Saturday, October 23, 2010

Australia Beat Russia, 8-0

A real life knight, a Hollywood megastar, politicians and world chess champions are just some of the people who have made a pilgrimage to Sydney's famous Chess Discount Sales. As I told you a couple of weeks ago, this mecca of chess in Sydney is closing down - a very unfortunate event in the life of Sydney chess.

In this second part of our interview with Peter Parr, retiring owner of CDS, I learn something very new and interesting. And I bet not many of you know about it too.

Get this: Australia once held the title of World Tele Champion! Don't believe me? Read on.


Note that I am pasting the last question from part 1 as Peter added a new paragraph. Also, instead of being a 2-part series, this interview will now be split into three.

(TCG): You know, I never much thought that a living could be had from a chess business. But you've obviously done well for yourself. Any tips for budding chess entrepreneurs or former, ahem, rivals perhaps?
(Peter Parr): [In] 1979 I sold my two-storey house (for a profit) and decided to run a chess centre full time [on the] top floor 232 Sussex St near Sydney Town Hall. It was essential that as I was spending very considerable funds in rent and in setting up a chess centre with 80 very high quality chairs and 40 quality tables that the NSWCA support the Centre by holding all its major events there.

This was, of course, achieved with the whole-hearted moral support of all chessplayers in Sydney. I had over 300 annual financial members in nine months and the centre was open 11am – 11pm 7 days a week. My income was mainly from the centre selling coffee, memberships, ham and cheese sandwiches etc, and every NSWCA event was held there for over 5 years when my lease expired and the property was sold. Most unfortunate.

It is strange that over 30 years ago I was one of the oldest members of NSWCA council and now in 2010 I am one of the younger members of the NSWCA executive.

Cecil Purdy ran a successful chess business in the Sydney CBD for nearly 40 years as did I. Cecil in the late 1960’s told me that well over 90% of all business in a Sydney CBD Chess Shop is to non-competitive players. I soon came to realise this was very true. My advice to budding chess entrepeneurs is to run a chess business in the heart of the Sydney CBD – as it has been for the last 80 years or just buy CDS and continue for another 40 years. The basics of economics (I passed the bankers institute exam in economics in 1967) is supply and demand. Imagine if you will opening a department store, fish and chip shop or chess shop in a very distant suburb in the middle of nowhere – sure the rent is very low but how many customers drop in every day ? Literally many many thousands of chess enthusiasts live,work or visit the CBD and buy chess goods. Of course sales via internet is popular for some and we provide this service at a considerable discount but most business for thousands of our customers as at ‘ David Jones’ is casual over the counter sales. The ideal set up of course is to combine a chess centre with a chess shop in the heart of the Sydney CBD.

Tell us some of the great names who have dropped by in your joint. I'm sure there have been many.
World Champions Prof Max Euwe (and FIDE President), Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Nona Gaprindishvili,GM’s Keene(a keen cake eater), Adianto, Handoko, Rogers, Zhao, Johansen, Miles, Klovans (who died last week), Oll, Chandler, Norwood, Conquest, Szabo, King, Azmaiperashvili, Ftacnick, Christiansen, Gufeld many times, the three Polgar sisters, Leko, Gelfand, Adams, Galliamova, and many more GM’s, dozens of IM’s including Danailov (BUL) Donaldson(USA), van Riemsdiyk(BRA). etc, FIDE President Campomanes – many times, Keanu Reeves (with 3 beefy minders), Frank Sartor when he was Lord Mayor of Sydney, Sir Ron Brierley, a strong player – about 4 hours analysis one day; Dato Tan, Tim Fischer (ex deputy Australian Prime Minister – many visits), etc.

Now Pete, we all know that you've got some real treasures in there. I recall stumbling across the original scoresheets to the 1980 (I think) telex match between Russia (I think it was) and Australia. I wanted to buy them but you refused. Are there any other treasures that have come along your way and that you'll never let go.
Our first telex match with Russia in 1977 we lost. Jamieson drew with Tal, West lost to Garry Kasparov aged 12. I offered 5 draws and 2 losses for the 7 unfinished games which was rejected and 5 draws and 3 losses was agreed. In the latter part of our second telex match with Russia I as captain suspected Russia was playing at a much slower time control and after proving this to be the case I advised Peter Wallman, ACF President that we must claim the match 8-0 in our favour. This was agreed and I advised Campomanes who after investigation awarded the match to Australia. The massive World Tele-Trophy was flown from Moscow to Sydney and handed over by the Russian Ambassador to Australia to Senator Evans The Australian Foreign Minister in a Ceremony in Sydney attended by the members of the World Champion Team – Australia. Amiel I still have the score sheets – Pity the World Trophy was lost for ever probably!

OK, let's move on to the Olympiad. You were skipper 6 times, if I'm not mistaken. Great memories I'm sure. Tell us a couple you won't soon forget.
1976 Haifa,Israel – I was mistakenly given one of the two special suites in the best hotel! Three telephones – 3 toilets , bar, etc, unbelievable – after staying in a kibbutz near the Golan Heights.

Jamieson nearly got run over by a tank when buying a bar of chocolate on the main road.

Very heavy security – soldiers on all balconies and roof of hotel. All Eastern block countries boycotted the event. We lost to Olympic Gold Medallists USA on my 30th birthday.

I met Prof ELO and Ed Lasker! Campomanes was there but disappeared for some days (to rival small unofficial olympiad in Tripoli – maybe).

1978 River Plate Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina. How can a Western Grandmaster lose to a Chinaman wrote the Giant GM Donner. Next day he was smashed and mated in 20 moves against China. He was furious and nearly knocked me over when he got up and stormed out.

An appeal by Sri Lanka (the father of GM Nakamura!) was ruled in Australia’s favour after I discussed the appeal with GM Yuri Averbach. I had a chat for about 10 minutes with ex-World Champion Euwe who, of course, remembered my father from an England-Holland Match. GM Harry Golombek, seconded by Campomanes awarded me the IA Title at the FIDE Congress. Hungary won above USSR.

1982 Lucerne, Switzerland. We played 10 of the top 20 seeded countries! Australia (Jamieson had to rest as he was above the GM norm) dropped to just below 20th in the last round losing 0.5-3.5 to Bulgaria. Jamieson shared the bronze medal with Garry Kasparov. I witnessed the fantastic game between Kasparov and Korchnoi – a real gem. 17 year old Nigel Short arrived late and sat next to me at the Commonwealth Association meeting. He asked me if I knew Campomanes. I told him that I knew him quite well and he would easily become FIDE President based on the dozens of countries he had visited. He thought Keene controlled the Commonwealth countries but after Campo’s speech – a brilliant orator he instantly realised Campo’s power and formed a long lasting impression which later led to the split between FIDE and the Kasparov-Short World Title Match.

1988 Thessalonika, Greece, I had a 45 minute chat with Karpov when he came to my hotel (with his bodyguard) after I returned his suitcase that had gone astray in Sydney.

1992 Manila Philippines – a fantastic free day reception when Aleks Wohl after a very considerable intake of food and drink was so sick on the bus that everyone deserted the bus which may have become unusable for some time. I was on the committee to determine the brilliancy prize for the 1992 Olympiad. Kasparov also on the committee asked me if I was a GM (everyone else was). I replied I was not but GM Gufeld the Chairman had asked me to be on the committee so all continents would be represented. I offered to stand aside if the committee wanted me to. Anand and Seirawan agreed I should stay. Kasparov said it was clear what the best games were. I asked the Chairman if we were voting for best game or brilliancy. Kasparov said it was best game not brilliancy. I showed the adverts throughout the bulletins stating brilliancy. Kasparov assured me the bulletins were wrong. Gufeld remained in petrified silence – he had once before disagreed with Kasparov! Kasparov showed his genius when various games were suggested by the panel he not only remembered all the games but said what was wrong with them. GM Rogers win over GM Milos was widely known as a brilliancy and discussed. Kasparov dismissed the game due to Milos playing badly near the end (as he put it). Kasparov said three games stood out as the best – they were in fact all Kasparov wins. Kasparov then said the best game was definitely his win over Ivanchuk but as the game was played at such a high level no-one else would understand it. He then gave another Kasparov game which ultimately was selected as the winner after I counted the votes just above Rogers in second place.

Any favourite players from among those you've captained?
Rogers tactical intuition in games and analysis as a youth in Argentina 1978 impressed me greatly – about 15 years later he suddenly asked me why I dropped him in round 3! Jamieson’s logic in Switzerland 1982 was above GM level (Each move of his crushing win over GM Unzicker - a judge by profession was played instantly) – a pity Jamieson retired from chess far too early.

Max Fuller played nine Olympiads mainly on board two with good results. He was stronger than many IM’s but just missed the title. He was awarded the Australian Master Title for Life after achieving way more than the tough 100 ACF Master points required. Sadly despite numerous requests the ACF still does not list him as an Australian Master on the ACF website but Fuller still hopes that this will occur in his lifetime. The ACF lists numerous players with lesser titles but still does not list its own Living Australian Masters which has been discussed numerous times.

Terrey Shaw played nine Olympiads like Stephen Solomon and Guy West and Max Fuller who are all great fighters no matter how good or bad the position. Johansen was clearly Australian number 2 for many years and he and Rogers on board 1 for Olympiad after Olympiad did well holding their own against strong opposition.

Rogers and Johansen have each so far played 14 Olympiads; Fuller, Shaw, West, Solomon and Dekic (W) 9. Clearly Biljana Dekic has set an excellent example for Australian Women’s Chess with her enthusiasm and dedication to the Women’s Olympiads for 20 years.

Of course, we've just had another Olympiad. We'd all love to hear your opinion on the current generation of players.
All our players at the 2010 Olympiad performed almost exactly in accordance with their FIDE ELO rating (shows what an excellent rating system Elo is! – GM David Smerdon was the biggest winner from open and women’s teams gaining 5.3 rating points).

The 2010 Australian Olympiad Team is about the same standard as our 1982 team but much older. The other problem is we were ranked in the top 25 countries 28 years ago but now we are outside the top 50 countries due to the considerable increase in the number of players at all levels in numerous countries (over 1350 grandmasters,over 200 above 2600, 890 over 2500 and 2350 above 2400). Australia is ranked world no 57 and we will have only 5 active FIDE rated players above 2400 – in rating order Zhao, Smerdon, Xie, Wohl and Johansen (Nov 2010 FIDE list). Sadly with only five of the top 2350 players (and none of the top 200) in the world Australia needs to improve a fair bit to return to the world top 50.


CDS' 30% off everything sale is until Christmas 2010. The month of October 2010 with the sale has been their busiest month ever, Peter tells me, with some quality items selling out very quickly. The more you buy the more you save!

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T. Parker said...

I'd love to own a chess bookshop in the city! Problem is I dont have the cash! lol

Jos Haynes said...

Perhaps I can add a little to Peter's early life. His father, Frank, was probably the strongest British player never to win the British Championship, and was one of the strongest British players over 40-50 years from the 1930s onward. I first came across Peter around 1958 when he joined the chess club at school (I had only learned the moves a couple of years previously). It might embarrass Peter to know that he was considered a lovely, sweet, little boy! One of my sisters was really struck by him when she brought over a chess team from the girls' school for a match. I have a picture somewhere of him at our school tournament held in the Cadet Force hut which I will try to fish out and send when I get home if anyone is interested - I am currently on holiday in Australia. The Parr boys certainly had a reputation to live up to, given what their father had achieved, and that might have made their lives a bit difficult at times. In the case of David, Peter's elder brother, this was certainly the case. Incidentally, Peter's memory is at fault on the school team - David was always no. 2 when I played - but our team in that period was certainly one of the strongest around.

I emigrated to Australia in '82 and was surprised to come across Peter at the Doberl Cup in Canberra a couple of years later. I had lost contact with everyone from school, and was only a sporadic chessplayer. But the chess world is like that. Nowadays, if one peruses the tourney results, loads of names from one's youth spring up - but now more often in the veteran sections. So happy retirement, Peter. Maybe you will have more time to play instead of arbitrating? Jos Haynes, Sutton Grammar School 1955-62, now living in France