Friday, October 29, 2010

Chess Official Cries Sabotage

Look and sound familiar? Yes, in Botswana, too, they have problems.

Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) executive committee additional member, Alex Mpuisang has accused colleagues of sabotage following his recent trip to Russia for the Olympiad.

Mpuisang said some federation members have always mistreated him, and things came to a head after the trip to Russia.

What is it about chess organisations that makes them so politically charged? It's just chess!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chess with the Blow-ins

I don't really approve of boat people. They are queue jumpers. They step around the system. A minority of Australians, mostly rabid clueless Leftists, will argue otherwise and claim that these blow-ins deserve our compassion and ought to be let in, which is right. But, I say again, boat people are queue jumpers. Instead of order, we have chaos in our refugee system.

I'm pretty sure that the majority of sane Aussies share my views. But, of course, we are still a compassionate lot. That's why locals in the town of Weipa are showing some blow-ins an Aussie welcome by playing a few games of rugby league, cricket, and, of course, chess.

Perhaps the people of South Australia could consider a few games of chess with their soon-to-be neighbours. That should break down a few barriers, methinks. Not!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

France and Bacrot Strike

While his countrymen are busy going about their usual habit of striking and causing all kinds of mayhem, GM Etienne Bacrot is in China busy beating the best of them. Before tonight's round 7, when he lost to Topalov, Bacrot was in outright second place just behind Carlsen.

The Frenchman has been playing some very good chess. He'd beaten no less than Anand, Wang and Gashimov.

I remember pissing right next to this guy in the 2008 Olympiad's Bermuda Party while he tapped his forehead repeatedly against the wall and also mumbling something in French. He looked absolutely nothing like one of the world's best players. And I've gotta admit, I knew he was good, but I never actually realised that he was in the elite!

Of Bacrot's wins so far my fave is this one in round 4 against World Champ, Vishy. And kudos to the Indian for reeling out this variation.

3rd Pearl Spring
Bacrot, E.
Anand, V.
D17

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nc3 Nf6 4. Nf3 dxc4 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 e6 7. f3 Bb4 8. e4 Bxe4 9. fxe4 Nxe4 10. Bd2 Qxd4 11. Nxe4 Qxe4+ 12. Qe2 Bxd2+ 13. Kxd2 Qd5+ 14. Kc3 O-O 15. Qe3 b5 16. Be2 Nd7 17. Nxd7 Qxd7 18. Rhd1 Qe7 19. Kc2 a5 20. Bf3 Rac8 21. Qe5 g6 22. axb5 cxb5 23. Qxb5 Rc5 24. Qd7 Qg5 25. Qd4 Rfc8 26. Ra3 Rb5 27. Rd2 Rb4 28. Kd1 Rcb8 29. Ke2 Qb5 30. Ke1 Rxb2 31. Rxb2 Qxb2 32. Qxb2 Rxb2 33. Rxa5 c3 34. Rc5 Rb1+ 35. Ke2 Rc1 36. Kd3 Kg7 37. Rxc3 Rxc3+ 38. Kxc3 f5 39. Kd4 Kf6 40. Bd1 h5 41. Bf3 h4 42. Be2 g5 43. Ba6 g4 44. Bb7 e5+ 45. Kd5 f4 46. Ke4 1-0

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Smurf on Nanjing


As if the bloke's not getting enough PR, but in case you missed it, somehow, this coming Wednesday the Chess.FM's coverage of round 7 in Nanjing will feature none other than GM David Smerdon. The ICC's John Henderson even sent us this graphic to show for it. So make sure you guys tune in, for I'm pretty sure we'll be in for a uniquely "smurfo" flavour to commentating on a chess event. This one should be fun.

By the way, I noticed the other night a familiar voice on the ICC. GM Yasser Seirawan! I thought he was with Chessbase. Maybe the Americans gave him more cash.

SCN Interviews Smerdon

If you've not seen it, Singapore Chess News has an interview with GM David Smerdon. When asked about the game's potential to be commercialised:

The main obstacle standing in the way of commercializing chess, in my opinion, is its simplification and marketability to the average person. I think this is definitely possible, and in fact I have a few ideas as to how to make chess attractive enough for tournaments to be acceptable to television broadcasters and sponsors – whether it would actually work in practice is another matter. But poker found a way to bring the game’s complexities to the wider audience, and cricket’s Twenty20 founded a whole new brand of sponsor-friendly cricket that saw players’ salaries quadruple. There’s potential.

In Interview with Australia's GM David Smerdon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Australia Beat Russia, 8-0

A real life knight, a Hollywood megastar, politicians and world chess champions are just some of the people who have made a pilgrimage to Sydney's famous Chess Discount Sales. As I told you a couple of weeks ago, this mecca of chess in Sydney is closing down - a very unfortunate event in the life of Sydney chess.

In this second part of our interview with Peter Parr, retiring owner of CDS, I learn something very new and interesting. And I bet not many of you know about it too.

Get this: Australia once held the title of World Tele Champion! Don't believe me? Read on.

***

Note that I am pasting the last question from part 1 as Peter added a new paragraph. Also, instead of being a 2-part series, this interview will now be split into three.

(TCG): You know, I never much thought that a living could be had from a chess business. But you've obviously done well for yourself. Any tips for budding chess entrepreneurs or former, ahem, rivals perhaps?
(Peter Parr): [In] 1979 I sold my two-storey house (for a profit) and decided to run a chess centre full time [on the] top floor 232 Sussex St near Sydney Town Hall. It was essential that as I was spending very considerable funds in rent and in setting up a chess centre with 80 very high quality chairs and 40 quality tables that the NSWCA support the Centre by holding all its major events there.

This was, of course, achieved with the whole-hearted moral support of all chessplayers in Sydney. I had over 300 annual financial members in nine months and the centre was open 11am – 11pm 7 days a week. My income was mainly from the centre selling coffee, memberships, ham and cheese sandwiches etc, and every NSWCA event was held there for over 5 years when my lease expired and the property was sold. Most unfortunate.

It is strange that over 30 years ago I was one of the oldest members of NSWCA council and now in 2010 I am one of the younger members of the NSWCA executive.

Cecil Purdy ran a successful chess business in the Sydney CBD for nearly 40 years as did I. Cecil in the late 1960’s told me that well over 90% of all business in a Sydney CBD Chess Shop is to non-competitive players. I soon came to realise this was very true. My advice to budding chess entrepeneurs is to run a chess business in the heart of the Sydney CBD – as it has been for the last 80 years or just buy CDS and continue for another 40 years. The basics of economics (I passed the bankers institute exam in economics in 1967) is supply and demand. Imagine if you will opening a department store, fish and chip shop or chess shop in a very distant suburb in the middle of nowhere – sure the rent is very low but how many customers drop in every day ? Literally many many thousands of chess enthusiasts live,work or visit the CBD and buy chess goods. Of course sales via internet is popular for some and we provide this service at a considerable discount but most business for thousands of our customers as at ‘ David Jones’ is casual over the counter sales. The ideal set up of course is to combine a chess centre with a chess shop in the heart of the Sydney CBD.

Tell us some of the great names who have dropped by in your joint. I'm sure there have been many.
World Champions Prof Max Euwe (and FIDE President), Boris Spassky, Anatoly Karpov, Nona Gaprindishvili,GM’s Keene(a keen cake eater), Adianto, Handoko, Rogers, Zhao, Johansen, Miles, Klovans (who died last week), Oll, Chandler, Norwood, Conquest, Szabo, King, Azmaiperashvili, Ftacnick, Christiansen, Gufeld many times, the three Polgar sisters, Leko, Gelfand, Adams, Galliamova, and many more GM’s, dozens of IM’s including Danailov (BUL) Donaldson(USA), van Riemsdiyk(BRA). etc, FIDE President Campomanes – many times, Keanu Reeves (with 3 beefy minders), Frank Sartor when he was Lord Mayor of Sydney, Sir Ron Brierley, a strong player – about 4 hours analysis one day; Dato Tan, Tim Fischer (ex deputy Australian Prime Minister – many visits), etc.

Now Pete, we all know that you've got some real treasures in there. I recall stumbling across the original scoresheets to the 1980 (I think) telex match between Russia (I think it was) and Australia. I wanted to buy them but you refused. Are there any other treasures that have come along your way and that you'll never let go.
Our first telex match with Russia in 1977 we lost. Jamieson drew with Tal, West lost to Garry Kasparov aged 12. I offered 5 draws and 2 losses for the 7 unfinished games which was rejected and 5 draws and 3 losses was agreed. In the latter part of our second telex match with Russia I as captain suspected Russia was playing at a much slower time control and after proving this to be the case I advised Peter Wallman, ACF President that we must claim the match 8-0 in our favour. This was agreed and I advised Campomanes who after investigation awarded the match to Australia. The massive World Tele-Trophy was flown from Moscow to Sydney and handed over by the Russian Ambassador to Australia to Senator Evans The Australian Foreign Minister in a Ceremony in Sydney attended by the members of the World Champion Team – Australia. Amiel I still have the score sheets – Pity the World Trophy was lost for ever probably!

OK, let's move on to the Olympiad. You were skipper 6 times, if I'm not mistaken. Great memories I'm sure. Tell us a couple you won't soon forget.
1976 Haifa,Israel – I was mistakenly given one of the two special suites in the best hotel! Three telephones – 3 toilets , bar, etc, unbelievable – after staying in a kibbutz near the Golan Heights.

Jamieson nearly got run over by a tank when buying a bar of chocolate on the main road.

Very heavy security – soldiers on all balconies and roof of hotel. All Eastern block countries boycotted the event. We lost to Olympic Gold Medallists USA on my 30th birthday.

I met Prof ELO and Ed Lasker! Campomanes was there but disappeared for some days (to rival small unofficial olympiad in Tripoli – maybe).

1978 River Plate Stadium, Buenos Aires, Argentina. How can a Western Grandmaster lose to a Chinaman wrote the Giant GM Donner. Next day he was smashed and mated in 20 moves against China. He was furious and nearly knocked me over when he got up and stormed out.

An appeal by Sri Lanka (the father of GM Nakamura!) was ruled in Australia’s favour after I discussed the appeal with GM Yuri Averbach. I had a chat for about 10 minutes with ex-World Champion Euwe who, of course, remembered my father from an England-Holland Match. GM Harry Golombek, seconded by Campomanes awarded me the IA Title at the FIDE Congress. Hungary won above USSR.

1982 Lucerne, Switzerland. We played 10 of the top 20 seeded countries! Australia (Jamieson had to rest as he was above the GM norm) dropped to just below 20th in the last round losing 0.5-3.5 to Bulgaria. Jamieson shared the bronze medal with Garry Kasparov. I witnessed the fantastic game between Kasparov and Korchnoi – a real gem. 17 year old Nigel Short arrived late and sat next to me at the Commonwealth Association meeting. He asked me if I knew Campomanes. I told him that I knew him quite well and he would easily become FIDE President based on the dozens of countries he had visited. He thought Keene controlled the Commonwealth countries but after Campo’s speech – a brilliant orator he instantly realised Campo’s power and formed a long lasting impression which later led to the split between FIDE and the Kasparov-Short World Title Match.

1988 Thessalonika, Greece, I had a 45 minute chat with Karpov when he came to my hotel (with his bodyguard) after I returned his suitcase that had gone astray in Sydney.

1992 Manila Philippines – a fantastic free day reception when Aleks Wohl after a very considerable intake of food and drink was so sick on the bus that everyone deserted the bus which may have become unusable for some time. I was on the committee to determine the brilliancy prize for the 1992 Olympiad. Kasparov also on the committee asked me if I was a GM (everyone else was). I replied I was not but GM Gufeld the Chairman had asked me to be on the committee so all continents would be represented. I offered to stand aside if the committee wanted me to. Anand and Seirawan agreed I should stay. Kasparov said it was clear what the best games were. I asked the Chairman if we were voting for best game or brilliancy. Kasparov said it was best game not brilliancy. I showed the adverts throughout the bulletins stating brilliancy. Kasparov assured me the bulletins were wrong. Gufeld remained in petrified silence – he had once before disagreed with Kasparov! Kasparov showed his genius when various games were suggested by the panel he not only remembered all the games but said what was wrong with them. GM Rogers win over GM Milos was widely known as a brilliancy and discussed. Kasparov dismissed the game due to Milos playing badly near the end (as he put it). Kasparov said three games stood out as the best – they were in fact all Kasparov wins. Kasparov then said the best game was definitely his win over Ivanchuk but as the game was played at such a high level no-one else would understand it. He then gave another Kasparov game which ultimately was selected as the winner after I counted the votes just above Rogers in second place.

Any favourite players from among those you've captained?
Rogers tactical intuition in games and analysis as a youth in Argentina 1978 impressed me greatly – about 15 years later he suddenly asked me why I dropped him in round 3! Jamieson’s logic in Switzerland 1982 was above GM level (Each move of his crushing win over GM Unzicker - a judge by profession was played instantly) – a pity Jamieson retired from chess far too early.

Max Fuller played nine Olympiads mainly on board two with good results. He was stronger than many IM’s but just missed the title. He was awarded the Australian Master Title for Life after achieving way more than the tough 100 ACF Master points required. Sadly despite numerous requests the ACF still does not list him as an Australian Master on the ACF website but Fuller still hopes that this will occur in his lifetime. The ACF lists numerous players with lesser titles but still does not list its own Living Australian Masters which has been discussed numerous times.

Terrey Shaw played nine Olympiads like Stephen Solomon and Guy West and Max Fuller who are all great fighters no matter how good or bad the position. Johansen was clearly Australian number 2 for many years and he and Rogers on board 1 for Olympiad after Olympiad did well holding their own against strong opposition.

Rogers and Johansen have each so far played 14 Olympiads; Fuller, Shaw, West, Solomon and Dekic (W) 9. Clearly Biljana Dekic has set an excellent example for Australian Women’s Chess with her enthusiasm and dedication to the Women’s Olympiads for 20 years.


Of course, we've just had another Olympiad. We'd all love to hear your opinion on the current generation of players.
All our players at the 2010 Olympiad performed almost exactly in accordance with their FIDE ELO rating (shows what an excellent rating system Elo is! – GM David Smerdon was the biggest winner from open and women’s teams gaining 5.3 rating points).

The 2010 Australian Olympiad Team is about the same standard as our 1982 team but much older. The other problem is we were ranked in the top 25 countries 28 years ago but now we are outside the top 50 countries due to the considerable increase in the number of players at all levels in numerous countries (over 1350 grandmasters,over 200 above 2600, 890 over 2500 and 2350 above 2400). Australia is ranked world no 57 and we will have only 5 active FIDE rated players above 2400 – in rating order Zhao, Smerdon, Xie, Wohl and Johansen (Nov 2010 FIDE list). Sadly with only five of the top 2350 players (and none of the top 200) in the world Australia needs to improve a fair bit to return to the world top 50.

***


CDS' 30% off everything sale is until Christmas 2010. The month of October 2010 with the sale has been their busiest month ever, Peter tells me, with some quality items selling out very quickly. The more you buy the more you save!


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Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

World Youth Championships 2010

The guys at ChessDom may not quite go toe to toe with the heavyweights of chess reporting, but from time to time they do deliver. For instance, they're currently hosting the web presence of the big World Youth Championships tournament in Haldiki. And over night, our friends in CD sent us over a couple of video links including this one which is the arrival of delegations. Yeah very exciting stuff right there.

Now to be honest, I can't remember if this was the one junior tournament that basically accepted anybody who could afford to go. So long as you had the dough, you went. In other words, there was no preliminary tournament, no selections, no nothing. Tournaments like these are basically private affairs. Nothing to be particularly excited about.

Still, I understand that there are Aussies in this event and, given that they'll be facing tough opposition, and it's always nice to have Australians, of course, they at least deserve our prayers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kasparov on Same Old

Kasparov always has plenty to say. And he has plenty to say about pretty much the same thing. Frankly, he's getting boring. In this very impressive coup by a Belgian bloggger and reproduced in full by ChessVibes, we can basically summarise what Kasparov had to say simply as:

FIDE is bad.

Ilyumzhinov is bad.

I'm still upset over 1996.

Same old, same old.

But by the grace of Caissa, the interview took a somewhat interesting turn. Mr Jan Lagrain, our lucky Belgian blogger, turned matters towards fashion, a little bit on the Olympiad and that other perennial debate about whether chess is a sport or not.

On Magnus' choice of defence against GM Michael Adams in the recent Olympiad, Kasparov was blunt: "I don’t approve of this. In fact I think it’s almost an insult to play such an opening against someone like Adams, a well-known top player. In my opinion Magnus deserved to loose this game." Ouch!

But the former master (apparently, both Kasparov and Magnus have since severed their "apprentice-master" relationship, which I hadn't known til now) does approve of the Norwegian wunderkind's side career in fashion. I agree that this can only be good for chess. Perhaps that 2200-rated Paris Hilton should join him.

Anyway, there's just way too much political scandal in chess. If we're going to put this game on the map, what we really need is a scandal of the salacious kind. The Bermuda incident years ago is already a fading memory.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting Some Chess Action

For the non-chess PJ, covering a chess tournament isn't exactly the sort of assignment to get the adrenaline pumping. For them, a chess tournament is just downright odd .

Well, here's an idea for FIDE: they should encourage more of the Anna Sharevich type. "Think a 2200-rated Paris Hilton", said GM David Smerdon about her. She'll get anybody's pulse racing that one.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tindall is NSW Champ

It looks like New South Wales has a new champ. It's FIDE master Brett Tindall. He finished the event with 7.5 points from nine games. Sadly, the coverage of this event had been absolutely atrocious. The official NSWCA website, for instance, has only the usual tables, no games, nothing else and still no update of the final result.

I don't mean to be dissin' the champ, but I suppose when the event was as weak as it was, there was really no point making a song and dance about proceedings. Only 3 players out of thirty-four were rated over 2000 and there was only one other master player, FM Greg Canfell.

Still, the two FMs didn't quite go through the nine-rounder completely unscathe. Canfell lost to 1643-rated Mark Baterowicz (probably his biggest win ever), while Tindall lost to my good friend Nick Kordahi! Awesome show Nick. Must get my hands on that game.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Karpov: Kasparov hurt me

From Time magazine:

Now that his coup has failed, Karpov says that his old foe Kasparov was one of his main liabilities. "Of course this hurt me," he told TIME at a cigar club patronized by Russia's chess elite. "Kasparov's political activity made things very difficult for us in Russia." In Germany, France and Switzerland, however, Karpov had no trouble getting the nomination, so he and Kasparov pushed ahead with the campaign.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Antonio Makes Peace with NCFP

In the neverending series of twists and turns of Philippine chess politics, today we hear of the latest stanza in the GM Antonio versus NCFP controversy. In some ways this one doesn't really surprise. For, after all, how could do the country simply do away with its number 2 player?

After apparently apologising to the country's national fed (and I think partly due to the NCFP seeing the error of its ways, especially in light of the Olympiad results), GM Antonio is back in. He'll be joining Wesley So, J.P. Gomez and Darwin Laylo in the upcoming Guangzhou Asian Games, in China.

NCFP executive director Willie Abalos was quoted by journos as saying, "So and Antonio will carry us in the individual event where we have a good chance of winning the gold. China, India and Vietnam are solid in the team competition."

That's one thing you can say about these Pinoys: they are ever so full of optimism.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Shogi Conquered by Computer

It was bound to happen sooner or later, although this one did take a long time to realise. For the first time ever, a computer program has beaten a human in the game of Japanese chess. There's more in this NHK report (in English) that also features a video.

The Australian Gizmodo blog is similarly carrying the story with this interesting tidbit: "...Western chess is a relatively simple game, with only about 10123 possible games existing that can be played out. Shogi is a bit more complex, though, offering about 10224 possible games."

10,123 possible games? I think they probably meant "possible moves" in an average chess game. But what's an average chess game we're talking about here? I sure would like to know more about these numbers, so if you have references, please post them in the comments.

UPDATE (13 Oct, 19:27): It's 10^123. See this New Scientist article. Hat tip to Adrian.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chess Discount Sales Shuts Down

After almost 40 years in business, Sydney's favourite chess store is closing down, thanks to the retirement of its owner, Peter Parr. This is all very good for Peter, of course, but Sydney will now lose a genuine institution.

I remember the first time I ever walked into that place way back in the late 90's. It's a cliche to say it, but the joint was an Alladin's Cave. Books and all kinds of paraphernalia - from Olympiad posters to old Russian text, historic scoresheets, you name it - filled this joint across its whole length from floor to ceiling. You could barely find the thing that you wanted, but the seemingly haphazard arrangement of things meant also the occasional fortuitous find.

One day I stumbled upon the original scoresheets to the telegraphic match between Australia and the then Soviet Union (I can't recall the year, but I think 1980). I offered to buy, but Peter flatly refused!

Nowadays you can, of course, purchase any chess book ever written online, with everything neatly categorised to get you started and checked out in under half a dozen mouse clicks (because that's what the e-commerce gurus say is best-practice). But, it is nowhere the same as walking into a mess of a place like CDS. And if you're really lucky, you might just run into a local legend or two. I believe Max Fuller is still a regular. Pat Halpin, too, can still be spotted from time to time. It was from Pat that I learned about the "Australian Attack" in the Sicilian Defence. You'll have to find out more from him about that one.

Most of our Aussie readers will have heard of Peter Parr. He is opinionated and sometimes controversial. Last I checked, he's no big fan of the current Glicko based rating system in Australia and he's had a few, very lengthy words to say about that. Yet, despite the reputation, this former Olympiad skipper and current NSWCA supremo is probably still largely unknown especially to our young readers.

Thus, we have today the first installment of this two-part interview with the man. Today we touch on the beginnings. Next time, we'll have the Olympiad, Campo and politics!

Note to reader: The interview was conducted via email. While the words are entirely Peter's, I made corrections to punctuation and layout for better reading.

***

(The Closet Grandmaster): I'm curious about how it all started in chess. I understand that your dad is a chess player. At what age were you when you first played?
(Peter Parr): I was at the 1946 British Championship and was at most British Championships in the 21 year period 1946-1967. I learned to play from my father at the age of four.

Any awards or notable achievements back in England?
My first London Under 14 Championship was in 1956 at the age of 10. I was featured in a large one page article in the London Daily Sketch as the youngest player and my father had scored 9/11 in the 1956 British Championship – the highest score ever for only second place!

I won the brilliancy prize for my win over Bill Hartston (later British Champion) in the London Under 14. Our school team [was] Sutton Grammar. Surrey won many inter-school competitions with my brother David on top board, Jos Haynes (later ACT champion), myself and Michael Prizant (now correspondence grandmaster) and his brother. I won the Felce Cup in Surrey 1965. Note : Surrey Champions are on the website but claims for some county titles e.g. Yorkshire Champions cannot be verified.

On that note, where in England is your family from?
My father, the then British Under 18 Champion, from Battersea Grammar School, London was giving a simultaneous exhibition in 1936 near his home at Clapham Common, London. A stray ball entered and my father threw it back to the girl, from Clapham North, who, of course, became my mother.

Of course, I suppose like a lot of Brits, you found a good reason to move Down Under. I don't imagine that it was just for the chess. Or was it?
I was working at Westminster Bank Wimbledon, London for four years where I became SMO (Senior Mechanisation Officer) on mechanised ledgers (before computers!) and was supervisor of 8 other employees (6 females, 2 males; one of the girls contacted me earlier this year clearly missing me after 42 years apart!) .

I played chess regularly for the bank and once played Sir Frederick Hoare, the Lord Mayor of London and founder of Hoare’s Bank where Queen Elizabeth II has her accounts.

Advertising at Australia House London for English migrants to move and live in Australia was widely marketed. I soon realised that wages were exactly double working in a bank in Australia compared to London and the cost of living in Australia [was then] only slightly higher than [in] London (times have changed of course).

The weather was much better, beaches etc, [were] far better than [in] dreary England and the assisted passage scheme meant I could travel to Australia on a five week voyage all expenses paid for just ten pounds. The only drawback of course was less chess than in London where I was ranked no 3 in my house. My application for a job at the age of 21 with ANZ Bank was approved by the London Head Office.

When did you move to the Lucky Country?
I set sail (I rose to the rank of AB in the Royal Navy Cadets) in February 1968 arriving in March 1968. My first game in Australia was round 1 of the 1968 Doeberl Cup in Canberra when I checkmated Lukic with a bishop on move 10 ! Later that year I tied for first place with IM Cecil Purdy (1st World Correspondence Champion) on 10/13 in a strong NSW State Championship beating John Purdy in the last round. I won the 4 game play-off match for the title 2.5-0.5.

Do you remember any first impressions of the local scene? Any particular personalities that made a mark?
In England I highly respected veteran Sir George Thomas who I met at many British Championships – a gentleman of the highest order - and the only player I met who was at the first Hastings Tournament in 1895.

In Australia the personalities that made a mark [were] Lajos Steiner, Garry and Evelyn Koshnitsky, John and Cecil Purdy and Fred Flatow.

Let's move on now to Chess Discount Sales and its beginnings. When did it all start? And I understand that the original store was somewhere near the CBD. What was all that like?
1972 had been a fantastic year with the Fischer-Spassky match. Myself, Max Fuller and John Kellner appeared on TV regularly each night demonstrating the latest dramatic games. Rosemary had taken over Cecil’s chess business and all players relied on chess informant as by far the best regular publication.

When the retail price rose very dramatically in late 1972, I discussed with a number of players if they would prefer to buy informant from me at about half price! I knew the editor, of course, GM Matanovic who defeated me in the Lidums International in Adelaide Jan 1971. The next issue I bought 40 copies and sold the lot in a couple of days making a profit even at the discount price. (A practice that continues for almost 40 years).

I then bought more books from overseas and Fred Flatow suggested that as I was selling chess goods at a discounted price I should call my business Chess Discount Sales. This was met with widespread approval and in early 1973 after paying a deposit on a dilapidated 2 storey house in Eveleigh St, Redfern I had 2 chess-playing tenants to pay off my mortgage and CDS was open 10am-2pm Monday-Friday.

I also had a full time job as a senior computer operator (midnight to 8am) with P & O Shipping Lines. I was also an entertainer for P&O (Chess Lecturer) on South Pacific Cruise Sydney/ Tahiti after TV programs.

You know, I never much thought that a living could be had from a chess business. But you've obviously done well for yourself. Any tips for budding chess entrepreneurs or former, ahem, rivals perhaps?
[In] 1979 I sold my two-storey house (for a profit) and decided to run a chess centre full time [on the] top floor 232 Sussex St near Sydney Town Hall. It was essential that as I was spending very considerable funds in rent and in setting up a chess centre with 80 very high quality chairs and 40 quality tables that the NSWCA support the Centre by holding all its major events there.

This was, of course, achieved with the whole-hearted moral support of all chessplayers in Sydney. I had over 300 annual financial members in nine months and the centre was open 11am – 11pm 7 days a week. My income was mainly from the centre selling coffee, memberships, ham and cheese sandwiches etc, and every NSWCA event was held there for over 5 years when my lease expired and the property was sold. Most unfortunate.

It is strange that over 30 years ago I was one of the oldest members of NSWCA council and now in 2010 I am one of the younger members of the NSWCA executive.

***

Chess Discount Sales is currently running a 30% off discount on all products. The store can be found at 72 Campbell St in Sydney. The nearest train stop is Central. Here's a map.


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Sunday, October 10, 2010

RP's Worst Olympiad

Just before this year's Olympiad, National Chess Federation of the Philippines supremo "Butch" Pichay told journos, "This is a strong [men's] team...We’re hoping to barge in the Top 20 to 25th place".

That didn't happen. The Pinoy men finished 50th overall, apparently their worst ever finish in an Olympiad.

Expectedly the pundits have been at it since that last round in Khanty-Mansiysk when Estonia narrowly defeated the Philippines 2.5 - 1.5 points. There are calls for this or that selection process, even a demand to privatise the NCFP!

So, who to blame for the RP men's suboptimal performance?

If you read this GMA News report on that eleventh round result, the answer was pretty clear: none other than IM Richard Bitoon. My fellow Cebuano, the GMA said, was a "goat". Ouch!

But it's really unfair. As a matter of fact, the entire RP men's team underperformed. The legendary Torre, for example, mixed his wins with draws against weaker opposition, including against one so-called "candidate master".

Also worth noting are the outstanding results of other countries. Take Zambia, yes Zambia! Two years ago this African team was in 117th position. This year they jumped all the way to 47th! Uruguay, too, improved by an almost similar distance. All up I counted about 10 teams that broke into this year's Top 50.

So, who to blame for the RP men's suboptimal performance? All of them, the players. Well, at least they finished above Australia. And to me, that's always important.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

New Holy Man for Chess

Anyone bored with regular chess need not look very far for an alternative, one that's sort of still chess but just different. There are numerous variants that are available - from the most famous, Fischerandom, to bughouse as well as forms of chess involving weird and wonderful boards - round ones, square ones, big and small.

And now, FIDE has just released a whole new variant. This one isn't too radical. Well, depending on how you look at it. It's certainly nothing like Fischerandom, for instance, which has all the usual pieces standing on different squares at the starting position.

It's a new piece!

The World Chess Federation today unveiled the new chess piece that they hope will revive flagging interest in the ancient board game. Fears that teenagers were more interested in Playstation games such as ‘Grand Theft Auto’ and ‘Gangs of London’ had persuaded the WCF to update the once-popular game.

Hat tip to NewsBisquit for the "news".

Friday, October 08, 2010

Bad Luck Mas

Here's something from our friends in Malaysia. But first, take a look at this game.

39th Olympiad Khanty-Mansiysk 2010 Open
Al Sulaiti, Ali
Mas, Hafizulhelmi
A49

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. g3 c5 4. d5 d6 5. Bg2 Bg7 6. c4 b5 7. cxb5 a6 8. b6 Nbd7 9. Nc3 Nxb6 10. O-O O-O 11. e4 a5 12. a4 Ba6 13. Re1 Rb8 14. Qc2 Nfd7 15. Rd1 Rb7 16. Bd2 Nc4 17. b3 Nxd2 18. Nxd2 Qb6 19. Rab1 Qb4 20. Na2 Qb6 21. Bf1 Bxf1 22. Rxf1 Rfb8 23. Nc4 Qa6 1-0

By the final position, black is at least equal, but probably even slightly better. But 1-0? What happened?

It now turns out that international master Mas, who's been chasing GM norms, lost out to the so-called "Nokia Gambit"! Well, he ain't gettin' that GM-ship if he's that careless. Lucky he's not a Pinoy player, else the whole country would have demanded his head.

More by Quah Seng Sun.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Pichay Lectures Kasparov

See, I told you so. Filipino chess politicians are well-connected. That's why there was no problem with dropping Antonio even after feds were told that registration of teams was final by July. Hec, instead of punishment, a couple of Pinoy polies received their FIDE blessings.

NCFP boss "Butch" Pichay has been appointed to the FIDE Panel of Advisers while NCFP secretary-general Abraham Tolentino was elected President of zone 3.2a.

According to this news item in RP, "Pichay was instrumental in the reelection victory of the FIDE president for another four-year term after Pichay lectured former world champion Gary Kasparov on parliamentary procedure."

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A Misunderstood Boardgame

Claire Wasserman in The Huffington Post:

So here is our dilemma: How can we effectively use chess to market ourselves to this new demographic of donors? How can we make chess "cool"? Do we even need to?

And then it struck us. Chess doesn't have to be a niche market; in fact, chess is constantly and consistently being pushed into our collective subconscious. Through ads, subliminal messages, and Christopher Nolan's screenplay. Though Bobby Fischer has held the longtime monopoly on the mainstream's association with chess, apparently so have advertising agencies. From sleep aids to cell phones, financial planning services, the NBA Finals, and Marine recruitment, chess is the chosen symbol for all things Public Relations. It's history, it's setup, its strategy: all these make chess ripe for advertising interpretation and product hawking.

More in How to Make Chess Cool (and Other Marketing Conundrums.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Wohl Conquers Munich, Again

Another Olympiad done, two more years to wait for the next 11 rounds of excitement. Next time will be in Istanbul, Turkey! I've never been to Turkey, so it's tempting to make plans.

While we bid congrats to our boys and girls who all did very well (particularly the freshmen in the women's team), there's another Aussie who's been flying the flag quietly on his own. IM Aleks Wohl. The guy has just won Munich! OK, so it's a smaller event and there weren't exactly any 2600's in sight, but still, a win is a win! Hopefully, victories like this get him closer to another berth on the Australian men's team in two year's time.

IM Wohl topped the Munich tournament with 7.5 points from nine games ahead of almost a hundred other players that did include several fellow international masters as well as FMs. His penultimate game victory over IM Renner was crucial. You can play through that over on Aleks' own blog, Doubleroo.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Olympiad Goes to Norway


Chessbase have just reported that the 2014 Olympiad will be held in the Norwegian city of Tromsø! The Norwegian bid edged out their Bulgarian rivals who planned to host their event in Albena. I have to admit, I was slightly leaning towards the Bulgarians on this one. That was largely thanks to this impressive video that features sun, surf and gorgeous people.

Still, Tromsø looks quite enticing, too. I just hope that they think to actually hold the event in agreeable weather. The place looks quite nice in the summer time. Here's a promo vid by the Norwegians.

Friday, October 01, 2010