Friday, 30 March 2007

You Got The Blues?

Here's a weird one...

This is the website of a jazz/blues club in the Hackney/Stoke Newington area of London. They are running five afternoon concerts on consecutive Sundays - 1, 8, 15, 22 & 29 April - with a novel twist. If you take your own chess set along, you can take part in the first ever 'Vortex Chess Tournament'. "Play who you want when you want, player with most consecutive wins over the five afternoons scoops the trophy," says the spiel. GM Daniel King is going to be at the 1 April gig and on 29 April he will be playing against 10 opponents simultaneously. It's a fiver to get in...

... However... a warning: given the date of the first gig, don't be too surprised if you turn up with your chess set only to be mocked and laughed at by the assembled hordes of jazz aficionados...

FIDE Time Lords Gain Ground

FIDE's website has a report of the recent meeting between FIDE president Ilyumzhinov and ACP (Association of Chess Professionals) president Tregubov.

The text is given in full at the bottom of this posting.

Basically, the two presidents have agreed that chess (like Caesar's Gaul) should be divided into three parts - classical, rapidplay and blitz - with a separate rating produced for each. They have then specified the appropriate time controls (both incremental and non-incremental) which should apply to each.

Then comes the list of official (i.e. FIDE's own) events that will be played under the 'classical' header, and they are: "The whole world championship cycle, including continental championships, the world Cup and the world championship match will be held with the classical time control. The other FIDE tournaments are supposed to be held with the rapid time control."

The glaring exception is the FIDE Olympiad. It has not been mentioned, so one has to assume that the intention is that it will be played at rapidplay, with more than one game a day. This begs the question as to how many players from non-sponsored nations will be bothered to traipse across the world, at great expense, to take part in a rapidplay tournament.

I also pity entrants to the world senior championship: after a lifetime of standardplay chess, they too may be subjected to the clock-thumping farce of rapidplay. Those of us well stricken in years know only too well how much harder it becomes to calculate quickly. I would guess that a sizeable proportion of the over 60 brigade will stay at home rather than subject themself to rapidplay.

As I have said before, there is nothing wrong with rapidplay per se. I'm quite happy to make a short trip to a one-day rapidplay tournament within a 10 or 20 mile radius of my home, but there is no way I'd buy a plane ticket or run up a five-day hotel bill to play quick chess somewhere remote.

As for FIDE and their argument about making "chess more attractive to media": this is utter tosh and I'm sick of spelling out the refutation in print. Ray Keene pointed this out years ago. When Kasparov and Short played a glitzy match for the TV back in the 1990s, they used a time limit of (I think) 25 minutes for all the moves. As Ray pointed out, the TV company still had to edit that down to 30 minutes for the TV show. So - what's the difference between editing a rapidplay game and a standardplay game? Let the guys play a proper game and then let the TV people edit it to whatever length they think appropriate for transmission.

As to the argument about "achiev[ing] time savings for professional chess players": the perverted logic behind this seems to be that a pro might earn more money per minute if the game is speeded up. For heaven's sake, don't anyone mention this to professional footballers, otherwise we might have Wayne Rooney asking for a 20% reduction in the length of Premiership matches in lieu of a 20% wage increase.

My feeling is that, although the ACP president has mouthed some of the appropriate sentiments about the need to retain the long-play format, the situation seems to be as I feared when writing about the earlier Ilyumzhinov/Kramnik meeting. Even the time controls specified as 'classical' [(100'/40+50')+30" for electronic clocks or 120'/40+60' for mechanical clocks] are a contradiction in terms.

Tregubov has clearly yielded to FIDE pressure (I can't help picturing Azmaiparashvili and Makropoulos standing over him while he signed the agreement). It's all very well the ACP representing existing professional players (who learnt their trade playing to more sensible time controls) - but who represents players who aspire to being the next generation of professionals? The FIDE-istas remind me more and more of Harry Potter's Death-Eaters - gradually sucking the life out of professional chess.

The fight is not over yet since both presidents have to take the list of proposals to their respective boards. Let's hope that the ACP shows a bit of sense and resists this latest proposal - otherwise chess itself could be in terminal time trouble.


FIDE - АСP Meeting Report - Moscow, 25.03.2007 - by Pavel Tregubov
Duration – 4 hours, Attendance: President K. Ilyumzhinov, President P. Tregubov, President’s advisor B. Balgabaev

I. The main topic of the meeting was time control in FIDE official tournaments. This subject has been one of the most discussed in the chess world over the past few years.
FIDE’s basic concept is to gradually reduce the length of chess games, which would enable to:
- have two rounds a day in some tournaments, in order to substantially cut organisation costs and achieve time savings for professional chess players;
- make chess more attractive to media (TV in the first place) and as a result to potential sponsors.
ACP’s position:
- reducing time for reflection damages the games quality; the calculation system for games with a shortened time control shouldn’t therefore be the same as that for games with classical time control, as their sports value is lower;
- rather than continuing to reduce the classical time control, it would make more sense, in line with today’s world, to actively develop and promote rapid chess;
- the world championship and its traditional time control are an integral part of chess history; the whole world championship cycle must be held with classical time control.
Following a long discussion, the parties worked out the following common position, which has to be approved by the ACP Board and will be presented for consideration to the next FIDE Presidential Board.
1. FIDE sets up three official time controls:
а) classical (100'/40+50')+30" for electronic clocks or 120'/40+60' for mechanical clocks;
b) rapid 20' + 10" for electronic clocks or 25' – for mechanical clocks;
с) blitz 3'+2" for electronic clocks or 5' - for mechanical clocks.
2. There will be a separate calculation system for each of these time controls. In addition to the existing classical system, FIDE will introduce, from 1.07.2008 two new systems: one for rapid tournaments, and one for blitz tournaments.
3. The whole world championship cycle, including continental championships, the world Cup and the world championship match will be held with the classical time control. The other FIDE tournaments are supposed to be held with the rapid time control.
II. Appeal Committe
19.03.2007 The ACP sent to FIDE a proposal on a problem which has recently become a topical issue: determining the composition of the Appeal Committee for FIDE official tournaments.
FIDE doesn’t see any possibility of changing the composition of the AC for the upcoming Candidates matches, as its members (G. Makropoulos, B. Spassky, B. Ivanovich, B. Asanov) were invited a long time ago and have confirmed their participation.
It is agreed that the ACP will propose one of the candidates to the AC for the most important official FIDE tournaments."

Friday, 23 March 2007


Any chessplayer worth his salt has heard of Philidor. If not, I suggest you beat a path to Wikipedia and read about him: He is usually regarded as the best 18th century chessplayer.
Most of us will also aware that he had an equally high profile career as a highly-regarded composer of music, but I guess few of us have ever had the chance to hear some of it.
Now is our chance... today's Guardian has a review of a double CD published by Naxos featuring Philidor's compositions, including Carmen Saeculare and various overtures.
The review is generally complimentary: "much of the music is astonishingly inventive, as one gorgeous number follows another in excitable profusion". Sounds promising, doesn't it? In a spirit of gens una sumus, I feel tempted to visit my local record store to buy a copy.
My thanks to Phil Adams for drawing my attention to this.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

An Even Briefer History of Time than Stephen Hawking's...

I'm not very good at remembering quotations and only ever retain the gist; but someone (possibly Lubosh Kavalek) is supposed to have said something along the lines that "tournament directors organise tournament schedules for their own convenience."

My own theory is that, when chief arbiters draw up playing schedules and time controls, their first priority is to fix the time when they want to sit down to dinner. Then they decide on a starting time, with an eye to the FIDE rule that sleepy-head GMs should never be asked to push a pawn before 1pm. So it merely remains to tailor the time limit to that part of the day that lies between the GMs' brunch and the arrival of the enormous pies that (judging from their average girth) arbiters like to eat for dinner.

However, with the newly-proposed time controls, when most games would be over and done with inside 2½ hours, would I be right in thinking that the arbiters/organisers now want games finished by tea-time? So it looks like the time set for the arrival of the scones and jam (and not the enormous pies) is now the determining factor.

Anyway, I've thought of a way that we can use player power to scupper this ludicrous new time control. All it needs is for two players to play a 900-move game to ensure that at least one arbiter has to miss his scones and jam. Yes, that is the number of moves you would have to play at the 1 hour plus 10 seconds time control to fill out a traditional seven-hour playing session. Remember to make sure one of you still has a mating force (lest the hungry arbiter leap in and declare the game drawn) and be wary in case he or she tries to claim that you are bringing the game into disrepute under law 12.1.

The thought of 900 moves in seven hours rather underlines the absurdity of the new time control, doesn't it?

P.S. If you getting a feeling of deja vu reading this, it is because I first posted it on the Atticus CC forum.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

The Times They Are a A-Changing (again)...

My thanks to Steve Fairbairn for drawing my attention to this item on the FIDE website...

This news report, dated 12 March 2007 and entitled "FIDE President meets the World Champion Vladimir Kramnik", includes the following paragraph:

"Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Vladimir Kramnik exchanged the opinions in respect of time control and concurred that it is necessary to keep the 7 hours control for top level events and some traditional chess tournaments. For all other tournaments a new time control of 1 hour plus 10 seconds from move 1 for each player will be set up. The World Champion supported the idea. This proposal will be considered by the next Presidential Board meeting."

I had to read and re-read this several times in disbelief. I double-checked the date (in case it said 1 April). As we like to say in London, "they're 'avin' a laugh". They can't be serious, surely? If they are, they are completely and utterly insane. I could believe it of Ill-Lunatic (as Kingpin like to call him), but Kramnik has previously shown himself to be a calm and rational person for the most part. If he has been misquoted, he must get something up on his website pretty quick or his reputation for common sense is going to be blown to pieces.

Do I need to spell out the argument as to why 1 hour plus 10 seconds a move is insane? Probably not, but here are a few thoughts. It means that players would have 1 hour 10 mins for a 60-move game - even faster than the time control used for evening league matches in the UK. As it happens, I played a game last night that went to a frantic rapidplay finish, probably lasting about 90 moves, in which my flag fell when I was on the point of winning with K+N+P v bare K. All good knock-about fun between amateurs, and a draw was actually a fair result, but this is hardly suitable for serious grandmaster chess. Our league's time control is 30 moves in 75 minutes, followed by 15 minutes for the rest. That is basically 90 minutes for the whole game - but the FIDE proposal would work out at only 75 minutes for a 90-move game.

The other aspect of this which troubles me is its inherent elitism. FIDE still don't want to go back on their ridiculous shortening of the time controls, but they now have to cope with a world champion (and probably other elite players) who hate the new time controls. So they divide and conquer: they cut a deal with the big boys, but apply the new nonsense to the powerless masses. But the point is that the elite players would never have become great players in the first place had they not had years of playing seven-hour chess. It is utterly odious for them now to pull up the ladder so that a new generation does not have access to sensible time controls. How are young players expected to become good players on a relentless diet of speed chess? And any of them who did make it through the system would then have to acclimatise to long time controls on reaching the elite level. And, of course, it would mean the end of the line for subtly-played endgames. Reuben Fine's Basic Chess Endings could be consigned to the history shelves.

The good news is that I cannot see it happening widely. Most chess organisers are too sensible to give way to the sort of nonsense that FIDE tries to impose on them. For example, Stewart Reuben is a strong advocate of a one-minute increment at his Hastings and Gibraltar tournaments, and the 4NCL is planning a similarly sensible increment-based time control for its future events, designed as far as possible to correspond to the traditional seven-hour session. I'm sure there are plenty of other arbiters and organisers who will continue to do their own thing. But it would be the ruination of FIDE's own tournaments. Sad.

P.S. Guardian Prize Competition

The Guardian Prize Competition I mentioned yesterday is now online at the Guardian chess page.,,2031825,00.html

You need to get your answers in by 19 March - no time to lose...

Monday, 12 March 2007

Guardian Prize Competition

There is a chance to win Kasparov's new book in the Guardian newspaper today. It's not yet on their website so you may have to go out and buy a paper copy of the newspaper to make sure you get your entry in. The book is Garry Kasparov's brand new Revolution in the 70s, worth £30. The competition is in the 'G2' section of today's Guardian newspaper where columnists Daniel King and Ronan Bennett are offering the new book as a prize for the person who comes up with the best plan (i.e. not just the best first move) in the published position. Might be worth keeping an eye on the Guardian chess website (which is just in case the competition becomes available online. Even if you don't win, you can always buy a copy from stock at (commercial break over)...

P.S. Apologies for the long-time 'radio silence' here at my blog. I cannot get used to the standard rhythm of blogging, which should be 'little and often', whereas I tend towards 'lots but infrequent'.