Family Day Chess


Like many colleges and universities, The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) has a “Family Day” in the fall. Relatives come to campus to spend time with their college students and do fun activities. On October 16, 2021, the chess team was part of UT Dallas Family Day fun.


Giant Chess Set and mascot Temoc
Giant Chess Set and mascot Temoc

Family Day activities included taking photographs with Temoc, the UT Dallas mascot. Temoc is the word “comet” spelled backwards. Visitors also listened to the Pep Band and to Novis, A Capella singers.

The Novis singers informally challenged the chess team volunteers staffing the chess tables. The chess tables were across from the food trucks, meaning that almost everyone at Family Day passed by the chess games.

Novis, A Capella singers
Novis, A Capella singers

In addition to the two tables, with their six regular-sized chess boards and sets, giant chessmen were set up on Chess Plaza. Chess Plaza has four huge inlaid chess boards. Chess team members Grandmaster Razvan Preotu and International Master David Brodsky took turns playing blindfold chess on one of the inlaid boards.

One titled player sat with his back to the giant chess set, announcing his moves in algebraic notation. The other titled player, acting as his assistant, played each move by lifting and placing a giant chessman.

An opponent would reply with his or her own move, by lifting an appropriate giant chessman and placing it on a new square. The assistant conveyed that move in notation to the blindfolded titled player. The blindfolded player had to keep the current chess position in his head, to state in notation a legal next move. The titled players won every blindfold chess game against the various passersby.

Chess Family

One Family Day visitor was Helen Kheyfets. As recounted in the history of the UT Dallas chess program, “In 1995, students Helen Kheyfets and Sam Craft asked [Dr. Tim] Redman to be the faculty sponsor for the new chess club they wanted to form on campus.” The next year, Dr. Redman and UT Dallas launched a competitive chess team. Since 1996, many top chess players have received full-ride scholarships, completing degrees as they compete for the chess team. This SparkChess article lists some notable chess team alumni.

Dr. Redman retired just before the pandemic. After graduating from UT Dallas, Helen Kheyfets had a son, Benjamin “Benji” Frenkel. Frenkel attended summer chess camps at UT Dallas starting at age 8. Now Frenkel is a junior at UT Dallas, a US Chess national master, and a member of the UT Dallas chess team.

Benji Frenkel and Helen Kheyfets (GM Razvan Preotu [blindfolded] and IM David Brodsky in background)
Benji Frenkel and Helen Kheyfets
(GM Razvan Preotu [blindfolded] and IM David Brodsky in background)

Family Fork

A family fork in chess is when a knight forks an opponent’s king, queen, and one other piece, for example a rook. If you can play a family fork, you almost always should. What is the best move for White in the diagram below?

WIM Alexey Root, PhD

Alexey Root is a Woman International Master and the 1989 U.S. Women's chess champion. Her peak US Chess rating was 2260. She has a PhD in education from UCLA. You can find her books on chess on