Tag Archives: FIDE

The Long And The Short Of It

nigel 3

This coming weekend I am going to the Begonia Chess Tournament which is a chess competition in Ballarat, a town in regional Victoria.  I went to this tournament last year, it was my first long format tournament and it was where I became FIDE rated. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the tournament and the organisers have managed to persuade Nigel Short, a well known chess player from the UK, to come along. Nigel Short is a vocal critic of FIDE, he believes it is riddled with corruption and presided over by a lunatic. He would like to see FIDE cleaned up so that the organisation can better promote the game of chess in a more open and transparent way. His influence rests on his past games and his current FIDE rating.

It is odd, therefore, that the Begonia Chess Tournament, which last year was FIDE rated, is not going to be FIDE rated this year. Many players who are trying to improve, myself included, would like it to be FIDE rated so that we can strive to improve our ‘official’ rating. I would argue that almost all players would like to see the competition FIDE rated since they all hope to do well. A FIDE rated competition has gravitas and gives young players an opportunity to prove their skill in an official way. Something that someone like Nigel Short, supporting a better FIDE, would surely be happy with.

So why, given the important 50th anniversary, isn’t the tournament FIDE rated this year? Surely this would be the least we would expect. Well there has been some discussion about this on chesschat, an Australian chess web forum. The link is here and in the thread an IM states:

“Regarding tournament being not FIDE rated, it makes absolutely no sense. If it is because of contravention of July 2014 FIDE rules about ratings, once again it makes no sense since the 2015 Begonia Open was FIDE rated. I think it might be not FIDE rated because of enquiries from top player/s, since they don’t want to take risk of losing rating points, which sounds pretty pathetic, however, I don’t see any other reason that could explain it. It will be very much appreciated if organizers could clarify this situation, thanks.”

The response was:

“The committee for the 2016 BEGONIA OPEN has received a number of queries as to why this 50th anniversary tournament will not be FIDE rated.

Every endeavour has been made this year to ensure that this historic event is memorable in every possible way. Part of that included making special invitations to attract titled players both from Australia and overseas. It also included inviting many past winners of the tournament to compete again.

Whilst FIDE would agree to rate the tournament, the committee and the major sponsor were particularly concerned about the impact of the playing conditions on titled players and the possible adverse impact on their FIDE rating. It was felt that the gruelling playing schedule over such a condensed period, particularly the 3 games set down for the Sunday, did impose an unreasonable demand on those players.

The committee would like to advise that no player has made the matter of FIDE rating a condition of their participation in the tournament. Whilst the cost of FIDE rating the tournament is not insignificant that also was not the main consideration.

Some players may be concerned that they do not have the opportunity to gain a FIDE rating or ratify it, but the tournament will continue to be ACF rated.”

If  ‘specially invited titled players both from Australia and overseas’ are concerned about impacts on their FIDE ratings or if the committee are so worried that these players would be concerned about their ratings then I think it’s feeble. All players play under the same condition so a ‘grueling’ schedule for one player is ‘grueling’ for another. Any chess player worth their salt should be willing to put their points on the line. This must be better for chess, for FIDE and for anyone who wants FIDE to grow and to become more open and transparent. Give me the attacking 93 and 91 year old players from my last two posts any time over a titled player unwilling to risk FIDE points.

A FIDE Rating

Flying saucer

I started playing in FIDE rated tournaments in April and saw that I had a FIDE rating when I played in my latest, and fourth, tournament. My rating is currently 1377 and I assume it comes from success in my second tournament and failure in my third (see ‘Getting Over Getting Thrashed’). FIDE, to me, seems like a slightly backward organisation presided over for 20 years by someone with peculiar connections and beliefs – although he seems popular enough. It also seems to be ratified by votes that can be curried from small influenceable countries. On the plus side there seems to be plenty of well run competitions which are presided over by qualified arbiters. It is also the clear body under which chess is played formally and therefore my FIDE rating seems like a good rating to use to measure my progress. My recent tournament finished yesterday and I I felt I played quite well despite only winning 2 out of my 5 games. I suspect my rating will remain where it is, give or take, but I am enrolled in another competition that starts on Monday and I am hoping to improve.

An Open Post to Whoever Organises the Chess World Championship


Chess is undoubtably cool and it needs to look cool. The London Candidates Venue looked great – modern, studious, dramatic. Bobby Fischer in his dark blue suit was Gucciesque. Who can forget the soviet era with all its cold war chic – Kasparov vs Karpov, KGB limos? Think James Bond circa 1960’s or as per Casino Royale. There is clearly an opportunity to reinvigorate the image of chess rather than have the image at the top of this post.

My suggestions are…  Get rid of the audience. Over a million people were watching the World Championship online and about 12 were in the audience – most looked like they were there under duress, seeing them looked awful. Make it a feature that there’s no audience – ‘the players are now going into isolation… They will come out when a result occurs’, like space explorers stepping out of the landing capsule. Use design to highlight this process of ‘going into isolation’ – like the Big Brother house but not crass. Have a dynamic stat showing internet audience if possible (as long as the figure is large) – this will make people feel as though they are part of something big. When you have ads (commercials) don’t have a Phosphate manufacturer for agribusiness, dont  play a poorly produced video of someone ambling around a one room chess museum in Moscow. Surely an international high tech company or a logistics company would jump at being associated with chess – the YouGov Poll shows an ideal audience. Don’t have advertising on clothes, use the ad breaks for the sponsors to sell. The same holds true for the venue, use the press conference to have background logos. Design an incredible set in a prestigious location. An observation station on a high mountain peak in the swiss alps or the top of a skyscraper in Shanghai, even a purpose built temporary venue in Washington Square Park (architectural competition) – the venue can be quite creative since you are now free of a physical audience. Use technology beautifully. Make technology interactive so that people can, for instance, choose what commentator they want to hear – beginners will want different commentary to those that understand algebraic notation, some might choose commentary in a different language. The commentators should be the only audience at the venue and should not use engines, put them in dark little glass boxes overlooking the play. Also use technology to provide features like analysis boards so the internet audience can try out their own moves. Allow the internet audience to vote for moves before they happen and have a competition to see who gets closest to the actual game. The internet audience should be able to choose engines to evaluate players standings or suggests moves. Have more stats.

In summary understand that this event is an internet event; not TV, not physical audience.



Correspondence Chess 2 – Playing Historically


chess postman

The idea of playing correspondence chess came at me from two directions. The first was from a BBC documentary called “How To Win At Chess” which was part of their BBC Timeshift series. It can be seen here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x19so3x_how-to-win-at-chess_sport At the 13:30min mark there is a little vignette about correspondence chess that I found charming. I liked the quiet, pensive nature of it, I liked the ‘lite’ human connection between players and I liked the paraphernalia that was associated with the process. The second point of inspiration came from looking up an article on chess.com with the enticing title “Gain 100+ rating points quickly and start improving your chess” by someone with the moniker Aww-Rats, the article is here: http://www.chess.com/article/view/gain-100-rating-points-quickly-and-start-improving-your-chess. In this article, Mr Aww-Rats, strongly advocates correspondence chess as a way of improving and he is a Nation Master. Mad not to absorb the wisdom of older people.

So I sought to find out where and how I could play correspondence chess. Chess.com has a feature called ‘Online Chess’ which is web-based correspondence chess and I have started games here but I wanted something that I could view more seriously. I googled and found the Correspondence Chess League of Australia which confusingly has, at this time, two different websites. The correct one being http://www.ccla.net.au/ It wouldn’t be described as a welcoming site being hard to use and out of date in many areas but there it was, the official, FIDE endorsed, portal to national correspondence chess. So I joined and was entered into a match called Australian BICYCLE B12 (Bicycle because it didn’t permit chess engines). This is a web-based match against 7 other players. Further to this I asked to be entered into a friendly postal match and I was. The match is an ICCF Promotion Tournament called WT/0/150. The title is suitably austere and information came to me via snail mail.

Correspondence Chess 1 – A History

chess correspondence

A correspondence chess game was thought to be played between the Emperor Nicephorus and the Caliph of Baghdad, Harun al-Rashid (763-809), in the 9th century but it wasn’t until the late 1700 that we really see it starting. In the early 1820’s a number of national clubs challenged each other, the most well known being the games between London and Edinburgh.  Naturally Edinburgh won. Half a century later correspondence chess was played ubiquitously by all sorts of people (In 1883 Cambridge University played a postal match with some of the chess players at the Bedlam insane asylum. Naturally Bedlam won). In 1949 FIDE formed the International Correspondence Chess Association with the motto ‘Amici Sumus’ or ‘We are Friends’ in English.

The idea with correspondence chess was that you could take whatever time you needed, within reason, to make a move. You could look up past games, review opening theory, analyse by moving pieces and carry out research with a view to playing the best possible game. But this all changed when computers reared their clever heads. It changed for three reasons.

Firstly email could be used. This would seem like a tool for making correspondence chess easier but with ease come a loss of preciousness. I believe that this made games less important for some people. And while older correspondence players may have continued their deep analysis methodology I believe some players would have shifted their thinking towards viewing the games as more disposable. Emails, and now webservers, are cheap and efficient but I wonder if they inspire the same concentration as sending a postcard via the mail.

Secondly the speed of email transfers and the size of the chess population meant that there was an abundance of players ready to play instantly so why would you choose the slow, plodding path of correspondence chess over the gratification of a live game. This has meant that fewer people are taking up correspondence chess and many that did enjoy it have left.

Thirdly and most problematically is the fact that computers can now make better moves than humans. This has led to the spectre of cheating shadowing correspondence chess. It is impossible to be certain that people won’t cheat. It is so impossible that FIDE now permits computer engine analysis in most of the rated games – it therefore becomes a battle of machines guided by software engineers and gigabytes. I see the role of the chess player becoming less and less important in this form of correspondence chess. Again I see this as a reason for it’s decline.

I do, however, believe that there is still scope for correspondence chess to help me improve my chess providing I take a more historical approach to it.