Friday, November 26, 2010

Low-key affair at chess tournament

By Quah Seng Sun

All is quiet on the Asian front.

THE first time is always very eventful – the first time you take part in a local tournament, the first time you return home with a prize, the first time you represent the country in a sports event. For organisations, it may be the first time your game is featured in a multi-sport event like the SEA Games, or the Asian Games.

I remember when chess was first included in the SEA Games in Vietnam in 2003, the Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) made a lot of fuss over the fact.

Rightly so, because it also marked the first time the MCF ever went anywhere under the banner of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM).

Chess was also in the 2005 SEA Games in the Philippines and the Malaysian chess players were also right there mixing with the athletes of the other sports. But thereafter, for the 2007 Games in Thailand and the 2009 Games in Laos, chess was dropped.

Nevertheless, there is also the Asian Games which is a much bigger and more significant multi-sport event than the SEA Games. When chess was introduced to the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, there was much hope that the MCF would participate, but it did not.

But being absent once does not mean being absent a second time. This year at the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, the Malaysian chess players are finally there.

It was a rather small contingent of three chess players that were picked for duty in Guangzhou: Mok Tze Meng, Alia Anin Bakri and Nur Nabila Azman. They would play in only the men’s and women’s individual rapid chess tournaments and come home immediately. There would be no Malaysian team in the men’s and women’s classical chess tournaments.

When I asked the MCF secretary about this, he said that everything boiled down to mainly two issues: funding and player availability.

As far as the OCM was concerned, chess was in their B category of games, which means that if the MCF wanted to play in the Asian Games in Guangzhou, the federation or the players would have to raise their own funds.

As for player availability, many of them were indisposed due to work. Some had already taken time off for other tournaments so it was near impossible for them to play again this year. So a decision was taken not to play in the team events.

All that was left was for Mok, Alia and Nur Nabila to play in the individual rapid chess events. Perhaps because of this, the MCF decided against informing the Malaysian chess public about our participation in this Asian Games. Personally, I feel that instead of keeping it very low key, the MCF should still have announced it just for the record.

Mok played in the men’s rapid chess individual tournament and finished 38th, while both Alia and Nur Nabila participated in the women’s rapid chess individual tournament and finished in the 22nd and 28th spots, respectively. Both events consisted of nine rounds of rapid chess games and these were completed in four days.

As a measure of the strength of the men’s rapid chess tournament, 12 of the participating countries sent their top grandmasters. Indeed, Mok found out the hard way that negotiating his way through this minefield of grandmasters was no easy task. His quest for a first grandmaster title norm will have to wait.

The rapid chess gold medal went to Uzebekistan’s Ruslan Kasimdzhanov who scored 7½ points. Kasimdzhanov was the FIDE world chess champion in 2004 and he had been working with Viswanathan Anand in preparation for the latter’s world chess championship matches in 2008 and 2010.

Vietnam’s Le Quang Liem also scored 7½ points but he had to settle for the silver. The bronze medal went to China’s Bu Xiangzhi.

The women’s rapid chess tournament also featured several top-class players that included three with full-fledged grandmaster titles.

The Chinese grandmasters made a clean sweep of the top medals with Hou Yifan, as the outright winner of the event, taking the gold and Zhao Xue the silver. India’s Dronavalli Harika took the bronze.

Meanwhile, there are 17 teams taking part in the men’s team tournament and 12 teams in the women’s team tournament. In both events, China are the top seeds for the gold medal. The ninth and final round of both events is scheduled for today.

source: The Star Online

Monday, November 22, 2010

Magnus Carlsen pulls out from world chess match


Norwegian grandmaster Magnus Carlsen shocks chess world by withdrawing from Candidates matches.

IF you are waiting for the next world chess championship match to be played between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen (pic), you can forget about it.

It’s not going to happen any time soon, not after the gifted 19-year-old Norwegian (he’ll be celebrating his 20th birthday on Nov 30) pulled out from the Candidates matches that are due to be played next March.

It was a decision that shocked the chess world. The Norwegian grandmaster is currently the highest rated player in the world. Certainly, a match between him and defending champion Anand would have captured the world’s imagination.

But in order to reach Anand for the title, Carlsen would have to go through the series of elimination Candidates mini-matches. First off would be the Candidates quarter-final match and if he was successful, then the Candidates semi-final match and then the Candidates final match itself. The winner earns a ticket at a tilt with Anand in 2012.

Last week, Carlsen informed the World Chess Federation (Fide) that he was withdrawing from the Candidates. He claimed that the current world championship cycle was unfair to him. Also, the rules were not sufficiently modern enough. As such, he would not be able to motivate himself to compete.

What Carlsen wanted was an end to the Candidates matches. He preferred an eight to 10 player world championship tournament to decide who would be the world champion, like what was played in 2005 and 2007. He didn’t like the idea of a series of knock-out matches.

Well, maybe to a teenager, the matches are not exciting or appealing enough. But to the rest of the world – and when I say the “rest of the world”, I mean the top-ranked professional chess players – the return to the Candidates matches were what they demanded and received from Fide.

Few of the professional chess players wanted the world championship title to be decided on tournament play. There are tournaments a-plenty to satisfy the professional players throughout the year but a true test of a worthy champion, they said, is the ability to go through a series of games in a match with his challenger. For example, if two players were to play for the very highest stakes, would they want to stake everything on only one game or on a series of games?

Therein lies the other argument in Carlsen’s withdrawal: the world championship is not a fight on equal terms. While players have to slug it out in the Candidates quarter-finals, semi-finals and final matches, the champion only needs to sit pretty and wait for a challenger to emerge.

Why should one player have one out of two tickets to the final, which is to the detriment of all remaining players in the world, he asked. Curiously enough, he then made a puzzling comparison. Imagine, he said, if the winner of the 2010 Football World Cup directly qualifies for the 2014 World Cup final, while all the rest of the teams fight for the other spot.

To me, this comparison with the World Cup is simply not spot-on. World championship chess and the football World Cup are two different creatures. World championship chess is a contest between individuals whereas the World Cup is a team game.

In any tournament for individuals, the players do not change once the event had started. In team events, the players in a team do change from game to game. Even if two football teams play each other in quick succession, in all practical likelihood, the make-up of the teams on the two occasions would be different. Thus it makes little sense to make this sort of comparison.

Another of Carlsen’s argument was that five years was too long to complete a world chess championship cycle. To me, this is certainly true. However, one must understand the turmoil that the world chess had undergone in the last two decades.

Since the days of Wilhelm Steinitz (the year was 1886), there had been a long chain of undisputed world chess champions. This chain snapped in 1993 when Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short chose to play their world championship match outside Fide. For 14 years, there were two parallel championship cycles.

Although unification of the two titles eventually happened in 2006 after a lot of intense negotiation, the stakeholders still had much to demand from Fide. You can say that Fide had to tread a fine line to satisfy everyone involved and that needed time. But eventually, everything settled down and there is now again one accepted format and one undisputed world chess champion in Anand. It was a tough lesson learnt. Would anyone want to repeat the same mistake?

But of course, it is all up to Carlsen. If he chooses to withdraw from the Candidates matches, that is up to him. Nobody can force him to accept a system which he dislikes. So without him playing, there is no potential Anand versus Carlsen world chess championship match to look forward to.

Nevertheless, the situation is still okay by Fide. All this had been anticipated and one or two days later, the world body announced that Alexander Grischuk has replaced Carlsen in the Candidates.

The Candidates matches will be world class with or without the Norwegian grandmaster. Only difference is that it will have less glamour.

In fact, come next year, I’ll be looking forward to Veselin Topalov vs Gata Kamsky, Vladimir Kramnik vs Teimour Radjabov, Levon Aronian vs Alexander Grischuk, and Boris Gelfand vs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

source: The Star Online

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kaji Selidik Merancang Kewangan

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chess powerhouse


China makes its mark on international chess scene.

FORTY years ago, if I were to mention that chess was a popular game in China, I'm sure that you wouldn't be thinking of any other type of chess than xiangqi, better known to many of us as Chinese Chess.

And you wouldn't be wrong. Yes, down the centuries, xiangqi was the most popular board game in China and really, nothing has changed till today. It will always remain their most popular board game.

But there was a small section of people in China who decided on the big step to cross over and play what is known to you and me as international chess. It wasn't that they were abandoning the game that was their heritage but more that they were the innovators who decided to explore beyond their cultural boundaries.

In the years since then, there is no denying that China has become a very significant player on the international chess stage.

At the last Chess Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk for example, the Chinese national chess team finished fifth among 145 countries in the open event. That was no mean feat. Ahead of China were only the Ukraine, the Russian first team, Israel and Hungary, all very high-powered teams.

Plus, breathing down the Chinese necks were the Russian second team, Armenia, Spain, the United States and France. These teams finished with the same points as China but they lost out on the tie-breaks.

And in the Women's Chess Olympiad, the Chinese women were second behind the first Russian women's team. All in all, there is no denying that as a chess-playing nation, the Chinese are very strong indeed.

But what about their individual chess players? For this, there are two reference points: one is the static World Chess Federation's rating list that is published every two months, and the other is the rarified chess live rating list that ranks the chess players in the world who have an international rating of at least 2700.

The live rating list is dynamically changing all the time and presently, there are only 39 chess players on it. If a player gets onto this list, he is among the crème de la crème. China can claim to have two players there: Wang Yue is ranked 13th in the world and Wang Hao is joint 15th.

Lately, China has also been making its mark as an international chess organiser. In July, it organised the Asian youth invitational chess championships over various age groups.

And it was only last month that China organised the elite third Nanjing Pearl Spring chess tournament.

How high calibre was this double round-robin event? Well, in the first instance, only six players were invited. In the second instance, the organisers wanted only the best players and who would be among the best players in the world if not for Magnus Carlsen, Veselin Topalov and world chess champion Viswanathan Anand? Yes, indeed.

In the third instance, it was the first time that a chess tournament anywhere would feature three players whose ratings were 2800 or higher.

For 10 days then, all eyes were on Nanjing. There were only three games played every round but they were three games of the highest profile.

Not that the games were free of errors but on the contrary, the errors contributed to the tension and made this event one of the finest ever organised.

Carlsen was in superb form and he practically ran away with the first prize of 80,000. That was equivalent to earning about RM34,400 per game. Not bad for a player who was just a month shy of his 20th birthday.

Anand also turned in a strong performance but it was not enough to challenge Carlsen for the first prize. In fact, at one stage of the tournament, Anand was in danger of finishing third after losing to Etienne Bacrot but a combination of luck and hard work landed him the second prize of 55,000 (about RM236,000).

Bacrot was delighted with his third placing and I suppose, Vugar Gashimov, too, who finished fourth. An off-form Topalov found himself in fifth place, while a most disappointed Wang Yue finished last. He had the home support but this was just not his tournament.

This game is a typical example of the high tension in this event. If Carlsen had won this game, he would have pulled far, far ahead of his rivals and if Anand had lost this game, who knows what psychological damage it would have inflicted on him. But a draw, well, it allowed him to fight on for another day.

White: Magnus Carlsen (Norway)
Black: Viswanathan Anand (India)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 Nd6 6.Nxe5 Be7 7.Bf1 Nf5 8.Nf3 0-0 9.d4 d5 10.c3 Bd6 11.Bd3 Nce7 12.Nbd2 c6 13.Nf1 Ng6 14.Qc2 Nfh4 15.Nxh4 Qxh4 16.g3 Qd8 17.Ne3 Re8 18.Bd2 Nf8 19.Nf5 Bc7 20.Rxe8 Qxe8 21.Re1 Be6 22.Qc1 f6 23.Qd1 Qd7 24.Qf3 Re8 25.h4 (Undeniably, White has the better game here.)

25...Bf7 26.Rf1 Bg6 27.h5 Bxf5 28.Bxf5 Qf7 29.Kg2 g6 30.Bd3 f5 31.Rh1 Ne6 32.hxg6 hxg6 33.g4 (The first sign of tension) 33…Bf4 34.Be3 (34.Bxf4 is answered by 34...fxg4) 34...fxg4? (The second sign of tension. 34...Bxe3 would have been correct. Now, White increases his pressure on Black.)

35.Qxg4 Kg7 36.Rh5 (The threat of 37.Rf5 would be winning.) 36...Bxe3 37.fxe3 Nf8 38.Rh3 Kg8 39.Rf3 Qe6 40.Qf4 Kg7 41.b3 Qe7 42.c4 Rd8 43.Rh3 Rd6 44.Qh6+ Kg8 45.cxd5 cxd5 46.e4 Qg7 47.Qe3 Qe7 48.e5 Rc6 49.Qh6 Qg7 50.Qh4 a6 51.Rf3 Qd7 52.b4 b5 53.a3 Qc7 54.Kg3 Kg7 55.Bb1 Nh7 56.Ba2 Qd7 57.Bb3 Rc1 58.Kh2 Rb1 59.Bc2 Rb2 60.Rc3 Qf7 61.Kg3 (The third sign of growing tension. After 61.e6, Black's overworked queen cannot defend both his second rank and the g6 pawn.) 61...Nf8 62.Rf3 Qe6 63.Qd8?? (The fourth sign of tension. White throws the win away, having missed 63.Rf6 Qe8 64.Rf2 Ra2 65.Qf6+ Kg8 66.Bb3 Rxa3 67.Rf3. The game heads to a draw.) 63...Nd7 64.Rf2 Ra2 65.Kh2 Qg4 66.Qe7+ Kh6 67.Qd8 Qh5+ 68.Kg2 Qg4+ ½-½

source: The Star