Episode 104- GM Joel Benjamin


A giant of US Chess, GM Joel Benjamin, joins me this week. In addition to being a 3 time US champion, and hosting a weekly chess show on the Internet Chess Club, Joel has just published his fourth book, Better Thinking, Better Chess.  

Naturally, Joel and I began our conversation by discussing some topics covered in the book such as:

  • What are the causes of and potential solutions to typical mistakes that Joel sees in his students, such as a failure to generate candidate moves, and a hesistance about sacrificing the exchange?

Joel and I also discussed the following: 

  • What was GM Benjamin's impression of the World Championship? Should the match format be changed?

  • What are Joel's favorite chess games, stories and books? Joel has some great stories! 

Joel Benjamin has had a long and storied career, so needless to say, this was an entertaining conversation. Thanks to Joel for joining me. In addition to his excellent new book, Liquidation on the Chessboard, and American Grandmaster, also come highly recommended. 

The chess games Joel mentions are:

Seirawan-Benjamin 1979

Portisch-Benjamin 1987

Abramovich-Benjamin 1984 game not online, but can be found in his new book :)

This episode is brought to you in part by Chessable.com

To support the podcast, go here

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Episode 103- GM Jóhann Hjartarson

 Photo courtesy of GM Hjartarson

Photo courtesy of GM Hjartarson

GM Jóhann Hjartarson is a legend of Icelandic Chess and has a firm place in the chess history books. He is best known for defeating GM Viktor Korchnoi in a match during the 1988 Candidates Cycle (before succumbing to Anatoly Karpov), but he is also the 6 time champion of Iceland, and the 2 time Nordic Champion.  Jóhann took some time out from his duties at the World Championship in London, and we discussed the following:

  • His impressions of the World Championship, and what his responsibilities were as a member of the Appeals Committee for the match. 

  • Perspective and stories from the height of his chess career, when he was among the top players in the world and crossed swords with all time greats like Kasparov, Karpov and Korchnoi.  

  • What led him to decide, at a time when he was  near the peak of his chess powers, to  transition from playing chess full time to working as a lawyer? Does he regret this decision?

  • Has he kept up with the changes in study habits among world elites? What are his favorite chess books? 

This interview was quite a treat for me as a fan of chess history, and I think that you will enjoy it too.  Thanks so much to Johann for sharing his experiences! 

This episode is brought to you in part by Chessable.com

GM Hjartarson's favorite game of his own, Game 1 of his match vs. Korchnoi is here

His favorite game by any player, Spassky vs. Fischer, Game 13, is here

If you would like to donate to support the podcast, go here

Bonus Episode - IM Mark Dvoretsky (2004 Interview with Fred Wilson)


I am off this week, but I have some awesome bonus content for you. Have a listen to the January 7, 2004 interview that Fred Wilson conducted with the now-deceased, legendary chess trainer, author, and player IM Mark Dvoretsky. This is one of the many great historical chess interviews that I am posting on the Perpetual Chess Patreon page for those who donate $3.50 per month or more.  Fred WIlson's archive will also feature old interviews with GMs Andy Soltis, Arthur Bisguier, Maurice Ashley, Lubomir Kavalek and many more. 

Here are a few of the questions that Fred asked of IM Dvoretsky in their conversation:

  • Did Mark agree with GM Lev Alburt's suggestion that Boris Spassky had more chess talent than Bobby Fischer as a youth?

  • How many positions did IM Dvoretsky have in his legendary file of positions for titled students to study?

  • What were some of his favorite chess books of all time (besides his own)?

  • What did he think of Peter Svidler's prospects of becoming World Champion in 2004? Was there any other young talent he thought might ascend to the highest title? 

So much chess history is shared within this 90 minute conversation that it is difficult for me to do it justice in a summary.  Just listen and enjoy! 

The Perpetual chess t-shirt and hoodie sale ends on December 4- get one here while you can.  

Click here to download the episode

Episode 102- World Championship report with IM Eric Rosen and IM Kostya Kavutskiy

2018 Benasque Open 1 - Maya Nelson (2).jpg

On a rest day for the World Championship in London, friends of the podcast (and previous guests)  IMs Eric Rosen and Kostya Kavutskiy were nice enough to take some time and give Perpetual listeners a taste of what its like to be attending, reporting, and photographing the dramatic, ongoing World Chess Championship between GMs Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. This episode is meant to have more of a "breaking news" feeling than your typical Perpetual Chess interview, so it's a shorter interview, but we covered a lot of ground.  To wit:

  • What was the mood like at the venue in Game 8 as Fabiano Caruana missed his best chance for a win over Magnus Carlsen? What openings might we see in the remaining games? 

  • Is there a clear rooting interest among the people attending the match? Does either player have more vocal fans?

  • What are the conditions like for spectators? What about for photographers like Eric Rosen and his colleagues?

 IM Kostya Kavutskiy has done some great write-ups and game analysis for US Chess for the games that he has attended, while Eric Rosen has taken over the US Chess twitter account in addition to taking great photos like this one,.  You can keep up with their great content in the following places: 

To support the podcast or purchase a limited edition Perpetual Chess t-shirt or hoodie, go here and/or here, respectively.  

Click here to download the episode

Episode 101- GM Pontus Carlsson Returns

 Pontus Carlsson pictured on top right in New Orleans with Lisa Batiste,  MD Greg Ward  and Christopher Reimonenq. Photo by Thunder Lens Productions.

Pontus Carlsson pictured on top right in New Orleans with Lisa Batiste, MD Greg Ward

and Christopher Reimonenq. Photo by Thunder Lens Productions.

Almost 17 months after his first visit to Perpetual Chess, GM Pontus Carlsson returns to discuss his latest projects and the recent developments in the chess world (including the World Championship). Among the topics we talked about are:

  • Pontus' recent trip to New Orleans for a philanthropic initiative.  He has helped launch Business meets Chess and Kids, an organization that pairs business leaders with underprivileged kids in tandem chess, with the goal of using chess as a form for networking and mentorship for the younger generation. Pontus told stories from his trip and talked about future plans for this inspiring effort. 

  • Pontus gave a couple of great book recommendations and gave some advice for infrequent tournament competitors who are trying to shake off some rust (for example, say, the host of this podcast). 

  • We talked about a couple of the themes emerging from the ongoing World Championship match, and Pontus shared some stories and perspectives from past experiences having met and talked with the likes of Magnus Carlsen, Veselin Topalov and Anish Giri. 

This guest is always entertaining, with plenty of wisdom to share, so there is lots more to enjoy from our conversation. You can reach Pontus via his website here

If you would like to buy a limited edition Perpetual Chess t-shirt or hoodie, you can do so here. (A portion of the proceeds will go to  Business meets Chess and Kids ) 

To support the podcast via Patreon, click here

Click here to download the episode.

Episode 100 - Carsten Hensel (Author, Former Manager of GM Vladimir Kramnik)

Passfoto Carsten.jpg

Photo Courtesy of Carsten Hensel

My guest this week is Carsten Hensel.  He is a chess organizer and author who  has also spent time as the manager for two elite players- GMs Vladimir Kramnik and GM Peter Leko. Much to the benefit of chess fans, he has written a book about his experiences managing GM Kramnik, called Vladimir Kramnik - The Inside Story of a Chess GeniusThe English version of this book will be published by Quality Chess later in November. The published excerpts and this interview suggest that this book will be a must read for those interested in GM Kramnik and/or modern chess history. Here are a few of the highlights of what Carsten Hensel and I discussed:

  •  How did he first encounter GM Kramnik, and how did they come to develop a working relationship?  Carsten reflects on some of Kramnik's most famous matches- a disappointing Candidates loss to GM Alexei Shirov in 1998,  followed by a thrilling World Championship victory over Garry Kasparov in 2000. 

  • What was it like to be the manager of both World Championship participants in the 2004 Leko-Kramnik World Championship match?

  • As a high-level chess organizer and promoter, what are his thoughts on how to pitch corporations on sponsoring chess players and events?

This was a fascinating conversation, as Carsten has had a ring side seat to much of modern chess history. Thanks to Carsten for chatting- you can email him here

If you are interested in learning more about hearing Fred WIlson's old interviews (as mentioned in the introduction) go to the Perpetual Chess Patreon here

Click here to download the episode

Episode 99- Chessable Co-Founder and CEO David Kramaley


This week I talked to 31 year old programmer, chess player, and entrepreneur David Kramaley, who is the co-founder and CEO of Chessable, a fast growing chess-educational start up.  During our conversation,David and I discuss

  • How he caught the "chess bug" in his early 20's. and how that enthusiasm ultimately led to the launch of Chessable. With its co-founder, IM John Bartholomew David launched Chessable in February of 2016. 

  • What lessons did David learn from his prior startup, Sharkius? What is he doing to make sure he strikes the right balance between product development and marketing? 

  • What new products are forthcoming from Chessable? How does David decide which improvements to prioritize?

Of course we also get chess and business book recommendations which can be found here. You can email David here. Some other events/opportunities that came up during our conversation are linked below.    

Click here to Download the Episode.

Episode 98- GM Michael Rohde

                     Photo courtesy of GM Rohde

Photo courtesy of GM Rohde

Venerable American GM Michael Rohde has been one of the top 100 players in the world, and he still competes actively on the American chess circuit.   Mike writes frequently for US Chess Online, and American Chess Magazine and is also a practicing lawyer, and chess teacher. 

Here is what Mike and I discussed:

- What psychological dynamics come into play when he plays another strong chess grinder, such as IM Jay Bonin, whom he has played hundreds of times in tournament games? 

- Are there any talented young players he has noticed recently while competing in and reporting on tournaments?

- What are his memories of playing GM Spassky and seeing the young Polgar sisters at the 1987 New York Open, (which was one of the largest and strongest  open tournaments in the world for many years). 

We covered all of this and much more, so listen up! 

 Thanks to GM Rohde for sharing his knowledge and experiences. 

Click here to download the episode

Episode 97- USCF Master Alex King

 Alex King reacts as a critical blunder on Board 1 ends his dream of capturing first place in the Chess Train tourney. . Photo by Anežka Kružíková.

Alex King reacts as a critical blunder on Board 1 ends his dream of capturing first place in the Chess Train tourney. . Photo by Anežka Kružíková.

Alex King is a 29 year old Memphis,Tennessee based USCF Master. He is also a full time chess teacher, an accomplished adult improver, and a talented musician. We covered many topics on this week's podcast such as:

  •  Alex's recent return to the U.S. after traveling to Prague in order to board the fabled "Chess Train," through Central Europe.  Alex told us a bit about the history of this unique chess vacation, shared the highlights of his trip and gave us the recap of  his 11 round tournament on the train. 

  • Alex gave detailed practical advice on how to improve one's calculation and blindfold abilities. He also shared many of the adjustments he made to his game after completing college, just before he made a 170 point rating jump to 2350 USCF (26:00). 

  • We discussed the similarities between chess and music, and whether or not Alex likes to listen to music when he's playing and studying chess. 

We touched on assorted other topics such as Alex's unique approach to studying his blitz games, his book recommendations, his thoughts on the world championship, and lots more. Thanks to Alex for a fascinating conversation. You can follow/friend him on Facebook here  or chess.com here

Click here to download the episode

Episode 96- Cristobal Cervino (Adult Improver Series)

fotocris (1).png

Photo Courtesy of Cristobal Cervino

The Perpetual Chess Adult Improver Series charges onward this week with another inspiring tale of chess improvement. This week's guest, Candidate Master and economist Cristobal Cervino, wrote some popular blog posts detailing how he made a 170 ELO point jump (from 1935 to 2102) in a fifteen-month span a few years back. For background, you can read the posts that Cristobal wrote about his approach herehere and here. Cristobal and I discussed:

  • Why is calculation the most important thing to work on for club-level players? What resources did he utilize to improve at it?

  • How should one go about analyzing one's own chess games? How soon after playing should one analyze them? 

  • Why has he plateaued at around the 2100 level in the past few years? Does he have current aspirations of making another push forward? 

Cristobal was glad to share some of his favorite chess books and resources, both for chess improvement and for appreciation of chess history. Thanks so much to Cristobal for joining me. You can find him as "Kingzilla" on chess.com or chesstempo

Click here to download the episode

Episode 95- USCF Master and Cognitive Scientist Christopher Chabris


Photo/illustration courtesy of Christopher Chabris

This week Perpetual Chess features an interview with USCF Master and renowned Cognitive Scientist Christopher Chabris. In the world of psychology, Christopher is best known for his collaboration with Daniel Simons regarding "inattentional blindness". This was most famously demonstrated in the viral Youtube video called  "Invisible Gorilla." Professors Chabris and Simons later published a book expanding on their research and Christopher has published many more interesting studies related to human biases and cognition. But of course, we mostly talked about chess and how Christopher's research relates to chess! 

  • Are there examples of  "inattentional blindness" or other cognitive biases in chess competitions? If so how can we combat them?

  • Detailed advice on how to assimilate chess patterns and improve quickly at the game based on Christopher's experiences and his knowledge of how the brain works. 

  • Stories from Professor Chabris' time in the chess world. He has been in involved in publishing chess books and periodicals (see here), and has rubbed shoulders with Kasparov, Caruana and other chess luminaries. 

  • A discussion of the state of Christopher's own chess game, and some prominent and some lesser known chess book recommendations. 

Thanks to Christopher Chabris for a fascinating discussion!  You can follow him on twitter here, or visit his website here

Click here to download the episode.

Episode 94- USCF Master and Author Elliott Neff

Elliott Neff Headshot 3 (2).JPG

Photo courtesy of Elliott Neff

Elliott Neff, my guest this week on Perpetual Chess comes to us direct from the Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.   Elliott is a USCF Master who founded the thriving Chess4Life chess education organization. He is also a chess trainer who will be releasing his first book, A Pawn's Journey: Transforming Lives one Move at a Time, on October 9.  Elliott and I discussed:

  • Elliott's perspective on the Olympiad. This is his first time attending, so he told us what has surprised him about the event.  He reported on a couple of the teams, including the Ugandan women's team, which he is helping to coach. 

  • How Elliott became a friend and coach of Phiona Mutesi of Queen of Katwe fame. Plus, Elliott gives an update on Phiona's life and chess career since the release of the movie telling her story. 

  • Elliott's recommendations for chess improvement, plus some awesome advice on how to get better at blindfold chess and visualization. 

  • What inspired Elliott to write a book? What impact can chess have away from the chessboard?

Thanks to Elliott for joining me. You can reach him via Chess4life here, or at his website here.

To support the podcast go here. 

Click here to download the episode  

Episode 93- Tarjei Svensen


Photo by Rolf Haug

Norwegian reporter, chess player, and photographer Tarjei Svensen is a frequent correspondent at elite chess tournaments and a popular and indispensable source of information on “chess Twitter.” Tarjei joins me this week to discuss the following: 

- How he gets scoops and manages finances as a chess reporter who is often working independently. 

- His plans for covering the 2018 World Chess Championships and some info on whether his friend and collaborator, GM Jonathan Tisdall, will be writing about the match again this year. 

- Tarjei’s own chess game, including some discussion of encounters with a very young Magnus Carlsen, and a few books that he recommends. 

We also talk about some interesting match-related statistics that Tarjei recently revealed on Twitter, and his twitter recommendations for whom to follow during the World Championships. Tarjei recommends following Olympiu Urcan, GM Jonthan Tisdall, Chess.com, Chessbase, and Chess24

Thanks to Tarjei for taking time from his busy schedule! You can follow him on twitter here, and read his chess coverage here

Click here to download the episode

Episode 92- GM Lev Alburt

 Photo courtesy of GM Lev Alburt

Photo courtesy of GM Lev Alburt

Editor’s Note- We had some audio issues on the recording of this interview, so if you would like to read a transcript of our interview, you can do so here.

This week on Perpetual Chess my guest is the 3 time champion of both the US and Ukraine, GM Lev Alburt. Lev is also a very popular chess author and teacher. He has co-authored books, such as World Chess Championships: Karjakin-Carlsen (with Jon Crumiller and GM Vladimir Kramnik,) The Comprehensive Chess Course (with Roman Pelts,) plus many others. Lev also writes the popular Back to Basics column in Chess Life Magazine. I hope you will enjoy our conversation about: 

  • The world champions and chess legends he has known. When did he first hear about future World Champions Vladimir Kramnik and Garry Kasparov? Who are the modern-world chess champions he has found to be less likable than the others? 

  • How Lev decided on the unique format for this 2016 Carlsen-Karjakin Match book, and why GM Vladimir Kramnik was persuaded to contribute to the book after some initial hesitation. Of course, GM Alburt also shares his thoughts on the rapidly approaching 2018 World Chess Championship. 

  • Tips and recommendations for chess improvement. The three pillars of Lev's study advice are the 1) play chess competitively 2) Analyze your games and 3) Find time for uninterrupted study. 

There is much more!  Thanks so much to GM Alburt for joining me. You can reach Lev via his webpage here.

Click here to download the episode.

Episode 91- GM Andy Soltis


Photo by Marcy Soltis

This week on Perpetual Chess I am joined by the acclaimed and prolific chess author, columnist and historian, GM Andy Soltis. GM Soltis and I discussed the following:

Of course, GM Soltis also had great stories to share about the likes of Bobby Fischer, Viktor Korchnoi and Mikhail Tal. Thanks so much to Andy for joining me. It was an honor to speak with him. 

Click here to download the interview.

Episode 90- IM V. Saravanan

                         Photo courtesy of IM  V. Saravanan

                        Photo courtesy of IM V. Saravanan

V. Saravanan is an International Master, a chess journalist and a voracious reader of chess books. Saravanan resides in Chennai, India, but joined me from St. Louis where he had just concluded covering the Sinquefield Cup for Chessbase. We discussed: 

  • IM Saravanan’s impression of the St. Louis Chess Club, and of the tournaments  he had just witnessed. 
  • Stories and impressions of Super GM Viswanathan Anand, whom he has known for decades. What makes Anand a special talent and person? Saravanan also shares broader perspective about the Indian chess boom. 
  • Saravanan expounded on the incredible YouTube video he did, showing off his chess library to IM Sagar Shah. He rattled off a few more favorite chess books and shared his views regarding chess improvement. 

Thanks to Saravanan for an entertaining and informative conversation. Follow him on twitter

Click here to download the episode. 

Episode 89- IM Kostya Kavutskiy returns

                                     Photo Courtesy of IM Kostya Kavutskiy 

                                    Photo Courtesy of IM Kostya Kavutskiy 

This week on Perpetual Chess, one of my earliest guests returns for an update on his life and travels. Twenty-five year old IM Kostya Kavutskiy is an active chess player, teacher, writer and content creator.  We catch up with him after his busy summer of traversing 3 continents while playing and coaching chess.  

Kostya discusses the highlights of his trip, and the primary chess lessons he derived from his summer of high level competitive chess. (This includes a discussion of a position where he agreed to a draw in what was actually a winning position.) Check out the game here

We also cover:

  • Chess improvement advice focused on methods of analysis of one's own games, plus some fresh chess book recommendations. 
  • A breakdown of some of his favorite chess announcers, both in the English and the Russian languages. 
  • A discussion of how he uses chess engines, and what it means when two different engines give starkly different evaluations. 

Thanks to Kostya for joining me.   He has a Patreon page on which he shares great chess educational content. Check it out here. You can also follow/contact him via twitter or his webpage

Click here to download the episode. 

Episode 88- GM Yannick Pelletier (guest host Macauley Peterson)


Photo by Lennart Ootes

Today's show was recorded in Switzerland: Biel to be exact, home of the 51st International Chess Festival — which included a GM tournament won by Shakhriyar Mamedyarov ahead of Magnus Carlsen — and also the birthplace of today's guest, Grandmaster Yannick Pelletier. In chess, he's the Tournament Director in Biel as well as an accomplished player and commentator, but also polyglot and soon-to-be art/design/lifestyle media entrepreneur. Check out his YouTube channel and new magazine project Yunomi. Pelletier has been the Swiss Champion six times, and although he doesn't play more than a few tournaments a year nowadays, he has won three games from Magnus Carlsen, including one after Carlsen became World Champion. Yannick talks about life as a chess professional both before and after having kids, provides a history of the Biel Festival plus gives the 101 on how the Swiss manage to get along so well despite having multiple official languages.


Macauley Peterson (Editor in Chief of ChessBase News) guest hosts once again and strongly suggests you support Perpetual Chess either via Patreon or using this special link at the ChessBase shop. Perhaps a video series from Yannick himself — he's recorded several and also contributes to ChessBase Magazine!

Click here to download the episode. 

Episode 87- Stacia Pugh (Adult Improver Series)

                                                      Photo Courtesy of Stacia Pugh 

                                                     Photo Courtesy of Stacia Pugh 

This week on Perpetual Chess, the popular adult improver series makes its triumphant return, with another great guest. I am joined by Stacia Pugh. Stacia has only been playing tournament chess for a few years but has seen her rating rapidly rise to 1777, including a 300 point rise in the past year. What's her story? How did she do it? Stacia joins us to discuss exactly that. 

  • - Stacia retells how she got into chess, and shares how the male and youth dominated chess world has treats an adult woman. She also shares how she is managing to turn her love of chess from a hobby into a career. 
  • - She gives tons of study advice, including book recommendations and a discussion of the study habit that she feels helped her chess the most. 
  •  Stacia even made a list of her top 10 chess improvement tips for Perpetual Chess listeners; it can be found at the bottom of this capsule. 

To reach Stacia and/or track her progress, you can follow her on twitter here, or contact her and read her blog on chess.com, here

If you would like to help support the podcast go here

Click here to download the episode 

Stacia's top 10 improvement tips:

  1. Maintain balance between hard work and passion
  2. Game Analysis - always learn from your mistakes
  3. Work with a coach or stronger player
  4. Tactics book with themes
  5. Teach or explain what you learn (helps solidify)
  6. It's not about rating; it's about learning
  7. Patterns make you better
  8. OTB and community will inspire you and keep your interest
  9. Don't forget end game
  10. Openings choices should be chosen by someone else!  (that knows what they're doing)

Episode 86 USCF Master Fred Wilson


This week's guest on Perpetual Chess is USCF Master Fred Wilson. Fred is a chess author, teacher and for forty-five years, he has run a business, selling used and rare chess books! He also still competes actively, and he recently became one of the oldest US chess players to attain the USCF Master title for the first time, at the age of 71. How did he do it? Fred joins us to tell us just that, as we discussed the following topics:

  • His #1 piece of advice for older chess players, along with plenty of study tips and recommendations of chess books.
  • His stories from his time hosting a chess interview show, "Chess and Books with Fred WIlson,"  in the early 2000s for the Internet Chess Club. Fred discusses his favorite guests, and reveals what has become of the audio files of these interviews. 
  • His memories of a few of his encounters with Bobby Fischer and other NY chess personalities. 

Thanks to Fred for joining me, check out the books he has written here
You can see the list of books he is currently selling here, or visit his store in NYC at:

41 Union Square West (at 17th Street),,Suite 718,  New York 10003. 

Click here to download the episode.