Saturday, December 03, 2011

Occupy Sydney Grammar

So these two boys are getting the boot for doing what they love and what they're good at. In the spirit of the times, there's only one thing to do.

Occupy Sydney Grammar. And tweet #occupysydneygrammar.

Kevin Willathgamuwa, 8, and his brother Rowan, 9, have also been excluded from Grammar's chess team competing in the Australian Schools Teams Championships at Knox Grammar this weekend, despite missing only one day of the long competition. The boys were away from school for 10 days. In Brazil, Kevin placed 10th out of 90 boys in the under 8s, and Rowan won half his matches. The Australian grand master, Ian Rogers, who was at the competition, said Kevin was clearly the best player of his age in Australia.

Read more in the SMH.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Still Breathin'!

Still breathing over here. Thank God.

Before hauling my ass over to Japan, I was totally aware of their working habits: long hours, sometimes over 6 or 7 days a week. But since I work for a US firm I thought I'd avoid all that. Turns out, I was wrong!

It's not only the marathon feeling of everyday existence, but the sheer pace of it, too. And it is the reason why I've hardly posted at all. Everytime I think of starting a post, there's always work. Pretty damn crazy.

Surprisingly, I can actually keep up with the locals, even outlasting most of them. I didn't think I had it.

Anyway, I think perhaps an OS break should be in order. Peter Long dropped in a couple of days ago and mentioned something about the KL Open. If nothing else, I gotta try out some of that Laksa. As good as Japanese food is, it's pretty boring compared to other Asian cuisine.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Beautiful Problems

Canadian playwright Andrew Laurenson has a new play.

...follows one man’s personal journey into learning what it means to take responsibility for his life. The story is inspired by one of the most famous chess games of all time: The 1997 Man versus Machine showdown in which Garry Kasparov, thought by many to be the best chess player in history, lost a match to Deep Blue, an IBM supercomputer.

It was considered a watershed moment in technological advancement, the humiliating defeat spelling doom for mankind. But the more Laurenson thought about it, the more he realized the Kasparov match — and his own games — weren’t so much a competition against machine, but a showdown against man and beyond that, himself.

I have a problem with my work hours which is the cause of my quietness of late. And, of course, there's nothing much beautiful about it. Once I'm done, I should be back to normal schedule. I'll even post a link to what I've been working on.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mofo Chess Piece

U-huh. OK then.

Chess bosses have added two new pieces to the ancient game in response to the introduction of ‘cool’ slang words to Scrabble’s official dictionary.
The new pieces are the Gangsta and the Shorty.

The Worldwide Chess Federation made the announcement after 3,000 slang words including ‘innit’, ‘thang’ and ‘fo-shizzle’ were added to the Collins Official Scrabble Words reference guide – or Scrabble Bible – released today.

The Gangsta is a described in a press release from the Federation as “a sneaky mo-fo, for sure.”

Believe it or not.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Missing Chess

It's the only form of chess I play these days. It's bullet, the opponent's not very good, but at least he's an IM. And, as they say, a win is a win.

ICC 1 0
My Opponent (IM)
The Closet Grandmaster

1. e3 c6 2. d4 Nf6 3. Nf3 d6 4. g3 g6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. O-O a6 7. c4 O-O 8. Nc3 Nbd7 9. Bd2 Re8 10. Qe2 e5 11. d5 Rb8 12. dxc6 bxc6 13. Rab1 Qc7 14. b3 Nc5 15. e4 Bg4 16. h3 Bd7 17. g4 Ne6 18. Be3 c5 19. Rfd1 Bc6 20. Ng5 Nd4 21. Bxd4 exd4 22. f3 dxc3 23. Rbc1 Nd7 24. h4 Bd4+ 25. Kh1 Ne5 26. Nh3 Qd7 27. Nf4 Re7 28. Nd3 Nxd3 29. Rxd3 Rbe8 30. Rcd1 Qe6 31. Rxd4 cxd4 32. Rxd4 Qe5 33. Qd3 c2 34. Rd5 c1=Q+ 35. Bf1 Bxd5 {White forfeits on time} 0-1

I miss chess.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

On Holiday in Osaka

Normally I put up an out of office notice, but in my excitement, I totally forgot this time. The reason for the lack of updates over the last few days is that I've actually been on holiday in Osaka. It's Japan's second biggest city.

There's plenty of good food here and things to do, but I wouldn't recommend more than 2-3 days. It's a grittier and dirtier city than Tokyo with more drunks and homeless people, it seems to me. There's also plenty of yakuza.

For those seeking the Amsterdam-like experience, and I'm not talking about Mary Jane laced cookies, there's that too.

I'll be back in Tokyo this Friday.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Steadman's Lucky Win

A couple of very good results in today's SIO. First up, I'm so glad to see this win by my old mate FM Greg Canfell over Danish grandmaster Sune Berg Hansen. The Dane gets a bit too cute in the end with a silly move.

Sydney Interntional Open 2011
Berg Hansen, Sune
Canfell, Gregory

1. c4 g6 2. g3 Bg7 3. Bg2 d6 4. Nc3 e5 5. d3 Nc6 6. e4 Nd4 7. Nge2 Nxe2 8. Nxe2 h5 9. h4 Bg4 10. f3 Be6 11. Be3 c6 12. Rc1 Ne7 13. d4 Qa5+ 14. Qd2 Qxd2+ 15. Kxd2 d5 16. cxd5 cxd5 17. dxe5 dxe4 18. f4 Rd8+ 19. Ke1 Nd5 20. Bc5 b6 21. Ba3 Bf5 22. Nc3 Nxc3 23. Rxc3 Bf8 24. Bxf8 Kxf8 25. Ke2 Kg7 26. Rhc1 Rd4 27. Ke3 Rhd8 28. Bf1 Bg4 29. Ra3 Rd2 30. Kxe4 Rxb2 31. Rxa7 Be6 32. Bc4 Rb4 0-1

But my pick from today's live games is this win by that man, again, Kiwi FIDE master Michael Steadman. Here he whips out the so-called Shirov-Shabalov Attack (one of my personal favourite variations) against Raul Samar. Visually, it seemed like Raul was a dead duck. But take a closer look!

Sydney Interntional Open 2011
Steadman, Michael
Samar, Raul

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Bd6 6. Qc2 Nbd7 7. g4 h6 8. Rg1 e5 9. h4 e4 10. Nd2 g5 11. hxg5 hxg5 12. f3 exf3 13. Nxf3 dxc4 14. e4 Bf4 15. Bxf4 gxf4 16. g5 Nh5 17. O-O-O Ng3 18. d5 Qb6 19. dxc6 bxc6 20. Bxc4 Qe3+ 21. Nd2 Ne5 22. Qa4 Bd7 23. Rge1 Qc5 24. Ba6 Rh2 25. Nf1 Nxf1 26. Bxf1 Bg4 27. Rd5 Qf2 28. Rxe5+ Kf8 29. Qb4+ Kg8 30. Ne2 Rh1 31. g6 Rxf1 32. gxf7+

32...Kh7 33. f8=N+ Rxf8 34. Qe7+ 1-0

Quite appropriately, Canfell and Steadman will now meet in the last round tomorrow.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Another SIO, But No Games

A day off today. The start of a week long holiday, the so-called "Golden Week" in Japan. Now I actually have a little bit of time to catch up on some chess, like the ongoing SIO in Parramatta. Nice to see a favourite event make it to a fifth edition after running into some financial challenges earlier.

And very nice to see an easy to navigate website. The live games implementation is quite basic but good to see that additional chat feature. Now all we need is somebody over there to figure out how to actually update the site with downloadable games and I'm sweet.

Anyway, here's one I just copied from the live site. Steadman will be happy with that. Walloping a GM, no less.

Sydney Interntional Open 2011
Steadman, M.
Berg Hansen, Sune

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3 c5 5. d5 O-O 6. e4 Re8 7. Nge2 d6 8. Bd2 a6 9. Ng3 b5 10. dxe6 Bxe6 11. cxb5 d5 12. bxa6 c4 13. exd5 Bh3+ 14. Nce4 Nxd5 15. Bxb4 Nxb4 16. gxh3 Qa5 17. Kf2 N8c6 18. Bxc4 Ne5 19. Qb3 Nxc4 20. Qxc4 Rac8 21. Qb3 Rc2+ 22. Ne2 Rxb2 23. Qe3 Nc2 24. Nf6+ 1-0

Monday, April 25, 2011

Russian Bags Doeberl

Some guy named Andrei Deviatkin has won the 2011 Doeberl Cup, scoring 7.5 and winning the thing outright. Never heard of this bloke and, to be quite honest, there was nothing much that impressed me about his play.

The one game that made me think to myself, "what the f**k", was the awful round 6 outing by WIM Arianne Caoili against FM Bobby Cheng. Cheng made her look like a beginner.

2011 Doeberl Cup Premier
Cheng, Bobby
Caoili, Arianne B

1. Nf3 f5 2. d3 Nf6 3. e4 fxe4 4. dxe4 Nxe4 5. Bd3 Nf6 6. Ng5 g6 7. Nxh7 Rxh7 8. Bxg6+ Rf7 9. g4 e6 10. h4 Qe7 11. g5 Nd5 12. h5 Nc6 13. h6 Ne5 14. Bxf7+ Qxf7 15. h7 Nf3+ 16. Kf1 Bg7 17. h8=Q+ Bxh8 18. Rxh8+ Ke7 19. g6 Qf6 20. Rh7+ Kd6 21. Nc3 Qxg6 22. Qxf3 Qxh7 23. Nxd5 exd5 24. Qf6+ Kc5 25. Be3+ Kb4 26. a3+ Ka5 27. Bd2+ Kb5 28. a4+ Kc5 29. b4+ 1-0

Sunday, April 24, 2011

When Ignorance is a Virtue

Eight year old reinvents chess. There's a deep and meaningful message here.

I was understandably touched when she came to me the next day wishing to play chess. “Of course!” I replied. “Great,” she said. “Here are the rules.”

She handed me a packet of papers, and at the top of the first she had written, “Plastic Animal Chess.” Below this was an enumeration of the kinds of pieces to be used (with blanks where we would record which plastic animals would be the stand-ins for each type), along with what each kind of piece does.

“This is complicated, Honey,” I wondered aloud, worried it would be far too difficult for her — and me. There were, by the end of her four hand-written pages, 10 distinct piece types and 18 pieces in all. “Chess only has six types, and it is already immensely difficult!” I said.

But more than my fright at the complexity of her game was another reaction, this one in my gut. Wasn’t there something mildly wrong about this new game of hers? Chess is a revered institution. What kind of heretic plays chess once and immediately presumes to do better?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Far from Chess

Out of the still ongoing aftershocks (we had an M6 last night), my 12 to 14-hour days, anti-nuke demos (I photograph the events) and the one million and one other things to do in Tokyo, I've had very little time for chess. So disconnected from chess, in fact, that I hadn't realised that the Doeberl Cup was on again!

Well, not until I saw a couple ofDoeberl Cup related updates by friends on Facebook. I'd provide a link to but the damn website is so slow to load I just gave up.

So, I bring you instead this video from Macauley Peterson which is a recap of the also ongoing US Championships. This is one is a recap of rounds 6 and seven.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


If you have Chrome, you can download SparkChess from the Google app store. The FREE version gets pretty lame very quickly, but the full version costs US$8.99. It will probably appeal to total newbies, but not chess regulars.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Short Loss to Gustafsson

Nice win by Jan Gustaffson over Nigel Short in yesterday's 7th round of the Bangkok Open. The tournament's presser quotes the winner as saying, "I think he didn't have time for his [slow plan from moves 17-20]. His piece sacrifice at the end [isn't great] but I already have strong threats."

Image courtesy of Bangkok Open

Bangkok Open 2011
Short, Nigel
Gustafsson, Jan

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 O-O 8. a3 Bc5 9. c3 d6 10. d4 Bb6 11. h3 h6 12. Be3 Bb7 13. Nbd2 Re8 14. d5 Ne7 15. Bxb6 cxb6 16. Ba2 Bc8 17. b4 Ng6 18. Re3 Nh7 19. Kh2 Rf8 20. Rc1 Nf4 21. c4 bxc4 22. Nxc4 b5 23. Na5 f5 24. Nc6 Qf6 25. Bb1 Kh8 26. Qb3 Bd7 27. exf5 Bxf5 28. Ncxe5 dxe5 29. Rc6 Qf7 30. Bxf5 Qxf5 31. Rxe5 Qd3 32. Qb2 Rf6 33. Rc7 Rg6 0-1

So far IM James Morris is the highest placed Australian with 5 points. He is actually undefeated and the run includes two draws, one with GMs Kunte and another with Zaw Win Lay.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Saving Chinese Chess

In China today there are fewer people playing Chinese chess and one of that country's best players doesn't like it. Hu Ronghua wants to fix the problem. To do that he started a reality TV show called, "Let's Play Chess Together". Apparently, the concept is not much different to "The Apprentice".

For ordinary people, Chinese chess may appear to be simple game of black versus red, but Hu explains that there’s much more than that going on, allowing it to compete with even today’s modern games.

“Chinese chess can cultivate one’s mentality," says Hu. “The small chessboard is filled with life’s ups and downs. Seemingly winnable chess might end up in total loss, while losing games might have chances to win back.”

Playing, says Hu, helps people develop skill and patience.

As an enthusiast of "western" chess this would be quite fascinating to watch. Imagine Kasparov in the role of Donald Trump looking for his apprentice. I think given the chance and the right amount of money, of course, the publicity-seeking Kasparov would probably jump at it!

Read more: Hu Ronghua (胡荣华): Chinese chess king looks for an apprentice.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Camden Chess Club

Good to see this little entry in the Camden Advertiser. A new chess club has opened in Camden, New South Wales and their home will be the local Camden Library. It's all free and all you have to do is turn up and play.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Thai Chess Open

Another serious aftershock hit Tokyo this afternoon - a 7.1 on the richter scale - which was quickly followed by a series of smaller tremors nearly every 5 minutes. Quite an incredibly unpleasant experience.

Which sort of makes me think: I should have headed off to Thailand!

Consisting of a main and a challengers tournament, this year's Thai Chess Open is host to some 200 players from 40 countries and ahead of them are no less than Spain's super-GM Francesco Vallejo Pons and Englishman GM Nigel Short.

But also in attendance are Australians IM West, FMs Illingworth and Reilly, Matt Drummond, IM James Morris, James Attwood, Sean Watharow and Peter Frost.

Should be a good one to watch. Live games here.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

RIP Larry Parr

Larry Parr, co-author of "Never Say I Assume!", the rags-to-riches story of Malaysian billionaire and chess aficionado, Datuk Tan Chin Nam, has died aged 64. He was once the editor of the USCF's "Chess Life" magazine. Mr Parr's passing is very sad for both US chess and, of course, for our friends in Malaysia.

From Quah Seng Sun in The Star Online:

I remember bumping into him in 1975 or 1976 and always, he would be deeply engrossed in discussing a chess game with any player who cared to sit down with him.

The more you know him, the more you’d learn that he had an elephant memory and could be very talkative. He had stories to tell and he’d tell them in so dramatic a fashion that you’d think there’d be scandals behind them but there weren’t. He wove fascinating tales around the chess personalities. His favourite subject was Bobby Fischer and he loved to talk and write about him.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Texas Tech Wins Final Four

As I reported last week, Kiwi Puchen Wang and Pinoy GM-elect Julio Sadorra were to represent their school, UT Dallas, in the so-called Final Four of Chess competition in Washington, D.C. It now turns out that their team finished second behind eventual winner Texas Tech.

There's more here on the USCF site.

If you want to view the games, go to the Monroi site. That's if you can be bother to register. I couldn't.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Europe via Toowoomba

A reason to visit Toowoomba. Play some chess. That and the fancy first prize!

The festival includes three events - the Darling Downs Open, Darling Downs Amateur and Toowoomba Coffee House Mystery Gambits.

The Darling Downs Open is the lead event of the Toowoomba Chess Festival, giving the local stars and top juniors a chance to fight it out through seven rounds with visiting experts and international masters over the four days.

First prize is $600 and a one week stay on Germany's Mosel River provided by one of the sponsors, My Europe Base.


Read more in The Chronicle.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

3D Chess

Some people just come up with all kinds of ideas. This one is 3D chess. Below is an example of how a Bishop might move or "moving in perspective". The whole concept even has its own website.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Tidbit of NCFP Past

I missed this last week, but it's related to my last post below. It looks like the man behind the UT Dallas chess team and a professor of literary studies, Tim Redman, didn't exactly impress ex-Pinoy Olympiad team skipper, Bobby Ang.

Here's Bobby:

I say all these nice things about Mr. Redman with mixed feelings, for he double-crossed us during the 2000 Istanbul Olympiad. The question of which federation to accredit as the official governing body of chess in the Philippines, whether it will remain the Philippine Chess Federation (PCF, this is the Art Borjal/Edgar de Castro group) or the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP, Campo/myself/Eugene Torre etc), was to be taken up in the General Assembly to be held during the Olympiad.

Campo and I had a merienda with Mr. Redman and one of his delegates, Jim Eades (this is the guy who wrote Chess for Dummies, a great instructional book) to campaign for their support. We had very friendly discussions after which Mr. Redman promised that the USCF will support the NCFP. To my great disappointment, however, during the actual General Assembly not only did they vote against us but their delegate (I forget his name but he was a big guy) threatened to walk out if the NCFP won.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kiwi and Pinoy in Action

New Zealand's Puchen Wang and RP's GM-elect Julio Sadorra will be in action this coming weekend for their school UT Dallas as they face off their rivals in the so-called College Chess Final Four. Hostilities will be hosted by Booz Allen Hamilton in their headquarters in Washington, D.C., while games are expected to be broadcast on the Monroi site.

For some of our aspiring young chess stars in Oceania, I think a berth on a US college team bench might just be something to aim for. Get a degree and play plenty of chess at the same time!

Here is UTD's GM Alejandro Ramirez talking about chess as a sport.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Where's the Money in Myanmar?

Last year the first of a planned series of annual tournaments to celebrate the life of Campomanes was held in the Philippines. These are supposed to be hosted by all 10 of ASEAN's member nations. To make the whole thing happen, no less than FIDE boss Kirsan Ilyumzhinov sponsored the series to a tune of US$1 million. Therefore, that's roughly $100,000 for each event.

Thanks to a tipster, I've now just seen the details of the next Campo Memorial which is scheduled to take place in Myanmar from 5 - 11 July later this year. To my surprise, the prizes on offer there will be nowhere near the much-touted one hundred grand.

It is just $10,000!

Here's the section on prize fund that appears in the tournament presser:

4. Prize Fund (US$ 10,000)
Open: 1st US$ 3,000; 2nd US$ 1,600; 3rd US$ 1,200; 4th US$ 1,000; 5th US$ 700; 6th US$ 500; 7th & 8th US$ 300 each; 9th & 10th US$ 200 each.
Best Myanmar Players: 1st US$ 500; 2nd US$ 300; 3rd US$ 200.
Best Women Players and Best Junior Players (U-18, U-14, U-10) prizes are also awarded.
All the prize winners will get the special prizes (Quantum Shields, Quantum Pendants, Quantum Flasks and Quantum Bracelets awarded by Fusionexcel International). Information on these health products is available at
Remark: The prize fund is guaranteed-minimum amount. It may be increased and the final one shall be announced before the start of Round 3. Prize money shall be shared equally among the tied-players.

Compared to the inaugural event, which did offer prizes totaling $100k, this Myanmar edition looks to be no better than a large weekender. Which makes me wonder if it's even a legit tournament!

Who knows what might have happened to the vast chunk of Kirsan's largesse. But whatever the reason, the shortfall is perhaps why the Myanmar tournament has had to seek sponsorship from some outfit called "Fusion Excel International", apparently the world's largest purveyors of "scalar energy"! Maybe you'd like a quantum pendant? It "promotes positive flow of energy and helps to maintain energy balance."

As my tipster said, "New Age Fruitloopery".

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chess: An Ideal Laboratory

Old, but I just saw this pop up in my feeds. From Seed Magazine:

Because chess is competitive and mentally demanding, yet objectively measured, the resulting studies of gendered performance can potentially be more conclusive and less contentious than other approaches to this subject have been. Often, comparisons of male and female brains appear to pathologize the female condition in a manner reminiscent of the Victorian-era pseudoscientific sexism and racism that persisted in opposition to 19th century minority-rights movements. One argument, famously posed by Simone DeBeauvoir and periodically reinvented to support women’s equality, claims that the industrial revolution rendered superfluous the physical strength that long justified masculine dominance. Areas like sports and combat are reminders of male physical advantage, and lead to questions as to why there should not be a corresponding mental advantage.

In "Why Chess May Be An Ideal Laboratory For Investigating Gender Gaps in Science".

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cordover's Crusade

The fire of revolution is ablaze across the Middle East....

Oh scratch that!

When I began to write this post I had in mind contemporary events. But given the language used by Melbourne chess businessman David Cordover, he apparently thinks of this, his latest war against the ACF, as a sort of crusade. I thought he was merely calling for a revolution. I was wrong.

He wants a new religion.

In a series of often acrimonious emails (to which I am cc'd) between himself and the Australian Chess Federation big wigs, David Cordover ends with, what seems to me, a threat of nothing less than all out war! To split Australian chess.

All this is over his new venture called "Tornelo".

If you missed it, the first shot in this war was actually fired by the ACF. This from their most recent newsletter:

The ACF has decided that only Swiss Perfect, Swiss Master or Swiss Manager are to be used for pairing purposes for any ACF event including ACF Grand Prix events or any event that is to be FIDE rated.

The Australian Chess Federation does not endorse in any way, or have anything whatsoever to do with, David Cordover's Tornelo system and any statements or implications otherwise are false.

Then adding

In connection with the above matter, the ACF Council has recently resolved that [it will have] nothing to do with David Cordover, his chess business or his Tornelo system is to appear in the ACF newsletter until he removes to the satisfaction of the ACF Council all references, inferences or implications that his Tornelo system is in any way related to the Australian Chess Federation or ACF ratings [obviously with the exception of the above notice itself].

Please note that if you wish to write Letters to the Editor debating this decision they must do so in ways that do not breach the resolution.

For the time being, in some ways aided by Mr Cordover's carelessness, not to mention his propensity for confusing and totally irrelevant diversions, the ACF has the tactical advantage. The national body can simply sit back and drag this along until the Melburnian does what he's been told to do.

1) That on you change the wording that was "Australian Chess Federation" to "Tornelo Demonstration"
2) That on you change the title that was "Australian Chess Ratings" to "Tornelo Demonstration".
3) That you remove the link on the top left hand side of that links back to the ACF website and does not link to the ACF website from or

I looked at all that and thought, fair enough. Just make it happen and be done with it. But Mr Cordover apparently had some kind of epiphany. And, of course, being a successful entrepreneur he doesn't exactly like being told what to do - certainly not by what he considers as an aging Ancien Régime devoid of ideas.

He just had to have his own demands. And he just had to say this:

I will be quite honest with you [Bill Gletsos, ACF ratings officer, and the ACF] - if we cannot reach an amicable resolution then I will consider my other options to include actively encouraging clubs and organisers to withdraw from the ACF ratings system to use Tornelo (free) and simultaneously petition FIDE to allow an organisation OTHER than the ACF to deal with them for ratings.

Read it how you like, but that sounds like a new religion to me.

To be honest, I have some sympathies for David Cordover. Notwithstanding my unhappiness about that email, Tornelo (and yes, I've had a brief, very brief, play) looks to be quite attractive. Why wouldn't you want a fancy system that has detailed reports and fully searchable instead of this monstrosity?

I think the ACF needs to tread carefully here. They have every right to make their demands, protect their turf, and I support them. But they ought to state clearly why they have a problem with Tornelo, the technology. From a user's point of view, the tool seems to be far and ahead of what even FIDE has to offer.

The ACF's Bill Gletsos talks about David Cordover's past sins and why people don't trust him. Yet we know of at least one other ACF office-holder who was more than happy to do business with Mr. Cordover - none other than Mr Reliable, Dr Kevin Bonham!

As for our wannabe Martin Luther, he could start by doing what he was told to do in the first place: just get rid of any references to "auschess". Then he should genuflect before the ACF, say sorry to my mate Bill Gletsos, the High Priest (I gotta pay Mr Cordover for this moniker) of Aussie chess ratings, and stop talking about new religion. More importantly, he should just be out with it and tell us exactly how much Tornelo is going to cost.

Bottom line: any talk of new religion will fuck us all up. Whatever side you're on, we have to prevent that from happening.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chess and Revolts

I began writing a post where the opening lines were:

The fire of revolution is ablaze across the Middle East. Led by the Tunisians, some 5 other countries, by my count, are in a state of emergency. By the year's end 2011 could well be stamped into our memories as the year of revolts.

Perhaps taking his cue from these distant events, Melbourne chess businessman, David Cordover, looks to be sparking a revolution of his own.

But then, I thought, I better save that for another day.

For the time being, let's make do with this: "A Chess Game in Libya"

Staying in power is a game you must play. Like the popular board game, “Chess”, one should look forward a few more moves, and protect your king to win the game. You must plan it well, and do timely moves. You have to put your opponent in apposition where you want him to be and do your planned attack.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Magic of Wood

Thumbs up to the Brisbane Times!

Anyway, now we use the checkers set regularly and we’ve even starting to dabble in chess. I don’t think I’d ever opt to play on the iPad if the physical board was at hand. Why? Because I want my son to appreciate that not all games need to be high tech. They don’t all rely on batteries. It’s not that I’m a luddite, it’s just that sometimes it’s nice to get away from technology. The feel of the wooden pieces and the sound they make on the board is all part of the experience.

In "Will Tablets Kill Boardgames?"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another RP Grandmaster

There's always time for some good news, especially Philippine-related ones. That country is set to have another grandmaster. GMA has the details:

Julio Catalino Sadorra earned his third and final Grandmaster (GM) norm after beating American GM Alexander Shabalov in the 10th round of the University of Texas-Dallas Spring Invitational GM tournament in North Dallas, Texas.

Sadorra is still considered an International Master (IM) pending the official confirmation from the World Chess Federation (Fédération Internationale des Échecs, FIDE). He was one of the Philippines' brightest young players before moving to the United States to continue his studies at UT-Dallas where he is in his second year taking up Applied Mathematics.

Note that one of Sadorra's teammates is none other than New Zealander IM Puchen Wang.

You can see both guys appear in this UT Dallas chess team video.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Chess in Clay

Hat tip to Max and the Open Culture. This one really did cheer me up. Thanks Max.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Update from Tokyo

To be honest, I really haven't had the head space to think chess over the last couple of days. As you can perhaps imagine it's been terribly hectic over here. Aftershocks occur almost every hour, although, thankfully, most are barely felt. This morning, however, at about 10AM Tokyo time, a 6.2 struck the city. Quite mild but it had enough thrust to shake my apartment.

Other than aftershocks there is the threat of a nuclear meltdown. I try not to think too much about that.

Anyway, to all my fans, I'm sure you bastards are worried about me, I just wanted to say that I'm perfectly alright.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Begonia Chess Festival

From The Courier: a brief report on the Begonia Festival. PR man Chris Segrave on the first champion, Ernest Greenhalgh: "He was obviously a very good chess player. He trained as a school teacher and taught schools in the western district and his main interests were maths, chess and the stock market".

And I can't help but slip this one in - a bit of news from the US with at least two chessic connections. You may have to look more closely for the second one.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Is Tornelo Breaking the Law?

This afternoon, while in the midst of one of the biggest quakes to hit Tokyo, I received this strange unsolicited email.

Welcome to Australian Chess Ratings Tornelo!

Tornelo is friendly, web-based tournament management and ratings software.

We have created your free Australian Chess Ratings Tornelo account. With an account you can:
* Enter a tournament
* Update your player profile
* Use the Electronic Scoresheet during tournaments (through your smart phone)
* View ratings, player profiles, pairings, results and games
* Club Admins can also promote tournaments online, collect entries, submit for ratings and display live results and games

To log-in to Tornelo please use the following details:

Email: ********
Temporary Password: ***********

Please update your password to something you will remember when you first log-in. If you forget your password you will need access to your email to reset it.

Have fun using Tornelo and thanks for being part of our community.

- The Tornelo Pixie

PS. We love feedback and we are hungry to improve! Let your imagination run wild with possibilities - we're eager to hear ideas from players and organisers about new features that Tornelo could use.

Well, Tornelo Pixie, I'm sure you love feedback. Here it is: you may have just broken the law. The Anti-Spam Laws.

I have never heard of Tornelo. I never signed up to them. So how they acquired my email address is beyond me. Hec, they've even created a user ID and a password then sent those in the email! Genius.

I'll be reporting you.

UPDATE (11 Mar, 8:59PM): Apparently, I subscribed to a Robert Jamieson enewsletter that is put out by Chess Kids. I'm confident that I didn't. Why in the world would I subscribe to an enewsletter for beginners?

But suppose I did. Let's take a look at their subscription page. Nope, no privacy provisions there. No fine print about being signed up to every affiliated company of the Chess Group, whoever they are.

I just searched my inbox and it looks like I've got another unexplained subscription. This time it's for "On The Move", apparently from the same mob. Nope, didn't subscribe to that one either. I can't even find the subscription page. That's because there isn't one!

I think I've got somebody by the balls.

Chess & Chicks Don't Mix

I don't know about this:

[T]he Chess Olympiad and the world chess championship are in the highest level of chess competition. Going down to ordinary chess-playing, many a wife, girlfriend or child has experienced problems with the husband, boyfriend or father because of the time he spends on this game. Due to this so-called "gymnastics of the mind", the chess lover tends to forget all his other loves. From my own experience, I concluded that "Chess and chicks don't mix."

From Bacolod's Sun Star paper.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Wohl on Laragate

I was going to post something else, but this latest entry by IM Alex Wohl had me laughing over some cheap chianti. His take on the whole Laragate affair (well, I had to come up with something).

She goes by many names and is a master of disguise. If you spot her do not approach but immediately inform Steve Giddons (sic), secret agent 000 who has a special licence to blow anything out of all proportion. All of the worlds chess enforcement forces are now looking for the pair including Chessbase and Chessvibes. Even the Closetgrandmaster has mobilized his considerable resources to try apprehend her.

Monday, March 07, 2011

So who won?

I just love this. It's an old story, but it reminds me of one of the best things in life. Late night blitz.

There's more on this by Macauley Peterson over on Chess Life Online from way back in December. Rightly so, Macauley is keeping the final score a secret. Being a Nakamura fan, I hope he won!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Reliable Stock Quote?

As the minor controversy over Lara "I'm no woman grandmaster" Stock dies down, there is still really one question left unanswered. Why? Why go through all that trouble?

In the English Chess Forum, Gareth Harley-Yeo, a Welsh chess player, claims to have been in contact with our troublesome Fraulein.

I decided to ask the horse:

Lara Antonia Sofie Stock 05 March at 00:52 Report
actually .. i just wanted to play chess without media or any "special treatment". Just be a normal chessplayer not a wgm ..

Of course, the authenticity of that quote is yet to be confirmed.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Japanese Scores Fischer Money

A rare chess victory for Japan: Reuters reports, "An Icelandic court said on Thursday the widow of former world chess champion Bobby Fischer should inherit his estimated $2 million estate, which has been in dispute since his death in 2008."

Read more here.

The Colour of Titles

I must admit that when I posted yesterday's news about the drop-dead-gorgeous WGM Lara Stock winning a Kiwi event with a false name, I didn't expect that the two premiere chess news sites would quickly follow. The Germans can recognise a pretty face when they see one, but seem a tad coy about naming Lara. While our Dutch friends have at least managed to make Australia's 'rebel' chess forum very happy, indeed!

The most strident reaction so far, however, is from British Chess Magazine editor, FM Steve Giddins. Says he:

Despite the paltry rewards that their actions have earned them, it would be nice to see appropriate action taken, if only pour encourager les autres. Since the young lady is so keen not to let anyone know that she holds the WGM title, I think a good start would be to take away her title altogether. Throw in a life ban from all internationally rated chess, and that should make others think twice about trying the same tactic.

Maybe I'm just too much of a sucker for pretty blondes (if only they aged gracefully), but perhaps we should withold calling for her head until we understand why.

As Chessvibes pointed out, Lara quit playing competition chess in 2007. Maybe, just maybe, the pressures were too much for the then teenager and now she just prefers to get into the rough and tumble free from expectations. Just think: if this was all about cash, why not simply rock up to a local club or organiser and demand an appearance fee? Or just play in a big event. With her kind of horsepower in this part of the world, she'll easily finish among the prize winners.

So there you have it, none of us like fraud, but let's not be too hasty on this one.

At any rate, if she ever stops over in Tokyo en route back to Europe, I'm quite happy to take her around my local chess club. I might even drop her a line: "What you got in there?"

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Foreigners Scam NZ Tournament

Just received a note this morning from Scott Humphreys, of the Hamilton CC in New Zealand, in which he relates the case of what appears to be an outright scam. A pair of players calling themselves Matteus Wagner and Carmen Lempert turned out to be father and daughter, Michael Stock and 18 year old WGM Lara Stock of Croatia!

Both players entered (get this) a rookies event and naturally finished in one-two spots. Here's a picture of the winners.

Image courtesy of Hamilton CC

Well, what can we say? At least she's hot.

UPDATE (3 March, 11.12): I just realised that my first link forces you to log in to Facebook. Here's an alternative link to the Hamilton CC homepage.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Future of Chess

For €59.00, you could get your hands on what seems like an interesting read. It's "The Future of Post-Human Chess: A Preface to a New Theory of Tactics and Strategy" by Dr. Peter Baofu.

Here's a brief write-up:

[T]his book provides an alternative (better) way to understand the future of chess, especially in the context of strategy and tactics-while learning from different approaches in the literature but without favoring any one of them (nor integrating them, since they are not necessarily compatible with each other). Thus, this book offers a new theory to go beyond the existing approaches in the literature on chess in a new way not conceived before.

This seminal project is to fundamentally alter the way that we think about chess, from the combined perspectives of the mind, nature, society, and culture, with enormous implications for the human future and what I originally called its 'post-human' fate.

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Little Bullet Excitement

OK, it's only bullet, but the guy was an IM and since it's about the only chess I play these days, I thought I'd share it. I think it's called the "Shirov-Shabalov Attack", I can't remember, but it's definitely one that gets the adrenaline going, whether in OTB chess or online.

I remember once being on the white side of this opening against Tomek Rej when I decided to offer him a draw, just to see how he'd react. He said, "you gotta be joking!"

ICC 1 0
Internet Chess Club
The Closet GM
{my opponent}

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 e6 5. Qc2 Nbd7 6. e3 Bd6 7. g4 h6 8. Rg1 Qe7 9. g5 hxg5 10. Rxg5 g6 11. Bd2 dxc4 12. Bxc4 e5 13. O-O-O exd4 14. exd4 Kf8 15. Re1 Qd8

Position after 15...Qd8

16. Bxf7 Rh7 17. Bxg6 Rg7 18. Nh4 Nb6 19. Rgg1 Nbd5 20. Nf5 Bxf5 21. Qxf5 Qd7 22. Qf3 Be7 23. Bh6 Qd6 24. Ne4 Qf4+ 25. Bxf4 Nxf4 26. Qxf4 Black resigns 1-0

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Art of Chess in Queensland

Queensland chess fanatics should head off to the University of Queensland's Art Museum to check out "The Art of Chess". It's that same travelling exhibit that visited Bendigo last year.

There's more information here in the university's news section.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sit Straight for Better Results

I've just noticed that GM Nigel Davies' blog is pointing to me. After a quick look around, I can tell you, The Chess Improver blog is worth following. His content is instructive but sometimes he veers off into the most unexpected and makes you wonder. Take his recent musing over the possible connection between posture and thinking.

This relationship between posture and thought has been highlighted more recently as I’ve become involved in Tai Chi. In this case proper intent is the key to a stronger posture, and it’s amazing the difference it makes.

This leads me to wonder if people can improve the quality of their thinking by improving their posture. I’ve tried googling for this and only come up with some studies showing a change in brain waves in people who meditate. Also intriguing is a recent finding that visiting a chiropracter (sic) can reduce blood pressure.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Help Christchurch

Since moving to Tokyo, I do now get my fair share of tremors. Most are barely noticeable. After the first time I felt a real shake, I logged onto Facebook and made a joke about it. But the 6.3 magnitude quake that struck the New Zealand city of Christchurch yesterday was no joke.

By the latest count, some 75 people have perished. Roughly two hundred or so are still missing.

I understand that there are quite a few members of the NZ chess community who are based out of Chrischurch or around the surrounding areas, among them being the affable FM Steven Lukey. Yesterday I saw that he posted a message on Australia's chess bulletin board, Chess Chat. I'm glad he's alright. Still, no news has been heard of other chessers in the area. But I'm hoping, as I'm sure we all are, that they escaped.

For many Australian chess players, of course, Christchurch is actually an important stop en route to and from New Zealand tournaments. I've been there twice myself for Queenstown. While very small compared to many other cities, Christchurch is stunningly beautiful.

I also remember well the giant outdoor chess set just outside the famous cathedral that now stands half destroyed. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the regular chess folks when the temblor struck.

If you want to help, please contact the usual charities.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sexy Chessers Play Poker

If WIM Caoili ever gets tired of chess as well as the politics, and this week's excitement may just push her over the edge, there's always the alternative career popular among many of her fellow women players. Poker.

Almira Skripchenko and Dinara Khaziyeva are today making the headlines in the world of poker for making it into the finals of something called the World Poker Tour Celebrity Invitational in Los Angeles.

I had no idea those two were celebs. But anyway, there you have it.

If Caoili does defect, there's always the prospect of earning a lot of money, but I don't know if she'll ever get away from those pesky photographers. Poker does like its women.

And by the way, just so we're clear here: I never had to give her the "command" to smile. She always smiled at me.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Caoili: The Philippines' Prodigal Daughter

This current spat between WIM Arianne Caoili and the Australian Chess Federation ought to serve as ample opportunity for the ACF's opposite number in the Philippines, the NCFP, to snag back their prodigal daughter. In case we need reminding, Caoili actually began her Olympiad career in RP colours, appearing for that country in 2000 and 2002, before switching allegiance to Australia from 2004 onwards.

If Caoili does return to the RP fold, I see it only as a win-win, albeit obviously a loss for Australia. The WIM gets to play in a stronger zone (plus a fair few other Asian events if she makes herself available for those), while the Philippines' women squad receives the services of a reliable point-scorer.

The only question really here is: just how serious is WIM Arianne Caoili? Or was all that just an empty rant?

I hereby challenge her to switch!

While many in Aussie chess will no doubt greet such a move with a derisive, "good riddance", the NCFP and Pinoy fans will surely greet Caoili with a heart-warming embrace.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Expats Rant at Aussie Chess

In a tandem attack, IM Alex Wohl and WIM Arianne Caoili deliver some very harsh words on Australian chess politicians. Alex has a problem with information, while Ari has a problem with, well, a lot of things.

Let me sum up my argument by giving an example of a piece of oration Levon once gave me over some gambas a la plancha: ‘Arianne, you’re playing men here. You can’t rely on tricks, yoyo emotions and crappy openings. These guys know their theory, and they fight. You can’t possibly compare a 2400 female and a 2400 guy – just have a look at the source of their rating points’.

If we get rid of gender related divisions/prizes/conditions altogether, then the ‘market’ for women to garner their rating points and experience will be larger and more competitive, and thus over time Oceania women chess players in general will not only be stronger but also more interesting to talk about in chess terms.

Firstly, if you're wondering what "gambas a la plancha" is, that's grilled prawns. I'm partial to gambas al ajillo myself and the best ones I've had were back in Valencia. Secondly, if you're wondering why Arianne never made it to the last Zonal in Rotorua, it's possibly because the ACF pissed her off!

You can read more of this, including Arianne Caoili's letter of protest to the ACF/NZCF over on IM Wohl's blog, Doubleroo.

UPDATE (20 Feb. 11.09AM): The Australian Chess Federation's Dr Kevin Bonham responds to WIM Caoili on Chesschat.

Learn Chess with AR

No, not with me, but with "augmented reality".

A couple of students from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, in Spain, have just come up with a novel way to teach chess. All you apparently need is a PC with a webcam, a chess set and a specialised software to make the whole AR thing happen.

The Science Daily reports:

To use the system, learners play with an ordinary chess board but move the cardboard markers instead of standard pieces. The table is lit from above and the webcam focuses on the board, and every time the player moves one of the markers the system recognises the piece and reproduces the move in 3D on the computer screen, creating a virtual representation of the game.

For example, if the learner moves the marker P (pawn), the corresponding piece will be displayed on the screen in 3D, with all of the possible moves indicated. This is a simple and attractive way of showing novices the permitted movements of each piece, making the system particularly suitable for children learning the basics of this board game.

Maybe I'm just not seeing it, but I don't see the point in this.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Laylo Finishes in Style

Well, how about that? Laylo bags a crucial last round win over Gavrilov to raise his total to 7 points and finish in second place overall on tiebreak. The last game had plenty of very nice moves. Laylo's attack is just so free-flowing, it's beautiful.

Aeroflot Open 2011 B
Laylo, Darwin
Gavrilov, Alexei

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 d6 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. O-O Bf5 8. d5 Na5 9. Nd2 c6 10. e4 Bg4 11. Qa4 cxd5 12. cxd5 Bd7 13. Qb4 Qc7 14. e5 Ne8 15. e6 fxe6 16. Bh3 Nf6 17. dxe6 Bc6 18. Nde4 Nxe4 19. Nxe4 Qb6

After 19...Qb6

20. Qe1 Inviting the guy to play the obvious next move. 20...Bb5 21. Be3 Qd8 22. Ng5 Bxf1 23. Qxf1 And, of course, now the Queen is ideally positioned! Clever stuff. 23...Nc6 24. Bg4 Ne5 25. Qh3 h6 26. Nf7 Nxf7 27. exf7+ Kh7 28. Be6 Qa5 29. Rc1 d5 30. Rd1 Rad8

After 30...Rad8

31. Rd4 Rd6 32. Rh4 g5 33. Qf5+ Kh8 34. Rxh6+ Bxh6 35. Bd4+ 1-0

In the A section, Vietnamese GM Le Quang Liem retained his title with another outstanding performance.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

So Withdraws from Aeroflot

The Philippines currently only has reps in the B and C groups of the ongoing Aeroflot Open after the country's number one, Wesley So, withdrew from the A section. Six rounds in, Wesley, who made his way to Russia after Corus, managed only 2.5 points, including a second round loss to the 2557-rated Shomoev.

So cited headaches for his withdrawal.

Meanwhile, in the B section, GM Darwin Laylo is having one of his best outings. So far he hasn't dropped a game! Going into today's final round, Laylo is one of 4 players on six points, just a half point behind joint leaders Kobanov and Kotanjian.

Aeroflot Open 2011 B
Laylo, Darwin
Kalegin, Evgenij

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. Nc3 O-O 5. g3 d6 6. Bg2 Nbd7 7. O-O e5 8. e4 h6 9. h3 Nh7 10. Be3 Ng5 11. Nxg5 hxg5 12. f4 exf4 13. gxf4 c5 14. f5 cxd4 15. Bxd4 Ne5 16. Nd5 Re8 17. c5 dxc5 18. Bxc5 Bd7 19. f6 Bh6 20. Ne7+ Rxe7 21. fxe7 Qe8 22. Qd5 Bg7 23. Rad1 Bc6 24. Qd2 Bb5 25. Qxg5 f6 26. Rxf6 Bxf6 27. Qxf6 Nd7 28. Rxd7 Bxd7 29. Bd4 1-0

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Searching for Chess

Maybe I read this somewhere or perhaps somebody told me, but apparently more books are published under the letter "C" thanks to chess. Which is probably right considering the amount of printed matter that exist today under the subject of "chess". By sheer book count chess is arguably very popular.

Which made me wonder: what about online? How many blogs out there are about chess? Or news sites, e-zines, Facebook pages - basically, websites of any kind talking about chess? I don't know and I'm not inclined to find out any time soon. For imagine how much work that will take.

But I did find out the number of times in a month that "chess" is entered into Google by people searching for chess or anything related to chess.


That's according to Google's Keyword Tool which actually also tells you the relevant search phrases containing "chess".

And who, you may ask, are the most avid seekers of all things chess? The Mongolians!

Now, 6M searches for chess might seem like a high number, but this doesn't even come close to "sex", at 338M searches, or "facebook" which comes in at a staggering 2.5 billion!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Kichijoji Weekender

The light snowfall over Tokyo during the last few days seemed like a good reason to stay indoors. The skies are dark and the streets wet. Snow looks pretty atop houses and by the sides of alleyways, but I really hate snow.

So yesterday, I decided to drop in again at the Kichijoji Chess Club. To my delight they were running a 3-day long weekend tournament. Unfortunately I arrived too late and, at any rate, Sunday, the last day, just happens to be the Tokyo Real Ale Festival in Asakusa, and there's no way I was going to miss that!

I did stay for bit and took a couple of photos (with the iPhone), however, and here's one of them. The rest are in my flickr stream.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Adventurous Mikhalevski

French writer Pierre Mac Orlan (1882 - 1970) apparently said this:

"There are more adventures on a chessboard than on all the seas of the world."

He's probably right. Especially when you see games like this one from round 6 of this year's Gibraltar.

2011 Gibraltar Masters
Akobian, Varuzhan
Mikhalevski, Victor

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. f3 c5 4. d5 Bg7 5. e4 d6 6. Nc3 O-O 7. Bg5 h6 8. Be3 e6 9. Qd2 exd5 10. cxd5 Re8 11. Nge2 Nbd7 12. Ng3 h5 13. Be2 a6 14. O-O b5 15. Bh6 h4 16. Nh1 Nh5 17. Bxg7 Kxg7 18. a4 b4 19. Nd1 f5 20. exf5 Nb6 21. fxg6

Position after 21. fxg6

21...Rxe2 22. Qxe2 Nf4 23. Qe4 Qg5 24. g4 Nh3+ 25. Kg2 Nf4+ 26. Kg1 Bd7 27. Ne3 Nh3+ 28. Kg2 Nf4+ 29. Kg1 Re8 White is totally paralysed. He can't do much now, except this... 30. Nf5+ Kg8 31. Qb1 Nh3+ 32. Kg2 Nf4+ 33. Kg1 Nh3+ 34. Kg2 Nxd5 35. Nf2 Re2 36. Nxd6 Bxg4 and it's mate in 6! 0-1

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Iran Strikes at Israel

Pissing contests between the Jewish State and the Iranians are almost a weekly headline. Much of it provoked by the Iranian leader's vitriol (including a denial of the Holocaust), not to mention, their alleged nuclear programme. Luckily, neither side has made any sudden movements. For who knows how nasty that could turn out to be?

But perhaps luckier still is that both sides seem perfectly happy to conduct a sort of proxy contest away from the battlefield and onto the chess board.

When an Israeli broke Morteza Mahjoub's record for the number of simul games, the question was immediately put back to the Iranians. That question has just been answered emphatically, this time by another Iranian, GM Ehsan Ghaem Maghami. The AFP has the details.

Just as well, really. In a real war, the Iranians have no chance.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Age Tribute to Hjorth

Guy Rundle on IM Greg Hjorth:

Discussion of natural genius irritated him; he insisted that immense hard work separated first rank mathematicians from many of those who fell short. Recent accolades, from the 2003 Karp prize to last year's Tarski lectures underlined that commitment. Widely regarded by colleagues as among the best mathematical logicians under the age of 50 in the world, he would have been a potential contender for any of the great mathematical prizes on offer. Yet his modesty was total. The only time he got excited about an award was when a fellow Australian won the Fields medal, the maths Nobel.

Hard work was also an approach he had taken to chess, something that had been a passion since he first became interested at the age of six, when he and his parents, Robert, a neurologist, and Noela, an artist, were living in London. Once he'd learnt the basics, his father remembers, ''there was no stopping him''.

UPDATE: The UCLA's Mathematics department also has a tribute to Greg Hjorth including a PDF file that contains pictures of the man while in action, both inside the classroom and over-the-board.

Monday, February 07, 2011

High Finish for Pinoy in Russia

International master Oliver Barbosa of the Philippines has turned in what must be a highlight performance of his career so far. Twenty-four year old Barbosa collected 7.5 points over nine encounters in the just concluded Moscow Open (section E). His last 2 round kills against a pair of grandmasters were absolutely crucial. Here's one of them.

Moscow Open 2011 - E
Kotsur, Pavel
Barbosa, Oliver

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 dxe4 4. Nxe4 Bf5 5. Ng3 Bg6 6. h4 h6 7. Nf3 Nd7 8. h5 Bh7 9. Bd3 Bxd3 10. Qxd3 e6 11. Bd2 Ngf6 12. O-O-O Be7 13. Rhe1 O-O 14. Qe2 Qc7 15. Ne5 c5 16. dxc5 Nxc5 17. Kb1 Rac8 18. c4 a6 19. f4 b5 20. f5 bxc4 21. fxe6 fxe6 22. Qxc4 Nd5 23. Ng6 Qxg3 24. Rxe6 Nxe6 25. Qxd5 Qd6 26. Bb4 Qxd5 27. Nxe7+ Kh7 28. Nxd5 Rf2 29. Ne7 Rd8 30. Rc1 Nf4 31. Ba5 Rd7 32. Ng6 Nxg6 33.hxg6+ Kxg6 34. a4 Rxg2 35. Rc6+ Kf5 36. Rxa6 h5 37. Ra8 h4 38. Rh8 Ra7 39. Bd8 Ra8 40. a5 g5 41. b4 Rd2 42. Rf8+ Ke5 0-1

John Paul Gomez garnered 6.5 points while lone Aussie, the little kid, Anton Smirnov collected 4 points. Young Anton's most impressive win was in the third round over Denis Vorobjov, rated 2248.

The untitled Vladimir Belous won the section E event with 8 points overall.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

A Chess Day in Tokyo

A quiet day in Tokyo, so I decided to walk around my hometown and stop by over in the Kichijoji Chess Club. It's been months since my last visit and a few weeks since I touched real-live pieces. I'd had enough of ICC bullet games.

For 800 yen (roughly $10) I got to play a few rounds of 5-minute blitz and for another 100 yen, a rated game! Yes, pretty expensive by Australian standards. It's basically a pay-per-visit model. But folks don't seem to complain. And it's the sort of revenue raising that let's them rent the third floor of this building.

Part of the fees probably also went into the payment for one of Japan's top players (can't remember his name) to drop in a deliver a lecture. Roughly a dozen eager listeners, mostly young, attended. Of course, I couldn't understand a word of it.

If you happen to visit Tokyo, the Kichijoji CC is on the Chuo line and just a 3-minute walk from Kichijoji station.

Kichijoji Club game
The Closet Grandmaster

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qa5 4. d4 c6 5. Nf3 Nf6 6. Bd3 Bg4 7. O-O Nbd7 8. Bd2 Qc7 9. Qe2 O-O-O 10. b4 e5 11. h3 Bh5 12. Rfb1 exd4 13. Na4 Re8 14. Qd1 Bd6 15. c4 Bf4 16. g4 Nxg4 17. Nxd4 Ngf6 Fritz reckons that 17... Be3 is strong. 18. Bxf4 Qxf4 19. Qc2 Qxd4 20. b5 c5 21. Nc3 Ne5 22. Bf5+ Kb8 23. a4 Nf3+ 24. Kf1 Qf4 25. Ne4 Rxe4 26. Bxe4 Nxe4 0-1

Friday, February 04, 2011

Ivanchuk Wins Gibraltar

Super GM Vassily Ivanchuk is the winner in Gibraltar with a powerhouse output of 9 points from ten games. He conquered all, never dropping a point. Nigel Short was in second place with the equally impressive finish of eight and a half. The British man's only blemish was his loss to Chukky.

The only Australian in the event, IM Wohl, performed to his level finishing with 6 points overall. His ten games included a run-in with no less than legend Viktor Korchnoi. The game was a KID with Viktor on the white side. Of course, the old-timer won the encounter and after which told Alex, "Against some people you should not play the Kings Indian". Ouch!

You can play through that game over on Alex's blog.

Finally, while I didn't exactly cover this event regularly, I have to thank the Gibraltar press office for their daily media releases. Very professional, indeed, and some top-notch reporting.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Moscow Open 2011

The Moscow International Open Festival is a massive event. While the open is the feature tournament, there are actually a couple of round robins that include some impressive names - Kosteniuk in the women's, Alexeev, rated 2701, and Ivan Cheparinov in the men's.

But of interest to our readers is the main tournament because of some familiar names - Australia's Anton Smirnov as well as Pinoys GM John Paul Gomez and IM Oliver Barbosa.

Barbosa, especially, had an electric start. He got up to 4/4 before going down to Alexander Beliavsky in the fifth!

Moscow Open 2011 - E
Barbosa, Oliver"]
Beliavsky, Alexander G

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. g3 g6 4. Bg2 Bg7 5. O-O O-O 6. c4 d6 7. Nc3 Qe8 8. Re1 Qf7 9. b3 Ne4 10. Bb2 Nd7 11. Qc2 Ndf6 12. Nxe4 Nxe4 13. e3 c6 14. Rad1 a5 15. a4 Be6 16. Nd2 d5 17. Bf1 g5 18. f3 Nd6 19. c5 Ne8 20. Bd3 Qh5 21. Bc3 Kh8 22. f4 Nf6 23. Be2 Qg6 24. Nf3 Ne4 25. Bd3 gxf4 26. exf4 Rg8 27. Ng5 h6 28. Nf3 Bf6 29. Bxe4 fxe4 30. Ne5 Qh7 31. Re3 h5 32. Kf2 h4 33. Rg1 Raf8 34. Ke1 Bxe5 35. dxe5 Rxf4 36. Bd4 Rf7 37. Kd1 Bg4+ 38. Kc1 e6 39. gxh4 Bf3 40. Ree1 Rfg7 41. Qd2 Qxh4 42. Rxg7 Rxg7 43. Rg1 Rxg1+ 44. Bxg1 Kh7 45. Kb2 Kg6 46. Be3 Kf5 47. Ka3 Qh3 48. Bh6 Qg4 49. Qxa5 d4 50. Qc7 e3 51. Qxb7 Qg6 0-1

After 5 games, young Anton, son of FM Vladimir Smirnov is on 2 points.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

New Doco on Fischer

Obviously as a follow-up to yesterday's post, one of our avid readers just sent in a tip about the latest doco on Bobby Fischer. This one called "Bobby Fischer Against the World", directed by Liz Garbus, recently premiered at Sundance.

I couldn't find the trailer, but here's Liz briefly talking about the film plus a brief clip.

Monday, January 31, 2011

How Crazy was Fischer?

Frank Brady, founding editor of the US Chess Life magazine, has written a new book on Bobby Fischer entitled, "Endgame: Bobby Fischer's Remarkable Rise and Fall - from America's Brightest Prodigy to the Edge of Madness". Here's Laura Miller's review of that book in Salon:

Just how crazy was Bobby Fischer? Those best qualified to judge, such as the psychiatrist friend who kept him company in his final days, insisted he was not schizophrenic or psychotic; he didn't hallucinate or lose touch with reality. However, he clearly wasn't mentally healthy. The intensity of his attention to chess was certainly compulsive, and it unbalanced his life in addition to making him one of the game's greatest players.

But Fischer's celebrity seems to have done him more damage than anything else. It fueled the grandiosity that lies at the heart of all paranoia and it turned him into an imperious diva who inflicted ridiculous demands -- that a hotel raise the level of his toilet seat by exactly 1 inch, for example, or that he be paid outlandish fees just to discuss the possibility of a high-profile match -- apparently for the sake of exercising arbitrary power.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Korchnoi Crushes Caruana

Age has clearly not wearied Viktor Korchnoi. Now 79 years of age, the old legend remains in active combat among today's many young sharks. And occasionally, he teaches them a lesson.

That's exactly what Viktor did to Italy's young super GM Fabiano Caruana in round 2 of the ongoing Gibraltar Chess Festival.

2011 Gibraltar Masters
Caruana, Fabiano
Korchnoi, Viktor

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. d3 d6 6. c3 Be7 7. O-O O-O 8. Re1 Nd7 9. Be3 Nb6 10. Bb3 Kh8 11. Nbd2 f5 12. Bxb6 cxb6 13. Bd5 g5 14. h3 g4 15. hxg4 fxg4 16. Nh2 Bg5 17. Nc4 b5 18. Ne3 Bxe3 19. Rxe3 Qf6 20. Qe1 Ne7 21. f3 Nxd5 22. exd5 Rg8 23. Qg3 gxf3 24. Qxf3 Bf5 25. Rf1 Rg5 26. Kh1 Qh6 27. Rf2 Rag8 28. Re1 Qg6 29. Re3 Bxd3 30. Kg1 e4 31. Qh3 Rxd5 32. Qd7 Rg5 33. g4 Qh6 34. Rf7 R5g7 35. Rxg7 Rxg7 36. Qd8+ Rg8 37. Qb6 Qf6 38. Qxb7 Rf8 39. Qa7 b4 40. Rh3 Qg7 41. Qe3 bxc3 42. bxc3 Qxc3 43. Rh5 d5 44. g5 Qa1+ 45. Kg2 Bf1+ 46. Kg3 Qe5+ 0-1

Going into round 6, Nigel Short leads with 5/5, closely followed Ivanchuk and Daniel Fridman on 4.5 points. Alex Wohl is on three.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Zhao Eyes Zonal Win

Games between Zhao and Smerdon are always full of excitement but today's round 7 dogfight between them in the ongoing Oceania Zonal is probably the sort of game that Smerdon would rather forget very soon. He's probably now regretting 18...b5.

2011 Oceania Zonal
Zhao, Zong Yuan
Smerdon, David C

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. Nc3 e6 5. Nxd5 exd5 6. d4 Nc6 7. dxc5 Bxc5 8. Qxd5 Qb6 9. Bc4 Bxf2+ 10. Ke2 O-O 11. Rf1 Bc5 12. Ng5 Nd4+ 13. Kd1 Ne6 14. Ne4 Be7 15. Bd2 Qxb2 16. Bc3 Qa3 17. Rf3 Nc7 18. Qd4

Position after 18. Qd4

18...b5? Such a terrible move. With a white's bishop and queen lined up like that, it's pretty clear what Zhao is cooking. 19. e6 f6 20. exd7+ bxc4 21. Qxc4+ Kh8 22. Bxf6 Qb4 23. Qxb4 Bxb4 24. d8=Q Rxd8+ 25. Bxd8 Nd5 26. Ba5 Bg4 27. Bxb4 Nxb4 28. c3 Nc6 29. Ke2 Kg8 30. Rb1 Ne5 31. Rb5 Re8 32. Ke3 Bxf3 33. gxf3 h6 34. a4 Kh7 35. Rc5 Re7 36. h4 Kg6 37. a5 a6 38. Rd5 Kf7 39. h5 Re6 40. f4 Ng4+ 41. Kd4 Nf6 42. Nxf6 Kxf6 43. c4 Rc6 44. c5 Ke6 45. Re5+ Kd7 46. f5 Rc8 47. Kd5 Rf8 48. c6+ Kd8 49. Kc5 Kc7 50. Re7+ Kd8 51. Rxg7 Rxf5+ 52. Kb6 Rb5+ 53. Kxa6 Rb1 54. Rb7 Rc1 55. Kb6 Rb1+ 56. Kc5 Ra1 57. Rh7 Rc1+ 58. Kd6 Rd1+ 59. Ke6 Rc1 60. Kd6 Rd1+ 61. Kc5 Rc1+ 62. Kb6 Rb1+ 63. Ka7 Rc1 64. a6 Kc8 65. Rxh6 Kc7 66. Rg6 1-0

And with that Zhao raises his tally to seven points, well clear of the nearest chaser, Bobby Cheng who's on 5.5 points.

By the way, hat tip to the Kiwi organisers of this event. It's a bit confusing that the 'official site' doesn't have results or any links to the results, but the website with actual results is very current and games are up rapidly.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

So Back to Winning

First, I must apologise to those of you who submitted comments and who are only seeing those comments now. For some strange reason every reader comment I've received over the last couple of weeks are hitting my spam folder! All sorted now I hope.

Anyway, how about GM Wesley So? After 4 straight draws in the opening rounds of Wijk I was beginning to think that his close proximity to that 2700 mark has made him more cautious, drawish. When you're very near to some milestone like that there's always a tendency to just inch forward bit by careful bit. Evidently, that isn't the case with GM So.

The 4 draws were immediately followed by four straight wins! Of those, this one was my fave.

73rd Tata Steel GMB
Spoelman, W.
So, W.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 b6 5. Nge2 c5 6. a3 Ba5 7. Rb1 Na6 8. g3 Bb7 9. d5 b5 10. Bg2 bxc4 11. O-O O-O 12. e4 d6 13. Qa4 exd5 14. exd5 Bxc3 15. bxc3 Qc8 16. Nf4 Nc7 17. Bh3 Qb8 18. Qd1 Re8 19. Re1 Rxe1+ 20. Qxe1 Ncxd5 21. Nxd5 Nxd5 22. Rxb7 Qxb7 23. Bg2 Rb8 24. Qd2 Qb1 25. Bxd5 Qd3 26. Qxd3 cxd3 27. Kg2 Rb1 28. Bd2 Rb2 29. Bf4 d2 30. Bf3 d5 31. Be3 d4 32. cxd4 c4 33. d5 c3 34. d6 Rb1 0-1

My old Pinoy mate in Sydney, Leo Arocha, has an unusual way of describing these kinds of tactic-heavy and visually appealing finishes. He'd say, "That's like a movie man." Yeah, like a Lito Lapid flick.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Action on the Rock

If the standards of the Oceania Zonal are not to your taste or maybe you just can't get enough chess, there is also this year's Gibraltar. It's not nearly as packed full of powerhouses as the ongoing Wijk aan Zee, but the long-running open does feature the likes of top seed Ivanchuk, Michael Adams, Nigel Short and Australia's IM Alex Wohl.

2011 Oceania Zonal

I can't believe that it's another zonal. Seems like 2009 was only last week. Except this time, of course, I'm some 8,810kms away. For the 2011 version the zonal is in Rotorua which, according to this account, is a salubrious sort of place albeit perhaps a stinking one.

I have to say, the Oceania zonal might not be a particularly impressive contest by world standards, but the venues are always unbeatable.

As I obviously won't be at this event, you should probably visit Shaun's blog as well as check out the NZCF's official site for some coverage.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cheatin' Bastards Month

January is apparently cheating allegations month.

The NY Times reports that the French Fed has accused three of their own players - GMs Sébastien Feller, Arnaud Hauchard and IM Cyril Marzolo - of "organised" cheating in last year's Olympiad. I don't know what the penalties are for this sort of thing at this level, but if the accusations are proven true, then these guys ought to be stripped of their titles.

But what punishment to my fellow Pinoys?

Writing in his blog, international master Jimmy Liew of Malaysia lobs one over the fence at the neighbours and practically calls his then Pinoy opposition a bunch of cheating bastards. A bit like Fischer did to the Russians.

In the tournament were a number of Filipino players. From observations I determined that they were playing as a group. Basically they were fixing the games in favour of the one with the best chance of winning the highest prize. One of them was racing with me for the first prize.

If I drew it was a certainty that one of the Filipino would take clear first prize. I considered a safe draw to secure the IM title. But I felt victimized by the Filipino game throwing tactics. It was incredibly frustrating. I had to struggle every round (I played six Filipinos) while they could plan to draw or lose their games.

But least Jimmy could be trusted not to mince his words. Another Malaysian blogger, Raymond Siew, sparked a minor controversy when he suggested that a Malaysian also threw a game in last year's Olympiad provoking a response from IM Liew as well as this post.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Chinese Parenting Make GMs

Listen up chess parents! Dreaming of turning your kids into super grandmasters or maybe just the next Yo-Yo Ma? Law professor and mother of two Amy Chua reckons that she's got the right formula. Bring up your kids the "Chinese Way"!

Be blunt. Be cruel. Be absolutely brutal to your offspring.

Your kid lost a Sicilian Defence despite memorising some 30 moves of theory? Just call them stupid. That'll learn 'em. Not even 50% in the Aussie Juniors? Toss out all their toys and ban all the partying until the next Aussie Juniors. Then sit back and watch the trophies roll in.

Amy Chua in the Wall Street Journal:

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, "Hey fatty—lose some weight." By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of "health" and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her "beautiful and incredibly competent." She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, "You're lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you." By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they're not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

You're probably thinking that this woman's a total nutjob. But hey, she's a law professor, at Yale no less. She knows what she's talking about.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Secrets of Chess Masters

Why are chess masters so much better? According to some Japanese brain researchers, it's basically right down to wiring!

Using spot games of shogi, the researchers have now pinpointed for the first time two brain regions involved in specific aspects of such intuition. Activity in the precuneus of the parietal lobe, a brain region responsible for integrating sensory information, was observed when professional players perceived and recognized realistic board patterns. Rapid generation of next-moves, in contrast, was identified with activity in the caudate nucleus of the basal ganglia. Among professional players, the results moreover highlight a strong correlation between these regions during next-move generation, suggesting that the precuneus-caudate circuit in their brains has been honed to this specific task.

Courtesy of a PR release from Japan's Riken Brain Science Institute.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Drawmeister So

The Philippines' GM Wesley So seems to be doing a Kramnik. All his four games so far have ended peacefully. Not that those were not interesting or hard-fought games. In fact, all but one went past the thirtieth move. And even So's second round 26-mover against Sargissian was a likable contest. I was once fond of the Scotch system myself and it's always nice to see it appear at this level from time to time.

73rd Tata Steel, Wijk aan Zee
So, Wesley
Sargissian, Gabriel

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nxc6 bxc6 6. e5 Qe7 7. Qe2 Nd5 8. c4 Ba6 9. b3 g6 10. f4 d6 11. Qf2 Nf6 12. Be2 dxe5 13. O-O Qc5 14. Be3 Ne4 15. Qf3 Qxe3+ 16. Qxe3 Bc5 17. Qxc5 Nxc5 18. fxe5 O-O 19. Nd2 Rfe8 20. Nf3 Ne6 21. Bd3 Bb7 22. Be4 Nc5 23. Bc2 Ne6 24. Be4 Nc5 25. Bc2 Ne6 26. Be4 1/2-1/2

It's quite interesting to note that So began his Wijk career back in 2009 with another junior, GM Anish Giri. Both played in the C group with So winning on 9.5 points, while Giri was second a point behind. Last year, they both went up to the B group and this time Giri grabbed victory with nine points, while So managed just 7.5.

Thus, we now see Giri in the exalted A group, whereas So remains in the second rank. But, of course, I look forward to the day when this Filipino will take his place among the A-listers.

Speaking of Giri, by the way, it's even more interesting to know, to me at least, that he was at one point a fully a paid up member of the JCA!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2010/11 ACF Medal Winners

The 2010 Australian Chess Federation medal winners have just been announced. They are as follows.

2010 Steiner Medal: IM George Xie
2011 Koshnitsky Medal: Kevin Bonham
2011 Purdy Medal: David Cordover
2010 Arlauskas Medal: FM Bobby Cheng

So, that's a big congrats to all winners, especially to FM Bobby Cheng who bags the Arlauskas for a second straight year. After moving to Australia from NZ, Cheng has rapidly established himself as one of Australia's future stars. He is currently leading the Australian Juniors.

Congrats, too, to Dr Bonham (a doctor specialising in the study of snails, if I remember), who, at last, bags the Koshnitsky. That one's well-deserved.

By the way, there is actually another ACF medal or, at least, there used to be. It's the Whyatt Medal, an award for problem composition. Maybe the ACF killed this thing due to a lack of problem composers in the country. Who knows?

DISCLAIMER: I was a selector for the Steiner.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chess on MXit

As if there aren't enough chat applications out there to keep the geeks occupied, along comes MXit. I have just heard of these guys and apparently they're some sort mobile-based social network where users can chat, shop and even play games like, you guessed it(!), chess. And on new year's eve this year, there were a reported 50,000 games on MXit's portal.

That almost seems like an impressive number but I bet that there were many more on sites like ICC and Playchess.

At any rate, I hope MXit's iPhone app is way better than the ICC's. For some reason, the Internet Chess Club's iPhone app doesn't allow me to seek games. Instead, I just get a message saying to download Dasher and to contact some guy named FREEBIRD.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

RIP Greg Hjorth

Courtesy of Chess Chat, I've just found out about the very sad news of Greg Hjorth's sudden passing. There is a brief tribute to him in The Age's pages.

Greg Hjorth was an international master and represented Australia in 3 Olympiads, '82 to '86. He was also, of course, a mathematician and was a professor at both UCLA as well as at the University of Melbourne.

In an interview last year with Melbourne Chess Club's Grant Szuveges, Hjorth had this piece of advice for young hopefuls: "If the aim is to have fun, then I would suggest trying not to burst in to tears when you lose. If the aim is to become a professional, then if you can't get in to the top 100 by the time you are 21 have a good hard rethink. Oh. And never a borrower or a lender be. Floss *before* you brush. Invest your savings in Vanguard's Wiltshire 5000 Index Fund :)"

Rest in peace IM Greg Hjorth.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Xie Wins Aussie Open

International master George Xie wins the Australian Open on tiebreak. Details, games and even some well-taken pictures are available on the official site. That's yet another great result for Xie and should hopefully give him the much needed boost to press on for that GM title. He, of course, now has 3 grandmaster norms and just needs to raise his rating to 2500.

I also want to say a big congrats to Vladimir Smirnov. This professor of economics over at the University of Sydney's Business School has been an FM for some time. Thanks to his fine performance in North Sydney, he finally notched up his third IM norm.

Worth mentioning is that these two guys, Xie and Smirnov (as well as his son, Anton), are actually veterans of the Hyde Park chess club. I hope that we'll still continue to see them in the years to come. The boys always get excited when some big fish comes along.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Be in a Good Mood

IM Alex Wohl's Yusupov hairdo (he calls it his "Ali Baba" beard) may now be gone courtesy of a Marrakesh barber, but he still managed to dish out some wise chessic advice worthy of the prolific German writer. Well, perhaps it was unintentional, but nonetheless insightful for we chessers.

Says the big Australian IM: "One needs to be in a good mood to make good decisions".


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Smiling Hefner

This man has better moves than any super grandmaster.

Picture by Reuters

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Brain Building

As chess players, it's a good idea for us to maintain good brain health. But maintenance of what you already have is one thing, how about about making your brain better?

This Newsweek article has a couple of familiar tips (physical exercise and meditation), but the third one may come as a surprise.

Finally, some videogames might improve general mental agility. Stern has trained older adults to play a complex computer-based action game called Space Fortress, which requires players to shoot missiles and destroy the fortress while protecting their spaceship against missiles and mines. “It requires motor control, visual search, working memory, long-term memory, and decision making,” he says. It also requires that elixir of neuroplasticity: attention, specifically the ability to control and switch attention among different tasks. “People get better on tests of memory, motor speed, visual-spatial skills, and tasks requiring cognitive flexibility,” says Stern. Kramer, too, finds that the strategy-heavy videogame Rise of Nations improves executive-control functions such as task switching, working memory, visual short-term memory, and reasoning in older adults.

Well, at least now we know that World of Warcraft, so popular among many chessers, actually does some real good!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Why Russia Fails

Kasparov on Russia's failings:

There is a lack of passion. It is about power and business, not the promotion of talent. Russia has more participants than other countries at the World Championships U8 and U18, but it did not get any gold medal. Azerbaijan won three. One can not separate development of chess from the development of the country. Our government despises intellect. The Soviet Union was not a good political system, but chess was promoted because it was regarded as an ideological weapon and a tool for the promotion of intellect. Children did not have many other opportunities. Chess was viewed as something having future. It is similar to current situation in Azerbaijan and Armenia.

From Armenia News. The original interview in German is available here.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Happy New Year from TCG

Over the last 3 weeks I've spent the Christmas and New Year celebrations back here in Sydney. I can say that it was a thoroughly fun time photographing around my old stomping grounds, catching up with the family, of course, and some chess.

Nice to see the blokes at the Town Hall finally organising a more formalised group, a real chess club, but even nicer to see that I can still play, although a lot weaker after many months out-of-OTB action. It's funny how losing games makes me want to recheck my database to patch up some forgotten lines. I hadn't had the urge to do that for a very, very long time!

Anyway, I did also pop into Peter Parr's Chess Discount Sales. As I reported last year, this joint is shutting down and if you go there now you'll bag a 30% discount on pretty much everything. I don't need software or books, at least for the next a couple of years while in Japan, so I settled for a complete set of bulletins from the 1992 Manila Olympiad. A very good buy, I thought, for just a litte under twenty bucks!

On that note, I wish you all a happy new year. I'm flying back to Tokyo tonight so my next post will likely be on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Alarm in the Aussie Open

About an hour into today's round at the Australian Chess Open championships, the fire alarm suddenly blasted out all over the North Sydney Leagues Club for a good minute or so. Thankfully it turned out to be a false one, but it did prompt a swift response from the local fire department.

At any rate, as these pictures clearly show, chess players really are an excitable lot. Here's the chess crowd standing up on their feet while the alarm was sounding.

The bridge folks, on the other hand, who were playing in the room next door, remained calm and went on with their business.

The brief commotion aside, kudos to Max Illingworth for drawing against GM Zhao on board one. Max's 8.0-0 is apparently a novelty and doubtless cooked up pre-game. If this kid keeps playing like that, he'll be well on his way to "official" masterhood. I understand that he's taking 2011 as a gap year to pursue that goal.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Spanish Queen of Chess

Watching the "Secret Files of the Inquisition" on SBS tonight I learn that the queen in chess is actually Queen Isabella of Spain. Scroll to about 3.30 of this video.

A quick google after the episode reveals this:

"In its original form, the equivalent of the queen was male, a piece known in Spanish as alferza, from the Persian, meaning something like vizier or adjutant," said Govert Westerveld, a Dutch chess historian and former youth champion who lives in Spain.

"The figure was weak, and its movements limited. Later, around 1475, when Isabella was crowned queen of Castile, the figure became female but able to move only one square at a time, like the king. Not until 1495, when Isabella was the most powerful woman in Europe, were the present rules of chess established, in which the queen roams freely in all directions on the board," Dr Westerveld said yesterday.

More in "Check: powerful queen who changed the world also transformed chess".