All posts by mark

Virtual casual chess meetup Thursday Dec 31, 2020, noon

This meetup was previously announced for Wednesday December 30th, but has been moved to Thursday December 31st.

Our second virtual chess meetup will be held at noon (12:00pm) Winnipeg time on Thursday, December 31, 2020. This will be one of the few times we’ve held a meetup outside a Saturday.

Hosted by Mark Jenkins, CFC 1408 . (lichess profile)

During the event time, players with internet access should visit our online meeting portal at and express their interest in playing in our internet relay chat room or appear on our Google Meet video conference, . The special event portal will be available by 11am and players admitted to the video conference meeting at noon.

The video conference will be live-streamed to Facebook and later reposted to YouTube. Stick to IRC if you’re shy about that.

If you unable to use the internet to play chess or that describes a chess player you know, see our page How to play by phone, radio, or conference call . We have a phone number on that page exclusively for offline players to call or text. (this is not an info line for everyone else who is online)

Please spread the word to your chess contacts who are offline that this is an opportunity to play live, untimed casual games with people by phone/text message.

For the first 30 minutes (12:00-12:30pm) the opportunity to play by phone/text will be exclusively reserved for Manitoba residents and former Manitoba residents who were part of the chess community. We’ll get up to 4 games going on the conference call, using internet players for half the board in some cases. (lichess provides a good way to do this) At 12:30pm we’ll open up the opportunity to play by telephone to anyone else in the world who reaches out, subject to our 4 game limit.

If we’re waiting for conference call players in this first 30 minutes, we’ll kibitz over in-progress lichess TV games or any other completed master or personal recorded games that participants want to talk over.

We’ll stop commencing conference call games at 2pm Winnipeg time. We’ll stick with any in progress until 5pm, at which point they’ll be adjourned.

After 12:30pm, if there are no conference call games happening (like last time), the host will play, kibitz with, and comment on the play of other online players up until 3pm.

How to play by phone, radio, or conference call

The pandemic has severely limited opportunities to play chess over the board outside one’s own household.

But chess has not come to a halt. Internet connected players were already playing millions of games per day and have only increased their pace. You can easily get a casual game with a stranger on sites like and on any day, any time, even on Christmas.

Video conferencing has even allowed cash tournament play to be proctored, thus supporting the full spectrum broadcasted grandmaster competitions to Continental Chess Association (CCA) opens.

But, we don’t want to forget those without internet access, expensive metred access, or who are not comfortable with chess online. The pandemic has left these folks in a chess vacuum.

Thus, for most of our casual virtual events, we will support an option for participation by phone or text message.

If you are unable to play on the internet, you can call or text 204-666-5689 during our scheduled events and let us know that is the only way you can participate. For phone participation, you’ll have to provide your number so our live conference call system can call you back.

Please do not call or text outside the posted event times. We’re not answering or returning calls about upcoming events. Please do not call if you are able to participate in our events over the internet.

If you have internet access, check for upcoming casual event listings and visit during scheduled events for the event video conference and chat room.

How do you share chess moves over a phone call? You will be assigned a board number and a side (white/black). When you’ve decided on a move, wait for silence and jump in with your board number and move.

Keep a written record of the moves from your game and assigned board number.

Moves are to be conveyed with algebraic notation. Because the letters b, c, d, e, and g can be hard to tell apart when heard, we ask that you use the NATO phonetic alphabet for the letters a-h: ALPHA (a), BRAVO (b), CHARLIE (c), DELTA (D), ECHO (e), FOXTROT (f), GOLF (g), and HOTEL (h).

After your opponent moves, reply with an acknowledgement that you heard their move “board 6 acknowledged”.

So for example, here’s a transcript of the Benoni Defense (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5) on board 6 spoken by white (W) and black (B):

W: Board 6, DELTA four (1. d4)
B: Board 6 acknowledged

B: Board 6, Knight FOXTROT six (1. …Nf6)
W: Board 6 acknowledged

W: Board 6, CHARLIE four (2. c4)
B: Board 6 acknowledged

B: Board 6, CHARLIE five (2. … c5)
W: Board 6 acknowledged

Our casual phone/text games will be untimed.

We’ll limit ourselves to 4 conference call games at a time. We may pair you up with an internet connected player and relay the moves.

Jamie and Mark provided a demonstration of conveying moves by voice in November. (YouTube embedded below)

Note our accidental use of EPSILON instead of the proper NATA phonetic ECHO, and an attempt to also convey the colour and move number. These are probably not necessary in a small conference call.

Our game as a study and imported game on lichess.

For lack of a chess set — The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

There are many gut wrenching aspects to the first two episodes of The Queen’s Gambit, a mini series released October 23rd, 2020 on Netflix.

There’s something for any kind of viewer, but for me it’s a prodigy going six years without having a chess set! Not even the adoptive parents can provide one.

Reality is a bit less brutal: chess is an abstract strategy game, the pieces can be anything.

If you find yourself incarcerated, hospitalized, orphaned or otherwise horribly impoverished, you can still play chess without having to stare at the ceiling all night. All you need is a pen and a piece of paper. Draw a big square, put 7 evenly spaced horizontal and vertical lines inside and shade the grid pattern.

Make that board and the 64 squares inside of it as big as you can, as you want the pieces to fit. When drawing your pieces, keep the square sizes in mind and draw the figurines from memory. Shade the 16 pieces for one side, leave the paper colour after outlining the others.

I did this once on a camping trip, despite my horrible art skills, I was happy with the result (could tell the pieces apart) and was able to get someone else to play. I wish had a photo for you, I was proud of that set.

Years later I replicated this idea by creating a printed paper chess set design as a promotional idea for the Rudolf Rocker Chess Club.

In this YouTube video you can see Jamie and I demonstrate 3 minute blitz with the paper set. I’d recommend a longer time control (or none at all), the knights are hard to move!

Do you have children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and younger cousins who have not yet been bitten by the chess bug and might not have a set at home? Print them some paper sets as stocking stuffers. The next potential prodigy might be right under your nose and just needs a 10 cent trigger.

(There’s even talk of a longer winter school break here in Manitoba this year….)

You probably shared Beth’s rage when the high school teacher and club player gave her, a reported prodigy, a doll. In his defense, he hadn’t yet seen the wunderkind play first hand when he made that purchase. So, it’s even more unforgivable that after having seen her talents and having invited her to give a simultaneous exhibition (simul) another, that he had no paraphernalia waiting for her as a thank you when she attended.

As a further example of the show’s excellent attention to detail, we see some pretty low quality sets at the high school simul. To me, part of the tragedy of the first episode that the only thing she takes home is a box of chocolates instead of some garbage plastic pieces and a board better coloured for checkers.

Harmon has one more close brush with earlier set access. The headmistress suggests there could be some pieces in a game closet. Certainly worth a look. You would be surprised where you might find neglected chess sets. If these existed, you’d likely find missing pieces. No problem, combine sets, borrow from other board games, recruit some salt shakers, and make some paper pieces if you have to.

Realistically, after the headmistress takes chess away, I don’t see how anyone could have held interest in the game for so long with only Modern Chess Openings (MCO) as their connection to the world of chess. I’ll come back to that in another article, but I would say now that’s one of the worst possible book to dump on a new player as their first.

Had Mr. Sheibel wanted to be sneaky, he could have kept the fun going by playing co-correspondence style, passing on one move at a time quietly by voice each time he runs into Beth, perhaps consulting some better players by phone and mail.

“Pawn to king four!”, Beth could have whined at the custodian on his ladder instead of “help me!”. “Pawn to queen’s bishop four, and keep your voice down” I imagine.

Or even openly propose correspondence chess after the headmistress has had a year or two to get over the ban inducing incident.

This is one of the many beautiful thing about chess, it doesn’t exist on a board, it lives in the ether and it lives between our ears, and this miniseries beautifully captures that.

— Mark Jenkins

Virtual Casual Meetup Saturday Nov 28, 2020

We can’t gather in person, but casual chess by the Rudolf Rocker Chess Club is back.

Join us at noon (Winnipeg time) on Saturday November 28st for a virtual afternoon of casual games hosted by Mark Jenkins, club co-founder.

Help spread the word to current and former Manitoba chess players. Even though this is a “virtual” event, internet access is not required! If that describes a chess enthusiast you know, tell them they can set up a board or two at home and communicate with us by text message by calling us and leaving us a phone number for a call back into our conference call.

(no long distance cost when we call you back!)

Internet connected players can join the 2020-11-28 conference call at, no Google account required! If your computer lacks a microphone you can ask it to connect sound by calling you by phone and still take in the on-screen aspects.

Conference call games will be casual and untimed.

How do you share chess moves over a conference call? You will be assigned a board number and a side (white/black). When you’ve decided on a move, wait for silence and jump in with your board number, colour, move number and move.

For example, the board, colour and move number might be: “Board six, white, move 2”

Please keep a written record of the moves from your game and assigned board number.

Moves are to be conveyed with algebraic notation. Because the letters b, c, d, e, and g can be hard to tell apart when heard, we ask that you use the NATO phonetic alphabet for the letters a-h: ALPHA (a), BRAVO (b), CHARLIE (c), DELTA (D), ECHO (e), FOXTROT (f), GOLF (g), and HOTEL (h).

After your opponent moves, reply with an acknowledgement that you heard their move “board 6 acknowledged”.

So for example, here’s a transcript of the Benoni Defense (1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5) on board 6 spoken by white (W) and black (B):

W: Board 6, white, move 1; DELTA four (1. d4)
B: Board 6 acknowledged

B: Board 6, black, move 1; Knight FOXTROT six (1. …Nf6)
W: Board 6 acknowledged

W: Board 6, white, move 2; CHARLIE four (2. c4)
B: Board 6 acknowledged

B: Board 6, black, move 2; CHARLIE five (2. … c5)
W: Board 6 acknowledged

After 1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5

The host will track all conference call boards as lichess study boards, will link them at for spectator viewing, and will screen share this update process on the video conference.

The conference call and the host screen with board updates will be broadcast into the Rudolf Rocker Chess Club Facebook group as a live stream. The live stream video will be deleted after the event and not archived. (The games I’ll leave archived)

All conference call games must start between noon and 2pm. The host will stay on the call up until 5pm to help games finish. Games beyond that will be adjourned until our next session or players can arrange to communicate it outside the conference call or to just stay on the conference call without the host. The Facebook livestream will be cut off at 4pm.

Participation on the main conference call will be limited to Manitoba residents and former Manitoba residents who were once part of the chess community in Manitoba.

As an exception, we would consider a player from anywhere in the world with an NM title from a national federation or a FIDE title of FM, WIM, WGM, IM, or GM or who wanted to simul to be a guest of honour.

In order to keep the conference call open for the conveying of moves, we won’t be able to kibitz or analyze on the conference call when there is a game in progress. To support postmortems, we will post a link on where the internet connected players can gather for that kind of thing, including with their own screen sharing. This secondary, kibitzing video conference room won’t be moderated, parents take note of that. Stick to the main conference room at for a moderated experience.

Any two people can also start their own private video conference or use another platform they agree on as an alternative for smaller group analysis.

You may also be interested in using the opportunity to meet Manitoba players for casual games played directly by way of challenge/invitation on online platforms like and . Let it be known if you’re looking to pair up for that kind of game and we’ll let you know when there is someone else looking too. The default platform for online games outside the conference call will be, but other options like can be negotiated between players.

To support pairing up, we will also operate a internet relay chat (IRC) (text) room where you can meet, arrange to play and kibitz. The IRC server, channel, and a web client will be posted day of at, no account required. Similar to the Jitsi meet secondary/kibitz video conference, the IRC channel will not be moderated. Non Manitoba folks will also be welcome there, so perhaps this can become the beginning of an international Saturday casual chess meetup, feel free to spread the word.

The IRC server supports filtering out and ignoring anyone you don’t want to hear from.

If you’re too shy to put your voice on the conference call or dealing with a limited internet connection where even just voice isn’t feasible, but would still like to play with a conference call participant, you can indicate your interest on IRC, write your board number, move number and move in algebraic notation into IRC and the host will relay that into the conference call. The conference call chat feature can also be used in this way.

Chess Aesthetics in The Queen’s Gambit, ep1-2

Welcome to my series of articles on the chess aesthetics and culture in the Netflix seven episode miniseries, The Queens Gambit. I will also share some of my own perspectives on the world of chess the show has prompted.

I’d recommend seeing the series before reading. I’m not always going to have spoilers, but I’d say, watch it without my judgments, then come back to see what I was struck by.

For the most part, don’t expect me to cover the very well done on-board technicals, this is covered well elsewhere.

In every way, this series pays a lot of attention to detail and shines for that.

When you start watching a show for the third time, one thing you start to really notice is the chess aesthetic throughout with the sets and costumes.

The show opens with a preview forward, 1967 Paris.

The adult version of Elizabeth (Beth) Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) appears at the chess board wearing a white dress with a black collar and the dress includes a bow with hints of black.

These costuming choices are no accident.

Other things of importance get the black and white treatment as well.

The benzodiazepines are green and white, common colours found on cheap vinyl tournament chess boards, a perfect metaphor for the orphanage’s cheap trick in behavior control.

In the second episode there is background dialog where Beth’s brown shoes with brown laces are made fun of, and we get a shot of the shoes that are trending at Beth’s high school, all of them with the same black and white design.

Beth and her adoptive mother go for shopping the first time and end up pairing a black dress with her white shirt. It’s a black and white bus that gets them there.

When we meet Townes on day one of the Kentucky State Championship, he’s wearing a white shirt, no jacket, dark pants and a black tie.

Day 2, where he is facing harder games, Townes brings the seriousness of a suit jacket. Yet, the contrast of a white shirt is avoided, instead his shirt has some colour and subtle plaid/checkerboard pattern. This is fitting as he he as become more familiar and comfortable to both Beth and us by day two.

(As an aside, it was nice the see the jacket come off during his end game, something I’ve personally done to keep my arms limber and ready for a time scramble)

We see this in several other places, and I assume the intention is draw our eyes to characters and settings, but in less striking ways. The plaid people and places are softer.

Starting with Beth, she has a checkered orphanage blanket and an orphanage supplied dress pattern worn at some point.

She yearns for two of the dresses in the department store that are not on sale, one with striking black and white contrasts and the other with a checkered pattern which seems to be her favorite.

Charles Levy, the high school simul board #1 stands out from the others with his flannel shirt. The teacher’s chair rocks this same aesthetic.

Returning to the second episode, Annette Parker, Beth’s first tournament pairing and day two bathroom angel has a skirt patterned this way too.

Long before Beth has the chance to redecorate her adoptive parents house, there’s already a checker pattern in the wallpaper.

Even the janitor’s chess dungeon basement has tiled walls going on.

These are all very interesting, but I’m saving for last the following appearance of the plaid from the first episode: a fence separates the orphanage from some other institution, perhaps a high school or middle school. Beth, age 9 stares at an older boy over the fence and he waves back. Does she perhaps notice him because of his checkered jacket?

We return to the boy outside during a montage sequence where Beth is upping her game and also showing a curiosity about male anatomy. On his second appearance, the boy is having an animated conversation and smoke with a girl his age. This is all a set up for the third appearance, the boy and the other girl are kissing passionately and Beth is disappointed.

Forgive the stretched analogy, but this is like a bad game of chess, an okay opening, bad signs in the mid game, and devastation in the end game.

The writers may not have intended to land a 3 phase analogy, but the function of these scenes is clear: as Beth’s chess obsession grows we see there are other sides to her, including the infatuations and disappointment experienced by most children.

In this way, the show establishes from the 1st episode that Beth is going to be more multidimensional character than just a chess prodigy and substance abuser. She is attracted to boys and men, able to have her heart broken, concerned with her appearance and surrounded by a chess aesthetic.

— Mark Jenkins

Saturday November 2, 2019 meetup cancelled, rescheduled for Saturday November 9

The previously announced casual chess meetup for Saturday November 2, 2019 has been cancelled due to facilitator availability.

A new casual meetup at Millennium Library 2nd floor games tables has been scheduled for Saturday November 9, noon-4pm. Facilitator Mark Jenkins with free beginner lessons on offer.

You may very well find other casual players on Saturday the 2nd as is often the case on any given Saturday (often an expert level player among them). Nobody is guaranteed to be there, but you can bring your own equipment and see what happens.

Large outdoor chess set at Sinclair Park Community Centre on Canada day (Monday July 1, 2019)

On Canada Day (Monday July 1, 2019), Sinclair Park Community Centre (490 Sinclair Street) will have a large outdoor chess set available from 9am to 5pm in addition to other Canada Day festivities. There isn’t guaranteed to be a facilitator present the whole day, but this will probably be popular enough that you’ll have no trouble getting a game in. Bring a friend if you want to be sure.

Meetups are now once a Month. Nov 17 we encourage playing in the Aron Kapstan Memorial Tournament. Next meetup Nov 24.

Starting in November, Rudolf Rocker Chess Club meetups with an equipped facilitator and free beginner lessons will be once a month  (instead of almost every week) at the Millennium Library 2nd floor games tables. This reduction in schedule is due to facilitator availability.

(contact us if you’d like to be the host a beginner friendly, publicly advertised, casual chess meetup at any location in Winnipeg using our equipment, Rudolf Rocker brand, and marketing facilities)

Normally our meetup will be the first Saturday of the month, but November will be an exception this year. We previously posted that Saturday November 17th would be our November meetup day, but the Aron Kapstan Memorial Chess Tournament has been announced for Saturday November 17 and Sunday November 18, 2018 at the University of Winnipeg (room TBA), so we encourage attending that. This open, two day, five round tournament will be using a small, 6 or less player section format similar to the Manitoba Scholastic Chess Association tournaments, but its for everyone so its an awesome opportunity to play tournament chess against folks closer to your level.

Our November casual meetup at the library has been rescheduled for Saturday November 24. Our October 20 and 27th meetups are still going ahead. In December we will meet on the first Saturday, December 1st.

On all other Saturdays where the library is open but where no facilitator is available, there are almost always other chess players at the library games tables in the afternoon, usually with  an expert level player amoung them.