Saturday, November 29, 2008

IM Bob Wade - RIP

This morning the chess world wakes up to very sad news that one of its better known legends has passed away. International master Bob Wade succumbed to his illness this morning at 3AM UK time. According to an email from Mark Crowther, forwarded by GM Ian Rogers (thanks to him for the info), IM Wade had been in hospital for a cold which seemed to have escalated into pneumonia.

The same news is currently on TWIC and Mark has promised a full obituary.

While I, of course, did not know IM Wade, I did have the honour of meeting him 2 years ago in Queenstown. He is featured in a number of my past posts here. He will be terribly missed by whole of chess and, in particular, I'm sure, by his friends in New Zealand.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Recovering the ICC Bug

The two weeks in Dresden seems to have reignited my ICC bug. After deciding to let my account expire (as I hadn't used it for a long time), I've now just done the oddest thing and actually renewed it! Of course, I suspect it partly has to do with a feeling of guilt for having partaken in the beer and free food at the ICC party last week, an event which was only supposed to be for active members.

Now here in Prague, sitting, resting after a day's walk around Prague Castle, I've just knocked down about 20 games of bullet! I'd forgotten how much fun it was.

Speaking of ICC, if you spot some guy there calling himself IM Stephen Solomon, make sure that it is really THE one and only Solo. It could just be an impostor.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Goodbye Dresden, Goodbye Germany

And thus ends my Olympiad coverage. Time to get back on my holiday and back to my travel blogging. I head to Prague, then after a few days there, off to beautiful Paris!

I've done some cool things, but being here has definitely been one of the coolest. Seeing all the guys that I've only ever read or hear about just casually chatting to you, telling stories, pissing drunk, sometimes making a fool of themselves was pretty damn, well, awesome.

But it wasn't just about my foreign heroes, of course. The Australian team have their stories, too, and most I've never heard of. How about the one about GM Johansen being "almost" saved by Chris Depasquale from drowning? Or the one about the young Aussie who had to deliver, right to the front door, the young daughter of a growling Yusupov? Yes, THE Yusupov!

It's sad, of course, that I have to leave so early, long before the event's finish and not being able to say a proper farewell to the fair few whom I've met. But I keep thinking, or at least convince myself, that I'll definitely see these guys again. In another Olympiad.

As I said to the PNG team's Shaun Press during the Irish party, I've definitely gotta get on this Olympiad bandwagon. Become an arbiter, he said. I thought, well, that's too hard. Which leaves me with a second option: become the mercenary, change fed to some Pacific Island nation. I hear Palau is looking for players.

And that's that with that. Thanks to those who read the blog and viewed the photos. Hope you enjoyed them. Goodbye Dresden, goodbye Germany. See you in/from Queenstown.

Live Blog - Round 11

Estimo: RP Chessers Doomed

This seems like it's a badly timed opinion piece given that there is still one more round to play, but I suppose Sammy Estimo just had to vent.

Our team to the Dresden Chess Olympiad was doomed even before it left. Its composition—from a faulty national qualifying system—and board assignments were pitiful.

Top officials of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP), led by Prospero Pichay and Abraham Tolentino, could not be persuaded to include veteran Grandmaster Eugene Torre in the lineup, and that presaged the sorry campaign of our team, once a board terror in previous Olympiads.

Read more in RP chess squad doomed from the start.

Topalov: We've had enough!

A special guest this afternoon in the press room was none other than Veselin Topalov. He covered a number of interesting topics including Bulgaria's run here in Dresden, his loss to Shirov yesterday ("I missed a move"), Gata Kamsky and a brief discussion on his career.

Veselin Topalov, Photo by The Closet Grandmaster

In light of today's latest news about the Grand Prix, ChessVibes' Peter Doggers asked Topalov about what he thought was the perfect system for a world championship.

Topalov: "No, I don't think there is a perfect system...Knock out is OK, tournament is also OK, also match system is also OK. But once we have this cycle I think it has to be finished.

I mean what FIDE should do is run the cycle [that] they designed, they promised and then change if they want to. You cannot change every two months because players make plans. This is basically what they have to do. I guess they have to run the tournaments and then to have the winner of the Grand Prix, 2009 World Cup match, and then change the world champion. I think this is what they have to do as they promised. And then OK, after 2011 maybe some change but I don't see a reason now there should be any new changes. Because we've had enough!"

Then later added, "The worse thing you can do is to change the rules during the same cycle like it already happened many times."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Istanbul Bags 2012 Olympiad

Moments ago the FIDE General Assembly announced that the city of Istanbul will host the 2012 Olympiad. The Turkish bid defeated their opposition, a bid by Motenegro to host the event in the city of Budva, 95 votes to forty.

TCF boss Ali Nihat Yazici was jubilant when FIDE deputy president Georgios Makropoulos announced the winner. Yazici walked through a slick and professional presentation. Among other things, he promised to recruit 25 new federations and reaching up to 200 teams competing for the 2012 event.

For the opening and closing ceremonies, Yazici said, "We will show something you will never forget!" For that alone he's budgeted €500K.

On the other hand, the Budva bid was simply ridiculous. I've seen better effort for a high school project. For example, the presenter's poor English diction wasn't helped by her getting completely out of synch with what were supposed to be looking at on screen. And they didn't have what most audiences really like in a presentation: big numbers!

They did have plenty of sex, with shots of a bikini clad woman sweating in a sauna or sitting poolside. Still, other than a few giggles here and there, that one didn't seem to have any effect.

After both presentations, Yazici himself along with members of his delegation, stood just in front of me and were looking confident. What's their secret, I wondered.

On a side note, the PNG delegation failed to vote. "We got screwed", said PNG player Shaun Press.

In fact, it was entirely their fault! It seems that when a roll call was conducted, their man was nowhere within the meeting itself but downstairs picking up his accreditation badge. So, as far as the Assembly was concerned, no PNG presence, therefore no vote for them.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Live Blog - Round 10

Karpov Doesn't Like Match Points

At last the Dresden organisers have rolled out the big guns for their press conferences. Today's session, for example, will feature Anatoly Karpov and Boris Spassky while last night, Karpov and another ex world champion, Alexander Khalifman, entertained the crowd. Both gave their views on a number of matters such as the recent Anand v Kramnik match in Bonn, Viktor Kortchnoi and the challenge to the supremacy of Russian chess. The older Karpov was more lengthy in his answers while Khalifman opted to be brief and, at times, rather witty.

When asked by Susan Polgar if he ever met the late Bobby Fischer, Karpov said, "not over the board", but they did meet in person a couple of times in 1977. More recently they had "negotiations to play", but Fischer wanted to try a new variant of chess wherein white would commence the game with one pawn less. Karpov called this idea "a strange one" and the match never took place.

On Fischer as a person: "Ah, it's difficult for me to judge, because I [only] met him 4 or five times in my life. So I cannot say in general. But in my experience, he was [a] nice person. We had nice talks, discussions. It was mostly about chess, because otherwise he was not easy person to talk about."

Anatoly Karpov, Photo by The Closet Grandmaster

Now mainly inactive from competitive play, Karpov these days devotes his time to projects including chess schools (having opened one recently in Poland), works relating to the environment and the so-called International Association of Peace Foundations of which he has been president since 1982. However, he still keeps a keen eye on contemporary chess issues - like the recent Anand v Kramnik match in Bonn, for instance. When asked about this event, the ex world champion couldn't help a little historical detour and proposed an optimum number of games for the world championship battle. He says that 24 games, common back in his heyday, may be too long for the current era and prefers sixteen to be just about right.

On the same topic (the Anand v Kramnik), Khalifman offered something a little more interesting: "The way it happened was a bit surprising, well, I think not even not a bit, but for everybody because Anand showed the big advantage. I wrote it in some chess magazines there was a big advantage in the preparation. So Vladimir was not properly ready for this match. I don't how it happened, but it was a fact. And so, Anand deservedly won. That's the only thing I can say about it.

And about numbers's very strange that some people are so much addicted to numbers. Well, world champions are not prisoners. They don't need numbers. They are just world champions. That's it."

Ian Wilkinson, the Jamaican Chess Federation boss (who only took up chess in 1999, he informed the press conference), posed a question regarding Russian supremacy in chess and the challenges they face, specifically in the Olympiad. Once again, Karpov detoured into the near past.

"Still, the Russian team is the strongest, I'm sure. But what's [been] missing during last years and last Olympiad, they are really missing I believe a leader of the team. A person who would be the leader over the chess board, not only the strongest chess player, but [someone] who could mobilise the forces and effort of the whole team."

Wilkinson interjects, "Like you?"

Karpov continues: "Yes, I did it for so many years and then we did it together with Kasparov. And even when we had big problems, personal problems, we could unite just to win like it has happened in '86 or '88. So this is very important", before finally adding, "But now probably we don't have such persons. And it's a bit of a problem because Olympiad is not just a combination of individual results. [There is] something else in the Olympiad and in the team competition."

As was his preferred method, Khalifman was short and sharp.

"Well, Ok, in my opinion it is good for the competitive spirit, for the Olympiad that no team is dominant. It's pretty good because it's sport and it's good that no one can pick the winner before it starts."

Finally on the question of Viktor Kortchnoi, Karpov recalled the time when the Swiss board 1 was a "problem" for the Soviet Union. These days, though, with the two of them playing for a team called the South Urals, Karpov says that Kortchnoi is a real team player.

Again, Khalifman was blunt with the answer: "Well, I can admit I just did not understand the question. Viktor Kortchnoi is a great chess player. What else should I say? That's it!"

You may also like to hear what Karpov thinks about the new match points system. He said simply: "This I don't like".

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Live Blog - Round 9

Misaligned Southern Cross

At this juncture of the event, Australia is normally ahead of their New Zealand cousins in the Olympiad rankings. But after 8 matches, the boys from Down Under are in 75th spot, while the Kiwis are up, up, up there in 43rd place! As if that wasn't bad enough, the NZ rugby league team overnight delivered a massive beating to the Kangaroos, 34-20. OK, league is pretty much an irrelevant sport, but c'mon! The stars must be seriously misaligned.

In yesterday's match Australia faced off against Bosnia Herzegovina, the very team that New Zealand defeated the day earlier. The question was: can Australia attain a similar result? On board 4, playing against IM Zeljko Bogut, GM Johansen gave Aussie fans reasons for rapture. His play was calm and methodical. We take you now to the crucial moment.

Chess Olympiad 2008
Johansen, Darryl K
Bogut, Zeljko

1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Nf3 Nc6 4. e3 Bb4 5. Qc2 O-O 6. Nd5 Re8 7. Qf5 d6 8. Nxf6+ gxf6 9. Qh5 e4 10. a3 Bc5 11. b4 exf3 12. bxc5 Re5 13. Qxf3 Nd4 14. Qd1 Bf5 15. Ra2 dxc5 16. f4 Re8 17. Kf2 Nc6 18. Qh5 Qd7 19. g4 Bg6 20. Qh4 Be4 21. Rg1 Re6 22. Rg3 Rae8 23. Rh3 Kf8 24. f5 Rd6 25. d3 Bxd3 26. Bxd3 Rxd3 27. Qxf6 Ne5 28. Qh8+ Ke7 29. Qxe5+ Kd8 30. Qf6+ Kc8 31. Rxh7 Rd1

Position after 31...Rd1

What to do? What to do? Defend the piece or return it with 32. Qxf7 and playing with four connected passed pawns? 32. Qc3 Qc6 33. Rh8 b6 34. Rxe8+ Qxe8 35. Bb2 Qe4 36. Ra1 Rd3 37. Qe5? Rd2+ 38. Ke1 Qg2 0-1

The other men drew their games but Oz still go down 1.5-2.5. Meanwhile, and doing their bit to salve our heartaches, the girls blanked out the Barbados team four-zip. Canberra's Shannon Oliver must be happy. The party girl's grounding has finally been lifted after winning her first ever Olympiad encounter.

Nakamura: I'm not optimistic

While we have a number of US-based readers hitting the blog, thanks to Mig, here's a tidbit from the round 5 press conference.

Asked by FM Mike Klein for his opinion on the recent US election result and whether or not it has increased or decreased his chances of moving to the Canadian federation, grandmaster Nakamura replied: "Oh OK, that’s a very loaded question to ask. I think a lot of it depends on it [the election result]. I think that based on what I’ve seen, of course, since I grew up I was 12 back in 2000 when Bush was elected president, based on what I’ve seen in the past 8 years, I’m not very optimistic about the future."

GM Nakamura (USA), Photo by The Closet Grandmaster

"I know right now there are a lot of problems. There’s a housing crisis and then the financial as well. So, the election has played a role, but it’s not like the biggest thing necessarily. I mean, there a lot of people I know in Vancouver and so right now I guess I’ll be staying out there for the time being."

"Whether I change to Canada or not, that’s up in the air. I’m not going to say yes or no either way because I really don’t know myself."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Live Blog - Round 8

Gens Una Sumus?

Gens Una Sumus. But perhaps only for those who can afford it.

The other night, I was on my way to the Rathaus, where FIDE and the Dresden organisers are feeding the players, to examine the food conditions as well as, maybe, grab a free feed. Not knowing the exact direction, I approached the men's team from Ethiopia, who happened to be on the same tram as I was. Lucky for me, they were en route to the same location.

The Ethiopian captain, Kebadu Belachew, is a friendly fellow who readily struck up a conversation. Now a resident of the United States, and working there as a network engineer, Kebadu is eloquent, speaking with a particularly charming accent that is at once hospitable and passionate. In our conversation he spoke most passionately about the trials that his team had gone through just to reach the Olympiad.

Like a number of African countries, team Ethiopia faced serious problems on two main fronts - money and visa. At one point they were even handed an accommodation bill for €15,0000 as a result, Kebadu admits, of their own late registration.

"Fifteen thousand euros would save thousands of people's lives in Ethiopia. Definitely the country doesn't have that kind of money", he told me over dinner. Fortunately for Kebadu and his team, the Dresden city mayor stepped in and agreed that the huge accommodation bill be waived.

Then there were the visa problems. On the first attempt, the Ethiopians were point blank simply refused entry visas by the German consular office in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. It was days before some compromised was reached and this came in the form of a letter of guarantee from the event organisers which was duly provided. Still, there was one more problem: the letter only covered the men’s team, not the women’s team. Thus, the women’s visas were delayed.

After two rounds of play, the Ethiopian women, with money and visas at the ready, were preparing to fly to Dresden. Sadly, Kebadu had to give them terrible news.

Kebadu: “It was very, very hurting to myself to tell them that they cannot come, even if we have their money, because after two rounds, no team will be accepted”.

“They were heart broken. I still get emails from them. I tried to comfort them. Because this is the first time that we tried to get a women’s team represent Ethiopia [in any international chess event]”.

Despite this serious setback, however, Kebadu is optimistic, hoping that the next time will be an easier one, especially, for the women.

“God didn’t mean it this time [for the women’s team to play], but we have done the ground work”, he added.

For a backgrounder on the Ethiopian “saga", check out this post (“Ethiopians Denied German Visas”) and this one ("African Nations Booted From the Chess Olympiad") by Daaim Shabazz on The Chess Drum blog.

Historic Day for NZ Chess

Trans-Tasman rivalry took on an unexpected turn yesterday when New Zealand grabbed the baton for Olympiad bragging rights away from Australia. In what is perhaps their most significant round victory in Olympiad history, the Murray Chandler led Kiwis defeated the Bosnia Herzegovina team 2.5-1.5. Adding a little extra sweetener to their fine win, New Zealand’s rivals, Australia, were trounced by the powerhouse Bulgarians 0-4.

For New Zealand fans, here is a shot of that historic scoreboard.

The New Zealand scoreboard

The mood among the Aussie men last night was downbeat. It’s never nice to be beaten, even by a red hot opposition, but to be one-upped by the Kiwis is unsettling. After dinner, there wasn’t much to do but to strategise for the next round, which team they’ll play, who they’ll drop and so on. I turned up to the Maritim hoping to commiserate over a couple, but nope, up they went to their hotel rooms.

To make the day even worse for the Australian camp, the girls were also defeated 0-4 by the less fancied Venezuelans. Frankly, this was a surprising result. On paper our team outrated the Latinas on all four boards. Indeed, at least 2 Australian boards were winning!

Failing to have beers with the boys, I thought I’d try the girls. They’re always keen. But once again, I failed there, too. They’re all grounded, Moylan said. For Shannon Oliver, it’s a double whammy; she’s grounded until she wins a game!

Danailov Surprise in Dresden

The Dresden organisers pulled off a surprise this evening when they invited GM Veselin Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov to a press a conference. As expected (and earlier reported by Macauley Peterson) contracts were signed this morning for the match to proceed from 16 Feb. - 28 Feb. 2009.

Topalov's participation in Linares was cancelled "on friendly terms", Danailov said.

Silvio Danailov, Photo by The Closet Grandmaster

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Live Blog - Round 7

Zhao Defeats Kortchnoi

If you've not been following the live transmission from Dresden, the Australian team has just had a sensational result on board 1. GM Zong Yuan Zhao has defeated legend GM Viktor Kortchnoi in their round 6 board one match up.

Chess Olympiad 2008
Zhao, Zong-Yuan
Korchnoi, Viktor

1. Nf3 e6 2. c4 Nf6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Qc2 O-O 5. a3 Bxc3 6. Qxc3 a5 7. b3 d6 8. Bb2 e5 9. g3 c5 10. Bg2 Nc6 11. O-O Bg4 12. Rfe1 Qb6 13. e3 a4 14. bxa4 Rxa4 15. d3 Rd8 16. Rab1 Qa5 17. Qb3 Qa6 18. Nd2 Ra5 19. f4 an ambitious move, according to IM David Smerdon in our live blog.

Position after 19. f4

19...Be6 20. Bc1 Bc8 21. Qb6 Qxb6 22. Rxb6 Nd7 23. Rb3 Nf6 24. Bb2 Ra6 25. Bxc6 Rxc6 26. fxe5 Ng4 27. exd6 Rcxd6 28. d4 Rh6 29. Nf3 Bf5 30. e4 Bc8 31. d5 b6 32. Bc1 Rg6 33. Nh4 Rgd6 34. e5 Re8 35. Nf3 Rg6 36. h3 Nf6 37. exf6 Rxg3+ 38. Kf2 Rxe1 39. Kxe1 gxf6 40. Kf2 Rxh3 41. Rxb6 Bg4 42. Rxf6 Rh1 43. Bb2 Bxf3 44. Kxf3 1-0

UPDATE: Just now, GM Daryl Johansen has followed up with a win over GM Joseph Gallagher on board 3. The result, therefore, gives Australia the match 2.5-1.5!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Live Blog - Round 6

A Mysterious Pairing System

In his latest newsletter to Australian chess fans, the men's captain, Manuel Weeks, writes: "The accelerated pairings for the first two rounds left many weak teams on good match scores and the subsequent type of Swiss pairing has left the pairings looking almost random. Many teams are rather unhappy and mystified by the system they are using here."

At least one big-name player, and we can safely guess also his entire squad, is definitely no fan of the pairing system. When asked during a press conference what he thought of the pairing system, the United States' GM Hikaru Nakamura said, "If the system works, then so be it. However, I definitely wouldn't say that I'm a fan of it based on what I've seen here."

The Americans have so far played Iceland (2.5-1.5 win to the US), Greece (2-2), South Africa (3.5-0.5), Azerbaijan (1-3) and finally, Hong Kong (4-0).

Said Nakamura: "We had a very tough match against Azerbaijan, which we lost, and then today [round 5] we've had to play against Hong Kong which is even weaker [than South Africa]. I mean it wasn't a good feeling."

Nakamura's co-panelist in the same press conference, GM Sergey Movsesian, was equally mystified about the pairing system, describing it as "a bit strange".

It was left to Movsesian, Slovakia's board 1 player, to make the connection between the new match point scoring format and the pairing system. Answering a question from GM Rogers, Movsesian ageed with his fellow grandmasters on the panel that match points are a better way to determine the winner, but added that the current pairing system is diluting the advantageous effect of match points.

"Match points are OK, but then it should be connected with a different pairing system", said Movsesian.

Kamsky vs Topalov Is On

Speaking of the Bermuda party, last night (actually, this morning) on the tram back to our respective home locations, I ran into Macauley Peterson. The poor guy had an early start because he had to cover the negotiation between Kamsky and Topalov over their upcoming match to be held early next year. And now, we can read the fruits of his labour and lack of sleep. The match is on, he tell us!

Bermuda Party

The first that many of us had ever heard of the Bermuda party was 2 years ago when Gormallygate broke out, not just amongst the chess press, but right throughout MSM. Back then, I thought, well, I've got to attend one of these. Last night I fulfilled my wish.

I've been to a fair few parties in my time and, as far as I'm concerned, the Bermuda party is right up there with the best of them. If you'll only cut loose every couple of years, then this is the event to do it in.

Last night the venue was good and the music excellent. Although, if you ask me, I reckon the so-called "oldies" section upstairs was way more cool, with better music, better looking women and a higher rated crowd.

Now, I happen to be under strict request to not be TCG and just be the normal me (hell, I couldn't even take photos), but I will let you in on this little tid bit, something I won't soon forget. There is nothing like seeing a well-known grandmaster, blind drunk, pissing right next to you, swearing in his own lingo and banging (just gently) his head against the wall. Almost nothing, anyway.

Most partygoers were well-behaved, even the Aussies. I think. They retired early, while I finished at 4.30AM. Tomorrow, it's back to business.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Live Blog - Round 5

Never Leave a Man Behind

GM Ian Rogers likens the nightly press conferences, hosted by GM Susan Polgar, as being like a "talk show". Hard to disagree with this assessment, but even talk shows are at least exciting! After 2 or three of these press conferences, I was beginning to wonder if it was actually worth attending them. No disrespect intended, but some of the guests are way too unknown and, therefore, uninteresting. So far we've been treated to only two super grandmasters (China's Wang Hao and Wang Yue), although the language barrier didn't exactly help. Yesterday, RP's GM Wesley So was scheduled for a conference but simply failed to appear.

For the round 3 session, however, GM Rogers himself got into gear. With France's GM Vladislav Tkachiev on stage, Rogers switched to Kerry O'Brien mode. The Australian grilled the French grandmaster on certain aspects concerning the so-called "World Chess Beauty Contest" that was held a couple of years back and won, believe it or not, by Australia's Vaness Reid. Tkachiev was on the back foot. The poor guy signed up for an Olympiad press briefing and here he was having to desperately find answers to questions about an old event!

Then last night, as if to tease the press, the organisers invited chief arbiter Ignatius Leong. Naturally, I expected fireworks from Ian. But nope, the grandmaster was his usual Mr Nice Guy. Perhaps he was just happy about Australia's performance yesterday. Instead, direct questions to Leong were left to the Jamaican Chess Fed boss Ian Wilkinson.

Wilkinson, unhappy about the visa problems faced, especially, by a number of African countries, wanted to know what Leong can do about this situation in the next Olympiad. He also pressed Leong on the absence of tournament bulletins. Apparently, in Torino these were supplied by the organisers in a CD. To both questions, Leong was short and sweet, using the usual line here in Dresden: "I'll look into it" or "I'll talk to the organisers".

And that was that. Yet another mainly uninteresting press conference. I think I'll have to do something about this pretty soon. By the way, note that GM Ian Rogers is currently engaged to blog for the US Chess Life online crew along with FM Mike Klein, who sits just across from me.

Yesterday's action at the board came with some luck for the Aussie women, particularly for Dekic. Rogers' call on her game earlier on was that she was worse. Dekic, however, lived up to Rogers' description as the women's Solo, as well as aided by her opponent's errors, and eventually hauled in the point. Caoili was hardly test, while Moylan and Oliver both essayed the Dragon. Moylan lost the point, but the latter, after momentarily losing her way, eventually found the right plan to end the game peacefully. Shannon's play featured some nice touches, bravely executing exactly what Rogers' had predicted - 28....Bxg4.

As for the men, well, here's a question: can anyone remember the last time when Australia had won 4-0 twice in a row at the Olympiad? Today, these guys take on our neighbours Singapore who are led by ex-Pinoy IM Enrique Paciencia.

Once again, good luck to the teams. I hope, too, that the Kiwis can get their house in order. Remember the old lesson: never leave a man behind . . . at the hotel!

Table 1 Live on TV

Just got this message from the Dresden press team. They'll be streaming "TV" images of table 1 from today onwards.

According to the press team's email, "Those who want to watch, need to follow the Chess Olympiad TV button on the official website Once the additional software is installed, users can see the live signal. Currently it works only on Windows Systems and Windows Media Player 9 or higher need to be installed. "

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Live Blog - Round 4

Not Putin's Pawn

Garry Kasparov talks to The Independent:

Does chess – a cerebral, individualistic pursuit if ever there was one – really help solve real problems? Yes, says Kasparov: "I talk about strategy, tactics, achieving your potential, decoding the complexity of life, so it's mainly about the big picture. I feel I have enough experience to pull these things together."

From Garry Kasparov: The master who won't be Putin's pawn.

Why can't this guy just get off his political butt for a while and come to Dresden? He'll be more relaxed, I think.

Good Coffee Badly Needed

As I think I mentioned in one of the live blogs, Dresden has really made an effort for the Olympiad. Moving from place to place is a painless operation thanks to well designed brochures that point out exactly what tram or bus to catch. The trams themselves even make special announcements in English. Everywhere around the city you'll also find posters welcoming visitors in various languages. The other night, while we were walking around, IM Smerdon spotted a poster with a particularly interesting design. "That's gotta go on the blog", he suggested. And so here it is.

It is at least better than the official Olympiad poster which, frankly, is too plain and awful. Once upon a time Olympiad posters were a big deal and became collectors' items. There are a couple of good examples here as well as from other events. However, as bad as the Dresden poster is, I'll probably nick one or two of these just for the fun of it!

Posters aside, the Australian men's captain has a pressing problem other than anything chess related. The lack of good coffee in Dresden! Actually, I have the same problem. After having just visited cities like Madrid, Rome, Vienna and Berlin, where good coffee is plentiful (albeit never quite reaching the heights of truly excellent coffee in Sydney), Dresden has been a serious shock. It's like being back in London where its uneducated citizens worship the likes of the C-grade Starbucks who serve mostly water, no coffee. Were it not for Flat White (naturally, opened by expat Aussies and Kiwis), I'd die everytime I'm in London.

Thus, this morning the men's captain, Manuel Weeks, ordered no less than IM David Smerdon himself: "Find me good coffee!"

But today, a strong shot of high-grade caffeine shouldn't be needed. Manuel's team take on Guernsey - not exactly a happy pairing. The boys would really rather take on a stronger side. On the other hand, the women's team earn themselves a respite as today they face El Salvador. None of the Salvadorians are over 2200+, but the utmost care should still be taken.

I think I might also keep an eye on our Kiwi friends. Chandler's side are playing the powerful Slovenians and I'm sure our souther cousins will be out for blood. If for nothing else, but to finish above the Aussies. Well, we can't have that!

Seriously, good luck to all teams.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Live Blog - Round 3

Watch That Hot Pawn

The problem with an Olympiad is that you're always surrounded by some of the most gorgeous women. So, when you're the new young buck, and you can't wait for that Bermuda party that everyone seems to be talking about, you'll grab just about anything. Even hottie pawns! But when you're in a Sicilian, you really shouldn't be grabbing anything. Grab something else.

Seriously, IM George Xie might be just a tad nervous or just placing too much pressure on himself to do well. I’m sure the skipper would have had a good heart-to-heart talk with him this morning to sort that out.

As for me, well, I just go grab a beer.

Who knows what happened yesterday? The bloke who sat next to me certainly did. It seemed like he was in pain. I sat there thinking to myself, "Gee, I'm glad I don't have his ELO". Sometimes, knowing too much chess just makes life that much harder, I think.

Going down again, this time against a weaker opposition, seemed to hit the boys hard. Except for the captain and David, I didn't see any of them later last night. I'm guessing the other guys just wanted some quiet time on their own, to rest, to reflect. While myself and the other two find our way to the nearest Irish pub and join members of the Irish team for a couple, listening to some old fellow named Ronan Drury (or was it Drury Ronan, I can't remember) sing folk songs and about a hundred other covers.

A little while later the women's Shannon Oliver popped in. After her loss to a stock-standard hack, she, too, needed some cheering. Laughter and banter was exactly what everyone needed. The Irish guys delivered a drubbing to Luxembourg and so were in a particularly good mood and were excellent company.

So far, I've not really caught up with all the girls together and their captain. Their meetings are still deep behind the Dresden Wall. Actually, come to think of it, it's probably a good idea for them to come out with the guys for one big pow-wow, just a modest team wide bonding session. Chill out, relax, share a few, swap ideas, whatever. Then again, not being a player, without pressure, and still on my vacation, that’s easy for me to say.

I hope our readers back home will come join me for some live blogging today. It’s been decidedly quiet over the first couple of rounds. But since tomorrow is a Sunday, I expect a few late night owls to stay on for a bit. The teams could do with a little psychic energy.

Live Blog - Round 2

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Post-Rogers Olympiad

WIM Arianne Caoili yesterday began her Olympiad campaign, and her first board duties, with a win over no less than WGM Anna Sharevich of Belarus. Giang and Moylan drew their games, while Dekic lost to WIM Tatiana Berlin - the women's only blemish. Later that night Dekic drowned her sorrows over a €5 (AUD$10) beer with the men's team, but two of her teammates celebrated their fine start with the most appropriate cocktail - "sex on the beach".

On the other hand, the Aussie boys, in their first post-Rogers Olympiad, managed just a half point courtesy of GM Zhao. The rest were beaten. Over drinks, there was much discussion, especially, over Smerdon's choice of Nf6-Nh5-Ng3 maneouvre against Zbynek Hracek. Should he have preferred the Karpovian Nf6-Ne8? All the serious talk about plans and ideas were peppered everywhere with recollections of past games, stories from previous Olympiads and sometimes comedic bursts from GM Johansen that had even the usually straightfaced IM Solomon in a fit of laughter. Sadly for you lot, as I am emphatically informed by the men's skipper, exact details of these team talks stay firmly in the Olympiad.

While the boys are relax in their approach (Manuel Weeks, their captain, is so relaxed that he can even manage to complete an entire business transaction with a well-known GM in less than 2 minutes), the girls hold their team meeting behind closed doors. That's fair enough I suppose as this being his first try at the captaincy, IM Andras Toth might prefer to get into a groove with his charges away from unnecessary observation, especially from pesky bloggers. I understand that he's received ample advice from the boys, so hopefully things will be alright for him and the girls. Still, I hope to bring more light to goings-on in the women's side in later posts.

Today, the men's team has an "easier" assignment against El Salvador. Johansen comes in while George Xie stays partly in order to give him some momentum. The women take on Lithuania. Caoili - Cmilyte on board 1 is expected to attract a crowd.

Turning to the RP boys (for now, as I didn't have time observe the girls yesterday), their 1.5-2.5 loss to China yesterday shouldn't really surprise anyone. I'm also not even surprised by So's victory over the 2710-rated GM Ni Hua! The Pinoy wunderkind's current trajectory clearly has him heading towards the 2700-mark himself. Perhaps the only surprise would be to the captain, Eugene Torre, who reportedly said that his team expects a "walk in the Dresden park" in the earlier rounds. I bet he didn't expect the powerhouse Chinese right from round one. Today, Eugene's team will take on Algeria. Except on board 1, where the Algerians enjoy the services of GM Rizouk, round 2 should be Eugene's expected walk. I just hope that they won't stop and sit on one of the benches to breathe some fresh air.

Finally, there is some talk about a Swiss protest over their opponent's (Russia) last minute change in line up. GM Ian Rogers asked about this in yesterday's press conference and all he got for his trouble was a reply from a seemingly surprised moderator, Susan Polgar, that she and her team were not aware of any such protest. She promised to uncover more info.

Round 2 is Postponed

Just received this email from the organisers.


Due to series of errors from various departments, the chief arbiter after consultation with the organizing committee decided to postpone today’s round to 16:00.

Tomorrow on November 15, round 3 will start at the usual 15:00.

We apologize for any inconvenience."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Live Blog - Round 1

Dresden Olympiad 2008 Opens

Firsly, I must apologise to our readers who expected me to live blog from the venue. I hadn't realised that the opening would actually take place some 500m from the main playing hall, in a skating rink (the Freiberger Arena).

Calling the Olympiad a "triumph of the human spirit" and a "communion" of players, media, organisers and everyone else involved in the Games - Florencio Campomanes last night officially opened the Dresden Olympiad. That was only after a string of musical performances that included snippets from Chess (the musical), Queen's We Are the Champions and some sort of German rap! Ice skaters and cheer leaders, too, entertained the crowd that included some of the world's chess luminaries. Ivanchuk, Aronian, van Wely, Nakamura were just a few of the big wigs mingling with the audience; and so were the Australians, the girls (sans Arianne) looking proud in the green and gold, while the boys looked ready to collapse in bed after their long journeys.

Taking their cue from the biggger Olympic Games, Dresden also featured a parade of nations, with each team being represented by a couple of schoolchildren - one to carry the flag, the other to carry the country's name placard. The two-hour session took its toll on the poor kid representing Madagascar. He fell ill and had to be removed.

In fact, I was a tad worried about Susan Polgar. She appeared uncomfortable as she walked on the icy surface on her way to lighting the flame. Fortunately, she made it! But even more worrying was Florencio Campomanes. The poor guy, still popular among many who just love to have their photo taken with the FIDE legend, walked the long way to the stage and supported firmly on either side by both Winfried Lehmann and Dirk Jordan, respectively the president and chairman of the Dresden organising committee. Campo coughed now and then. His speech was slow at times, but still as eloquent as ever.

About two hours after we began, the crowd piled out of their seats to enjoy some German cuisine. We're talking soup, pretzels and sausages. Good for players as they get the stuff for free. I had to fork out €1.50 for my pretzels!

We're now just a couple hours before the first angry shots will be fired across the boards. I'll try to do some live blogging, but note that as there is no direct internet connection from the main playing hall, it will be slow and cumbersome. However, I will definitely post pictures from the round just minutes after it starts. So come back as often as you can. Also, for obvious reasons, I'll cover mainly the Australian and RP teams. The Kiwi team will also be mentioned quite extensively.

UPDATE: I've now posted some photos from last night's opening ceremony.

First Pictures from Olympiad

I've just now posted some photos from this afternoon's happenings. Some external shots of the venue as well as from the German team conference (given by Uwe Bonsch, Bundestrainer; Davit Lobzhanidze, Trainer A-Nationalmannschaft DamenJan Gustafsson, A-Nationalmannschaft Herren and Melanie Ohme, A-Nationalmannschaft Damen). Susan Polgar was in attendance along with Paul Truong.

It also looks like there are a few chess journos here from the various popular publications. The only problem is, I don't know who they are!

And by the way, I met up with Shaun Press and Brian Jones this afternoon, too, and a couple of Kiwi guys (Hilton Bennett and Helen Milligan). No sign yet of the Aussies. I'm going to have to crash their party wherever they are.

Click here for the photos.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lunch with the Champ

How else to begin an Olympiad coverage but, naturally, to have lunch with none other than Vladimir Kramnik! There I was sitting in some Dresden restaurant when suddenly in walks GM Kramnik, all by himself. In fact, we were the only customers in this joint. Feeling bold, I call out his name and motion for him to sit at the table next to mine, and he happily did so. We discussed chess, of course, plus this and that.

A lucky start to this Olympiad, I thought. Let's hope it will remain positive.

Landed in Dresden

After a little detour through Spain, Italy and Austria, I've now finally made it to Dresden. It's been a long trip so far, and now I can't wait to get back to some chess action! Hopefully, we'll quickly recover some of my lost traffic!

Anyway, as of this moment, the only people I see are the visiting journos slowly arriving and being issued with press passes. I'm one of the first groups to arrive, I think, as the press centre is mostly still empty. No sign of any players still either and I've certainly not spotted any of the Aussies or Kiwis. We'll try to catch up with these guys later tonight during the opening ceremonies.

One thing I can tell you about is my press pass. In it are a number of guided tours for the visiting journos, all for free! A tour around the city on a double-decker bus looks interesting!

That's all for now - just a little informal update. I'll aim to do some live blogging tonight from about 8PM Dresden time which is 6AM Sydney and 4AM Perth.

UPDATE: Just bumped into Eugene Torre and Jayson Gonzales while they were strolling around the playing area. The rest of the RP team are resting. Eugene still has his humour. He thought I was playing for a team, he said!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Game of Chess

I'm now in Vienna. I was glad to have arrived here after having been thoroughly bored in Milan. Vienna is a city that has a little bit of something for most people - food, music, art. If you're so inclined, there is also plenty of sex on offer, though this place is no equal to Amsterdam in that regard.

Anyway, yesterday, while on a visit to the Belvedere, I spotted something that I thought you guys might be interested in. It is Josef Danhauser's "Game of Chess". Here's a discussion on that painting.

Josef Danhauser's Game of Chess -- powered by

If the video player doesn't work for you, then just click here instead.