Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Why Films Love Chess

It seems to be a chess and movies week this week. Even the gents over in S&B finally have a post on The Seventh Seal. But today the BBC's Finlo Rohrer poses a question that, I'm sure, a lot of us have wondered about at one time or other. Why do the movies love chess?

It's a rather enlightening piece. I had no idea there were some 2,000 films with some sort of chess-related content, at least according to a book by Bob Basalla. And Bill Wall's site (provided by that BBC page), for example, has a list of just over 1,700 titles. Amazing!

Yet chess is by no means limited to cinema as far as popular media is concerned. Just look around you: the game is in magazine ads, billboards, online banner ads - everywhere! Once I even thought of this as some kind of exploitation. They use the game but give nothing back.

Actually, here's an interesting exercise. If you spot an ad with chess in it, tell us about it. Post the ad headline, product being sold, media type, where and when you saw it.

And finally we should all say a happy birthday to that chess playing movie superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yesterday was his 60th. Happy Birthday Arnie.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Blog Changes

The attentive reader will notice that I've made a number of, but minor, changes to the blog. After all this time I finally managed to go through the trouble of upgrading the blog to Google's much more user-friendly version of Blogger. It's actually good for me and hopefully for you too.

The first thing you'll notice on the right side bar is a superior archiving system. You can now see each post, per month and per year. Just click on the arrow to expand a selection. With this feature it should now be easier for you and I to scroll through past posts.

Down the bottom of this page you'll notice a link to older posts. Pretty straightforward. It just takes you to the next lot of posts in my stream.

By the way, I've shortened the length of my pages to 20 posts. It was previously 30 posts but with a very long scroll. Hopefully this means that pages will be a little faster for you as there will be fewer elements to download. If you think we go shorter still, we can do that too.

I'm also experimenting with labelling or tagging. This just basically categorises posts by content type (e.g. Australian News, Film, Game, etc). Hopefully it's useful to you. I'm just not sure if I've got the nomenclature right yet.

Finally, there is a short news feed, via Google, down my right side bar. These are just news items that have the word "chess" in them. Therefore, some items appearing here may not be about the game at all.

Hope you like the changes.

Ingmar Bergman Dies

Ingmar Bergman, director of The Seventh Seal which celebrates its half-century this year, has just died.

More from CNN. There are also videos of interviews with Bergman here.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Congrats to Youngsters!

Some congrats to a couple of local generation Y chessers. First, of course, to IM David Smerdon. The guy even made it to page 2 of today's Sun Herald! Well done on that norm and all the best to finally hitting the magic 2500-rating mark.

Congrats, too, to recent returnee Arianne Caoili. Hanging around with super grandmasters, including that special friend Levon Aronian, must have certainly done wonders to her chess. Arianne has just participated in this weekend's ANU Open where she managed to beat IM Gary Lane. I know it's still some distance out, but she looks hard to ignore for Olympiad duties. I wonder, however, if she'll play for Oz or switch to RP.

Geri's Game

I think you will like this. I hadn't seen this before but a quick search with Google reveals that Chessbase featured an entry about it way back in 2003. It's Geri's Game - a short film from Pixar, written and directed by Jan Pinkava, that won the 1998 Oscar for Best Short Film (Animated) category.

I don't know about you but that kind of reminds me of one of my greatest fears: to grow old alone and lonely!

You can read more about this film on the Pixar site. There also an interview with Jan Pinkava here.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Parramatta Gets Gig

It's official! The Parramatta bid is the winner and will host the 2007-08 Australian Chess Championships.

One thing to note, however, is that Parr's bid was actually ranked first by the ACF and would have been declared winner if the NSWBA venue was confirmed. But given Parr's withdrawal - the ACF naturally had no other option but to then formally hand the gong to the second best bid, Parramatta.

Well done to the boys and I am very glad that New South Wales has won this one over the south.

Two Bids For Champs

Some news from the ACF. The fight for the 2007-08 Australian Chess Championships is now down to two bids: one from the Box Hill CC in Victoria Chess Victoria and another by the Parramatta CC in New South Wales. A third bid by Peter Parr was eventually withdrawn after the NSW Bridge Association had decided that their venue in Surry Hills was not available. Peter's bid was always conditional and, unhappily for him and for those who might have preferred a city venue, turned out badly in the end.

Now that the situation is clearer, I hope these guys in the ACF will make the correct decision and award the event to Parramatta. It's hard to see those southern guys winning this one. After all, they had to bid twice, yes twice, just to get it right!

I'm off now. Have a good weekend dear readers.

Smerdon - Sveshnikov, 1-0

Here is the fantastic victory by Smerdon over legend Sveshnikov. Enjoy!

As to whether or not David has now secured the norm, I'm getting confused myself! There are some excellent commentary and calculations here by some big wigs. Does he need a draw? A win? What if he losses in the last game? My God!

On The Dope?

These guys must be smoking something. But good to laugh out loud first thing in the morning!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Smerdon - Kravtsiv, Draw

Just got back from drinks with a few friends. Would you believe that there we were in the Vbar and some guy pulls out a chess board to play blitz? How uncool was that, I thought. I couldn't believe it! The only redeeming factor was that a sexy young lass was among us and it didn't look too bad.

Anyway, there's a reason for my early arrival back home. Just had to check in on Smerdon's game. He's just had a draw against Kravtsiv after only 11 moves. Contrary to our post yesterday he actually still needs a draw against someone rated at least 2497 in the 9th and final round. But if the opponent is below 2497, then a win is required. We've got a guy in Holland confirming that.

Life isn't bloody easy in chess I tell you!

IM Lane in Malaysia

International master Gary Lane will host a chess improvement workshop in Malaysia on 18 August. Topics he'll cover include "The Art of Swindling", "Avoiding blunders" and my favourite from the list, "How to be good". This last will apparently discuss OTB etiquette. Nice - as some people really do need a bit of help with that. For more, check out the GilaChess blog.

Smerdon Edges To Norm

Oh what a good morning! David Smerdon was victorious in his game last night against GM Evgeni Sveshnikov of Latvia in Pardubice. And yes, that's the Sveshnikov who invented the famous Sicilian system. I don't have the PGN and I'm kind of afraid to ask from our man David as he shouldn't be disturbed so we'll have to wait for that on the official site.

With that win, the Aussie IM should just now be a draw away from the GM norm. Then it'll just be a matter of achieving the required rating after that.

Our man will play the 2492-rated Ukrainian IM Martyn Kravtsiv next and that game should be broadcast live tonight. Perhaps none of us are too fond of the quick GM draw but, I think under the circumstances, a little bit of pragmatism ought to prevail.

After 7 rounds, Vlastimil Babula is the sole leader on 6.5 points. There are 3 chasers on 6 points and 13 other players on 5.5 including IM Smerdon.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Don't Overload the Brain

Tonight's episode of the ABC's Catalyst program featured extensive footage of chess. The report, "Brain Overload", delivered a key lesson: focus on quality, not quantity. If you're like me, or the previous me when I used to actually buy opening books, you'd memorise pages and pages of theory then thinking that the job was done. In fact, I pretty much understood nothing! I'm sure you've heard of this before, but forget the pages of theory; pick a line or two, try them out extensively, understand and hopefully you would've learnt something. That's TCG's lesson for the day!

Apologies to GM Ian Rogers

Our post yesterday on the "row" between Javier Gil and The Chess Drum comes several days after GM Rogers had, in fact, already mentioned it in his column last Sunday in Sydney's Sun Herald. I honestly did not know this and only just saw that column now. And so with that, I must apologise to Ian. There was no intention by me to steal his thunder.

And by the way, for those who'd like to take a shot at the retiring GM, you can catch him tomorrow in Canberra.

David Slips in Pardubice

David Smerdon's hopes for a third GM norm suffered a dent this morning as he went down to GM Viktor Laznicka in the 6th round of Pardubice. Playing the black side of QGD Ragozin variation, Smerdon was nowhere near his red hot form so far in this tournament as he lost in just 28 moves!

To secure that norm, David must now avoid any loss in the last 3 games. All our prayers are with David as he faces off against GM Sveshnikov tonight.

It was really not a terribly nice day for the Aussies yesterday as Manuel Weeks also lost to fellow FM Valery Zolotukhin.

Bizarre Kalmykia

From The Independent:

The Kalmyk leader has great faith in the predictions of an elderly Bulgarian fortune-teller named Vanga, who apparently foretold his presidencies of both FIDE and Kalmykia. He counts among his friends Chuck Norris, the Dalai Lama and the late Saddam Hussein, whom he met several times in an attempt to bring the World Chess Championships to Baghdad.

Read more in Bishops, Buddhism, and brutality: Inside the bizarre world of Kalmykia.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Chill Mr. Gil

Thanks to this post by Shaun, I found my way this morning to The Chess Drum site. Actually, I've known about The Chess Drum for a few years now and, I have to say, it's one chess site that I take the time to visit regularly. They've also recently launched a blog.

Scrolling my way around the blog, my eyes were immediately drawn to particular post with a rather juicy title: "Is The Chess Drum a Racist Website". You can read the post yourselves but our Aussie readers might be interested to know that the whole thing was provoked by one IM Javier Gil. "I find your site very offensive and racist, and I think a lot of other people do also", Javier is quoted as saying. If you didn't know, Javier is a regular visitor to Oz and, in fact, the last time I checked he was living in Sydney.

That whole discussion was serious enough to provoke The Chess Drum creator, Dr. Daaim Shabazz, to pen a lengthy essay.

Look, Javier is a good friend of this blog and we rather like his positive opinion of TCG on his site - but, I'm afraid, we have no choice but to completely disagree with him on this one! That Dr Shabazz reports exclusively on black chess doesn't make him racist. We might as well say the same about Kiko who covers exclusively those brown people called the Filipinos! As far as I am concerned, this is just a form of highly specialised reporting about, by and for a certain segment of the chess playing population. What's wrong with that?

A couple of weeks ago we posted on these pages something about Web 2.0 and chess. Well what could be more Web 2.0 than giving content and voice to a once near-invisible chess crowd? And did I hear somebody say "the long tail"?

Mr Gil, mate, I'm sure you've got this one terribly wrong. Chill dude!

Smerdon Defeats Vovk

I'm getting nervous! Are you nervous? This is exciting stuff. Last night David Smerdon posted another win in the Pardubice Open. The 22 year old Queenslander defeated Ukrainian IM Andriy Vovk, rated 2513, in 81 moves playing the white side of a 2. c3 Sicilian.

According to my database David was the first to produce a novelty with his 13. Bg5. Vovk won the exchange early but his King remained in the centre for most of the game and this was skilfully exploited by David. A couple of cutesy attempts by Vovk to draw later in the game came to nothing.

Tonight's round will surely not be one to miss as our young IM makes an appearance on board number 1 to face off against third seed local GM Viktor Laznikca (2594).

Manuel Weeks is continuing his drawish run as he split the point again last night with Israeli Evgeny Karasik. The Aussie Men's Olympiad captain has 2 points and will play against Valery Zolotukhin next.

Seven players, among whom is David Smerdon, are leading on 4.5 points.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Smerdon Has 7-Move Draw

It was a short 7-mover draw for Smerdon last night against GM Gajewski. The Australian IM, who is gunning for his third GM norm in Pardubice, will front up against IM Andriy Vovk next. David is on 3.5 points after 4 games.

Manuel Weeks, on the other hand, posted another draw against Boris Furman and the Aussie now has 1.5 points.

Internet Regression

Chess people are nice people. I know this. Most I like or at least tolerate. And one can honestly say that most chess people are also intelligent. Well, for a group with a cerebral pursuit you'd think this to be the case anyway. But place some chess guys behind a computer to live a certain life in the online world and it seems that some of us transform into completely different beings! More aggressive, argumentative, just downright weird - whatever. No doubt this is true, not just for we chessers, but for all walks of life.

A couple of days ago I stumbled upon a decade old article by Norman Holland that gives an insight into what he calls "internet regression". It's an interesting read and may give us all some food for thought but at least a good laugh.

Read The Internet Regression.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Smerdon Beats GM Oleksienko

Playing on board 6 last night IM David Smerdon defeated GM Mikhailo Oleksienko of Ukraine in the 3rd round of Pardubice. The win would have delighted many Aussie fans who might have stayed up late to watch the live broadcast. Smerdon is so far undefeated after 3 rounds and now plays another grandmaster in Polish player Grzegorz Gajewski (2556).

Manuel Weeks, playing in the same tournament, drew with Marian Sabol. His next opponent is FM Boris Furman.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sanity Saved by Chessers

It was a black night for Australian sport last night - a complete and total disaster. The Wallabies lost to the mighty All Blacks, again! The Socceroos were upset by Japan with two Premiere Leaguers missing their spot kicks. (But somebody please just toss this Graham Arnold out!) And the Aussie women netballers (not that we normally care about this sport) were beaten by their Kiwi opposition after leading by 10 goals halfway through the third quarter! What the hell is going on?

Whatever, on the chess board at least our boys are doing us proud. In Pardubice's second round, IM David Smerdon beat Ramesa Davor while compatriot and Olympiad skipper FM Manuel Weeks drew with Aleksandar Kaminik.

David will have his first GM assignment tonight, on board 6, against Mikhailo Oleksienko (2567) of Ukraine and Manuel will play against 2285-rated Marian Sabol.

It's likely that David's game will be broadcast live. Games commence at 3PM local time which is 11PM Sydney time.

Prodigal Sons and Daughters

Here's a cheerio to my friend Nick who couldn't stop talking about his performance in the currently running NSW Grade Matches. Over steak and vino last Friday, actually he ordered orange juice, myself and some other fellow sat there as we had to read a print out of U1700 score table. Player no. 31 is the highest scoring and also has the highest percentage score across all divisions! Wow...well done mate, we said to him. For Nick this was a big turnaround after telling me over the last couple of years that chess is a complete waste of time! Now he might hate me now for revealing that but, really, I've got an important question in mind.

The question is: are there any of you, or do you know anyone, who once once left our game, holding some negative thoughts about chess (e.g. chess is a time waster, a life waster, etc) only then to make a comeback? We might call these guys our prodigal sons and daughters. I suppose there are some other questions like the reason for the comeback. What was the outcome - good, bad? And was the "second" relationship long-lasting?

It's a topic that's interested me in a while now actually because there is one other friend of mine, previously one of the state's most talented up and comers, who one day lost a game then suddenly just imploded! That was that for him. He just threw his books away, gave up the game, and never looked back. Since then I've been trying to think of some strategies to drag this fellow back. What can we do?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Two Aussies in Pardubice

A win in round 1 gets David Smerdon off to a positive start in the Pardubice Open. He beat Bruno Steiner, rated 2260, of Austria. Next up will be Davor Ramesa of Croatia.

Manuel Weeks is also there but he lost in round 1 to IM Mikhail Nedochetov.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Unbeatable Checkers Program

For something completely different now. If you fancy a bit of checkers, you can now also play against a computer that apparently never loses! Called Chinook, the computer program has taken some 18 years to finally reach its reputedly unbeatable version. Read the IHT report here and play against Chinook here.

Championships Bidding War

A real fight is on for the 2007-08 Australian Chess Championships. After weeks of laying low - Sydney businessman Peter Parr has fired off a shot that will surely generate some alarm among the only bidders so far, a Victorian-based team constituting mainly of middleweights from the Box Hill CC. I'm sure that these southern boys are getting worried: they're up against a real heavyweight now.

I'm not sure exactly what finally motivated this latest move by Peter. Just a couple of weeks ago I asked him, point blank, if he was interested in bidding considering the carrot offered by the ACF. He wasn't interested then. No matter, we're here now.

But the bid is still a tad uncertain, being tied to a decision by the NSW Bridge Association to have their premises made available to a chess tourney during the proposed dates, but it is at least a little more attractive than its Victorian rival. Better for me to just hop on a train in the country's number one city than go all the way to Melbourne. Peter also guarantees a minimum prize fund of $12,500. Not exactly a super class figure, but hey, I ain't complaining.

To complicate all this there are these "rumours" of a third bid based out of Parramatta. But details of that are tighter than a Harry Potter book release. Don't expect pictures of bid documents at your favourite file-sharing site any time soon. These guys, that's if there is a bid, are bloody good. Well - certainly not as talkative as as their Victorian rivals.

For the moment, I don't care who wins so long as it's Sydney based. Honestly, we're talking about Australia's most fashionable city and ranked by Monocle magazine in number 7 spot among its Top 20 Most Livable Cities in the world. A vote for the south will be a poorer decision indeed!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Death Celebrates Half Century

Among films with a chess motif (or scene) the 1957 Swedish film The Seventh Seal is perhaps one of the most memorable. But for my money nothing beats the original Thomas Crown Affair. This year The Seventh Seal is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary Stephen Applebaum pays a tribute:

Settling down to watch the film for its 50th anniversary release, I wondered whether it was possible to take it seriously today. I quickly discovered that even after all the chuckling homages, The Seventh Seal still stands as a thought-provoking rumination on the existence of God, faith, love, and the fear of death.

An existential drama par excellence, it yokes Cold War anxieties (nuclear annihilation becomes the Black Death) to Bergman's personal demons, riffing on philosophical ideas found in Strindberg, Camus and Kierkegaard. Does God exist? If He doesn't, what is the meaning of life? If He does and one has no faith, what then? Bergman walks his characters, and us, to the edge of the abyss, and points his camera directly into it.

From the Scotsman.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

OzChess.com.au - New Forum

I don't believe it! What can I say? Another chess forum.

Alex T. (yeah, I have to call him that because he doesn't like his surname to be mentioned) has just opened for business with www.ozchess.com.au. Playing up to his online moniker, Arrogant-One, Mr. T calls his new site "the leading Australian Chess Discussion Forum". Leading what exactly, I've got no idea.

The site is now accepting registrations.

I wish Mr T and his mates well, all the best and all that, but I've got an itchy feeling that they'll just fall over themselves busily taking pot shots at their rivals in Chess Chat. I've got one question in mind right now: who will fire off the first flame and aimed at whom? This should be fun.

Smerdon in Czech Open

After a less than successful stint in Budapest, IM David Smerdon is now off to the Czech Open for another try at that GM norm. This is a huge event and Smerdon will face off against much tougher opponents than in the First Saturday. As at this morning there are some 48 players rated over 2500+ with Viktor Laznicka, 2608, as the top seed; David is seeded 84th.

While the actual festival began about a week ago, David's section is due to commence this Friday, 20 July. Live games should be available here. Good luck David!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Web 3.0?

Just as when are talking about Web 2.0 in the chess world - the rest of the web now seems to be talking about Web 3.0! Mr. Hosch, for example, even mentions chess in passing in his blog for Britannica when he talks about web 3.0. I'm just not sure that this so-called "ubiquitous computing" definition. Kinda scary! Imagine that: "devices interacting with our every step"! Not for me thanks.

Or maybe you prefer this take by the How To Split An Atom blog: "Highly specialized information silos, moderated by a cult of personality, validated by the community, and put into context with the inclusion of meta-data through widgets." I don't know about you but I can already think of a few good chess examples today that come pretty close to that definition.

Anyway, enough of all this fancy talk. I just remembered that it was our birthday yesterday! Scroll down here.

Blayney Beats Bathurst

Phil Bourke's local chess club, Blayney, were winners on tiebreak over rivals Bathurst. Here is a detailed report by the Blayney Chronicle.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Kissing at Condom Chess Festival

Remember this post a couple of days ago? It seems that this Condom town is full of kissing places, not just the river. There is, for example, the Hotel de la Baise and this joint called Cave de la Baise. We have a photo of IM Alex Wohl and Pinoy Joseph Sanchez standing in front of Cave de la Baise. No doubt they were there to pick up a few cases of the local vino!

IMs Sanchez, of the Philippines (L) and Wohl, of Australia (R)

Last round details from the Condom Festival are now up. Wohl, sadly, lost his last 2 games, to GM Grigore in the 8th then to FM Vincent David in the 9th. He collected 6 points all up. GM Grigore was the eventual sole winner with 8 points followed by IM Godard who garnered 7 points for the outright second spot.

In his RR section, Sanchez ended on 5 points. His run included 3 losses, 2 draws and 4 wins.

Thanks to Alex Wohl for initially giving me the info on this tournament and also for providing some nice unusual details.

For Rogers' RP Fans

We've had interest from the Philippines on GM Ian Rogers' retirement. Our RP-based journo friend is surprised at Ian's latest move at such a young age. (So Mr Dee, this post is for you).

And last Friday, while I was out on a work social, my cell phone kept ringing with an SMS message from a mate of mine demanding that I post a tribute to Ian Rogers. I shot back saying that the guy is only retiring for crying out loud! At any rate, I'm not really qualified to write this "tribute".

But the latest ACF e-newsletter has good info on GM Rogers' resignation as well as his career. Rogers himself also talked about the same in his column in yesterday's Sydney Sun-Herald. It's the best we have directly from the still Aussie number one.

Last Sunday, following the final round of the Checkmate Open in Adelaide, I announced my retirement from all forms of tournament chess.

The decision, made six days earlier, was not voluntary but was based on unanimous medical opinion that the stress of tournament chess had caused, and would continue to cause, serious health problems unless I stopped permanently.

By the way, the Wikipedia entry on Rogers has been updated. It does need some beefing up though. The guy's career could fill a whole book.

Smerdon Ends With Draw

Game 9 and the tournament ended as a draw for IM Smerdon in the First Saturday tournament in Budapest.

7.0 Caruana, Fabiano
5.5 Ilincic, Zlatko
5.0 Todorovic, Goran M; Smerdon, David; Fruebing, Stefan
4.5 Bui, Vinh; Fogarasi, Tibor
3.5 Vernay, Clovis
3.0 Kjartansson, Gudmundur
2.0 Hammes, Michael

That last GM norm will have to wait another day. We've no idea yet if David is off to another tournament after Budapest. I'll let you know as soon as I find out.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Condom Update

This event was supposed to have finished yesterday but the site has so far not been updated with the final results. All we can tell is that Wohl lost his round 8 game to Romanian GM Grigore and was due to play against FM Vincent David next.

The coverage site only has what appear to be prelim results. To be confirmed but it looks like Grigore is the ultimate winner and Wohl is nowhere to be seen.

Readers following the progress of Pinoy IM Joseph Sanchez will be disappointed to learn that he dropped another point in round 8 to Kevin Roser. Sanchez tally after 8 games is 4 points.

Extra Half Point to Smerdon

Round 8 was draw for IM David Smerdon in Budapest. His next opponent will be FM Stefan Fruebing who last night drew with the leading player IM Fabiano Caruana. Standings after 8 games:

6.0 Caruana, Fabiano
5.0 Ilincic, Zlatko
4.5 Bui, Vinh; Smerdon, David; Fruebing, Stefan
4.0 Todorovic, Goran M; Fogarasi, Tibor
3.0 Vernay, Clovis
2.5 Kjartansson, Gudmundur
2.0 Hammes, Michael

Readers will notice that David has just earned an extra half-point! Well, we reported his game result against GM Todorovic as a draw when, in fact, David had won. (I swear the email recorded that encounter as drawn). Here is the game supplied by the arbiter.

Play Chess on Facebook

As if there isn't enough online chess around, here is another one for those who have a Facebook account. Simply called "Chess", it's actually an application that you can attach to your Facebook account. Play is turn-based so it's not like you'll have a gameboard similar to ICC or Playchess.

For the time being the app is beset with problems. Checkmates, for example, are recorded as just checks! I don't know if they've corrected that one. There are reports also of slow page loads. But the biggest problem is that you just can't seem to play. I've had this message since I added the app: "Chess is currently down to move server, will be up within the next few hours. Thank you!"

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Smerdon - Todorovic, Draw

David drew his seventh game last night against Goran Todorovic to move up to 3.5 points. Standings:

5.5 Caruana, Fabiano
4.5 Ilincic, Zlatko
4.0 Bui, Vinh; Fruebing, Stefan
3.5 Todorovic, Goran M; Smerdon, David; Fogarasi, T.
2.5 Vernay, Clovis; Kjartansson, Gudmundur
1.5 Hammes, Michael

Next up for the Aussie is Frenchman FM Vernay Clovis (2381).

Pablo Spotted in Milan

Last night I noticed that there was suddenly a surge of web traffic coming in from Italy. After a quick check, it wasn't too difficult to determine the cause. An Italian online group were talking about a familiar name and these guys happened to feature this link in their discussions.

That's right - Pablo Williams! It seems that our old friend is now in Milan.

Friday, July 13, 2007

David Draws With GM

It was another draw yesterday for David Smerdon as he now moves up to 3 points after 6 games. His opponent was GM Tibor Foragasi (2425) and now faces another grandmaster in Goran Todorovic (2471) in the seventh round. Standings update:

5.0 Caruana, Fabiano
4.0 Ilincic, Zlatko
3.5 Fruebing, Stefan
3.0 Todorovic, Goran M; Bui, V.; Smerdon, D.
2.5 Fogarasi, Tibor; Kjartansson, Gudmundur
2.0 Vernay, Clovis
1.5 Hammes, Michael

I should acknowledge and thank the arbiter, Kovács Ernő, for including me in the daily event updates. It's a big help, I'm sure, also for chess fans Down Under. Cheers to David, too, for letting me know of his European adventures! Good luck.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Alex Wohl Gives Kissing Lesson

After that setback in round 3, Alex Wohl strung three wins in a row and now has 5 points after 6 games. He is just a point behind sole leader GM Grigore-Gabriel in the Condom Festival, in France. Two other players, IM Godard and the 2145-rated Romain Lacroix, are also on 5 points going into the seventh round.

And here's a bit of trivia courtesy of Alex.

Running through the town of Condom is a river called "La Baise". In English that means, the river "Kiss". Alex's trusty Lonely Planet guidebook warns that "Baise" meaning "kiss" is not to be confused with another "baise" meaning "fuck" (as in that movie "Baise Moi" which was banned in Australia a few years ago).

Says Alex, "I'm sure lots of tourists with phrase books would surmise that the river Fuck flows through Condom!"

Also, and thanks again to Alex for the info, Pinoy international master Joseph Sanchez is actually a participant in a 10-man RR in Condom. The Filipino isn't having the best of tournaments dropping his first 2 games. He lost the first game to Cioara then the second to the 2294-rated van Elst. He has managed two wins and two draws since then as the event goes into the seventh round.

Hogwarts House Chess Set

A couple of weeks ago Shaun mentioned a Harry Potter chess set that fans can eventually complete by buying individual magazine issues. For Potter fans with deeper pockets, you could also buy a "Hogwarts House Quidditch Chess Set". Made of hardwood with 24K gold plating, that's bound to cost a small fortune.

If that's not enough, and you have a little more dough, there is also the Final Challenge set - a replica of that one used in "The Sorcerer's Stone".

While we're talking movies, you just have to go and see the Transformers movie - definitely the coolest movie so far in 2007! There's a chess set for this too.

Round 5 Win for Smerdon

A win for Smerdon yesterday over IM Vinh Bui brings the Aussie to 2.5 points. Fabiano Caruana still leads on 4.5 with Ilincic on 3.5.

Below is a game played in round 2 between FM Michael Hammes and David. That was the Australian's first point in this tournament.

4.5 Caruana, Fabiano
3.5 Ilincic, Zlatko
3.0 Fruebing, Stefan
2.5 Bui, Vinh; Smerdon, David
2.0 Todorovic, Goran M; Fogarasi, T.; Vernay, Clovis; Kjartansson, G.
1.0 Hammes, Michael

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Smerdon Draws

David Smerdon yesterday drew against the so-far undefeated IM Fabiano Caruana in the GM section of July's First Saturday tournament. The lone Australian now has 1.5 points out of 4 games. Standings are:

3.5 Caruana, Fabiano
3.0 Ilincic, Zlatko; Fruebing, Stefan
2.5 Bui, Vinh
2.0 Kjartansson, Gudmundur
1.5 Smerdon, David; Fogarasi, Tibor; Vernay, Clovis
1.0 Todorovic, Goran M
0.5 Hammes, Michael

While in France, IM Alex Wohl had a win in round 5 against Etienne Adam. Wohl moves up to 4 points - a whole point behind leader GM George-Gabriel Grigore.

Stunted Talent

This recent bit of news from Vietnam just about broke my heart:

On the day that Minh and Thang flew with 92 members of the Vietnamese chess team to join a regional competition, Minh said to his mother, “I will try to win every single game because we have run out of money, haven’t we, Mom?” At this, Mrs. Xuan was at a loss for words, knowing her little son could have such a mature thought.

From Vietnam Net.

One of the best things about chess is that it really doesn't take much to learn the game and it's cheap. In the beginning, at least, all you need is a chess set and a few friendly people to practice with. Big expenses only kick in when you get better or gain some higher ambitions. You might buy books and software, subscribe to magazines, get coached, or play in tournaments - both locally and, for the really ambitious, overseas. Lucky for us here, as well as in other so called developed countries, all these things are, well, easily attainable.

But clearly not for the brothers Tran Tuan Minh and Tran Minh Thang. I'm sure there's a lot of them out there. You can see these guys with plenty of potential and then, bang(!), it all just comes to a halt. Unless there's some government-run program to nurture these guys until they're set on their on as pros, the kids are likely to be lost. And that would be tragic.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

NSWCA Gets Sponsor

Those guys at the NSWCA are a shy bunch, aren't they? They never tell us anything. Not even when it's important news, you know, like getting a sponsor!

Waiting for me today was the usual pile of murdered trees from our state chess association. To my surprise, the leaflet announcing the details for this year's state chess championships has, in big bold headline, "2007 Integra NSW Championships". Integra who? It's a sponsor. What else could it be? But is there a URL for Integra in the leaflet? Nope! None. What about on the NSWCA website? No info there either, no announcement, nothing.

Talk about keeping a business partner unhappy right from the get-go!

TCG isn't so horrible, really. So we'll just have to do these NSWCA guys a favour. My dear readers, if you ever need water treatment solutions or just need to know about them, Integra's your mob. Thanks to Google, you can check them out here.

Look, honestly, just for scoring the arrangement - that's well done. And I swear, it's not the Elliot Rock Estate merlot talking right now.


The much talked-about iPhone, some of you may be glad to know, will come with a chess application dubbed the "iChess". But initial feedback hasn't been positive.

Unfortunately, iPhones will not arrive in these shores until 2008, sometime in Q1 I think. Hopefully by then some, if not most, of the reported bugs will have already been ironed out including a better performing iChess.

Tough Battles for Aussie Duo

Two Australian international masters are battling it out overseas. In the Condom Festival, Alex Wohl was upset in round 3 by 2200-rated NIcholas Sanchez. Alex managed to bounce back in the fourth by beating Belgian player Wouter Gryson to post a tally so far of 3 points. GM George-Gabriel leads the field on 4 points while 6 other players are hot on his tail with 3.5 points apiece.

In Budapest IM David Smerdon went down in the third game to GM Zlatko Ilincic. The Australian remains on just a single point, courtesy of a win in round 2, while IM Fabiano Caruana remains undefeated with 3 points. Smerdon will face Caruana in the fourth round.

Standings in Smerdon's section (GM tournament) are as follows:

3.0 Caruana, Fabiano
2.5 Ilincic, Zlatko
2.0 Bui, Vinh; Fruebing, Stefan
1.5 Kjartansson, Gudmundur
1.0 Smerdon, David; Fogarasi, Tibor; Vernay, Clovis
0.5 Todorovic, Goran M; Hammes, Michael

Monday, July 09, 2007


The ASEAN Chess Confederation has formally announced the creation of an ASEAN GP series. Dubbed the ASEAN Masters International Chess Grand Prix, the inaugural series will be held across 3 ASEAN members with a total prize fund of USD$25,000. Details and regulations are available here.

Of interest to RP chess fans is also an announcement from NCFP boss Congressman Prospero Pichay. The confederation's minutes record that, "To be No. 1 in Asia, the Congressman also agreed that there is a need to have chess as a subject in schools and to have a chess academy in the Philippines too."

TechCrunch Reviews Chess.com

Chess.com, a social networking site that we reviewed in May, has finally made it to TechCruch. Kudos to them.

A recent addition to Chess.com is the ability to "play asynchronously with your opponent". Basically, that's email chess! Other than that I can't see anything significantly different from the last time I dropped in. Well, OK, the number of members has ballooned and there's a whole lot more blog posts and forum topics. That's about it, I think.

Smerdon Posts First Win

In round 2, IM David Smerdon beat FM Michael Hammes, rated 2390, to score his first point in the First Saturday GM Tournament (July). IM Fabiano Caruana leads on 2 points after 2 rounds.

Here's a list of players in David's section that I received from the arbiter.

1 Bui, Vinh IM (2466)
2 Fogarasi, Tibor GM (2425)
3 Todorovic, Goran M GM (2471)
4 Vernay, Clovis FM (2381)
5 Smerdon, David IM (2461)
6 Kjartansson, Gudmundur (2306)
7 Hammes, Michael FM (2390)
8 Ilincic, Zlatko GM (2509)
9 Caruana, Fabiano IM (2549)
10 Fruebing, Stefan FM (2319)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Breaking News: Smerdon Upset by FM

This just in. International master David Smerdon is on a hunt for a GM norm in Budapest, Hungary. He is presently participating in the famous First Saturday tournament. Our source informs me that David, sadly, began with a setback losing to Iceland's FM Gudmundur Kjartansson (FIDE 2306) in the first round.

Let's hope that David can recover and earn that all-important GM norm! It's been a while since our last homegrown grandmaster and it will be very appropriate indeed especially after today's shocking news on Shaun Press' blog. GM Ian Rogers today announced his retirement from competitive chess play.

Pinoy Knocks Out Aussie

I'm not really a boxing fan myself but I am a big fan of Pinoys who are world beaters. And today was another glorious day for Pinoy boxing. US-based Pinoy boxer Nonito Donaire pummeled the Australian Vic Darchinyan to win their IBF/IBO flyweight fight in the 5th round. Nonito sent Vic dazed and confused with a gorgeous left and it was lights out! Even my 57-year old mother was bouncing up and down with glee.

The BBC quotes Donaire as saying, "This fight wasn't just for me, it was for my family and the Filipino people, too. I could feel their energy tonight. I felt so good in the ring."

Amen to you brother!

Secrets of Chess Club Organisation

I've just found out that the BCM's editor John Saunders has moved his blog, previously hosted on Yahoo, to blogger.com. John posts somewhat irregularly but each one is worth a read. His latest entry a couple of days ago contains an interesting idea. How about a book, Secrets of Chess Club Organisation?

Perhaps someone at Hastings could do us all a favour and write a chess book called Secrets of Chess Club Organisation. In the long run, this would be vastly more useful than 100 books on how to play the Sicilian Defence. Without legions of volunteers and helpers, competition chess would simply disappear. As someone who has played a part in trying to run a chess club (looking back I don't think I was very good at it), I know that it is damnably difficult to keep a club running for 5 or 10 years, let alone 125. Of course, there are other splendidly-run clubs elsewhere in Britain as well as Hastings but I don't [think] there are as many of them as we need and I know for a fact that clubs can die for want of a bit of common sense in their organisation. Now that our cadre of professional players is dwindling down to a handful, it may be time for a 'back to basics' campaign so that we can attempt to rebuild British chess from the bottom up.

Read the whole post here.

Closer to home, the issue of chess clubs was recently taken up by Shaun Press who likened the evaporation of player numbers in chess clubs to that of Lake George. Mr Press also asked a simple question: "So what is the cause?"

Look, I can' speak for others but let me give you guys my own experience.

I was once a member of two clubs - first with the Canterbury Bulldogs, then, much later with the Fairfield RSL CC. I finished my association with both clubs for various reasons and here I list them with a little explanation.

Lack of time. Clubs meet on weeknights, just when I either need to do some R&R or need to get home and work all over again! No atmosphere. When I think of chess clubs I'm thinking about some joint like Hastings or Marshall. But the ones I've been associated with are nowhere like those foreign joints. Weekly meets at Canterbury, for instance, was in a drab little room right next to an auditorium. Distance. While Canterbury was just down the road from me, Fairfield was a further long way away. Fairfield's advantage was that they met on Saturdays and definitely had better atmosphere. We used to play in the table tennis area and next door was the billiards room. So there was plenty of human traffic and the overall feel of the place was a bit more friendly. What really killed off my Fairfield link, however, was the old and familiar politics. Back in the day the club even subsidised my tournament entry fees. Plus I distinctly recall being provided a bit of pocket money for grade matches. Due to some complicated internal politics, all that ended and I said, kaput!

Finally, I'm really the type who's just afraid of commitment. The idea of having to schedule some regular time with a chess club is a huge weight on my mind. I hate it. I just want to be able to do my thing anytime I want without commitment. What's wrong with that? A de facto arrangement is more my taste. And that's exactly what I have today with some mates. There's a whole bunch of guys who meet every weekday, in the food hall, underneath St Andrew's Cathedral at Town Hall, in Sydney. I go there after work but I have the luxury knowing that I don't need to commit or, worse, make some major decision in the annual AGM, battle in some political shit-fight, or whatever. Like the ideal relationship, we're all very flexible too. On Friday evenings we pack up and move our humble little "club" to the second floor of the Spanish Club. There we have a whole dance floor to ourselves, have a few drinks, and do what we love - play chess late into the night! It's great.

Whatever are the reasons for the demise of chess clubs I have to say that I care very little for them. As long as I'm still getting what I want, play chess, whenever I want - are all that count. I don't need a chess club for those wants.

But what I do need is a competent state and national body that can organise the formal events - be they tournaments, fund raising, seeking sponsorships, government recognition, and so on. Questions around these are more critical, I think.

6th Condom Open

In case Google hasn't helped, the Australian chesser involved in the Condom Festival is none other than IM Alex Wohl. He is currently playing in the 6th edition of the tournament held in Gers, France.

Wohl is the third seed behind GM George-Gabriel Grigore, of Romania, and Frenchman IM Vincent Colin. The first round was scheduled to commence yesterday but so far there hasn't been any updates on the official site.

UPDATE: Site is now updated. Bulletin in PDF is also available. Wohl was victorious in the first game against Thierry Cruzel.


A familiar kind board game for Australian residents.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Aussie in Condom Festival

Condom manufacturer Durex Australia is looking for 200 "sexecutives". The job, essentially, is to be a condom tester. Wow! I suppose to be fit and healthy are principal requirements. If anyone of you blokes reckon that you have the right stuff, just give Sam White a call.

Sam, Durex marketing manager, said, "With this job on your CV, it really will be a chance to brag to your mates about the special skills you possess, not to mention that your new role will work wonders with the opposite sex."

Why am I talking about this? No reason, other than tell you that an Australian chesser will feature in a Condom Festival. All I can say is, good luck mate.

The Liberal

I happened to be at the newsagent this morning, flicking through some magazines, and there in the "current affairs" section was The Liberal, a publication about poetry, politics and culture. A familiar name appeared on the front cover, Garry Kasparov. No surprise really, he was on and on again about Russia under Putin. I'm sad to say that there is no free content available on the net so interested readers will have to purchase the magazine. I think it's about AUD$12.00

However, I did spot a poem, in the mag's online pages, that I thought was quite apt given our post about yesterday Sochi. "Near Sochi", by Robert Conquest.

Malaysian Chess Festival Site

Andrew Ooi just sent me the link to the official site. Entry forms are now also available for download.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Sochi Gets Olympic Games

In case you haven't heard, the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, battleground of many a Russian Teams Championships, has just been announced as the host for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.

The Russian bid beat the 2 other finalists from South Korea and Austria. But things are already a bit shaky. Greenies are warning of possible environmental damage and the official website is barely 100% available.

Malaysian Chess Festival 2007

This is fresh info from our man in KL, Andrew Ooi. Just a quick reminder of the upcoming Malaysian Chess Festival. Dates to note are:

4th Dato' AT Malaysian Open, 20 - 26 Aug
CitiTel Mid Valley

AmBank Chess Challenge, 20 - 26 Aug
CitiTel Mid Valley

National Women 2007, 22 - 26 Aug
CitiTel Mid Valley

ASTRO Merdeka Rapid Team event ,18 - 19 Aug
CitiTel Mid Valley

ASTRO Merdeka Standard Team event, 31 Aug - 02 Sept
Wilayah Kompleks

Andrew sent me some entry forms but I'm not able to load them up to blogger. As soon as I have the official site URL, I'll update this post with a link.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Chess and Web 2.0

In the latest Australian Chess Magazine, Brian Jones devotes his whole editorial to "Web 2.0". BJ's point is straightforward enough: to use technology, the web 2.0 kind, to promote and raise the profile of chess. He talks about bulletin boards, blogs, and Flickr; even YouTube as well as MySpace get a mention.

Rather ironic I thought. Here is a print man talking about technologies that pretty much put his medium on flimsy footing. Just think: what is in any chess magazine today that can't be delivered more speedily, cheaply and in larger quantities via the web? Not a lot! Pretty soon chess magazines will be dead - including, I predict - that most exalted of them all, New In Chess. Which makes me wonder also: might BJ be foretelling the demise of his printed ACM? ACM 2.0, perhaps, subscription via the web! Why not, indeed? Maybe then those articles will at last have the immediacy they truly deserve.

Still, I must thank BJ. Yours truly gets a mentioned, not once, but twice! I love it, great, free publicity! Maybe I should turn this whole blogging thing into a for-profit venture, you know, before he beats me to it.

Just kidding.

Also in the editorial are my fellow bloggers, Shaun Press (ChessExpress) and Trent Parker (Blog of a Chess Nut). The former is especially interesting as it's written by a seasoned organiser, arbiter and an Olympiad player (for PNG). I especially like it when his posts venture into the political, like this one. There's our blogging friend being called "incompetent" by no less than the sitting ACF head honcho, Gary Wastell. What was Mr Wastell thinking? I bet he never thought that little moment of brain implosion to be pasted on some web page somewhere. And that folks is another benefit of the Web 2.0 world. There's a gun sight on every chess politician's head. Figuratively speaking, that is.

I end with a couple of questions. BJ's piece rounds off with this sentence: "The chess community must benefit as we increasingly use modern technology to raise the profile of chess in Australia!" But how exactly? With these blogs, forums, Flickr sites, etc - isn't the community just talking to itself?

Over to you.

By the way, this little video is interesting.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Miraculous Win By Alex

After he lost in the penultimate round, it looked as if all hope was lost. However, the gods did smile upon Alex because he ended up winning the 10ème Open des Vins event! The site hasn't been updated yet but I did just now speak to somebody in France who confirmed that Alex won his last game while there were draws and an upset on the other boards.

Here is the champ with daughter Nina. Congrats man!

UPDATE: We've just been informed that Alex Wohl won 89 bottles of wine! Also, check the site again and you'll see that the final standings have been uploaded.

Chess After Death

I had no idea about this! It's weird. According to Robert Rollins, he acted as a medium for the ghost of Hungarian maestro Geza Maroczy so that he, Maroczy, could play chess against one Viktor Korchnoi. That game apparently went on, by mail, for 8 years.

Rollins says:

Maroczy was actually able to enter my body and move my arm. I can't play chess and never even liked the game, but when he plays through me I'm one of the best in the world. It's eerie.

This tidbit was featured in today's Sun Sentinel. The Maroczy - Korchnoi game can be viewed here.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

George Xie Wins Rooty Hill

Sydneysider IM George Xie scored back-to-back rapid tournament wins as he yesterday also took out the inaugural Rooty Hill Rapid tournament after last weekend's victory in the NSW Rapid event. Xie tallied 6.5 points while top seed Serbian GM Dejan Antic finished on 6 points.

According to our man in Rooty Hill, Leonardo Tenorio, Antic had a tough time overall as he managed only a draw with Pinoy-Aussie Benny Galvez. Benny was third place overall on 5.5 points.

Thirty-five players attended the event.

Shake That Hand or Lose

I have GM Ian Rogers' column in today's The Sun Herald (Sydney) to thank for this. Rogers reports of this latest decision by FIDE to immediately declare the game lost for a player who does not shake their opponent's hand. I checked the FIDE website, and yep, there it is.

Any player who does not shake hands with the opponent (or greets the opponent in a normal social manner in accordance with the conventional rules of their society) before the game starts in a FIDE tournament or during a FIDE match (and does not do it after being asked to do so by the arbiter) or deliberately insults his/her opponent or the officials of the event, will immediately and finally lose the relevant game.

Bad manners maybe, in certain circumstances, but a loss of game? They have got to be joking! Never mind that there may be perfectly legit circumstances for one to refuse to shake an opponent's hand. What if my opponent went to the toilet and I saw that he didn't wash his hands? Or how about Rogers' example in his column of former Aussie chess champion (in 1957 with S. Lazare) Karlis Ozols who was later discovered to be a former Latvian SS officer? "[O]ne could understand", GM Rogers writes, "if some of his Melbourne opponents found shaking his hand before a game a step too far".


Wohl Suffers Upset Loss

Sven-Holger Akstinat, who is rated 2182, scored an upset win over Australia international master Alex Wohl in the 8th round of 10ème Open des Vins du Médoc. After leading for much of this tournament, the loss now puts the Australian a half point behind 3 leaders going into the 9th and last round.

Over in Croatia, Shannon Oliver ended her campaign with a draw against Milorad Bulatovic for a total tally of 4 points. Her run included 6 draws, 1 win and 2 losses.