Saturday, December 28, 2013

IM John-Paul Wallace in Dramatic Rescue

That is one lucky escape by Aussie IM John-Paul Wallace. I suppose this is not how most of us wanted to find out where he's been or how he has been doing, but the main thing is that it ended in a positive news. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the Wallaces!

If the video above doesn't play, then click here to view it.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Carlsen Kicks Off Spain Match

I suppose that is one of the perks of winning the World Chess Championships: you get to kick off a top flight league match in the Spanish football league.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

In Love with Armenia

Arianne Caoili has apparently been settling well into Armenian life that she now has her own regular column in some local media. She writes about a variety of subjects - foreign policy, taxi drivers, the local delicacies and Armenians generally.

In an earlier column, she observed:

To counter the political, religious, economic and explicitly sinister designs from various powers throughout the ages, Armenians have learned several survival tactics to combat them: avoiding marriage into foreign communities [my emphasis], using the church as an instrument of leadership to form unity, excelling in trade, flourishing in the arts, achieving powerful political positions in various parts of Eastern Europe, and the downright dirty skill of fighting to survive.

Well, then, some of you blokes might think that there's still a chance.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

UPDATED: The Mysterious British Chess Champion

There I was flipping through the channels to see what the mainstream press might have been saying about the recent World Chess Championships when I suddenly saw something from the BBC featuring someone who looks like Harry Potter, and who is apparently a "British Chess Champion", passing on his observations about the result. Joseff Thomas is the name.

Now I realise that I've been outside of chess for a couple of years, but the big news I still follow. I have never heard of Joseff Thomas. So who the fuck is this guy?

UPDATED (Nov 25, 2013): It turns out that Joseff Thomas is, indeed, a "British Champion". He was =1st in the U16 section in 2006 and =1st in the U15 the year prior.  Here is the full list of British chess champs since 1904. Hat tip to Kerry Stead.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Vishy Blunders

Days like today. A game like that. If you understand even the basics of chess, count yourself lucky.

What a game. What a game.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Norway: Yes!

The Prime Minister of Norway on tonight's game no. 5 in the World Chess Championships.

That says it all. For the Indians, it was a sad day. Vishy lost and that man Sachin played his last test match.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wesley So Upsets Athletic Atheletes

What an amusing tidbit. Wesley So's university decides to put his face, along with that of Mara Kamphorst, on a roadside billboard and the mob in the school's athletics department get all twitchy.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Herman Miller and the World Chess Championships

The guys at Chessvibes spotted what they called a "bra-like" logo and didn't know what it was until, apparently, a reader pointed out that it was the logo of furniture designer and maker Herman Miller. It seems that the table and chairs currently used in the ongoing World Championships match are actually provided by that company.

This is probably my only tiny contribution to all the commentary on the match, but Herman Miller actually has a long history with the World Chess Championships. The link between the company and chess goes back to that famous 1972 match Fischer v Spassky. Fischer apparently demanded that he sit on the Herman Miller designed "Eames" executive chair because it helped his concentration. When Spassky saw the chair, he also insisted on one for himself!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Man in the Red Beret: Jude Acers

I first heard the name Jude Acers back in 2005 when hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Several US blogs I used to follow reported him missing. Thankfully, he later surfaced perfectly healthy, if I recall right. At the time I wondered who he was but it turned out that Mr Acers was one of these prominent and at the same time quirky characters in the American chess scene. So I suppose it is only to be expected that sooner or later somebody would film a doco on him. That is what this Kickstarter campaign is all about.

You can watch the video and/or head over to the Kickstarter page to read all the key details. And well done to the film-makers, as well as to the backers, it looks like they even managed to exceed their target by a good amount.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Chess, Street Fightin' Style

First up, apologies. I didn't expect that there'd still be readers and commenters to this blog, so I failed to publish a few reader comments. But they are there now.

With that out of the way, here's another idea to "improve" chess, raising excitement by making a good fight out of every game. There is talk if a "midline invasion", armies and "duelling". But I don't know, this notion really doesn't sound like chess to me. Plus I would have thought that the long-established Fischerandom already makes for a good alternative variant. On duelling:
The final addition is duelling, a real-time double-blind bidding mechanic. To quote from the official Chess 2 rules, "Duelling allows you to spend a new resource called stones to threaten to destroy a piece that takes one of your pieces." Duels can be initiated whenever a piece is captured, and they work a little like rock, paper, scissors, with a hidden number of stones clenched in each player's closed fists and then revealed at the same time. All stones revealed are destroyed, and the winner is the player who showed the most stones. The long-term strategy comes from the fact that, when you're out of stones, players can still duel against you - and they win automatically.
You can read more of this here - Chess 2: The Sequel - How a street fightin' man fixed the world's most famous game. And a hat tip to The New Statesman.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Magnus Carlsen's Last Big Title

Add this to the growing list of docos on Magnus Carlsen. This one is by a Norwegian outfit, it seems, but the lingo is in English. If the viewing screen is too small, you click onto the VGTV site to watch the whole thing.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

World Amateur Chess Championships 2014

All these chess news, the good and the very sad, have got me itching for a proper game again. I think my last “official” tournament was back in 2011, in some low key event near where I live in Tokyo. But if I ever play, I always want to treat it as part holiday. Luckily, I found just such an event – not too far from Japan.

It looks like the next so-called World Amateur Chess Championships is going to be hosted by Singapore. Always wanted to visit Singapore and this is just perfect. Problem is, this being some sort of national representation event it looks like I will need my federation’s endorsement! I will email them. Hopefully, I still have some friends in the ACF.

One thing I did find a bit odd in the WACC’s tournament regulations, however, is the rate of play. They are using the rather retro 40 moves in the first 2 hours, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game. I hadn’t realized that people still use this time control. Just imagine all the headaches that could ensue over rule 10.2! Anyway, what with all things vintage these days, why not this time control? It will at least bring back long old memories.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

RIP Max Fuller

2013 has turned out to be an annus horribilis for Australian chess and, indeed, for world chess as well. So many players passing away. Just last week I posted about Peter Parr's passing. And today we learn of yet another sad news. One of the true greats of Australian chess, FIDE Master Max Fuller has passed away.

The initial news about Max having been taken to hospital a few days ago was posted by FM Greg Canfell to ChessChat. He suffered a stroke and, sadly, never recovered.

Max Fuller won just about every major title in Australia, including the national juniors as well as the Doeberl Cup on three occasions. He was also champion of New South Wales on multiple times and represented Australia at the Olympiad nine times. He was a true legend of Australian chess.

Rest in peace, Max.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Polgar's Short Shrift To Short

This ongoing Chess World Cup in Norway has got me up til late and up early in the morning to check on results. And that has been thanks mostly to the wonderful video coverage hosted, at first, by the duo of GM Susan Polgar and IM Laurence Trent. Their fun and relaxed commentary made the games quite accessible. Sadly, Polgar and Trent have now been replaced by New In Chess editor Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam as well as GM Nigel Short.

I have to say, this switch in commentary pairings has really dampened the experience a bit. The latter pair are just not as good. Dirk Jan doesn't know enough chess and GM Short is too dry. Like many spectators on Twitter I'd demand a return to Polgar and Trent, but I hear the latter is en route to Bulgaria to play in an event there.

It is possible that the change in commentators was all pre-planned, but I wonder if Polgar is at least trying to grab her old seat back. Last night, she (or someone behind her official Twitter account) blurted out these tweets (recent to oldest).

I can only imagine what it must be like at the venue right now between Polgar and Short. If she does get her seat back in the commentary room, I say pair her with the just eliminated Korobov. Those two would make for an interesting duo of commentators.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Chess Academy

Here’s a new site that is attracting some commentary over on Hacker News. In fact, it was a real surprise to see this trending up. Chess Academy ( The idea looks basic enough – learn chess via online videos. But the most important thing is that, as far as the site says, it is all for FREE!

They’re apparently taking some feedback on Hacker News, too, so you can check out some of the early comments here

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

RIP Peter Parr

Just heard the terribly sad news that Peter Parr has passed away.

I don't personally have any further details about Peter's passing, except to say that his usual Monday column in the SMH was apparently missing from yesterday's issue and that caused the alarm.

Well, where do you even begin in summarising the life of a man who was no doubt one of the biggest and most influential personalities in Australian chess? He was captain of the Australian men's Olympiad team 6 times, an administrator in various capacities - including as organiser, arbiter (notably, the Doeberl Cup on twenty occasions), president of the NSWCA - as well as a TV personality!

He also founded and ran Chess Discount Sales, one of the most successful chess businesses in Australia. By my count that business continued for over 40 years! He was a publisher of a chess magazine and, for many years, the chess columnist of the Sydney Morning Herald.

While he was himself a decent player, Peter never managed to earn the usual master titles. But in 1997, he was awarded the OAM or the Order of Australia Medal for services to chess.

Just a little under three years ago, I did a 3-part interview with Peter Parr. In that interview we get to learn just a wee bit more about the man's story. You can read part 1, part 2 and part 3.

I will miss Peter. He was a friend and, in some ways, a mentor particularly in the politics and history of Australian chess.

Farewell, Pete!

Monday, July 01, 2013

Delightful Puzzles

Now I realise that many chessers are mathematically inclined and, naturally, enjoy puzzles. So I thought I would post this. Appropriately, this page full of puzzles happens to include this, too:

Tiling a Chessboard with Trominoes 
Show that a chessboard of size 2^n by 2^n can be tiled with L-shaped figures of 3 squares, such that only one square remains uncovered. In fact, the uncovered square may be any square — for every choice, there exists a tiling. In fact, the puzzle may be extended to 3D: Eight unit cubes make a cube with edge length two. We will call such a cube with one unit cube removed a "piece". A cube with edge length 2^n consists of (2^n)3 unit cubes. Prove that if one unit cube is removed from T, then the remaining solid can be decomposed into pieces.

For more puzzles, check out Delightful Puzzles.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Insane Chess

Put this down as a new variant. But, honestly, it looks like chess for the hipster crowd.


 And in case you're wondering if this guy is an Australian: he is. Here's more on Bennett Foddy.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Well we've already had "Dunnygate", What would we call this, then: AndroidGate?

A row started after the Dublin schoolboy, who was said to have gone to the toilet “at least 20 times” during a game, was allegedly caught using an Android device to check his next move on a chess engine.

The teenager’s opponent, Gabriel Mirza (47), who was expelled from the tournament because of his reaction, admits he pulled the schoolboy from a toilet cubicle at the Metropole Hotel in Cork, but insists he never assaulted him.

From the Irish Times.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

RIP Malcolm Tredinnick

I am just utterly, utterly shocked. One of the first people I ever knew in Australian chess, Malcolm Tredinnick, has passed away. It was at the 1996 Australian Chess Championships in Sydney that I first ran into Malcolm. He had always worn a bearded face and I actually thought that he was GM Ian Rogers (before I had met Ian, of course).

Malcolm was on Twitter. His last tweet was on 16 March. He tweeted: "Woke up late, afternoon nap and I still want to go to bed early. So tired; wasted the day."

Monday, March 25, 2013

BBC iPlayer: A Profile of Magnus Carlsen

Magnus Carlsen is getting quite a bit of publicity lately.

About a week ago The Independent dubbed him the Justin Bieber of Chess. I don't know about that. Bieber is an over-rated prick who now thinks that he's a man who can take on big boofy papparazi in a fist fight. Of course, there is nothing over-rated about Magnus.

And now this: a profile of Carlsen, available via the BBC's iPlayer.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Film: "Computer Chess"

The Sundance Film Festival in the US ended this week, but there is one "oddball" film that's continuing to attract attention and is currently doing the rounds of reviews. It is the film by Andrew Bujalski, "Computer Chess". Instead of highlighting the usual review from some film buff, I thought it more interesting to point to this instead - an article by Gordon Kindlmann, assistant professor of comp sci. at the University of Chicago, and who worked on the movie as a technical consultant and actually acted in it.
There were also philosophical questions in the air, such as whether a program was capable of creative or insightful play, and to what extent we could learn from the computer when it played a strong game. Brilliant and passionate people, with intellectual goals as well as complex emotional investments, populated all sides of these issues. Bujalski's characters live in this moment, working through the ideas and ambitions of that optimistic and fertile time.
By the way, here is Bujalski's fund raising page for the movie.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Learn Chess, Learn Some Grit

Here's another plus to encouraging chess. The game teaches life skills, grit, character. This interesting discussion isn't specifically about chess but about the broader subject of teaching "grit" to children. Hat tip to The Economist.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Anton: The "Supernova"

Blimey. I remember when his dad, international master and Sydney Uni academic Vladimir Smirnov, used to take him to Hyde Park to spar with the locals over a few rounds of lightning. He was fairly easy back then. But now, I think, not so. With a rating of 2161 (ACF), Anton Smirnov has significantly improved since the last time I saw him. And now he's a local superstar. At least to North Sydney local, Paul Glissan: "He's a Wolfgang Mozart. He's exceptional."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Chess Is Just Too Hard

It's official. The scientists have delivered their verdict. Chess is just too hard. The game is impossible to master. And if you thought of switching to poker, you can forget that, too.