Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Parr: Australia Should Improve

I understand that once a upon a time Australian chessers played in that big yard called Asia. But, for whatever reason, Australia exited that yard to play in a smaller yard, with nations like, oh I don't know, Palau, Fiji and the Solomon Islands. (Yeah, go ahead and try finding them on the map)! Have you ever wondered why that is so?

I know. Because Australia likes to be a big dog, but in reality it's just a puppy. Put this puppy in among the genuine big dogs and the puppy whimpers.

In this third and final instalment of the interview with the retiring founder of Chess Discount Sales, Peter Parr, the man has one simple demand: "We must improve our standard of play. Australia should reinstate itself in Asia instead of trying to find more small islands in Oceania to compete against."

Can't really argue with that.


(TCG): By the way, and this one's for our Pinoy readers, I know you had a few dealings with Campo. What do you reckon of that bloke?
(Peter Parr): Campomanes really loved chess. He could have been a very successful businessman or politician – he dated the young Imelda Marcos! And later was a good friend of President Marcos. He dedicated his life to chess – and was very active in promoting the game widely in China and in numerous other countries. He was very good for chess despite his critics. He visited my chess shop on numerous visits to Sydney and played lightning all night.

Switching gears a bit now Peter, though I think you anticipated this one. Politics. There's too much to cover and many of us have read and heard the plenty you've had to say about many a topic - ratings, the ACF, the NSWCA, etc. On Aussie chess, I just want to ask you this simple question: what's the state of Australian chess today in your view?
Simple answer – mixed. The standard of play of our top players is similar to 40 years ago but all other major countries have dramatically improved. 2400 FIDE rating in 2010 and you are in the Australian Olympiad Team although ranked outside the top 2200 players in the world – tell that to tennis, swimming, cricket,etc! We must improve our standard of play. Australia should reinstate itself in Asia instead of trying to find more small islands in Oceania to compete against. Many of our leading players are getting older yet the youngsters are not good enough to replace them. The rate of play in weekenders and four rounds a day(!) needs review.

On the plus side Primary Schools chess around Australia is very encouraging. There are over 8,000 competing each year in inter-school competitions in NSW alone. Sales of chess products in Australia continues to increase at an ever increasing pace particularly with full containers of outdoor garden sets. Adult club chess at night is on the decline with an alarmingly few chess administrators under the age of 50 – this was not the case 40 years ago when many organisers were aged 20-40. We urgently need members of all states to assist in the administration of chess. FIDE recently described Australia as backward – blunt, but sadly true.

Anything you think urgently needs fixing? I hope to Caissa you won't say ratings!
You hit the nail on the head. Ratings – The Glicko rating system is only used in Australia – but rejected with good reason by the other 169 FIDE countries. The system in my opinion based on hundreds of complaints is very bad and suggestions of an ACF rating review have been firmly rejected. There is widespread discontent, yet [there is] no ACF review or discussion. We simply should return to a rating system adopted by FIDE and all major national federations.

You've been a very vocal critic of the NSWCA in the past, yet you're now that body's current boss. What's the working relationship like with my friend Bill Gletsos and all the other guys?
In the past I have been a critic if there is a serious problem. One NSWCA AGM I did not attend but found out by chance months later that the Association lost about $11,000 in one year! Unfortunately no-one at the AGM said anything – well they should have.

The council has worked well together since the AGM in November 2009. The executive have all attended every meeting. I get on with vice-president Bill Gletsos who I have known since he emerged from junior ranks (at Concordia Club) in the early 1970’s. Clearly I do not agree with him at all about Glicko and some other matters but in general terms we get on OK.

Is a role in state chess politics something that you'll be doing more in your retirement, then?
The last few months have been extremely busy since our 30% off everything retirement sale. I will of course have a lot more time in my retirement and will of course continue to help and promote the game of chess. There is so much to do at the grass roots level. We need to establish new chess clubs to replace those that no longer exist. There are 14 members of the NSWCA Council and as in any organisation we need new people with new ideas joining the administration and changes made and urgent reviews by majority vote.

Before we close Peter, we want to know, will we see "Peter Parr, A Memoir" any time soon?
The purchase of premises in the CBD for a Chess Centre open 12 hours a day seven days a week (as I had established 30 years ago – although only rented) is my long-term Goal which I will work on in my retirement.

And finally, are we ever going to see you back in over-the-board action at some point? You're still 2000+, right?
To be more precise 2227 (down from 2297). I would of course like to play again after retirement when I am not working 12 hours a day every day serving customers. I will play in a number of FIDE rated events overseas. Like hundreds of other adults who are currently inactive I will not play under the Glicko rating system where a modest result in a weekender can knock off 500 rating points when a correct rating system would only knock off 50 rating points. I put it to everyone that Australia is steadily losing many adult clubs and members due to Glicko.


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!

View Larger Map


Garvin said...


If you performed at your current rating, you have nothing to fear from Glicko.

Sounds more like that you are scared that you will play at a 1800 level and get rated accordingly.

And I disagree with your whole claim that Australia is losing adult chess clubs because of Glicko. I would say that the loss of chess clubs, if in total terms there actually has been a loss of chess clubs, has had absolutely nothing to do with Glicko and you are colouring a lot of issues because of your own personal dislike of Glicko.

The Closet Grandmaster said...

Mr Gray -

Do you have an alternative hypothesis, then, on why clubs may be dying out?

And Mr Gray, speaking of being "scared", what say you about Australian chess masters pillaging the islands instead of fronting up to heavyweights of Asia?


Garvin said...

On most occasions clubs die out because either of lack of personnel to run them, or people just find other things to do and nothing has been doing to attract a newer breed to the club.

SE Qld has far less clubs than 20 years ago, but I know it has absolutely nothing to do with Glicko and has much more to do with lack of personnel to run them.

On the issue of Asia v Oceania, yes we should be part of Asia, if for no other reason that to get rid of soft zonal titles :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the 3 part interview with Peter Parr. A very interesting read as he has many stories and opinions from his long time involvement in Aussie chess. Even if you made it a 10 part interview, he would still have many more interesting stories to tell!

cathyc said...

A wonderful interview series with Peter, thanks so much for it!

As for the rating system, I know a huge number of people who won't play under the current rating system. It has decimated chess towards (not AT) the top of Australia for many years.

Not that this is the only reason why club chess/congresses etc struggle.