Monday, December 22, 2014

Chess Christmas Cheer

Look what I spotted in Sydney's Pitt St yesterday. When I saw the chess boards, my first thought was that Pablo Williams, The Jamaican Champion, must have expanded his operations! You can usually see him here this time of year. But, nope; no Pablo. This bloke who's hosting the simul is, in fact, none other than Sydney local Jason Chan.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chess on The iPad

I don't get much chess action myself these days, at least not over the board. But I still follow the top events closely. Thanks to Apple, I can do this, last night's World Championship game that ended it all for Vishy ("screwed"). That is my iPad tethered to my iPhone. And in case you're wondering, the red is a not too shabby Chilean merlot.

When I tweeted this last night, a couple of folks asked me what the app is. It is Playchess for the iOS, which is not too bad. I like the game board. But I think the Chess24 app is way better overall. Chess24's game board is not to my liking but you get access to their video coverage and the app is free!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Vishy Anand Is Screwed

Boom! Just like that, Magnus Carlsen goes one up against Anand in their ongoing combat for the World Chess Championships. And it is only game two. Last year, it took until game five before we saw a decisive result. Honestly, why do we even bother?

Early this morning on Twitter I was amused to see a number of experts - GMs, journos and even an ex-World Champion herself - offer suggestions to the Anand camp. That perhaps Vishy should re-strategise and get a shrink. GM Jonathan Tisdall suggests that the Indian should play like, well, Vishy; that is, the younger, fearless Vishy. Play the Sicilian, tweets Tisdall. Mark Crowther, of TWIC, reckons it is time for plan B. But what that is supposed to be is unclear.

Without being disrespectful of the man, the fact is Anand is simply outclassed. This, my friends, is the bottom line. The Norwegian is too good. GM Nigel Short said it best: Anand is basically screwed.

So I say, save yourselves some late nights and get some sleep. Nothing to see here folks.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Guardiola on Chess

Former Barcelona football club coach Pep Guardiola had this to say about chess:

The process of picking a line-up is a bit like sitting in front of your chess pieces. You’ve no idea how similar the two things are.

You can read more about his observations on chess here

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

End of Chess in New York Times?

Is it really the end of the chess column in the New York Times? Many people certainly thought so when this appeared at the foot of the 11 October edition.

Then again, perhaps not.

As quoted by Poynter, a spokesperson for the NYT said, "We are considering eliminating the chess column in order to keep freelance costs in line. A final decision for the column (on all platforms) has not been made yet.”

However, just to be sure that chess doesn't get the cut from the NYT's pages, you could take the pro-active approach and write to the paper's exec editor. The email addy is

Monday, October 06, 2014

Evelyn Koshnitsky, 1915-2014

Such is the world today that the first thing I log on to is my social media feed. And one of the first tidbits I read this morning was a status update from a friend with the very sad news that Evelyn Koshnitsky has passed away, aged 99. Actually, it looks like the first news of this is via Kevin Bonham over on ChessChat.

I did not know Mrs Koshnitsky deeply, but I certainly knew of her reputation and the immense good she did for Australian chess over the decades.

Cathy Chua has a brief mention specifically of Evelyn Koshnitsky in an old post:

Evelyn Koshnitsky has made her life’s work the promotion of chess among the young and her special passion has been to get girls to play. First in Sydney and then in Adelaide from the early 1960s when the couple moved there she cajoled, begged and bullied support. Manpower, money, venues – she is an expert at getting what she wants from parents, schools, government, business – whoever might have something of use.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Illingworth GM Hunting in Hungary

UPDATE (16 Sep): Max scored 3.5 from the last 4 rounds of his event. Thus, he not only won that tournament but also gained himself a GM norm!

(Original text below)

International master Max Illingworth, who starred for Australia at the Tromsø Olympiad last month, is extending his European stint in the hunt for another GM norm. And obviously in the process, hopefully, also raise his rating ever closer to that magic 2500.

Max is currently in the First Saturday GM event in Hungary. After 5 rounds there, the Sydneysider is undefeated on 3.5 points. With 4 rounds to go, he'll be desperately needing to double that tally for that prized grandmaster norm. Looking at his upcoming opponents, I must say that his chances are very good, indeed.

Good luck Max!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Carlsen Will Play in Sochi

And it's on!

After days of uncertainty, the World Championship match between Carlsen and Anand is finally set to happen after the defending title holder signed the contract.

No doubt many will be relieved, happy that a potential split in world chess has been averted. On the other hand, FIDE will be quite satisfied by the outcome; they can carry on business-as-usual. Others, particularly the average fan, will just be glad that there is yet another big event to look forward to.

I am, however, slightly disappointed. I was hoping that Carlsen would stick to his guns. I was very curious about what would happen next if he didn't sign. That surely would have made things a lot more interesting.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Japan's First International Master

As far as chess news go this is hardly up there with Caruana's incredible 5/5 at the ongoing Sinquefield Cup, Carlsen possibly losing the world championship title by default or whatever else is happening in the world of chess. But since I am in the country, I might as well mention this little bit of news.

Japan is set to gain its first ever international master - Nanjo Ryosuke. News was broken by FM Shinya Kojima over on his blog. The irony, of course, is that FM Kojima himself was once touted as possibly Japan's first IM!

Obviously, Nanjo-san is not the first ethnic Japanese to achieve the international master title. There is, for example, Australia's Junta Ikeda as well as GM Nakamura who, I think, held the title once, too, before becoming a grandmaster in 2003 (at the time breaking Fischer's record as the youngest American to earn the title).

As they say here, "おめでとう"!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Another Split in World Chess?

This is what I like to see, a World Champion who’s prepared to throw his weight around.

Magnus Carlsen is, for now, dragging his feet over the re-match against Anand that is slated for November. The Norwegian and his team have to date not signed the contract papers, queried the suitability of the venue, asked for more prize money and also raised questions about media coverage.

This is good. For if there’s anyone who really ought to do more to, at least, ruffle FIDE’s feathers – it’s the numero uno, the World Champ.

How is the world body supposed to react?

Already there is speculation that if he doesn't front up, Carlsen could be replaced by Karjakin. Of course, that would also mean stripping the Norwegian of his title!

Unlikely scenarios, I think, for what a disaster the situation would be for FIDE itself! First, there will once again be the problem of the FIDE champ's (il)legitimacy; and, second, lost revenues. Who would want to bankroll a match involving an alternate?

I am truly hoping that Carlsen will hold his ground on this one. A media star as big as him need not be FIDE's poodle.

How do you say "up yours" in Norwegian?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Levon Aronian's Preparation

GM Levon Aronian just tweeted this.
The world number two spent the weekend in South Carolina. He and Arianne are on their way to St Louis where Levon will play in the Sinquefield Cup.

I imagine that the other participants are busy in front of their computers looking for that next big novelty. Between that and Aronian's prep method, I know exactly which one I prefer. After all, if you're world number 2 you can probably afford a bit of a frolick in the surf prior to the strongest tournament history!

Friday, August 22, 2014

How Norway Does Chess on TV

We know that chess has been really big on Norwegian TV and that is thanks, of course, to their favourite son, Magnus Carlsen. The just completed Olympiad, for example, as well as the World Championships match in Chennai months before that were both heavily covered. Really impressive stuff.

But what does it take for a mainstream outfit to cover something like a chess event?

You would think that just a few cheap Handycams and maybe some GoPro's will do. Oh, no. The Norwegians went about their business like they were covering the summer Olympics! Sort of.

Here's Jon Stale Carlsen describing the lengths that NRK took to do their coverage of the Olympiad.

And just in case you're wondering how the official webcast did it, here's a wee look.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Rwandans Upset By Captain

I wonder what some experts on the regulations think of this.

It seems that the unfortunate incident on the last day of the Olympiad has had the unintended side-effect of causing ructions within the Rwandan men's team.

From Rwanda's The New Times paper:

The controversy started on the final day of the tournament on Thursday last week, when in round 11, a Seychelles player against Rwanda’s Alain Patience Niyibizi on board 2, suddenly collapsed and was later pronounced dead.

Although Rwanda was leading on the score against Seychelles before the incident, team captain Maxence Murara chose to sacrifice two games as loses in a gesture of goodwill to Seychelles, a decision which did not go down well with his teammates.

Never mind that the captain apparently did not consult his players, for that was just poor decision-making and obviously bad leadership. I am just curious about this: if the position is not evident on the board during actual play, how can a game be declared lost? Obviously, there may be situations wherein a game can be lost regardless of the position, like player behaving badly if I remember the Laws right, but we are not talking about this. The only procedure I can think of is that the captain sort of "resigned" on behalf of his players, although I am not sure if he can do that either.

Honestly, it is easy to understand the motivations of the Rwandan captain. But I think offering a draw would have been quite adequate as a gesture of goodwill.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Zhukova Berates Lagno

Fourth board for Ukraine's women, Natalia Zhukova, had some pretty nasty things to say about ex-compatriot Kateryna Lagno.

Zhukova: "Getting rid of the parasites is always painless. Well, love cannot be forced. If she doesn't want to play for Ukraine, why do we need such people? We didn't communicate at the Olympiad, she avoided it. Cleansing is always for the better."

Terrible thing to say even for my tastes.

Obviously we're relying on the translation to be accurate, but since it is a Russian site, I guess it is 100% reliable.

Anyway, GM Jonathan Tisdall thought he might have read something else, too, in Zhukova's remarks.

He was talking about the Ukrainian's comment that the Chinese "have some kind of medications which helps them to feel refreshed as on the first day."

Well, what do we think?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

UK Parliament To Promote Chess

The UK has just announced an All Party Parliamentary Group on Chess with the aim of promoting the game. It is an exciting development and one that many other countries could look to emulate. But I doubt if anything like this could be done in Australia any time soon.

The BBC has an audio of the news that features Malcolm Pein.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Havoc in The Olympiad

A bomb, a gun! Apparently, players and spectators alike either momentarily imagined things or they just made stuff up. What exactly happened in that last round of the Olympiad? Courtesy of Australian arbiter Kerry Stead, who officiated in the event, we have now this sensational account.

According to Ian Rogers, Meier's face went red & the arbiter noticed this & went to get some medical attention. Another player also noticed this & ran across the room towards the medical area screaming 'MEDIC! MEDIC!'. The medical staff were quickly on the scene, but the commotion created concern amongst the otherwise very quiet playing hall. Some players & spectators moved towards the commotion to see what was happening & according to Kevin Bonham, at some point someone yelled out 'BOMB!' & this created havoc in the playing hall, with players, spectators & officials running for an exit. Seeing the likes of GM Michael Adams & other top chess players running past me as fast as they could was quite a sight!

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Sex Lives of Chess Pieces

Who knew that chess pieces had secret sex lives?

Adult Swim. Chess Mating from Rubber House on Vimeo.

Tromsø, An Olympiad of Surprises

It was dramatic in the lead up and it was dramatic until the very end. So many surprises, upsets and twists. That was the Tromsø Olympiad. I almost regret not pulling the trigger on a summer vacation in Tromsø.

The event was an historic one, too. For the first time, the Chinese men won gold! If you didn't think that this was a big deal for them, just have a gander at this photograph in Susan Polgar's tweet. Beautiful!

Of course, well done to the Aussies. Over on Chess Chat, Kevo reports that both teams finished way above their seedings.

As for this Smirnov kid, well, he wasn't even my pick for a spot in the team as I was thinking he'd be a bit too inexperienced. But sheesh, was I wrong?! You know, I actually remember him turning up to Hyde Park, in Sydney, many years ago, sitting around while his father (now an IM) played blitz. There was absolutely no sign, then, that the kid would himself actually end up being this good! If he keeps up, the selectors will have to put him on board one for Baku.

To close, let me briefly extend condolences to the Seychelles team. Last night, one of their members suffered a medical emergency during play and later passed away. A terribly sad ending. And this morning, Norwegian journo Tarjei Svensen just tweeted that yet another player passed away, too. No further details yet of this second incident.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Silly Chess News Day

With no over-the-board action coming from Tromsø yesterday, and with the key political dogfight for FIDE now over, attention turned to other news.

It all began with an article from The Times (UK) announcing that Judit Polar will retire from competitive chess. This is big. Except that nobody was really sure! The problem is The Times' article is behind a paywall.

On Twitter @ChessVibes tweeted, "It all just doesn't feel right, somehow." And the man behind TWIC, Mark Crowther, was having doubts, too.

Norwegian journo Tarjei J. Svensen did read the article but, according to him, there's absolutely no mention of retirement. And he's right. Here's the text of the article courtesy of today's The Australian. Still, just because there's no direct quote like "I'm retiring from competitive chess" doesn't mean that the whole story isn't true.

But Tarjei got all excited about some other thing.

Paired against the Malaysians in the last round, the Norwegian 1 team have decided to give Magnus Carlsen the day off. This doesn't seem particularly unusual to me. The local press, however, viewed Carlsen's non-appearance as a withdrawal. After their man's disastrous outing in round 10, you can imagine how the Norwegian press could leap to that conclusion. But GM Agdestein would have none of it; Carlsen's alleged withdrawal, he says, is "bullshit".

Although it wasn't quite as big a news, GM Nigel Short's agreement to work with FIDE did come as a surprise. A deal with the Devil perhaps?

Appropriately, yesterday ended with the announcement of the new Olympiad host. In 2018, the Olympiad caravan will head to Batumi. Chessdom has their bid video. The presentation has a lot of irrelevant imagery, but here are the key promises. Remember these!
  • 20 million USD budget 
  • 5-star accommodation for all participants
  • Two extra rooms for each delegation
  • 1.6 million USD travel subsidy
  • 800,000 USD assistance for developing federations
I might have preferred to see the planned playing hall, toilet facilities, the press room, etc. Hec, how much does a bottle of beer cost in Batumi? These are really the key questions.

To close, congrats to Indian chess star Humpy Koneru. She got hitched!

Smirnov and Smerdon in Chessbase Interview

Here's a nice interview by GM Daniel King with FM Anton Smirnov and GM David Smerdon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Smerdon: Anton Will Be Next Carlsen

Aussie chess fans who didn't stay up late last night to watch Chess24's coverage of the Olympiad will have missed the guest appearance on their show of grandmaster David Smerdon. It was really all just the usual banter about ongoing games and why he was sitting out yesterday's round (2 straight losses and a bad history with the Tajiks), but then he added a pretty bold prediction.

According to Australia's current board one, the young gun FM Anton Smirnov, who is debuting in the Olympiad for Australia as reserve, will be the next Magnus Carlsen!

That's incredible even by my standards. But I suppose if there is anybody best qualified to predict such futures, it would be GM Smerdon.

And by the way, in eight appearances so far for Australia, Smirnov is yet to drop the full point. His current total is 7 points. The kid is on fire.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kirsan Bags Presidency

In the game of chess, there is such a thing as a "first move advantage". It is the advantage inherent to the player with the white pieces by virtue of them moving first. But in politics, it is often best to move second. Like in giving speeches, for example, because that way there is always a chance to out-bullshit your opponent.

 That appears to be exactly what Kirsan did last night in the hotly contested FIDE elections. Kasparov says US$10 million, so Kirsan says US$20 million. The only problem is we're not quite sure if Kirsan's largesse is "new money" or "old money". Even he is not sure!


Monday, August 11, 2014

Canada's Prettiest Chess Player

Olympiads really get me fired up. I've barely had any sleep over the last week. By midnight Tokyo time only a handful of games will have already finished. So I tend to keep going until about one or 2 in the morning.

Last night, for example, I was basically glued to Chess24's coverage - mainly paying attention to the Aussie men's games. That they ended up losing 3 - 1 against the Uzbeks was pretty frustrating. At one point, I was actually figuring a 2.5 - 1.5 win for the Aussies. Only the gods know how Illingworth couldn't win his game, and only Ikeda knows why he had to take the bloody knight on move 19. On the latter encounter, even a mug like me could see that the knight was surely taboo. Opening up the enemy rook file like that. Sheesh!

Anyway, while some of us are paying attention mostly to the chess, apparently plenty of social media are paying attention to something else. Or rather someone. Meet WFM Alexandra Botez (2089), Canada's prettiest chess player.

Zero Tolerance For Arbiters

Scottish grandmaster Jacob Aagard has some harsh words for arbiters and, in particular, the zero tolerance rule. He says, "One of the worst rules in chess is the so-called Zero Tolerance Rule...", before going on to propose what seems to me a reasonable alternative (and some nice words for arbiters, too, actually).

All very understandable from the players' point of view, but he should perhaps spare a thought for arbiters.

Just have a look at some of the proposed regulations for how arbiters are supposed to carry on. Like this, a sample case of arbiter misconduct and its proposed punishment: "3.m. Every action of his sporting or social life which causes a reduction of his prestige as an arbiter or constitutes defamation of the game of chess (disqualification from 2 years to deletion from the lists of Arbiters)."

Immediately you would ask, what exactly are such actions and who decides them? This is a rule that, if enacted, should really send shivers up the spines of arbiters and would-be arbiters everywhere. It is a rule that, like the zero tolerance one for players, could turn out to be unjust.

Hat tip: Chess Chat.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Beautiful Women of the Olympiad

Obviously, you just cannot teach an old dog any new tricks, can you? Here's Frederic Friedel, publisher of Chessbase, on his Jamaican guests: "There are also interviews with lesser-known but more exotic players, like these two from Jamaica."

While he named everybody else, he couldn't be bothered with the Jamaicans.  As long as they're pretty and exotic, I suppose.

Admittedly, I have some sympathies with Herr Friedel's sentiments about chess: that it ought to be treated "like any other sport, like entertainment, films and music". And by that he means, among many other things I imagine, also celebrating (although some might prefer, ogling at) beautiful women! What is so wrong with that?

Ogle away I say. Herr Friedel's latest post has plenty of beautiful women.

By the way, whatever we may think of Friedel's approach to women, he is at least very mild compared to a certain Canadian grandmaster. You can google away for that.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Terror Watch-list Denies Chess Champ

Almost every Olympiad involves visa problems. Back in the 2008 Olympiad, for instance, I had a chance to interview the Ethiopian team who relayed their trials and tribulations in simply trying to obtain visas. But theirs was basically a combination of bureaucracy and money issues.

Imagine if you happen to find your name on a terrorist watch-list!

Well, that is exactly what happened to Taffin Khan of Guyana. It would seem that another individual, obviously the alleged terrorist, just happens to share Mr Khan's name and, to make matters worse, also his date of birth. The Guyanese team protested, but clearly to no avail as they turned up in Tromsø without Mr Khan.

More of this story here, by Stabroek News.

Sunfish Chess Engine

I have no idea what all this means, but apparently this is a simple and strong chess engine.


There is also a discussion about the programme on HackerNews.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Where Is Naka?

The Olympiad is already onto the third round but one big name is still missing. US board number one GM Hikaru Nakamura is nowhere in sight! As far as I can gather he is still in the US.

He explains the situation on his Facebook page, but this bit had me gagging on my sushi.

I simply do not understand why the organizers with a massive budget did not attempt to add a few extra flights so that A) the prices would be a bit cheaper even on original tickets and B) so that the availability would not be such an issue in the case of delays.

Perhaps it is not adequate to ask where he is. We might also wonder what planet he's bloody on!

There are many hundreds of players in Tromsø right now, some having travelled from pretty logistically-challenged corners of the planet. They made it. But not this guy, who really should have planned better.


ACF Olympiad Appeal Opens

I did wonder if the ACF was still holding their Olympiad Appeal. They are. And after a slowish start, it looks like some funds are finally coming in. As of today, the ACF has collected about 40% of their target. Not bad at all!

If you have not yet contributed and want to, you can still do so.

Now I am not sure if the players still send out a special and exclusive Olympiad newsletter, but they certainly used to do that in Olympiads past. I hope so.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Aussie in Tromsø Olympiad Fight

I don't remember the Olympiad having had a bust-up since 2006 when an English GM fronted up to an Armenian. But at the start of yesterday's proceedings, it looks like there was another one. The official bulletin, courtesy of GM Jonathan Tisdall, is a bit short on details. He says only the following:

Fighting spirit in unexpected form erupted briefly in the playing hall - veteran journalist and Australian grandmaster Ian Rogers reported that a scuffle broke out that was apparently linked to a serious disagreement related to FIDE politics, but order was quickly restored.

But thanks to GM Rogers, we at least get to know the names of the protagonists.

Kenmure is of course none other than Aussie chess personality Jamie Kenmure who is in Tromsø acting as captain of the men's team from Palau.

The only question is: what exactly about FIDE politics were they arguing about?

Tromsø Olympiad Horror Stories

Only a couple of days in and the horror stories have emerged from the Tromsø Olympiad. But then again, that is probably for the better as the Norwegian organisers will still have plenty of time left to sort out their problems. Maybe. Hopefully.

In this post, Shaun Press labels his first day on the ground as "disorganised and chaotic". You can just about feel his anger and frustration as you read through that.

Reading a couple of other reports I am quite shocked at what these Norwegians have managed. Portable toilets? People spent a tonne of money, travel for thousands of kilometres to represent their country and they get that! Honestly, isn't Norway a first-world country?

Then there was this tweet last night by Ukriainian chess journo Mikhail Golubev:

He was referring to this. That is apparently the back entrance to the press room. In reply, a couple of other journos on the ground assure Golubev that the inside is pretty good. I guess we'll just have to believe them.

After all the drama in the lead-up to this event, the Norwegians are under tremendous pressure to put on an unforgettable Olympiad. Here's hoping that it will not be for all the wrong reasons.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

50 Moves Magazine: A Brief Review

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the launched of a new Australia-based online chess magazine called "50 Moves". To perfectly time with the start of the Tromso Olympiad, issue number 1 was released on the first day of August. Frankly, if you have not yet subscribed, especially if you're an Aussie chess fan, you are missing out. The first issue is jam-packed with excellent content.

Here's what is in the inaugural edition:

  • An interview with Justin Tan
  • GM Ian Rogers' report on Dubai
  • Opening survey on the Ragozin by IM Max Illingworth
  • Olympiad preview that includes interviews with GM Smerdon, Manuel Weeks and Giang Nguyen (women's board number 2)
  • A studies section by IM Ikeda
  • Various tournament reports from around Australia many more!

The magazine is over eighty pages of professionally laid out and well-written articles. But the real highlight as well as the biggest value-add are the plentiful game annotations. IM Illingworth's four-and-half pages on the Ragozin alone is quite instructive and well worth the price of subscription.

In fact, I could not believe at how cheap the yearly subscription is. Just $40! Of course you only get 6 issues in a year, but if the quality keeps up, that is money well spent.

If I have any criticism at all, just a wee bit, it is actually on IM Illingworth's opening survey. I just don't like the flipped diagrams (black on bottom and white on top) regardless that the article may be from black's point of view.  Leave it back to normal, I say!

All in all, this is a project that is well worth supporting. What with mostly young guys running the show, we can already see some fresh ideas. Indeed, one of the editors has already hinted at an app for the iOS and Android. I am looking forward to that.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Arianne Caoili in "Shall We Dance?"

Aussie chess fans will remember with some amusement, I think, Arianne Caoili's suddenly rise to fame years ago when she appeared on Australia's "Dancing With The Stars". Now living mostly in Armenia, with you-know-who, it looks like she's reprising that brief stint as a celebrity in yet another dancing show.

This one's apparently called, "Shall We Dance?"Here you can see the Aussie WIM jivin' with her partner, some bloke named, Suren.

And in this other video, the boyfriend, Lev Aronian, even makes an appearance.

Kirsan: Olympiad Will Be in Tromso

Who didn't see this coming? The open letters are flying around as usual. Norwegians on one side and FIDE as well as the Russians on the other.

They can fire off the bluster all they like, but at least now any talk of moving the event to Russia is finally put to rest. In this interview with Goran Urosevic, Kirsan confirms it: "[The Olympiad] will stay in Tromso. The General Assembly adopted Tromso and there is no further discussion."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Russian Threat To Norway Olympiad

Just a few weeks ago the upcoming Tromso Olympiad took a brief dive because of some uncertainty over sponsorship money. Thankfully, the tournament was brought to level again when the Norwegian government finally confirmed funding of 12 million NOK. But now, only a fortnight from the start of proceedings, new turbulence has hit the event.

As far as I can tell, this new set of problems is related to the organisers' decision to exclude from Tromso as many as ten teams, one of which is the Russian women's side who, of course, won the 2010 and 2012 women's events. Expectedly, that's pissed off the Russians.

The situation is so bad that there is a suggestion that FIDE, with help from no less than Russian prez Vlad Putin, might yank the whole thing out of Norway and move the event to Russia! Well, at least one blogger seems to think that this is a dead certainty: Canadian GM, Kevin Spraggett.

Frankly I think either Spraggett or his source is pulling our legs. Just imagine the lawsuit that FIDE and the Russians will have to face from the Norwegians. Never mind the compo for travel. For their troubles, the Norwegians will want more than $2 million.

Anyway, I think the Olympiad will happen in two week's time. In Tromso. With the Russian women.

Monday, July 07, 2014

50 Moves Magazine

Wow! This one's completely out of the blue. Some young Aussie chess guys just launched a digital startup called "50 Moves". Basically, it is an online chess magazine. From the very professionally designed website it looks like this is going to be  a well organised publication. It certainly looks like plenty of planning has gone into this venture before final rollout. But what's really impressive is the roster of contributors, consisting mainly of Australia's new masters and the legendary, GM Ian Rogers.

The first issue will be on 1 August, just in time for the Olympiad.

Now I have just had a quick look at the site. I don't see any mention of an app. Hopefully, these guys will release at least one for the iOS.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Aussie Olympiad Fund Appeal

For the last few years, especially in the months leading up to an Olympiad, the Australian Chess Federation has always run a very successful Olympiad Fund Appeal. Given the overall cost of travel for our men's and women's teams, the amounts collected are quite modest. But they help.

For example, about this same time two years ago, the ACF collected over $10,000 in donations. This year, however, they've garnered only a paltry $700! And we are only a little over a month out from the Olympiad in Norway.

What has happened? An economic dip Down Under that we don't know about?

Perhaps it is because of the much criticised Australian federal budget that Aussie chess fans have really tightened their wallets. Or perhaps it is because there is hardly any mention of the ACF's Olympiad Appeal that folks are just not aware of it.

I checked this year's ACF newsletters, where the Appeal is normally prominently mentioned, but there is nothing. Nada! On the other hand, newsletters from 2 years ago mention the Appeal right at the very top of every issue in the months leading up to the Olympiad event.

So all this makes me wonder: did the ACF just forget to promote the Olympiad Appeal? Or are they, in fact, angling for the Tromso Travel Fund? Frankly, I doubt the latter.

At any rate, there is still some time to donate. I know I'll be sending a few bucks to the ACF. Hopefully, that will get me one of those blow-by-blow accounts from the players. I think it's $50 or more and you get an exclusive newsletter direct from Tromso.

Shock Move. Wesley So Switches Federations

In a serious blow to Philippine chess, their numero uno and current world number fifteen (in the June 2014 list), GM Wesley So, will be switching to the US Federation. Not only is he switching feds, he is also becoming a US citizen.

But, as we might guess, the Philippines' national chess body isn't making it easy. The National Chess Federation of the Philippines boss, Butch Pichay, is apparently just stonewalling Wesley's request to be granted the move.

That leaves So with two choices.

Either he hands over a hefty compo to the Philippine federation of 50,000 euros, or he sits out 2 years before finally being listed in the US ranking and, therefore, competing as an American. That is going to be tough for the kid who could seriously, one day hopefully, challenge for the world championships.

Of course, while this is all obviously very bad for the Pinoy men's team, as they lose their main attack in team events, notably the Olympiad, the move by So to the US can only be good for his chess. And looking at comments on Susan Polgar's blog, one gets the impression that most So fans support his move. I certainly do. After all, why stick with a federation that isn't doing much for your chess?

For the NCFP, the flight of a top GM away from their fold may still continue. The second highest ranked Pinoy player, GM Julio Sadorra, only the third Pinoy player to break the magic 2600 mark, could also make a similar US-bound move. This wouldn't surprise me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Data-driven Look at the Evolution of Chess

Somebody had to do this. This guy crunched up thousands of chess games from 1850 onwards to paint a picture of how chess has evolved since the middle of the nineteenth century. While some of these conclusions are to be expected, at least now we have some fancy graphs to go with them!

First Move Advantage

Draws Now More Common

For those who like yapping on about ratings, he also has a post on tournament games and ELO ratings.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Aussie Chess Behind Kasparov

Looks like ex-world champion Garry Kasparov's charm offensive on Aussie shores worked. In the latest news bulletin from the Australian Chess Fed, we read this: "The ACF decided at its May meeting that the ACF supports the candidacy for the FIDE Presidency of former World Champion GM Garry Kasparov. A week later Australia was one of 20 federations to formally nominate the Kasparov ticket (another three nominations were submitted for an earlier version of the Kasparov ticket.) With 54 nominations already, the incumbent President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has the early lead in declared voting for this election."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chess is Really Bad For You

From Scientific American, 1859:

Persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises for recreation — not the sort of mental gladiatorship. Those who are engaged in mental pursuits should avoid a chess-board as they would an adder’s nest, because chess misdirects and exhausts their intellectual energies. Rather let them dance, sing, play ball, perform gymnastics, roam in the woods or by the seashore, than play chess. 

Cited in Why Chess Will Destroy Your Mind.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Norway Olympiad To Be Cancelled?

What is this, German calmness in the face of adversity? Chessbase reports that the upcoming Olympiad in Norway is underfunded by a whopping US$2.5m! Worse is that the organisers have apparently aired the possibility that the whole thing may not happen at all. Yet, Chessbase can manage to ask if we should be worried.

Well, shit yeah!

But at any rate, it sounds like the Norwegian Olympiad organisers are just playing a game of chicken with their own government. The real question now is: who will blink first?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chessbase on a Mac

Here is a useful post by GM David Smerdon on how to install and run Chessbase on your Mac. But, of course, the steps he describes will probably apply to most other Windows based software that you want to run on the Mac OS as well.

If I have any additional tips, it is that if you're planning on switching to a Mac and then running Windows simultaneously, consider upsizing the specs on memory. Say, from 500Gb HD to 1Tb; and from 4Gb SDRAM to 8Gb. The cost of doing so is really quite minimal and very worth it.

By the way, I found this comment by GM Smerdon interesting: "ChessBase as a program is objectively really terrible: it’s buggy, barely developed between versions, and gives the user neither decent control nor innovation. However, there’s simply no alternative out there for the serious player."

Since I don't personally use Chessbase all that much, I haven't really noticed these shortcomings that David talks about. But one thing is obvious. Chessbase is clearly the undisputed name in chess database. Given all their apparent deficiencies, it seems to me that they are just ripe for a bit of disruption! How hard can it be to design and build a better chess database?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2014 Aussie Olympiad Team

It is an Olympiad year again and this time the party is heading off to Norway. I had actually planned to head over, but the cost of getting there from Tokyo was going to seriously put me in the red, especially since I already have two OS trips scheduled for later in the year. So I shall have to put off my next Olympiad holiday until 2016. Although, I am not too hot about going to Baku if I'm honest!

Anyway, about this time the Australian Chess Federation begins the selection process for captains and players. For the pundits, like yours truly (yep, I still follow the Australians whenever they play), it is always fun to speculate and nominate as to who should put on the Aussie colours.

Thankfully the ACF actually publishes the names of applicants and you can see their names here. Without further ado, here is my pick.

David Smerdon
Max Illingworth
Moulthun Ly
Junta Ikeda
Stephen Solomon

Captain: Manuel Weeks

All in all, I really like the names in this lineup. Except for Solo, these are young guys who have recently been in hot form. I'm only picking Solo over IM Ari Dale for a couple of reasons. First, looking at Solo's results over the past year, I see that he can still handle himself. He finished high'ish in this year's just completed Doeberl Cup and took out a couple of big guns in last year's edition as well. And secondly, Solo is a veteran campaigner and I think the team can do a bit of his presence there.

Irina Berezina
Arianne Caoili
Giang Nguyen
Emma Guo
Biljana Dekic

Captain: Ian Rogers

I think that this is pretty much a safe selection. The only question is who gets to be board one. If we go with ACF ratings, which I suspect is more reliable than these gals' FIDE, I reckon the ACF will go with Giang. She's currently top female with a local rating of 2281 (although no recent games). Give Giang a go on top board, I say; or at least back up to board 2, which she had already managed back in 2008 (her debut for Australia) and again in 2010.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Are Aussie Girls Bad at Chess?

Just the other day, I read a blog post by GM Ian Rogers in which he observed the differences between the performances of Aussie female chess players and their Indonesian sisters.

Australia currently has more stand-out male juniors – though we lost 3.5-6.5 in an internet match against the Academy students in 2012 – but there is a chasm between the two countries in the development of girl players and Australia is falling further behind.  
A major difference appears to be cultural factors – something which is evident in the attitude of the girls players at the Academy. In Indonesia there is no stigma for a teenage girl to enjoy chess (or mathematics for that matter); in Australia plenty of our strongest young female players have succumbed to peer pressure and quit rather than lose friends. [The emphasis is mine].

It turns out that now GM Rogers can turn to something called "stereotype threat" in explaining why Aussie females perform suboptimally, or at least not as well as the Indonesian females."Stereotype threat" is a very interesting concept and could have practical applications. For example, coaches need to be wary and, in fact, proactively maintain teaching environments that avoid female stereotypes. But, of course, there is only so much coaches like GM Rogers can do. Society's pressures are often hard to resist, more so for girls.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Chess24 Coverage of Candidates

Thanks to our old mate Macauley for this tip.

Chess24 have their own live coverage of the Candidates which is hosted by IM Lawrence Trent and GM Jan Gustaffson (although right now as I type, their round 8 is having some sort of technical hardships. No sound). If you prefer a somewhat more relaxed style of commentary, then Chess24's is the one to choose. Both guys certainly do their best to be the Roy & HG of chess.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

FIDE World Candidates Commentary

By the time I sort of "retired" from chess a few years ago, this whole live commentary thing, streamed straight from the venue - with multiple camera angles, HD video, then followed by a press conference - hadn't yet taken off. In fact, I don't remember seeing any of it. But apparently these days live coverage is now a regular fixture, in at least the super tournaments. And who can't be glad about that?

The concept has certainly rekindled my interest. I knock off from work about early evening and hit my desk at home just when games are entering the middle game. Like now, for example: round 6 in the Candidates is looking very exciting.

But what really brings it all to life is the quality of commentary. I have to say, this current pairing of grandmasters Peter Heine Nielsen and Victoria Cmilyte is just perfect. So far, among the commentators that I've seen, these two are the best. They are both insightful, maintaining a nice pace in their analysis and also quite relevant with their occasional asides. Most of all, the dynamic between them is easy to watch and listen to. Perhaps that is because they're husband and wife, I don't know, but I am thoroughly enjoying every minute of them. And I think maybe I've even fallen in love with Victoria's voice!

If I have any criticism of the Candidates coverage at all, it is over the press conferences. What's with the translation into Russian? I really cannot listen to it as it just disrupts the presentation. So I switch off. Just as well, as by the time the last game ends, it's already midnight in Tokyo!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Video: Aussie Junior Championships 2014

Very nice video of the recently completed Australian Junior Chess Championships produced by the people at Sydney Academy of Chess.


 And by the way, congrats to FM Anton Smirnov for winning the event and also for coming very close to taking out the tournament before that - the national champs.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Yoko Ono's Chess

I was just in Sydney for 3 weeks over the Christmas and New Year period, but I completely missed popping into the MCA to see this - Yoko Ono's "War Is Over" exhibition. It looks to have some kind of chess display. For chessers in Sydney, that might be worth seeing.