One thing I am missing out on while in Al Ain, is the 23rd Abu Dhabi Chess Festival. Despite it only being a 90 minute drive away, it clashes with the Asian Chess Federation meeting I am attending, and so will miss the last round.
This is particularly significant as Australian IM Moulthun Ly is one game away from a GM norm. He is currently performing at 2610 (10 points above the minimum rating requirement) and is paired with GM Zahar Efimenko (2661) and a draw will be enough. As both players are 1.5 points behind the leaders, the chances of a peaceful result are increased as there is no huge pot of gold awaiting the winner. Also playing is GM Max Illingworth who is currently on 4.5/8, and is looking for a last round win to give him a good result going into the Olympiad.
An interesting article on the current state of FIDE finances by Peter Doggers at chess.com. It seems FIDE have been guilty of what many 'soon-to-be-insolvent' organisations do, and that is off budget spending. As it is easier to incur off budget expenses than it is to earn off budget income, this usually results in a decrease in liquidity rather than an increase.
The only hero in this story appears to be current FIDE Treasurer Adrian Siegel, who raised objections to non budgeted spending, but he was overruled by the FIDE Presidential Board. Of course the long term plan maybe to get Kirsan to contribute the $20 million that he promised at the 2014 FIDE Congress, but so far there has been no evidence to indicate that this is likely to happen.
My posts have become a little erratic over the last week, mainly due to the necessity of getting organised for the 2016 Olympiad. This time I am attending neither as a player, or an administrator, but as the team captain for Papua New Guinea. Hopefully this gives me more time to actually cover the tournament (rather than watch it race by), although my captaining duties will take up a significant amount of time.
Before the Olympiad starts I am stopping over in Al Ain for the Asian Chess Federation congress. This is a three day event (29th-31st August) with everyone moving onto Baku on the 4th. My travel starts tomorrow afternoon (27th) but hopefully I will have greater access to wifi than in my previous trips, and so will endevour to keep this blog chugging along.
One of the interesting, if sometimes sad, issues with chess Olympiads is which teams actually make it to the tournament. Having served on the Technical Administration Panel (TAP) in 2010 and 2012, there is a lot of uncertainty about whether a team has made it to the host city, and a lot of late night ringing around occurs.
On at least two occasions I have seen half a team turn up (only 2 players in 2008 and 2012) and been allowed to play. The rules were actually changed after 2008 to require a minimum of 3 players present for a team to be valid, but in 2012 FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov just waved his hand to allow Burundi to compete (they went 0-11 and scored 3.5 game points).
One of the weird stories for this Olympiad involves the team from Pakistan. According to this report the Pakistan Sports Board has refused to allow the team to travel to Azerbaijan. The PSB currently does not recognise an official Pakistan Chess Federation, as there are at least 3 competing federations. Apparently they have requested the team not be allowed to leave the country, which sounds like pretty serious stuff.
Papua New Guinea went through a similar situation in the lead up to the 2014 FIDE General Assembly, with a former president claiming he was still running the federation, despite a new executive being formerly elected. While it did not effect the participation of the team, it did mean that it was unclear who the PNG delegate to the GA would be. In the end FIDE, after some deliberation, simply recognised the candidate who was going to vote for Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, which of course was the previous president. Oddly, part of the reasoning was the claim that a Federation needed to be recognised by the countries National Olympic Committee or Sports Ministry, a 'rule' they seem to be ignoring in this case.
FIDE have published the proposed changes to the Laws of Chess, which you can find here. Most changes are to do with language, some with reorganising the document (numbering etc), and a few major changes.
Probably the most worrying is the return of the 'zero-default' rule, which had been removed a few years back. This rule has been the most unpopular rule in tournament chess ever since I had been involved, and it was a good thing that it was removed. So I'm not sure what the politics is behind bringing it back (and yes with FIDE it is always backroom politics), and I would hope that this proposal is rejected.
There are also changes to handling illegal moves, with players now only having to make a claim within 10 moves of the occurrence of an illegal move. This is to deal with the theoretical case of a player noticing an illegal move, deciding not to claim, and then waiting until much later in the game to make a claim, rewinding the game back to the legal position. The claim is that players could game the system by seeing if they are winning or losing before making a delayed claim, but I have never seen (or heard of it) in practice.
The only other change that jumps out at me is the handling of draw claims. The 5 times repetition rule has removed the requirement that the position occur via consecutive moves (which matches the three times repetition rule). Also it is now the players responsibility to check for three times repetition or a 50 move draw 'under the supervision of the arbiter' and that players now must assist in the reconstruction of games. I find this change odd, but possibly tacit recognition that too many arbiters are getting this part of their duties wrong.
Sadly, the changes signify a further move away from the ethos that chess players are relied upon to play fairly. Assuming players do not plan to cheat every time they sit down at the board makes for a simpler, more understandable set of rules, and by moving away from this, the rules are starting to become filled with 'corner cases' and 'what if's'
Studying very short games might not teach you much about positional chess, but it does help sharpen your tactics. This is doubly so if you are new to the game, and are still trying to understand why you just lost in under 10 moves.
Obviously games that end in two moves aren't particularly helpful (unless you are filming a scene for Columbo ) but games that end in 5 or 6 moves can be a good start. Probably the most common six move mate is the smothered mate trap in the Caro-Kan, but here is one that shows you how powerful discovered checks (and pawn promotions) can be.