Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Good and Bad in Chess

I must be getting into the modern era of connected worlds, as I set up a Google alert for the term 'coffee house chess'. I've picked up some interesting emails over time but the latest is one worth sharing. Apparently, in Ohio, USA there is a Coffee House Chess League, and some great individuals doing some amazing work at grass roots level. Check out the article, it's uplifting. Of course, the success of chess in any area is largely down to the strengths of the local volunteer force. It takes dedicated individuals to run clubs, leagues, associations, and even tournaments. I've found out over the years that if you want something done, the best thing is to get up and try to do it yourself. Get a few interested, ask for a little help which will generally be given, and before you know it, a club, or league or tournament will be organised.

I guess because of this voluntary nature to much of chess officialdom (and because we're human!) most players like to see a good giant slaying game, where the higher rated player gets taken down a peg, or ten. In a few days time, the World Cup will be starting in Tromso Norway. The format is a 128 player knockout of mini matches over 2 games, with rapid/blitz tie breaks if needed. It is an exciting format, though just how well it works out a champion is up for debate which was used in the early 1990's in the famous Tilburg tournaments, causing some disdain at the time if I remember rightly. Funnily enough, that first Tilburg event in 1992 was won by the recent Dortmund Champion, Michael Adams, defeating last year's World Championship candidate Boris Gelfand in the final match. Gelfand has won a big knockout event as well, the World Cup in 2009. The number 1 seed for this event in current world number 2 Levon Aronian who has also won a previous version of this event, in 2005. Australian fans will be hoping for a miracle as Igor Bjelobrk faces number 4 seed Alexander Grischuk. And English fans will be hoping that the Gawain Jones won't be too tired after playing lots of summer chess, including the British Championships which finishes the day before the World Cup starts! Adams is also playing and will have had nearly a fortnight's break since his Dortmund win. I'm not going to be sticking my neck out with predictions, but the match of the first round that particularly interests me is Shirov-Yifan Hou. Shirov is a remarkable player, but can play fairly averagely at times, while the ex Women's World Champion is capable of almost anything on her day.

Meanwhile at the British Championship David Howell overcame Simon Williams to maintain his half point lead in the tournament from Mark Hebden. Hebden is also half point clear of the chasing pack which includes Gawain Jones, but the two top seeds are not drawn together in this round. Howell plays another Grand Master, Gormally, while Jones plays Ameet Ghasi. In between these 2, Hebden has to play 'Mr Rock Solid' Bogdan Lalic. There are only 3 rounds left and 1.5 points between first a fifteenth. It will be a nail biting finish!

Looking at what I've written so far, there's a lot that's good in the chess world. But let's make no mistake that there's some bad as well. I'm not a big fan of FIDE, but I was encouraged to see they are trying to develop an online playing server that has built in strict anti cheating detection software. After the cheating cases in Bulgaria, Dortmund and Russia, anti cheating measures are high up in the priorities of organisers int he chess world. But will the new FIDE site really be able to provide a better online service than the established commercial sites such as ICC, Playchess and Well we won't know for a while, as the site is currently running as a beta test version, no doubt working out whether FIDE will be able to deliver on their promises. So I registered, and joined the site, and have 30 days free membership to check it out. I downloaded the client software and apparently, all will be up and running from October and then full memberships will be offered. So I played a game, the interface was ok but generally speaking it seems no better than playchess, ICC or We will have to wait for the full product to see what features it will have that are new (if any) and the full playability of the site, including the number of regular members.

Finally, I'd like to say thank you to Michael Yip for mentioning my blog on a Canadian chess forum, and welcome to any new Canadian readers. And we've reached the 40 milestone! That's how many days before I'm out of here and on the holiday roadtrip of a lifetime.

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