Besides NY, and to some extent, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, there isn’t generally a concentration of chess talent in one city. Even in those big cities, the talent tends to spread out across the city. But now the west coast will put El Cerrito, a town of about 30,000, on the map. El Cerrito was already home to GM Josh Friedel (who moved to California from New Hampshire) and with a few recent additions, the city is one of the strongest west of the Mississippi.
Pulling a page out of the Chinese playbook, a bunch of US chess players will live under the same roof! Full-time chessplayers tend to be a little eccentric (I’m certainly no exception), so the cast of characters makes this an easy target for a reality TV show.
GM Jesse Kraai, formerly of New Mexico, moved here in November. I finally moved in this week. The two of us, along with two others (David Petty, who teaches chess at the Berkeley Chess School, and Andrew Leong, who is a graduate student in the comparative literature department at UC Berkeley), are living in a 5-bedroom house. There is an attached 1-bedroom apartment to the back of the house (sort of like an in-laws quarter), where IMs David Pruess and Irina Krush will stay. With GM Friedel only two blocks away, we have 5 of the top 50 active US players all living next to each other. The average FIDE rating of our study group will be 2474 FIDE, with 3 GMs and 2 IMs (each having 2 GM norms).
The cast of chess characters:
(1) GM Jesse Kraai: He of the Berkeley Chess “Fight Club” fame in 2006. Former philosophy teacher. Slowly realizing that the words of men cannot contain The Shaba’s meaning.
(2) GM Josh Friedel: The panda. Samford Fellow from 2007. Wonders daily now whether he has to get fumigated to rid himself of The Curse.
(3) IM Irina Krush: Samford Fellow from 2008. She of the “Krushing Attack” video series fame. And maybe for the 2008 US Women’s Championship Armageddon final controversy.
(4) IM David Pruess: Samford Fellow from 2006. The chief designer behind the Berkeley Chess “Fight Club” series of tournaments.
(5) Little ol’ me.
This should be fun.