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.

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.