A year of Perpetual Chess

by Macauley Peterson
12/15/2017 – Chess podcasting is still in its infancy, even as the medium as a whole gains mainstream adoption. In the past year, Ben Johnson's Perpetual Chess Pod has racked up and impressive guest list and a dedicated fan following. This week Ben released his 51st episode and the first episode dropped a year ago on December 15th, 2016.

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Going strong at 50+

Ben Johnson's Perpetual Chess podcast launched exactly one year ago. Ben is a master-level player who has been around the U.S. chess scene for decades and is now a professional scholastic coach. The mission of the podcast is to bring chess enthusiasts "unfiltered interviews with the chess world’s many fascinating personalities."

The show's guest list has included Peter Svidler, who just won his eighth Russian Championship, four-time U.S. Champion Hikaru Nakamura, and numerous other grandmasters and titled players, plus a few non-professionals with a strong chess connection like author / entrepreneur / podcaster James Altucher.

Ben is skilled at setting his guests at ease, and manages to elicit interesting insights no matter the subject. I've heard probably around 90% of the episodes in their entirety and it's well worth the time invested.

On the show's 'about' page he writes:

I am gratified by the kind words and generous reception I've received from the chess community. I am having fun doing the podcast and feel fortunate to get to know more about some of the chess world's many brilliant and engaging personalities. Perpetual Chess episodes have now been downloaded over 125,000 times in over 100 different countries, speaking to the global reach of the royal game. 

Here's a sampling of some of the episodes over the past year:

Episode 50: Jennifer Shahade

"Jenn is a well-known chess player and announcer, but she stays busy with many other roles as well. Her books, Play Like a Girl and Chess Bitch aim to attract more women to chess.  She is also the Mind Sports ambassador for PokerStars, editor of the US Chess Federation website, and a board member of the World Chess Hall of Fame. We had a fun, wide-ranging talk about how Jenn juggles her many roles, as well as her most important role of all- the mother of almost -1 -year-old Fabian. Jenn and I traded stories about her growing up in a game-centric household, and about her ascendance in chess and poker.  When I asked Jenn whether she'd be writing another book, she did not dodge the question. You can hear her answer in our interview."

Jennifer Shahade

Episode 41: GM Judit Polgar

"GM Judit Polgar needs no introduction to the Perpetual Chess audience, but here's one anyway.   Chess legend Judit Polgar joins me this week to tell us what she has been up to since retiring from tournament chess three years ago. As Judit shares, she has been keeping busy with family, chess education initiatives, and with organizing the upcoming Global Chess Festival on October 14, 2017, in Budapest, Hungary. We also talked about today's top players, the FIDE World Cup, and why she thinks top level chess is a different game from when she was competing actively."

Episode 30: GM David Smerdon

"GM David Smerdon is one of those people who seems to find more hours in the day than the rest of us. In addition to being the #2 player in Australia, he recently completed his Ph.D. in economics and landed a job as an assistant professor in his native Brisbane. David also manages to stay quite active in and vocal about chess, particularly on his excellent blog. In our conversation, we discuss David's experiences representing Australia at several Olympiads, including the 2016 Olympiad in which he drew against Magnus Carlson. We also talk about gender in chess and his economic research away from the board. Naturally, I didn't let David escape without coaxing him to dish some excellent chess advice as well. David gives great tips on how to play against higher rated opponents and also offers a book recommendation."

Episode 20: Grandmaster Timur Gareyev

"Timur has rightfully been getting a lot of media attention due to his mind-boggling feats in blindfold chess, but he has a lot of other interests as well.  Timur's hobbies range from skydiving to yoga to traveling to poker. Naturally, we talked a bit about his incredible, record-breaking 48 board blindfold simul, but we also talked about his many travel plans, his business ideas, his chess beginnings in Uzbekistan, and many other topics. Timur is a fascinating guy and I can't wait to see what projects he undertakes in future years."

Trompowsky for the attacking player

Tap into your creative mind and start the game on a fresh note. The Trompowsky (1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5) is an opening outside of conventional wisdom. Create challenges and make your opponent solve problems early on.

Episode 5: GM Simon Williams

"Simon Williams (aka the Ginger GM) is an entertaining and original chess player, educator and personality. In this fun interview we discuss his background, the chess culture in England, and detail his transition from primarily playing chess to teaching chess online. We also talk about his travels, both to international chess tournaments and to local British pubs."

Most amazing moves

The interactive format encourages the viewer to study and find the brilliancy, following the footsteps of some of the greatest players of the game.

Whither goest The Full English Breakfast?

IM Lawrence Trent and I were guests on Episode 19 of Perpetual Chess talking about our own podcast The Full English Breakfast:

The first episode was way back in 2009, but now, by virtue of Ben's managing to actually stick to regular weekly episodes (no mean feat, let me tell you!), Ben is on the verge of surpassing our episode count! Congrats on that score! I've received a number of messages asking when we'll be back in business, and all I can say is, stay tuned. We're going to keep putting out periodic episodes, while plotting our next moves. Meanwhile here was the most recent episode #51 from September:

The Fort Knox Variation in the French Defence

If you're one of those French Defence players who has been desperately searching for a reliable and easy-to-learn system against White's two main 3rd moves (3.Nd2 or 3.Nc3) then this is the 60 Minutes for you! The Fort Knox variation (3...dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7!


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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