Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Karpov Confesses to Weakness

In a couple of short video interiews for Big Think, the former Champ and now candidate for the FIDE presidency, Karpov reveals something about himself and Kasparov.

On Kasparov: "Maybe he’s less strong in boring positions, and then maybe his weakness was, of course now he is not playing so active like before, so he was not so strong when his king was in danger."

Here's the other one.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Is Your Engine Legit?

I hadn't even thought this to be a question to mull over. But Gary Walters wonders about which chess engines are legit:

The controversy is not so much with these engines, but rather with the "free," "open source" engines that are cropping up. There are many of these as well, led by what's known as the IPPOLIT family, including RobboLito, Igorrit, IvanHoe, FireBird and Fire. Some have claimed that the IPPOLIT engines are nothing more than decompiled versions of Rybka that have been tweaked (for better or worse) and tossed onto the market. Last I checked the IPPOLIT authors were an anonymous group hailing themselves as the "Decembrists."

More in Chess Engines: Which Are Legit?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cosplay Chess

"Cosplay" or "costume play" is probably one of the more unusual distractions among many young Japanese. Basically, it's dressing up to a whole new level. I'm talking about kids putting on some very elaborate make up and highly detailed costumes to represent some character from various sources - commonly from manga.

Yesterday, while being out on my usual photo walk, I stumbled across what seemed like a cosplay convention. Permission is required to take photos of the kids, but I did sneak in this shot.

I mention this because I just noticed that cosplayers outside of Japan seem to include a chess game in their conventions - specifically, human chess! Like in this video (and there's plenty more on YouTube).

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chrome Chess

OK here's a chance for some of our smart readers, who know a thing or two about coding, to get chess in as part of an operating system's time-wasting feature.

In case you didn't know it, Google has plans to launch their own operating system called, "Chrome OS". In a developers' conversation thread for games, they've just put out a call for the sorts of games that folks might find interesting. You'll basically need to build the feature and be responsible for its implementation.

Here's a list of basic requirements:

P0 work in chrome / html5
P1 work offline
P1 work in at min 1024x600 res but can adapt to larger screen resolutions
P1 work in a mole / panel form factor (< 600x300), we can provide some
mocks of this form factor
P2 saves state in cloud (e.g. in appengine) across reboots
P2 multiplayer over the internet

Go to this thread if you want to contribute.

Never Ended Chess Match

Did you see that? Since when did a tennis match turn into a 3-day test match and in the process broke pretty much every record under the sun?

Well, since American John Isner and Frencman Nicolas Mahut decided to take their final set into an epic 138 games!

Isner eventually prevailed 6-4 3-6 6-7 7-6 70-68. Long but at least it all came to an end. Sad, really, since both guys are champions as far as I'm concerned.

In the wake of that match, CNN takes a look at past contests that, according to them, never quite ended. One contest that's in their list is a familiar one to chess fans.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Asian Juniors Chess Champs

A so-called "Asian Junior Chess Championship" held in India has just been won by local IM Shyam Sundar. With the vast majority of players obviously being Indian, many of whom clearly of GM strength just based on ratings, it was always likely that this event would be won by a local.

However, in the parallel "Asian Junior Girls Chess Championships", there was a big surprise.

Vietnamese player WFM Vo Kim Phung, seeded 11th and who sports a rating of just 2096, rippled through the locals to finish on 7.5 points and win on tiebreak from Kazakh and fellow WFM, Nakhbayeva Guliskhan.

The Philippines had reps in both events with FM Haridas Pascua in the main section, while Lamiel Bernales battled it out among the girls. RP journo Marlon Bernardino reports that Pascua narrowly missed out on an IM norm by losing his last game to IM Das Debashis of India. Bernales finished in 35th place overall.

Games from this event can be viewed here and tournament details here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Helping Afghans with Chess

Pride of Australia medal recipient Roye Burgess is doing his bit for the community through the Hume Chess Club which is itself housed within the Sunbury Library. Mr Burgess has story to tell his local paper here.

By the way, I'd not heard of that so-called Pride of Australia Medal until now!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Matsudo Chess Club Event

A few weeks ago I played in a small tournament hosted by the Matsudo Chess Club, way out in the north-east of Tokyo. It was only my second tournament so far in this Japanese capital.

When I say small, I mean just 36 players. It wasn't so much that they couldn't attract more players, but that the club had deliberately limited the number of participants to just that total. I suspect it was due to the limited space available. (Hec, there are drinking bars here that seat no more than 8-10 people!)

Just as well really, as the whole business seemed less like a tournament than just a friendly Sunday social. Despite my still absent Japanese lingo skills, I still managed to mingle and communicate. Actually, virtually all of my opponents spoke a tidbit of English.

After months of inactivity, my play was exactly as I'd expected: horrible. I found myself totally unable to calculate the simplest of tactics and even forgetting lines that I'd been playing for years! Not to mention that I completely abandoned the important rule: always assume best play for your opponent.

As a result, my 4-game outing netted just the paltry single point! Two draws and 2 losses.

No games of mine are worth showing. But, as per usual, I at least have photos for you to look at. They are on my flickr site here.

High up on ninth floor is a view of Tokyo. At least a bit of of this vast metropolis.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fischer Lover Needs Job

The woman who's at the centre of the latest Fischer news frenzy appears to be more concerned about the most regular thing: just getting a job. And she prefers one in government.

Thirty one year old Marily Young is in a legal fight to prove that her 9 year old daughter, Jinky, is, in fact, the daughter of the late chess champion. A win will mean that she'll likely end up with P140M in the bank or roughly just a little over 3 million US dollars. It's pretty damn hard to believe that Fischer died with apparently so much dough!

More in Manila Bulletin.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Melbourne Chesser in Poker Tour

6AM Tokyo. The streets outside are barely alive. And here I am watching, of all things, a poker event!

Well known to most Aussie chessers is the currently Melbourne-based Kerry Stead. In case you didn't know, Kerry's on a poker tour of the US and playing in various events. At the time of this post, the Aussie is in some event called "$1,500 H.O.R.S.E". For the totally poker-ignoramus like yours truly, here's a link to "H.O.R.S.E".

You can follow Kerry over on his Donkast blog where you can also download some episodes of his very, very long poker news podcasts. Unfortunately, I can't understand some of what he's actually saying!

Quick Update: Kerry eliminated finishing in 23rd spot!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Smallest Chess Set

From awesome robotics to the world's smallest chess set! Students at Texas Tech have won an award (for novel microelectromechanical systems) for their design of a chess board that measures no more than 435 micrometers by 435 micrometers, while each piece is about 50 micrometers or about half the width of a human hair. Quite amazing!

Hat tip to Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Iceland to Exhume Fischer

In a follow up story to my earlier post, the Icelandic Supreme Court has now given the go-ahead for the exhumation of Fischer.

The SMH reports.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lego Bots Chess

They just keep getting better and better. I thought that that animatronics chess set in my post the other day was cool. But this one is positively awesome!

From the "Crave", CNet's gadget blog:

It took a year for four people on Team Hassenplug, led by Steve Hassenplug, to put Monster Chess together at a cost of around $30,000. It can be played as human vs. computer, computer vs. computer, or human vs. human via the controlling computer. It uses international standardized rules from an enhanced version of the ChessBot software package. And no, sadly, you can't buy one.

It's just the sort of accessory for every chess fanatic!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Animatronic Chess Set

Now that's cool!

Hat tip to GeeokoSystem.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sponsorship or Vote Buying?

When you've got pockets as deep as Ilyumzhinov's and when the man himself is more than willing to throw money around, it all gets a little too hard for the opposition. The current FIDE boss a couple of days ago announced that he will sponsor 10 tournaments across Asia totalling $1 million over a ten year period. That's $100,000 per event!

How's Karpov supposed to counter this?

Fact is, and here's the reality check for Karpov, most players are happy to accept Ilyumzhinov's money as Dylan Loeb McClain rightly points out in the NYT. But more worrying for the Karpov camp than the players are really the many feds or rather the chess polies who run them. Somehow, Karpov needs to appeal to their better senses other than those that respond to dollar signs.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Footy Blokes Play Chess

Hollywood superstar Russell Crowe may have just found the right formula to success for his rugby league football team, the Rabbitohs. Last year the team finished about half way in the league ladder, but so far in this year's season, the Rabbitohs are holding fifth spot! All this seems to be thanks to...chess!

From the SMH: "They don't play poker any more, they play chess. The coaching staff all play chess. They play before training, while they are in physio, they've put tournament draws up on the noticeboards. It's ludicrous. They've got magnetic chess boards to take with them on the plane."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Kirsan: I'm not ET's Agent

A long interview with FIDE boss Kirsan Ilyumzhinov by Russian paper Gazeta is thankfully available in English on Kirsan's own OneTeam campaign website. See here. I say thankfully because reading this interview just gives us yet another reason to laugh.

The section on Kirsan's ET encounters is a real doozy. Like this:

I was glad to know this, that people from any part of the Earth write to me, I receive hundreds thousands of emails, photos and descriptions. In the USA NASA only registered more than four thousand images of UFOs. I do not mention many Russian cities. I am only happy that a person starts to realize that he is not alone in this Universe, and stops being egoistic, being the only being with a mind, on this Earth. We are surrounded by lots of creatures with intellect. Horses, cats, dogs – animals also feel, love and hate. I do not mention representatives of other civilizations. This is great. The faster we start feeling ourselves as part of universal intellect, the quicker wars and destruction of each other and creatures with mind shall stop. I am grateful for this to journalists and all those who write to me.

Such bizzaro statements might get any normal polie tossed out faster than you can say, "the bloke's a mental case", but the thing is - there just ain't anything normal about His Highness (as the Indians so deferentially addressed him).

What sets the Kalmykian president head and shoulders above most other polies is - conviction. The man truly believes in what he 's saying. It's hardly the sort of quality that you can say about "Phony Tony" or Phony Tony's sparring partner, Kevin "ETS Backflip" Rudd.

And the man has balls.

Realising that a backflip on his ET story is pointless, Kirsan makes a bold and only logical move. Says he, "For the first time I officially declare that I m not an agent of any extraterrestrial intelligence."

Can you imagine Kevin Rudd saying the equivalent, "For the first time I officially declare that I m not an agent of the Chinese Communist Politburo"? No, of course, you can't! Because unlike Ilyumzhinov, Rudd has no balls!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Glicko for FIDE?

An interesting little item on the FIDE website about ratings.

New players entering the rating list with unusually high ratings, tend to be overrated and new players entering the list with unusually low ratings, tend to be underrated. It was recommended that the K factor for ‘new’ players (those that have not yet played 30 games) should be increased from 25 to 30. The initial rating would not be affected but it would impact on their rating until they had played 30 games and improve the predictive power of their rating in that period. The effect on the rating list was minimal.

It was recommended that if FIDE decides to go ahead, then a separate rating list for Blitz and a separate list for Rapid should be produced. FIDE should decide on need and cost structure.

A list of items that everyone thought should be considered in the major review for 2012 was made, including whether FIDE should stay with the Elo system or consider alternatives.

The only need that they could possibly identify for separate blitz and rapid lists is that of FIDE's. The need for profits! And if they're really serious about a new rating system, then I've got just the man for them. My old mate, Bill Gletsos. He'll tell 'em about Glicko.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Skipper Appointments for Aussies

It's not really new news as it was highly expected, but FM Manuel Weeks has just been officially announced by the ACF as the captain of the Aussie men's Olympiad team. I have lost count as to the number of times that he's held that post for the Olympiad squad. Anyone know? In any case, the players love him and, based on my own first-hand observation, he does a good job.

Also announced in the latest ACF newsletter is the appointment of IM Leonid Sandler as captain of the women's crew. The Melburnian replaces IM Andras Toth in that position. Again, a good choice.

Here are the final selections one more time.

Open Team:
1. GM Zong-Yuan Zhao
2. GM David Smerdon
3. IM George Xie
4. GM Darryl Johansen
5. IM Stephen Solomon

Women's Team:
1. WIM Arianne Caoili
2. Giang Nguyen
3. WIM Biljana Dekic
4. WFM Emma Guo
5. WFM Vaness Reid

If you read the ACF newsletter and wonder why my list for the women's is different, this is because I'm going by the selection coordinator's earlier announcement that IM Irina Berezina pulled out due to family reasons. So the other selectees move one place up.

Monday, June 07, 2010

NYC's Chess District

I've been thinking about where to next after Tokyo. I'm thinking NYC.

Aussie Ella Morton and the so-called "Chess District" are sure good enough reasons to head State side!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

At last, A Chess Club!

I think Caissa smiled on me today, not once, but twice.

Firtly, the Musashino Chess Club reopened their doors in a spot that's just 10 minutes walk from where I live! Small by foreign standards (this is Tokyo, after all), but the club has everything and is right in the middle of town. It also happens to be in the kyabakura district, not that I'd ever be tempted drop 10,000 yen for an hour of chatting, yes just chatting, to some Japanese sheila with a big blonde wig and who looks as if she'd just taken a dip in vat of tanning solution.

The club opens 5 days a week, except Mondays and Tuesdays.

As I had to spend the first half of my day out at Shibuya, I managed to make it back in time for the last round. Yep, they let me play. The privilege cost me 900 yen or roughly AU$12.

It wasn't exactly my best effort, but here the chess God smiled on my fortune for a second time. Despite clear signs of rust, I got lucky.

Musashino CC club game
My opponent
The Closet Grandmaster

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Nf3 d6 5. g3 Nbd7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O e5 8. e4 Re8 9. h3 exd4 10. Nxd4 a5 11. Be3 Nc5 12. Qc2 c6 All book so far. Reminds me of my mate Toby. I think he and I must have played this line a hundred times in lightning. But now my opponent deviates. 13. Kh2!? Never seen this one before. 13...a4 14. Rad1 Qa5 15. Bf4 Qb4? 16. b3? (16. Bxd6! Qxc4 17. e5 Nfd7 18. f4 makes life very hard for Black.) 16... axb3 17. axb3 Ne6 18. Nxe6 Rxe6 19. Be3 Ra3 20. Rb1 Nd7? (20... Ng4+ 21. hxg4 Bxc3) 21. Ne2? (21. Na4 threatening to trap the Queen! Luckily my opponent also did not see it.) 21...Re8 22. Bd4 Nc5 23. Bxg7 Kxg7 24. Nd4 Bd7?? Another awful move. And again, my opponent, a well dressed lady who seemed to be already in her 60's, missed the appropriate reply.

After 24...Bd7, what should White play?

25. Rfd1? (25. Qb2! with the powerful threat of Nc2.) 25... Rea8?? Still, the same idea is on the board, but again.... 26. Qd2? ...my opponent fails to capitalise! 26...Qb6 27. Qf4 Ra2 28. Rd2 Ne6 29. Nxe6+ Bxe6 30. Bf1 Qb4 31. Rxd6 Rxf2+ 32. Qxf2 Qxd6 33. Qb2+ Kg8 34. Be2 Qc5 35. Kg2 Qe3 36. Qc2 f5 37. Bd3 Rd8 38. Rd1 fxe4 39. Be2 Rf8 40. Rf1 Rxf1 41. Bxf1 Qf3+ 42. Kg1 Qxg3+ 43. Bg2 Bf5 (Should have been just... 43... Bxh3) 44. Qe2 Bxh3 45. Qxe4 Qxg2+ 0-1

Friday, June 04, 2010

Wesley Wins Battle of GMs

Pinoy number one GM Wesley So has won this year's "3rd Battle of the Grandmasters" tournament in the Philippines. It was an emphatic performance for Wesley who has now bagged the event for a third straight year. For other tournament details, go to chess-results.com.

Thanks to Ignacio Dee I can show you the winner's last round victory over IM Richard Bitoon.

Battle of GMs
Bitoon, Richard
So, Wesley

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 introducing The Dragon, a fave of Carlsen, Radjabov and Kasimdzhanov. 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 O-O 8. Qd2 Nc6 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. O-O-O Rb8 11. Bb3 Na5 12. h4 b5 13. Kb1 Nc4 14. Bxc4 bxc4 15. g4 More common is 15. Ka1 15... Qb6 16. Qc1 Qa5 17. Ka1 Rb6 18. Nde2 Rb7 19. g5 This and his previous move only seem to do black a big favour - opening up the long diagonal for the Bishop on g7! Nh5 20. Qd2 Rfb8 21. Rb1 Ng3! So eliminates one defender. It's over now. 22. Nxg3 Rxb2 23. Bd4 Rxa2+ 24. Nxa2 Rxb1+ 0-1

The event also served as the country's national championships, including that for the women. In a surprise result, last-minute replacement Ylem Jose who is, I am informed, the captain of the Far Eastern University women's chess team, finshed on top with 8.5 points. The question now is: should she get a guernsey for the Olympiad?

Note that the RP squad listed in this post is still subject to further review. It turns out that the names are only nominees.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Spanish Club Shut Down

I'd heard about this some weeks ago, but only managed to actually get it confirmed, completely by accident, last night. The sad news from Sydney is that one of our beloved chess venues, The Spanish Club, has closed.

It was inevitable. By the time I left for Japan in January, the club was already down to its knees. In an effort to trim expenses, the club was forced to scale back - closing off the restaurant, then the small games room where we used to play chess - but also ramping up the number of pokie machines. Pokie machines actually occupied nearly as much space as seating. It was hardly the most inviting atmosphere for after-work drinks. The only patrons were us chess fanatics, the usual old timers and a bunch of cashless foreign students on dodgy visas. There was no way the joint was going to last.

There you have it, then, kaput for what was once one of the genuinely coolest venues in Sydney.

Interested readers should note, though, that the Town Hall remains the unofficial centre of chess in the Sydney CBD. As I understand it, there's still action there daily. The good news is that the boys look like they've quickly found an alternative to the Spanish Club. No clear idea of exactly where it is, but I understand that it's in some sort of pub. Will find out more about that one.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Supercomputers and Chess

One of the most interesting tidbits to emerge out of the recent World Championship match was the challenger's use of a supercomputer. He's also even planning to use it in candidates matches later this year as well as in 2011.

Well, we can't have that! Must even the field.

If, by some chance, one or more of our readers are future World Championship challengers, then this report from the BBC is a must-read. There you'll hopefully find a supercomputer near you. Just going by the chart, it looks like an American challenger will have the best chances, followed by the Chinese and then the Germans!

All they have to do is memorise all the lines and hope that the other bastard plays predictably.

RP 2010 Olympiad Team

I've just checked Olympiad registration site to find out about the RP squad and it looks like we now have a team. According to that site, the following will comprise both the Philippine men's and women's teams (in no particular order).

Abraham, Tolentino (Captain)
Gomez, John Paul
Laylo, Darwin
So, Wesley
Torre, Eugenio
Antonio, Rogelio Jr

Legaspi, Edmundo (Captain)
Perena, Catherine
Cua, Shercila
Cua, Sherily
Bernales, Christy Lamiel
Camacho, Cheradee

The men retain 3 players from two years earlier with So, Laylo and Gomez getting a guernsey. Villamayor is out and is replaced by another veteran, Antonio. Interestingly, the Pinoy legend Torre is back in for OTB action after his stint as captain in the last Olympiad. The skipper's duties go to some dude named Abraham Tolentino. I've never heard of him, so perhaps some of ourRP-based readers can elucidate.

On the distaff side, there's only one change to the lineup with Rivera dropped and replaced by another Cua, Shercily.