Archive for the ‘FIDE’ Category

For the Love of Curling

November 21, 2007

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Leave it to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the wacky head of the international chess federation (who claims he was once spirited away in a yellow space ship and believes that chess came from outer space), is now advancing a novel argument for why chess should be an Olympic sport. “Isn’t it absurd that chess on ice is an Olympic sport,” Ilyumzhinov said, and ‘mere’ chess is not?” In fact, he said, he is thinking of suing the International Olympic Commission to get iceless chess into the Olympics.

Huh? Come again, please. It turns out that curling—a sport, played on ice with granite stones and brooms, of which most Americans have only the dimmest awareness—has long been known as “chess on ice,” just as chess itself has long been called “the royal game.” Here, for example, from The New York Times: “‘Curling is often called chess on ice,’ said Chris Moore, 50, a banker in Cleveland who has been curling for more than 35 years. ‘It’s intellectually challenging because all the strategy involved requires you to think four or five moves ahead. And it demands accuracy and finesse. Many times a game comes down to hitting a square inch from over 120 feet away.”

Aside from the linguistic argument, Ilyumzhinov makes an unspoken point: if something as weird and esoteric (in terms of lack of mass appeal) as grown men playing with brooms on ice qualifies as a sport, chess surely should too.

Naturally, the curling blogs are amused by Ilyumzhinov’s position: “Chess on ice. Bah.”

I, for one, think curling is cool, and I’m trying to find a place in New York where my Canadian friends and I can try out the sport.

Succession Planning

June 26, 2007

Vladimir Kramnik, the reigning world chess champion, celebrated his thirty-second birthday yesterday by doing, in his own words, something “unfortunately pretty boring”–preparing for today’s opponent in the elite Dortmund tournament.  When Kramnik, whose play has sometimes been described, perhaps unfairly, as “unfortunately pretty boring,” defended his crown last year, he earned the sympathy of fellow chess pros and fans when he was forced to explain his hydration and evacuation habits after challenger Veselin Topalov exaggerated the number of times (50!, he said) that “Krapnik” had visited the bathroom (Topalov was insinuating that the world champion was cheating on the toilet by consulting chess-playing software).   Kramnik managed to win the match despite Topalov’s assault on his dignity and bladder.   

Dortmund is the last tournament in which Kramnik will participate before September’s world championship in Mexico City.  This weekend, FIDE, the world chess federation, released a byzantine set of rules on who will be playing whom in world-tile matches after Mexico City.  When asked on his birthday about what he thought of the new labyrinthine rules, Kramnik said he’d need to study them in order to understand them!

“I think there are more people who don’t understand the system than who understand,” Kramnik remarked.   “I don’t know if the people who have invented it fully understand the system but it seems to be very complicated.”  And this coming from a man who has mastered the intricacies of the Semi-Slav Variation and other esoteric chess openings.  Pity us mere mortals who try to make sense of the new rules for world-championship succession.  Fortunately, chessbase and chessninja have taken a stab at deciphering the rules for us.


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