Archive for the ‘Chess’ Category


The 44th Olympiad has come to a close in Chennai with a young team from Uzbekistan winning the gold medal. My home nation England faded towards the end and didn’t make it into the top ten.

Of the 188 teams registered to play, Laos finished in 177th place, which is better than what I feared last week when they were losing match after match.

So now that the spectacle is over, there is less to watch during the day. In any event it matters not as I have reached the point where I have to become fully focused on the upcoming weekend as my location will change and I have to say goodbye to my daughter for a while. Despite how well things go, life always has these changes it enforces on you from time to time, and just making yourself ready for them can be an ordeal in itself. Anyway, I hope you admired my rooting for Laos and all those odd little tales I threw in also. I’m prepared to admit that if you asked me which direction this website is going in, there are times where I don’t even know myself. I just know that I like writing… .

Anyway, well done to Laos for sticking at it, and let’s hope we see them again next time. Here’s a link to the final standings:

Mark. J. McCready, 12.14am, August 10th

The very quiet and dark room I know as home right now,

Laksi, Bangkok

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Skill shot

As we know, the world’s most popular form of entertainment is pinball, with an estimated 172 billion players worldwide. In some countries you are legally required to have a pinball machine in your house and would face arrest if you didn’t. I can’t remember the last time I spent less than 12 hours in a day playing pinball, it must have been some twenty years ago, if not more. Usually we start a game of pinball off with a skill shot and this is something we will find difficult to incorporate into chess. How are we going to do it? What we could do is on the first move we could have all the squares on the third and forth rank flash randomly, and the player with the white pieces, stops them flashing by pressing the clock, and so whichever square it stops on, he must move a pawn there. That might work. Black would have to do the same but we have the fifth and sixth ranks flashing squares randomly. It would have a significant impact on opening theory, almost destroying it but we can let that go. The important thing is to get it in and not worry about the consequences even if it angers some players because it’s your speed in the skill shot which will determine which pawn moves first and not current trends in opening theory. I will admit that will anger some players but there’s a lot of money to be made here and skill shots are a good test of reflexes and hand-eye coordination, two vital chess skills.

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Extra Ball

Ok, so we are on track and it’s full steam ahead. We’ve agreed that since chess and pinball are virtually identical let’s take more features from pinball and put them into chess. We’ve said all chess boards must now be electronic, table-based and themed. They must have ramps, flippers, bumpers and flashing lights, this we’ve agreed is the new future of chess. We’ve got multiball into the game but what about ‘extra ball’. You know that extra ball you get when you’ve used your three balls up. I’ve got it, when you’ve had three pawns captured you get an extra one but we’ll call it extra ball instead of extra pawn. But normally you have to lite up the extra ball feature in pinball so what we could do in chess is lite up extra ball by positioning the pawns and pieces carefully on their squares by using J’adoube tactics. When they are all positioned perfectly, then the extra ball feature can be lit. So that’s multiball and extra ball in. We are getting there. I know of two people who are going to pump £50 million into this, so it’s looking good. It’s estimated it will bring over 2 billion pinball players into chess and will be a big hit with the kids. It’s a win win situation as it stands.

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Chess must be changed. It’s got to have multiball in like in Pinball. What we could do is make chess sets all electronic with a themed table, then when the multiball feature kicks in, just have balls fired across the chess board. They don’t become part of the game itself, they just jazz it up. Have a few steel balls flying around, make it look more attractive. It would attract a lot of kids to chess if we could.

It’s got to be done.

That could be adapted into the resemblance of a chess board

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This morning I read that in the premiership this season they will introduce ‘multiball’, which is 10 balls around the pitch. They will speed up the game when a ball goes out of play. Initially I thought it was the pinball version of multiball where you get three or sometimes five balls on the table at the same time, which would indeed make football a lot more interesting if they implemented that one.

Then it got me thinking, what can chess take from pinball and implement? We could use ramps and build them into the chessboard. Pinball tables always have ramps on them. We could have bumpers around the side of the board, and put lights on them to make it look more flashy. And I think we could implement the ‘extra ball’ option somehow. If we lost a pawn three times, we get an extra one at the end of the game or something. And chess boards could be fitted with a tilt function, so that if anyone moves the board lights start flashing and everything goes into lock down, making it impossible to play. The great thing is that chess and pinball are almost identical to one another, so there probably are more options available. One last question, should we make all chess boards electronic and in need of highly trained mechanics to fix them if they go wrong down the pub?

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2 versus 1

The greatest tragedy of chess in the context of the modern game is that not enough women play it. Not enough by far in fact and until the balance is readdressed globally, there will always be work to be done on that. When women do play chess, it isn’t very often you see them playing whilst heavily pregnant, so here is a rather touching video of the current Olympiad where that clearly is the case -must be tough to do!

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Having photographed more than enough international chess tournaments and worked behind the scenes with senior Arbiters when doing so, the point made in the video below I find rather strange. So an arbiter made a mistake? What is so unusual here, it goes on all the time. But because it involved the Norway team, the prestige of result was elevated and it drew attention even though such mistakes are made more frequently than what is suggested here. I don’t see why Svidler is so surprised tbh.

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In the chess Olympiad, England play Austria today. As you may know Austria is where Hitler was from so is this going to be WW3? Will those Austrians try and team up with ze Germans and allign forces? Will England, with it’s tail between it’s legs, go asking the Americans for help knowing Russia isn’t allowed to participate this time and so can’t be relied upon (especially when busy with Ukraine).

Let battle commence and let us hope that England are victorious for once. And I do apologize for remaining a post-modern historian, and I’m doubly sure you don’t need me to tell you BUT everything is open to interpretation, and that includes England winning WW2! (which it bloody well did not)


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Laos managed to draw their match against the British Virgin Islands yesterday rather than lose 4-0. They have a point in the table now. Let us hope they pick up another or even a victory but most importantly at all, let us remember the character of the Laotians and hope/assume that no matter what the results are, they are enjoying themselves -highly probable. And so even though they face tougher opponents today, let’s hope their national character wins through and it’s fun all round!

Pak Beng, deep into the Laotian countryside and only accessible by the river Mekong at the time. Do you know I once spent an evening there some 22 years ago in early Feb. There was only one hill, only some of it had electricity, most restaurants used candles when serving evening meals. I slept on wooden boards on a hut further up the hill. I still remember a toddler chase after some weird looking big apple type thing rolling down the hill (which eventually ran out of speed in a puddle, which all excited, he then coveted with a big but guarded smile) and that further up the hill was a different tribe with their own language as you would expect. Being a tourist, all locals wanted to sell you was food, pens or drugs -and being me I went and got high whilst there in one of the restaurants and yes I still remember standing on the banks of the river looking at the stars, pointing them out until I got rounded up by a taken aback policeman and sent off to my wooden hut -ah those were the days!
T’was about there where I stood below a glassy evening sky, pointing out the stars, he he…come to think of that wasn’t the only time naughty me bought off naughty salesmen that trip! Oh…bloody druggie!

The reason I stopped off in Pak Beng was because I took the boat to Luang Prabang. So highly recommended by all, and speaking from personal experience I remember wandering around streets not knowing where I was going (because I couldn’t think straight and didn’t know if I had already walked down that street already), then running into the couple I started chatting to at the restaurant when I bumped into them by chance. They asked ‘Where’ve you been? With some exasperation as we got on so well in the restaurant in Pak Beng until, well until, well until it was, erm, well…the conversation became a bit intense and started to wander at the same time also…well anyway so I put on an act and said I wasn’t well and rubbed my forehead to back it up with a slight swoon…in retrospect that was better than saying I got out of it on that shit! But the thing is, for that little tourist loop, it was quite the norm amongst backpackers back then -so I was fitting in really!

Anyway, I am not suggesting you should visit Laos and go and get high, but from personal experience, I am not sure what else you could do. I most certainly don’t recommend getting high then putting about 90 kms on your bike across the countryside in the dark -that you should not do believe me. Ah maybe drink beer and look for someone to play chess on the street? They have their own version of chess there, so be ready, it’s much more popular and you can get a game on the street anywhere, so yes, now thinking about it, do that (but not whilst high). Beer + local variants of chess, and a few photographs…phew I finally worked out how to spend time in Laos more productively!

They might be up for a game or two but which version of chess will they play.

Mark. J. McCready 11.15am August 3rd

Laksi Bangkok

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