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#ShowYourStaunton Contest Winners

July 2, 2020

We asked and you answered!

We wanted to see pictures of your chess sets from the House of Staunton using #ShowYourStaunton and you didn't disappoint! We found some great shots, including beautiful backgrounds, brilliant framing and lighting, and a couple of extras like kids and pets! We had a lot of fun looking at the images and hope you had fun setting up those shots. Keep tagging your images; the world needs to see how great chess is, and the best way to do it is through you!

Three winners were randomly chosen to receive $100 gift cards from the House of Staunton. We do appreciate everyone who participated, and want to let you know that we never would have been able to choose a favorite post without the help of a computer automatically selecting our winners for us! Here are the winners; these are in no particular order.

WINNERS



We sure wouldn't mind playing chess at this location!

These pieces are the Dubrovnik Series Chess Set, a historic set with timeless significance, plus a very unique style that makes them a great conversation piece even for non-chess players!

Interested in getting a set of your own? You can find them here. They come complete with a FIDE-standard 3.75" king and extra queens (a standard introduced by Frank Camaratta and the House of Staunton in 1993).










This depicts classic chess at its finest, and we don't mind admitting we miss all of the tournaments that would normally have occurred recently but have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We do remain committed to doing what we can to keep ourselves, our employees, and our customers healthy. Stay safe, everyone!

While the House of Staunton is most well known for our luxurious, quality wooden and bone chess sets, you can also find scholastic and club chess supplies here, too. These chess pieces are Regulation Plastic Chess Pieces, which not only come in multiple colors, but also various weights, as well. Find our most popular - the Triple Weight version, here!




This is perfect placement, really. What more could you want from a set of these beautiful pieces? As with all hand-carved wooden products, these pieces have slight variations from set to set. They showcase unique characteristics from two of our favorite sets of wood pieces!

First are the Hastings Series Luxury Chess Pieces, which are reproductions from the famous 1895 super-tournament held in England. These have a 4" king and also include the extra queens that are standard for the House of Staunton.

Second are the Pro-Line Series Chess Pieces, which have the amazing diamond-shaped bishop shown here.





#ShowYourStaunton

Continue to #ShowYourStaunton! We love it when we see chess sets being used or displayed by our customers, and we love it when the world sees happy chess players, so carry on, continue playing, and share your love of chess with the world.

Stay tuned for our next giveaway!

The House of Staunton $500 Chess Set Giveaway!

May 15, 2020

Most - if not all - of you know that, here at the House of Staunton, we've been holding a sweepstakes contest during the pandemic. In the midst of the stress and burnout of living in quarantines and working from home, we wanted to bring a smile to our customers' faces. We appreciate everyone's participation!

Sweepstakes Winner

Our randomly drawn winner is Ryan L from Tallahassee, Florida, pictured here with his own little future grandmaster (we'll let you decide who is who in this cute picture)! Ryan has won a set of 1849 Collector Series Luxury Chess Pieces with 4.4" King from the Camaratta Collection in Blood Rosewood and Natural Boxwood - worth $539! If you want to take a better look at these luxurious historical reproduction pieces or you want to get one for yourself, you can find them here.

1849 Collector Chess Pieces

As do most of the sets sold by the House of Staunton, these chess pieces do include extra queens for pawn promotion, a standard introduced by the House of Staunton in 1993. The set is a very comfortable 5 pounds in median weight. The king is 4.4" with a 1.9725" base.

Chess Board Options

For a set this size, we recommend a board with 2.5" squares. You can browse many of those here, if you would like to see what we have available. These range in price from a very affordable $49 all the way up to $4500, with dozens of options in between to fit both your budget and style - not to mention your chess pieces.

1849 Collector Chess Set

History of These Chess Pieces

The 1849 Collector Series Luxury Chess set has been crafted to replicate the design and proportions of the original Staunton pattern Chessmen, registered by Nathaniel Cooke in March of 1849 and first manufactured by Jaques of London in September 1849. The distinctive feature of this set is the he open-mitered Bishop and Knight design, which is modeled after the noble steeds from the Greek Parthenon (Elgin Marbles).

Kingside Stamping

These beautiful pieces include kingside stamping. What is that, you ask?

Kingside stamping was part of the original Staunton pattern design, consisting of a King's Crown stamped into the Rook and Knight that started on the right side (or King's Side) of the chessboard. In Descriptive notation, it is useful for distinguishing between the Kingside and Queen's Side pieces.

We want to thank everyone who took the time and interest to be involved in our sweepstakes contest. Keep an eye out for future sweepstakes - we hope to be able to host many more!

World Chess Championship and Kids

April 10, 2019

In November of 2018, Fabiano Caruana challenged Magnus Carlsen for the World Chess Championship. He was the first US-born player to play in a World Championship match since Bobby Fischer triumphed over Boris Spassky in Reykjavik in 1972 and the first US player to play for the title since Gata Kamsky in 2009. Though Fabiano didn’t win, we remain excited about the prospect of another American World Champion, and there is no reason that kids can’t get excited, too!

Learn about the World Champions!

The reigning World Champion is Magnus Carlsen of Norway, who is 28 years old. The American challenger, Fabiano Caruana, is currently 26 years old. However, both Magnus and Fabiano began playing chess as children, and it took them both a lot of hard work and dedication to get where they are today.

With respect to Magnus, kids can learn how he became the youngest chess grandmaster in the world, at that time. The movie Magnus documents his early life and, eventually, his rise to the world championship and how he bested Viswanathan Anand. More advanced players can even study his extraordinary endgame skills in-depth!

Fabiano Caruana is also the subject of Alexander Kalinin’s book Fabiano Caruana. Because he is still a young challenger, there are not as many works about him, but I would definitely expect more titles in the future!

You can learn a lot from the games of the World Championship!

The World Championship has given us many instructive games that students can learn from, both recently and in the past. Players familiar with all the past world champions will be able to find instructive games from those players:

  • Wilhelm Steinitz
  • Emmanuel Lasker
  • Jose Raul Capablanca
  • Alexander Alekhine
  • Mikhail Botvinnik
  • Vasily Smyslov
  • Mikhail Tal
  • Tigran Petrosian
  • Boris Spassky
  • Bobby Fischer
  • Anatoly Karpov
  • Garry Kasparov
  • Vladimir Kramnik
  • Viswanathan Anand

The Big Book of World Chess Championships includes games from 46 of these fights for the world title. Other World Chamiponship matches have gotten thorough treatment from authors: Tal Botvinnik 1960 by Tal is a timeless classic, Carlsen vs. Karjakin shows all the games from Carlsen’s most recent defense of his title.

In the end, it is a good idea to look at world champions and try to pick a hero! Someone to look up to. It is also a good idea not necessarily to limit yourself to world champions only. There are many good players who have biographies written about them – go forth and explore the possibilities and you will improve along the way.

Chess Parenting: Being good at chess has nothing to do with it

April 9, 2019

Most chess parents know very little about chess. Their kids quickly surpass them leaving the parents to wonder “How can I help?” Simple… provide chess opportunities!

Grandpa might give your child a chess book, maybe a tournament is just around the corner, or perhaps a chess club is starting at school – many chess opportunities will pop up and it is your job to determine which ones are worthwhile. One thing that can be a guiding principle for you is that a variety of experiences is important. Trying out tournaments, going through a book, doing a couple of private lessons are some examples.

However, no matter what you’re doing to support your child in chess, they will need certain types of chess equipment along the way. Specifically, a chess set. The House of Staunton offers a variety of chess sets. While you can buy a chess board, chess pieces, and a bag to store it all in separately, you’ll save the most money when buying a combo:

COMBO26 comes with pieces and a board.

DYO-BSC-COMBO comes with pieces, board, and bag.

There are also School & Club Sets.

And you can design you own combo!

A brand new player only needs a board, pieces, and a bag. If your kids enjoy chess, they may become more serious about going to tournaments, in which case they will then need a chess clock and scorebook.

As you will almost certainly need to buy chess equipment at some point, please call us. Our job is to ensure you get exactly what you need so that you do not waste money

Buying chess equipment can be tough because there are so many choices of pieces, bags, and books. If you ever need any help, feel free to call us at 1-256-858-8070. By calling us, we can ensure you get the right equipment for your needs and specific situation!

When is Resigning a Game ok?

April 9, 2019

“Quitters never win, and winners never quit” is always true in chess. However, from a parent’s perspective, what expectations should you have of your kids? Let’s explore it. Compare the two statements made by kids at a recent chess tournament:

“I quit because he was winning.”
“I quit because in 3 moves he was going to checkmate me with his rook and knight – I was helpless.”

In the first statement, it is clear the kid in question just felt they were losing and quit. Were they losing? Who knows… but it isn’t a very engaged answer. The second answer is more thorough and demonstrates the resignation occurred with much more reasoning behind it. The second student still might not have wanted to resign, but their answer shows a bit more control in the situation.

So, what are some reasonable expectations parents should have surrounding this issue? If you pay $50 for a 5-round chess tournament and your child resigns, is it reasonable to feel you threw away $10? Let’s look at the following expectations to answer that question.

What did they learn?
Having your child explain what they learned about their game is important. The best way to learn is by going through games

How long did the game last?
As a parent, especially those parents who aren’t chess players, it can be difficult to know what goes on in your kid’s games. However, one thing you can do is look at how quickly the game finished. If your child is finishing games very quickly, odds are they are not taking enough time to think. If they are taking a long time, win or lose, then they are putting in effort. WARNING: Don’t assume this means fast games are always bad and slow games are always good. Just look for a trend – if their games always end quickly, then they need to slow down.

How do they feel when they lose?
It is easy to understand happiness when winning but what should you feel when you lose? Disappointment is acceptable and normal. Getting angry or crying is not acceptable. It is always good if they feel a want to improve. Phrases like “Next time I will…” or “I could have done better in the opening” demonstrate they want to improve. Encourage improvement and discourage intense emotions that capture your child inside of a bad mood.

So, what’s the verdict?
Here are a few reasonable outlooks:

  1. The famous chess saying is “No one ever won a game by resigning.” This is true. If you hold on you might find a sneaky opportunity to get a draw or pull off an unexpected win.
  2. If they can articulate why they were going to lose and are learning from their games, it is fine. Resigning saves time and shows your opponent you know they can defeat you in the given situation.
  3. Resign only if you could beat yourself with their pieces. If you have no clue how they could win, don’t resign.

How to Learn from the Best

April 9, 2019


There are two ways to guarantee improvement in your chess play. The first is to review and analyze your own games, learning from your own mistakes. The second is to review the games of strong masters, so that you can try to play like “the best.” There are several reasons to study the games of the old masters, and they aren’t just a history lesson!

Master games contain lessons in the opening, middlegame, and ending.

Other than 25-move blowouts against the N.N., or “No Name” as many games are labeled when they lose to masters, most games between strong players are going to demonstrate concrete ideas about all phases of the chess game. In the opening, though the game may not demonstrate current theory, we can often learn why certain moves are or are not played in an opening. In the middlegame, we can see both successful and unsuccessful plans and maneuvers. In the ending, we can see high-quality technical play that even the world’s best rely on to this day. Some of our favorite players are Mikhail Tal, Johannes Zukertort, and Boris Spassky.

We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Modern chess success requires an understanding of what we already know about chess, and the best way to learn what is already known is to go straight to the source. While there are numerous books available that compile knowledge on various openings, middlegame plans, or technical endings, those books draw from the very same history of master games that is available to you directly. By trying to understand why strong masters played the moves that they did, you are exercising the same type of analysis that you use when you are playing a game.

What is old is new again.

Often, seemingly shocking moves can be found in the games of past masters, simply being overlooked for decades until being brought back into fashion by the modern greats. For example, the Berlin Defense to the Ruy Lopez (which is an “opening”) was played by strong masters as early as the late 19th and early 20th Century but was not fully explored as a modern main-line opening until Vladimir Kramnik brought it into vogue in his World Championship match against Kasparov in 2000. The games of the past masters offer opportunities to find ideas and plans that have not yet been fully explored, which can lead us to find new plans and ideas that improve upon past play.

Find a chess hero.

By learning from the games of the old masters, we can try to play like them and become strong players, ourselves. In fact, if one master’s play speaks to you in a certain opening, it is certainly a good idea to review as many games as you can find from that player. You might pick up on new opening ideas and middlegame plan that suit your style of play. From the tactical genius of Morphy or Blackburne, the positional squeezing of Botvinnik or Petrosian, or the sheer domination of Fischer or Kasparov, everyone can find a chess hero that suits their style of play. You can check out this search to see the games collections of many of these famous players.

Becoming a Tournament Director

April 9, 2019

One of the best ways for chess parents to become involved in chess is to become a tournament director, or TD. As you are probably aware, a TD is a USChess-sanctioned official who runs rated chess competitions. If you are sick and tired of being bored, sitting around, and waiting while your child finishes their round, you can get involved and become a TD!

  1. Be a USChess member.

First, in order to become a TD, you must be a member of the U.S. Chess Federation in good standing. If your membership is expired, you will not be able to become a TD. Join USChess or renew your membership at http://www.uschess.org

  1. Know the Rules.

Next, you will need to know the rules of chess, as set forth by the US Chess Federation. Those rules are contained in the U.S. Chess Federation’s Official Rules of Chess, 6th Edition. We highly recommend that new TDs spend some time with the rulebook before they try to run their first tournament. You don’t need to memorize everything in the book cover-to-cover, but you do need to have read it. Additionally, familiarity with some of the trickier rules of chess, as well as the Swiss-pairing system, can only help a TD do a better job.

  1. Become a Club TD

Once you are a USChess member and have familiarized yourself with the rules of chess, you are ready to become a tournament director. The first level of TD is called a Club TD. The Club TD license is good for three years. To become a Club TD, all you need is to be a USChess member and to submit a signed statement stating that you have read, have access to, and will abide by the rules contained in the USCF’s Official Rules of Chess.

That form is available here.

Note: If you are already a Club TD and need to renew, you will have to pass an objective test of moderate difficulty to re-certify as a tournament director.

  1. Plan a tournament!

Now that you are an active USChess member, know the rules of chess, and are certified as a Club TD, you are ready to run an event. The House of Staunton has many products that can make running a chess tournament much easier on a director. Click here to see our full array of tournament director supplies.

We highly recommend that tournament directors use Swiss-pairing software such as WinTD (Windows), WinTD (Mac), or SwissSys (Windows) to help pair their tournaments.

Other useful items include score sheets, pairing cards, and wall charts, which are all available together in the TD Refill.

Getting involved in Scholastic Chess

April 9, 2019

Maybe your child just learned to play chess and wants to find new opponents and places to play. While there are a lot of opportunities to play chess across the county, it can be difficult to find a game if you do not know where to look. Another way to get involved is to help your state affiliate or even USChess!

Find Clubs!

A chess club can be a great place to find players at your skill level to play with for fun and improvement. Some clubs are at schools, churches, libraries, and there are even dedicated club facilities in some cities. We recommend that you start by looking at the USChess Federation’s list of clubs in your state.

Another way to find local chess clubs is to do an internet search for “chess club” and include where you live. This can be a good way to find clubs that do not actively play rated chess or are otherwise not affiliated with the USChess Federation.

If you are still having trouble finding a club, you can start one at a local school, library, church, or other location. USCF Sales offers many products that can help a club get off of the ground: Chess Club Starter Kits, demonstration boards, and plastic chess sets are available at a great discount. You can also buy Starter Kit packages that include a rulebook, selected instructional books for scholastic players, or chess clocks.

Find Tournaments!

If your child is looking for challenging games where he or she can win trophies, prizes, or even college scholarships, scholastic tournament chess might be a great fit for you. As with clubs, there are numerous events across the country – you could probably play every weekend if you wanted to! The US Chess Federation hosts several National events each year. They also publish a list of events held by other organizers across the country. This is a great resource for finding tournaments. Other options for information include finding the website for your state-level affiliate or local chess club.

You can also become a tournament director and run your own events! We offer a full range of tournament director supplies that can help you run a smooth event.

Find your State Affiliate!

The official US Chess affiliate for each state can be a great resource for getting involved in scholastic chess. While most states have a single affiliate for the entire state, some states are divided by geography.

Chess Notation Handout

April 8, 2019

Taking chess notation occurs when a player writes down his or her moves using the coordinates alongside the chess board. In the diagram above, you can see the X in the middle of the board. This X is marking the “e4” square. The arrows show you why that square is e4 because that square lines up with the e-file and the 4th rank. There are many ways to notate chess moves and each style has its own name and symbols. This handout will teach the simplest version of notation.

Coordinate Notation (Often called Long Notation)

The benefits of using this style of notation is that it can be taught and learned within 30 seconds to a minute making it the simplest notation system. However, it does have a major downside for any seriously competitive player: it gives you the least in-game information about the moves.

The way to notate using coordinate notation is simply by

  1. writing the name of the square the piece is on,
  2. then you put a dash or hyphen,
  3. then write the name of the square the piece moved to.

In the diagram above, the rook is on the e4 square and wants to move to the b4 square. This move would be written as e4 – b4. If it decided to move from the b4 square to the b8 square, the move would be written as b4 – b8. That is pretty much it for coordinate notation.

In the diagram above, there are eight Xs placed on various squares on the chess board. On a sheet of paper, try to notate the Xs as quickly as possible. You can even drop 8 pennies on the board and notate the squares they landed on for more practice. One thing to understand is you can do this on an actual chess board too, even if it doesn’t have letters and numbers on it once you get good enough. Practicing this simple skill is helpful and is guaranteed to improve you as a player.

Where do I write down my moves?

The picture below is a sample notation sheet. You can obtain these sheets from many different online sources. A simple search for “Chess Notation Sheet” or “Chess Notation Pad” will bring it up.

When notating, you always write down who is playing the white pieces and who is playing the black pieces. Often on many notation sheets there will be additional information you can fill out such as the date, name of the tournament, your opponent’s rating, etc… But the most important information is who is playing whom.

When writing notation, it is extremely important to understand that you must write down every move of the game which includes all your moves and all your opponent’s moves. Failing to write down both player’s moves would indicate you have missed the entire point of notation. There are very few things any chess coach can guarantee a player. However, one thing that can be guaranteed is that you will improve by going over your games and you can only do this through notation.

In the picture, you can see that white has played 1.e2-e4 and black has played 1…c8-c6. Notice how both white and black have their own 1st move. A lot of players make the mistake of writing white’s move on the first line and then black’s move on the second line. Do not do that!

You will also notice in the short paragraph above that when I wrote “1…c8-c6” that I used three dots. The reason for this is whenever you are reading chess literature sometimes the author wants to make a comment about a move. After that comment, if it is black’s move, the three dots are used between the move number and the played move to indicate it is black’s turn. If it is white’s turn, then only one dot is used.

Exercise

Find someone with whom you can play a chess game and notate your first game. Take your time and make sure you get all the moves written down. It will be frustrating at first and you will be distracted from the game; however, if you can notate 10 games you will have no issues from that point forward. Good luck!

Algebraic Notation

All serious chess players use algebraic notation as they become more competitive in tournaments. The reason is that it gives you more in-game information.

The picture below demonstrates all the notation symbols to take notation using the Algebraic style. Notice that the Knight and King both begin with the letter “K” and therefore for “Knight” they use the letter “N” instead.

Notation Examples

Like Coordinate Notation, we still use the coordinate grid to label squares. The difference is in how we write the moves down. The following list contains all the symbols in the chart above at least once to demonstrate how to notate using algebraic notation. Both sets of notation below are the same exact moves but are notated using different styles:

Algebraic Notation

1.e4 2.Nf3 3.Bc4 4.0-0 5.Re1 6.Kh1 7.Qxf3 8.Bxf7 9.Be6+ 10.Qxf8+ 11.Nc3 12.Bxd7+ 13.Qxd8+ 14.Qxc8#

c5 Nc6 Qc7 d6 Bg4 Bxf3 0-0-0 h5 Rd7 Nd8 Qc6 Kb8 Qc8

Coordinate Notation

1.e2-e4 2.g1-f3 3.f1-c4 4.e1-g1 5.f1-e1 6.g1-h1 7.d1-f3 8.c4-f7 9.f7-e6 10.f3-f8 11.b1-c3 12.e6-d7 13.f8-d8 14.d8-c6

c7-c5 b8-c6 d8-c7 d7-d6 c8-g4 g4-f3 e8-c8 h7-h5 d8-d7 c6-d8 c7-c6 c8-b8 c6-c8 Checkmate

One thing that regularly happens when using Algebraic Notation is when two pieces can move to the same square you have to denote which one moved. For example, if a rook on a1 and a rook on f1 can both move to the c1-square, you would either write Rac1 or Rfc1 denoting which rook specifically moved. The same is true for a rook on c8 and a rook on c1: you would write R8c5 or R1c5 indicating which rook moved. The same is true when two knights can move to the same square. For example, if knights are on f3 and b1, then Nbd2 or Nfd2 could be written!

Ups and Downs of Chess

April 8, 2019

Whenever you play chess, you must learn how to cope with the ups and downs of chess. As a chess instructor, I regularly tell people “I am in the business of teaching people how to lose constructively.” Like anything, chess can be full of obstacles. Interestingly, the obstacles in chess are almost always you.

I am on a losing streak, what do I do?

This common question is asked by many who struggle to improve. One of my favorite quotes on this topic comes from National Master Dan Heisman “You have to be willing to take your lumps!” He is quite right. If you cannot stand losing, then you’re going to have a hard time improving. Dan’s book The Improving Chess Thinker is all about analyzing how players at different levels speak about different positions. Through this process, Dan shows us the types of mistakes lower level players make when compared to higher level players.

So, what do you do when you are on a losing streak? First, identify why you are on a losing streak.

How do I identify my issue?

Take some time off actually playing chess and learn for a little while. I can say that most of the time when I am on a losing streak, it is related to tactics. If you don’t regularly go over high-level games or solve tactics, then your tactical vision can wane a bit. I find at lower levels of chess this is often the reason people get stuck on losing streaks. Therefore, books like Improve Your Chess Tactics can be very helpful. I often look for chess books with “Improve” in the title that speak to improving a specific skill. For example, books like Improve Your Endgame Play or Improve Your Opening Play will give practical advice to you on specific key skills. Neither will suddenly make you a brilliant chess virtuoso; however, they will help you identify and work on your own errors. These kinds of books are fantastic if you have identified a clear area for improvement in your game.

However, books like Test, Evaluate, and Improve Your Chess or A Guide to Chess Improvement are also helpful but don’t specifically focus on one skill set. These are more for assessing problems which have their own independent value. Books with a more generalized approach have the advantage of being able to cover a wide variety of issues, and often they help you test to see if you have issues in those areas. From there, it is a good idea to seek out resources to help you with specifically identified skills.

I am on a Winning Streak! Woohoo!!

Well, good for you! As any good player knows that if a winning streak goes too long, then odds are you need to seek out stronger competition. However, winning streaks when you are an equivalent or lesser rating than your peers typically mean you are making a breakthrough and improving. During these times, it is a good idea to understand how you have improved. For example, if you improved because of hard work and you identified a weakness that you worked on, then when your losing streak ends you’ll need to do this again. If your winning streak is because you changed an opening you play, then be sure to understand your opponents will likely keep pace with you at the next event.

Winning streaks are always uplifting but understanding why your winning streak is happening is helpful to putting your efforts into context. Sometimes, you didn’t do anything extra at all but find yourself winning games. That is ok! However, just because you didn’t actively do anything doesn’t mean you didn’t improve. Grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov says, “The best way to improve in chess is to play as often as possible.” In a lecture he gave in Kentucky some years ago, he specifically said players learn much more from playing game after game than they do from any other process. I am inclined to agree with him.

But wait a second… you just said to get out of a losing streak I should take a break but Kaidanov says playing more games is better? Which is it!?

Well, both are true. It depends on your situation. Here are a few examples that make use of both ideas from my own life.

When on a losing streak, I had just come off a break due to college and hadn’t played in a while. So, my opponents could see the rust fall off me as I moved each piece. I felt that, in this situation, taking a further break really wouldn’t make much sense. I decided to take Dan Heisman’s advice and take my beatings and come out of them stronger in the end.

Another example was that I had lost many games across two tournaments and let some lower ranked players beat me as well. How did I fix it? I created an account on Lichess.com and, being a new player but a master level player, all fell before me! I don’t advocate for making numerous accounts on the same chess website; however, being ‘new’ for a little while and winning a few games raised my spirits and it pulled me out of my slump.

Currently, I haven’t played much chess in the last 2 years (despite having purchased a Life Membership to the US Chess federation not too long ago). But, I regularly go over GM games, read chess books, and study chess for fun. So, while I am on a break, I do not feel rusty right now. Sometimes just enjoying chess as a hobby, instead of a pursuit, helps you advance.

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