chris: (mso)
Between 2005 and 2010, I made a habit of making one post each year about chess. Now seems like a reasonable time to restart the habit.

The world's number one player is Magnus Carlsen from Norway. (There is no decisive number two.) Magnus is now 25, so thinking of him as a child prodigy is a little out-of-date. Carlsen won the World Championship in 2013, defeating six-year titleholder Vishy Anand of India; Anand won the Candidates Tournament in 2014 to earn a rematch and Carlsen beat him a second time. Carlsen is currently defending his world championship title against Sergey Karjakin, another former prodigy of comparative vintage; their stars shone brightly during their mid- and late teenage years, representing the current generation of talent. The first two games of the twelve in the match were both drawn; the third game is in progress, taking place through the afternoon and early evening in New York, and Magnus is trying to press a very slight advantage into a possible win. (Edited the next day: due to slight inaccuracies in the sixth hour of play, it was a draw as well. Games four to six, completed while I wrote this slowly, also proved drawn.)

British chess has not notably kicked on in the past few years. Michael Adams had a fantastic result at a very strong tournament in Dortmund in 2013 but is gently falling from being a firm top-ten player to being a fringe top-twenty player; Nigel Short is the oldest player in the top 100 at age 51. David Howell briefly represented the generation after (well, half a generation after, being 16 years younger than Adams) in the top forty, but has since faded; there are no British players in the top 100 juniors list. The British Isles' 4NCL has got larger but it's been a while since there's been a team to seriously challenge Guildford for the title.

The London Chess Challenge has been one of the very strongest tournaments in the world in the last couple of years, being part of a small Grand Chess Tour circuit along with a counterpart similarly strong event in St. Louis. Chess in St. Louis is hugely strong thanks to benefactor Rex Sinquefield, who was even able to drag Garry Kasparov briefly out of retirement for a blitz chess tournament in April; Kasparov remained competitive against opponents roughly half his age.

I've long been fascinated by the online United States Chess League from the perspective of sport organisation, both considering chess as an e-sport and considering a mind sport as a spectator sport, or at least a sport that might develop a following. Over the course of eleven seasons, from 2005 to 2015, it grew from eight teams to twenty. It has long been an initiative very much in the image of its commissioner, IM Greg Shahade, though not without very considerable assistance from Arun Sharma and others. Greg has a blog worth reading; a recurring theme is calling out sexism where he sees it, which helps me feel he's on the side of the angels. (Anyone who volunteers to run something starts with a ton of credit in my book, but calling out sexism is more important.) Another recurring theme is the promotion of rapid chess, even at the expense of classic-time-control chess, and this has inspired his latest major change in his online chess league.

The United States Chess League is no more. Instead, starting in January 2017, welcome the Professional Rapid Online Chess League in its place. In practice, it's referred to as the PRO Chess League; this is not quite a GNU's Not Unix recursive acronym, but a little artistic licence for the sake of a really good acronym can only be a good thing.

Read more... )Mind sports e-leagues are a fascination of mine; I have followed the USCL through its existence, I have written about the Learned League quiz phenomenon, I keep an eye on the Pandanet European Go Championship and I wrote about taking part in the Croco-League, for logic puzzles, from 2012 to 2014. The PRO Chess League is one of the most interesting and ambitious yet.

I'd need some pretty serious convincing that this whole operation might work in practice if it had been organised by someone who had no track record, but Greg's track record is a very strong one. It's worth noting that as well as starting exciting schemes up, Greg also has a habit of closing them down when he feels they are no longer working (see the USCL, but also see his Scramble With Friends league, which has a few similarities in league design philosophy, and also see his New York Masters live tournaments) so I would be inclined to believe that the PRO Chess League might not be around forever, and not just in a trivial "nothing lasts forever" sense. It's definitely going to be fun to follow while it's around, though!
chris: (mso)
It's November, which makes it chess season! I post about chess about once a year or so; you can see last year's post or previous years' posts for comparison.

In world chess news... )

Chess in Britain is on rather an upswing at the moment... )

The main reason I'm making this post now is that we're getting to crunch time in one of my other slow-burning obsessions, the ground-breaking online United States Chess League. Now six seasons old, commissioner Greg Shahade has done a remarkable job at sticking with his original vision and bringing it to life, very ably assisted by Arun Sharma. They have achieved a considerable deal of what they set out to do to - heck, just keeping the show on the road and not burning out is success enough - and keep achieving to a more and more spectacular extent... )
chris: (mso)
About once a year, I write about chess. You can see previous year's installments back on my old steam-powered LiveJournal. I've been wanting to write this for a while, ideally even as part of my wider mind sports round-up, but if I had tried to fit it all in at the time, then the article wouldn't have been posted in any sort of timely fashion.

The most recent major tournament was the Tal memorial, Tal being a reference to Mikhail, the eighth World Chess Champion from Latvia. The tournament was arguably the strongest held all year, with all ten participants ranked within the world's top thirteen (with only #1 Vesselin Topalov and Azerbaijan's top two players - #11 Teimour Redjabov and #6 Vugar Gashimov - missing. Can't remember ever hearing of Gashimov before.) Vladimir Kramnik, the fourteenth undisputed world champion, ended up at the top of the leaderboard, with three wins and six draws in what was his best result since, probably, his world championship unification victory in late 2006, ablutionary controversy and all. Second place was shared by Vassily Ivanchuk and Norwegian prodigy Magnus Carlsen, the latter particularly impressive due to starting the tournament with a run of seven draws despite a head cold and finishing with a brace of victories.

The next major tournament rolls around next week and this time an unnamed City of London private sponsor has stumped up big money to fund the London Chess Classic, not unreasonably considered the strongest tournament in the UK for 25 years. The line-up. )

So exciting times in the world of chess, yet the only event to make the mass media at all recently was Kasparov coming out of retirement for a twelve-game half-rapid half-blitz match against Karpov in September. Their epic matches may have been among the defining marks of sport in the first half of the '80s, but it does seem a shame that the mass media are stuck three-quarters of a generation behind the rest of us. Perhaps it's a sign that the mass media still associate chess with multi-month man-on-man epic matches, which would speak less well of FIDE's shorter matches and even knockout tournaments for their title.

Speaking of which, FIDE's World Cup is in progress, with 128 entrants winnowed down after five rounds of caissic combat to a final four: Belarus-to-Israel emigré Boris Gelfand, Carlsen counterpart Sergey Karjakin, Ruslan Ponomariov (who has history in these knockouts) and surprise package Vladimir Malakhov who has probably amassed the most impressive beatpath to date. The 128 players in Khanty-Mansiysk (bless you), Russia will share US$1.6 million - specifically, they'll get 80% of it, and the organisers will keep 20%. The World Cup winner also gets one of the eight spots in the Candidates' Tournament to determine 2011's challenger. It's needlessly complicated (college football's BCS makes sense by comparison) and FIDE keep changing the rules. No change there, then.

And yet I find it tricky to support individual chess players unless either (a) I've met them or (b) I share a nationality with them in an international competition. (Even as a child of the world with a globalist perspective, I tend to identify as British rather than English or European in such matters.) While chess is avowedly an individual game, I'm most interested in it as a team sport where a team might give me some degree of identification and thus rooting interest. Four competitions have caught my imagination over recent months - the same four as usual.

The 4 Nations Chess League, or 4NCL, is a face-to-face competition in Great Britain with 11 rounds of play over five weekends between teams of eight players. Read more... )

The European Club Cup 2009 is a similar sort of tournament, but the teams of six are drawn from leagues all across Europe. Read more... )

This event took place two weeks before the European Team Chess Championship - a similar enterprise, but the latter is played between national teams of four rather than between clubs who may field international line-ups. Read more... )

And finally, the United States Chess League holds the grand final match of its fifth season tomorrow. Read more... )

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November 2016

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