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Archive for September, 2006

The reunification of the professional chess world has quite literally gone down the toilet. Background: In 1993 Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short broke away from FIDE, the professional chess player’s association, to form another association. In 1999, FIDE started a new format for the world championship that nobody took seriously. In 2000, Kasparov, as the guy everyone recognized as champion, lost a championship match to Vladimir Kramnik in London and everyone recognized Kramnik as the new world champion. FIDE never agreed, and last year they held a tournament to decide a new champion, with a better format than the knockout they were using since 1999 to determine the FIDE champion. Veselin Topalov won convincingly and now the status of world champion is up in the air. So now the head of FIDE (Kirsan Ilyumzhinov or whatever the spelling is) has managed to arrange a reunification match between Kramnik and Topalov, which is underway and, in principle, is still ongoing. It is probably the only thing Kirsan has gotten right running the chess world since 1994, and it comes years too late. There is a popular perception that Kirsan and his cronies are irreparably corrupt, incompetent, and have not done anything to improve the profile of the game worldwide, even now as it is more popular than ever, have not been able (probably because of their corruption and incompetence) to secure long term corporate sponsorship for chess, and in fact have done enormous harm to the game by trivializing the nature of the championship and taking various steps to try to get chess in the Olympics and on TV that end up doing more harm than good.

Got that? Good. So now that we finally have a reunification match underway. Topalov, as the guy everyone thought would likely win because Kramnik has not been playing well for a couple of years, loses the first two games because he made a bunch is mistakes in winning positions. Topalov’s manager complains that Kramnik has somehow been cheating because he has apparently used the bathroom upwards of fifty times in one game. Coincidentally, the bathrooms are the only area of the playing hall without any kind of surveillance, though they are apparently swept by local officials before each game. Each player, by the way, has their own restroom and bathroom. So Topalov’s team somehow got access to the surveillance tapes, which Kramnik’s team doesn’t like, and found out that he went in and out of the bathroom between his moves dozens of times. They filed a formal complaint, they never explicitly accused him of cheating, they just left that impression, trying to argue that it was necessary to ensure full confidence in the integrity of the event, and would FIDE pretty please with sugar on top put a stop to this. Kramnik’s team says that he likes to walk and the restroom is too small so he uses the bathroom to walk as well (and he might be having the odd cigarette as well, according to speculation). This morning FIDE decides that both players can use the same bathroom and their original bathrooms will now be locked. Kramnik is not happy about that because he thinks that the conditions now imposed by FIDE are different from what he agreed to. So now he pouts in his restroom for two hours without showing up to game 5 and forfeits. Topalov is photographed smiling as he signs his scoresheet. Kramnik decides this game should not count and tells everyone he looks forward to playing game 5 (the one he just forfeited) tomorrow.

Still following? Good. The idea that a bunch of grown men cannot resolve their differences over how often to go to the loo is – well, as silly as grown men being unable to resolve their differences over how often to go to the loo. Now, there’s been a long history of mind games being played during pretty much all the world championship matchups, and to some extent it makes for great entertainment. But this is just one of the lowest points that the professional chess world has ever hit, and there have been plenty in the past twenty years or so. What Kramnik may sound silly but was probably understandable if he believes that the original contract has been violated. The cheating suggestion are pure rubbish, of course, since Topalov himself made the mistakes that cost him the first two games, and in any case this is only a psychological ploy. The problem is that if Kramnik now forfeits, nobody is going to take Topalov seriously as champion considering he was losing the match and considering that there is a widespread perception that Toppy’s team is willing to use any kind of sleazy tactic to win, even if not by winning any actual game. It seems like everything FIDE does eventually turns into a farce.

Reading over this post, it’s even more of a sick joke than I thought at first.

Neverending coverage of this at chessbase.

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Its official, fellow Americans. A fantastic article breaking down exactly why things are just that bad here in the States.

OK, I’m Canadian, but it much of what’s in this article will eventually come to apply here. Quote: ‘Many of my friends and neighbors believe that “it cannot happen here”.’ That of course is when it’s most likely to happen.

read more | digg story

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Three people are leaving here at Queen’s: Joe (for good), having returned last week to defend, Doug, who is off to London after handing in a final copy of his thesis, and James, who is gone for three months to Chile to observe, and their departure dates all almost perfectly coincided with each other.
Regular readers of this blog, assuming I have any, will remember that I moved into Joe’s old office earlier this summer and last Monday showed up to find Joe at my seat because his laptop monitor wouldn’t work (and because the office is somewhat smaller than most and only has three chairs for the four people using it that week (Trish and James as well)). I have never seen him as nervous as he was that day (defending that afternoon) but of course everything went fine. Finding a way to print the final copies of the thesis was, I understand, quite the adventure, since our printer needed a new cartridge and none was on hand. (Fortunately he bought one himself.)

I also learned that he has written a song about me. Hmmm. I don’t think they’ve recorded it yet. His band is Shiny Pretty Fox (shinyprettyfox.wordpress.com), check them out.

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Some interesting bits and pieces:

  • Now Mark Hurd is involved in the HP spying scandal. (Techdirt again) This is brcoming quite far reaching, and now it looks like it’s not just limited to the board.
  • It turns out Microsoft’s Windows Media DRM will now be changed to make it far more onerous than it is now: you won’t be able to back up licences,  and if you accidentally copy-protect ripped copies of your own CDs you’ll have to contact Microsoft to restore your usage rights. This is, of course, precisely the sort of scenario in which you cannot use legally acquired content as you see fit, and precisely the sort of scenario that those of us who object to any form of DRM want to avoid. The risk is that DRM will force people to pay for every copy of some piece of content, or every time such content is accessed; it’s not about preventing piracy, because wanting to use legally acquired content in any way you want (short of distributing it without a licence) is exactly what every consumer expects but will not be able to do, without actually preventing DRMed content from being pirated by those determined to do so. This is about squeezing money out of consumers as much as possible, and about locking them in to specific platforms. I for one will not go near WMP 11.
  • Quote of the day: On Pluto being demoted: “This is really going to screw up the astrologers.”

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Quote of the Day

“That’s about as useful as a chocolate teapot.”

It’s British.

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“Michael Geist has been listing reasons why Canadians should be alarmed at Canada’s proposed new copyright law, which will bring the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act to Canada’s lawbooks. Today, Geist has posted a list of thirty things you can do to fight Bill C-60 in Canada.”

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Gaaah…

More on HP spying scandal…http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060918/084537.shtml

Quote of the day: ‘Is that the only shirt you have with an avocado on it?’

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