Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thursday Chess Observations

Is it my imagination or is the Informator not as good as it used to be? I remember getting a copy back in the 1980's, going through hundreds of games, loads of tactics and endgames, browsing positions throughout the book and basically getting loads from it. I can also remember someone saying that every good player should own at least 1 Informator, and with that 1 Informator and enough work, you could become a master. Well, maybe that was so, but hardly nowadays. I was looking through a recent Informator and the quality is still great, but the quantity is way down. The last Informator I read, back in the 80's had about 750 games in it, whereas the new edition has a little over 200. Now I know Informator has moved their production from 2 times per year to 4 times per year, but still that means the readers are only getting about half the amount of games we got in the past per year. There are some other nice features, but to be honest, I don't think Informator is really about Opening Labs or Player Profiles which are done much better by New in Chess and Chessbase. What made Informator stand out was the quantity and quality of their analysed games. Sad to say it isn't what it used to be :(

The latest Chess Informator
While we're on my imagination, I couldn't believe the size of the latest field for the Monday night MCC event. The recently concluded championship was a little down on numbers, but the first round of the City of Melbourne Open saw a very poor 20 people playing, while 4 others requested byes. I have to say that 24 for any MCC tournament is way below expectations ( the ANZAC Day Weekender tournament last week had a field of over 40 and the MCC has not been attracting huge weekend fileds over the past couple of years) and this is low enough for the committee to warrant having a look at things at the club. I will say that I've offered to help out when I can for the committee of the MCC again, but to be honest I have very little time, especially with trying to start another club on the other side of town. Anyway, while the field is small for the 2013 City of Melbourne Open, those playing in it I wish the very best of luck to. Top seed for the event is IM Mirko Rujevic and there was already a fairly big upset in round 1 when third seed FM David Hacche lost to Gary Bekker who is usually more noted for his skills as an arbiter than as a player. Gary does seem to have been putting some work into his game recently and his results have started to reflect this. I also guess that with such a small field for a 9-round swiss, the arbiter Kerry Stead will have some odd pairings to justify later in the tournament. I'm sure Kerry will be up to the task, as I know he takes these things very seriously and I hope he doesn't get a hard time from the players if some funny looking pairings come about.

1990 saw the 50th Informator produced
Ok, one last thing that I've been imagining this week. Is it my imagination or is the World Chess Championship not as prestigious as it used to be? I mean, the news all seems to be about the venue, Chennai in India. Magnus Carlsen's team have been expressing their concerns over the home venue for the champion, and the manner in which this venue was chosen. There is an excellent report on the chessvibes site. This came straight after an exciting Candidates tournament where at one stage Magnus Carlsen wasn't going to participate because of the nature of the qualification process to become a World Championship challenger. I remember a statement by Carlsen, or someone from his team, saying that it was more important for him to be number 1 in the World than World Champion. Perhaps as we become more and more interested in and governed by ratings, this will be the norm of the future. We have more rating periods than in the past (monthly compared to half yearly), we have FIDE ratings dropping to 1000 (I always wanted to get my rating to 2200 so as to get my name into the back of an Informator...another reason I don't think the Informator's are as good as they used to be!), and live ratings where we can follow the game by game rating changes for the top players. It is quite exciting, but are ratings becoming more important than titles?

Informator 14 covered the "Match of the Century", Spassky-Fischer 1972
And talking of the the World Championship, just what is the process...I mean how does one become champion nowadays? In the olden days of 750 game Informators, it was fairly simple. First you had to qualify from a zonal to an interzonal, and then proceed through a candidates event of either matches or a tournament. The World Championship cycle took 3 years to complete. I don't even know how long the cycles are supposed to take these days. In a couple of days time we have a zonal event happening in Oceania, in Fiji. Imagine (yes, I know I'm overusing this word somewhat today) that the winner of this zonal goes on to become world champion! What will they have to go through to do this, and how long will it take? I could look it up I suppose, but with the constantly shifting procedures and rules in FIDE I can't be bothered.

By the way, while I'm disappointed that Informators aren't as packed as they used to be, and while I'd like to see a regular and transparent World Championship cycle, I still enjoy Informators and will be eagerly following the unfolding saga of the World Championship. To me there is nothing bigger than a World Championship match, and seeing I share the same birth year as Informator and have grown up with it alongside me, I will not abandon it quite yet!

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