This week I was able to sit down with soon to be crowned, IM Danny Rensch (DR). Danny held nothing back when it came to his plans for his chess future, his past performances in the USCL, and even his vision of the future of the league.
EJ: Good evening!
DR: Hey there.
EJ: Let’s start off with congratulations!
DR: For what?
EJ: Congratulations on your IM title.
DR: Oh yeah… Cool!
EJ: We haven’t forgotten.
DR: Well… it isn’t on FIDE yet. (I’m still) waiting for that “big moment”! But anyway… yeah it was cool.
EJ: So what is the process. You have your 3 norms. What’s next?
DR: Well… I have cleared the rating but it still takes sometime to become official. 6 weeks is standard I guess. That is what Walter Brown said. Actually funny story… I have four norms apparently. (At) a tournament I played in in 2002 in Moscow I earned a Norm but the organizer never told me. If you check my FIDE History…. My 2002 tournament from when I went to Russia I scored a Norm.
EJ: Was it the SPICE Cup that gave you the rating?
DR: Yeah, it was.
EJ: So all this time you had your 3 norms?
DR: Anyway, Walter found out that the SPICE Cup was actually my fourth IM Norm. Since December of last year I have had the norms. But it doesn’t really matter. I’m going for GM. I kind of wanted to skip IM but it didn’t work out that way.
EJ: Argh! That would be so frustrating! Do you feel jipped?
DR: No, I don’t feel jipped at all just kind of the story of my life. I struggle for a long time and then I overkill it.
EJ: So you’re not done? Going to go for GM?
DR: Yes, I am flying to Edmonton Canada for a GM Norm Invite in December.
EJ: So now that you have your title (soon) how have things changed for you?
DR: Well, I got a raise on Chess.com which is cool. Gotta feed the kids.
EJ: Every bit helps! More relaxed? More stress?
DR: A lot of people said congrats in a way that suggested “I was not going to get any further”, which is always motivating. I am more inspired than I was before. So that has changed.
EJ: A boost of energy?
DR: Yeah. To me, getting my GM title is like getting my degree and every title helps. My goal is to become a GM So that my business would have more “worldy respect”. Even though I know I am offering the same product that I could offer now, people think differently when you have the “GM”.
EJ: True. Well there’s no hiding that fact that you’re doing better in your USCL games. Is everything “just clicking”?
DR: Yeah but I don’t know. I mean I am still not really playing well on USCL but I haven’t lost since I made my title which is cool. Let’s hope we can keep that going!
EJ: I hope so too.
DR: I have definitely learned that you don’t always have to play like a GM to become a GM. Just got to get better and be practical. Time management. Things like that.
EJ: So obviously your performance OTB is different than in the USCL. How are they different to you?
DR: Well it has been. Thank GOD! I am still not comfortable under time pressure online. In fact, I love time pressure OTB because it is a rush but online…
EJ: Don’t trust the computers?
DR: I kind of get dizzy. No joke. It is confusing.
EJ: 2D vs. 3D?
DR: Maybe. Definitely different for me. I also don’t play as much on ICC as many others.
EJ: Do you use a relayer when you play?
DR: No. I like to have control. I would get nervous with a relayer, I think.
EJ: Aside from your family, you’re basically chess full time, right?
DR: Yes… I am a Chess Pro in every sense… I make my money teaching, playing, laughing, loving… etc.
EJ: As a “chess professional”, how does playing in the USCL affect your life?
DR: Well. It is kind of inconvenient to be honest. I am the type who likes to travel and “get in the mood”.
EJ: Is it taking away from your “day job” or does your “day job” hinder your USCL job?
DR: Yeah. That is the thing. I feel the biggest reason for me not playing well is that I am not in “Game Mode”. You know what I mean? The “drop you daily life and go play a serious game” is not me. I like to really, really devote myself and if I can’t I struggle… or at least I have. But I am maturing.
DR: I listen to some good country tunes before the game. The Landon Shill band, then I throw on some Dre, and then a little Eric Hutchinson! I like to mix it up. I love music…
EJ: It comes through in your blog posts. (=
DR: Thanks… glad someone noticed. I am a pop culture geek. I like to stay current and quote the past. You know, keep the kids on their toes.
EJ: Perhaps your prep work for the SPICE cup is leading to your recent USCL performance.
DR: It could be… I do have a few more lines that I didn’t get to try at the SPICE Cup. But Yermo told me to stop screwing around, just play solid and that I would get the Norm. So I did. Hell! I played too solid and drew some games I should have won. But that’s life! You also hold some games you should lose. So it works out. I tried to get something crazy against Antal in round 2 and then I stopped messing around.
EJ: Do you “experiment” more in your USCL games?
DR: Yes, absolutely! But people forget that I played 1.d4 and the Trompowsky until I was 2250. So it isn’t like I am throwing total “caution to the wind”. I know enough.
EJ: To be different? Because “the games aren’t rated”? Or because everyone studies up on opponents in the league?
DR: To be different and to setup future games…
EJ: Always keep them guessing.
DR: I am going to be one of those GMs who people study and they are like “damn, this guy could play anything! So I might as well watch some Leno”. When they are preparing I mean.
EJ: Any current players you model yourself after?
DR: Anand because I like his repertoire and Ivanchuk because he is crazy… I like that! But I appreciate all of them. They are all better than me.
EJ: I wouldn’t expect you to model yourself after anyone but the best. Have you ever played Hikaru?
DR: Yes, only one rated OTB and I lost in a Kan. I played him in blitz a while ago and I beat him 2 0 but then I lost in Blitz at the National Open 2 0 a couple years ago. He is a beast… no doubt!
EJ: I know you’ve faced off against against his brother a couple of times.
DR: Yes. I had a good record against Asuka.
EJ: Your thoughts on the Scorpions first 2 seasons. What’s the secret to this year?
DR: I think we were all a little gun shy the first year… accept for a couple players. But I believe this year we are just better. I mean, I think that the key to this year’s team, to be honest, is Alejandro. I think everyone is better around him, because he takes on the big guns. I feel more confident playing next to a GM and I really mean that! I believe that Rogelio and I have just gotten better as players to be honest. Also, who can forget David? I mean the fact is he is underrated at 2026 and he has allowed us to be a lot more flexible. Robby was the best last year, and his ICC experience is always useful, but this year I believe all the credit should go to Alejandro and Adelberg. The “AA team”.
EJ: Well, looking at the numbers everyone has elevated their game.
DR: Yes, but Jandi and David have allowed that to happen. Rogo and Robby are still as good as they were but now we have better players around them. Pretty much the team has suffered with me in there but now that I have turned the corner I invite Scorpion Nation to hop on my back to victory baby! *lol* *knock on wood*
EJ: A team is a team! There’s no “A” in… oh wait… Do you listen to music when you play?
DR: I don’t listen to music during games. It distracts me. I don’t like it… but I love music otherwise.
EJ: Do you have a routine or ritual when you play?
DR: Uuumm… OTB I do but on USCL I just say, “here we go!”
EJ: It’s just too different?
DR: Yeah, I try to say a little prayer, gather my thoughts, forget about my daily life, and like I said “buckle up”…
EJ: I think many may not know that you’re the assistant (north) manager to the team. What is that like?
DR: Ahh. I just try to calm Leo down, remind him that he is the boss, and that I will help with whatever he needs. He is doing a good job and if we win this year, he better watch out for some Gatorade on his back… oh yeah!
EJ: The Scorpions really believe in that “team” concept.
DR: Yes, I think so. I don’t but they do…
EJ: You do.
DR: Yes, of course… we are trying to come together… do what it takes to win.
EJ: You’ve been a “team player” since I first meet you and the rest of the Shelby team.
DR: Yes, I have. I love team environments… I miss them actually. Half the time I wish we still had that which is why the Scorpions are so cool. When we (the Shelby team) were winning national titles, there was nothing like it! So yes, this is very cool, and I think that it has the potential to become something great for the world of chess. I don’t kid around about what I think will help the chess world. Unlike many others, I am in this with no turning back. So anything that can help the chess world improve socially, financially, etc. I am all for! I believe that Greg Shahade is on the right path, and I think there is still much, much more to do.
EJ: Any suggestions for the future of the USCL?
DR: Yes actually, but I will keep those private… I don’t want them taken. Greg doesn’t listen to me anymore though. He is “big time” now… and you can print that!
DR: Ok! I won’t keep them private. But Greg is “big time”… I think that more sponsorship is available.
EJ: How so?
DR: It is more of a confidence thing. Chess players have to stop acting like “the starving artists who just want to be recognized” and they won’t be treated that way.
DR: I believe, and quote me, that there is 7 figure sponsorship out there! Really, I do. It just takes the right angle, right people, some kindness, charm, and hard work.
EJ: For chess in general or specifically the USCL?
DR: Both. But let’s make it specific. The USCL will have a lot more sponsorship down the road if we do this thing right. I believe.
EJ: Hopefully. Personally, I love following the various blogs and discussions within the league.
DR: Can’t you just picture watching a USCL game, and flashing ads of Dell, Microsoft, Apple, Insurance Companies, etc. flashing for 30 seconds on the left side for spectators… Tell me there isn’t money there. We just have to go after it! But I have said too much.
EJ: No problem.
DR: Greg has done great, no questions…
EJ: I agree.
DR: And that is all that needs to be said. Do I think there is growth potential? Absolutely! And it will. You know what I mean though?
DR: How many spectators watch Nakamura
DR: No, no! At least 200 at times. Just type “all Nakamura”! I mean, if there are that many people watching anything it doesn’t matter if it is chess. Sponsors can pay for ad space to flash during the games. That is where the money is!
EJ: That might require some ICC connections.
DR: Yes but it is possible! It is there!
EJ: We’re just about ready to wrap up. Anything else you’d like to say?
DR: Alright, just remember, that if I said anything offensive… print it! Just joking.
EJ: No worries.
DR: Thanks for your work with the team! Really…
EJ: I’m the guy that works in the back rooms… in the shadows.
DR: Yes. Always… we should get you a mask, or a cape or something. Then you would feel really cool… and you could just come out of the darkness, like Batman! Always vigilant.
EJ: It’s my contribution. That’s what I already wear when I watch the games during the week.
DR: Ok. Good talk!
Danny Rensch is runs the American Chess Events affiliate which also hosts the Copper State International. He will be playing in the a GM Invitational this December in Edmonton, Canada and in the SPICE Cup again next year.