When chess grandmaster Timur Gareyev won the 119th edition of the venerable U.S. Chess Open over almost 400 other players, Chess Life magazine knew that it had to do something special with the adventurous player for its November 2018 cover. As an ultramarathoner, yoga enthusiast and blindfold-chess Guinness World Record holder, the Kansas-based player who was born in Uzbekistan could inspire a potentially exciting photo. But it was when his manager Jennifer Vallens told the magazine’s editors that Gareyev is also a skydiver with close to 150 solo jumps that U.S. Chess—the 501(c)3 non-profit that publishes Chess Life—knew a cover was born.
Vallens coordinated the cover and video shoot with legendary freefall camera flyer Joe Jennings, who is experienced filming stunt dives with everything from snowboards to bikes, all-terrain vehicles and even jeeps. Seemingly a chess board would be simple compared to those other shoots, but a square piece of wood is anything but aerodynamic. This required Jennings to not just permanently attach the pieces but also to doctor the board with a cone attached underneath to help provide aerodynamic stability as Gareyev flew with it.
And what is the position on the board? Gareyev chose to set up a position based on a game from 1760 between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Prince de Conti, played in Montmorency, France. Rousseau wrote, “I have always said and felt that true enjoyment cannot be described.” While that may be true, the enjoyment on the irrepressible Gareyev’s face in his cover shot is palpable.
Video of Gareyev’s jump is available at youtu.be/7naaj_mld98. More information about U.S. Chess is available at uschess.org.