The Five Barber Bishop Brouhaha

As an arbiter, I am in a unique position to see many things unfold in chess that are normally unnoticed.  I would like to share some fun things that happened in my work here in Orlando at the Invitationals.

Saturday night’s Round 1 pitted Cael Province (1874) vs FIDE Master Jason Wang (2388).  Cael played hard and came up with a spectacular ending in his match.  Here’s the game to enjoy.

Because Cael literally jumped up and down when he won, and ran off, he left all his belongings at the table. (OK, he walked really fast as “we do not run in scholastic chess events,” right Boyd?) I knew Cael was from Kansas, and so I emailed a chess friend, Sky Puwit Moerlien’s mother  Sumitta Moerlien, to see if she could help. Sumitta received the email and forwarded it to Cael’s family and Cael returned in 30 minutes for his belongings.

What I didn’t realize is that Sumitta was vacationing in Thailand at the time, so my request for Cael to come pick up his belongings had traveled literally around the globe!  I started to sing “what a small chess world after all”  to myself… which felt very appropriate since we were in Orlando.

The next game of interest was Luke Ye (2082) vs Benjamin Lauer (1846). And what a game it was.

In what will undoubtedly go down in chess lore as the “2019 Five Barber Bishop Brouhaha,”  Luke was cruising to victory when he concocted the idea to promote his pawns to all Bishops.  Yes, I know it seems unsportsmanlike.  But these two friends appeared to be working together on the plan.

Luke was risking a draw by stalemate with his actions. This arbiter might have whispered a word or three about sportsmanship to the players if I didn’t notice they were laughing and having a grand old time.  A few people stopped at their board and started to look on the game.  Then a few more stopped by, and soon it snowballed into a small mob of gawkers from the youth Invitationals.

As checkmate loomed nearer as the five bishops started to squeeze black’s king into a narrow box of safe squares the crowd gasped thinking Luke may just blow the win and get a draw.  As I said, these two were having a good time, not caring about winning or losing.  It reminded me of two friends building a sandcastle on the beach or a fort out of furniture and old blanket during a sleepover, but their medium was the chessboard.

What I enjoyed about this game was the camaraderie between the players and the spectators admiring the beauty of their positional creation.  Perhaps GM Pal Benko could even make a puzzle out of this idea.

I enjoy chess because of the friends I make along the way.  For this year’s Iowa Open (September 13-15, Iowa City, IA) I made the t-shirts for the event two months in advance.  I gave one to each of the invitational players from Iowa and we all wore them.  Even better my daughter Crissy designed the logo with a “Field of Dreams” theme.  It made for a great team photo and will inspire good chess memories of our trip to the 120th US Open.

Zvonko Juric, Joseph Wan, Eric Vigil, Anish Lodh, Anjali Lodh

Looking good, Iowa. Looking good!


  1. Gotta giggle at Luke’s game; it’s the wildest thing I’ve seen outside of a book by Irving Chernev! Reminds me of some variant games I used to play as a kid with a friend from Kalamazoo.

  2. I hate to be that guy, but I will do it anyway. The word you want is spelled brouhaha, not brewhaha. Some beer or restaurant companies might spell it the way you did, so a Google search does not seem to come up as, “Did you mean brouhaha?”.

  3. Thank you Eric Vigil, president of the Iowa State Chess Association, for once again contributing to the game of chess for the benefit of others. In this case, you have captured cherished moments for the players and the many readers who were not in Orlando to know what happened. Chess stories fade away if they are not preserved in print.

    Earlier this summer, Eric’s gift helped rescue the popular Catfish Days chess tournament in Franklin, MN. Thirty-eight players from four states enjoyed this once cancelled event in 2019, including seven unrated players getting their first taste of tournament chess.

    This comment just scratches the surface of the many ways that Eric Vigil has helped chess players over the years. Thank you for your vigilance, Mr. Vigil!!

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