Thursday 31 December 2009

Hastings and Gibraltar

I don't know what effect it had on blog readers, but the phenomenal London Chess Classic earlier this month at Olympia seems to have re-energised me. I've been down to Hastings to take some photos (which I'm hoping will appear on a website very soon) and sensed a more positive mood amongst the British chess community. I watched the round one games and was generally impressed by the quality of play. I sat in on a game post-mortem with Keith Arkell and enjoyed his good-natured and informative comments on his first round win. Since then he has had one of those typical Arkell endgame grinds at which he excels - usually a good sign that all's well in Keith's world.

As well as writing and editing the magazine, I've also been involved in the preparations for the next Gibtelecom Chess Festival in Gibraltar. It starts in about three weeks and now boasts a remarkable line-up on players. There are three 2700+ players, Bacrot, Vallejo Pons and Movsesian - plus two players who have been a heartbeat away from the world championship - Mickey Adams and Gata Kamsky. The tournament is famous for its generous women's prizes and this has attracted two of the three highest rated women players in the world, Humpy Koneru of India and Hou Yifan of China (see photo above), as well as the Women's World Champion, Alexandra Kosteniuk. Such is the growing reputation of the tournament that it doesn't necessarily have to go looking for star players any more - some of the big names you see above asked if they could play there.

I've also heard a whisper or two about a couple of legends of the game who just might be visiting the Rock in 2010. No names yet, but watch this space.


Wednesday 23 December 2009

Anand to have Carlsen as a second for the World Championship with Topalov (or is he?)

A recent newspaper interview indicates that Vishy Anand is to have Magnus Carlsen as one of his seconds for the World Championship match with Veselin Topalov In April 2010.

Anand broke the news himself in an interview given to an unnamed staff reporter on the Calcutta Telegraph. Asked whether Indian GM Surya Sekhar Ganguly would be his one of his seconds, Anand replied: "He may be. I am not sure. Seconds are a very secretive thing. Even if I tell you that he will be one of my seconds, the rival camp will not believe me. But one thing is for sure, Magnus Carlsen (the world No. 2) will be one of the seconds."

By the time of the match Carlsen may well be world no.1 so it does seem slightly strange that Carlsen should support a player whom he would surely hope to challenge in a subsequent world championship (assuming Vishy retains his title, of course). Any cooperation between Anand and Carlsen would involve Vishy revealing his box of opening tricks to his future challenger. But perhaps it would also reveal something of Carlsen's modus operandi to the wily champion.

With his immediate target in mind, Anand must be hoping that this early revelation of the ace in his hand will deal a psychological blow to his Bulgarian challenger - much in the same way that, earlier this year, the announcement that Magnus Carlsen was being coached by Garry Kasparov was timed to boost Carlsen's challenge against Topalov in the 'Pearl Spring' super-tournament in China. I'm just wondering whether it means that Anand will get a degree of Kasparovian support at second remove - Garry tells Magnus, and Magnus tells Vishy? Veselin Topalov and his team have occasionally been accused of paranoia - but maybe they really are all out to get him.

But HOLD THE FRONT PAGE! It seems that the interviewer could have messed up. ChessBase News are now reporting that Anand may have said 'Nielsen' and not 'Carlsen'! This would make sense as Peter Heine Nielsen has been Anand's second on several occasions. To which we can only say "OH! CALCUTTA!"...

Sunday 20 December 2009

Chess in Guyana

While I was working as press chief at the London Chess Classic in London, many thousands of miles away one of my oldest chess friends was doing his bit at the grass roots level to popularise the game, and with considerable success.

David Stevenson and I learnt our chess together at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, back in the 1960s and we were both members of the Cambridge University Chess Club in the 1970s. We've stayed in touch for 40 years and still meet up whenever we can though David has long since settled in the USA.

A few months ago David made a bold career move and decided to become a voluntary teacher in a developing country. If it had been a chess move, we'd have to annotate it 'exclamation mark, question mark' - "interesting"! Anyway, in a spirit of adventure, David took the plunge and now finds himself teaching maths in Georgetown, Guyana - for virtually no money and in what most of us European softies would consider to be incredibly difficult living conditions.

As well as teaching, David has taken the opportunity to start a chess club at his school, St Stanislaus College in Georgetown. And in a matter of months he has coached them to winning the Guyana National School's Championship. David can be seen in the above photo, flanked by his victorious team.

Some links...

Kaietur News

WorldTeam Blogspot (worth reading for David's description of some of the privations he has to put up with)

The photo above shows David holding the trophy, with the successful team around him.

Whilst saluting David's achievement as coach, I hope he also gets the chance to show what he can do on a chessboard himself while he's in Guyana. He has not played much competition chess for many years but, as a player who used to rank regularly in the 180s in the (then) BCF Grading List, my guess is that David could be the best chessplayer currently domiciled in Guyana. Though it once used to send teams to the Olympiad, a sharp downturn in the economy affected chess in the country and Guyana is (I think) no longer a member of FIDE.

We've just had a fantastic couple of weeks of big-time chess in London but, at this time of year, we should also stop to think of all those volunteers like David, all over the world, who give their time to organise and popularise our game. They are the lifeblood of chess.

Dave, if you get to read this: well done, have a great Christmas and a happy new year.