Monday, 15 December 2014

French League Twototoulouse

Well three actually. Francoise Nina and I took to the road on Friday via the picturesque "Centre" of France. Four if you include Elliot.

Eliot du Domaine de l'Etang Rond

We did not take the most direct route partly because of my assumptions and we all know what they can often lead to. I planned to stop at some supermarket or newsagent for a prepaid SIM, available in most countries just about anywhere. Failing that surely any phone shop would have one. Not in France. I ended up buying a map but since maps and road signs don't necessarily match up here we took the scenic route.

We eventually got to Toulouse, met up with our team.


Judging by the uniforms worn by WIM Rike Wohlers-Armas (no relation) and IM Jules Armas this must be the Doubleroo France team. Currently we are still called Naujac :-)


Yours truly. I kept my shirt on in the opening, uniform underneath.


The team in action.

Now lets get to the games. I was playing on board three against a higher rated player with black so according to match rules my job was not to lose. I decided against hippo's and moderns and chose the Cozio defense. Everything went quite smoothly and I got a winning position with natural moves and some minor calculation. I nearly blew it with 32...Qd2 trying to finish the game off instead of just regrouping patiently and queening my b pawn. I missed 33.Rb1 expecting only Re1.  Then I completely panicked hallucinating that my opponent could play 40.Qh7+

Luckily I noticed just in time that I was winning again and did not try to avoid the winning line. A nervous end but alls well.... And the team won 4-1. Draws don't count in the French interclub competition.




And now a game you will enjoy. A crush starting with a pawn sack followed by a piece and then eschewing a queen offer by my opponent who was desperate to get rid of my Larsen/Hjorth bishop.

If you don't delve too deep you wont notice that my opponent could have avoided it all in the opening by playing his bishop to d7 or c8  instead of 9...Be6. My knight on h4 then looks a bit stupid.

Also I could have played the less thematic 20.Rh5 which is technically stronger (+14). I did see it but didn't fully appreciate how strong it was, Also 20.Ba1 was cuter. At least I didn't go for 20.Rd7?? Bb2 21.Rd8 Rad8 and although the black queen is gone so is my beautiful bishop and the game could have gone on for quite a while longer.

This game was also played as a "special request" by a friend who didn't like my opponent and asked me to crush without mercy. Avec plaisir :-)



Naujac (doubleroo france?) won this match too and convincingly 5-1. We are now midfield and should avoid relegation for another season. Yayy!

I left early because we had a long drive home, this time taking a different road, the A75 otherwise known as the Autoroute Francois Mitterrand, a revered former French President which is toll free and passes some of France's most picturesque and historic locations.


Rodez, according to the sign a centre of art and history.


Another castle on a hill. forgot the name of the town, like I said, we were in a bit of a hurry unfortunately. No matter, driving in France in any direction you can find great food, historic architecture, museums and other reasons to stop. If you haven't been you have missed a lot. Just make sure you plan on getting a SIM for your electronic device well before arriving :-)


Friday, 5 December 2014

Polar bears and Death caps.

Few things make me as happy as collecting mushrooms in the forest. Francoise suggested going the morning after I arrived and I jumped at the idea. Almost as enticing are markets. As we drove through town ( Gueugnon ) we noticed the markets were on. Lets have a look.


A little Xmas display




The market circles the church in the middle of town.


Lots of farm fresh vegetables were on display. The dutch nieuwe haring stand was a bit of a surprise. We bought two and then went to the fresh goat cheese stand. After a tub of Faisselle, an aged crotten and a tub of cream we headed to the secret spot. 



We parked next to the forest and had this nice horse saunter over to check us out. Francoise apologised for not bringing a piece of bread. They were obviously old friends. Of course I cannot share the location with you. If I did the locals would kill me.


The first surprise was seeing this Chanterelle. In French they are called Girolles and in German, Pfifferlinge. Normally they grow in the summer, sometimes as late as October but nobody has ever seen one in December. It can't be because of Global warming of course because as we all know that is Commie propaganda.


As you can see they were all over the place.


The one we came for was the Winter Chanterelle or Yellowfoot. They absolutely covered the forest floor and we were busy the next half hour filling up our baskets. In the end we collected 5 kg but could have collected 50 kg without walking too far. Even they are usually not around this time of year any more.

Now it was time for lunch so we headed back to the car. On the way I took another few pictures of non-edible mushroons. This one is ( probably ) a Amanita muscaria. Sometimes people confuse this one for a Caesars amanita which is a very rare but highly prized edible mushroom. I have never been fortunate enough to find one.

One is delicious, the other is highly toxic and can give severe hallucinations and stomach aches. That is the danger with collecting. Every edible mushroom has a dangerous doppelgaenger. 


Doesn't this little white on look pretty? Just like a tasty button mushroom that you can buy at any supermarket. Well it might look the same but instead of being a Champignon or Agaricus bisporus, it is in fact a Amanita phalloides or Deathcap. 
   

I've turned it over for you so you can see the difference. The underside is white instead of pink to brown. Also it has a bulb at the base which is ripped off here. This mushroom is so deadly that I dare not even touch it with bare hands. One of these little devils in a dish and you and your whole family and anybody you invited for dinner is DEAD.

It can also be coloured slightly differently depending on the soil and other variables. I have been a member of the Munich mushroom society for a decade. When I was living in Munich I went every week to listen to the experts and would still not think about eating any mushroom unless I was 100% certain of what it was. 

Do not go out to collect mushrooms without an expert. 


And now we come to the limits of my knowledge. I think it belongs to the Russula family. There are a few delicious ones and others which can make you very sick. Although I have been on many excursions and lectures featuring this family there is no way I would dare to collect them. Even mycologists get it wrong sometimes and spend hours vomiting into a bucket.
Pretty though :-)


That's it for now. Please do not go mushrooming based only on this post. It is a great hobby but requires a lot of knowledge otherwise you could kill not only yourself but also whoever you feed.

Mind you with all the news of impending war between the EU/US and Russia, it is a good idea to know how to live off the land in case civilization does collapse. Not saying it's going to happen but it's better to be too paranoid than not paranoid enough :-)



Monday, 1 December 2014

Bavarian Rhapsody

Munich is cool in more ways than one. When I left Queensland last Wednesday  we were experiencing a heatwave. 40c+ can be very sapping, especially combined with warm nights when its impossible to sleep without a fan. 

Imagine my relief when I arrived in Munich and was hit by a bracing cold breeze. Actually snow is not so uncommon this time of year but none has appeared yet. I am told that last winter there was none at all which I find most surprising. Munich was my base for about 10 years at the beginning of the millenium and snow was a constant feature every winter. 

Global warming? Climate change? Maybe but that is a debate I have no wish to engage in. It is a bit like discussing whether or not getting riddled with bullets leads to lead poisoning. If you wish to present the case that fossil fumes have no influence on climate, do it standing next to the exhaust of a bus.   

The cool weather was augmented by a warm welcome from my friends who I hadn't seen for too long and had missed terribly. After the best sleep I had had for weeks it was time for some sightseeing. Claudia, Pedi and Andrea invited me to join them on an excursion to one of the city's feature events. Tollwood! 

Tollwood
I had never heard of the Tollwood winter markets before. Apparently they start four weeks before Christmas and last until the new year. There are many things to see and buy of course not to mention food and entertainment. Well worth seeing if you are in town this time of year. 

Claudia, Pedi, Andrea


Naturally having expert guides is a bonus and these lovely ladies have all done it many times before. Thank you for a wonderful day :-)


I was quite taken by these plants growing out of what looks like coconuts. 


Food was everywhere from all parts of the globe but I was mainly fixated on the local fare.


Amazing how many great meals one can make out of potato.


Paper mache farm animals add a bit of colour to the venue.


I'll finish with a representation of Bavaria's favourite animal.

Tollwood is not the only place to experience Christmas cheer. There are stalls all over the city and the locals don't seem to mind the cold. Many years ago my neighbour in Munich told me there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing.


Today I had the opportunity to try another local speciality, the "Feuerzangenbowle". It is a bit like "Gluewein" but with a twist or to be more precise, a shot of Rum and a flaming cube of sugar. There is nothing better to warm you up on a bracing day.

This innovation was recommended to me by another expert on German traditions, GM Thomas Luther. 
GM Thomas Luther
In a day or two I will make my way to France to see how the festive season is celebrated there, starting in Burgundy. It could involve wine :-)
Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Judges gavel fell...


Avid Doubleroo readers will remember my ignominious exit from the Queensland state championship last month. I withdrew from the prestigious nine round event due to illness after three rounds  with a score of 2/3.

Yesterday I received this letter from the Chess Association of Queensland.



That some sanction was coming was only to be expected as the following correspondence from the chief arbiter foreshadowed. 

Hi Alex,

I hope you are feeling better now.

Because of your illness, I have waited a couple of days to bring up a delicate matter concerning your withdrawal.  Technically you were an unapproved withdrawer, as you didn't contact me and obtain my permission first.  The CAQ has a strict policy against unapproved withdrawers, as you can see in our Code of Conduct (http://www.caq.org.au/htm/info.htm).  And in a major event such as the Qld Championships, unapproved withdrawals are especially unwanted, as they can create byes and affect FIDE ratings.

The problem as I see it is that if someone withdraws by simply telling the arbiter that they are ill and have to withdraw, then our policy to discourage unapproved withdrawals has no practical value.  So in a major event such as the Qld Championships, I feel that a player should have to justify a withdrawal on medical grounds.  This can easily be done by supplying me with a copy of a medical certificate.  I have noticed a few other cases where this has been requested for withdrawals from major events on medical grounds, so it seems reasonable in this case.

Thanks,
Patrick

No doubt my reply only encouraged disciplinary action.

Hi Patrick,

As a chess player I approve of rules and their full implementation. 

I did not visit a doctor so do not have a medical certificate. I also have no intention of getting one although I agree that it is a perfectly reasonable request.

Therefore I encourage the CAQ to do the right thing and set an example to discourage this sort of behaviour in future. I accept in advance whatever sanctions the council imposes, according to the statutes, in advance. I have not read the statutes and don't intend to but have full confidence that the CAQ will apply them properly.

As for my health, its much better now after sleeping most of the last three days. I have come to the conclusion that with my age and high blood pressure I will need to forgo stressful events, ie, where a lot of travel or multiple rounds are involved. Thanks for asking.

Best wishes

Alex



Had I been informed of the pending hearing I could have pleaded guilty and argued for a suitable punishment but here the CAQ dropped the ball. As Patrick Byrom correctly argued if a player can withdraw from a tournament simply by informing him instead of pleading for his permission then their policy has no practical value! A wholly suspended six month ban is , totally inadequate as a deterrent. 

It is therefore up to me to teach myself a lesson.

For the offence of informing the DOP of my withdrawal instead of asking his permission I ban myself from CAQ events for six months.
For the offence of not bothering to get a retrospective medical certificate I ban myself for a further six months.
The sentences are to run consecutively.
I am adding a further few months for being a smartarse.

I shall play no CAQ sanctioned games until First of January 2016



Let that be a lesson to me!

ps: I am flying to Europe next Wednesday so hopefully I will play a little and blog a little :-)
Hasta pronto amigoes.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Queensland Championship, rounds 2 & 3

Old age seemingly does not go away if one ignores it. After a rather intense Thursday, a stressful Friday was more than my system was able to take. I left home at 1pm to give myself plenty of time to get to the venue, St Josephs Nudgee College, by 2.30 pm. Maps estimated the journey at under one hour but I only arrived at 2.50, 10 minutes before forfeit time. There was an accident somewhere apparently. Tony Dowden got caught in it, and with less of a safety margin built into his trip, missed the round.

Still, after some moves I was ahead on time and had a better position. Tristan had misplayed the opening badly and by move 20 black was all over white. Not taking the pinned pawn on e4 was criminal. One of my students had the cheek to say "checks and captures" with a grin on his face. He had heard me repeat this hundreds of times. Perfectly right!

I was a bit rattled by failing to finish the game quickly and kept making mistakes. According to stockfish black was still better and missed several chances later. Then I missed 40.Bd8! and defended badly although now white was better. The game did go longer than recorded here but my scoresheet was too messy to reconstruct.



Now I had about 10 minutes to compose myself before the next game! My brain was now mush but luckily for me Gareth spent all his time playing natural moves. Blacks position was fine, maybe a bit better, when he thought himself down to a minute for many moves and blundered a Mate.



I got home after another hour drive at about 11pm. That is when a migraine started and didn't go away. By 6am I had not slept, had a fever and a blocked nose. If I had been in Brisbane at a hotel around the corner I might have swallow a whole lot of tablets and soldiered on but the drive as well was just too much. I emailed my withdrawal, swallowed more pills and finally fell asleep.

Now two days later I feel human again. What lesson do I take away from this experience? I need to accept that I am no longer in my prime. No more driving for hours before chess games and only a game a day tournaments. What about fasting? Probably not a good idea immediately prior to an event.

Thanks for reading my whinge :-)  Next post will be more positive, promise! 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Queensland Championship 2014 Round 1

After a bit of a break I am back in the saddle again playing a tournament. This seems to be chess season in Queensland. But of all the tournaments that have passed this is the only one with a first prize of more than $1000 and anything less is just not worth wasting a nice weekend for, especially now that spring has arrived.

My day started nicely enough, waking up in Wilsons creek with a view of Mount Chincogan where I was staying at a friends place attempting my first fast for more than a year. I say attempt because I had the odd bite and didn't even go the minimum of 7 days. In the morning I found out that the tournament was starting Thursday night and not Friday. Oops.

On the way home I stopped in at the Broadbeach Mall to watch some of my students play. I took a few pictures to show you but then promptly lost my phone. When I returned to where I had left it minutes earlier it had gone and had not been handed in so I presume stolen. So off to the  Vodafone shop I go and walk out with a new Samsung 5. In that short hour without a smartphone I felt completely disconnected from everything. I miss my Nexus but that was not on offer and I couldn't bear to be phoneless a minute longer.

My first round game  started at 7.30pm at the Brisbane Bridge Club. An excellent venue with a glass cage similar to the one in Bilbao with the exception that it is not restricted to the players.

You will like this game. It features a piece sac and finishes with a Queen sac.



As usual I am going to be totally self-centered but should you be interested in the rest of the tournament then click on this chesschat link
Have a nice day and stand by for hopefully more of this sort of chess. And some pictures taken with my new phone which I can now enjoy courtesy of a thief.

Always look on the bright side of life.. .


Sunday, 7 September 2014

First Sunday @ Churchie

Tom Maguire scored a picket fence 7/7 on Sunday. Apparently he was a bit lucky in some of the games but the good player is always lucky. For his "luck" he got to take home $150


Second place was a tie between Hughston Parle and Alexander Au on 5.5/7. They took home $75 each.


Best Girl was won by Brigitte Watkins with 4/7.  This a remarkable performance by the Somerville house girl against a very strong field especially considering she had a splitting headache for most of the event.



 Second place was won by Isabel Stevens with 2.5/7 and for her fine effort she was rewarded with Kevin Casey's " Australian Chess Brilliancies "


The U800 division was won by Churchie boy Reece Cameron Lyons who's rating of  547 only shows that this talented youngster doesn't get the opportunity to play many tournaments. Reece took home a wooden chess set.


Second U800 was taken out by  Ben Stevens of Grammar. He also took home a copy of "Australian Chess Brilliancies ".

Isabel also showed a remarkable ability to guess the amount of lollies in a jar.


Below the final standings.

First Sunday Junior Rapid - Round 7

Standings

Place Name                 Feder Rtg Loc  Score M-Buch. Buch. Progr.

  1   Maguire, Tom         B         1732 7        21.5  30.5   28.0
 2-3  Parle, Hughston      B         1162 5.5      21.0  28.5   21.5
      Au, Alex             B         1147 5.5      19.0  26.5   20.5
 4-9  Wang, Jason          B         1306 4        21.0  30.0   18.0
      Cameron-Lyons, Reece B         547  4        19.0  27.0   15.0
      Ostapenko, Michael   B         1491 4        18.5  27.5   16.0
      Stephens, Ben (ACGS) B         709  4        16.0  23.5   14.0
      Shresth, Aryan       B         826  4        15.0  21.5   15.0
      Watkins, Bridgette   B         760  4        15.0  21.5   15.0
 10   Liu, David (GC)      GC        1408 3.5      22.5  32.0   17.5
11-12 Lupari, Isaac                       2.5      17.0  21.5   12.5
      Stephens, Isabel                    2.5      13.0  17.5    9.5
13-14 Watkins, Rachel      B         541  2        18.5  23.5   10.0
      Khagram, Aaryan                     2        14.0  20.0    7.5
 15   Chappell, Georgina                  1        14.5  19.0    3.0
 16   Khagram, Ayesha                     0.5      16.5  23.0    1.0

Cross Table

No Name                 Feder Rtg Loc  Total  1    2    3    4    5    6    7  

1  Maguire, Tom         B         1732 7      7:W  3:W  2:W 10:W  6:W  5:W  4:W
2  Parle, Hughston      B         1162 5.5   16:W  9:W  1:L  4:W  3:D  7:W 10:W
3  Au, Alex             B         1147 5.5   14:W  1:L  5:W  8:W  2:D 10:W 16:W
4  Wang, Jason          B         1306 4     13:W  8:W 10:L  2:L  9:W  6:W  1:L
5  Cameron-Lyons, Reece B         547  4      6:W 10:L  3:L 15:W  8:W  1:L 14:W
6  Ostapenko, Michael   B         1491 4      5:L 11:W  7:W  9:W  1:L  4:L 13:W
7  Stephens, Ben (ACGS) B         709  4      1:L 14:W  6:L 16:W 13:W  2:L 12:W
8  Shresth, Aryan       B         826  4     15:W  4:L 12:W  3:L  5:L 13:W 11:W
9  Watkins, Bridgette   B         760  4     12:W  2:L 13:W  6:L  4:L 11:W 15:W
10 Liu, David (GC)      GC        1408 3.5    0:D  5:W  4:W  1:L 11:W  3:L  2:L
11 Lupari, Isaac                       2.5    0:D  6:L 16:W 14:W 10:L  9:L  8:L
12 Stephens, Isabel                    2.5    9:L 16:W  8:L 13:L 14:D 15:W  7:L
13 Watkins, Rachel      B         541  2      4:L 15:W  9:L 12:W  7:L  8:L  6:L
14 Khagram, Aaryan                     2      3:L  7:L 15:W 11:L 12:D 16:D  5:L
15 Chappell, Georgina                  1      8:L 13:L 14:L  5:L 16:W 12:L  9:L
16 Khagram, Ayesha                     .5     2:L 12:L 11:L  7:L 15:L 14:D  3:L
by Swiss Perfect (TM)  www.swissperfect.com

Special thanks must go to our Arbiter Tyson Walker. It is a pleasure to have a consummate professional running a tournament. 

The Master of Chess at Churchie Max Condon put in the most work of anyone, organising and setting up the excellent venue and grilling sausages for lunch. Thanks also to Max's daughter, Grace Condon, ran the canteen all day long.

Churchie has a long tradition of supporting Chess an this weekender continues this. Thanks for making the Brene Pavillion available to us. It is a roomy quiet venue next to the main oval and the tuckshop. Waiting parents were able to use the free wi-fi provided.

Summing up I believe all had a great Sunday. We did not have as many entries as hoped but this may have had a few contributing factors. We announced the tournament very late and clashed with fathers day and another junior event on the Gold Coast. As a "proof of concept" event however it was a success. All aspects of the tournament ran smoothly so we know the next one will be even better. 

The next Sunday rapid is scheduled for the 26th of October.
 I hope to see you all there :-)