This Friday begins the 2018 World Chess Championship in London. Reigning champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway takes on challenger Fabiano Caruana of the United States in a 12 game series scheduled to conclude November 26th, though tiebreaks could extend the series an extra day or two.

Carlsen, 27 years old, has held the title since defeating Viswanathan Anand of India in 2013. Caruana, 26, trails the current champion by just three rating points going in to the tournament (2835-2832) and is the first American World Champion challenger since Bobby Fischer in 1972.

For those not able to attend in-person, the World Championship games will be broadcast live online (3 PM GMT, 10 AM ET). A subscription to the series is only $20.

Don’t have someone to follow the games with? Consider Mates, the official World Chess Championship dating app. According to the app’s developer, “Good sex has a lot in common with a good game of chess… That’s why Mates limits your conversation to an hour, so you spend less time talking and more time playing.”

And if that doesn’t work for you, the tournament’s organizers have also signed an official online betting partner. Unibet expects wagers on the Chess championship to exceed those placed on some of the recent FIFA World Cup games. Odds are currently running ⅔-⅓ in favor of Carlsen.

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Ilyumzhinov Holds On, Barely

Those battling over the presidency of the World Chess Federation (FIDE) have, for now, settled in a face-saving measure that confirms Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as the organization’s titular President, though denied pretty much all of the position’s authority. Despite recent assertions that he had resigned, a special meeting of FIDE’s Presidential Board, conceded Ilyumzhinov the title but made formal the transfer of his powers to the Deputy President, Georgios Makropoulos. With Ilyumzhinov under sanction from the United States for dealings with the Assad government in Syria, FIDE has found it increasingly difficult to land international sponsors for its events. The particularly influential Russian Chess Federation, though, continues to back Ilyumzhinov.

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Kirsan_IlyumzhinovFinding himself the subject of sanctions by the United States for alleged support of the government in Syria, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, President of FIDE, made the surprise move this week of relinquishing most of his authority to his deputy, Georgios Makropoulos.

According to an announcement, however, by the World Chess Federation, Mr. Ilyumzhinov has withdrawn from all “legal, financial and business operations” only on a temporary basis. Speaking with the Russian Chess Federation, the colorful FIDE leader called the accusations “ridiculous”.

My conscience is clean, and I am absolutely sure that I am right. Moreover, in response to the sanctions by some bureaucrats, unknown for now, I decided to make a gift to the real chess fans in the United States. Along with the World Chess Championship, their country will also host the World Rapid and Blitz Championships among men and women as well as the largest children’s tournament. We also declared the year 2016 a Year of Chess in the United States.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ilyumzhinov also revealed plans to sue the U.S. government for $50 billion, an amount he claims approximates his “moral and financial damage.”

Kirsan_IlyumzhinovTwo months ago, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), said that the United States should prosecute Gary Kasparov (his opponent in the last election) for corruption. It seems, however, that the U.S. government has other priorities. The Treasury Department has designated Ilyumzhinov a supporter of Assad’s government in Syria and imposed sanctions, including freezing all his U.S. assets and prohibiting U.S. citizens from transacting business with him.

Ilyumzhinov was among four individuals and six entities sanctioned. According to Treasury, he was designated for “materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of” the Government of Syria, the Central Bank of Syria, and other suspect individuals.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is no stranger to international controversy, having been a public supporter of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

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Ivan TetimovFIDE is investigating another Bulgarian Chess player for possible cheating but has encountered some resistance from the Bulgarian Chess Federation. Ivan Tetimov was seen holding his hand to his ear throughout a recent tournament, yet arbiters found nothing inappropriate when searching him (he went on to finish in first place). At a subsequent tournament, however, Tetimov refused a search and was thus disqualified.

In late March, the World Chess Federation’s Anti-Cheating Committee requested information about Tetimov from the Bulgarian Chess Federation but was rebuffed:

Bulgarian Chess Federation have no intention to collaborate with the current FIDE management. In my personal opinion this management together with the commissions appointed by them are not competent and professional enough to rule FIDE and the world of chess.

Of course, this did not go over well with FIDE, which through it’s lawyers on May 7th threatened the Bulgarian federation with “exclusion.” Apparently feeling the heat, the Bulgarian Chess Federation responded the next day with the requested information.

No other information about its investigation has yet been revealed by FIDE. It is interesting to note, though, that Ivan Tetimov is a friend and former teammate of another infamous Bulgarian player suspected of cheating, Borislav Ivanov.

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Game Blotter - A roundup of crimes, legal cases, and when "the law" gets involved with gamesGrandmaster Gaioz Nigalidze of Georgia was expelled from the Dubai Open tournament after his smartphone was found running a Chess app and hidden in a bathroom stall wrapped in a wad of toilet paper. His opponent had lodged a complaint with tournament organizers after Nigalidze had visited the bathroom several times and always used the same stall.

Dhruv Kakkar was caught employing a slightly different approach to cheating at the Dr. Hedgewar Open Chess Tournament in New Delhi, India. He had two mobile phones strapped to his legs and a micro-speaker in his ear, a setup he was using to receive instructions from a friend running a computer Chess program in another city. In this case, Mr. Kakkar’s opponent became suspicious when no matter how simple or complex the current situation, Mr. Kakkar took a consistent 2 minutes to make each and every move.

In a 4½ year old cheating case, the World Chess Federation is threatening to take “proceedings” against Sebastien Feller of France if he doesn’t return by May 7th the medal and prize money he won at the 2010 Chess Olympiad.

While attempting to offer its condolences to the Nepal Chess Association, FIDE instead stated, “We… deeply deplore those whom we have lost in this disaster.”

Officials in Handsworth, UK yanked the license of Club Paradise (“weddings, parties, funerals, much more”) after management failed to notice or report a shooting that took place at the club because they were busy playing Dominoes.

The Polish government just noticed that since 2013 the game Apples to Apples has had a card that refers to “Nazi Poland”. After complaining to Mattel that the card misrepresented history, the company apologized and offered to exchange the game free of charge.

British Chess grandmaster Nigel Short is feeling public ire after telling New in Chess magazine that women are not as good at Chess as men. He claims that his position is not a value judgement but rather an honest assessment of the different skills between men and women.

After receiving several warnings for writing notes to himself during the ninth round of the U.S. Chess Championships in St. Louis, Wesley So had his game forfeited by the arbiter. The rising star of the Chess world was distracted and put off his game by a surprise visit to the tournament of his estranged mother.

The folks at Cards Against Humanity are in a bit of trouble with local officials in Liberty, Maine. As part of one of their holiday promotions, the company purchased an island, Birch Island in Lake St. George, and doled out 250,000 “licenses” for exclusive use of 1 foot square parcels. The company also installed on the island a vault containing unique expansion cards. Town officials, however, consider this illegal commercial activity and subdivision of property. A letter from Liberty’s code enforcement officer threatens Cards Against Humanity with significant fines unless the company submits a satisfactory remediation plan.

In Sri Lanka, a man murdered his wife’s lover by luring him to the house to play board games.

An allegedly intoxicated driver fleeing police crashed his car through the front window of Red Castle Games in Portland. The owner of the store is asking for donations to cover losses not covered by insurance. Oh, and the incident was caught on the store’s security video:

After entering in to a marketing arrangement with Hasbro, BuzzFeed deleted an article critical of Monopoly. The article has since been restored and an editor has apologized.

Shuffle Tech International filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court against Scientific Games Corp., alleging that the latter has monopolized the casino market for card shuffling machines through fraudulently obtained patents.

More than 1,600 government workers in Qianxinan prefecture, China were “recalled” and forced to undergo extensive retraining, including military drills. What did they do wrong? Gossip, watch movies at work, and play Mahjong.

A group of grandmothers from Zhejiang province, China who were arrested for participating in ketamine drug parties told investigators that Mahjong just wasn’t enough anymore to alleviate their dull existence. I wish they would have asked. I could have recommended some other games to try.

The latest round between Mattel and Zynga saw the toy company score the upper hand. The Court of Appeal found Mattel’s trademark for “Scramble” valid and infringed by Zynga’s use of “Scramble” and “Scramble With Friends”. The court, however, decided that Zynga’s “Scramble” did not infringe on Mattel’s “Scrabble”.

Upper Deck won a $1.8 million verdict against J&T Hobby in a dispute over a distribution deal dating back to 1994.

Ruling that MGA’s infringement wasn’t willful, a federal circuit court judge has cut in third the $4.7 million dollars in damages awarded by a lower court to Innovention Toys in the patent case for laser board games.

Topps has applied to trademark “Masterwork“, which it began using in February, even though Leaf has been using that term in the trading card business since 2013.

A former Philippine basketball star was arrested in a police drug raid. The charges leveled against him, however, were for illegal gambling. He was found at the scene playing Mahjong.

A former UK and European Scrabble champion who felt persecuted for being a transgender woman, decided to step in front of a moving train.

A man out on bail was shot dead while playing Dominoes on the street in Coconut Grove, Bahamas.

Six men playing dice on the street in Waterbury, Connecticut were arrested for gambling.

Gambit, a website that allows users to wager Bitcoins when they challenge each other on classic board games (e.g., Backgammon, Penta, Dominoes, and remakes of Monopoly, Risk, and Battleship), has decided to eliminate rake (the fee charged as a percentage of each pot).

A Chess coach, who’s also the founder of a Columbus-area Chess club, is facing charges for raping a 4 year old girl at a preschool where he taught.

Albany County, New York has passed a law prohibiting any amount of benzene, lead, mercury, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, or cobalt in children’s products or apparel. The Safe to Play Coalition, an alliance of manufacturers and retailers, is challenging the law in court, claiming that it’s preempted by federal regulation.

A shootout erupted among a dozen men playing dice in Wetumpka, Alabama when half the players tried to rob the other half.

In Beaumont, Texas, a man apprehended by police with a gun and cocaine claimed that he was actually the victim. He said that when the police saw him running through a park, he was trying to escape from another man who shot him in the ear during an argument over a dice game.

A man who ran when he was spotted by police playing dice on the street in Memphis was also caught and arrested for possession of cocaine.

Other men from Memphis decided to take their dice game to a hotel in Nashville. The move, though, didn’t help. One ended up shot in the leg. Police are looking for the other.

The man Indianapolis police found shot following a dice game later died at the hospital.

Not all dice rolling is frowned upon by government. In fact, in Platte, South Dakota, the winner of the mayoral election was decided by a roll-off between the two candidates.

Wild Horse Concepts has filed suit against Hasbro, claiming that the idea for interchangeable action figure body parts, which Hasbro made in to Marvel Superhero Mashers, was presented by Wild Horse in a meeting 2 years earlier.

Corporate Responsibility Magazine ranked Hasbro second overall in the list of 100 Best Corporate Citizens of 2015.

Police raided a dice game, which a laundry owner in Thailand had organized in his business.

When the host of a Dominoes game in Delray Beach, Florida asked one of his guests to leave, a fight erupted and the host ended up stabbed in the chest and abdomen.

A Utah-based financial planning firm claims that a Florida-based financial planning firm intentionally copied its trademarked logo, a knight Chess piece centered above the company name.

Major Chess Tournaments in Trouble

FIDEThe recent success of the last World Chess Championship and rockstar-like celebrity of its winner, Magnus Carlsen, do not appear to have done a whole lot for the ability of FIDE (the World Chess Federation) to organize and finance other major tournaments.

The 2014 World Championship match, due to take place just 6 months from now, has yet to find a home—and that with a rematch between Carlsen and the previous champion, Viswanathan Anand! Even after extending the deadline (to April 30th), FIDE has not received a single bid for organizing the event.

A public dispute has erupted between FIDE and the South African Chess Federation over the organization of the World Youth Championship scheduled for September in Durban. FIDE refused to approve the tournament invitation drafted by the South African federation, arguing that the hotel rates are too high and that participants should not be required to pay 100 percent of costs in advance.

Worse is FIDE’s dispute with the Singapore Chess Federation, whom the organization accuses of unilaterally changing conditions for the World Amateur Championship without even providing notice.

A World Under-16 Chess Olympiad was supposed to take place later this year. However its host, the Kazakhstan Chess Federation, has withdrawn. And without sufficient remaining time to make alternate arrangements, FIDE has announced that the event likely will not be held.

An even more prestigious tournament is in danger of also being cancelled. Local press reports that the Norwegian Chess Federation is running short of money to produce the Chess Olympiad, scheduled for August in Tromsø. More than 2,000 participants from 181 countries are expected at the Olympiad. A request for supplementary funding of NOK 15 million ($2.5 million) was rejected by the government. Said one official, “When a group gets money from the state, they have to mount an arrangement that fits within the framework.” FIDE’s Treasurer and Executive Director, Nigel Freeman, posted an open letter on the organization’s website asking the Norwegian federation to provide assurances that the Olympiad would not be cancelled.

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FIDEThe race for the presidency of FIDE (the World Chess Federation) is heating up with controversy and negative campaigning. In his effort to unseat incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, former World Chess Champion and Russian political activist, Garry Kasparov, has been accused of buying votes.

According to a contract discovered by The New York Times and confirmed by an attorney for Kasparov’s campaign, the challenger has entered in to an agreement with Ignatius Leong of Singapore for a payment of $1 million in return for the votes of 11 Asian Chess federations. Half that money is clearly conditioned on delivery of votes but the attorney, Morten Sand, claims that all funds are for the “explicit purpose of chess development and programs” and that “no money can or will be allocated to individuals for personal use.”

Ignatius Leong is actually the current general secretary of FIDE under Ilyumzhinov. His agreement with Kasparov represents Leong switching sides in the election.

Payments under the contract, $250,000 annually for four years, are to be made by the Kasparov Chess Foundation to the ASEAN Chess Academy, an organization aimed at teaching Chess to children but owned by Mr. Leong. Further, the agreement calls for the opening of a FIDE office in Singapore headed by Leong and additional payments (to be negotiated separately) should Leong deliver more than 15 votes.

But the intrigue doesn’t end there! Regarding how a draft of the Kasparov-Leong contract made its way to The New York Times, Mr. Sand suggested that it was the work of FIDE officials:

On the opening day of the 2013 FIDE World Cup in Tromsø, Ignatius and I understood that high FIDE officials possibly had access to the draft Agreement now circulated. I sent it to Ignatius in July, using his FIDE email account. The only way to get possession of this draft is through the administrator of the mail account in FIDE. There can only be political reasons for why this is now made public in such a way.

FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman then responded to this accusation by releasing the following official statement:

The statement of Morton Sand is entirely false. It is obvious that there is an attempt to drive the discussion away from the substance of this issue, i.e. whether such contracts are ethical or not. For the leaking of confidential documents, Garry Kasparov’s team should perhaps look amongst themselves.

Following that, another spokesman for Kasparov said via Twitter:

How do you know it’s false? If you have reviewed the logs for his account, why not make them public?… Unless of course you’re just saying it’s false as an excuse to put inappropriate campaign news on the official FIDE site. Again.

Ilyumzhinov has also taken to the FIDE website with an open letter calling on Leong to resign.

Not that Ilyumzhinov is any stranger to controversy either. He was largely unknown in the Chess world before being helped in to the position of FIDE president by the previous holder of that position, who himself resigned after being convicted in the Philippines of financial irregularities involving the 1992 Chess Olympiad in Manila. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is the former president of the Russian republic, Kalmykia; claims to have been abducted by aliens; alleges that Chess was invented by aliens; and was a supporter of Libyan dictator Qaddafi.

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The World Youth Chess Championships, currently underway in the United Arab Emirates, refuses to recognize the origin of participants from Israel. The official player list, instead, shows the home country of these players as “Fide”, a reference to the World Chess Federation.

World Youth Chess Championships Players from Israel

FIDE, sponsor of the event, claims recognition by the International Olympic Committee.

UPDATE: The absence of Israeli flags was the result of an Israel Chess Federation request.

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