Saturday, June 30, 2007
I've always found the tradition of rewarding a champion by making them look like a shrubbery rather curious.
Anyhoo, I posted this clip with the hope that Justin, or anybody else for that matter, might be able to help with a translation (of the translation).
Friday, June 29, 2007
"The matter may be discussed at the league’s next AGM. Several teams have fielded Grandmasters and International Masters over the years and most recently your correspondent’s team Wood Green, who won the London League 2006-2007 have had as many as five Grandmasters playing in crucial matches."
Read the whole thing here.
This raises more than one intriguing question. Is anti-professionalism good for a chess scene? Is there an official mechanism for determining who is paid to play in a chess match, and who not? How did Malcolm Pein find out about this story? Who are the mysterious unnamed movers attempting to do this? Is this as surprising to you as to me?
(PS. Thanks go to a very busy Jonathan B for the tip-off.)
Thursday, June 28, 2007
How often old people read a newspaper, play chess, or engage in other mentally stimulating activities is related to risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published June 27, 2007, in the online edition of Neurology® ... The study found a cognitively active person in old age was 2.6 times less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than a cognitively inactive person in old age,- says research by the American Academy of Neurology.
Now, I have some personal experience witnessing Alzheimer's at work. My Grandfather suffered from the disease for his final few years. Although perhaps "suffered" isn't the right word, at least for his case. He would frequently pleasantly hallucinate during this period of life, telling us for instance on the phone how he'd just got back from bowling for Norfolk County at cricket, albeit underarm. And he never had to face his own mortality, which is perhaps an existential blessing of sorts, a blessing of innocence. Perhaps. Perhaps not.
He never played chess though. Anyway, I don't think anyone knows if Alzheimer's is inherited or not - so I think I just found another reason to continue playing chess for the rest of my life.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Having discussed several recent cases in different chess tournaments where the attitude of players toward their opponent or officials, journalists etc. was not acceptable under conventional social behaviour, the FIDE Presidential Board –at the suggestion of President Ilyumzhinov- decided on setting up strict rules regarding such behaviour.Mm. What does "conventional social behaviour" mean to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, I wonder? And might the emphasis on behaviour towards one's opponent, in the above passage, be a smokescreen by FIDE under which Kirsan wishes to smuggle in a certain over-protection of chess officials? Such as, say, himself?!
Any player who does not shake hands with the opponent (or greets the opponent in a normal social manner in accordance with the conventional rules of their society) before the game starts in a FIDE tournament or during a FIDE match (and does not do it after being asked to do so by the arbiter) or deliberately insults his/her opponent or the officials of the event, will immediately and finally lose the relevant game.
(Oops. Did I just forfeit a game?)
Monday, June 25, 2007
First off, how does the horsey move again? And also on the subject of rules being rules - or perhaps not - there was this far more serious post over at Boylston Chess Club.
Meanwhile back in Blighty, the ECF promises change and improvement in our chess scene - whilst the Guardian innumerates reasons to fear terminal decline:
The active chess population is ageing and numerically in slow decline. Chess has not been regularly on national television since Channel 4 covered the 1993 Garry Kasparov v Nigel Short world title match and junior chess, which led the English advance in the 1970s, has become a potential disaster area.
Thirty years ago it was possible to look at the grading list, spot talents who were far advanced for their age or making quantum strength jumps and invite them to training groups or to the Lloyds Bank Masters. Many became GMs or IMs. Now the GMs Gawain Jones, 19, and David Howell, 16, may be the last of the line. Looking at the current junior grades it is hard to see any under-14 who is better than a long shot for IM. On this subject the ECF still seems in denial.
And finally on the subject of Nigel Short, here's an interesting recent interview, and snippet:
First and foremost I consider myself to be a chess player. However the economic situation was so dire as recently as 2005 that I only played one tournament (Corus), despite the fact I had contacted numerous organisers pleading (unsuccessfully) for invitations. For reasons I do not fully understand, I now very much in demand and have a very full schedule of events up until Spring 2008.
Well, I suppose at least one English chess player aside from Michael Adams is still doing comfortably well then. And as for the mysterious recent spate of invitations, any one want to hazard a guess in the comments?
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Friday, June 22, 2007
How do you beat the French Defence? The method is rather simple I think...
1. Build a big centre.
2. Exchange the dark squared bishops.
3. Swap off the major pieces.
4. Win the Knight v Bad Bishop ending.
It's all strategy. No need to bother with any of that tiresome business of calculating tactical lines.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
I've never heard of Dave, so I guess I'm free from that particular sickness. But a close look at my profile and its photo might indicate that I instead am afflicted by Atemporal Fad Disorder:
The desire to participate in an internet fad is considered by psychologists to be a natural, if sometimes unfortunate, aspect of human nature. Some individuals, however, appear to have a clinical inability to recognize the fleeting nature of fads, and continue to attempt to participate after everyone else is sick to death of the whole thing. The current diagnostic criterion is "the use of the phrase 'all your base are belong to us' in any non-ironic context" but in 2010 it is expected to be expanded to include any suggestion that a photo depicts a cat interacting with an invisible object.Do I need a Doctor? What's your diagnosis?
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
There have been a couple of attempts to include articles in Wikipedia on chess blogs or the Knights Errant and in each case the Wikipedia community (I affectionately refer to them as “Pinheads”) has decided to remove them. Clint Ballard ran into the same problem when he tried to post an article on his controversial BAP chess tournament scoring system.It seems that the free, open Encyclopaedia isn’t as free or open as we’ve been led to believe. I’m reminded of a quote from Orwell’s “Animal House” [sic]: “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.”This, I have to say, is not the first time I've heard complaints about a clique dominating wikipedia's chess content.
I have a few quibbles from my direct experience too. For instance, it's coming up to a year since I tagged with a query the article on sacrifice in chess - which to me has some rather odd parts - and as yet no response, correction, talk; nothing. Although I had more luck with my query about the French Defence page, which after four or so months served to correct the erroneous statement that Kasparov beat Short in the Exchange Variation. (In fact they drew.)
Enough nitpicking. After all, it could be worse, so perhaps we ought be grateful. How are the wikipedia chess pages for you?
Regular visitors to our blog may recall about a month ago I wrote about a chess game that appeared in an episode of Blake's 7. Subsequently I managed to track down a video clip on YouTube so you can watch it for yourself.
The beginning of the programme sees Avon and Vila deciding not to teleport down to Freedom City with Blake and the others. They claim to be playing chess but since they’re seen studying the rather unlikely position at the head of this post, what they’re actually up to is anybody’s guess.
Later on, the pair decided to pop down after all with a plan to bankrupt the casino by cheating at Roulette then get back to the Liberator before anybody notices they’re missing. Sadly the plan goes awry and Vila gets drunk and is conned into taking on chess playing genius The Klute. If he wins or draws he doubles their winnings. If he loses, though, he gets fried.
Now The Klute may look like a reject munchkin from a Bollywood remake of The Wizard of Oz but he really is a bit tasty at the chess board. There is some good news for Vila however. He has Orac, the universe’s most powerful, and indeed supercilious, computer whispering moves in his ear.
Reconstructing the game was more straightforward than Klute – Frels.
The game ends in perpetual check…
It’s easy to see that to get from here…
… to here
... White must have played a double bishop sacrifice. I guessed something like,
12. … b6, 13. Rf1 Bb7, 14. f4 Rac8, 15. Bd3 Nd5, 16. Bxh7+ Kxh7, 17. Qh5+ Kg8, 18. Bxg7 Kxg7, 19. Qg5+
Incidentally this is a drawing device I happen to know about because I once used it in a similar position during an off-hand game against Justin – the only time I’ve ever played him and not lost.
So if the end is clear, how does the game arrive at the position in the second game? Initially I’d thought the opening must have been a French Defence with 3. … dxe4 but then I realised if that was the case then White’s Knight would have been on f3 and not c3. Next I considered the possibility of a Centre-Counter and although I came up with a sequence of moves that arrives at the correct position in the right number of moves,
1. e4 d5, 2. exd5 Qxd5, 3. Nc3 Qa5, 4. d4 Nf6, 5. Nf3 e6, 6. Bc4 Be7, 7. Qe2 0-0, 8. Be3 c5, 9. 0-0-0 cxd4, 10. Bxd4 Nc6, 11. Ne5 Nxe5, 12. Bxe5
it didn’t really make sense. Amongst other things, surely at move 11 The Klute would have preferred to play Knight takes Bishop on d4 rather than exchange Knights on e5.
So I gave up and just punched the position into ChessBase. To my surprise it spat out Nunn-Soos from 1979 which went as follows…
[bug in the system. The result of Nunn-Soos should be 1/2-1/2 not 1-0]
… and the case, as Inspector Clouseau likes to say, is solv-ed.
Monday, June 18, 2007
From Hans Kmoch's reminiscences of Geza Marozcy, republished this month by the Chess Café:
So Kmoch has Maroczy fleeing the country because he was suspected of being a Communist - and being pursued for that by the "Communist authorities"! Not only that, but they "call him home" during a chess career that starts in 1920: despite the fact that their government had been overthrown by a Romanian invasion in - August 1919.
Maroczy was forced to live in exile for some seven years. Somehow he had become compromised during the Communist revolution that shook Hungary in 1919. To imagine Maroczy as a revolutionary, and a Communist one at that, is completely ridiculous. He would never knowingly break the law or abet any kind of law-breaking. The only explanation for his difficult situation is that he must have fallen into some sort of political trap, perhaps by signing a petition the portent of which he failed to appreciate. He was naive enough to have done that.
Some time after he left Hungary the Communist authorities realized their mistake and called him home, but since he had in the meantime resumed his chess career, they had to wait.
Maroczy's second chess career (1920-1936) was to last about as long as his first (1895-1911).
So what was Kmoch babbling about and - since the article first appeared 56 years ago - has anybody, before now, pointed out that this appears to be nonsense?
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
He's giving a simultaneous display next week over at West London Chess Club, who've emailed me to say spaces are still left. The event will be held on Wednesday 20th June at 7.15pm in Chiswick Town Hall, with an entry fee of £12 for non-members such as ourselves. Those willing to take their chances against Basman's brand of crazy chess should email Mark Lyell as soon as possible to enter.
And should you do so, good luck!
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Yes, it's the Hello Kitty chess set:
At first I thought it was the worst chess set I'd ever seen, but it's kind of growing on me, and now I'm starting to wonder if it should replace the standard Staunton stuff.
How about you?
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
My opponent, Mark Mills, was a professional pool player, or so he said. Pool is not a sport much covered in the UK press, even less so than chess: the death of a professional wouldn't make much news. But it would surely be reported somewhere: in websites devoted to the game, or in the local papers. I searched the Web for references to Mark Mills combined with words like dead or died or death: nothing of relevance could be found. No pool site that I found - though I did not find many - had anything to report.
I looked at his Wikipedia page, which I had seen when playing him in our individual game. At the time (it has been revised a great deal) it had begun like this:
Mark Mills is a British professional pool player.I was surprised therefore to see that it now began somewhat differently:
Mark Mills is a professional bullshitter.I changed the opening sentence back to how it had read previously, on the grounds that assuming he were dead, it was not an appropriate way for his entry to begin. But I also added a note at the end:
It has been reported to his email chess opponents that Mark Mills has died.This, I thought, might clarify the position: since his entry was the subject of contention, any future changes might tell me precisely what was going on.
Why was I bothered? For one thing, pure curiosity, the same reason that the reader has continued to read this far. But for another, a feeling that there was a question of ethics here, that if somebody had dropped out of a tournament claiming to be dead, then that was some distance out of order. A generous description might be "childish": at best, the most pitiful way to evade resigning that I'd ever come across. Less generously, it made fun, for no reason, out of friendly strangers: it invited them to express condolence when nothing had actually happened. I was annoyed: I was sure that Mark Mills wasn't dead and equally sure that we should not have been told otherwise.
I emailed a few addresses that I found on the pool websites, asking if they had any information. Only one person replied, saying that she did not know anything but that she would ask around: and I waited to see if she could come up with anything. While waiting, I had another look around pool websites and this time I noticed something I should have noticed before: that on one site, Pro9.co.uk, there was a bulletin board and that one of the posters on that bulletin board was Mark Mills. And that he was posting currently, more than three weeks after I had been informed of his death.
Now I was aware that Viktor Korchnoi is supposed to have played a correspondence game with the late Geza Maroczy, several decades after the latter's death, and by that standard, posting on a bulletin board less than a month after one's demise is no great feat. Nevertheless, from my point of view it was a perfect opportunity to confront Mills and ask him if he would care to provide an explanation. So I registered on the board (as Chessplayer) and opened a thread entitled Mark Mills beginning with a question:
Is the Mark Mills who posts on this site any relation to the professional pool player Mark Mills whose death was announced to his correspondence chess opponents last month?I also alerted the Tournament Secretary to my discovery, since he of all people had the most substantial reason for taking offence at the charade. He emailed me back:
That is strange, because the message about Mark Mills dead came from his wife, Tracey Mills, where she stated that Mark Mills passed away on the 9th of May.So, what was going on? By this stage my coda on the Wikipedia page had been removed, so - it seemed to me - it must have been clear to Mills (and his wife) that their deception had been discovered and was not to the liking of those who they had tried to deceive. Possibly his reputation as a "professional bullshitter" was deserved, judging from some of the comments that appeared:
he likes to tell porkies
I'm quite sure Mark did not pass away on 9 may and I'm absolutely 10000000% sure he could never be described as a Professional Pool Player
ha ha ha ha ha ha...he told me he was a pro dart player.and a pro crown green player....ha ha ha ha......he is a pro character
jesus i hope he didnt die because other wise he rang me from the "other" side two weeks agoSo why? I mean why would anybody do this? Jesus, I know some people have difficulty resigning but it's not so hard in an email game where you don't even have to look at your opponent, let alone shake their hand. What's the point? Was he trying to disappear and start his life all over again like Reggie Perrin? I'd never come across anything like it in my life. Was he on the run from his creditors and the law? If so, why keep on posting on a website under his own name? Presumably he just thought it was really funny at the time?
Presumably. But presumptions are only presumptions and are often wrong. He posted a reply:
You will find that was my wife who did that when we split up she told a few people the same thing, i could not don't care though she is the one who screwed some else.So it wasn't him, it wasn't his idea, he didn't find it funny and - except insofar as bathos is funny - it wasn't funny at all. Or funny, but only in the grimmest kind of way.
Provided, that is, that we can believe him....
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Though not quite as drawish as 8.Bd3 in the Exchange Slav, the Cozio Variation of the Petroff does its best to keep the draw statistics high. Searching for games played between opponents graded 2400 and above, we find 134 games: six wins for White, three for Black and 125 draws.
Sinisia Drazic holds the distinction of being the only player in that list who has managed to lose the position with the White pieces except for Alexei Shirov, who - remarkably - has managed it not only once but twice.
Monday, June 11, 2007
Best of luck for the double!
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Saturday, June 09, 2007
In the white corner sits a Grandmaster. In each game of the match he'll have twice as much time on his clock as his opponent to begin with, and with each move he will receive three times the increment his opponent will get - and, he also knows rather a lot of opening theory. As opposed to his opponent in the black corner, who along with the time handicaps, and playing black in each game of the match, only knows theory up until move three. But: who goes by the feared name of Rybka. And there's one extra thing. These two played a match before. Then, Rybka played at pawn odds in each game (albeit with white in each game) and, won. By 5½ to 2½.
So who is your money on?
Friday, June 08, 2007
What follows is not my best game of last season but it is my most memorable one, although not for what happened on the board. It was played in early April when I, as an emergency reserve, made it into the London League First Team to play the match against Cavendish.
I realised it was going to be a difficult match when I arrived to see Cavendish had GM Willie Watson on board 3(!). I was to play a guy graded about 25 points higher than me but at least I had White. We whipped out our opening moves then after a flurry of exchanges we reached the following position...
I had just played my 15th move (Knight from d2 to f3) and wandered off to take a leak.
For reasons that I shan’t trouble you with I ended up in the disabled toilet. As I left I pulled the chord to turn the lights off, as you do, only to find it was the light switch at all – it was the alarm to signal the person using the facilities was in need of assistance. I searched frantically for the reset switch but needless to say it was nowhere to be found.
I don’t know if you’ve ever emerged from a public toilet to a siren blaring out in an otherwise silent room and 30 pairs of eyes looking straight at you. It is, I have to say, a rather unnerving experience. “Now”, I thought, “would not be the time to have forgotten to zip up.”
Eventually the OFF switch was found and the room returned to silence (well it did until Natasha Regan tripped the alarm in the Ladies’ an hour or so later). Sheepishly, I returned to the board, and my game was eventually drawn.
I remembered this game last night when I obtained a very similar position in my game from the Surrey Individual Tournament. From the diagram, if you remove the Knights, return Black’s Bishop to c8 and move his pawn from g7 to g6 you have White to play his 16th move in JB v MW, 7/6/07.
The differences must all be in my favour and make the position much better for White than the one I had against Cavendish. In any event, those S&B members (or any other regular readers of this blog) who are fed up of my constant whinging regarding my streak of games without a win will be relieved to learn I actually managed to translate it into a full point – precisely 20 games, and four and a half months since my last victory.
I came across this snippet from John Clare the other day…
“[Chess victories] … forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes.”
No more my friends.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
I have been playing in the preliminary round of the IECG Cup 2006, a correspondence tournament. I've done well: despite being ranked only third in the group I've finished joint first with one other player and qualified for the next round. I beat the second-ranked player in the game mentioned here: I drew with the top-ranked player after a long defence on the black side of an Exchange Slav. Correspondence chess is so exciting.
The lower-ranked players either dropped out - there were several withdrawals - or lost to me, with one exception. Or one apparent exception. One of my opponents was Mark Mills, a professional pool player, ranked several hundred points below me, a fact which possibly caused me to underestimate him. After mishandling the opening I found myself in a position with no possibilities for active play save those which opened the position for my opponent's benefit.
So I was contemplating another arduous defence, but, given that Mills had no obvious threats - simply much better placed pieces - and there was that huge rating gap, I thought I'd try my luck with a draw offer and see if he either jumped at the chance to take a half-point off an apaprently better player, or, maybe, might even fail to appreciate the depth of his advantage.
Either or both applied, as he accepted the draw, to my relief and we wished each other the best of luck in the future. Subsequently I secured my other draw, completed my games and assured myself of a place in the next round.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I received a message from the tournament secretary saying that Mark Mills had sadly died. As his games were the only ones outstanding, this brought the group to a close and we were sent the tournament table. Much to my surprise it recorded only one draw on my part - since all of Mills' opponents had been awarded a win in their individual games. Including me, despite the fact that I had agreed a draw with him (and considered myself fortunate to get it) some months before.
Can this be right? I know that the practice in OTB all-play-all tournaments is to award wins to the opponents of a player who has withdrawn - unless they withdraw before halfway, in which case (as with, for instance, Bobby Fischer at Sousse in 1967) their record is expunged. In neither of these instances, though, does this entail awarding wins to players who have already drawn (or even lost).
It's an odd business all round, to tell the truth, for reasons I may go into in the comments. Actually it reminds me that when I was at university, it was popularly supposed to be the case that if one died before one's Finals, one would be awarded a posthumous First. Here, though, it's more like the other way round - everybody else is awarded it. There is, I believe (though I have forgotten the title) a Hollywood film based on the similar - and more relevant - story that if one's room-mate dies before the course is completed, one is awarded the top grade in compensation.
Anyway, I've agreed a draw and yet been awarded a win in the tournament table. I've never seen that done before.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Dr. Martin Luther King said on August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, “I say to you today my friends so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. Behold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”
You may wonder how these words about equality are relevant to you, to chess, or to me.
(Find out here.)
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Anyway, here's a quote or two from Ivor Smith's report (PDF file), to tell you more - although on a downbeat note, it also includes news of a rather unfortunate incident:
Subin Sen (aged 14) beat IM Colin Crouch in round 1, drew with IM Philip Morris in round 3 and beat IM Augustin Madan in round 4.
Akash Jain (aged 13) [finished] undefeated on 4 points ... and must be be the amongst the youngest (if not the the very youngest) [player] to qualify for the British Championship.
Yang-Fan Zhou (aged 13) on 3½ points was also undefeated until he met IM Augustin Madan in the last round. This was a most upsetting and unfortunate loss for Yang-Fan who was always slightly better during the game. Towards the end of the quick play finish, with both players extremely sort of time, Yang-Fan had just a knight and a rook’s pawn left whilst his IM opponent had just a bare knight. When Yang-Fan’s flag fell he perhaps naturally assumed that he would be awarded the half point that would have meant a share of 2nd place with 4 points. However his opponent insisted on claiming a win on the basis that he could still achieve mate with the bare knight however unlikely that might be. This apparently is the rule as we confirmed by referring to an appropriate website on the internet which was available to us at the venue. Our controller then felt that he had no option but to award the win.
What can you say . . . ?
Monday, June 04, 2007
Despite starting with only 14 players for a 16 board match and then soon facing a ½–5½ deficit, Surrey County eventually recorded a stunning 9½–6½ victory on Sunday over Yorkshire, in the Under 175 section of the National Stage of the County Chess Championships. The team thus qualify for the final, where they will face either Essex or Middlesex.
Two players from Streatham & Brixton Chess Club - Robin Haldane and Angus French - played, and both played their part too. Robin slowly ground his opponent down to take the full point, whilst Angus finished off a tense, manoeuvring middlegame against Trevor Braithwaite with a particularly suave pair of sacrifices (see diagram, white to play and win.) Perhaps the location in Leicestershire – a mere 275-mile round trip by car! - put other players off, but this seems rather a shame if so. The venue Syston and District Social Club has been nominated for CAMRA Club of the Year 2007 - whilst its hire and the excellent buffet from hosts Cyril and Julie Johnson cost a mere £3 per player.
So good luck in the final. And also in Surrey County chess news, next Saturday the Open team play Greater Manchester in their semi-final: best of luck to them too.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Reti-Bogoljubow, New York 1924
White to play and win.
To my eyes it's one of the most appealing finishes to a game of all time ... and if that weren't enough, it also gives me the chance to use Zwischenzug (twice now), one of my favourite words.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Friday, June 01, 2007
"I was wondering if you wanted to put something on the blog asking anyone to contact Ray Ryan if they fancy playing."
... and there you go.
Alas myself, I'm off to a birthday barbecue in Blackheath.
But don't let that stop you.