, who spent time with the astronomy enthusiast and
even taught him how to say Humuhumunukunukuapua'a!
||Scholastic Chess in Hawaii is Booming!
04.04.2012 – Hawaii is generally off of the
chess radar. It’s not home to any GMs or IMs, although there is one FIDE
Master and a few National Masters. Rated events are few and far between.
In truth, many of Hawaii's players get in more rated chess on the U.S.
Mainland (mostly at the big opens in Las Vegas or national scholastic
events) than at home in Hawaii. Pictorial
report by Beau Mueller.