A new North American chess hub?

by Elshan Moradiabadi
1/9/2021 – The chess boom in the US, despite the halt of the pandemic, has kept surging thanks to several benefactors in different locations in the US. One of these benefactors (a non-profit organization) whose activities have grown substantially in 2020 is the Pacific Northwest Chess Center (PNWCC). | Pictured: Wildflowers around Mount Rainier in Washington State

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The Pacific Northwest Chess Center (PNWCC) 

Everybody knows that the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center (STLCC) hosts major elite events regularly in the US. However, as we say in Farsi, “one flower doesn’t make it spring!”.

The chess boom in the US, despite the halt of the pandemic, has kept surging thanks to several benefactors in different locations in the US. One of these benefactors (a non-profit organization) whose activities have grown substantially in 2020 is the Pacific Northwest Chess Center (PNWCC). Originally based in Washington state, PNWCC has started its business not long ago, in 2018. To this date, PNWCC has organized 151 chess events, 83 of which have taken place after the pandemic on chess.com and lichess.org. While the pandemic made things so hard on chess organizers, the PNWCC and NA Chess Hub, a website with the goal of publishing info about chess events in North America, managed not only to organize various high-quality events but also help other chess activities to be promoted and shared among the chess fans and players in North America.

A visit to nachesshub.com shows us details about events organized by as many as 46 different organizers who use the platform to share information. These events aren’t exclusively online chess tournaments. There are camps, lectures, group lessons, and simul exhibitions — some are even free! Needless to say, the PNWCC has the greatest number of events on this website.

While camps run by legendary figures like former world champion GM Vladimir Kramnik and former world championship contender GM Boris Gelfand are quite popular, the PNWCC gained its reputation by organizing the first Jackpot blitz event. The event counted with the participation of many strong international grandmasters. Jackpot events were eleven-round Swiss tournaments with the time control of 3+2. While the prize fund was substantial, if the winner had scored victories (none of the winners managed to fulfil this feat yet!) in all 11 of his/her games he/she would have hit the “jackpot” — a $1.000 prize.

Xuhao He, the main figure among the five board members of the PNWCC — and also the programmer of  the website — told me that, in collaboration with an online platform, the PNWCC is trying to come up with an online tournament in which every game will be played under the Armageddon format, so that each and every game will have a winner. “This would lead to more fighting chess, exciting results, and an eventual winner who would get first place after winning every single encounter”, said Xuhao in a conversation with me on Skype. He also told me that the Jackpot blitz tournaments will return in 2021, so if you are missing playing in a high-quality blitz event where you can rub shoulders with titled players, this is truly good news!

Nevertheless, the PNWCC did not only have the Jackpot event. They organized several longer-time-control events, which could easily be considered as classical events. The very last of these events was called WoW (Winter of Washington) which took place on 26-30 December — much like the twin tournament that takes place in July, SoS (Summer of Seattle) — where 4 super GMs and 4 world top juniors played 6-round tournaments with a double Swiss format. They also have themed blitz events, rapid events, and numerous tournaments for players of different categories. Interested? You already know where to check the info!

While the PNWCC’s online presence makes it a ‘hot’ chess organization during the pandemic, it is way more than just that. The PNWCC has an extensive community outreach and builds relationship on a personal level.

Pacific Northwest Chess Center

Top boards during the last round of the Winter of Washington event

The ‘Ignacio rule’

FM Ignacio Perez is one of the elderly amateur members of PNWCC. While his prime may have passed, and he probably would struggle against young teenagers and kids if he does not show up at his best, for Ignacio the love for the game outweighs any win or loss. No matter if he loses every single game in an event, he would keep on playing till the end. “He lost all of his five games in a tournament vs WA state’s best youth player, yet he was still there analysing his last game with his opponent”, Xuhao told me.

Such a dedication and love for the game deserves praise and the PNWCC founders have valued and honored such love by introducing the ‘Ignacio rule’: while it is rather customary for the players in the US to drop out of the event if things are not going their way, PNWCC expects its participants to not quit just because they had a bad day on the board. Thus, the ‘Ignacio rule’ dictates a policy in which the PNWCC maintains the right to not accept players who withdraw from an event without a legitimate cause in its future events. To me, that is a beautiful thing to do!

Once Ignacio couldn’t play at the events due to health issues, the PNWCC raised $7000 (after collecting what was raised by the participants in one of the online events in 2020) for Ignacio because they want to see their member back at chess within the community.

What is in store for 2021?

“We are waiting to see when we can have over-the-board events. Nevertheless, we might keep having the (60’+5”) events running even when the pandemic would go away. It attracts so many strong GMs from around the world”, said Xuhao enthusiastically.

He and his friends had seen several chess celebrities in Seattle: GM Jeffrey Xiong is the second highest-rated under-20 player in the world and has taken part in an over-the-board event organized by the PNWCC, while former women’s world chess champion Hou Yifan and eight-time US women’s champion Irina Krush (both GMs of course) have taken part in the events before the pandemic as well. So, how far is the ambition of Xuhao He and his volunteer partners?

“We want to see Magnus playing in an over-the-board event in Seattle, one day.”

Surely, it is a difficult task which requires a lot of resources, only accommodated by the STLCC in the past. But as one talks with Xuhao, one learns that he is not here to set the bars low. I, as a chess professional who enjoys seeing the game grow in the US, can only wish him good luck!

Below I share with you a few interesting positions from the recent events ran by the PNWCC!

Winter of Washington 

 

A b3-themed tournament

 

Links


Elshan Moradiabadi is a GM born and raised in Tehran, Iran. He moved to the US in 2012. Ever since, he has been active in US college chess scenes and in US chess. is a veteran instructor and teaches chess to every level, with students ranging from beginners to IM. He can be contacted for projects or teaching.
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Keshava Keshava 1/10/2021 09:44
Thanks for telling me about this new chess hub in the U.S.

Another one that should not be overlooked is the Charlotte Chess Center which - besides organizing many great rated online events - also organizes otb norm tournaments for those seeking the title of International Master!

ref:
https://www.charlottechesscenter.org/events
syuanjiang syuanjiang 1/9/2021 10:28
PNWCC's tournaments are always smooth. We are blessed to have a chance to play a lot of strong GMs all over the world in PNWCC tournaments.
tedshi tedshi 1/9/2021 09:58
I also participated in the tournament, but I didn't get any prize. I enjoyed the game, though.
Denix Denix 1/9/2021 04:31
It looks like Jobava just got his new shortest decisive game
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