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.