28 July 2010

Need a Program to Identify the Players?

I knew I should have waited. Just a few days after last week's post, FIDE Presidential Candidates and the World Championship, where I wrote, 'it's too early to expect details about the 2010 Candidates Event', the details started gushing. Since this blog doesn't pretend to be a news site, I'll refer to a TWIC article on the subject -- FIDE Candidates are moved to Kazan -- and come back to the subject after the crude has stopped flowing.

TWIC's Mark Crowther referred to a Russian language article -- In the Chess World Is Coming Revolution -- which makes a fascinating read when submitted to Google's translation service, even though the sentences (like the title I just used) use a twisted grammar that requires some imagination to make sense of them. The story is a followup to a post I wrote in January -- Global Chess, Chess News Corporation, Chess Lane, and FIDE -- along with a few new twists introduced in the context of this year's FIDE election and the no-holds-barred free-for-all featuring Ilyumzhinov, Karpov, and the Russian federation.

I think I've mentioned elsewhere that I'm a fan of Russian historical novels. Since the names of the characters are never second nature to me, one of the tricks I use to follow them is to keep a list of personalities and the pages where they are mentioned. Doing similar for the 'Coming Revolution' piece, I came up with the following list, roughly grouped according to which players belong together.

  • Chess Network Company
  • David Kaplan, Chess Lane
  • Brothers Magomedov: Ziyavudine (Ziavutdin) & Mohammed (Magomed), Republic of Dagestan, Summa Telecom
  • Sodbiznesbank, VIP-Bank, CB Diamond; Andrei Kozlov, Alexei Frenkel
  • Dmitry Medvedev, Arkady Dvorkovich, Alexander Zhukov, Alexander Bach
  • FIDE Lausanne (Switzerland)
  • Ilya Levitov (co-author with Bareev of 'From London to Elista'), ST Development, Vladimir Solovyov

Combining this list with Google searches gave me a lot of background info about these same players. I'll share that info whenever I return to the broad subject of contemporary chess in 21st century Russia.

21 July 2010

FIDE Presidential Candidates and the World Championship

With the successful completion of the 2010 Anand - Topalov World Championship match, the confusing situation that I documented in Two Overlapping World Championship Cycles has finally been resolved. Where does the World Championship go from here?

Although it's too early to expect details about the 2010 Candidates Event, its qualifying event 2008-2009 Grand Prix just having finished in May this year, I had expected to have some information by now about the shape of subsequent World Championship cycles. The FIDE Calendar for the year 2011 lists 'Candidates Matches 2011; Baku, Azerbaijan /; 1-Mar-2011; 31-May-2011' (is something missing after the slash '/', like a second venue?), but there is no entry for a World Cup in December 2011 and nothing but junior events in 2012.

The last time I reported on FIDE's plans -- 2009 FIDE Executive Board : Whither the World Championship? (December 2009) -- I wrote that I had two main interests: (1) Successful completion of the two current cycles, and (2) Plans for the subsequent cycles. Assuming that the current, ongoing cycle ends in a title match sometime in 2012, what happens then? Given that we will have a FIDE election in a few months, what do the two candidates have to say about the World Championship? Here is an excerpt from Ilyumzhinov's site (onefide.com/achievements):

World Championship: A stable structure is in place for the World Championship cycles, through a system of Zonals, Continental Championships, Grand Prix, World Cup, Candidates Matches and the World Championship Match. The current system offers more opportunities for hundreds of players, around the world, to participate in high level official competitions, with prize money for all the events exceeding 7 million USD. Furthermore, it is a comprehensive system that produces the best player.

It's easy to take issue with the term 'stable structure'. Stable would mean two consecutive cycles run using the same format. FIDE hasn't yet been able to deliver a single cycle run using the structure announced at the beginning of that cycle. Here is an excerpt from Karpov's site (karpov2010.org/platform):

4.2) The World Championship. For well over a century, predating FIDE itself, the crown jewel of the chess world has been the World Championship. Few titles are as hallowed in the history of sport. Even a mainstream, non-chessplaying public that has heard little of chess in the past dozen years has an instant and profound respect and fascination with the game of chess and our champions. This invaluable mystique has been damaged greatly during the last 15 years, as attempts to randomize results and a failure to promote events has dramatically reduced the profile of world championship matches. We will lead the way toward rebuilding the World Championship aura that captivated the world when Bobby Fischer took the title in 1972 and when Karpov and Kasparov battled through five consecutive world title matches.

4.2.1) The world champion, the championship title, and the championship cycle will be promoted consistently and treated with respect. Championship events must be scheduled well in advance so that proper promotion is allowed. This is essential for any serious sponsor and for the players.

4.2.2) The world championship match, as well as the qualifying and candidates events that lead to it, must be accorded special attention and respect. This means, but is not limited to, scheduling candidates events to allow for promotion as well as for preparation and recovery by the players, and holding matches of sufficient length to produce victors who will be credible world champions.

Here it's easy to take take issue with this revisionist view of recent chess history. It's not that the World Championship's 'mystique has been damaged greatly during the last 15 years', which just happens to coincide with Ilyumzhinov's term as FIDE President. In fact, the 'damage' started in 1993 with the Kasparov - Short match. Furthermore, we don't have to go back to the 1980s with a goal of 'rebuilding the World Championship aura'. The four most recent World Championship events -- 2005 San Luis, 2006 Kramnik - Topalov, 2007 Mexico City, and 2010 Anand - Topalov -- all attracted considerable interest. As for 'scheduling candidates events to allow for promotion as well as for preparation and recovery by the players', the most glaring example was the 1998 Karpov - Anand match, where a well rested Karpov played a tired Anand who just a few days earlier had battled to success in the 1997 Groningen knockout matches.

Neither Ilyumzhinov nor Karpov seems to have any idea where the World Championship is going, so neither do I.

14 July 2010

2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Jermuk

Continuing with 2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Jermuk (Not!), where I ran into several technical problems trying to update my World Chess Championship site, I decided to barge ahead and discover if there were any other problems to be resolved. Fortunately, there was nothing too complicated and I finally succeeded in adding Jermuk 2010 to my page on the 2009-2010 FIDE Women's Grand Prix.

07 July 2010

2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Jermuk (Not!)

As preparation for this post I intended to add a crosstable for Jermuk 2010 to my page on the 2009-2010 FIDE Women's Grand Prix, but technology got the better of me. As I outlined on my main blog in a post titled How I Spent My Summer Vacation, I was forced to upgrade my laptop and ran into more than the usual number of upgrade glitches. It's been less than two months since my previous post on the prestigious series of women's events, 2009-2010 Women's Grand Prix, Nalchik, but it might be a while before I can do similar updates. The last successful update was documented in 2008-2009 Grand Prix, Astrakhan (an unrestricted, i.e. men's, GP event), dated 26 May 2010.

My procedure to create a crosstable is relatively straightforward. First, I collect the PGN game scores, usually from TWIC or from the official site. Then I extract the data from the PGN headers and feed it into a database. From the database I produce a formatted text crosstable which I transform into an HTML crosstable. The HTML crosstable is merged into the relevant page on my World Chess Championship (WCC) site along with explanatory notes. Then I upload the changed page and accompanying PGN to the WCC site.

The entire procedure takes less than an hour using a tool chain which has varied little since I first created the WCC site in 1997. The crosstables are nothing special to look at, but they sufficiently document the individual WCC events. I always compare my new crosstable with another version to see that it is accurate. When there are discrepancies, it is almost always due to an error in the PGN file. I correct these when I discover them and restart the tool chain.

That tool chain broke down when I tried to process the women's Jermuk event on my new laptop. First, I ran into a glitch extracting data from the PGN headers. Although I quickly discovered a workaround, I don't understand why the glitch occurred. It indicates there is a basic, underlying problem which needs further investigation.

More importantly, I ran into a major problem with the database. On my old laptop I used MS Access under Windows XP, but after checking the price of Access and the related suite under Windows 7 -- 'Microsoft Office Professional 2010 • What's included: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, and Publisher • Suggested retail price: $499.99' -- I decided to give the competing OpenOffice suite a try. My initial vacation trials for the software were positive, but when I tried to use OpenOffice Database for a real job, I discovered that it was much further from MS Access than other OpenOffice software was from the corresponding MS package. I'm not yet convinced that OpenOffice Database can't do the job I need to do, but the learning curve will be steep.

On top of this I discovered that my trusty software to process PGN files is incompatible with Windows 7. While I'm sure that I can find a replacement, this will also take some time.

My first reaction to these problems was to run the tool chain on my old laptop, then transfer the new files to the new laptop. As luck would have it, I also ran into a glitch here. The network connection between my old and new laptops, which had taken considerable time to implement and which had served to transfer all of my personal files to the new laptop, suddenly decided that it didn't want to work anymore (WIN7: 'The network path was not found'). Of course, I could transfer the files using a USB flash drive, but this is getting far away from my original intention. My experience is that when multiple technical failures occur in reaching a goal, it's time to rethink the original goal.

While I'm rethinking, the crosstable and results can be found on the official site, Women GP - Jermuk. I assume they are also on other sites documenting the World Championship, like Wikipedia.