Category Archives: Chess

A Review of the 1 x 23.6 Inch Gloss Black Anegre and Maple Chess Board (RCBC100) REGENCY CHESS (CANADA)

The Spanish made 1 x 23.6 Inch Gloss Black Anegre and Maple Chess Board (RCBC100)

The Spanish made 1 x 23.6 Inch Gloss Black Anegre and Maple Chess Board (RCBC100)

I haven’t seen too many reviews online referencing Regency Chess Canada so I thought I’d take the opportunity to do so here. Being Canadian, it was nice to see that luxury chess sets and boards could be purchased from within our national borders.

Admittedly, I was a bit nervous ordering from Regency as their service is for the mostpart unheralded. Their UK mother company has an impressive 4.5 star rating from trustpilot.uk  boasting well over 700 reviews but would their Canadian branch earn that kind of lofty status? I am very happy to announce that at least where I am concerned it certainly did.

I ordered the Spanish made 1 x 23.6 Inch Gloss Black Anegre and Maple Chess Board (RCBC100) last Sunday evening (February 1, 2015) and the board arrived just about 1pm Friday, February 6, 2015. Regency Chess Canada is based in Toronto, Ontario and I live on Vancouver Island so a 5 day delivery schedule was more than satisfactory.

The company did not appear to offer postal tracking other than a notice informing that the package had shipped. I always like to take advantage of postal tracking where available and this is my one and only quibble with Regency Chess Canada.

The chess board arrived packaged exceptionally well with plenty of bubble wrap inside 2 boxes! I was very happy with the care provided the chess board and this fact certainly reflected well on Regency Chess Canada.

Handled With Care

Handled With Care

Lots of Bubble Wrap

Lots of Bubble Wrap

The board is absolutely stunning and shows off my ebony &  boxwood Staunton chessmen to effect. It’s hard to do the board justice with regards to the camera belonging to my cellphone but it is without question the personification of what you might call chess eye-candy.

I had some concerns with regards to the high-gloss finish. I mean, sure it looked great on Regency’s website but would the gloss act as an unwanted distraction? Again, I am very happy to answer in the negative. The gloss finish represents a beautiful fusion of eye-catching design and fundamental playability. My back-up board, a matte finish roll-up green and white squared board can stay safely tucked away.

I married the board to a chess set featuring a 4″ King with a 1 3/4″ base. The board is well suited to the set in my opinion. It is hard to do the actual scale of this board justice. It is BIG!

THE BOTTOM LINE 

  • Cost: $275.00 Cdn., before taxes; $310.75 Cdn., total
  • No hidden costs
  • Fast efficient delivery
  • Paypal supported
  • Excellent packaging
  • Excellent quality
  • I would not hesitate to order from Regency Chess Canada again

Product Specifications:

  • Board Dimensions : 23-5/8 x 23-5/8 x 3/8 inches (60cm x 60cm x 1cm)
  • Square Size : 2-3/8 inches (6cm)
  • Item Weight : 8.8 lbs (4.0kg)
  • Materials Used: Stained Anegre, Maple

Regency’s Canadian Website: http://www.regencychess.ca/

* Note: the chess set featured in this review is from a competing company

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A Review of Jaques of London 4″ Reintroduction Chess Set in Mahogany Box

Jaques of London's eponymous Stamp of Approval

Jaques of London’s eponymous Stamp of Approval

I’ve been playing chess since I was 8 years old — a lifetime ago. I have played tournament chess and I am a paid subscriber to chess.com where I continue to play chess daily. Over the years, like so many players I have dreamt of owning an heirloom chess set. I finally obtained one in the form of the Jaques of London 4″ Reintroduction Chess Set in Mahogany Box. Here’s a link to the set as it appears on the Official Jaques of London website:

http://www.jaqueslondon.co.uk/reintroduction-chess-set.html

THE ORDERING PROCESS

I must confess this set was not my first choice. In fact, it was the Jaques of London: Simpsons in the Strand 3.5″ set that I had initially intended to purchase. I had gone some ways in the ordering process before being informed that the Simpsons (a set limited to 500 copies) was no longer available.

I was disappointed in the set’s non-availability but I adjusted quickly and decided on the slightly larger (and more expensive) 4″ Reintroduction set. I had the extremely good fortune of communicating with Jaques of London sales representative, Tracy Bateson. This woman is everything a sales representative should be; attentive, knowledgable, courteous, understanding, and proactive. Upon alerting me to the unavailability of the Simpson’s  set I was offered a choice of 3 other Jaques sets at the same price point or the option of a complete and full refund.

I instead opted for the 4″ Reintroduction set. Ms. Bateson, true-to-form, informed me that there would be no charge afforded the two extra queens I had desired when ordering the Simpsons  3.5″ set and had also requested for the 4″ set.  I should note that the extra queens retail at a not insignificant  £ 49.99 each (before taxes). The savings, needless to say, were much appreciated.

I should note that as a Canadian customer, I was unable to take advantage of Jaques’ automated online e-commerce store. Jaques has a USA branch but they also are not set-up electronically to serve Canadian customers. I suspect the same holds true for Australian and New Zealand based consumers as well.

Despite the 8 hr difference between my home on British Columbia’s west coast and Kent in south-east England, I was able to interact and exchange phone calls and emails with Ms. Bateson in timely and efficient fashion.

The set was delivered by UPS and Jaques of London provided full delivery tracking. Therefore, I was glued to UPS’ website like a 1960s era kid to Saturday morning cartoons. Delivery was quick and problem free. I made initial contact with Tracy by email on January 21st and my set arrived on February 2. However, the actual delivery schedule of the 4″ set from date of payment received to my front door delivery was an impressive 7 days!

Of course, living in Canada and suffering a free-falling dollar as we currently are, the added costs of Canadian duties and taxes apart from the approx. £40.00  plus shipping costs included at Jaques end amounted to $199.31 which I paid to the UPS driver upon receipt of the set.

The set came extremely well packaged and I am confident no damage occurred in the actual shipping process. Bubble wrap, packing paper and 5 boxes! were afforded this set’s protection. I was suitably  impressed.

Packaged with Care

Packaged with Care

MY ONLY ISSUE

My one and only issue with this entire process focuses on the issue of quality control. In my opinion, Jaques of London is the gold standard when it comes to chess sets. The company has a storied past quite literally being synonymous with the game of chess itself; Insomuch as Jaques of London had, in the words of Wikipedia:

“…exclusive manufacturing rights for a chess set designed by Nathaniel Cook in 1849 and named the Staunton chess set after Howard Staunton. This set later became the official international standard.”

Jaques were also commissioned with producing the set used by Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship. Dubbed the “Match of the Century” it is unlikely that the sheer social and cultural impact of the match and the universal  coverage the contest generated should ever be repeated.

So with all this behind it I was still disappointed to discover that 2 of my chess pieces fell far short of “Jaques of London” standards of excellence . One of the black pawns had suffered a broken collar (despite 5 boxes of packaging!)  I could understand a piece potentially suffering damage in a voyage travelling half-way across the globe. However, the damage was clearly done prior to shipping as the shredded remnants of what had been packing paper bore no evidence of any ebony shards. A white bishop also arrived in less than pristine condition bearing a couple of nicks near the piece’s base and suffering a rather too liberal application of lacquer.

I hasten to add that following a quick email to Jaques of London and once more connecting with Ms. Bateson I was immediately assuaged with news that 2 black pawns and 2 white bishops (free of charge sans shipping) would be dispatched post-haste to replace the 2 pieces that had arrived in less than satisfactory condition.

A broken pawn and a wounded bishop

A broken pawn and a wounded bishop

A CHESS SET TO BE PROUD OF

Jaques of London 4″ Reintroduction set not only serves as an impressive display item but is beyond doubt a set to be played. The pieces both black & white chessmen have the knights and rooks stamped with a kingside crown. The knights are richly detailed and true to the original Staunton design. I could not be happier.

It's in the Details!

It’s in the Details!

The 4″ Reintroduction set also features my preferred Staunton bishop with a narrow gap in the mitre and a full button on top. I am not a fan of the gaping mitre but such may be to your own liking. The bishops accompanying this set represent aesthetic perfection.

A narrow mitre and full button punctuating the top

A narrow mitre and full button punctuating the top

 

 

 

THE DETAILS

The 4″ Reintroduction set features the following:

  • Reissue of the original Jaques Staunton early 1890s design
  • Limited Edition (500)
  • Signed certificate authenticity
  • Gloss finished Mahogany box
  • Woods: Ebony (NOT ebonized) and Boxwood
  • White King’s base stamped “Jaques London”
  • B&W Rooks and Knights stamped with kingside crown
  • 4″ King with 1 3/4″ base
  • Heavily weighted (presumably triple weighted)
  • NO Extra Queens
  • Board NOT included
  • Retails for £ 999.00 before taxes (does not include shipping)

IN SUMMARY

Historic! English! Quality! Satisfaction guaranteed! But this is not a budget set. It really is heirloom quality with all the trimmings. A set to proud of, displayed, played with, and handed down the generations. Personally, it represents a prized possession and the cumulation of a lifelong love affair with the game of chess.

Jaques of London 4" 1890s Reintroduction Set with mahogany box

Jaques of London 4″ 1890s Reintroduction Set with mahogany box

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Chess as a Means for Female Empowerment

A. GM Susan Polgar B. GM Hou Yifan C. WGM Jennifer Shahade D. GM Anna Muzychuk E. GM Judit Polgar F. WGM Soumya Swaminathan G. WGM Irina Krush H. GM Alexandra Kosteniuk I. WGM Natalia Pogonina I encourage my readers to look each of these women up in turn, and esteem them for their wonderful and impressive chess accomplishments.

When it comes to evaluating women seldom are we valued for our brain power but overwhelmingly on our physical attributes or lack thereof. Honestly, just “googling” women chess players garnered the following:

Cleavage?! Hottest Female Chess Players?! Trust me when I say that Google doesn’t offer up these options when searching Male Chess Players!

Admittedly, as long as there are men in this world it will be an uphill struggle for women to be viewed independent of our sexuality. There remains a number of misconceptions about women and our ability to perform well in the game of chess. Jen Shahade has been a vocal advocate on behalf of women in chess. I respect her greatly. Her books, Chess Bitch: Women In The Ultimate Intellectual Sport and Play Like a Girl!: Tactics by 9Queens are highly recommended.

Recently, Ms. Shahade posted a video to YouTube entitled: Women Talk Chess: Beating the Boys. It’s intended as a female empowering presentation but still managed to generate opposition from at least one male viewer. I don’t intend to cover the same ground in this blog as I feel I adequately redressed his arguments in the comments section below the video. You can find the video imbedded immediately below:

Please take the time to view it. I think it’s an informative and motivating presentation.

Since Chess is such an intellectual pursuit, it affords girls and women the rare opportunity to compete with males on a level playing field. Nonetheless, there remains too much ingrained prejudice against women when it comes to intellectual challenges. Therefore females have to overcome any number of outdated perceptions born of ignorance and false assumptions.

We live in an age of real opportunity. In my country of Canada, FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) the world governing body of chess recognizes only 21 women! Of that number, only 5 are listed as Expert level or above (Expert being a player with a rating of 2000). In the USA, only 67 women are represented. Of that number only 29 players are recognized as being at Expert or better level.

Comparatively, In Canada’s men’s rankings, 100 males are listed (there are more playing) and none of them has a rating lower than 2100. In the United States, 99 males are listed with none having a rating less than 2300! (2200 being the equivalent of a Master).

You can see the FIDE rankings for your respective country including ratings for men and women at the following address:

http://ratings.fide.com/toplist.phtml

Now before some guy goes off half-cocked (there’s a joke there somewhere) claiming men are better at chess than women—let me simply state that such disparities are due solely to the numbers of males playing chess versus the number of women playing. And really, that’s a big part of my motivation in writing this particular blog entry—to encourage more women and girls to take up the game.

I don’t think it’s so much about inspiring them to play chess as it is inspiring them to overcome emotional and social conditioning that perhaps prevents some girls from being able to be comfortable walking into a room full of 300 or 400 mostly males and sitting down and playing chess. Once you learn how to get over it you can be successful in many other areas of life.

USCF President, Ruth Haring

Source: Women Talk Chess: Beating the Boys

On a personal note, I was recently accepted for membership in a number of female-only chess teams at chess.com. As a self-identified transwoman I am not only thankful but humbled to receive admission to these groups. They are, in no particular order: Global Women, Chess Mistresses, The Queens of Chess, and Biker Angels. These are great groups insomuch as they offer girls and women interested in learning chess a ready-made community composed of players representing all abilities. They create a safe and encouraging environment with which you can begin to learn the ins and outs of the game.

And finally, I’d like to include a game I recently played against a brilliant 13 year-old Somali girl named Mareehan. She’s an amazing individual blessed with a razor sharp mind and a winning personality. In the game below I (as white) attempted to play a closed version of the Sicilian Defense which Mareehan initiated with her opening C5 response. She saw through my every ploy and quickly seized control of the board’s center. Mareehan made me pay the price for vacating the center and dispatched me in a quick 26 moves! After submitting my 27th move I resigned recognizing my situation on the board as hopelessly lost.

The future of chess belongs to young women such as Mareehan. I fully believe her capable of reaching Master status within the next few years. I once had occasion to play Canadian National Master, Howard Wu when he was about Marheen’s age. She is blessed with the same tactical brilliance Wu possesses.

All the best, Mareehan from your friend, Rachel 🙂

Rachel Mareehan

1.e4 c5
2.Nc3 e5
3.Nf3 d6
4.Bc4 Nf6
5.O-O a6
6.a4 Be7
7.Re1 O-O
8.b3 Nc6
9.Nd5 Na5
10.Nxe7+ Qxe7
11.Bd3 Bg4
12.h3 Bh5
13.g4 Bg6
14.Re3 h6
15.Nh2 d5
16.exd5 Nxd5
17.Rg3 Bxd3
18.Rxd3 Nf4
19.Rg3 Nc6
20.d3 Nd4
21.Bxf4 exf4
22.Rg2 Ne2+
23.Kh1 Rfe8
24.Nf3 Qf6
25.Rh2 Nc3
26.Qf1 Re2
27.Ne1

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My Lifelong Passion for Chess: A Queen’s Gambit ;)

Image

3D and 2D, green and cream, black and white, red and black, wood and plastic, marble and steel, Renaissance and Staunton, The Simpsons, Star Trek, and Star Wars. Whatever form the first chess set you ever looked upon took, I hope its magic called to you, captivated you, and drew you in like some inescapable, irresistible Siren’s song.

I could easily write an entire book on my love of chess, the people I’ve met—my fellow captives, and the game’s compelling history. Maybe, hopefully I think—I’ll blog more about chess. Maybe this is a one-off post? But, I hope not.

I first became aware of the game on a visit to my cousins’ place in Brandon, Manitoba in the 1960s. It would have been around 1968 and I’d have been about 10 years-old. They owned the first chess set I ever remember seeing, and the pieces fascinated me. I mean they truly captured my imagination. Those pieces belonged to a pretty standard plastic ersatz Staunton design that was doubtlessly spewed out on some droning assembly line. The pieces I first viewed were in a greyish cardboard container—half in half out sprawled haphazardly about my relatives’ golden carpeted living room floor. The board that accompanied the pieces was a garish yellow bordered black and red squared affair—a color combination I would frequently encounter in subsequent years. But none of that bothered me. I was fixated on the exotic shapes of the pieces; their names only hinted at by the stylized forms that spoke of castles, and horses, and religious symbols—mitres and crosses, and royal crowns.

How did they move? What was the objective?

I was curious beyond words, and felt unbelievable frustration when my older cousin told me that the game was boring, that I was too young; the game—too complicated to explain. However, I was driven by an indiscernible desire to unlock the mystery of those pieces.

Back in Winnipeg, my home town during the latter 1960s, I happened upon a neighbor who had in his possession a rather attractive over-sized plastic Staunton set of richly glazed auburn and black pieces set on a checkerboard of dark brown, and tan. His name was Greg Woodcock, and it was left to him to reveal the mysteries inherent within the idiosyncratic movements of the 32 pieces that made up a chess set—16 on one side,16 on the other.

Greg pointed out the 64 squares of alternating colors—32 dark, 32 light with one of the lighter colored squares habitually occupying the top left corner.

He explained that the horses were knights and the castles—rooks that there were bishops and pawns, queens and kings.

In hindsight, Greg was a undoubtedly a patzer, a duffer, a wood-pusher, a noob! He invariably played “White”; opening with a King or Queen’s Rook’s Pawn. P-KR4, P-QR4 or simply a4,h4 if one were to “notate” his moves. Horrible moves for an unskilled player but potentially dangerous in the hands of a master.

Nonetheless, I owe Greg an immeasurable show of gratitude. He explained the basics to me and patiently endured hours of my own repeated, pathetic efforts to best him. I never did, but fortunately, I did improve. Greg’s parents bought me a lovely wooden chess box/board with heavy plastic pieces that I owned for years.

In 1971 our family moved to Victoria, BC. One of the first things I did upon settling in at our new home was to hook up with the Victoria Chess Club. Harry Moore, Dan Scoones, Jeff Reeve, Ed Seedhouse were some of the gifted players that I met back then. All of them became fixtures in BC tournaments in the years that followed. We met at Royal Athletic Park before moving to the Victoria Public Library on Yates Street; then moving once again to the Gordon Head Recreation Centre.

1972 saw us all revel in the upcoming Fischer-Spassky match for the World Chess Championship. It was broadcast on ABC’s Wide World of Sports and I remember being fully engaged by US Grandmaster Larry Evans. But the 72 Chess Championship never lived up to the pregame hype. Unlike the 72′ Soviet/Canada Hockey series that more than delivered…Fischer’s neuroses, paranoia, and pure obstinacy fell like a wet blanket over a Western audience eagerly anticipating the “Match of the Century”. What an opportunity lost! Chess was poised to enter mainstream consciousness in unheralded fashion but it wasn’t to be. Fischer made sure of that, and in the process went from hero to anti-hero seemingly overnight. We, in the West were happy he’d won but the victory rang hollow despite some brilliant chess.

I still remember an embarrassed Larry Evans, obviously at a loss with the cameras rolling waiting and wondering like all of us whether Fischer would appear. Eventually, ABC cut away to some other event out of sheer necessity. Unfortunately, America cut away with the network and the promise of a chess revolution went unfulfilled.

Fischer faded into legend but thankfully the game lived on. Yasser Seirawan began his rise into prominence just as Fischer was fading from the spotlight. However, he lacked Fischer’s brilliance. A renewed interest in the game arose courtesy of the Azerbaijan/Soviet born Gary Kasparov. Kasparov’s bold play and brazen resistance to Soviet bureaucracy garnered him a legion of fans in the West. Besides, that he won…a lot! Ok, so he wasn’t American born but his charismatic extroverted and vocalized passion injected fresh life into the general population’s appreciation of chess. Obviously, not on the level that Fischer had been able to do but arguably more than any other figure in the history of American chess.

I liked Kasparov but in the years immediately following the “Match of the Century” my love of chess generally manifested in the purchase of countless books; notably, the chess books published by the Dover company. Frank J. Marshall’s Best Games of Chess being a particular favorite.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Lynn Stringer whose tireless efforts organizing chess tournaments in Victoria were and remain greatly appreciated. She was a fixture on the competitive side of the Victoria chess scene for many years.

Nowadays, my interest takes the form of reading about women in chess. No doubt my own male-to-female journey plays a role in that development. Jen Shahade’s “Chess Bitch” is essential reading despite the many typographical errors it contains. Natalia Pogonina, Alexandra Kosteniuk, and Shahade are all active on Twitter and I recommend anyone interested in chess to “follow” them.

It’s funny but I only reluctantly play online or against real-life opponents. Somehow, I developed a phobia about losing somewhere along the way. It’s irrational I know but it’s a very real fear. I’m much more content to play against the artificial intelligence of various commercially available chess programs. Nonetheless, I highly recommend chess.com both for its AI opponent and a world of potential human players ranging from novice to master.

Despite the ebb and flow of my involvement with chess, the game remains a lifelong passion. I still happily lap up any newsworthy items regarding the game that I happen to stumble upon.

Simply put— I Heart Chess! 🙂

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