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. 

Episode 85- FM Mike Klein

                                           Photo by Photgrapher Extraordinaire/IM  Eric Rosen

                                          Photo by Photgrapher Extraordinaire/IM Eric Rosen

FM Mike Klein is an old friend of mine.  He also is a guy who has been involved in many facets of the chess industry. Mike was a scholastic champion, he's a great chess teacher, he was recognized as chess journalist of the year in 2012, and now he writes, edits, and creates content for chess.com and chesskid.com (for the latter he goes by the moniker "Fun Master Mike"). Here is what Mike and I discussed:

  • Mike's newest project, an entertaining and informative chess-free podcast, called Extreme Travel Odysseys
  • Chess advice relating to competing in, studying, and teaching chess
  • Stories from his reporting assignments, including the times he spent playing tennis, soccer, and basketball with the likes of Magnus Carlsen, Rex Sinquefield and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and others. 

Thanks to Mike for joining me. You can reach him via chess.com here. Subscribe to his podcast here





To download the episode click here

Episode 84- FM Carsten Hansen

 Photo courtesy of Carsten Hansen 

Photo courtesy of Carsten Hansen 

The popular and prolific chess author, FM Carsten Hansen is my guest this week. By his current count, Carsten has written 26 chess books.. The depth of his chess knowlege is quite impressive, but his knowledge of chess openings is a particular specialty.


 Carsten and I discussed the following topics:

  • Carsten's latest book, The Full English Opening.  How did he pick the topic, and what is the story of how he came to love the English opening?
  • How did his initial venture into the world of writing and publishing chess books come about? He also shares some insider intell on how the chess publishing business works, including the impact that Print on Demand may have on the industry in the future. 
  • Carsten's favorite chess players, advice for chess improvement, and a couple of book recommendations that  have not previously been suggested on Perpetual Chess. 

Thanks to Carsten for joining me.   You can buy his books here, Follow him on twitter here, and check out his webpage here

To support the podcast click here


To download the episode click here

Episode 83- Grandmaster Paco Vallejo

                                               Photo courtesy of Paco Vallejo

                                              Photo courtesy of Paco Vallejo

Thanks to 5 time Spanish National Champion, GM Paco Vallejo, for being my guest on Perpetual Chess this week.   GM Vallejo had just returned from the Leon Masters Chess Tournament, featuring GM Wesley So, and young talents, GM elect- Ramesh Praggnanandhaa and IM Jaime Santos. Paco recapped the event for listeners, with a particular emphasis on the peculiar "dual blunder" that helped him get by IM Santos in the opening round.


 Other topics covered in our conversation:

  • Paco discussed the experience of serving as a second to GM Topalov, and revealed why he is unlikely to pursue a similar job again. 
  • Paco discussed the challenges he has faced in his life away from the board over the past few years, including family issues and a vexing tax issue courtesy of the Spanish government. 
  • Paco gave detailed chess improvement advice to hungry chess students, and even gave some advice for male chess players looking to meet women!

You can follow Paco on twitter here.or via his website here

To support the podcast go here


Click here to download the episode. 

Episode 82- Frederic Friedel (co-founder of ChessBase) (Guest host Macauley Peterson)


Photo courtesy of Chessbase.com

Summer substitute Macauley Peterson takes another turn on the mic, this time close to home with a sort of guided oral history by ChessBase co-founder Frederic Friedel. Frederic tells stories of meeting Garry Kasparov, Nigel Short, Viswanathan Anand and many others for the first time, and later hosting them at his home in a suburb of Hamburg. There may be something in the water there, because it seems like practically every World Champion and challenger since Kasparov has spent time with the Friedels over the past 35 years.

You'll learn how ChessBase came to be, how Vladimir Kramnik felt about an early version of Fritz, what endgame kept Peter Leko up at night, which Leonard Barden book Frederic keeps in arms reach, and much more. 

Check out bonus material and support Perpetual Chess using this special link at the ChessBase shop.

Click here to download the episode. 

Episode 81- Judit Sztaray (Executive Director of Bay Area Chess)

                                          Photo Courtesy of Judit Sztaray (3rd from left)

                                         Photo Courtesy of Judit Sztaray (3rd from left)

Judit Sztaray, the Executive Director of Bay Area Chess, is my guest this week on Perpetual Chess.  Bay Area Chess, based in San Jose, California, is the largest provider of chess classes on the west coast of the US, with programs in over 100 schools.  Bay Area Chess frequently runs tournaments as well as its classes, and Judit has a great deal to share about the goals and the work of the organization. In my conversation we discuss:

  • The recent simul they hosted, conducted by Former Women's World Chess Champion Hou Yifan. Judit discussed how an event like this comes about, and how the event was received in the Bay Area. 
  • The origins of BAC and how Judit wound up as Executive Director. Judit also discussed the funding of their program and the challenges she and her team can face in looking to raise money for BAC and for the Pro Chess League. 
  • The role of Bay Area Chess' as supporter of the San Jose Hackers of the Pro Chess League. Judit reviewed their 2018 season and talked some about how they recruited world class players like Grandmasters Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Rauf Mamedov. 

Thanks to Judit for joining me on the podcast.  You can reach her via email here, and learn more about Bay Area Chess here

Click here to download the episode.