Sunday, November 25, 2007

PayPal Founder on Chess

After a long flight I am again here in my second most beloved metropolis. Despite the usual delay at Heathrow's baggage claim, this cold and the grey skies - I'm feeling quite good.

Let's see: a gay flight attendant who apparently took a fancy to yours truly slipped in a nice bottle of '05 Turkey Flat shiraz in my luggage; at Bangkok, our pilot announced the ALP's win in the federal elections (yeah baby!); and finally - I've just checked in to the Victoria Park Plaza and scored a room upgrade thanks to a very friendly Spanish lass. Though I think she just took pity on my exhausted countenance.

A good trip so far.

Anyway, on the plane I read this interesting take on our game by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. Thiel who, according to Fortune magazine, "was once ranked among the top under-21 chess players" in the U.S. says:

Taken too far, chess can become an alternate reality in which one loses sight of the real world...My chess ability was roughly at the limit. Had I become any stronger, there would have been some massive tradeoffs with success in other domains in life.

The entire article can be read here.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Off to England!

Apologies for the lack of updates over the last couple of days. Terribly busy at work! Plus, of course, there's this trip over to the UK that I just actually finished packing for right at this moment. After many late nights and running around over the last couple of days, I'm just about ready to hit that Qantas skybed on QF1. I fly out this afternoon.

Now, of course, today is the federal election in this country. But more than this election, those in the New South Wales chess community will also be thinking about another choice in leadership: who to vote for as their next association president in this afternoon's NSWCA annual general meeting in Rooty Hill. Sadly, I will not be there.

My bet is that most of the same guys will retain their positions. The truth is no matter how much we may complain about the association's performance, there's hardly anyone else who's willing to put their hands up! And those who do, perhaps out of some momentary surge of idealistic passion to make a difference, will quickly realise that the business of council is largely uninteresting and occupies plenty of time if it's at all to be taken seriously.

And here's another thing: running a chess association demands certain skill sets. How many in the pool of chess players actually know something about organising a tournament? How many understand the basic arithmetic of the ratings system? How many understand the politics of chess?

I leave you with those for now. Good luck to everybody, have a great time in whatever, as I am sure I will. After the UK, I'll be visiting Amsterdam for a few days too. I hope to get in some chess when I'm there. See you soon!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Extra Chess Blogging Tips

Shaun Press has been writing about chess blogging in the last couple of issues of the Australian Chess Magazine. He's got a few tips on, for example, how to include games in blog posts, posting images, and blogging for your club. Next month he promises to cover advertising and their effects on blogs. I wonder what that will be about, but it should be interesting. Anyway I thought I'd slip in a couple of extra tips, too.

When you manage a blog or any website, you'll want to know about traffic. How many people are reading your site, where they come from, how long they stay for or which of your content is the most popular are just examples of web metrics that you would be looking at. Sounds complicated and expensive. Luckily, not so! You just need to sign up to anyone of the many services out there that provide web metrics tracking. A lot of these are free.

Google Analytics, like many services offered by Google, needs no payment. Just sign up. It's an awesome tool that can nearly match the functions of other paid-for premium services available today. You get a lot of information and I mean a lot! I recommend it.

Alternatives to Google Analytics are Site Meter and Stat Counter. Both are also available for free, though they do offer upgraded services that you have to pay for. I actually use these two in the background just as a second and third opinion to what I get from Google. Both are quite good, straightforward and easy to use.

My next tip is to install a commenting system that is more sophisticated than what you get by default with your blog software. The problem with the default system, like the one on my blog, is the lack of "threaded" discussions ala what you see in online forums. Fortunately for we bloggers there are some clever people out there who've thought long and hard about this and come up with solutions. There are three services I know of that you can sign up with. These are SezWho, Disqus and Intense Debate.

I installed Intense Debate a couple of weeks ago then removed it again almost immediately. It wasn't because I saw something wrong with the service, but more that I didn't want my regular readers to be confronted with a whole new and unexpected way of interacting with me. I basically just wanted to check what the system looked like. Other than that, it looked easy enough for blogger and reader.

That's all for now. I suppose in my next post about chess blogging I can talk about how to actually promote your blog, drive traffic to it, without relying on some unexpected mention in a Shaun Press article! I must thank him one day for mentioning TCG.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sponsorships in Decline

This is not really about chess, but I couldn't help thinking about a chess angle when I read the article in today's AFR. Neil Shoebridge reports of a research study by Sweeney Research into Australians' sports sponsorship awareness and sporting interests. Unfortunately, the AFR article is for subscribers only, so I can't link to it from here.

Mr Shoebridge:

The value of the $1.5 billion Australian companies pump into sponsoring sporting events, teams and competitions each year has been called into question by research that show awareness of most sponsorships is declining.

The latest edition of Sweeney Research's 21-year old sports report shows that fewer consumers are aware of big-spending sponsors such as Nike, adidas and Foster's Group than a year ago.

Our reporter goes on to cite some figures. Examples: awareness of Uncle Toby's sponsorships falling from 31% to 27%; adidas' figures dipping from 26% to 20%, and Speedo's from 20% to 12%.

All this seems almost like a total downer to those who dream of big bucks for chess. Not really. The Sweeney Research study focuses on awareness and not on levels of engagement or ROI. As Sweeney director Todd Deacon was quoted in the article as saying, "Some companies might generate low awareness of their sponsorships but get good results in terms of engagement with specific groups of customers."

That surely explains why I still think of "Cepacol" and I know you blokes only stick to "Ansell".

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Universal Chess Portal

The second part of FIDE's press release on its 78th Congress has an interesting little item that caught my eye.

The President of the Turkish Chess Federation, Mr. Ali Yazici hosted a gala dinner for all the participants, where he made a presentation of an Universal Chess Portal created by the Turkish Chess Federation for spreading news, promoting chess events, registering participants in tournaments and other matters and said that any Federation is welcome to join this system.

A chess portal? I wonder what that is. Maybe a website. Whatever it is, it sounds quite ambitious.

And speaking of the Turkish Chess Federation, note that the World Youth Championships for U8, U10, U12, U14, U6 and U18 years old - girls and boys is due to start today in Antalya, Turkey. A large contingent from Australia will be in attendance.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chess Master Title = Degree?

Well that was an interesting little discussion you guys had over the "Antic Case". I'm particularly thankful to those who made long and considered comments. A couple of academics even made an appearance. Cheers.

Accompanying that, of course, was our poll and the numbers are in. Those who agree or strongly agree that a chess master title is equivalent to a university degree win hands down.

Yet I'm not now sure that this is all settled. That's because I'm still honestly struggling to understand how or on what basis we can even compare the pursue of chess excellence and scholarship (and by this latter term I refer specifically to those areas of study that are typically found in a university prospectus). It's also why I posed the question in that Antic post.

I do like Dr Smirnov's take on this. Says he, "[A]s an economist I would suggest to ask who is more useful for the society (a PhD or GM). I believe the answer is also obvious."

So, who is more useful?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Parr: NSWCA is a secret society

If you're Peter Parr, hunting season is around about this time every year in New South Wales chess. As far as this Sydney chess personality is concerned, he's gunning for the heads of his old familiar foes: the entire lot of the NSWCA. As usual, though - he takes aim at his favourite, that man, the association head Mr Bill Gletsos.

In his most recent internet posting, Mr Parr sets about hoping to grab the agenda for the upcoming annual general meeting later this month. That post goes on, and on, and on. A mixture of reminiscing, political bitch slaps, and complaints about the usual. For this little blogger, it was hard to decide what part to quote. But I choose this bit.

I have become increasingly concerned in recent times of the policy of the secrecy that the NSWCA council has adopted under the regime of President Bill Gletsos. I know that Brian Jones has often expressed the view that the NSWCA should not be a secret society and I share the same view. It is of course the policy of the NSW Bridge Association and most organisations to advise their members(we do have rights)that minutes of their monthly council meetings appear on their web site. The Gletsos regime has confirmed in writing that all the minutes of the monthly NSWCA Council meetings are confidential and will remain confidential only to be seen by members of the council. Even at the AGM there is no report from the secretary - not one sentence. What are in these secret minutes that are so secret that no member must ever read or discuss them. Furthermore the regime has confirmed that no member has any right to be advised of the financial situation of the NSWCA before the AGM on 24th November 2007. It is in my opinion un-Australian that the Gletsos regime has made laws of their own - not made at any AGM and we live in fear of our financial situation.

So why exactly are those council minutes confidential? What are these politicians hiding? Our local and foreign readers can read the whole thing here in Australia's most popular chess bulletin board. You might like to take a few deep breaths and brew yourself a cuppa before you go and read that. (And by the way, I always recommend peppermint tea. It cleanses the system).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Penalty Chess

A reader sent this in. When you're kind of bored with regular chess, here's an idea to add something different. (WARNING: Video does contain some mild swearing. Not safe for work).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

White King and Red Queen

A new book is out that will surely fill the shelves of chess fans as well as students of Cold War politics. David Edmonds, writing for The Times, reviews Daniel Johnson's White King and Red Queen.

Edmonds: "Chess was particularly appealing to Soviet intellectuals — novelists such as Pasternak, musicians such as Prokofiev. As Johnson explains, 'Chess was one of the very few officially sanctioned areas of intellectual freedom.'"

You can also read a short extract here.

Is the NSWCA a Joke?

Members of the NSWCA would have by now received a mailout from their association advising of the upcoming Annual General Meeting and the State Lightning Championship on 24 November. But it seems a handful of you also received their ID cards. One of our friends certainly did.

Our friend wrote in: "One interesting item included is my NSWCA member card with date of issue 06/11/2007 and expiration date of 31th December 2007. Does it mean I need it only to attend the NSWCA AGM and the Lighting tourney? I scanned and attached it here to see the joke. It's not funny."

Well, NSWCA, is this a joke? Our tipster may not think this funny, but I surely am laughing!

German Beats American in Chess Boxing

I woke up this morning to the ABC's Newsradio and they had a report on the first ever World Chess Boxing Championships in Berlin. It was an audio-only version of the BBC's video report that you'll find here, while the text is here.

The sport's inventor Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh had the best line: "If you move the pawn, it's like moving your jab. If you come with the knight, it's like a hook. If you come with the rook, it's a straight right. And if you march in with the queen, it's a knockout".

Photo from WCBO site.

Congrats to German police officer Frank 'ANTI TERROR' Stoldt for winning the event! He won via a checkmate in round 7, apparently with "only seconds to go".

Friday, November 09, 2007

Polgar in the SMH

Spotted this right now in the Sydney Morning Herald: My Brilliant Brain.

Polgar herself undergoes a variety of chess-related challenges and medical examinations during the course of this documentary, with an MRI scan revealing that her devotion to chess has physically rewired her brain - the part of the brain that normally looks after such things as chess has effectively hijacked the face-recognition bit. This means that she can recognise clusters of chess pieces - and what they mean in the context of a game - in supercomputer time.

Chessbase had earlier featured this on their site. I so have to get myself pay TV!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Look Right, Vote Now

My post last Sunday seems to have generated some discussion. I'm particularly glad about the participation of a couple of serious folks. Anyway, just for fun, I've put up a poll. Just look right, below my profile, and vote now!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Johansen Wins Elwood Bendigo

GM Daryl Johansen won the Elwood Bendigo Bank tournament in Victoria yesterday. He tallied 6 points, a half point ahead of five players that included GM Dejan Antic. A complete cross table is available here.

Last week, we featured Dromagoj Dragicevic for beating IM Gary Lane in the Surfers Paradise Open. But in this game, he fell victim to my good friend Nick Kordahi.

2007 Elwood Bendigo Bank
Dragecivic, Domagoi
Kordahi, Nicholas

1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. d4 cxd4 5. Nf3 Nc6 6. cxd4 e6 7. Nc3 Nxc3 8. bxc3 d6 9. exd6 Bxd6 10. Bd3 Bd7 11. O-O Rc8 12. Ng5 Qa5 13. Bd2 Be7 14. Nf3 O-O 15. Re1 Rfd8 16. Ne5 Be8 17. Re3 Bf6 18. Nc4 Qc7 19. Rh3 g6 20. Qf3 Bg7 21. Bh6 b5 22. Nd2 b4 23. Ne4 f5 24. Bxg7 Qxg7 25. Ng5 Qe7 26. Qe3 h5 27. Bc4

After 27. Bc4

27...Nxd4 28. Nxe6 Rxc4 29. Nxd8 Ne2+ 30. Kf1 Re4 31. Qd2 bxc3 32. Qd5+ Kh7 33. Re3 Rxe3 34. fxe3 Qxe3 35. Qf3 Qg1+ 36. Kxe2 Bb5+ 0-1

Very nice tactics by black! My thanks to him for supplying the game file.

(EDIT: Note that I have replaced the Chesspublisher playable gameboard application with a static diagram instead. There seems to be a problem with our external host, and CP isn't properly displaying).

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sydney gets $68K Chess Fund

If you saw the title and your heart suddenly skipped a beat with excitement, you can forget it. For that bit of news was from 20 years ago! The latest issue of Australian Chess magazine mentions of a little tidbit from the old Chess in Australia:

It was reported that the Chess Centre (Sydney) Building Fund had reached a total to date of $68,000.

I did not know that!

Just as interesting was another tidbit that 20 years ago, the ACF lost its Federal Government funding of about $30,000! Disaster.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Antic Denied Aussie Residency

GM Ian Rogers today, in his column for Sydney's Sun Herald, has interesting news about Grandmaster Dejan Antic's quest to become an Australian. Antic, currently under the Serbian flag, was denied permanent residency by an Australian government bureaucrat. Here's Rogers:

Earlier in October Antic had heard that his application for permanent residency had been rejected on the grounds that his Grandmaster title "cannot be considered comparable to three years post secondary (Year 12) study."

The VetAssess bureaucrat who made this decision was clearly unaware or unconcerned that the Migration Review Tribunal had already ruled that the lesser International Master title was equivalent to at least five years tertiary study, and that the average time required for a player to go from International Master to Grandmaster - if indeed the GM level is ever reached - is an additional seven years of study, far more intensive study than that required for a basic tertiary degree.

That's not the first time I've read/heard that a chess master title is equivalent to tertiary study. But is it really?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

No Gold for RP

The chess is over in the 2nd Asian Indoor Games in Macau. Nine gold medals were there to be won and not one makes its way to Philippine shores. India dominated by bagging 5 golds, 2 silvers and 1 bronze. The Chinese have 3-1-2 count, while Qatar secured the last remaining gold available courtesy of Zhu Chen.

Photo courtesy of official site

No gold in chess for the Philippines but they do take home one in Muay (Thai Boxing). That was by some guy named Sumido Ruben in the Light Welterweight 60kg - 63.5kg division.

Friday, November 02, 2007

NSWCA AGM Coming Up!

In just three weeks, eyes in NSW chess will once again focus on their Annual General Meeting slated for this coming Saturday, 24 November. Note that this year's venue, according to the association's calendar, will be the Rooty Hill RSL CC, club of long-time association heavyweight Peter Cassetari. Why way out there, I wonder. Whatever, but pity the poor bastards who live somewhere past Strathfield! If there was a big demotivator for attending an AGM, it's surely having to drive (or catch the train) to that part of Sydney.

I don't know about you but this year seems less noisy in chess politics in New South Wales. No talk of revolution this time around. There have certainly been fewer controversies as far as I can tell. No big stuff up over grade matches. No funny business over some club championship. But our keener observers, anti-NSWCA almost by instinct, will point to other complaints. Feel free to leave a comment and file those complaints.

As for me, I only have a couple of questions. Who will lead us next year? And how much money have we lost since that massive $11K hit in 2006?

Actually, I did have a few more questions than that which I'd sent over to NSWCA boss Bill Gletsos. Here's what I asked him:

1. Bill, this may seem a bit late but I think it's still important. In the last AGM the treasurer reported an $11K loss from tournaments. Is this the biggest loss in the history for the Association?
2. What specific actions is the NSWCA taking to prevent the same from happening in 2007?
3. And how are we tracking?
4. Give us your overall assessment of the state of chess in NSW as you see it.
5. No doubt there are those factors that are entirely beyond your control but which have a profound impact on the chess scene. Briefly, what might those be?
6. And just a quick question on the NSWCA newsletter - the printed one. In this day and age of many things electronics, do you still intend to continue this service?
7. Finally, I'd like to ask a question about the Australian Championships. I think our readers would like to know: what was really stopping you from joining forces with Peter Parr?
8. Thanks very much for your time Bill. Are you a fan of TCG?

I sent those in July. No replies received to date to any of them. I didn't even get an answer to the last one.