Saturday, July 19, 2014

Arianne Caoili in "Shall We Dance?"

Aussie chess fans will remember with some amusement, I think, Arianne Caoili's suddenly rise to fame years ago when she appeared on Australia's "Dancing With The Stars". Now living mostly in Armenia, with you-know-who, it looks like she's reprising that brief stint as a celebrity in yet another dancing show.

This one's apparently called, "Shall We Dance?"Here you can see the Aussie WIM jivin' with her partner, some bloke named, Suren.

And in this other video, the boyfriend, Lev Aronian, even makes an appearance.

Kirsan: Olympiad Will Be in Tromso

Who didn't see this coming? The open letters are flying around as usual. Norwegians on one side and FIDE as well as the Russians on the other.

They can fire off the bluster all they like, but at least now any talk of moving the event to Russia is finally put to rest. In this interview with Goran Urosevic, Kirsan confirms it: "[The Olympiad] will stay in Tromso. The General Assembly adopted Tromso and there is no further discussion."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Russian Threat To Norway Olympiad

Just a few weeks ago the upcoming Tromso Olympiad took a brief dive because of some uncertainty over sponsorship money. Thankfully, the tournament was brought to level again when the Norwegian government finally confirmed funding of 12 million NOK. But now, only a fortnight from the start of proceedings, new turbulence has hit the event.

As far as I can tell, this new set of problems is related to the organisers' decision to exclude from Tromso as many as ten teams, one of which is the Russian women's side who, of course, won the 2010 and 2012 women's events. Expectedly, that's pissed off the Russians.

The situation is so bad that there is a suggestion that FIDE, with help from no less than Russian prez Vlad Putin, might yank the whole thing out of Norway and move the event to Russia! Well, at least one blogger seems to think that this is a dead certainty: Canadian GM, Kevin Spraggett.

Frankly I think either Spraggett or his source is pulling our legs. Just imagine the lawsuit that FIDE and the Russians will have to face from the Norwegians. Never mind the compo for travel. For their troubles, the Norwegians will want more than $2 million.

Anyway, I think the Olympiad will happen in two week's time. In Tromso. With the Russian women.

Monday, July 07, 2014

50 Moves Magazine

Wow! This one's completely out of the blue. Some young Aussie chess guys just launched a digital startup called "50 Moves". Basically, it is an online chess magazine. From the very professionally designed website it looks like this is going to be  a well organised publication. It certainly looks like plenty of planning has gone into this venture before final rollout. But what's really impressive is the roster of contributors, consisting mainly of Australia's new masters and the legendary, GM Ian Rogers.

The first issue will be on 1 August, just in time for the Olympiad.

Now I have just had a quick look at the site. I don't see any mention of an app. Hopefully, these guys will release at least one for the iOS.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Aussie Olympiad Fund Appeal

For the last few years, especially in the months leading up to an Olympiad, the Australian Chess Federation has always run a very successful Olympiad Fund Appeal. Given the overall cost of travel for our men's and women's teams, the amounts collected are quite modest. But they help.

For example, about this same time two years ago, the ACF collected over $10,000 in donations. This year, however, they've garnered only a paltry $700! And we are only a little over a month out from the Olympiad in Norway.

What has happened? An economic dip Down Under that we don't know about?

Perhaps it is because of the much criticised Australian federal budget that Aussie chess fans have really tightened their wallets. Or perhaps it is because there is hardly any mention of the ACF's Olympiad Appeal that folks are just not aware of it.

I checked this year's ACF newsletters, where the Appeal is normally prominently mentioned, but there is nothing. Nada! On the other hand, newsletters from 2 years ago mention the Appeal right at the very top of every issue in the months leading up to the Olympiad event.

So all this makes me wonder: did the ACF just forget to promote the Olympiad Appeal? Or are they, in fact, angling for the Tromso Travel Fund? Frankly, I doubt the latter.

At any rate, there is still some time to donate. I know I'll be sending a few bucks to the ACF. Hopefully, that will get me one of those blow-by-blow accounts from the players. I think it's $50 or more and you get an exclusive newsletter direct from Tromso.

Shock Move. Wesley So Switches Federations

In a serious blow to Philippine chess, their numero uno and current world number fifteen (in the June 2014 list), GM Wesley So, will be switching to the US Federation. Not only is he switching feds, he is also becoming a US citizen.

But, as we might guess, the Philippines' national chess body isn't making it easy. The National Chess Federation of the Philippines boss, Butch Pichay, is apparently just stonewalling Wesley's request to be granted the move.

That leaves So with two choices.

Either he hands over a hefty compo to the Philippine federation of 50,000 euros, or he sits out 2 years before finally being listed in the US ranking and, therefore, competing as an American. That is going to be tough for the kid who could seriously, one day hopefully, challenge for the world championships.

Of course, while this is all obviously very bad for the Pinoy men's team, as they lose their main attack in team events, notably the Olympiad, the move by So to the US can only be good for his chess. And looking at comments on Susan Polgar's blog, one gets the impression that most So fans support his move. I certainly do. After all, why stick with a federation that isn't doing much for your chess?

For the NCFP, the flight of a top GM away from their fold may still continue. The second highest ranked Pinoy player, GM Julio Sadorra, only the third Pinoy player to break the magic 2600 mark, could also make a similar US-bound move. This wouldn't surprise me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Data-driven Look at the Evolution of Chess

Somebody had to do this. This guy crunched up thousands of chess games from 1850 onwards to paint a picture of how chess has evolved since the middle of the nineteenth century. While some of these conclusions are to be expected, at least now we have some fancy graphs to go with them!

First Move Advantage

Draws Now More Common

For those who like yapping on about ratings, he also has a post on tournament games and ELO ratings.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Aussie Chess Behind Kasparov

Looks like ex-world champion Garry Kasparov's charm offensive on Aussie shores worked. In the latest news bulletin from the Australian Chess Fed, we read this: "The ACF decided at its May meeting that the ACF supports the candidacy for the FIDE Presidency of former World Champion GM Garry Kasparov. A week later Australia was one of 20 federations to formally nominate the Kasparov ticket (another three nominations were submitted for an earlier version of the Kasparov ticket.) With 54 nominations already, the incumbent President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has the early lead in declared voting for this election."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chess is Really Bad For You

From Scientific American, 1859:

Persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises for recreation — not the sort of mental gladiatorship. Those who are engaged in mental pursuits should avoid a chess-board as they would an adder’s nest, because chess misdirects and exhausts their intellectual energies. Rather let them dance, sing, play ball, perform gymnastics, roam in the woods or by the seashore, than play chess. 

Cited in Why Chess Will Destroy Your Mind.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Norway Olympiad To Be Cancelled?

What is this, German calmness in the face of adversity? Chessbase reports that the upcoming Olympiad in Norway is underfunded by a whopping US$2.5m! Worse is that the organisers have apparently aired the possibility that the whole thing may not happen at all. Yet, Chessbase can manage to ask if we should be worried.

Well, shit yeah!

But at any rate, it sounds like the Norwegian Olympiad organisers are just playing a game of chicken with their own government. The real question now is: who will blink first?