Sunday, May 31, 2015

We All Love An Underdog?

One of the great things about watching competitive events is seeing the occasional upset result. Of course, the best prevail overall, but once in a while, it is most gratifying to see the Gods of their fields brought back down to human level.

In terms of chess, every tournament has some such upset. We have amazingly talented juniors playing well above their level for a game or 2, and well below their level at times too. Likewise, older players with years of experience can sometimes hold, or even frustratingly beat, younger players who may take a risk too much in their attempts to win. We expect Grand Masters to win the majority of their games, and finish at, or near the top of tournament tables, with a promising master possibly giving them a good run for their money.

When an untitled player upsets the cart, and wins a game against one of the elite it makes tournaments that little more interesting. Unfortunately, the day of the underdog is being threatened at the European Women's Championship in Georgia. Romanian Woman Grand Master Mihaela Sandu wasn't expected to be high placed finisher in the tournament, but she is still a WGM with a rating of 2300. She has performed at over 2500 for the tournament, and has beaten some players higher rated than her which has caused a number of competitors to become suspicious and to overtly accuse her of cheating.

The full story can be found on the chess24 website, but it's ugly reading. A letter was sent by a group of players expressing concern at her performance, and amazingly, 3 of the signatories were players who beat Sandu in their games! What is also interesting is not the players who lost to Sandu signed the letters of complaint, and good for them is my opinion.

I realise that there have been some high profile cheating cases in the chess world recently, but this doesn't mean we have to go pointing the finger at anyone and everyone who over performs or causes an upset. Even as I approach 50 years of age, I still dream of good tournament performances. I'm planning on entering the Australian Championships in January, where I would expect to finish in the lower half of the field. But let's just say that I have a stellar tournament and take out a couple of high rated players. Will this raise suspicions, and am I likely to come under the scrutiny of cheating commissions, and feel the wrath of my fellow competitors? If so, then what is the point of me playing?

I'm sure that many people reading this blog will find themselves as underdogs relatively frequently. How would you feel about having played the game of your life, the tournament of your life, and then be accused of cheating?

Running Update

It's been almost a month since I ran the Puffing Billy Race, so it's time for a quick update. To keep the momentum going, I entered the Run Melbourne half marathon at the end of July which I had to start training for straight away. The week after Puffing Billy I ached and couldn't get motivated to run much. The hills had taken it out of me, and I managed one short jog. But since then, I've trained pretty well.

My plan is to run 3 times a week. I'm going to try a shortish run (5-8 km) at a pace that is faster than normal, a middle distance run (10 km) at a reasonable pace for me, and a long run at any pace I can manage. This last run will hopefully build up to 20 km, as I'm a big believer in getting the distance under ones legs before going for the run.

The week after Puffing Billy was perfect. I ran 7 km on Monday 11th at 6 minute pace, followed ths up with 9 km on Thursday and just under 12 km at the weekend. Actually, since then things have been going absolutely to plan, with the short runs getting a little faster, and the long runs further. I now seem to be able to run 8 or 9 km in 5.50 pace comfortably. Of course, I'd like to bring that down further, perhaps towards 5.30 pace, but I'm not sure how realistic that is for this upcoming run in July.

Today, I went further than ever before at just under 17 km. Though I was going at what felt like an easy pace, the first 5 km were quite reasonable for me, at 28.53, and this continued through to 10 km which took me 58.41. I took a drink break at about 13 km, and was suffering a bit from then on, but still managed to keep going at an average of under 6 minute pace for the whole thing.

I am utterly amazed and thoroughly happy about this run and the progress I've made since Puffing Billy. I was running heavy for Puffing Billy, but I'm over 2 kg lighter now, and would like to lose another 1-2 kg before the half marathon. This might partly explain why I found the hills of Belgrave so difficult this year and faded in the last few km of the Great Train Race.

So with 2 months to go, I intend to crank up the mileage for the next few weeks, and then concentrate on regular speed and strength work after that. After today's run, I feel that a half marathon in uner 2 hours, 10 minutes is possible, and I can even see me aiming for under 2 hours in the future.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

City of Melbourne Open Round 5

We have a new leader in the City of Melbourne Open. My brief spell at the top ended at the hands of IM Mirko Rujevic. Mirko is playing in the Victorian Championship at the moment, but it doesn't dampen his fighting spirit, and it took just a moment of hesitation on my part to allow him to take the initiative which he didn't relinquish until I resigned in a hopeless position. It was a powerful display by Mirko and he leapfrogs over me into a half point lead on 4.5.

I'm joined on 4/5 by FM Jack Puccini and Simon Schmidt, who is also playing in the Victorian Championship, while among those half a point back is Malcolm Pyke, another Victorian Championship competitor. This all goes to show that the City of Melbourne Open is a pretty good field, and that lots of hard competition is good for your chess. Simon Schmidt is playing more than anyone, as he's also competing in the Box Hill Club Championship!

With 4 rounds still to play, there are still a lot of ways the tournament could go, but the per tournament favourites are beginning to rise to the top. Nguyen bounced back with a win to join Malcolm and another 5 players on 3.5. The group on 3/5 is led by 2200+ rated Nedimovic. There were a couple of upsets on the lower boards with Tanya Krstevska, Simon Dale and John Beckman overcoming players rated 200 points higher.

The pairings are usually up on Thursday and once again, I will not be making any predictions about who will be playing who. To my simple mind, Jack Puccin and Mirko Rujevic should be playing, which would be a great board 1 fight. But I'll make no predictions on the pairings as I'm more often wrong than right.

If it's black's move in the above position, then c4 closing out the light squared bishop, followed by a queen side expansion gives black level chances. Unfortunately for me, it was white's turn, and Mirko took the initiative with a typical central thrust 13.e5! After 13..dxe5 14.Nxe5 Be6 15.Bxe6 fxe6 white has a better position, but more importantly has an initiative which is one of Mirko's strengths.

Defending difficult positions, and trying to negate an opponent's initiative is one of my own weaknesses, and from the above position I succumbed rather too easily to Mirko's powerful play.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Internet Abuse

The internet is a strange world. As a repository for information it is amazing, and some of the things that can be done and shared online are wonderful. As a chess player, I know that I can now play at any time, day and night where before the internet, I'd have to make the effort to travel to a chess club, possibly once a week. And chess is certainly not the only thing that has benefited from online development. But there are negative sides to the internet too, and I'm not just talking about flagrant criminal activity.

As a minor user of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, I see people abusing the sites in bizarre ways. Cyber bullying or "trolling" is rife throughout these social media sites, illegal downloading of media is also rife, and internet addiction is becoming more widespread and recognised as a social disorder.

From a blogging perspective, I try to keep this blog positive, I write it for myself because I enjoy writing, and hope that some others enjoy reading it. I don't seek to make anything out of it, I don't make a big effort to publicise it outside of my close network of friends and acquaintances, and I try my best to link to, or credit, as much as possible so each blog post of mine will hopefully lead some readers to a new site.

Yesterday I was scrolling through some internet sites, linked to one, and saw a photograph that I knew Caroline had taken. I didn't recognise the site, and didn't see a credit to Caroline's name, so I asked her whether the site owner had asked permission to use the image. Caroline had not given permission, whereas I have just asked permission and it has been granted :)

"Alone in a Crowd" by Caroline Gorka (redbubble)
When I search for this image using the google image search function, it comes up with about 70 pages that use this image. Caroline has uploaded this picture to certain sites, such as Redbubble and Artists Lane which act as onlne galleries and sell materials on behalf of the contributors. But well over half the sites using this picture have not asked permission to do so, and are not attributing the creator of the images they are using.

This brings me to the dodgy subject of copyright and fair use of materials. Apparently, the photo above is subject to copyright once it has been taken and for someone like me to use it, I would need to gain the permission of the creator of the image before posting it. An exception to the rule is called "fair use" and this applies to use of an image that doesn't interfere with the owner's rights. A good example of this has been used on this blog before, where I talk about a book I've read and download a photo from a site such as Goodreads, or Amazon of the book cover. From an etiquette point of view, I would still link to the site where I took the image from and attribute the site in a caption, or footnote. However, this still would not be anything to do with copyright of material. I found a pretty good site which explains these issues in layman's terms.

All the sites I have been to about these issues give the same advice:

"when in doubt, assume it’s subject to copyright and don’t use it without the appropriate permission."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Basingstoke Chess Club, A Sad Day

I learnt a little earlier today of the sad loss of stalwart organiser, Joe French.

Joe had been putting his heart and soul into junior chess in Basingstoke and Hampshire since I was a kid, and it is partly his influence that makes me coach the way I do today. Joe's strengths were his tireless energy, his enthusiasm for the game, and his inspiration to the kids who he brought through his ranks. Chess, like all pastimes, needs people who are willing to devote themselves to their passion, and Joe did this spending masses of time organising Saturday morning Junior chess clubs, and helping to run the Basingstoke Chess Club.

After I left Basingstoke, Joe extended his efforts to include Junior Chess administration throughout Hampshire and finally won the ECF President's Award in 2004 for services to chess.

I was lucky enough to meet up with him briefly when I visited Basingstoke in 2012, but I have no photos of Joe, just memories. Since that time when I wrote about my visit to the club, Basingstoke Chess Club have a new website. There is more information about Joe French, including a photo, on the club forum.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Online books

The other day I was looking for a chess book and I googled it. This was unusual for me, as I usually go straight to a chess retailer and search for the books there. Google produced a result which was unexpected to me and that was it's own google books site. I'd never really looked at Google books before but I was rather amazed at the amount of books they have. Apparently Google Books has scanned over 30 million books and put them online.

There have been problems with this service, the most notable being copyright infringement. I have to admit, that I'm unsure of the issues here. We have public libraries which freely lend copyrighted material to members of the library, and in some respects, services like Google Books appears as an online version of a library. But digitizing books and making them freely available online can only damage the livelihood of authors. Authors who will hardly bother to waste their time and effort just to see their material freely distributed with no recompense.

There are resources online which seek to digitize non copyrighted material, works that are old or in the public domain. Project Gutenberg is one such resource with nearly 50.000 titles to download.

However, the mother of all online resources is the Internet Archive. I looked at it earlier today and was astounded by the amount of material they have. There are nearly 5 million books, nearly 4000 films, , over 100,000 concert recordings and many other services such as collections of NASA images, web archives with approaching 50 billion pages, educational resources including lectures and supplementary materials, and a mass of historical software.

I downloaded an interesting little book by the chess player Hugh Kennedy from 1876. "Waifs and Strays" has some personal reminiscences by Kennedy of some players of the day and is an amusing portrait of chess players. In the first couple of pages, Kennedy talks about snobbishness in chess, wondering,

" is it that we constantly see persons of upright character, faultless manners, and whose tempers are proof against every common trial, the moment they set themselves behind a chess board, undergoing a kind of metempsychosis, and becoming the reverse of their normal selves - unjust, rude and quarrelsome - in a word, unmitigated snobs?"

I'll be reading through this gem and looking for more timeless truisms in its pages.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

City of Melbourne Open round 5

Due to some work changes I found myself at the MCC early. I walked into the main tournament hall, and placed my stuff by my board and looked up to see the official banner of the 2016 Australian Championship.

I usually arrive with moments to spare, or with time already on the clock, so I felt fairly relaxed, and had time to chat a bit and look around. I even had time to head to Brunswick Street for a coffee before the game.
Richard Voon is always ready for a chat
Round 4 of the City of Melbourne Open saw little in the way of upsets. Only one game in the top 10 boards went againt the rating, and that was Justin Penrose's victory against Hoai Nam Nguyen, but Penrose is an accomplished player so I take it as only a small upset. The field is beginning to spread out with myself, Carl Gorka, leading on 4/4 followed by IM Mirko Rujevic and Justin Penrose on 3.5. While last week I couldn't begin to guess who I might play, I can quite confidently say that the top board game next week will be Rujevic-Gorka.

IM Mirko Rujevic just half a point from the lead
I feel as if I'm in pretty good form, but Mirko is absolutely fearless. Playing against talented youngster David Cannon, Mirko didn't hesitate to play the Two Knights opening. I sat eagerly watching to see whether David would throw his knight to g5, but he opted for the safer 4.d3 instead of testing Mirko's calculation in a critical opening.

FM Jack Puccini heads the group of players on 3/4. He is joined by Malcolm Pyke and Simon Schmidt, who are both doubling up in the Victorian Championships, Richard Voon, Zhi Lin Guo and the brilliancy prize winner from the Club Championship, David Lacey.

Brilliancy Prize winner, David Lacey
Further down the field, the Zou brothers both scored good draws, Edwin against Tanya Krstevska, and Brendan against Gary Bekker, while Tanya Kolak had a good win against Stephen Jago.

My game finished abruptly when my opponent misjudged a position in a Hedgehog type Sicilian. I'm no great expert, but black has a very tough job of sitting and waiting for white's advances and being ready to strike at the right moment.

Black has just thrown his knight into e5 feeling that white would have to protect the pawn with b3. I managed to punish this aggression by playing 15.g5 Nfd7 16.f4!

My opponent, Efrain Tionko, couldn't find a good continuation, so he went with 16..Nxc4? Unfortunately, after the forcing sequence 17.Bxc4 Qxc4 18.Nd5 Bxd5 19.Rxc4 Bxc4 black has a rook, bishop and pawn for the queen.

Now after 20.Rc1 black's bishop is short of squares, while his other pieces display no activity. It didn't take too much to convert this to a sizeable material advantage.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Glen Eira Chess Club

Glen Eira Chess Club is a small but active club based at Carnegie Library. We meet on a Friday evening which doesn't suit some of the older players, but is good for junior players. Actually, in this cosmopolitan, 24 hours a day city of Melbourne, any time is as good as any other for a small chess club to run. The link above takes you to our Facebook page, and it has just reached 100 likes, and it would be great if you could help by liking our page or passing on the information to people in or near Glen Eira. Don't worry, we don't spam you constantly!

The club runs 3 qualifying tournaments throughout the year, with 3 places from each going towards a Championship event which starts in October. Currently, the second qualifier is in progress, and it is a small and slightly weaker than usual field that contests it. To me, this is great as it means that some regular club members who turn up week in, week out, will qualify for the championship rather than their places being taken by strong visitors to the club. Saying that, we haven't had too many strong visitors in the year since we started.

Top seed for the second qualifier is WCM Sarah Anton, so it is still a respectable event. Second seed is another female player, Rebecca Strickland, while Jerzy Krysiak makes the third seed, and all 3 of these players qualified for last year's final.

Colourful action as Rebecca and Maha warm up watched by JJ
The winner and runner up from the 2014 Championship, IM James Morris and FM Domogoj Dragicevic, are currently competing in the Victorian Championship. Both players have got off to a good start and are on 1.5/2. There are 11 rounds, so a long way to go, but we wish both James and Domogoj, the best of luck in the rest of the event.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

City of Melbourne Open Round 3

The 2015 City of Melbourne Open at the MCC has started in a strange way. After the first 3 rounds only one player has moved to a perfect score. This shows just how competitive the field is, and how open the tournament really is. The favourites for the tournament were IM Rujevic, and FM Puccini, but Mirko was held to a draw in the first round by Rad Chmiel, while I beat Jack last night. Third seed, Nedimovic, has disappointed and lost his last 2 games to sit on just half a point, courtesy of David Cannon and Damien van den Hoff. However, I'd be guessing that no one feels out of the running yet, especially with only one player on 3/3.

And that player is me. I ran my luck a little in the first 2 rounds, but played pretty well last night. There were only 3 of us sitting on 2/2. Besides Jack and myself, Malcolm Pyke had won his first 2 games, but lost last night to Hoai Nam Nguyen. I'm no expert, but it looked as if Malcolm had a difficult position out of the opening. Malcolm is spreading himself a bit by competing in the Victorian Championship as well as the City of Melbourne Open and I wish him well in that. Nguyen is joined on 2.5 by Rujevic, Simon Schmidt, Efrain Tionko, Justin Penrose and David Cannon. I'm struggling to anticipate my next opponent as there are players who have already floated, and there are colour preferences to consider. I'll just accept that I'll be playing one of these players, and I'll probably be white.

There were more upsets in this round with wins for Natalie Bartnik against Tom Kalisch and Bobby Yu against Gary Bekker, though Damien van den Hoff's victory was probably the upset of the round. There will now be no more late entries and the field is set at 45, a very reasonable number for this traditional second tournament of the year. Let's just hope the tournament stays as competitive as it has started, and that upsets continue to happen!

My game saw FM Jack Puccini follow a method of development considered good for white against the Antoshin variation of the Philidor. Yes, I know that I said I was going to stop playing the Philidor for a bit, but a combination of a busy lifestyle and laziness have meant that I had nothing else to play. Saying that, I have put some work into the Philidor, and wasn't surprised by Jack's choice.

I don't consider myself an opening's expert, but I'd been looking at exactly this position a few before the game. When Jack played 12.b3 here, I'm almost ashamed to admit that I knew it to be a novelty in the position. However, novelties only apply to databases, and I'd seen this position before. In fact the position only became new to me after a few more moves:
I'm not sure I'd have played 15..Nc6!? if I hadn't analysed the move before. It looks as if white can take on d6, but black gets good play and full compenstion starting with 16.Bxd6 Rad8. Jack plunged into a 34 minute think leaving me ahead on the clock for the first time in the tournament! The position remained tense until the following position.
The position is in the balance with both sides looking to gain a winning initiative in their respective attacks on opposite sides of the board. Moves for white worth considering might be 20.g5, or 20.Rhe1. However, Jack retreated with 20.Bc1? handing me the initiative, which I didn't relinquish. 20..Nb5 21.g5 but this is too slow.
21..c4! This counterattack was probably my best move in the tournament so far. Jack dropped his bishop back to f1, as taking on f6 is hopeless as black just recaptures on f6 with a winning position. The remainder of the game just saw my black pieces moving towards white's king until Jack resigned with mate imminent.

It was a well played game, but still not one for the brilliancy prize. At least I don't think so!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

City of Melbourne Open Round 2

Yesterday was the second round of the City of Melbourne Open at the Melbourne Chess Club. The tournament grew to 44 players, there being only 40 players in the first round. All these late entries were given half point byes for the first round, which was a bit generous, but a sensible policy encouraging more participation. There is still time to join this tournament up to round 3 which is next Monday, though whether entries will be accepted after the draw is published on Thursday, I'm not sure. Also, I don't know whether these new entries will receive half points for the rounds they missed.

Round 2 produced more upset results, the most notable being on board 2 where David Cannon beat number 2 seed Ljubisa Nedimovic. To be honest, David is pretty strong and like most juniors can play well above his rating, but also sometimes, can play a bit weaker. David is joined on 2/2 by top seed Jack Puccini, Carl Gorka (me!) and Malcolm Pyke. So the tournament is already spreading thin at the top end. There is a large group of players half a point back, including Jack Shanks who upset Mehmedalija Dizdarevic. Jack joins his brother Bryan, and 9 other players on 1.5.

Sarah Anton was one of those players on 1.5 and she benefited from her opponent's mobile phone ringing. This was ridiculous, as it happened after only about 5 minutes of the game and arbiter Kerry Stead's warning to switch off mobile phones was still running round my head. I am now so concerned about phone forfeits that I don't even bring my phone into the venue, or if I have to from now, I will leave it with the arbiter.

The other upset winner was Natalie Bartnik who overcame a 500 point rating difference to beat Gary Bekker. Gary has been somewhat of an upset causer himself, so he will now know things from the other side.

My experience from round 2 was one of endurance. My game was the longest of the night, and the longest I remember playing at 114 moves. The big problem was my time management. I spent quite a time over some fairly standard moves. This meant that I was left with very little time from about move 35 when the game started getting interesting. I played some fast, and not particularly critical moves until my 46th move when I dropped to 1 minute on the clock. I stayed at under 2 minutes for the next 50 moves, and it is not an experience I'd really like to repeat. Playing on the increment is stressful, and there is no time to stretch, get a drink, go to the toilet, etc.

I managed to win the game, though there were a few hairy moments.Here's how you turn a winning advantage into an even position!

As white I instantly played 51.Qa3, the second best move according to Stockfish which gives white a +3 advantage. Richard played 51..Qxb5 when I was able to bash out the moves 52.c6+ Kg8 53.c7 Re8.

Now, white has a number of winning moves. I chose a move that isn't best, but still wins, 54.c8=Q [54.Ra8 and 54.Nd6 are much better] 54..Rxc8 55.Ne7+ Kg7 56.Nxc8.

So here Richard played 56..Qc4 forking my bishop and knight, and to my embarrassment in the 40 seconds left to me I had a complete brain fade. It was as if I'd succeeded in combinational terms, and it was time to relax, regroup and go about winning. But with only 40 seconds left, I didn't have time to relax.

In this position the obvious move is 57.Bf5 moving one attacked piece to protect the other. The less obvious, but stronger move is 57.Qc5! defending everything. With seconds left on my clock and brain death still an affliction, I gave up my knight by 57.Qb2?? going from +5 to = in one fell swoop.

The moral of the story has to be to mind one's time, and to play with a purpose from the start, and for every move. There is no time for relaxation, and every move is important. I doubt I'll be finishing near the top of this event if my time management remains so poor.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Puffing Billy Run

Today I went out with a group of friends to the picturesque Dandenong Ranges to run the 34rd annual Puffing Billy Race. The course winds through over 13 kilometres of the hillsides with the added bonus that the steam engine, Puffing Billy, competes in the race. I'd run this once before, 3 years ago, started well, but struggled to get up the second hill, which is a long drag of over a kilometre at about an average of 4%.

I'm smiling, and with a coffee, before the run. Won't be smiling much longer...
I set my goal as making it around the course, up the hills, without stopping. I have been on a sort of training plan, but it has had more emphasis on my fitness level, rather than to achieve the fastest result in a race. This time round the hills didn't cause any undue problems for me and I was able to climb ok. I'd done a run the week before through the hilly suburb of Mt Waverley which probably helped a bit with my uphill performance. My time was 1.31.13 which is actually 10 minutes slower than the last time I ran! Saying that, I haven't trained as much and was running with a friend.

Again, it was very enjoyable, a challenge and great to run with friends. I usually train alone, and will be training more in the coming weeks as I've signed up for the Run Melbourne Half Marathon at the end of July. Although this is a further 8 kilometres on what I did today, it is nowhere near as hilly so I'm hoping it won't be much harder than today's run. Anyway, I have a plan and am setting some goals which will hopefully direct my training over the next couple of months. I'll write a bit more about my running and training for a half marathon over the coming months. I'll see if I can get under 2 hours 10 minutes for the half marathon, though this will be tough for me.

Anyway, here's the team of Kids Unlimited after the race, still smiling....almost!

l-r. Carl (me), Kate (who I ran with), Tim, Michael, Alana (spelling?) and David

Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Strange Saturday

I woke up this morning, and with it being a work day, prepared myself, and then went for a coffee before heading to the chess centre for my classes. I have found a routine on a Saturday whereby I get up a bit early, and find a coffee before work, read a novel for about half an hour, and then head in. Today, I unfortunately forgot to take my novel, but as a resourceful fellow, I had a smart phone with me and browsed through my Twitter account to see if there might be anything interesting

Interesting Fact Number 1:

As with most people I was appalled by the destructive earthquake that happened in Nepal last week. The last I heard over 6000 people had died in this tragedy, but the death count could still rise drastically, especially with the displacement of many people caused by the destruction of buildings, villages, towns. Organisations such as the Red Cross, UNICEF, and OXFAM can be donated to.

Just how powerful was the earthquake? Well, it was graded 7.8 on the Richter scale but besides the devastation it caused, that doesn't mean much to me. To put it into terms I understand, this article by the Smithsonian  tells of a region 75 miles long, and 30 miles wide that was lifted up by about 3 feet. Apparently, it caused Mt Everest to shrink by an inch! That is an unbelievable power of nature!

Interesting Fact Number 2

I love my multi-cultural city, Melbourne, and country, Australia. I'll admit that it is not perfect and that their is sometimes ethnic tension, and racial issues. Only yesterday there was a protest march in Melbourne, as there was across Australia, against the Abbott Government's proposed closure of indigenous communities in Western Australia.

Europe has it's fair share of racial tension. I remember this from my life in England, and with immigration being an issue that has right wing parties such as UKIP gaining popularity, I'm guessing these issues haven't disappeared.

So I was a little concerned to see Munich had opened a Nazi Museum in a building which used to be Nazi headquarters in the 1930's. I understand that we sometimes need to confront our past and ensure that we learn from the past to ensure the same mistakes aren't made in the future. I just hope that this new centre doesn't become an icon for right wing organisations, which certainly exist in Bavaria, and Germany and Europe.

Interesting Fact Number 3

Last, and possibly least in the strange new things I learned today concerned interesting historical facts about my secret food addiction, croissants. First, let me say that I pronounce croissant, "krwasohn", as in the French, rather than cross-ant, as in the Australian. But perhaps I'm being unfair, as croissant's pre date France by quite a margin. Apparently, a crescent shaped Kipfel can be traced back to the 13th century in Vienna, the Kipfel being the croissant's predecessor. But the croissant as we know it today is quintessentially French with puff pastry and oozing with butter. If the plain croissant isn't good enough, then you could go for the bigger artery clogger, the almond croissant which is my particular favourite!

French pastry basket from Rocley's Cafe, Elsternwick. Mine's the sugar coated almond croissant in the middle!

And it is especially good with a cup of coffee....damn, not only did I forget my book, I forgot my Saturday morning croissant