Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Running Diary 30/11/2011

I had set myself the challenge of running 100 km's in November and I achieved that today. Using endomondo I was able to track the distances I ran, and I came out at about 102 km's total. I'm pretty happy with this, and I'm going to set the same challenge in December and gradually build my strength until the next step up is possible, where I might go for 150 km's in a month. I'm not sure I'm ready for that quite yet, though.

Today's run was a bit of a shock though. I decided to go out for a short sharp burst, but surprised myself with the speed I went. I ran 5 km and I have set myself the aim of running this distance in 25 minutes. So far, my best time has been just under 28 minutes, and an interim goal was to get down to under 26 minutes, beating the world record for double this distance, 10 km! My run today was recorded at 25.40 for 5km, which is a lot quicker than I'd run before. I suspect that my GPS was being a bit generous to me, but even so I was running faster than I had ever run before, and even if the GPS was a minute off, I still ran 5 km in under 27 minutes.

I had 2 worries as I was running today. Firstly, there was the natural phenomenon of being short of breath. I sometimes wear a heart monitor with the idea of staying within a zone. I am usually trying to stay within 60-70% of my maximum heart rate. There are many good sites to learn about this king of thing. Obviously, I was pushing a little harder today. The second worry was what we commonly know as a stitch. For most of the last kilometre I was running with a stitch, though it wasn't too bad. After reading about the causes, I guess the most likely explanation for me developing a stitch is lack of fluids. I try to drink before running, but don't drink much on the run itself. Still, it is just a little discomfort that I endure during my fitness program which is helping me lose weight, and get fit! It could be worse

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chesskids National Interschool Championships

The last 2 days have been quite a manic affair for me. I have been getting up in the middle of the night (well, quite early) to drive to the finals of the Chesskids National Interschool Championships, provide lectures and post game analysis, and then driving back. The finals were held in Kyneton which is about an hour and a half from Melbourne by car, and most of the teams (if not all) stayed on site over the couple of days. The Interschool tournament was preceded on the Sunday by our last RJ Shield of the year. These one day tournaments are 7 round 15 minute tournaments for kids divided into age groups. They are a great introduction for young chess players to tournament chess, though there are quite a few experienced players who still love competing in them.

The beautiful countryside around the Campaspe resort provided open air facilities for the kids when they weren't playing

The Interschool tournament started on the next day, Monday 28th November, and was played at a slower rate of 25/10. Players were required to record moves until the final 5 minutes of their game. Although this may not strictly be required by International Chess Laws, this tournament is still an educational event for the players. So the emphasis is on improving a players ability through imitating proper tournament standards, and then analysing games after they've been played. The players could consult a host of coaches who were on hand to look at games and give post mortem analysis. The tip of the iceberg of the coaching staff was Mr. RJ himself, ex Australian Champion, and Olympiad player, International Master Robert Jamieson, but the rest of us are pretty good players as well :)

Mr. RJ, IM Robert Jamieson giving a well attended advanced lecture.

There were 2 tournaments, a Primary Schools event and a Secondary Schools event, and teams from new Zealand also competed. In fact the teams from New Zealand walked away with both titles this year. The Secondary division was won easily by Auckland Grammar School who came over fielding a remarkably strong team: Daniel Shen (FIDE 2182), Luke Li (FIDE 2105), Alex Huang (FIDE 2060), Hans Gao (FIDE 1898). It is no surprise that this team won their division comfortably! The Victorian Champions, Glen Waverley Secondary College finished in the runners up spot.

The playing venue

The Primary section was much closer and with 2 rounds to go, any one of about 5 teams could have won first. But the strongest finishing team was the New Zealand Takapuna Normal Intermediate School who ended up one and a half points ahead of Melbourne team, Doncaster Primary.

The smallest sometimes have to stand on their chairs to reach the far end of the board!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Running Diary 28/11/2011

Today was a tough run. It was very humid and I didn't sleep well last night. However, I came home from work (which involved a 300km round trip today!) and was determined to rum. I had missed out on a work out at the weekend and was itching to get out.

So I started off at a reasonable pace with every intention of getting to 10km. Then the first issue was that my GPS didn't kick in and I ran for about 1.2km without endomondo registering it. So my goal of reaching 100km for the month of November would take that little bit longer (in fact this is the second kilometre I lost this month!). But although it's a bit annoying, it still didn't stop me from running, so I carried on and just tried to stick to a pace. At about 5 and a bit kilometres, I had to stop for a drink at a water fountain, and was more tired than I really should have been for the time I'd run.

A much needed refreshment on this run.

So I had a drink and then ran for about another kilometre and a half and found my legs just turn to jelly, and I felt a little light headed. So I stopped and walked a bit, then took off again for a final kilometre and a bit before I had to just give up and walk home. I stopped at a shop and picked up a Gatorade, but I was pretty peeved with having to quit short of my goal, but was very happy that I take a small amount of money with me just in case of this happening.

It's getting dark as I run by the bay. In the distance the Spirit of Tasmania ferries out of the bay.

Since coming in, showering, and cooling off I've had time to think about things. In reality, instead of regretting not making 10km, I should really be congratulating myself on running about 9km, which is no mean feat. A month ago, this would have been well beyond me, so I've come a long way. :) And another positive is that I forced myself to run when the easy thing was to cry off claiming tiredness. Running is a fun pastime, so I'm going to try to take the positives from it whenever I go out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

I actually played some real chess!!

It's been quite a while since I had a real game of over the board chess, and I was a bit rusty. I played slower than I normally would have, which tends to be an indication that I'm not in great form. Saying that, I played ok until I got into time pressure. I had a formidable opponent, Australian IM Igor Goldenberg, and was black as well. I chose a defensive policy which worked well to a point, but in the end Igor's constant pressure told.

I was playing on board 1 for my team in the Victorian Teams Championship, so a draw would have been a great result. Unfortunately, I was unable to hold the position, and eventually lost the plot after playing the last 7 or 8 moves with only a minute on my clock. Check out Igor's technique at maintaining an edge. He didn't really do very much, but really stopped me from getting any counterplay.

There were a couple of interesting moments from my point of view. After move 23, I thought I was beginning to make some headway, but then played 24..b4 when I think 24..a4 with ..b4 to follow would have made more sense. The whole idea of this plan was to clear some of the queen side and all my b4 move did was block it up and give me weaknesses to worry about.

And of course the final move by Igor was a very nice way to finish the game. I had quickly made my last move while he had gone to get a drink, and immediately saw my blunder. Instead of 32..Nf6, 32..Rd6 was more stubborn, but I've probably let things slip by then anyway.

White played 33.Nge6+ and I resigned straight away as I'm losing a heap of material after 33..fxe6 34.Nxe6+ Kg8 35.Nxc7+

Friday, November 25, 2011

Running Diary 25/11/2011

Today I did a shorter run, a bit under 6 km, as I'm planning to run a long way next. I wanted to exercise, but in an easy sort of way, so I ran for 30 minutes, and even had a little break by the bay after about 3 km. I ran at a decent sort of pace, under 29 minutes for 5 km but nothing special. It was more of a relaxing sort of run.

Elwood Pier overlooking Port Philip Bay, a beautiful running spot.

I have set myself some goals, besides the challenges on Endomondo. These are long term goals, but there are markers along the way. For instance, I'd like to be able to run 5km in 25 minutes, that's even 5 minutes per kilometre. This would also bring me below the World record for 10km which stands at 26 minutes and 17.53 seconds. I find it quite amazing that there are people who can run twice as fast as I can for such long distances!

As for 10 km, I would like to do it in under 55 minutes which is an average of 5.30 minutes per kilometre. That would enable me to finish before the fastest runners in the world finish 20km, the World record currently standing at 56 minutes 26 seconds.

Other goals that I have set myself are basically to do with distance. I think I would now like to be able to run a half marathon. That is 21km, and seeing the furthest I've run so far is about 10km, I'm going to have to start building up. But before doing this, I want to see how hot it gets in our Australian summer. I might consolidate where I am before I start extending myself, and wait for the autumn.

Goal setting is a skill that most of us are not good at. We either set goals that are unrealistic and then lose interest in the activity, or we don't understand what truly motivates us and set goals that are not a challenge, or that we're not really bothered about. I hope the goals I've set myself are attainable. My fastest 5km so far has been about 27.30, so to reach my goal I need to cut 2 and a half minutes off my time. For 10 km, I have run just over an hour, so need to drop this by 5 minutes. As for extra distance, I am breaking new ground all the time, so I don't know where it will end.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Running diary 23/11/2011

Running every second day is working out great for me at the moment. I can put a lot into each run, and recover fully before the next one. I am sometimes a little stiff, or heavy legged, but that usually disappears once the run starts. I try to make sure I don't run 2 long runs (for me) back to back. Tonight I got home from work, changed into my running gear and just went straight out after a stretch. The last run I did was about 8km at a pretty slow pace, and before that I did 10km at an even pace. So I decided to try for 8km at a fairly decent pace. I am lucky with where I live as it is only 2.5km to the bay in Melbourne, so I am able to run along the sea for a part of the time. It's really pleasant to run in a beautiful environment, and sometimes, I just stop and admire the view around the bay. Today my run was broken up after 5km, when I stopped for about a minute to just look at the bay. The Spirit of Tasmania was turning around, presumably on it's way out of Port Melbourne, and I even saw a Rakali (water rat) scuttling about around some rocks and scrub near the waterfront.

The Rakali, a native of Melbourne

More rakali info can be found out at this website.

So I have been looking at running about 6 minutes per kilometre as a basic benchmark. Sometimes I might try to go quicker, and if I'm running a longer distance, I might try to hold back a bit. Today, like most of the time, I went with what felt comfortable and that was a bit under 6 minutes per kilometre. In fact, when I stopped at the 5km mark, I'd been running for just under 29 minutes. The last 3 kilometre's were run at a decent pace as well, and my 8km took about 46 minutes to run, compared with the 48 minutes which would have been even 6 minute kilometre's. You can check out my run for yourself, including a map of the route I took.

I know lots of runners listen to music while they run, and I would love to know what they are listening to. I am currently listening to some old punk stuff that I used to listen to when I was a bit younger. I have just over an hour's worth on my playlist, good enough for my 10km run. See if you know any of these old classics:

Oliver's Army, Elvis Costello

(Get A) Grip (On Yourself), The Stranglers
Here Comes The Summer, The Undertones
Hanging Around, The Stranglers
Promises, The Buzzcocks
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)?, The Buzzcocks
I Wanna Be Your Dog, The Stooges
My Perfect Cousin, The Undertones
No More Heroes, The Stranglers
Lust for Life, Iggy Pop
London Calling, The Clash
I Don't Mind, The Buzzcocks
What Do I Get, The Buzzcocks
Wednesday Week, The Undertones
Peaches, The Stranglers
Teenage Kicks, The Undertones

I must admit, there are times I feel like singing along, but then remember I'm running, and other times I just feel like sprinting when certain tracks come on. It's difficult to hold on to a pace when Iggy Pop is belting out Lust For Life!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tal Memorial - some strange impressions

I hope I'm not the only chess player baffled by some of the strange manouvres that are being played in this tournament. I mean, the field is great, and they are putting together some excellent combative chess, but some of the opening play is way beyond me.

Round 1

Ivanchuk plays around with his queen. The opening moves of the game between Ivanchuk and Svidler were:

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. e3 Bg7 5. Qb3 e6 6. Qa3 a5 7. Nf3 Nc6 8. Bd2 Nb4 9. Qa4+ Bd7 10. Qb3 leaving this position

Now Ivanchuk has moved his queen 4 times in the first 10 moves but isn't worse?

Round 2

The 2010 Russian Champion Nepomniachtchi was playing against Ivanchuk and decided he could outdo his illustrious opponent.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 e5 5. Nb5 d6 6. N1c3 a6 7. Na3 Be7 8.Nc4 b5 9. Ne3

The beautiful knight on e3 has had an amazing start to this game, 6 times it's moved in the first 9 moves. Saying that, it does seem to have found a good square for itself. The same theme was used by Magnus Carlsen in the following round.

Round 3

It seems the world number 1 ranked player can get away with anything. Here he is playing no rabbit, but ex world champion Vladimir Kramnik, who has had a recent burst of form.
1. c4 e5 2. g3 Nf6 3. Bg2 h6 4. Nc3 Bb4 5. e4 Nc6 6. Nge2 Bc5 7. d3 d6 8. h3

Nh7 9. a3 a6 10. O-O Ng5 11. Kh2 Ne6
Magnus has an amazing knight on e6, much the same as Nepomniachtchi's in the previous round, and he has only moved it 4 times in the first 11 moves Nf6-h7-g5-e6, so has been economical compared to the ex Russian Champ. However, Magnus has had the grace to throw in the moves a6 and h6 and lose a tempo with his dark squared bishop on the manouvre Bf8-b4-c5, and this bishop is heading back to a7 in a couple of moves as well!

Round 4

Nepomniachtchi is at it again, this time against Nakamura.

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be2 Bg7 7. O-O O-O 8.
Re1 Nc6

Hold on I hear you say, that looks like a fairly regular Sicilian, doesn't it? Yes, it is. Look at the next few moves 9. Nb3 Be6 10. Bf1 a5 11. Nd2 a4 12. Ndb1 Ra5 13. Na3

The only difference in white's position is that his bishop has retreated to f1 and his centrally placed knight has moved to the edge of the board via the cumbersome manouvre Nd4-b3-d2-b1-a3.

Round 5

Nakamura decided to get in the act himself. The American number 1 decided that the best way to play against world number 3, Aronian was to move as few pieces as possible and shuffle his pawns a bit!

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Be7 4. cxd5 exd5 5. Bf4 c6 6. e3 Bf5 7. g4 Be6 8. h4
Nd7 9. Bg3 Nb6 10. f3

Nakamura as white has played 7 pawn moves in his first 10 moves.

Strange opening choices, throwing conventional wisdom out the window:

- don't move the same piece twice in the opening until you are fully developed.
- don't waste time bringing your queen out early.
- develop your pieces quickly making as few pawn moves as possible.

The morals of the story?

Don't be dogmatic in chess. None of the players breaking these opening moves rules lost their games!

BUT!!! Don't try these things at home without some serious thought!!

Get Fit, Get Running

There are loads of ways to get fit, but the hardest part of any of these is actually getting started. About 7 months ago, I hadn't taken part in any meaningful regular exercise for quite some time, so I decided to plunge into the deep end and started running. Running is a cheap and effective means of getting fit. It's cheap as you don't need special equipment or a designated space to do it. I literally open my front door and start running, and the only expense I've had is a new pair of running shoes. It is an effective means of raising your fitness levels and burning off excess calories, as it is incredibly demanding. It can also increase your confidence and relieve stress or decrease depression! Check out some benefits of running!

Of course, the difficulty with any fitness or weight loss program is motivation. It is all too easy to miss a turn, or not put in a full effort. There are plans to help you out, though. I started with one that would get me to 5km. I liked the discipline of following a plan that had been designed for people like me, that is completely unfit slobs. But by the time the course is over, which is just 9 weeks, these slobs are running non stop for 3 miles/5km. I didn't actually follow the program religiously. I was ill for a couple of weeks and did no running at all, then eased back by repeating a level I'd already done, but in the end I got through the plan.

It felt absolutely great, a huge achievement, a personal goal conquered. In fact, it felt so good I started looking for another plan that could take me further. I found a plan that takes people from 5km up to an hour, or 10km of running. Again, I didn't religiously stick to the plan, but found that I wanted to run and was happy to step up the distance. Last week I completed the the one hour runner course, and I ran my second 10km run at the weekend.

Setting goals and staying focussed.

Once you get to a comfort level, it's pretty easy to set your own goals. How hard you push yourself to achieve these is a different matter. With running, the obvious goals are going further or faster, so for instance, I've set myself targets to reach for both 5km and 10km, and I also have a target for how far to run in 1 hour. These at least keep me constantly going out to run. I, like many others run alone, and to test myself against others, I have joined a running community. There are a number of good apps that you can get for your phone based on tracking you via GPS as you are training. I belong to Endomondo but there are heaps to choose from. In this community I can join challenges such as distance or speed tests (I am currently running 100km in November) and track your performances to see how (or if) you are progressing. There are forums, and blogs as well but part of the idea of exercise is to get out and away from the computer.

You can also plan to run a race, or a charity run. I am going to run the 2012 de Castella run for mental Health. I started a little late to enter the 2011 event. But who knows, the future might bring half marathons or full marathons?


Anyone who exercises encounters some problems. Firstly, there is a great risk of doing too much too soon. This can lead to injury and it is the best reason for following a fairly easy training plan. I am currently running every second day so as to give my aging bones and muscles some recovery time. Today I ran about 8km, but felt pretty heavy legged as I had run 10km in a fairly fast time just 2 days ago. It's a good idea to get to know your body and its limits.
Then there may be times that you can't keep up with the plan. Well don't worry, life goes on. It is not imperative to fulfil a running program in a given time to have a rewarding and meaningful life. Again, knowing your limits, including when you might need to take breaks, are important.
Tonight I had a technical problem with my GPS system. It didn't start for the first kilometre, and the app on my phone, and the home page online disagreed as to how far I actually ran today. Am I bothered? No, I ran about 8km after work and felt great :)
I'm in my 40's and soon after the program started on the build up to 5km, I had some aches in my knees and ankles. So I laid off for a bit, and started taking an omega 3 supplement. I initially started with wild krill oil tablets, but I'm currently on plain fish oil tablets. About a week after starting the supplements I had no problems with my joints. I have subsequently discovered that the supplements I'm taking are good for many other things as well.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Polish Festival in Melbourne

It was a lazy Sunday morning where I had few plans, so I thought I'd head into central Melbourne and visit the Polish Festival in Federation Square. My father is Polish, though he has lived in England for over 60 years, so I have an affinity with Polish culture. I have never learned the language, but I do know a few words, and even more than I realized I knew started coming back to me as I wandered around the festival. The stage in Federation Square hosted a series of traditional Polish folk entertainment (I thought I could hear Chopin at one point, though it was probably coming from a stall I was passing). There were children singing when I was there this morning, but adults were waiting in the background in traditional dress.

There were a number of stalls around Federation Square where local Polish businesses were selling goods, such as Polish language books, jewellery (a lot of amber), and homewares. There were some handmade gifts being made as you waited, and stuff for the kids.

Carved wooden gifts, and hand loomed materials

Along the Yarra, there were plenty of food stalls. For me, this is always one of the highlights of the various cultural festivals held in Federation Square.

 Mmmmm, pretzels

 Granny's (Babcia) Kitchen

 Europa Bakery
Lots of stalls spread along the Yarra River

There was an excellent Festival Guide given out for free with loads of information about Polish culture, history, language and contacts around Victoria. I live fairly near to a large Polish community in Bentleigh. In Centre Road, Bentleigh, the excellent Europa Bakery and cakeshop is situated, though there is another in Acland Street in St. Kilda.

Poland and Chess

Of course it also interests me to follow Polish chess players. Poland have never had a chess World champion, but they have certainly had their share of great players. Perhaps top of the list was Akiba Rubinstein, who for a couple of years before the First World War was considered among the very best in the World. He won a string of strong tournaments, but didn't get a shot at the World Championship. A contemporary of Rubinstein's was Savielly Tartakower, who was a probably a greater writer than he was a player (though he was a strong enough player). These 2 spearheaded Poland's victory in the 1930 Olympiad, and Tartakower was the teacher of the next great Polish player, Najdorf. Although Najdorf lived for most of his life in Argentina, he was born in Poland and represented Poland at an Olympiad before the Second World War. During the Soviet dominance of Eastern Europe after the Second World War, no great Polish players emerged, and it was not until recently we have seen an upsurge in Polish chess again, most notably with Wojtaszek being chosen to be part of World Champion Anand's team. But he is just one of a number of young strong Polish players, so the future of chess in Poland looks pretty bright.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Time to....

....start blogging again. I really like blogging, and the best thing about it is if your life gets too busy, you just can lay off for a while until you have time. I have had to take a break, feeling not so good at times, and being really busy at work. But the light is at the end of the tunnel :)

I now have a new hobby which is running, and I will be posting more about that in the future. It took a while to get to a consistent level, but it finally seems to have got there. I've been unbelievably busy teaching, helping to develop teaching programs, and developing chess coursework material. I've also been writing a little bit for the British Chess Magazine.  I have played virtually no chess over the past 3 months but this will be changing soon. I have already started working on my game a bit, and intend to play more in 2012. Saying that, I will still help out at the Melbourne Chess Club, and will probably try to be arbiter of at least 1 tournament next year.

Coffee is my other passion, and I'm hopefully going to get some to some more cafes around Melbourne bringing my own opinions of the good, and not so good. My beautiful wife has passed on her old camera, so I might be able to get some good shots of my good shots!

Ok, I'm off to watch the games of the Tal Memorial, which has really caught my interest and has me working hard on some analysis.The official site is in Russian, so I'm following it on the Internet Chess Club, and The Week in Chess.