While chess players are locked down in San Diego, they can play at Teniente Guerrero park [six blocks west of Avenida Revolucion].
On October 26-30, Carlos Alfredo Hernandez Rendon will represent his Universidad Autónoma de Baja California college alumni at the 2020 World University Online Chess Championship. I reached out to the 24-year-old engineering student on October 11, a day after National Chess Day.
“[In September] we competitors vied for a spot in an online tournament with a game rate of 15 minutes in 10-second increments (per move); 40 of the best university players throughout Mexico were matched up with one another. The best 15 men players and five women players qualified.”
Hernandez Rendon has played chess (ajedrez) since he was eight years old.
“He made it to expert strength, which is an over 2000 United States Chess Federation rating in the last event he played at our club in 2018,” Chuck Ensey explained to me on October 13. “I did play him once in 2013 at the Gambito Open #594 tournament, and he won the game in the last round against me and came in second place in the reserve section for that event.”
From Rancho Bernardo, Ensey helped manage the San Diego Chess Club events held at the Sixth Avenue building in Balboa Park and other nearby venues since the early 1990s. He is the vice president of one of the largest chess clubs in the U.S.; about 160 members range from beginner to master levels.
Hernandez Rendon: "I would like to aspire to Grandmaster Gilberto Hernández Guerrero; he is a great player and coach, as well as kind."
“The Gambito Open has been running [there] every Saturday since 1998 until recently interrupted by the pandemic,” continued Ensey. “It’s four games in one day; the games are 45 minutes per side, or about an hour and a half each. We get quite a few players from Tijuana that play at our club: the Silvestre brothers, Carlos Varela, and many others. It has been the training ground for many great young players who have come up through the ranks and gone on to be masters such as Kyron Griffith, Alex Costello, and Ming Lu.”
Conventional over-the-board chess matches have been at a stalemate since March, but Hernandez Rendon is relentless in his pursuit to become a Grandmaster chess player one day.
“Thanks to the computer, it is easier to train and garner ideas for my development and preparation. I perform physical exercises at home, between practicing openings and positions on the chessboard. Mentally, I prepare by listening to positive music and encourage myself. And to recover from defeats, I do breathing exercises.”
In the two-player 32-piece boardgame, which consists of pawns, knights, bishops, rooks, a queen, and a king, to win, one must capture the opponent’s king piece.
“We have been shut down since our club is in Balboa Park, and the city decides who can open or not,” Ensey said. “Most clubs are closed these days, and I have had to cancel bigger events outside the club too, like the Southern California Open. We are scheduled to play the Dreaming King Open over Martin Luther King weekend, but that might get canceled too; we don’t know yet. We don’t know when the city will let us play in Balboa Park again.”
For San Diegans that desire to play chess over the board, they have the option of positioning themselves across the border.
“An area to play chess here can be at the El Parque Teniente Guerrero [six blocks west of Avenida Revolucion],” Hernandez Rendon continued. “Playing in person is better, to enjoy the game face-to-face with the person you play. You see the plays better in [over the board chess, and it seems] you can better avoid when the opponent is trying to trap you since you can see the pieces in front of him/her and not behind the machine (computer screen).”
Tijuana has produced some strong chess players, including Chess Olympiad gold medalist Felix Villareal, Juan Gómez, the first FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs) teacher in Mexico, and Gustavo Hernandez, Hernandez Rendon’s uncle — to name a few.
“The strongest player currently in Tijuana is Maestro Dionisio Aldama,” Hernandez Rendon said. “And amongst the younger generation, we have Julio Herrera and Gustavo Amézquita.”
“And throughout Mexico, who do you aspire to be like?” I asked.
“In Mexico, I would like to aspire to Grandmaster Gilberto Hernández Guerrero; he is a great player and coach, as well as kind. Even Grandmaster Ibarra Chami, who just recently became a Grandmaster. I had a Sicilian Defense course with him and learned many things against the Sicilian Defense in certain variants.”
Despite the non-luck aspect within chess gameplay, the chess community from both sides of the border wish Hernandez Rendon buena suerte at the international tournament in less than two weeks and hope he’ll jaque mate (checkmate) his opponents to bring the 2020 World University Online Chess Championship title back to Tijuana.