Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kasparov Caught in Revolt

Did you know this? Well, I didn't know this! Gary Kasparov is the subject of a doco entitled, "In the Holy Fire of Revolution" by film maker Masha Novikova. Apparently it was screened last month in Amsterdam for the International Documentary Festival (IDFA). Geoffrey Macnab writes a brief review in The Independent:

In the Holy Fire of Revolution plays like a downbeat Russian version of The War Room, the documentary on Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign to become US President. Whereas Clinton had a well-oiled election machine, with strategists and publicists smoothing over scandals and using the media to their advantage, the Kasparov campaign seems doomed almost from the start. The cameras capture rallies that are sabotaged by the security forces. We see Kasparov's doughty minders, who look like nightclub bouncers, talking of their loyalty and affection for him. Campaigners share shocking stories about how they have been intimidated and threatened.

The film provides a record of a political campaign that is never allowed to move out of first gear. There's no upbeat ending that Novikova can impose on her material. After all, Kasparov was eventually obliged to drop his presidential bid.

Read more in Kasparov's movie: from chess to politics.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Chess and Bikinis in Manly

Despite this post, the guys responsible for organising the upcoming Australian Open were still kind enough to extend an invitation* for me to photograph the opening ceremony. This will be held at 12 noon on January 2. Sadly, I've had to decline. I'll be working!


Anyway, yesterday, I happened to be in Manly where I snapped this photo below. Plenty of bikinis all around. Thus, here's a prediction: there'll be low numbers in the lightning tournament on the rest day. Who the hell is going to play chess on a rest day when you can laze about on the sand and surrounded by beautiful people?

Click to enlarge

As you can see, it was bright and sunny with only a very brief light fall of rain in the afternoon. That's pretty much the forecast for the next week or so. I know, I know - it seems kind of silly to be caring about the weather conditions when the chess is indoors. But those games won't last all day, and if you're going to be in Sydney, especially Manly, you might as well enjoy the sun, the surf and the scenery!

For our interstate or OS visitors, here's a site that might be useful - www.131500.com.au. There you'll find maps, routes, etc. And grab yourselves a travelpass; saves a dollars.

NOTE: This is the correct word, not "invite", popular nowadays even amongst supposedly educated people.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Men Are Superior to Women


Well, at least not according to Meric Bilalic of Oxford University. Here's science blogger Ed Yong on the subject.

Himself a keen chess player, Bilalic smelled a rat in Irwing's contention that men dominate the higher echelons of chess because of their innate ability. In an elegant new study, he has shown that the performance gap between male and female chess players is caused by nothing more than simple statistics.

Far more men play chess than women and based on that simple fact, you could actually predict the differences we see in chess ability at the highest level. It's a simple statistical fact that the best performers from a large group are probably going to be better than the best performers from a small one. Even if two groups have the same average skill and, importantly, the same range in skill, the most capable individuals will probably come from the larger group.

With this statistical effect in mind, Bilalic wanted to see if the actual sex difference that we see among chess players is any greater than the difference you would rationally expect. Fortunately, there are easy ways of finding out the answer for chess, as opposed to many other intellectual disciplines like science and engineering where success is nigh-impossible to measure objectively.

Read more in Why are there so few female chess grandmasters?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas

Merry Christmas to all our readers. Hopefully your chessic wishes came true! Enjoy the little break, indulge a bit on the food and have plenty to drink. For those who are playing in the upcoming Aussie Open or Queentown Classic or both, make sure to put in some practice. As for me, practice will just be plenty of blitz tomorrow, on Boxing Day, hopefully under a sunny Sydney sky.

And I can't sign off without at least thanking you, dear readers, for yet another action-filled year. It's really been a lot of fun!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Polgar's Strange Blogging Style

I just don’t get what Susan Polgar’s blog is doing. Is she aggregating content or actually blogging?

Check out this post, this one, and then this one too. Now compare each of those posts to these, respectively: The Otago Daily News, the East Valley Tribune and ChessDom. Notice anything peculiar?

Firstly, why doesn't Susan use the blogger convention of block quotes? Secondly, quoting more than 50% of somebody else's article? C'mon! I'm not saying anything - but to some people, that might actually amount to lifting content.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

That Rare Chess Movie

I was so intrigued by Arne Moll's review that I actually bought the book "Philosophy Looks at Chess" (PLC) last Saturday (along with E.H. Gombrich's "The Story of Art", as I've decided to study art history) and immediately began to read a couple of chapters. Anyway, this post isn't about that book at all, but about a movie. A chess movie!

For the time being let me just quote a short fragment from Stuart Rachels' chapter in PLC entitled, "The Reviled Art". Rachels, himself an international master and former joint winner of the US Chess Championships (in 1989, with Roman Dzindzichashvili and Yasser Seirawan), essentially laments the poor PR that chess suffers in the mind of the wider public. He writes, for example:

Consider how chess is portrayed in our culture. If you want to define a character as a nerd, mention that he's a chess player. If you want a movie, book, or play to do badly, even a good one, center it around chess. Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) was an excellent movie, but its box-office sales were poor. Since then, I can name only one movie in which chess was prominently featured.

Well, budding film-maker Matthew Thistle should take note!

Ex-Adelaide man Matthew, now living in the US, emailed me a few weeks ago with a draft copy of his pet project - a film he calls simply, "The 64 Squares". The story, he tells me, is about a "psychically aware but troubled ex-world chess champion, [who] crawls his way off the streets [of Sydney] to triumph over himself and play the Machiavellian world number one in a last extraordinary game."

I've not read the entire script but from what I've seen, the project looks and sounds interesting. During his research phase Matthew actually spent some time in Sydney's Hyde Park meeting some of the local regulars including a Vietnamese bloke, whom I've known for years, named Parramatta. Yes, that really is the guy's name! It's no surprise then that a number of characters in the film closely resemble those in real life. Even some well-known local masters, too, make an appearance, if only in the script.

Here's a little fragment from the opening scene wherein our protagonist, Oleg Vidovich, is just waking up from another night of heavy boozing. He is being pestered by Parramatta for a few games of chess.

Oleg squints, his furrowed face calms with breathing. Distracted by an intense, BLUE GLOW flickering around Parramatta’s skin. Superimposed, subliminal chess POSITIONS FLASH on a GLOWING BOARD during lagging blinks.

Oleg shakes it away, wincing at the light massaging his temples, taking in his dismal surroundings.

(in Bosnian; subtitled)
Oleg! If only Zaynab saw you now.

Damn eet! What wRong with you? Don’t you ever stop?

When you no drink!
This Boooou’shi’!. You play nAOw!

Blink. No more blue. Oleg sighs.

You vant to play? Have to pay patzer!

Furious, Parramatta rips out two crumpled fivers, flinging them with sharp tonal glottal stops.

(in Vietnamese; subtitled)
Over the hill bloodsucker!

Surprised, Oleg staggers up, counting the notes with magnified licks of his fingers, gauging Parramatta's response and pockets them, shaking his finger.

Now, now, be thankful, Para. Used to bee ten thouzand once.

Spying the bottle, he reaches down, fingers outstretched. Parramatta kicks it away in a glass PINGING RACKET.

At this time Matthew is just reworking the final act which, of course, involves a crucial over-the-board battle. He promises a "very trippy surprise ending". Well, now even I can't wait to see this thing up on the big screen! There's just one important hurdle: finance. Any millionaires out there with a couple of million dollars to spare and who'd like a rare chess movie to be made? Let me know and we'll gladly put you in touch with Matthew.

Monday, December 22, 2008

May the force be with you

I can't help but be amused by what Geurt Gijssen has to say in his latest article for Chess Cafe. Writing about the "0 minutes" rule:

Based on the report made by the chief arbiter of the Olympiad, Ignatius Leong, among other factors, the proposal of the committee was accepted by the RTRC [Rules and Tournament Regulations Committee]. In the meeting of the Executive Board, there was some opposition to the 0 minutes rule. There were several suggestions regarding 15 or 30 minutes, but there was no final proposal. In the General Assembly the discussion started again, and I explained that in effect nothing had been changed, but then the FIDE President proposed something different: Any player who arrives at the chessboard after the start of the session shall lose the game.

As you can see, the FIDE President does not like to make any exception. Each tournament committee has to accept the 0 minutes rule and the arbiter has no possibility to accept an excuse for the late arrival of a player, even in case of a clear “force majeure.”

So basically, the "force majeure" excuse is good enough for Kirsan, but not for anyone else. As I noted in my Olympiad round 11 live blog last month, "force majeure" was Kirsan's favourite phrase during his press conference. I think he must have uttered it no less than half a dozen times!

Why was the Qatar GP moved? Force majeure! Why all the changes in world championships...etc...etc? Force majeure! Why did you withdraw your personal guarantee of $750K? Force majeure!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Pablo's Return to Sydney

Guess who's back in Sydney? It's Pablo Williams. He was spotted in Pitt St today putting on his usual theatrics. Except this time, he's no longer describing himself as the Jamaican Chess Champion.

Pablo's latest story reads: "Mother dying of breast cancer. Fundraising to purchase flight ticket to Madagascar (Africa) to visit ill mother in hospital. $2000 required before Tuesday, the 13th of January. Coins, notes, handshake greatly appreciated."

Another change is that he now has a partner, apparently an ex-school chess champion herself. "Free game of 3-minute chess against former primary school girl chess champion", reads another poster. Here's a shot of her in action.

Whatever we may think of Pablo's antics, the guy is certainly living the life - just ping ponging from country to country. I understand that he's been to 36 nations over the last couple of years. Who wouldn't want to do that?

Chess on a High Wire

In case you missed it on Cathy Chua's blog, GM Zong Yuan Zhao followed up his Olympiad assignment with a stint in China's club championships. GM Rogers, in today's The Sun Herald newspaper, reports that Zhao scored 4 points out of his six games, enough to help his club (Jiangsu) avoid relegation.

Apart from his win over GM Li Shilong, Zhao also won the following hair-raising encounter (given by Rogers in his column). If he keeps playing like this we'll have to start calling him GM Zong "Piss In Your Pants" Yuan Zhao! Take a look.

Ningbo 2008
Ding, Liren
Zhao, Zong Yuan

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 c6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Qc2 Bd6 7. g4 h6 8. h3 dxc4 9. e4 e5 10. Bxc4 O-O (10... exd4 11. Nxd4 Ne5 12. Be2 Ng6 13. Be3 Bf4 14. Bxf4 Nxf4 15. O-O-O Qa5 16. Qd2 g5 17. h4 Bxg4 18. Bxg4 Nxg4 19. Nxc6 bxc6 20. Qd7+ Kf8 21. Qxg4 Rd8 22. hxg5 Rxd1+ 23. Kxd1 Nd3 24. Qf3 Nxb2+ 25. Kc2 Na4 26. Rxh6 Rxh6 27. gxh6 Nxc3 28. Qxc3 Qxa2+ 29. Kd3 Qb1+ 30. Ke3 Qh1 31. Qc5+ Ke8 32. Qxc6+ Ke7 33. Qc5+ Ke6 34. Qf5+ Ke7 35. Qe5+ Kd7 36. Qd5+ Ke7 37. Qb7+ Ke6 38. Qa6+ Ke7 39. Qxa7+ Kf6 40. Qd4+ Ke7 41. Qe5+ Kd7 42. Qg7 Ke6 43. Qg4+ Ke7 44. Qg5+ Ke8 45. Qe5+ Kf8 46. Qg7+ Ke7 47. Qg5+ Ke8 48. Qg8+ Ke7 49. h7 Qe1+ 50. Kf3 Qh1+ 51. Kf4 Qh2+ 52. Ke3 Qh6+ 53. Ke2 Qa6+ 54. Kf3 Qd3+ 55. Kf4 Qd6+ 56. Kg4 Qd1+ 57. Kg3 Qg1+ 58. Kf3 Qh1+ 59. Kf4 Qh2+ 60. Ke3 Qh6+ 61. f4 Qb6+ 62. Kf3 Qb3+ 63. Kg4 Qe6+ 64. Kg3 Qxe4 65. Qg5+ f6 66. Qc5+ Kf7 67. h8=Q {1-0 Morozevich,A (2774)-Gelfand,B (2723)/Dagomys RUS 2008/The Week in Chess 701}) 11. g5 hxg5 12. Bxg5 b5 13. Bb3 a5 14. O-O-O Qc7 15. dxe5 Nxe5 16. Bxf6 Nxf3 17. Qe2 Be5 18. Bxe5 Nxe5 19. f4 Ng6 20. f5 Qf4+ 21. Kb1 Ne5 22. Rhg1 a4 23. Qg2 Qh6

After 23...Qh6

24. Rd6 Qh7 25. Qg3 axb3 26. Qxe5 b4 27. Ne2 Bb7 28. axb3 c5 29. Qf4 Rfe8 30. e5 Qxh3 31. e6 Kf8 32. Kc2 Qf3 33. Qxf3 Bxf3 34. Rd7 Re7 35. Rxe7 Kxe7 36. Nf4 Be4+ 37. Kd2 Rd8+ 38. Ke3 Bxf5 39. exf7 Kxf7 40. Ra1 g5 41. Ra7+ Kf6 42. Ra6+ Ke5 43. Ng6+ Bxg6 44. Rxg6 Kf5 45. Rg7 Rd5 0-1

You have to sympathise with Ding. I can only imagine what he must have felt after losing a game like that. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, etc. But that's the way it goes.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Indon Earns WGM Title

Indonesian chess has just had another important milestone. Irene Kharisma Sukandar has become her country's first ever woman grandmaster after a string of excellent performances that included a fine run at the recent Dresden Olympiad. The Jakarta Post reports.

38th Olympiad
Sukandar, I.
Seps, M.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. Bg5 e6 7. f4 Qc7 8. Qf3 b5 9. Bd3 Nbd7 10. O-O-O Bb7 11. Rhe1 O-O-O 12. Kb1 Kb8 13. Qe3 b4 14. Nce2 Be7 15. c3 Qb6 16. cxb4 h6 17. Bxf6 Bxf6 18. b5 axb5 19. Bxb5 Nc5 20. Nc3 Rc8 21. e5 dxe5 22. fxe5 Be7 23. Be2 Na6 24. Bf3 Bg5 25. Qd3 Rhd8 26. Bxb7 Qxb7 27. Qe4 Rd7 28. Qxb7+ Rxb7 29. Ne4 Be7 30. Nb3 Nb4 31. Rf1 Bf8 32. Nc3 Nc6 33. Rde1 Rd8 34. Rf4 Bb4 35. Rc4 Na5

After 35...Na5

36. Rxb4 Rxb4 37. Nxa5 Rc8 38. Nb3 Rf4 39. Re2 Rcc4 40. Kc2 Rf5 41. Kd3 Rc7 42. Nd4 Rf1 43. b4 Rd7 44. a4 Rf4 45. Re4 Rf2 46. Rg4 f6 47. Ne4 Rf1 48. Nc5 Rd5 49. exf6 Rxf6 50. Kc4 Rd6 51. Ne4 1-0

38th Olympiad
Caoili, A.
Sukandar, I.

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e4 Bc5 5. Nxe5 Nxe5 6. d4 Bb4 7. dxe5 Nxe4 8. Qg4 Nxc3 9. a3 Bf8 10. Bg5 d6 11. Qh4 Qd7 12. bxc3 Qe6 13. Bd3 dxe5 14. Bxh7 g6 15. O-O Qg4 16. Rad1 Bd7 17. Rfe1 Qxh4 18. Rxe5+ Be7 19. Rxe7+ Kf8 20. Bxh4 Bg4 21. f3 Rxh7 22. Bf6 Be6 23. Rxc7 Rh5 24. g4 Ra5 25. Rxb7 Bxc4 26. Rbd7 Re8 27. Rd8 Bb5 28. c4 Ba4 29. Rxe8+ Bxe8 30. Bc3 Ra4 31. Bb4+ Kg7 32. Rd8 Bc6 33. g5 f5 34. Kf2 a5 35. Bf8+ Kf7 36. Bd6 Rxc4 37. Be5 Ke6 38. f4 Kf7 39. Rd6 Be8 40. h4 Rc2+ 41. Kg3 Rc6 42. Rd5 a4 43. Ra5 Rb6 44. Ra7+ Ke6 45. Ra8 Kf7 46. Ra7+ Ke6 47. Ra8 Kf7 1/2-1/2

Friday, December 19, 2008

MacWorld Reviews Chess App

I don't know if you guys have had a chance to examine the iPhone app, Chess With Friends, which I mentioned here, but here is a rather good review of the application by MacWorld:

One quibble with Chess With Friends: The app is not very good at alerting you to your next turn. In theory, the app’s home screen icon should show you how many moves are awaiting your attention with a number encircled in red, similar to an e-mail or application update alert. In practice, however, you need to open the app for your games to update. A prompter alarm would make for speedier games.

It isn’t difficult to imagine how Chess With Friends might evolve with future updates from developer NewToy. For the moment, it’s impossible to know just how many players are online and looking for a game. You are left at the mercy of the app to find an opponent for you. Why not embrace the social networking concept completely and let players choose?

More in MacWorld.

NSWCA/ACF Responds to Parr

A couple of days after this post, Peter Parr fired another one his usually long salvos at the familiar enemy, the NSWCA and ACF, in Australia's most popular chess bulletin board, Chess Chat. That move might have been a bad blunder. For now, Australian chess mandarin, Bill Gletsos, appears to have found no other choice but to publish the following email into the public domain (which I also publish here in full with minor edits added for punctuation and layout):

Dear Peter,

The NSWCA Council made it quite clear it had no involvement in the 2009 Australian Open bid, other than to offer a successful NSW based bidder the use of NSWCA equipment if required and the ability to put the tournament income and expenditure through the NSWCA accounts. As such your offer of sponsorship had nothing to do with the NSWCA.

Now the running of the 2009 Australian Open was awarded to Chris Dimock and Fred Shuetz (not Manly) by the ACF in late July 2008.

No mention of your offer was included in documents submitted to the ACF by Chris or Fred as part of their bid.

You claim that your offer was accepted by the ACF, the NSWCA and the organising committee in mid July 2008.

There is no correspondence I have seen from the ACF, the NSWCA or the organising committee to support this claim.

In fact in your email to Fred Shuetz dated the 10th September 2008 you clearly asked Fred: "Please list Chess Discount Sales as a sponsor of the event if the offer is accepted."

From this it is quite clear that as of the 10th September your offer of sponsorship had not been accepted.

At no stage since your email of the 10th September have I been informed either verbally or in writing by the organising committee that they have accepted your offer of sponsorship.

In fact the first I was aware of the fact they had apparently belatedly accepted it was when I saw it mentioned on the tournament website on 10th December along with the notice stating they were extending the early entry discount. This was 2 days after Chris Dimock advised he was withdrawing from the organising committee.

As such any issues you have regarding your sponsorship, its promotion and advertising, you need to take up directly with the organising committee.

The organisers are quite capable of advertising the event through various channels and can easily contact the ACF Newsletter editor Joe Tanti to have whatever information regarding the 2009 Australian Open placed in the ACF Newsletter.

Also who the organising committee wishes to appoint as their contact for the tournament is up to the organising committee and certainly not the NSWCA.

As for the arbiters fee my understanding is that the budgeted $2,000 fee is for a chief arbiter and an assistant arbiter. However what the organisers pay their arbiters is up to the organisers.

The tournament website is simply being hosted off the NSWCA website, but the NSWCA has no involvement in the contents of the tournament web site. As such what information appears on the website is the responsibility of the organising committee.

My role as ACF Liaison is not to carry out functions of the organising committee but to act just as the name suggests as a liaison between the organisers and the ACF.

You should note that the NSWCA at the request of Fred Shuetz advertised the event and your sponsorship in an email bulletin sent out by the NSWCA Communications Officer last Sunday evening.

In my earlier post, the following quote from Mr Parr appears: "This morning I was advised by email from the NSWCA President and ACF Deputy President Bill Gletsos that the Australian Chess Federation and the New South Wales Chess Association have not accepted my long standing offer of sponsorship. I therefore had no alternative but to withdraw my offer this afternoon."

Unless Mr Parr is referring to another email from Mr Gletsos, I can't see anything in the latter's words, above, which amounts to anything like not accepting the sponsorship. Can you?

Mr Parr's annoyance at the whole situation is understandable. With PR for his sponsorship appearing as late as it did, his original aim, obviously to generate revenue for his business, has clearly been curtailed.

Still, Mr Parr should reverse his decision to withdraw his sponsorship. It's Christmas, after all.

NOTE: I'm off on Christmas celebrations today and lasting well into the night. Thus, comments to this post will likely only be published from tomorrow morning.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Philosophy Looks at Chess

I've just been reading Arne Moll's review of the book, "Philosophy Looks at Chess" over at ChessVibes when I noticed a familiar name. One of the articles in the book is written by a certain Tama Coutts. I wonder if that's the same Tama Coutts whose name is presently listed in the Australian ratings list? I'm almost certain it is!

Now I've gotta have that book. One more for the Christmas wishlist.

Inside Philippine Chess, Book 2

As we find ourselves again in the festive season, I'm sure some of you are busy creating your wishlist for Santa. For yours truly, top on that list is Chessbase 10. The starter package will do, thank you very much Santa dearest. And would you believe that I still don't even have a single copy of the "My Predecessors" series? Yes, those books are also on my list.

But one item that really ought to be on anyone's wishlist is book two of "Inside Philippine Chess" by RP-based columnist and ex-Olympiad team captain, Bobby Ang. The book is basically a selection of many articles by Bobby from over the years.

Like the first volume, which was published eight years ago, this second book chronicles some key events in Philippine chess history, the important personalities and the chess games that were so crucial to bringing glory to RP chess. Here’s the list of chapter headings:

  • GM Eugene Torre, the Legend
  • GM Rosendo Balinas Jr., Conqueror of Odessa
  • Remember the Tagle Variation
  • NM Ramon Lontoc Jr.
  • The Bandal Clan
  • IM Andronico Yap (1961-1990)
  • Filipinos in the Olympiads (1956-2006)
  • Bong Villamayor, GM in 42 Days
  • GM Nelson Mariano
  • GM Mark Paragua, Final GM Norm
  • FIDE Master Anton Paolo del Mundo
  • Favorites

The chapter on Balinas alone is essential reading. Who knows, it might have been his careless remark to Polugaevsky that prompted the Russians to invite him to Odessa, apparently to teach him a lesson. But here was this lone Filipino who took on the might of Soviet chess and won! Balinas topped the Odessa International in1976 with 10/14, finishing above the likes of Alburt, Savon, Tukmakov and Tseitlin.

Take a look at his win over the 1971 USSR Champion, Vladimir Savon.

Odessa 1976
Balinas, Rosendo Carrean
Savon, Vladimir A

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 c5 3. d5 e6 4. Nc3 exd5 5. cxd5 d6 6. e4 g6 7. Nf3 Bg7 8. Be2 O-O 9. O-O Nbd7 10. a4 Qe7 11. Nd2 a6 12. f4 Rb8 13. Kh1 b6 14. Nc4 Nxe4 15. Nxe4 Qxe4 16. Nxd6 Qe7 17. Nxc8 Rbxc8 18. Bxa6 Rcd8 19. Qb3 Nf6 20. Qxb6 Rxd5 21. Qb3 Rd4 22. a5 Ne4 23. Qf3 c4 24. Be3 Rd3 25. Rfe1 Bxb2 26. Bxc4 Rc3 27. Rab1 Rxc4 28. Rxb2 Qa3 29. Rb5 Re8 30. Re5 Rxe5 31. fxe5 Qxa5 32. Rf1 Qd5 33. Bh6 Rc3 34. Qf4 g5 35. Bxg5 Rc6 36. Bf6 Nxf6 37. exf6 h6 38. Qxh6 1-0

Well, you know, as they say, “RESPECT!” But it wasn’t always so. In the 1968 Olympiad (Lugano, Switzerland) the Philippines managed to defeat England in a preliminary match 2.5-1.5. It provoked the then England skipper, IM Harry Golombek, to remark, “[T]hese little pygmies can play chess!”

Florencio Campomanes, serving as captain for RP, shot back, “[O]f course we can you big hairy ape.”

This one is among the many little stories which the reader will find in the chapter, “Filipinos in the Olympiads (1956-2006)”. However, if I had any criticism of this book at all, it is that this chapter does seem inadequate. For such a long history in the big event, RP in the Olympiad could probably fill a whole book!

(As an aside, and speaking of a nation’s history at the Olympiad, I can inform you that at least two well-placed men, independent of one another, each began to write about Australia's experience at this event. Very sadly, both projects are presently on hold).

The section on “Favorites” is a collection of shorter articles including one about Bobby Fischer’s connection with the Pinoys. Our writer, Mr Ang, puts it very simply in the end about the great Fischer: “[Y]ou should remember only his games. Forget about the man.”

Finally, for a nation with a long chessic history, it is inevitable that an opening system should find its original roots in a Filipino. Take for example the now popular “English Defence”. Did you know that this was once known as the “Henrysky Opening”, named after a certain Pinoy man Henry Mariano? But how then did it become the English? Here’s a hint: Tony Miles “stole” it! Bobby Ang gives the following game as the system’s debut in an important tournament.

Hastings 1976
Farago, Ivan
Miles, Anthony J

1. d4 b6 2. c4 Bb7 3. Nc3 e6 4. e4 Bb4 5. Qc2 Qh4 6. Bd3 f5 7. g3 Qh5 8. Be2 Qf7 9. f3 fxe4 10. fxe4 Nf6 11. d5 O-O 12. Nf3 Qg6 13. Bd3 Qh5 14. O-O Na6 15. a3 Bxc3 16. bxc3 Nc5 17. Be3 Nxd3 18. Qxd3 exd5 19. exd5 Nxd5 20. cxd5 Rxf3 21. Rxf3 Qxf3 22. Rd1 Ba6 23. Qd2 Bc4 24. Bf4 d6 25. h4 Rf8 26. Kh2 Be2 27. Rg1 Re8 28. Rg2 Bc4 29. Rf2 Qe4 30. Qd4 Bxd5 31. Qxe4 Rxe4 32. h5 h6 33. g4 Rc4 0-1

“Inside Philippine Chess Vol. 2” deserves to be on your shopping list for Christmas. A must-read for Pinoy chess lovers, especially. If you’re interested in reading more of Bobby Ang’s columns, go to Indochess.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Being Good for Christmas

My post yesterday about the problems faced by the upcoming Australian Open seems to have piqued ex Australian Chess Federation boss, Denis Jessop. As you can see in the comments section of that post, he's now accusing yours truly of denigrating the event and its organisers! The guy has some serious balls. Of course, his claims are completely ridiculous. For after all, it is a fact that Mr Peter Parr did withdraw his sponsorship and anyone can see on the Aussie Open website that this event has some serious issues. Just look at the numbers.

But let us see if Mr Jessop would like to tell us why his beloved ACF reportedly never bothered to share some crucial intelligence about the last Australian Open.

In any case, we really wouldn't want Mr Jessop to think that we hardly ever do anything good for chess. And so, my dear readers, let me share with you an email from grandmaster Dejan Antic. This man - who has taught some of our juniors, played in our local events and shared his knowledge - needs your help.

Few days ago the Department of Immigration refused my visa application, for comeback in Australia, again. However, this misfortune came with a fortune, which means the Ministerial office,which was couple months ago,canceled my old application for permanent residency (you can still remember story with the MRT and letter to the Minister) now advised me that I can reapply to the Minister but with bringing a new facts if possible. Beside they already have there a big files about my application, I though that the best would be if they can hear the voice of the Australian chessplayers.

That is the reason I would like to ask you if, everybody separately, who has a good intentions, can write a few words to the Minister, supporting my permanent application and the Australian chess in total.

I know that, some of you, I have been asked few times to assist me writing the letters and you did. I will do that again, but this is the last time, even chess teached me to play and fight to the end, this would be the last opportunity. Every single voice from you will be the voice with the golden value and maybe forcing an application to the Minister desk.

This email is a public one and you can forward it to the friends, web sites, newspapers.

No matter how you decide about writing a letters and the final decision of an application I will really appreciate your assistance.

The letters should be written with a following details.

1.Client ID: 72496089688

2.Addressed to:
Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

3.Your personal details

4.Should be faxed on: 02 6249 6522 / 02 6249 652 or posted:
Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Aussie Open in Trouble

(NOTICE: This post has been edited from its original version with the addition of a direct quote from Peter Parr).

With only about a fortnight to go before the first round kicks off - the 2009 Australian Open Chess Championships, to be held in the northern Sydney suburb of Manly, is showing signs of being nothing more than an oversized weekender. The event appears to be beset with serious problems.

At the time of this writing, the highest-rated player is IM George Xie, followed by IM Mark Chapman (of South Australia) and two FIDE masters. Those four are the only titled players, local or foreign, who have so far entered the event. In contrast to the Australian Open, our Kiwi neighbours have attracted some serious ELO firepower to their upcoming Queenstown tournament to be held from 15th to 26th January. There are a number of familiar grandmasters - including Peter Wells (England), Klaus Bischoff (Germany), Eduardas Rozentalis (Lithuania) plus more - as well as international masters and FMs. There are also Australians who are listed as confirmed for the New Zealand tournament, but not for the Australian Open - for example, IMs Guy West, Solomon and David Smerdon.

Then this afternoon came further shock! Peter Parr, proprietor of Chess Discount Sales, withdrew his sponsorship which was valued, according to him, at AUD$5000.

Mr Parr (in a later email to myself): "This morning I was advised by email from the NSWCA President and ACF Deputy President Bill Gletsos that the Australian Chess Federation and the New South Wales Chess Association have not accepted my long standing offer of sponsorship. I therefore had no alternative but to withdraw my offer this afternoon."

This development means that the message currently appearing on the Australian Open homepage which promises a free copy of Informator or a glass chess set to each of the first 100 entrants is no longer valid.

And as if that wasn't bad enough, I've just now also learned that one of the organising committee members for the Australian Open, Chris Dimock, has also resigned. At present, Mr Dimock is listed as the contact for the Australian Open event.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Macieja on Copyrighting Games

Debates over the question of copyrights on chess games are old and have been around since the 19th century and possibly even before that. In the November 1894 issue of BCM, for instance, a certain Charles Tomlinson wrote:

When Mr Walker’s book appeared [i.e. George Walker’s 1844 volume Chess Studies], Staunton was very indignant at what he called ‘wholesale spoliation’ and he threatened legal proceedings. This opens a curious question as to whether there is any copyright in a game of chess. If there is, does the copyright belong to each player or in consultation games to all the players? In practice, copyright is ignored, as, when Harrwitz won the first two games in his match with Löwenthal, he told me that the games would be printed “many times over”. Of course if the games are edited with notes, the notes would enjoy the privilege of copyright, but I should like to have a competent opinion as to the copyright of the game itself.

For more on the long history of this issue, I direct you to none other than Edward Winter. His page here has the usual interesting and educational info.

More recently, the popular US blog Boylston ignited a brief flare up last year with their post, "Monroi and Copyright". It turned out to be just a misunderstanding: Monroi wasn't claiming copyright on games, merely for their database and for the live game broadcast. The same topic was taken up by Chessvibes' Peter Doggers but he, too, was a little off target. Peter's post, however, did reveal an interesting side discussion: rebroadcast of games by the likes of ICC and Chessbase. How can they get away with it if they have no such arrangement to do so? Anyway, perhaps that's for another post.

I'm going on about this because yet another well-known grandmaster has picked up the baton and run with the cause for copyrighting chess games. It is GM Bartlomiej Macieja of Poland. This guy must be smoking something good! Not only has he taken up a dead cause he also very recently won the 2nd Remco Heite Tournament (see report from Chessvibes).

Frankly, I do sometimes wish that these guys would just stick to what they do best: playing chess. Macieja's piece, published on the Association of Chess Professionals website, is pure comedy. The guy actually had the balls to compare chess to, wait for this, music!

A month ago I heard about a new approach and that conversation stood behind my decision to write this article. Let's try to compare chess with ... music! Music has a very strong legal protection, at least in theory. It is not allowed to copy a song without a permission of a singer / composer or a company who has bought the rights. Additionally, even if you have bought an original CD, you are not allowed to play it in public places without paying some money (like radio stations do). It can be compared to relaying chess games by different chess clubs.

As if that wasn't enough:

One more similarity can be seen here: One can say, that strong chess players, while looking on a scoresheet, can see a game. But exactly the same is in music. Good musicians, while looking on a stave with notes, can hear a melody. For the majority of people it is too difficult, so they use a chessboard to encode a game, similarly to people who try to encode the notation of a melody by playing a note by note on a piano. Sometimes people don't use an equipment (a board, a piano), but an encoder (pgn player, mp3 player).

What to make of that? I've heard of blindfold chess, but now he's talking about blindfold music! I'd spare you, but I know that now you're just curious. So here's Macieja in full.

It's pretty simple really. A game of chess is a particular event and the gamescore thereof is a record of that event consisting merely of facts (i.e. white player moves king's pawn two squares forward; black player moves queen's bishop's pawn two squares forward, etc). That's pretty much it. If Macieja then wants to expand on the facts, providing analysis or side stories through annotations, then, and only then, can he claim to any sort of copyright. What's so difficult to understand?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wilkinson: Chess reduces violence

We first met the Jamaican Chess Federation boss, Ian Wilkinson, back in Dresden. He's the guy who kept asking questions about visa problems faced by, in particular, the African teams and how anyone in FIDE high office might help resolve the issue. According to him, chess reduces violence. Here he is being quoted by the Jamaican government's information service website.

If we get chess going fully into the schools and incorporated into society, we will reduce crime and violence significantly. The violence that we are experiencing now, the criminal behaviour being demonstrated by the youngsters ... once we get into their minds and teach them chess, we will be creating a totally different society because the intellectual capital of our country will go up tremendously.

Creating a totally different society? It sounds almost as grandiose as Ilyumzhinov's statement that he wants chess to be the new world religion! Seriously, I don't know if the game possesses such power to effect that kind of social impact that Mr. Wilkinson is talking about. What do you think?

Back in Sydney

After a long, long flight from London via LA, I'm finally back in Sydney. If you can, never fly BA. These poms are just ridiculous. Being just a kilo overweight, yes 1 single kilogram, some check-in customer service officer insisted that I pay 25 quid penalty fee! I coudn't believe it. Luckily the fee had to be paid at some other desk and there I managed to sweet talk my way out of it, but only after a very long wait. Poms and efficiency never quite go together.

Without any sleep whatsoever, what's there to do immediately after one's return but to shower, catch a train back to the city then play some blitz? So that's what I did yesterday. I missed playing OTB chess. During my trip, and especially after Dresden (where it was impossible not to catch the chess bug), I kept up my game by playing on ICC and Chesscube.com. Tried looking for nearby clubs, but no luck there. Parks, where I expected to see chess players, where of no help either. So there were quite a few early mornings and evenings, when it rained and little to do, but play.

We'll be at it again tonight - starting in the Town Hall then moving off to the Spanish Club for some blitz and beers. There are even a couple of new good players who've appeared on the scene since I left two months ago - one Pinoy bloke and some guy from Nepal or Sri Lanka (I can't quite exactly remember). I think the latter has a rating of over 2000 FIDE.

Now that I'm back, we'll obviously get back to regular blogging. It's been quiet around here but funnily enough, blog traffic seems to have kept up! To our regular readers, then, thanks for sticking around.

Monday, December 08, 2008

On Chess Photography

Now in London. Yesterday, I dropped in on The Photographer's Gallery (16 - 18 Ramillies St, W1) where I also bumped into Nigella Lawson. I quite like photography, you see, and spend plenty of time in places with a good image collection. If you happen to also like this art, I recommend having a browse here, here and here.

In Paris, where I've just been, I trained my camera mostly on people instead of the usual touristy things - like buildings, etc. Funnily enough, one of my most popular photos in my other Flickr stream is that of a dog performing the number two in the middle of a Parisian street!

Action shot of dog in Paris

I'm going about this because I want to say a word or two about chess photography.

Firstly, Chessbase ought to be absolutely condemned for their so-called "pictorial" reports. They are not pictorial. The photographs of players alone are decidedly barbaric in the extreme due mainly to that awful use of flash. Never mind that there is simply a lack of composition. In Dresden, I witnessed some of these guys with big expensive equipment pretty much just shooting by pointing the lens in some general direction. Criminals!

Secondly, I must thank the Dresden Olympiad press staff for their thoughtful device: the one-day "field of play" pass that allowed a journo to enter the playing field after the first 15 minutes. This allowed me to go in and capture some photos just as when games became tense. To do so is important, of course, because it's during those tense times of a game when players show their best (and sometimes, worse) emotions. I don't know if the field of play pass was Dresden's invention, but tournament organisers the world over should emulate it.

After all, the critical and the best stories of a game of chess mostly ever occur after the first 15 minutes. We need to tell those stories also through photography.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Just Practicing My French

Finally my little tour is about to come to an end and I'm making some time to catch up on the chess news. First thing's first. Here we go again: some top GM makes a dramatic action through the familiar letter writing (actually a blog post) and BANG[!], the whole world of chess has gone agog.

It's ridiculous because, quite frankly, it's all over nothing. That is, the stupid pursuit of an archaic idea - the title of world chess champion. It is a remnant of a time when masters were few and when, to prove one's self as the best, you duelled one-on-one. Hence, I just find the whole idea of a match, either as a standalone contest (such as the ones we saw up to the early '90's) or as part of a series (like the ones today), completely nonsensical.

Well, here's news: today there are several hundred grandmasters and some thirty-two of whom are way over a rating of 2700. So many players, many minds, many opinions. No wonder that we can't decide if we should have knockouts, tourneys or matches. And no wonder that the latest we have is the much derided hybrid.

I say, let's not worry about finding "a" or "the" world champion. Let's just stick to who's number one amongst our masters and be done with it!

Magnus Carlsen ought to receive our congratulations. His move to"concentrate on playing several well organised and interesting top level events" is exactly all these top guys really need to do. Who knows, perhaps in so doing, that equally ridiculous concept (and here's the French bit), the Fédération Internationale des Échecs, can at last be demonstrated to be just as archaic and way past its use-by date?

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Punish Ivanchuk

That news of Ivanchuk's fit in the Olympiad has picked up some pace that now even Cathy Chua is in on it. Here she writes about her take on drug testing in both chess and bridge. Note that final detail about GM Rogers; it is pretty damn sad!

As for that "Ivanchuk Incident" - well, as Boris Spassky said, albeit only half seriously, the guy's crazy. In my opinion, the Ukrainian should at least be partly to blame. Like it or not, rules are them rules after all and to carry on like that, no matter who you are (and especially because of who you are), you deserve something.

Now you don't have to agree with me and if you like you can even join GM Arthur Kogan's new group on Facebook - "If FIDE will ban Ivanchuk - we will all ban FIDE".

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chess With Friends

Just got an email from David Calkins, of Newtoy Inc., asking me if I can offer some feedback on a new iPhone/iPod Touch application that they've just made called "Chess With Friends". (TechCrunch has a brief mention here). Sadly, I don't have an iPhone/iPod Touch so I'm afraid I won't be of much help. Plus, being on holidays here in gorgeous Paris, I'm not about to do any kind of tech testing!

Thus, I leave it to some of you folks who've got the necessary gear to test drive this thing. It sounds interesting enough. Let us know what you think and we'll pass it on to Newtoys. The app is free to download from the iTunes Store here from your iPhones.

Chess in the Montmarte

So I was in the Montmarte area of Paris today, after a brief visit to the Sacre-Coeur, when I suddenly chanced upon this little scene. It's just near where the little square in Montmarte where you'll also find a bunch of painters.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cathy Interviews Ian Rogers

Hands up anyone who still remembers Cathy Chua! Well, I don't because she was before my time in the Aussie chess scene, but I'm sure some of you do. Cathy Chua also happens to be the author of "Australian Chess at the Top", a definite must-have.

Nowadays, Cathy writes a blog on bridge, but recently found some time to make a couple of posts on the Olympiad in Dresden. There's even a very lengthy interview with grandmaster Ian Rogers. Asked what he thought of the new scoring method, GM Rogers was straightforward:

Awful - there are simply too many teams and not enough score groups with match points. (This could have been predicted, but FIDE admitted that they did no simulations before changing the system. (See Shaun Press’ blog), Also, it discourages fighting in all games since 2.5-1.5 is almost as good as 4-0.

For Australia it could have been great had our open team won our last match and moved into the top 20, since the yoyo effect is exaggerated. But overall the new system is worse for the middle teams who are all crowded around 50% and could finish anywhere.

At least under the old system you needed to lose 0-4 in the last round to drop dramatically - now a narrow 1.5-2.5 loss is enough to see you plummeting down the standings.

Read more in "The Overtrick". Look out for tomorrow's post, too, as Cathy has promised an interview with none other than GM Zong Yuan Zhao!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

IM Bob Wade - RIP

This morning the chess world wakes up to very sad news that one of its better known legends has passed away. International master Bob Wade succumbed to his illness this morning at 3AM UK time. According to an email from Mark Crowther, forwarded by GM Ian Rogers (thanks to him for the info), IM Wade had been in hospital for a cold which seemed to have escalated into pneumonia.

The same news is currently on TWIC and Mark has promised a full obituary.

While I, of course, did not know IM Wade, I did have the honour of meeting him 2 years ago in Queenstown. He is featured in a number of my past posts here. He will be terribly missed by whole of chess and, in particular, I'm sure, by his friends in New Zealand.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Recovering the ICC Bug

The two weeks in Dresden seems to have reignited my ICC bug. After deciding to let my account expire (as I hadn't used it for a long time), I've now just done the oddest thing and actually renewed it! Of course, I suspect it partly has to do with a feeling of guilt for having partaken in the beer and free food at the ICC party last week, an event which was only supposed to be for active members.

Now here in Prague, sitting, resting after a day's walk around Prague Castle, I've just knocked down about 20 games of bullet! I'd forgotten how much fun it was.

Speaking of ICC, if you spot some guy there calling himself IM Stephen Solomon, make sure that it is really THE one and only Solo. It could just be an impostor.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Goodbye Dresden, Goodbye Germany

And thus ends my Olympiad coverage. Time to get back on my holiday and back to my travel blogging. I head to Prague, then after a few days there, off to beautiful Paris!

I've done some cool things, but being here has definitely been one of the coolest. Seeing all the guys that I've only ever read or hear about just casually chatting to you, telling stories, pissing drunk, sometimes making a fool of themselves was pretty damn, well, awesome.

But it wasn't just about my foreign heroes, of course. The Australian team have their stories, too, and most I've never heard of. How about the one about GM Johansen being "almost" saved by Chris Depasquale from drowning? Or the one about the young Aussie who had to deliver, right to the front door, the young daughter of a growling Yusupov? Yes, THE Yusupov!

It's sad, of course, that I have to leave so early, long before the event's finish and not being able to say a proper farewell to the fair few whom I've met. But I keep thinking, or at least convince myself, that I'll definitely see these guys again. In another Olympiad.

As I said to the PNG team's Shaun Press during the Irish party, I've definitely gotta get on this Olympiad bandwagon. Become an arbiter, he said. I thought, well, that's too hard. Which leaves me with a second option: become the mercenary, change fed to some Pacific Island nation. I hear Palau is looking for players.

And that's that with that. Thanks to those who read the blog and viewed the photos. Hope you enjoyed them. Goodbye Dresden, goodbye Germany. See you in/from Queenstown.

Live Blog - Round 11

Estimo: RP Chessers Doomed

This seems like it's a badly timed opinion piece given that there is still one more round to play, but I suppose Sammy Estimo just had to vent.

Our team to the Dresden Chess Olympiad was doomed even before it left. Its composition—from a faulty national qualifying system—and board assignments were pitiful.

Top officials of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), led by Prospero Pichay and Abraham Tolentino, could not be persuaded to include veteran Grandmaster Eugene Torre in the lineup, and that presaged the sorry campaign of our team, once a board terror in previous Olympiads.

Read more in RP chess squad doomed from the start.

Topalov: We've had enough!

A special guest this afternoon in the press room was none other than Veselin Topalov. He covered a number of interesting topics including Bulgaria's run here in Dresden, his loss to Shirov yesterday ("I missed a move"), Gata Kamsky and a brief discussion on his career.

Veselin Topalov, Photo by The Closet Grandmaster

In light of today's latest news about the Grand Prix, ChessVibes' Peter Doggers asked Topalov about what he thought was the perfect system for a world championship.

Topalov: "No, I don't think there is a perfect system...Knock out is OK, tournament is also OK, also match system is also OK. But once we have this cycle I think it has to be finished.

I mean what FIDE should do is run the cycle [that] they designed, they promised and then change if they want to. You cannot change every two months because players make plans. This is basically what they have to do. I guess they have to run the tournaments and then to have the winner of the Grand Prix, 2009 World Cup match, and then change the world champion. I think this is what they have to do as they promised. And then OK, after 2011 maybe some change but I don't see a reason now there should be any new changes. Because we've had enough!"

Then later added, "The worse thing you can do is to change the rules during the same cycle like it already happened many times."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Istanbul Bags 2012 Olympiad

Moments ago the FIDE General Assembly announced that the city of Istanbul will host the 2012 Olympiad. The Turkish bid defeated their opposition, a bid by Motenegro to host the event in the city of Budva, 95 votes to forty.

TCF boss Ali Nihat Yazici was jubilant when FIDE deputy president Georgios Makropoulos announced the winner. Yazici walked through a slick and professional presentation. Among other things, he promised to recruit 25 new federations and reaching up to 200 teams competing for the 2012 event.

For the opening and closing ceremonies, Yazici said, "We will show something you will never forget!" For that alone he's budgeted €500K.

On the other hand, the Budva bid was simply ridiculous. I've seen better effort for a high school project. For example, the presenter's poor English diction wasn't helped by her getting completely out of synch with what were supposed to be looking at on screen. And they didn't have what most audiences really like in a presentation: big numbers!

They did have plenty of sex, with shots of a bikini clad woman sweating in a sauna or sitting poolside. Still, other than a few giggles here and there, that one didn't seem to have any effect.

After both presentations, Yazici himself along with members of his delegation, stood just in front of me and were looking confident. What's their secret, I wondered.

On a side note, the PNG delegation failed to vote. "We got screwed", said PNG player Shaun Press.

In fact, it was entirely their fault! It seems that when a roll call was conducted, their man was nowhere within the meeting itself but downstairs picking up his accreditation badge. So, as far as the Assembly was concerned, no PNG presence, therefore no vote for them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Live Blog - Round 10

Karpov Doesn't Like Match Points

At last the Dresden organisers have rolled out the big guns for their press conferences. Today's session, for example, will feature Anatoly Karpov and Boris Spassky while last night, Karpov and another ex world champion, Alexander Khalifman, entertained the crowd. Both gave their views on a number of matters such as the recent Anand v Kramnik match in Bonn, Viktor Kortchnoi and the challenge to the supremacy of Russian chess. The older Karpov was more lengthy in his answers while Khalifman opted to be brief and, at times, rather witty.

When asked by Susan Polgar if he ever met the late Bobby Fischer, Karpov said, "not over the board", but they did meet in person a couple of times in 1977. More recently they had "negotiations to play", but Fischer wanted to try a new variant of chess wherein white would commence the game with one pawn less. Karpov called this idea "a strange one" and the match never took place.

On Fischer as a person: "Ah, it's difficult for me to judge, because I [only] met him 4 or five times in my life. So I cannot say in general. But in my experience, he was [a] nice person. We had nice talks, discussions. It was mostly about chess, because otherwise he was not easy person to talk about."

Anatoly Karpov, Photo by The Closet Grandmaster

Now mainly inactive from competitive play, Karpov these days devotes his time to projects including chess schools (having opened one recently in Poland), works relating to the environment and the so-called International Association of Peace Foundations of which he has been president since 1982. However, he still keeps a keen eye on contemporary chess issues - like the recent Anand v Kramnik match in Bonn, for instance. When asked about this event, the ex world champion couldn't help a little historical detour and proposed an optimum number of games for the world championship battle. He says that 24 games, common back in his heyday, may be too long for the current era and prefers sixteen to be just about right.

On the same topic (the Anand v Kramnik), Khalifman offered something a little more interesting: "The way it happened was a bit surprising, well, I think not even not a bit, but for everybody because Anand showed the big advantage. I wrote it in some chess magazines there was a big advantage in the preparation. So Vladimir was not properly ready for this match. I don't how it happened, but it was a fact. And so, Anand deservedly won. That's the only thing I can say about it.

And about numbers ...it's very strange that some people are so much addicted to numbers. Well, world champions are not prisoners. They don't need numbers. They are just world champions. That's it."

Ian Wilkinson, the Jamaican Chess Federation boss (who only took up chess in 1999, he informed the press conference), posed a question regarding Russian supremacy in chess and the challenges they face, specifically in the Olympiad. Once again, Karpov detoured into the near past.

"Still, the Russian team is the strongest, I'm sure. But what's [been] missing during last years and last Olympiad, they are really missing I believe a leader of the team. A person who would be the leader over the chess board, not only the strongest chess player, but [someone] who could mobilise the forces and effort of the whole team."

Wilkinson interjects, "Like you?"

Karpov continues: "Yes, I did it for so many years and then we did it together with Kasparov. And even when we had big problems, personal problems, we could unite just to win like it has happened in '86 or '88. So this is very important", before finally adding, "But now probably we don't have such persons. And it's a bit of a problem because Olympiad is not just a combination of individual results. [There is] something else in the Olympiad and in the team competition."

As was his preferred method, Khalifman was short and sharp.

"Well, Ok, in my opinion it is good for the competitive spirit, for the Olympiad that no team is dominant. It's pretty good because it's sport and it's good that no one can pick the winner before it starts."

Finally on the question of Viktor Kortchnoi, Karpov recalled the time when the Swiss board 1 was a "problem" for the Soviet Union. These days, though, with the two of them playing for a team called the South Urals, Karpov says that Kortchnoi is a real team player.

Again, Khalifman was blunt with the answer: "Well, I can admit I just did not understand the question. Viktor Kortchnoi is a great chess player. What else should I say? That's it!"

You may also like to hear what Karpov thinks about the new match points system. He said simply: "This I don't like".

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Live Blog - Round 9

Misaligned Southern Cross

At this juncture of the event, Australia is normally ahead of their New Zealand cousins in the Olympiad rankings. But after 8 matches, the boys from Down Under are in 75th spot, while the Kiwis are up, up, up there in 43rd place! As if that wasn't bad enough, the NZ rugby league team overnight delivered a massive beating to the Kangaroos, 34-20. OK, league is pretty much an irrelevant sport, but c'mon! The stars must be seriously misaligned.

In yesterday's match Australia faced off against Bosnia Herzegovina, the very team that New Zealand defeated the day earlier. The question was: can Australia attain a similar result? On board 4, playing against IM Zeljko Bogut, GM Johansen gave Aussie fans reasons for rapture. His play was calm and methodical. We take you now to the crucial moment.

Chess Olympiad 2008
Johansen, Darryl K
Bogut, Zeljko

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3 Bb4 5. Qc2 O-O 6. Nd5 Re8 7. Qf5 d6 8. Nxf6+ gxf6 9. Qh5 e4 10. a3 Bc5 11. b4 exf3 12. bxc5 Re5 13. Qxf3 Nd4 14. Qd1 Bf5 15. Ra2 dxc5 16. f4 Re8 17. Kf2 Nc6 18. Qh5 Qd7 19. g4 Bg6 20. Qh4 Be4 21. Rg1 Re6 22. Rg3 Rae8 23. Rh3 Kf8 24. f5 Rd6 25. d3 Bxd3 26. Bxd3 Rxd3 27. Qxf6 Ne5 28. Qh8+ Ke7 29. Qxe5+ Kd8 30. Qf6+ Kc8 31. Rxh7 Rd1

Position after 31...Rd1

What to do? What to do? Defend the piece or return it with 32. Qxf7 and playing with four connected passed pawns? 32. Qc3 Qc6 33. Rh8 b6 34. Rxe8+ Qxe8 35. Bb2 Qe4 36. Ra1 Rd3 37. Qe5? Rd2+ 38. Ke1 Qg2 0-1

The other men drew their games but Oz still go down 1.5-2.5. Meanwhile, and doing their bit to salve our heartaches, the girls blanked out the Barbados team four-zip. Canberra's Shannon Oliver must be happy. The party girl's grounding has finally been lifted after winning her first ever Olympiad encounter.

Nakamura: I'm not optimistic

While we have a number of US-based readers hitting the blog, thanks to Mig, here's a tidbit from the round 5 press conference.

Asked by FM Mike Klein for his opinion on the recent US election result and whether or not it has increased or decreased his chances of moving to the Canadian federation, grandmaster Nakamura replied: "Oh OK, that’s a very loaded question to ask. I think a lot of it depends on it [the election result]. I think that based on what I’ve seen, of course, since I grew up I was 12 back in 2000 when Bush was elected president, based on what I’ve seen in the past 8 years, I’m not very optimistic about the future."

GM Nakamura (USA), Photo by The Closet Grandmaster

"I know right now there are a lot of problems. There’s a housing crisis and then the financial as well. So, the election has played a role, but it’s not like the biggest thing necessarily. I mean, there a lot of people I know in Vancouver and so right now I guess I’ll be staying out there for the time being."

"Whether I change to Canada or not, that’s up in the air. I’m not going to say yes or no either way because I really don’t know myself."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Live Blog - Round 8

Gens Una Sumus?

Gens Una Sumus. But perhaps only for those who can afford it.

The other night, I was on my way to the Rathaus, where FIDE and the Dresden organisers are feeding the players, to examine the food conditions as well as, maybe, grab a free feed. Not knowing the exact direction, I approached the men's team from Ethiopia, who happened to be on the same tram as I was. Lucky for me, they were en route to the same location.

The Ethiopian captain, Kebadu Belachew, is a friendly fellow who readily struck up a conversation. Now a resident of the United States, and working there as a network engineer, Kebadu is eloquent, speaking with a particularly charming accent that is at once hospitable and passionate. In our conversation he spoke most passionately about the trials that his team had gone through just to reach the Olympiad.

Like a number of African countries, team Ethiopia faced serious problems on two main fronts - money and visa. At one point they were even handed an accommodation bill for €15,0000 as a result, Kebadu admits, of their own late registration.

"Fifteen thousand euros would save thousands of people's lives in Ethiopia. Definitely the country doesn't have that kind of money", he told me over dinner. Fortunately for Kebadu and his team, the Dresden city mayor stepped in and agreed that the huge accommodation bill be waived.

Then there were the visa problems. On the first attempt, the Ethiopians were point blank simply refused entry visas by the German consular office in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. It was days before some compromised was reached and this came in the form of a letter of guarantee from the event organisers which was duly provided. Still, there was one more problem: the letter only covered the men’s team, not the women’s team. Thus, the women’s visas were delayed.

After two rounds of play, the Ethiopian women, with money and visas at the ready, were preparing to fly to Dresden. Sadly, Kebadu had to give them terrible news.

Kebadu: “It was very, very hurting to myself to tell them that they cannot come, even if we have their money, because after two rounds, no team will be accepted”.

“They were heart broken. I still get emails from them. I tried to comfort them. Because this is the first time that we tried to get a women’s team represent Ethiopia [in any international chess event]”.

Despite this serious setback, however, Kebadu is optimistic, hoping that the next time will be an easier one, especially, for the women.

“God didn’t mean it this time [for the women’s team to play], but we have done the ground work”, he added.

For a backgrounder on the Ethiopian “saga", check out this post (“Ethiopians Denied German Visas”) and this one ("African Nations Booted From the Chess Olympiad") by Daaim Shabazz on The Chess Drum blog.

Historic Day for NZ Chess

Trans-Tasman rivalry took on an unexpected turn yesterday when New Zealand grabbed the baton for Olympiad bragging rights away from Australia. In what is perhaps their most significant round victory in Olympiad history, the Murray Chandler led Kiwis defeated the Bosnia Herzegovina team 2.5-1.5. Adding a little extra sweetener to their fine win, New Zealand’s rivals, Australia, were trounced by the powerhouse Bulgarians 0-4.

For New Zealand fans, here is a shot of that historic scoreboard.

The New Zealand scoreboard

The mood among the Aussie men last night was downbeat. It’s never nice to be beaten, even by a red hot opposition, but to be one-upped by the Kiwis is unsettling. After dinner, there wasn’t much to do but to strategise for the next round, which team they’ll play, who they’ll drop and so on. I turned up to the Maritim hoping to commiserate over a couple, but nope, up they went to their hotel rooms.

To make the day even worse for the Australian camp, the girls were also defeated 0-4 by the less fancied Venezuelans. Frankly, this was a surprising result. On paper our team outrated the Latinas on all four boards. Indeed, at least 2 Australian boards were winning!

Failing to have beers with the boys, I thought I’d try the girls. They’re always keen. But once again, I failed there, too. They’re all grounded, Moylan said. For Shannon Oliver, it’s a double whammy; she’s grounded until she wins a game!

Danailov Surprise in Dresden

The Dresden organisers pulled off a surprise this evening when they invited GM Veselin Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov to a press a conference. As expected (and earlier reported by Macauley Peterson) contracts were signed this morning for the match to proceed from 16 Feb. - 28 Feb. 2009.

Topalov's participation in Linares was cancelled "on friendly terms", Danailov said.

Silvio Danailov, Photo by The Closet Grandmaster

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Live Blog - Round 7

Zhao Defeats Kortchnoi

If you've not been following the live transmission from Dresden, the Australian team has just had a sensational result on board 1. GM Zong Yuan Zhao has defeated legend GM Viktor Kortchnoi in their round 6 board one match up.

Chess Olympiad 2008
Zhao, Zong-Yuan
Korchnoi, Viktor

1. Nf3 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3 6. Qxc3 a5 7. b3 d6 8. Bb2 e5 9. g3 c5 10. Bg2 Nc6 11. O-O Bg4 12. Rfe1 Qb6 13. e3 a4 14. bxa4 Rxa4 15. d3 Rd8 16. Rab1 Qa5 17. Qb3 Qa6 18. Nd2 Ra5 19. f4 an ambitious move, according to IM David Smerdon in our live blog.

Position after 19. f4

19...Be6 20. Bc1 Bc8 21. Qb6 Qxb6 22. Rxb6 Nd7 23. Rb3 Nf6 24. Bb2 Ra6 25. Bxc6 Rxc6 26. fxe5 Ng4 27. exd6 Rcxd6 28. d4 Rh6 29. Nf3 Bf5 30. e4 Bc8 31. d5 b6 32. Bc1 Rg6 33. Nh4 Rgd6 34. e5 Re8 35. Nf3 Rg6 36. h3 Nf6 37. exf6 Rxg3+ 38. Kf2 Rxe1 39. Kxe1 gxf6 40. Kf2 Rxh3 41. Rxb6 Bg4 42. Rxf6 Rh1 43. Bb2 Bxf3 44. Kxf3 1-0

UPDATE: Just now, GM Daryl Johansen has followed up with a win over GM Joseph Gallagher on board 3. The result, therefore, gives Australia the match 2.5-1.5!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Live Blog - Round 6

A Mysterious Pairing System

In his latest newsletter to Australian chess fans, the men's captain, Manuel Weeks, writes: "The accelerated pairings for the first two rounds left many weak teams on good match scores and the subsequent type of Swiss pairing has left the pairings looking almost random. Many teams are rather unhappy and mystified by the system they are using here."

At least one big-name player, and we can safely guess also his entire squad, is definitely no fan of the pairing system. When asked during a press conference what he thought of the pairing system, the United States' GM Hikaru Nakamura said, "If the system works, then so be it. However, I definitely wouldn't say that I'm a fan of it based on what I've seen here."

The Americans have so far played Iceland (2.5-1.5 win to the US), Greece (2-2), South Africa (3.5-0.5), Azerbaijan (1-3) and finally, Hong Kong (4-0).

Said Nakamura: "We had a very tough match against Azerbaijan, which we lost, and then today [round 5] we've had to play against Hong Kong which is even weaker [than South Africa]. I mean it wasn't a good feeling."

Nakamura's co-panelist in the same press conference, GM Sergey Movsesian, was equally mystified about the pairing system, describing it as "a bit strange".

It was left to Movsesian, Slovakia's board 1 player, to make the connection between the new match point scoring format and the pairing system. Answering a question from GM Rogers, Movsesian ageed with his fellow grandmasters on the panel that match points are a better way to determine the winner, but added that the current pairing system is diluting the advantageous effect of match points.

"Match points are OK, but then it should be connected with a different pairing system", said Movsesian.

Kamsky vs Topalov Is On

Speaking of the Bermuda party, last night (actually, this morning) on the tram back to our respective home locations, I ran into Macauley Peterson. The poor guy had an early start because he had to cover the negotiation between Kamsky and Topalov over their upcoming match to be held early next year. And now, we can read the fruits of his labour and lack of sleep. The match is on, he tell us!

Bermuda Party

The first that many of us had ever heard of the Bermuda party was 2 years ago when Gormallygate broke out, not just amongst the chess press, but right throughout MSM. Back then, I thought, well, I've got to attend one of these. Last night I fulfilled my wish.

I've been to a fair few parties in my time and, as far as I'm concerned, the Bermuda party is right up there with the best of them. If you'll only cut loose every couple of years, then this is the event to do it in.

Last night the venue was good and the music excellent. Although, if you ask me, I reckon the so-called "oldies" section upstairs was way more cool, with better music, better looking women and a higher rated crowd.

Now, I happen to be under strict request to not be TCG and just be the normal me (hell, I couldn't even take photos), but I will let you in on this little tid bit, something I won't soon forget. There is nothing like seeing a well-known grandmaster, blind drunk, pissing right next to you, swearing in his own lingo and banging (just gently) his head against the wall. Almost nothing, anyway.

Most partygoers were well-behaved, even the Aussies. I think. They retired early, while I finished at 4.30AM. Tomorrow, it's back to business.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Live Blog - Round 5

Never Leave a Man Behind

GM Ian Rogers likens the nightly press conferences, hosted by GM Susan Polgar, as being like a "talk show". Hard to disagree with this assessment, but even talk shows are at least exciting! After 2 or three of these press conferences, I was beginning to wonder if it was actually worth attending them. No disrespect intended, but some of the guests are way too unknown and, therefore, uninteresting. So far we've been treated to only two super grandmasters (China's Wang Hao and Wang Yue), although the language barrier didn't exactly help. Yesterday, RP's GM Wesley So was scheduled for a conference but simply failed to appear.

For the round 3 session, however, GM Rogers himself got into gear. With France's GM Vladislav Tkachiev on stage, Rogers switched to Kerry O'Brien mode. The Australian grilled the French grandmaster on certain aspects concerning the so-called "World Chess Beauty Contest" that was held a couple of years back and won, believe it or not, by Australia's Vaness Reid. Tkachiev was on the back foot. The poor guy signed up for an Olympiad press briefing and here he was having to desperately find answers to questions about an old event!

Then last night, as if to tease the press, the organisers invited chief arbiter Ignatius Leong. Naturally, I expected fireworks from Ian. But nope, the grandmaster was his usual Mr Nice Guy. Perhaps he was just happy about Australia's performance yesterday. Instead, direct questions to Leong were left to the Jamaican Chess Fed boss Ian Wilkinson.

Wilkinson, unhappy about the visa problems faced, especially, by a number of African countries, wanted to know what Leong can do about this situation in the next Olympiad. He also pressed Leong on the absence of tournament bulletins. Apparently, in Torino these were supplied by the organisers in a CD. To both questions, Leong was short and sweet, using the usual line here in Dresden: "I'll look into it" or "I'll talk to the organisers".

And that was that. Yet another mainly uninteresting press conference. I think I'll have to do something about this pretty soon. By the way, note that GM Ian Rogers is currently engaged to blog for the US Chess Life online crew along with FM Mike Klein, who sits just across from me.

Yesterday's action at the board came with some luck for the Aussie women, particularly for Dekic. Rogers' call on her game earlier on was that she was worse. Dekic, however, lived up to Rogers' description as the women's Solo, as well as aided by her opponent's errors, and eventually hauled in the point. Caoili was hardly test, while Moylan and Oliver both essayed the Dragon. Moylan lost the point, but the latter, after momentarily losing her way, eventually found the right plan to end the game peacefully. Shannon's play featured some nice touches, bravely executing exactly what Rogers' had predicted - 28....Bxg4.

As for the men, well, here's a question: can anyone remember the last time when Australia had won 4-0 twice in a row at the Olympiad? Today, these guys take on our neighbours Singapore who are led by ex-Pinoy IM Enrique Paciencia.

Once again, good luck to the teams. I hope, too, that the Kiwis can get their house in order. Remember the old lesson: never leave a man behind . . . at the hotel!

Table 1 Live on TV

Just got this message from the Dresden press team. They'll be streaming "TV" images of table 1 from today onwards.

According to the press team's email, "Those who want to watch, need to follow the Chess Olympiad TV button on the official website www.dresden2008.de. Once the additional software is installed, users can see the live signal. Currently it works only on Windows Systems and Windows Media Player 9 or higher need to be installed. "

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Live Blog - Round 4

Not Putin's Pawn

Garry Kasparov talks to The Independent:

Does chess – a cerebral, individualistic pursuit if ever there was one – really help solve real problems? Yes, says Kasparov: "I talk about strategy, tactics, achieving your potential, decoding the complexity of life, so it's mainly about the big picture. I feel I have enough experience to pull these things together."

From Garry Kasparov: The master who won't be Putin's pawn.

Why can't this guy just get off his political butt for a while and come to Dresden? He'll be more relaxed, I think.

Good Coffee Badly Needed

As I think I mentioned in one of the live blogs, Dresden has really made an effort for the Olympiad. Moving from place to place is a painless operation thanks to well designed brochures that point out exactly what tram or bus to catch. The trams themselves even make special announcements in English. Everywhere around the city you'll also find posters welcoming visitors in various languages. The other night, while we were walking around, IM Smerdon spotted a poster with a particularly interesting design. "That's gotta go on the blog", he suggested. And so here it is.

It is at least better than the official Olympiad poster which, frankly, is too plain and awful. Once upon a time Olympiad posters were a big deal and became collectors' items. There are a couple of good examples here as well as from other events. However, as bad as the Dresden poster is, I'll probably nick one or two of these just for the fun of it!

Posters aside, the Australian men's captain has a pressing problem other than anything chess related. The lack of good coffee in Dresden! Actually, I have the same problem. After having just visited cities like Madrid, Rome, Vienna and Berlin, where good coffee is plentiful (albeit never quite reaching the heights of truly excellent coffee in Sydney), Dresden has been a serious shock. It's like being back in London where its uneducated citizens worship the likes of the C-grade Starbucks who serve mostly water, no coffee. Were it not for Flat White (naturally, opened by expat Aussies and Kiwis), I'd die everytime I'm in London.

Thus, this morning the men's captain, Manuel Weeks, ordered no less than IM David Smerdon himself: "Find me good coffee!"

But today, a strong shot of high-grade caffeine shouldn't be needed. Manuel's team take on Guernsey - not exactly a happy pairing. The boys would really rather take on a stronger side. On the other hand, the women's team earn themselves a respite as today they face El Salvador. None of the Salvadorians are over 2200+, but the utmost care should still be taken.

I think I might also keep an eye on our Kiwi friends. Chandler's side are playing the powerful Slovenians and I'm sure our souther cousins will be out for blood. If for nothing else, but to finish above the Aussies. Well, we can't have that!

Seriously, good luck to all teams.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Live Blog - Round 3

Watch That Hot Pawn

The problem with an Olympiad is that you're always surrounded by some of the most gorgeous women. So, when you're the new young buck, and you can't wait for that Bermuda party that everyone seems to be talking about, you'll grab just about anything. Even hottie pawns! But when you're in a Sicilian, you really shouldn't be grabbing anything. Grab something else.

Seriously, IM George Xie might be just a tad nervous or just placing too much pressure on himself to do well. I’m sure the skipper would have had a good heart-to-heart talk with him this morning to sort that out.

As for me, well, I just go grab a beer.

Who knows what happened yesterday? The bloke who sat next to me certainly did. It seemed like he was in pain. I sat there thinking to myself, "Gee, I'm glad I don't have his ELO". Sometimes, knowing too much chess just makes life that much harder, I think.

Going down again, this time against a weaker opposition, seemed to hit the boys hard. Except for the captain and David, I didn't see any of them later last night. I'm guessing the other guys just wanted some quiet time on their own, to rest, to reflect. While myself and the other two find our way to the nearest Irish pub and join members of the Irish team for a couple, listening to some old fellow named Ronan Drury (or was it Drury Ronan, I can't remember) sing folk songs and about a hundred other covers.

A little while later the women's Shannon Oliver popped in. After her loss to a stock-standard hack, she, too, needed some cheering. Laughter and banter was exactly what everyone needed. The Irish guys delivered a drubbing to Luxembourg and so were in a particularly good mood and were excellent company.

So far, I've not really caught up with all the girls together and their captain. Their meetings are still deep behind the Dresden Wall. Actually, come to think of it, it's probably a good idea for them to come out with the guys for one big pow-wow, just a modest team wide bonding session. Chill out, relax, share a few, swap ideas, whatever. Then again, not being a player, without pressure, and still on my vacation, that’s easy for me to say.

I hope our readers back home will come join me for some live blogging today. It’s been decidedly quiet over the first couple of rounds. But since tomorrow is a Sunday, I expect a few late night owls to stay on for a bit. The teams could do with a little psychic energy.

Live Blog - Round 2

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Post-Rogers Olympiad

WIM Arianne Caoili yesterday began her Olympiad campaign, and her first board duties, with a win over no less than WGM Anna Sharevich of Belarus. Giang and Moylan drew their games, while Dekic lost to WIM Tatiana Berlin - the women's only blemish. Later that night Dekic drowned her sorrows over a €5 (AUD$10) beer with the men's team, but two of her teammates celebrated their fine start with the most appropriate cocktail - "sex on the beach".

On the other hand, the Aussie boys, in their first post-Rogers Olympiad, managed just a half point courtesy of GM Zhao. The rest were beaten. Over drinks, there was much discussion, especially, over Smerdon's choice of Nf6-Nh5-Ng3 maneouvre against Zbynek Hracek. Should he have preferred the Karpovian Nf6-Ne8? All the serious talk about plans and ideas were peppered everywhere with recollections of past games, stories from previous Olympiads and sometimes comedic bursts from GM Johansen that had even the usually straightfaced IM Solomon in a fit of laughter. Sadly for you lot, as I am emphatically informed by the men's skipper, exact details of these team talks stay firmly in the Olympiad.

While the boys are relax in their approach (Manuel Weeks, their captain, is so relaxed that he can even manage to complete an entire business transaction with a well-known GM in less than 2 minutes), the girls hold their team meeting behind closed doors. That's fair enough I suppose as this being his first try at the captaincy, IM Andras Toth might prefer to get into a groove with his charges away from unnecessary observation, especially from pesky bloggers. I understand that he's received ample advice from the boys, so hopefully things will be alright for him and the girls. Still, I hope to bring more light to goings-on in the women's side in later posts.

Today, the men's team has an "easier" assignment against El Salvador. Johansen comes in while George Xie stays partly in order to give him some momentum. The women take on Lithuania. Caoili - Cmilyte on board 1 is expected to attract a crowd.

Turning to the RP boys (for now, as I didn't have time observe the girls yesterday), their 1.5-2.5 loss to China yesterday shouldn't really surprise anyone. I'm also not even surprised by So's victory over the 2710-rated GM Ni Hua! The Pinoy wunderkind's current trajectory clearly has him heading towards the 2700-mark himself. Perhaps the only surprise would be to the captain, Eugene Torre, who reportedly said that his team expects a "walk in the Dresden park" in the earlier rounds. I bet he didn't expect the powerhouse Chinese right from round one. Today, Eugene's team will take on Algeria. Except on board 1, where the Algerians enjoy the services of GM Rizouk, round 2 should be Eugene's expected walk. I just hope that they won't stop and sit on one of the benches to breathe some fresh air.

Finally, there is some talk about a Swiss protest over their opponent's (Russia) last minute change in line up. GM Ian Rogers asked about this in yesterday's press conference and all he got for his trouble was a reply from a seemingly surprised moderator, Susan Polgar, that she and her team were not aware of any such protest. She promised to uncover more info.