Oceania Seniors Championships

While researching Senior chess in other part of the world I discovered the Oceania Seniors Championships in Canterbury on the webpage of the New Zealand Chess (http://www.newzealandchess.co.nz/). After reading aobut the tournament I sent an email to the webmistress, Helen Milligan, inquiring about the state of Senior chess in here area. She was kind enough to get back to me, writing:
Give me a few days, and I’ll write you a report with some background and
details, and you can pick what you want from that for your Blog. You don’t
seem to be using photos much – but if you want you can use the photos from
my website, so long as you credit me (most of the photos are mine and there
will be a note somewhere if they are not). This is not just vanity; I claim
back various things against tax and the more proof I have that I am a ‘chess
reporter’, the better!

True to her word, several days later another email appeared in my inbox. It is everything one wants to know about Senior chess cown under, and more. Thank you, Helen!
OK, here’s a collection of info about NZ Seniors and the recent event…

We use the FIDE criteria. A man is eligible to play in Senior events from
January 1st in the year of his 60th birthday. A woman is eligible from
January 1st of the year of her 50th birthday. Unlike FIDE, we do allow women
under 60 to win the NZ Seniors (FIDE does not allow these women to play in
the Open World Seniors; they are only eligible for the Women’s World
Seniors. Women who satisfy the same criterion as men can play in the Open if
they choose, of course).

Note: these criteria will be changing in 2014 and we will follow the
changes. The age for men and women will be brought into line at 50 (ie, you
can play in Senior events from January 1st in the year in which you reach
your 50th birthday). There will be another age point at 65, described as

NZ Seniors Championship;
This is held annually; the dates and venue change from year to year
depending on which NZ Chess Club agrees to hold it. However, the format is
always the same; a 7-round swiss-system event with a time control of 90
minutes for the whole game with an increment of 30 seconds per move from
move 1. There are two rounds a day; one on the final day (or sometimes the
first day!). We have never found it necessary to award a Women’s prize;
women regularly pick up various placings and grade prizes. Only New Zealand
citizens and permanent residents are eligible to play.

Oceania Seniors:
Oceania is a sub-zone which holds its own Zonals, etc. It comprises
Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Palau, and
Guam. Only players registered to play for these countries can take part.
Recently, there has been an annual Oceania Seniors event, with prizes
including a free place in the Open World Seniors (for an eligible winner –
see my note about women’s ages above!) and a free place in the Women’s World
Seniors for the top woman.

Christchurch 2013:
This was in fact an Oceania Seniors Championship, incorporating the New
Zealand Seniors. Australian David Lovejoy and New Zealander Arie Nijman (who
is in his 80s) were first equal; on tiebreak Lovejoy took the Oceania title.
Nijman was the highest-scoring New Zealander so he took the New Zealand
Seniors Championship and the massive trophy (for a year). I was third and
took the Oceania Women’s Senior title; I will be travelling to Croatia in
November to take part in the Women’s World Seniors. Not yet clear if Lovejoy
can take up his place in the Open. Arie is too old to want to travel that
far. I am not next in line for the Open because I am too young; only
eligible for the Women’s. So, possibly Paul Glissan (Australia, 4th) will
go. We will see.

Obviously it will be all change for 2014 but we don’t know the regulations
yet. There will be an Oceania Seniors Championship in Sydney (Australia) in
early July, but it is not clear who qualifies, or for what. Will there be
Open/Women’s and also Veteran/Veteran Women’s? With the alignment of ages,
will there still be separate titles for Women? I really don’t know and I
haven’t had a response from the Oceania president with regard to this yet!

Other Senior issues:
We have an annual Grand Prix in New Zealand. Sponsors come and go but there
are always prizes (even if funded just by the income from the tournaments
that comprise the GP). There is a Senior prize. Next year, we will probably
have a Senior prize and a Veterans prize – since many of our stronger
players will suddenly become Seniors overnight on 31st December, and will be
swamping the Seniors section next year!

I hope this is useful!


The Leningrad Dutch

After the penultimate round of the 50th USSR Championship, Anatoly Karpov was in the lead by half a point over his last round opponent, Vladimir Tukmov, who had scored 8 ½. Karpov had white and the game was drawn in 15 moves. Lev Poluagaevsky also had 8 ½ points, and had white against Vladimir Malaniuk, who, along with, Lerner, Azmaiparashvili, and Razuvaev were the qualifying winners of the four Otborochny tournaments. Malaniuk was at minus one with 6 ½ points. Vaganian beat Yusupov in 52 moves to score 9 points and tie with Tukmakov for second, while all eyes turned to the Polugaevsky vs Malaniuk game. A win for Polugaevsky would mean sharing first place with Karpov. With the Azmaiparashvili-Petrosian lasting only 11 moves, and Balashov-Lerner 16, there were plenty of eyes to watch those like Agzamov-Beliavsky who battled to move 40 before splitting the point, and the other aforementioned games.
The game was a Dutch, although chessgames.com (http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1112474) calls it the, “Rat Defense: See also: Modern Defense (for lines with …g6 (A41).”
365chess.com (http://www.365chess.com/view_game.php?g=2360197) calls it the “Old Indian defense.”
Take a look at the game and decide for yourself what it should be called. Keep in mind that GM Vladimir Malaniuk has been the most prolific player of the Leningrad Dutch. For example, after 1 d4 f5 Malaniuk has 328 games listed at http://www.365chess.com, more than twice the total of the next two players combined.
This game made a big impression on me. A player from the old days would come to the House of Pain sporadically, each time asking, “You still playing that LENINGRAD?” I would always respond with, “Every chance I get.” He would smile as if everything was still right in the chess world.
I have followed Anna Muzychuk with interest because she plays the Dutch. Her younger sister, Mariya, has made the Leningrad Dutch a family affair. Compare this game played by Mariya with the previous game: http://www.365chess.com/view_game.php?g=3850722
My favorite Star Trek episode is “Court Martial.” It aired 2/2/67, or in Trek terms, Stardate: 2947.3. Captain Kirk finds himself on trial for the death of Lieutenant Commander Ben Finney. Kirk’s former girlfriend, Lt. Areel Shaw, is assigned to prosecute him, but tells him she has arranged for a lawyer. Samuel T. Cogley is the attorney. Later Kirk was asked if he had an attorney. After mentioning Samuel T. Cogley, the questioner said, “What did you hire him for? He still uses BOOKS!”
Samuel T. was a curmudgeon; someone who looked as if he belonged in the library. He went to one of the myriad shelves and took down a dusty tome, blew a cloud of dust, and found the answer in it. The episode is from season one, number 20. This is the episode in which Spock explains that having programmed the computer for chess himself just months before, the best he should have been able to do is stalemate. If you would like to read more about the episode, click here: (http://www.startrek.com/database_article/court-martial).
Although I looked long and hard, I was unable to find the next game online. I’m sure it is up there in the cloud somewhere, but it escaped me. That sent me to the shelves, well actually, box, where I located one of my all-time favorite books, “The Leningrad Dutch,” by T. D. Harding, published in 1976. I had previously gone to a certain page enough that it opened at the page containing the game between Anatoly Karpov and Jacobsen in the USSR vs Scandinavia junior match in 1968. This is my all-time favorite Leningrad game.
Karpov vs Jacobsen, USSR vs Scandinavia junior match 1968

1.d4 f5 2.g3 g6 3.Bg2 Bg7 4.Nf3 Nf6 5.0–0 0–0 6.c4 d6 7.Nc3 Nc6 8.d5 Ne5 9.Nxe5 dxe5 10.e4 f4 11.b3 g5 12.f3 Qd6 13.g4 h5 14.h3 hxg4 15.fxg4 Bd7 16.a4 Qb6+ 17.Kh2 Kf7 18.Bf3 Rh8 19.Kg2 Rh4 20.a5 Qc5 21.Ba3 Qe3 22.Qe1 Bxg4 23.hxg4 Nxg4 24.Rh1 Rxh1 25.Qxe3 Nxe3+ 26.Kxh1 g4 27.Be2 f3 28.Bc5 Bh6 29.Re1 b6 30.Bxf3 bxc5 31.Bd1 Kg6 32.Nb5 Bf4 33.Rxe3 Bxe3 34.Nxc7 Rh8+ 35.Kg2 Rh4 36.a6 Bf4 37.Kg1 g3 38.Bf3 Rh2 39.Bg2 Kf7 40.Kf1 Rh6 41.Ke2 Rb6 0-1

Old inChess

A new chess blog has appeared on the web: http://oldinchess.blogspot.com/
Upon discovery I sent an email to the author and received this reply:

Hi there Michael-

Thanks for writing and for your kind words. Sorry to have taken a few days to get back to you – it looks like I’m going to have to start checking this e-mail more often. (For a long time there was really no need, as very few people were visiting the blog and absolutely no one was writing to me about it. But now, after Old in Chess got a brief mention in the latest issue of New in Chess – which was quite a surprise! – and the Chess Cafe has begun to include it in their daily links, my traffic and correspondence have both started to pick up.)

You asked why I started writing the blog. I’ve always had an interest in chess history, and have written a few articles in the past. (You can find a couple of them in the Skittles Room archive on the Chess Cafe site.) Several years ago it occurred to me that it might be a lot of fun to present some of that history as current news – I didn’t know of anyone else who was doing anything similar, though there are a million chess blogs out there and I could well be wrong. As you can see from the blog, I made two earlier attempts to get started, in 1907 and 1910 (well, OK, 2007 and 2010), but both ended quickly owing to lack of time, demands of real life and work, etc. I’ve got a bit more time to devote to the whole thing these days, and, as I’m enjoying it so much, I hope to continue indefinitely.

On the blog, I take just a bit of literary license with certain details – for example, I usually pretend that games were finished in one sitting, without adjournments – but I do try to stick to the facts. I’ve also tried to develop an authentic-sounding, century-old narrative “voice.” To me it sounds consistent, at least – I’ll let others judge its quality. Some of my most enjoyable moments come when, while reporting happenings from a hundred years ago, I can wink at the reader and share an inside joke with him, for example:

(Written in the shadow of the long, awful period with two World Champions, stemming from the Kasparov-FIDE schism in 1993.)

(My tribute to the internet)

(A well-meaning profile of budding con man and future felon Norman Whitaker. My narrator thinks well of everyone, and can be a bit ingenuous at times…)

(A reference to Fischer’s 1961 article “A bust to the King’s Gambit,” which claimed 3…d6 as the refutation)

(Well, this one’s obvious.)

Anyway, I hope that’s some of what you were looking for. Let me know if you have any questions. I do intend to put my name on the blog sooner or later, but for the moment I think I’d rather maintain my anonymity, so if you do write about Old in Chess on your own blog (interesting stuff, by the way), I’d prefer to have you refer to me as just sjw.

Thanks and best wishes,

The Outer Limits of Chess

The June issue of Chess Life magazine contains a letter to the editor from IM Anthony Saidy concerning a book of essays by Aleksandar Hemon. I have been reading Chess Life since 1970 and this is the first time I can recall a letter mentioning a non-chess book of nonfiction by a writer known for fiction. After reading the letter by Dr. Saidy I immediately surfed to my library where I reserved the book online. After notification of the book being available I went to the library. I was amused by the cover of THE BOOK OF MY LIVES, which includes a blue alien looking creature with a big blue head and large eyes. As the librarian checked me out she looked at the cover and said, “How cute.” The significance of the “cute” blue creature would come late in the book.
From the cover I learned the author, “…has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a “genius grant” from the MacAuthur Foundation, the Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, the PEN/W. G. Sebald Award, and, most recently, a 2012 USA Fellowship. He lives in Chicago.” Also, “All the pieces were originally published in somewhat different form and have been revised and edited for this book.” Yet “The Lives of Grandmasters,” was previously unpublished. After considering reading this essay first I decided to start at the beginning.
The author was born in Sarajevo in the sixties and because of that fate placed him in Bosnia during the war. He writes movingly about the time preceding the war, and the chapter “Life During Wartime” puts the reader on the firing line. He applied to visit the United States under the auspices of the US Information Agency, writing, “I’d had an interview with the head of the Culture Center earlier that summer, but had expected nothing from it and pretty much forgot all about it.” After receiving a phone call, “…a woman from the American Cultural Center told me that I had been invited to visit the United States for a month…Indeed, I thought for a long moment that it was a prank call of some sort…”
The book begins with a series of questions; 1) WHO IS THAT? 2) WHO ARE WE? Something he wrote here struck me:
“Part of growing up is learning, unfortunately, to develop loyalties to abstractions: the state, the nation, the idea. You pledge allegiance; you love the leader. You have to be taught to recognize and care about differences, you have to be instructed who you really are; you have to learn how generations of dead people and their incomprehensible accomplishments made you the way you are; you have to define your loyalty to an abstraction-based herd that transcends your individuality.”
Reading this caused me to recall a song by Mike and the Mechanics, The Living Years: “Every generation/ Blames the one before/ And all of their frustrations/ Come beating on your door/ I know that I’m a prisoner/ To all my Father held so dear/ I know that I’m a hostage/ To all his hopes and fears/ I just wish I’d told him in the living years.”
Mr. Hemon uses a quote by a former POTUS to answer the question:
“George W. Bush, in a speech to the faculty and students of an Iowa college in January 2000, succinctly summed up the neoconservative philosophy of otherness in his own inimitably idiotic, yet remarkably precise, way: “When I was coming up, it was a dangerous world and you knew exactly who they were. It was us versus them and it was clear who them was. Today, we are not so sure who the they are, but we know they’re there.” What can better describe the nightmare years of the Bushwhackers?
Reading this book brought to mind how large a part the game of chess plays in the lives of the people of Europe. For example, he writes about becoming a friend of, “…Isidora when I was in college. Isidora’s father was a well-known chess author, good friends with many a famous grandmaster, including Fischer, Korchnoi, and Tal. He reported from world-championship matches and wrote a large number of books about chess; the most famous one was for beginners: the Chess Textbook (Shovska citanka), essential for every chess-loving hosehold, including ours. Sometimes when I visited Isidora, she would be helping her father with correcting the proofs. It was a tedious job of reading back transcripts of chess games to each other, so they would occasionally sing the games, as if performing in a chess musical. Isidora was a licensed chess monitor, and she traveled the world with her father, attending tournaments.”
Later he writes about, “Those happy days before everything collapsed…participating in passionate soccer-related discussions and endless, manic debates prompted by questions like: “Does the grandmaster Anotoly Karpov own a superfast speedboat?” Soccer, or the name the game is known by in all the world excepting America, football, is also a part of what and who is the author.
When he received the call from the American Cultural Center inviting him for a month long visit to the US, he writes, “By that time I was exhausted by the onslaught of warmongering, and I accepted the invitation.” Around that time he was having a relationship with a young woman who, …”was working hard to get out of Sarajevo and move abroad because, she said, she felt that she didn’t belong there. “It’s not about where you belong, it’s about what belongs to you,” I told here, possibly quoting from some movie or another.”
In the chapter, THE LIVES OF GRANDMASTERS, he writes about a childhood friend, Ljubo. “By high school, however, Ljubo lost interest in rock ‘n’ roll and indeed in most things outside the realm of mathematics and chess. Ljubo, who was too slovenly and disorganized to do what Mladen did and thus avoid serving in the army, had a dreadful time as a conscript… Soon he was enmeshed in full-fledged schizophrenia. A couple of times he was locked up in Jagomir, a grim funhouse close to the city zoo on the outskirts of Sarajevo…Once, after Ljubo returned to his parent’s home from Jagomir, his mother called us and suggested we come over to talk to him and cheer him up…He was listless and slow, affected by strong antipsychotic medication. We listened in stunned silence as he spun his schizo-narratives. This time, he divulged to us the true story of Alekhine, who, in Ljubo’s rendition, descended directly from God himself and therefore partook in some sort of destiny-control mechanism, plainly visible to those who analyzed his games correctly. Somehow, Alekhine’s divinity had been transferred to Ljubo, who was thus in direct communication with God. We had no idea, he told us, about the things that were happening as we spoke, we had no way to grasp the maginitude of his still-unused powers. The Alekhine yarn was then threaded into his claim that the truly great grandmasters-those of Alekhine’s divine caliber-all eventually quit playing the game. Because the number of positions in chess, however immense, was finite, the true grandmasters eventually played their way through all the possible combinations, thereby reaching the outer limits of chess…”
This made me think of some of the s0lilquies I patiently listened to from players while working at the House of Shame. I also thought about someone from my past. He was a big fan of Jimi Hendrix and when it was announced that Jimi had died, he refused to believe it, telling everyone who would listen that Jimi had not died, but had gone to planet Zud, where he had struck the note that was on its way to Earth, so strong and powerful it would obliterate our planet when it hit. “But’s that’s OK, he would continue, “It won’t happen for billions of years!” Why do you think we called him Captain Trip?
My favorite part of the book, naturally, concerns his chess play in the US, and those he found with whom to do it.
“In the early nineties, after I’d moved from Ukrainian Village to Edgewater, I played chess at a place in Rogers Park called the Atomic Café. It was rife with all kinds of characters obsessed with chess. Between the games I would hang out with the idle players, small-talking, asking them a lot of questions, ever eager to extract bits of other people’s lives…There was a brilliant Indian computer programmer who, in the last few years I frequented the place, lost a number of jobs because of his chess obsession. He promised his wife at least once he would quit, but he could not help thinking of chess incessantly. Failing to stay clean of chess, he still came to the café, but declined all invitations to play, wasting just as much time kibitzing. Predictably, he ended up getting divorced. He told me so himself, the last time I saw him. He was driving a cab at the time, which he parked in front of the café to play all day, happily off the wagon and thoroughly uninterested in catching fares. All my chess friends seemed to be lonely men, continuously struggling to reproduce the painfully evanescent beauty of the game, never getting within sight of the bujrum border.”
It is in the heartrending final chapter the reader will learn the significance of the alien.