Tuesday 19 May 2009

New Ivanchuk Drug Test Shock Horror

Chess has been rocked by another drug scandal. Yesterday, after the traditional MTel Masters soccer match, where the chessplayers line up against a local side, Vasyl Ivanchuk once again refused to take the obligatory post-match urine test prescribed under the rules of the Bulgarian Football Association. He faces a lengthy ban...

... don't worry, I'm only kidding. But the joke is not original. What actually happened was that, as Ivanchuk limbered up for the game, the 'team doctor' approached him and warned, "After the match, we have a urine test laid on for you!" Ivanchuk is said to have 'appreciated the humour'. Hmm, I wonder. What's the Ukrainian for "are you taking the p***?"

Well done, Evening Standard!

Having taken the mickey out of the London Evening Standard in my previous blog entry, I'm only too pleased to retract everything in this one and say "well done, Evening Standard". Leonard Barden's daily print column has been restored (though at the cost of withdrawing the online column, it seems. Oh well, can't have everything). The newspaper was remarkably quick to respond to readers' opinions.

Friday 15 May 2009

The Remorseful Day

What's with all these people suddenly saying sorry? Is it perhaps a symptom of swine flu or is it an ailment in its own right? The fat cats of major banks were the first people to go down with 'sorry flu' with their profuse apologies for cocking up the world's economy and paying themselves unjustifiable mega-bonuses (I couldn't help noticing that the cure for the disease didn't extend to paying any of the money back).

Now the disease (apologitis ratbagiensis, to give it its full Latin name) has taken hold at Westminster as afflicted MPs and party leaders vie with each other in expressing their oh-so sincere regrets for helping themselves to rather more of the tax-players' money than they should have. It's clearly a painful malady as the air rings with heartfelt cries of "it's the system that's at fault", "it was a genuine mistake", "I've already paid it all back", "the money was just resting in my account", etc, etc. No, wait a minute, that last one came from an episode of Father Ted more than ten years ago - but you get the general idea.

A few weeks back, lodged neatly between the bankers' outpourings of remorse and the politicians' mea culpas, there was another public airing of the five-letter 's-word'. I read this report online...



LONDON - The London Evening Standard launched a campaign today apologising to Londoners for its performance in the past, as the newspaper kicks off a three-week publicity attack ahead of its relaunch on May 11.

The print campaign, created by McCann Erickson, apologises to Londoners for losing touch, taking them for granted, and being negative, complacent and predictable. All of the executions begin with the word "sorry" and use the Standard's Eros logo.

The campaign comes in response to market research, commissioned by the newspaper’s new editor, Geordie Greig, which found that Londoners felt the paper was too negative and did not meet the capital’s needs.

The approach will be seen as critical to that of the former editor Veronica Wadley, who edited the Standard for seven years before its acquisition by Alexander Lebedev.

So, when 11 May finally arrived, what did the Evening Standard apologists actually do? Well, for a start, they reduced Leonard Barden's long-running and much-loved chess feature from five appearances a week to a solitary one (on Friday), though still publishing the other four online. It's at http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/chess if you want to read it and there is a comment box at the end where you can express your feelings about the situation (more and more people are doing so). Good to have it online but it is a retrograde step to remove it from the printed newspaper where it is much more likely to be read by occasional or casual chessplayers and where it has provided high quality enjoyment for tired commuters and valuable publicity for competition chess since the early sixties.

Only now can we chessplayers fully appreciate what the earlier report said about the Evening Standard "losing touch... taking [people] for granted... being negative", etc, etc. For us, things were rather better before the newspaper suddenly succumbed to a fashionable attack of 'sorry flu'. Given the Standard's admirable propensity for expressing sorrow, there is still time for them to do so again, whilst at the same time restoring Leonard Barden's column to the print version of their paper on every weekday as before. But there is no need for the newspaper to shell out further cash on an expensive publicity campaign. See the image above, where I have adapted the poster the Standard used earlier this month as part of their relaunch. In a spirit of reconciliation I'm prepared to let them use my artwork for free.

Thursday 7 May 2009

4NCL: Jonathan Rogers Annotates...

Whilst at the 4NCL in Daventry on Monday, I bumped into FM Jonathan Rogers of Barbican (see photo). Jonathan recommended to me his ninth round win against Mark Ruston which featured an attractive queen for two pieces sacrifice.

Jonathan followed up the sacrifice with a less spectacular but highly potent move which he tells me a number of GMs failed to find when he challenged them. He has very kindly let me have an annotation of the game to feature here.

(Unfortunately, Jonathan's annotation is too long to fit in a pgn4web window, so I have simply appended the PGN code which you will need to copy and paste into the chess software of your choice - JS)

[Event "4NCL 2008/9"]
[Site "Hinckley Island"]
[Date "2009.05.02"]
[Round "9.1"]
[White "Ruston, Mark"]
[Black "Rogers, Jonathan"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "B23"]
[WhiteElo "2092"]
[BlackElo "2337"]
[Annotator "Rogers, Jonathan"]
[PlyCount "44"]
[EventDate "2008.10.04"]
[EventType "team-tourn"]
[EventRounds "11"]
[EventCountry "ENG"]
[SourceTitle "EXT 2010"]
[Source "ChessBase"]
[SourceDate "2009.11.30"]
[SourceVersion "1"]
[SourceVersionDate "2009.11.30"]
[SourceQuality "1"]
[WhiteTeam "Sambuca Sharks"]
[BlackTeam "Barbican II"]
[WhiteTeamCountry "ENG"]
[BlackTeamCountry "ENG"]

1. e4 c5 {For the first time in 22 years and the second time in my life. I was
inspired by the assurance that these days, no one under 2500 dares to play 2
Nf3 and 3 d4.} 2. Nc3 {I hadn't actually looked up my opponent on any database,
so apparently this observation is right.} e6 3. g3 a6 4. a4 d5 5. exd5 exd5 6.
Bg2 Nf6 7. d4 cxd4 8. Qxd4 Nc6 9. Qd1 Bb4 ({White's opening has been dubious,
especially the insertion of 4 a4. Black should perhaps have taken better
advantage of this by playing} 9... Nb4 {, threatening 10...Bf5, with good
development after} 10. Nge2 Bc5 {. But it turns out that Black will not regret
putting his bishop on b4; it never moves again...}) 10. Nge2 O-O 11. O-O Re8
12. Bg5 Bg4 13. f3 ({Instead} 13. h3 Bxc3 14. hxg4 {would have been quite
reasonable for White. The text is weakening, but White clearly wanted to put
his knight on f4.}) 13... Bf5 14. Nf4 d4 $1 {I had decided now to sacrifice
the queen!} 15. Ncd5 Nxd5 $1 16. Bxd8 Ne3 17. Qc1 Raxd8 ({I did not consider
releasing the pressure with} 17... Nxf1 {- Black does not want to give White
time to consolidate with} 18. Bxf1 {and 19 Bd3.}) 18. Rf2 {My next move is
very difficult. I had not seen it in advance, and none of the IM or GMs to
whom I showed this position afterwards found it either, even though they knew
that something was there to be found. It seems that one needs to be at the
board, discarding the more obvious alternatives first ...} Na5 $3 ({I had
wanted to play} 18... Nxc2 19. Rxc2 Re1+ 20. Qxe1 Bxe1 {but then realised that
here White can play} 21. Rxc6 {. But this line did give me a clue - that this
knight on c6 should be moved; and I had also seen that I should want to
discourage White from freeing himself with c2-c3. So now I gave serious
consideration to what is a most unusual attacking manoeuvre!}) {Here it is.
Now the threat is 19...Nxc2 followed by Nb3, and Black will pick up both White
rooks! It is astonishing to see how helpless White is against the oncoming ...
Nb3. Later we thought that White needed to respond to this with 19 Ra3 and
were not sure whether Black should simply capture it, or increase the pressure
further with 19...Rc8 (but then how to respond to 20 Rd3? However a computer
provided a further surprise by preferring Black in this position, and gave the
continuation 19 Ra3 Rc8 20 Rd3 Bxd3 21 Nxd3 Nb3! 22 Qb1 Nd2 23 Qa2 Rxc2. Here,
having crashed through on c2, Black is doing very well because the White queen
cannot move (save from a2 to a1!) and the bishop on b4 is immune on account of
...Rc1+. He can consolidate his grip with ...a5 and double the rooks on the
c-file at his leisure. The idea of the knight hopping from a5 to d2 in order
to interfere with White's protection on c2 is most artistic. My opponent had
little time left and understandably collapsed: his next move was designed to
prevent the knight on e3 from moving on account of Qg5.} 19. Nh5 d3 $1 {
Instantly decisive. This would also have been the response to 19 Bh3 Bxh3 20
Nxh3.} 20. cxd3 Nb3 21. Qb1 Nxa1 22. Qxa1 Rxd3 {And now there is no good
defence to ...Rd1+.} 0-1