Saturday, September 7, 2013

One Week Left

I have one more week of work before my break. There are just 9 days before flying off to America on holiday with my wonderful wife, Caroline. On the ease down from work, my Saturday was rudely interrupted by having to vote for a bunch of people I didn't want to elect. I've always felt it funny that I have to vote for somebody. I mean, I can understand a secular country demanding its populace to cast a vote on who they think should be elected, but if there is really no one who appeals, then there should be a "None of the Above" option. My main ballot had 6 choices and I had to nominate candidates with numbers 1-6. Now While I could certainly have cast 2-3 preferences, there were at least 3 who I didn't want to even put as a last preference. I asked a helper if I could leave some names blank as I didn't want to show any preference at all for certain candidates, but apparently that would have made my ballot paper invalid. Besides this, I was given an enormous list of parties and told I had a choice. Either vote in section A for just one party, or list all 97 parties in section B in order of preference. Doh! As if I can be bothered to even show a preference between 2 parties, let alone 97!
This sign sums up my feelings of today's Australian election (from zazzle)

So anyway, I did the right thing and cast my vote, going Green, if you must know! I heard on the news a little while ago that Abbott is our new PM. Now I was never a fan of US President George W. Bush jr, but I think it would have been amusing if he'd been in power at the same time as Tony Abbott, just to see which one could appear bigger idiot. (Go check out this funny story about a chess match between US Presidential Candidates, Kerry and Bush from 2004!) However, whichever party is in power, life still goes on for the average person, and I've got one more week of work, 9 more days, or about 18 coffees before lift off. In that time I would like to say I've got loads to do, but that would be a lie. I've got to run my chess classes, and that's about it except for the normal daily duties of eating and sleeping. My lessons for the week are already prepared, so I don't even have to worry about that. Life is good!

In fact, I've even started thinking about some future projects. One of these will be creating a new weekend tournament in the Victorian calendar, and helping to really generate interest in our new local Glen Eira Chess Club. On Friday, some ideas were thrown around about the possibility of running a weekender sometime next year. As we are a new and small club, trying for any more would seem a bit optimistic, but our future seems guaranteed for at least a year as we have successfully applied and received a grant from the council to help us with hiring facilities. As this is the major cost of any club, it is a big help to us. I'm not going to reveal any more than that here now, but I will say that if the tournament goes ahead, then we are thinking of using a slightly different system to what would normally count as a weekend format. As soon as something definite can be said, I'll post more!

From just a chess point of view, I've seen the same endgame reached in my classes 3 times in the past week. It is a pawnless endgame where one side has king and queen, and the other side has king a rook. I tend to find that certain pawnless endings can be great for kids to look at, and this is one. Giving them a position to aim for, and then explaining to them that it is "zugzwang" is a good way to introduce a difficult concept. Take the following position.
With black to move, it is a win for white, as every move that black can legally make will allow white to either checkmate quickly, or force a fork of black's king and rook. Try to work it out, it's good fun and a good exercise! Of course, if it's white to move, then white's queen can give black the move by triangulation: 1.Qe4+ Kh8 2.Qa8+ Kh7 [2..Rg8 loses to 3.Qh1#] 3.Qe8 and we're in the above position!  Of course, from a practical point of view, it is not easy to get to this position in a real game. But funnily enough, having something to aim for will help a player to find better moves over the board, and although forcing the above position to happen is not easy, neither is defending the position with the rook! Anyone who starts to master this endgame, will then be able to add pawns to the rook's side, and discover blockades, and when there are no blockades. These are very useful endgames to know, and will help improve a player's general understanding of the game and their overall playing strength.

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