Saturday, May 30, 2009

Jamieson: Chess players are lazy

I am supposed to be writing a review of Kevin Casey's book, Australian Chess Brilliances - Creative Attacking Chess from Down Under, but other things are getting in the way. I promise to complete that by tomorrow. Hopefully.

This process of writing a review, however, has given me reason to go back, back to the old days of Aussie chess which means that I am once again re-reading some old Aussie chess magazines. So here's something that I just stumbled upon.

From the September, 1979 issue of the Chess Player's Quarterly, editor IM Robert Jamieson, in his editorial, wrote:
In 1929, in the last issue of the "Austral Chess and Draughts Newspaper", the editor, J.B. Prowse, closed as follows: "We venture to say that no one will be fool enough, after the experience of the Austral to cater for the pleasure and profit of the chess and draughts players. Good bye!"

Now, 50 years later, Peter Parr has learnt that publishing chess magazines is just "too much work for too little reward" and his "Australian Chess Magazine" has folded after just 8 issues. One has to be a dedicated fanatic to continue publishing a magazine, but fortunately every 30 years or so another Cecil Purdy or Bernie Johnson comes along.

If every competitive chess player in the country was individually approached to subscribe to a national chess magazine, most of them would, but chess players are a lazy lot.

Something to think about.
For our young readers Cecil Purdy founded and edited the Australasian Chess Review, which evolved into Check and later, Chess World. Bernie Johnson was editor and publisher of Chess in Australia.

On that note, if anyone out there has a collection of old Australian chess magazines that they wish to offload, email me.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

NSWCA Snob Strong Players?

So this evening I'm heading for home, sitting quietly on the train and reading about Nicolas Sarkozy's fleet of planes in Monocle, when suddenly the cell rings. I answer. Before I could utter my final syllable I am hit with a barrage of expletives.

"If you're rated 1875, where the f**k can you play chess in [the state of] New South Wales these days?" said my caller. Not in the f**king state championships, not in the f**king grade matches and not in the f**king City of Sydney, he bellowed.

I'm shocked. I'm confused. I had no idea what this guy was on about. Slow down, I pleaded.

First, I don't remember the City of Sydney being held this year and second, the 2009 State Championships hasn't been announced. Still my caller insisted, this time using a different rating. If you're 1900, he said, you can't play in the State Champs because your rating is too low and you can't play in the Grade matches because your rating is too high.

Intrigued about all this I decided to check online as soon as I arrived back home.

The NSWCA website has no info, that I can see, about this year's State Championships but there is a whole section on the currently ongoing Grade Match competition. Here are the rating divisions:

Under 1800
Under 1600
Under 1400

Yep, that's right: no 1900 plus. What the f**k is going on?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Deep Green Chess

For those iPhone fan boys out there, here's the latest app to while away the hours.

With Deep Green, opponents can move pieces either by drag-and-drop or by tapping a piece, then tapping the square they wish to move it to. The tapped piece will jiggle, dutifully awaiting for the user to tap the destination square. The game supports auto-rotation, ensuring the user always plays from the bottom and up, and the board is rotated correctly for the in-turn player when competing on the device with a friend.

From 7th Space.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chess World on Chess Robots

The 1 January, 1951 issue of Chess World contains an interesting article entitled, "Chess Robot". The first couple of paragraphs read:
Recently we said the construction of a machine for playing perfect chess was demonstrably impossible, no matter how far mechanical science might progress. This is confirmed in a most interesting paper of about 8000 words in the "Philosophical Magazine" of March 1950, by Claude E. Shannon. It was first presented at the American I.R.E. Convention, New York, in March 1949. Shannon points out that, even assuming such a machine could be constructed, and operated at the rapid rate of one chess variation per micro-micro-second it would take a rather long time to work out its first move - the number of years being at least 10 to the 90th power. This means that if it had been constructed by some quite exceptionally intelligent brontausaurus and had been permitted to "think" uninterruptedly ever since, it would still be only beginning its calculations. Civilisations would arise and decay - not just a few such as the world has seen so far, but billions of them, if the earth lasted long enough - and the computer would still be plugging along. Perhaps at last, with all mankind extinct, some future brontausaurus would see the machine finally disgorge 1. PK4.

Fortunately chess is, from its nature, not amenable to mechanical computation.

However, the author develops a thesis that a modern general purpose computer could be made to play a "tolerably good" game of chess.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Playing Chess Naked

Here's a sure way to avoid cheating. Play naked!

In a video posted over on her blog, WGM Jennifer Shahade plays a naked man. No, no, nothing kinky. Jen is basically talking about her work for a recently published book Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess by Francis M.Naumann. And the video is itself inspired by this photo of Duchamp.

For more on the artist and his connection with chess, check out this article by Ian Randall in the Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Naka: I'm not afraid of losing

Here's a 10-minute long vid interview by Macauley and Jen Shahade with the 2009 US Champ GM Nakamura. It's an interesting session that reveals plenty about the eventual champion's approach to this event. He did not prepare for it, he said, opting to kick back and enjoy the hockey play-offs!

Quite interesting, too, is that Naka's second is only rated about 2200+.

Video courtesy of ICC Chess.FM

Friday, May 22, 2009

Alien vs Predator

I wouldn't be sitting across either of these two ugly bastards.

How it was done. Hat tip to Vizworld.

Schedule for 2010 Aussie Champs

Start planning for the Aussie Champs. I just received info on the planned playing schedule for the 2010 Australian Chess championships. It will be as follows:

Round 1 Jan 2 at 1.30pm
Round 2 Jan 3 at 11am
Round 3 Jan 4 at 11am
Rest day Jan 5 / Lightning at 2pm
Round 4 Jan 6 at 11am
Round 5 Jan 7 at 11am
Round 6 Jan 8 at 11am
Round 7 Jan 9 at 11am
Round 8 Jan 10 at 11am
Round 9 Jan 11 at 11am
Round 10 Jan 12 at 11am
Round 11 Jan 13 at 11am / Prize giving 5 pm

Time control is 90 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for remaining moves, with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting from move 1.

And in accordance with the new article 6.6a, which takes effect on 1 July this year, forfeit time for this event will be 30 minutes.

The event will be held at Sydney's Norths Club.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

FIDE Big Wig to Visit Zonal

Just a bit of an update on the upcoming Zonal in the Gold Coast. The event is shaping up to be the biggest Oceania Zonal ever thanks to the participation of more nations like the Solomon Islands, Palau and PNG.

Of particular interest to local chess polies will be the planned visit of one Ignatius Leong. The guy is, of course, the FIDE general secretary and he'll be here for the Oceania Zone meeting to be held on the rest day, 23 June. But, hopefully, it won't be just for local polies. My info so far is that anyone can actually attend that meeting, so if you're curious about these sorts of things, then that will be your chance.

Personally, I'd rather be somewhere on a nearby beach! That's if the weather behaves.


Nearly a month ago I posted about how the Sydney International Open is in financial trouble. Now it looks like serious action is under way to rescue the event.

Organiser Brian Jones created a web page where concerned chess citizens can "donate" their money. From what I can see he'll take only a minimum of $100! I gotta say, considering the current economic situation, the man's highly optimistic.

The latest info is that to date some $2,200 have either been pledged or received in cash. But I wonder: if I "donate" to this event, will I get a discount off the entry fee or will I have to fork out for that too?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

God Over the Board

I meant to write an update on the upcoming Zonal event, but something that organiser Graeme Gardiner said in his email to me yesterday caused me to dig into the ACF's newsletter archives. During my research, I came across a letter from one Peter Hanna. Said he (in ACF Bulletin No. 61 - 9 April, 2000):

For the sake of a level playing field (chess board) chess authorities are going to issue guidelines as to what constitutes "drug" use by chess players. In the same vein we should consider players calling on God's help. If God does help, the player has obtained an unfair advantage, but if God refuses there is still the attempt of cheating. But a conundrum exists if God were to sabotage someone and we were unaware of it. I think the only answer for these unseen problems is for the arbitrator at the beginning of the tournament to issue an edict barring God from the playing room!

Amen to that. Two issues later, famous arbiter Stewart Reuben chipped in with this little tidbit (from ACF Bulletin No. 63 - 1 May, 2000):

When Michael Adams was about 12 years old it was his practice to stare at the ceiling when playing, often even when it was his move. I asked him what his reason for doing this was. His reply made me realise there was hope for the taciturn lad yet. He said, "I'm asking God for help". I did wonder whether I should forfeit him.

But those are not the best parts. Check out Gail Young's reply to Hanna in bulletin no. 62!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wolfram Alpha Engine

Over the last couple of weeks, there's been plenty of talk online about a new "search engine" called Wolfram Alpha. For a lengthy and informative discussion on what it is, how it works, what it's used for and so on - check out blogger Nova Spivack's post Wolfram Alpha is Coming - and It Could be as Important as Google (But It's Completely Different).

Anyway, feeling curious, I decided to try out WA and punch in "chess" into the search field. Instead of the usual results, I got, would you believe, a rundown on what appears to be a plant specie. Bromegrass! I've never heard of it. And I can't believe that it has any relation to chess. Well, at least our avid reader Dr Kevin Bonham might appreciate that one.

Some other chessic terms with funny results are "olympiad" (looks to be a measure of time), "rook" (an animal) and the name "Fritz". Wolfram Alpha will helpfully inform you that "Fritz" is a male given name and that out of the current U.S. population, there are some 2,809 people alive today who bear this name.

I think we can conclude that while the new engine may have its niche purposes, it's not quite there yet for most of us!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nakamura Wins US Champs

Congrats to GM Hikaru Nakamura for winning the 2009 US Chess Championships scoring 7 points from his nine games. For Nakamura, it's his second US title after first winning it back in 2005.

The following win in round 7 over GM Akobian was very impressive. It seems to look so easy: just hurl that h-pawn as far as it can go, grab the centre and that's it! Lovers of the French Defence must be weeping.

2009 U.S. Championship
Nakamura, Hikaru
Akobian, Varuzhan

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. e5 Nfd7 5. f4 c5 6. Nf3 Nc6 7. Be3 a6 8. Qd2 b5 9. h4 cxd4 10. Nxd4 Nxd4 11. Bxd4 Bc5 12. h5 Qb6 13. O-O-O O-O 14. Bxc5 Nxc5 15. f5 Qc7 16. Re1 exf5 17. h6 g6 18. Nxd5 Qd8 19. Nf6+ Kh8 20. Qb4 Ne6 21. Rh3 Bb7 22. Rd1 Qc7 23. Rd6 Be4 24. Nxe4 fxe4 25. Qxe4 Rad8 26. Rhd3 Qe7 27. Qe3 Kg8 28. Rxa6 Rxd3 29. Bxd3 Qb7 30. Rd6 Qxg2 31. Bxb5 g5 32. Rd1 Qh2 33. a4 Qxh6 34. a5 Qh2 35. Bd7 Nf4 36. b4 Kg7 37. a6 Qg2 38. b5 Rd8 39. Kb2 Qa8 40. Bc6 1-0

IM Enrico Sevillano finished with 4 points. His run included a win against the powerful, GM Alex Shabalov. Overall, that was a tough campaign for the ex-Pinoy.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chess By the Beach

Yesterday, as I was out on another walkabout in Newtown doing some street photography I spotted a couple of old guys sitting in a cafe and playing chess. Then today, again while taking some random photos, as I made my way from Manly Beach to Shelley Beach, I spotted these two.

View larger

Aahh...perfect Sunday - warm, sunny autumn day, by the beach. And chess. Why would you live anywhere else?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Standard Clips Barden

Leonard Barden has been writing his daily chess column for the London Evening Standard for over fifty years. He first began in 1958. According to available records, this puts the Englishman just a touch behind George Koltanowski for the honour of writing the "longest-running daily chess column in history". Koltanowski wrote his column in the San Francisco Chronicle for a reported total of 51 years and 9 months.

I mention all this because, while you can still read Barden's daily columns online, the printed version will now appear only once a week - on Fridays! It apparently has to do with the Standard's recently launched new look.

And someone isn't happy.

Embarassment for RP Chess

Take it from me, there's plenty of Pinoys who want to bolt out of their country. Not too many folks want to get in. Except that is, if you're a chess player - like the mob of Uzbeks and one Kazakh who were apparently en route to the Asian Championships only to fail getting in because no one on RP bothered to help!

Chessbase has the juice on this apparent "scandal". They quote an open letter from GM Filippov.

We arrived at Kuala Lumpur on the 12th May, took a taxi and were at the Philippine embassy at 9:30 a.m. After submitting our documents, we heard back that we have to wait for five days. My claim that I had e-mailed documents and invitations a week ago was met with an open lie that they had received nothing, later replaced with "your documents were late anyway."

What can I say but welcome to Philippine bureaucracy! Read more here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

US Champs Sets New Standard

Famous chess journo Macauley Peterson is excited. On the currently ongoing US Chess Championships he said (in an email), "This is one of the most professional media efforts I've seen anywhere, and it's definitely worth learning from."

Too right! The combination of videos, tweets, RSS feeds and the photos appear to have set a new benchmark for covering a chess event.

Yet, despite all that fancy stuff or maybe because of them, there is still one big oversight. Where the hell is the link to download the games in PGN? For the life of me I can't find it anywhere on the official site! I just want one link, somewhere obvious (maybe on the left), that says "Download All Games". But it ain't there!

Thank heavens for TWIC.

Anyway, here is IM Michael Brooks scoring an upset against GM Alex Shabalov on the black side of what Brooks calls a "silly opening". Impressive, too, is that Brooks managed to pull off this victory apparently without preparation!

2009 US Chess Championships, Saint Louis
Shabalov, A.
Brooks, M.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 a6 6. h3 e5 7. Nde2 Be6 8. g4 d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Bg2 Bb4 11. O-O Bxc3 12. bxc3 Nc6 13. Rb1 O-O 14. Rxb7 Qc8 15. Rb1 Rd8 16. Qe1 h5 17. f3 Na5 18. Ng3 hxg4 19. fxg4 Qxc3 20. Bd2 Qd4+ 21. Kh1 Nc4 22. Bg5 Nce3 23. c3 Qa7 24. Bxd8 Rxd8 25. Nh5 Qc7 26. Rf3 Nxg2 27. Kxg2 e4 28. Rf2 e3 29. Rf3 Nxc3 30. Rb2 Bd5 31. Qxe3 Nd1 32. Qg5 Bxf3+ 33. Kg1 Qa7+ 34. Kh2 Qd4 35. Rc2 Ne3 36. Qxe3 0-1

After 5 games grandmasters Shulman and Akobian (a visitor here last year) lead with 4 points apiece.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

BMW Checkmates Audi

You know how sometimes you think you've made a brilliant move and it turns out to be a horrible blunder? Well, some smart ass ad-man in Audi's ad agency thought exactly that.

When Audi launched a national campaign in the US featuring a giant billboard that read, "Your move, BMW" - a clever agency in Santa Monica, California dreamed up of the most brilliant reply. Working with a BMW car dealership - the agency, Juggernaut Advertising, created their own billboard that read simply, "Checkmate."


Billboard chess game

The billboard chess game had a few online motoring websites buzzing for a while. In one website, someone said that perhaps Audi should now take up checkers. It's probably the only time that motoring fanatics talk about cars and boardgames all at the same time.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

US Championships Begin

The 2009 US Chess Championships are finally under way. Two rounds have been played so far and three players are in the lead with 2/2 - grandmasters Kamsky and Shulman along with IM Hess. Ex-Pinoy IM Sevillano is on one point.

I've gotta say, the video wrap-ups featuring Jennifer Shahade and Macauley Peterson are absolutely fantastic. Folks can also follow proceedings via Twitter and listen to podcasts on Chess.FM.

K-Factor Debate for Dummies

This recent debate over FIDE ratings, and which is covered extensively by Chessbase (see here for the latest counterpunch), is absolutely doing my head in. First and foremost, it seems to be about this question: should the so-called "k-factor" be modified? And secondly: by how much?

In one corner we have Poland's GM Bartłomiej Macieja saying yes, change the k-factor; while in the other corner we have GM John Nunn flatly declaring that we should leave the k-factor alone!

For math dummies like yours truly, it's all a bit too much. But thanks to ChessVibes and Daan Zult from the University of Amsterdam we now have some sort of easy guide. Here's a good piece from CV, "On the increase of the K-factor".

I've sent a quick note to the ACF's ratings man to ask about their body's position on all of this. So far, no reply.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Chess Set Saved From Fire

Five thousand quid for a chess set? Only if it's a couple of hundred years old.

More in £5k hope for 'rubbish' chess set.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Judge: No Drug Test for Chess

Thank heavens for sane judges. Judge Monica Marlow says, "Unlike participation in athletics, students participating in a math club, chess club, choir, band, symphony, or Future Farmers of America are not involved in routine regulation and scrutiny of their physical fitness and bodily condition".

From the LA Times.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Watson Bags Lightning

Sydney's premier chess club, St George, held their lightning tournament last night and here we have a special report from avid TCG reader, Nicholas Kordahi.


James Watson won the 2009 St George club lightning last night with a Fischer-like picket fence score of 11/11, followed by the unfortunate Jason Chan on 10/11 who only lost to Watson. Distant equal third were club regulars John Stuart Plant and Nicholas Kordahi on 7.5/11.

Top seed Mathew Drummond who out-rated the field by 200 points had a tournament he would rather forget. At the start of one of the earlier rounds Drummond took his seat at board 1 only to find that he was paired on board 2. A visibly frazzled Drummond then proceeded to quickly lose a piece to Jason Chan and resigned soon after. Drummond’s tournament never recovered who believed that even though he did not have the highest score in the tournament he should clearly float up to the leader James Watson. The arbiter Charles Zworestine stated that colour distribution is the primary indicator of allocation of pairings, and ratings or rank of players is a secondary indicator.

St George play North Sydney next Tuesday night at North Sydney Leagues in the annual big boards grudge match. This match has featured strong grandmasters in the past and hopefully this year will be no exception. Australia’s newest grandmaster Zong Yuan Zhao could be in action on top board which will be a treat for stalwarts of Sydney club chess.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sexiest Chess Scene on Film

In the original version of the Thomas Crown Affair (1968), starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, we see what is possibly the sexiest chess scene on celluloid. This one's totally safe for work.

Monday, May 04, 2009

What is a GM?

What is a grandmaster? Errol Tiwari, writing for Guyana's Stabroek News, gives a short history.

But Errol also looks to the future of chess in his own country. Says he: "Think about Barack Obama. He has inspired us to believe in ourselves; to believe that we can achieve things which we once thought were impossible. Why should Guyana be satisfied only with hosting a grandmaster? We want more. We want to be that grandmaster. We want to walk proudly among other nations upon the world stage of chess."

Sue & Ga. in Chic Melbourne

We've just learned direct from his own blog that English grandmaster Gawain Jones has moved to Melbourne! In this post Jones' partner Sue Maroroa, herself a member of the New Zealand women's Olympiad team, writes:

I'm Sue, Gawain's girlfriend - Gawain isn't the most let say hard-working guy in the world so instead he has me updating his blog as we're usually attached to one another (I tag alongside him to various tournaments). Instead of being in NZ as we are supposed to be we've decided to reside in the très chic city of Melbourne.

Très chic? Très chic?

Well, OK, maybe chess-wise since, apart from the SIO, Sydney chess is pretty much dead. Just last week I fielded yet another phone call from a long-time weekend warrior who wondered: what happened to the Sydney Anzac weekender? The Sydney Championships? That was before adding another shot at the State Championships which I think he termed "a joke".

Anyway, I'm momentarily distracted. Chess aside, "Sue and Ga." (Oohh..sounds almost like a fashion label) ought to have preferred Sydney. According to Mercer's latest quality of living survey, my fine gorgeous city outranks Melbourne by 8 places! But then perhaps Sue should drag her man back to New Zealand. Auckland is in fourth place overall.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Rogers Makes a Move

To Sydney readers: if you've been wondering what happened to GM Ian Rogers' column in the Sun Herald, the paper has actually moved it over to the "Extra" section. It's there in amongst the puzzles. The chess column was previously towards the back just before the Sports section.

I must say, I actually missed the column for two straight weeks because I simply couldn't find it! Then I began to think that perhaps the column had been canceled. Thankfully, that's not the case.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

RP Launches National Academy

While a few of the regular furnishings of Australian chess are at it again over on ChessChat, this time over the format of the next Juniors Championships to be held in Hobart - the Phillippines, on the other hand, are getting on with the business of creating future grandmasters. RP's Department of Education and the national chess body signed a memorandum of agreement wherein both organisations will work towards an amazing target of "90 percent chess literacy and regain Philippine chess supremacy in Asia" through a new institution named the National Chess Academy.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus was quoted as saying, "It is because chess is considered a game that encourages a higher level of thinking that DepEd this year will start teaching it in elementary and high school."

Apart from the aims mentioned above, other goals of the new NCA are to produce a Pinoy GM ranked in the top 10 in the world as well as to climb up to the top 10 in the Olympiad.

Next time you, my Aussie readers, spot an ACF official, tap them on the shoulder and ask: "So buddy, what's your plan for the future?"

And by the way, I wish all juniors and parents the best of time in Hobart. It's a gorgeous town with fresh, clean and crisp air. It's also been recently dubbed "Tasmanian Angel" by Monocle magazine.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Kasparov in a Machine

Can you teach a computer program to play in the style of, say, Kasparov or Kramnik? So wondered Mark Levene and Trevor Fenner of Birkbeck College, in London.

We describe a preliminary investigation into learning a Chess player's style from game records. The method is based on attempting to learn features of a player's individual evaluation function using the method of temporal differences, with the aid of a conventional Chess engine architecture. Some encouraging results were obtained in learning the styles of two recent Chess world champions, and we report on our attempt to use the learnt styles to discriminate between the players from game records by trying to detect who was playing white and who was playing black.

The study can be downloaded from here. Hat tip to the Technology Review.

Szuveges: I don't love CV

In the first part of our email interview, new Melbourne Chess Club boss Grant Szuveges revealed some interesting info about personal matters. There he had an important tidbit about his departure from the chess scene: to reclaim a life. After nine years of absence, Mr Szuveges makes a comeback, not to over the board battles, but to a contest of a different kind. This time his aim can be summarised pretty simply. To reclaim his beloved Melbourne Chess Club.


Let's just turn now to serious matters. We know about why you decided to be the MCC boss. In your words you were "angry". But I am interested to know if you have some idea of what led to the MCC's let us just say "near" demise in the first place.

I think that the main problem at the MCC was just general neglect. A lot of people involved had been there for a very long time and probably hadnt realised how bad it had got. When someone is around something for so long, they simply get used to it and don't recognise that it may be a problem. Often someone who hasn't been involved for a while (like me in this case) can come in and notice things which aren't going well because they don't see them every day. Although most of the people did (and still do) care about the club, they probably weren't able to (1) identify something as a problem and (2) do anything about the problem. An example of the sort of conversations I was having with people in very early February would go something like this:

Grant Szuveges: When did the floors last get vacuumed?
MCC member X: 10 months ago.
GS: 10 months ago??? Why havnt they been done since?
X: We dont have a vacuum cleaner - it broke.
GS: Why didn't you buy a new one?
X: So and so said they would buy a new one.
GS: When?
X: 8 months ago.
GS: Why haven't the committee held so and so to their word?

Another example might go:

GS: Why is the kitchen a mess?
X: What do you mean?
GS: Well there is a broken kettle on the shelf.
X: Yeah, its broken.
GS: Why didnt it get thrown out?
X: It wouldn't fit in the bin.
GS: Why not take it and all the other rubbish to the tip?
X: We may be able to fix it.
GS: Why do you need to fix it when you also have one the works?

And this sums up part of the problem - people were too worried about spending money, maybe because others would've criticised them for doing so. Whenever someone wants to spend money, someone will say "No, wait, don't do it - my great uncle's best friend's brother may do it for $20 less" so something. A trip to the tip costs $30 but a clean kitchen may attract a new member paying $150. You need things done quickly and professionally. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys. The club had developed a culture of penny pinching and a real poverty mentality. Since we cleaned it up, we have gained more members - thus proving my point. It really needed to be reinvigorated and looked at objectively by people who hadn't been involved for a while and who have exposure to the real world and normal business practices. Hard decisions had to be made and the situation had to be looked at honestly - with problems being acknowledged and solved. Too many issues were being shirked or ignored.

In your business plan for the MCC, the so-called "Szuveges' Plan", you spoke of greater transparency and accountability. Tell me how you'll achieve those.

We have already achieved these. Financially, we have a new, simple, easy to use and easy to understand system of book-keeping. Every cent that goes in and out of the club is accounted for and signed for. Members can look at this if they wish to. We have also taken the time to explain (and even rave on about) the things we are doing at the club. We are being upfront with our members about how much things cost and what we are spending money on. We have also publicly stated that if any of our members have grievances, then we will answer them and listen to them. We achieve transparency by keeping people informed and accountability by doing what we say we will do. An example is the Saturday Allegro. We stated that it will be on every Saturday - and it has been, even when it has clashed with other events. We promised it, and it is on EVERY week. It is geneally successful but sometimes it makes a loss. However, it has gained us so many new members (particularly juniors and new players) that we are more than happy to absorb small short-term losses for a huge big-picture long-term gain. We must continue to follow through with things we promise, for example we will get the toilets renovated because we said that we would...

Your plan also includes an aspect of revenue-raising, specifically by renting out space. Is there no risk that the MCC could lose sight of its core business - the chess bit?

No chance - the MCC is first and foremost a chess club, and our committee never ever loses sight of this. At the MCC, chess comes first with all forms of the game (long games, allegro, blitz, analysing, etc) being given time. We would only rent out space at non-chess times such as Tuesday morning from 7am to 10am for a yoga class for example. We won’t be taking anything away from chess time. We need to use our building to raise revenue, but not at times when members use it for chess. When you have an asset like our building (or my FM title - from your earlier question) then you should use it. It is like in chess - play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. We wont really be looking much at renting space out until the renovations are done anyway.

You say your long-term aim is to increase membership numbers. Where are you going to get these people from?

What do you mean "where WILL we get them from"? We have already got 98 or them now!!! We have 98 members - it’s a huge mark-up on last year’s numbers. Where did they come from? A lot are former members who were sick of the club for whatever reason, many are people from other clubs who heard about what we were doing, many are juniors who get coaching at the club and play allegro. Actually allegro has given us lots of new members. If you hold more events, you will attract more people - and of course, some of these people will become members... We just did a huge publicity drive through libraries, neighbourhood houses and community centres - just last week. So hopefully we get some through there. Kids are the important one though as they tell their friends and you often get bigger numbers of them at once. We need a core group of kids who not only join, but also take ownership and start viewing themselves as 'MCC players' rather than just 'chess players' to create a culture of being proud of the club. Last year, we only had 3 members under 18, this year we have 9 already (with more expected to sign next week) - and they are playing at MCC regularly. I know that its only small compared to some other clubs, but it will grow. The adults are great with them too - they don’t talk down to them or get annoyed if they make a bit much noise - I think that they like their enthusiasm as it gives the atmosphere at the club much more of a buzz. Its also great to see so many of their parents around too - this creates an even better vibe - a family vibe. When new kids or adults join the MCC, we want them to feel like the club is saying to them "welcome to the family". Successful clubs (in all sports) make new people feel like this. We also need to concentrate on attracting more members who are in the 1000-1350 rating strength bracket. We are doing this gradually but we would love more of them. A core group of these players is crucial to a club, as new players come in, give them a game and actually put up a fight. If new players play against people who are too strong (1800 for example), they lose game after game and then lose interest. If they are able to win a few or at least be competitive, they realise that they can succeed and will stay. A core group of 15-20 players under 1350 is vital for our club to survive and prosper (together with a core group of juniors). If you are a player in that category and want to be part of this exciting time in our club, please come in or contact me.

My question’s underlying motive was to explore potential run-ins with other clubs. So, for example, if we see a migration of players from Box Hill or Croydon or whatever, will these other clubs not be too impressed?

We have good relations with the other Melbourne clubs and have no interest in poaching their players. If our club is good enough, players from other clubs will come along and play anyway. We have a great relationship with Box Hill chess club and we try not to schedule things which clash with them, as they are the closest club to us. Of course some of our events clash with those of other clubs, but that happens when a club is open 7 days per week. Players are allowed to belong to more than one club, and many of our members belong to other clubs too. There are no issues there - not that we know about anyway. We advertise other clubs events and they advertise ours too. Instead of poaching players, its more important to build the club from the ground up - ie with juniors and weaker adults - this way we create our own players rather than take players who already have loyalties to other clubs. We know that if our club is good enough, and provides enough for its members, we will get more of them - and that is exactly what is happening now.

Mr Szuveges, I’m sure you know that the MCC has been around for well over 140 years. What's the future like for the club?

Who knows - the sky is the limit! I think that the future is looking very, very bright. It’s so bright that we will have to wear shades! Seriously though, it is very bright. BUT, it will only stay bright if we keep working hard, and the club itself (ie. the members) keep working hard. At some point in the future, we will hand over the reigns to someone else and we need to be constantly on the lookout for people who will be good for the place and get them involved and train them up - its all part of the 'good culture' thing I talk about a lot. When the culture is good, and things are being done, everyone seems to jump on board and contribute too - this has been exactly what has happened since February. We are way ahead of where we thought we would be at this stage of the year! What does it all mean in concrete terms though? Well I don’t know - historians are all very good at predicting the past - the future is anyone’s guess, but it is not unrealistic that in 20 years time the MCC could be making millions and paying their executives $100,000 per year and their players’ big wages too. I know it sounds odd, but think back to 20 years ago - who would’ve thought that there would’ve been numerous coaching companies making a fortune coaching in schools - Cordover was in primary school, Speck was in high school and Johansen was working in a snooker parlour making coffee! Who would’ve thought that chess would be encouraged in schools? Did anyone think that we would have 3 GMs in Australia with another one on the way? Did anyone think that we would have international GMs regularly playing in Australia? Did anyone predict the internet or digital chess clocks or an age without adjourned games? 20 years ago to this day, the Cold War was still alive and the iron curtain was still up across Europe - no historians predicted what would happen in a few months times - nobody would’ve thought that you could walk across from Germany or Austria to what was then Czechoslovakia or to Hungary without even having to show a passport. If you predicted this, people would’ve said you were crazy. Even historians couldn’t predict this - I know this stuff as I am studying it at the moment. But back to the future of the MCC, I’m not saying that huge will definitely will happen, but they could happen. The sky really is the limit - unless we play chess in space one day. Having said this though, any ongoing improvement would still be great. The MCC has been around for over 140 years, and I want it to be around for another 140 years - I want it to be around a lot longer than any of us...

Beyond the MCC - I wonder if Grant Szuveges has any higher political ambitions. Chess Victoria, the ACF?

No - not really. I don’t love Chess Victoria or the ACF. I love the MCC, it is special to me. If I had higher political ambitions, I’d aim to be the PM, not the ACF president! I’m doing what I’m doing because it means a lot to me - a job with Chess Victoria or the ACF wouldn’t be the same - it would be like barracking for a different football team – I’m an MCC person. I may change my mind if they offered me $500,000 per year though (you never know the future), but even if this ridiculous suggestion did occur one day, I would finish the job I started at the MCC, because that is what is important to me. (on that sort of money, Id finance all of the renovations myself). After I finish all of this (whenever that may be) I'd prefer to go to Africa and do some safaris and do some volunteer work with wild animals there, keeping them alive and safe - that is something that is also important to me. I think that I may be fed up with chess by then.