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1/4/2007 – Is chess a sport, should it be included in the 2012 London Olympics? Is there a basis for thinking that cheating with computers is going on at the very highest level? What is the potential of the strongest Indian players according to Commonwealth champion Nigel Short? And why hasn't Tania Sachdev's face launched a thousand products yet? We've been reading the papers.
 

March of chess checked, mate, by debate over Olympic status – Should chess be included in the list of sports for London 2012? January 4, 2007

"I got one of those computer chess games for Christmas and I've been playing avidly, even managing to beat the bugger a couple of times. I unnerved it with my merciless sledging. 'I've seen better programmes on ITV2,' I jibed. It may be able to assess thousands of positions a second but robopratt didn't see that one coming and crumbled like a Pom," Nicky Campbell writes. He goes on to confess: "I am, of course, lying. I sneakily employed the 'useful tips' (cheat) option. Several times. No such tactic was open to Garry Kasparov when he got stuffed by Deep Blue in 1997, or Vladimir Kramnik when Deep Fritz, a piece of software usable on any PC, took him to the cleaners last year."

These men against machine showdowns, Campbell thinks, are gimmicky sponsor schmoozing sideshows but the goal of including chess in the London Olympics is, for many, a realistic endgame and the campaign is stepping up this year. The next move for chess in Britain is to gain official recognition as a sport and thereby receive the concomitant status and funding. The World Chess Federation is the second-largest sporting association in the world, behind Fifa, but can anything be so termed if a computer can whoop your skinny ass at it?


Jonathan Speelman on Chess

2006 has in chess terms been above all the 'Year of the Computer': the computer both as fearsome adversary and more importantly a powerful tool which can potentially be used to cheat. Whereas other sports fret about drugs, this is a complete non-issue in chess and players have to undergo testing in some official competitions merely as a sop to the Olympic Committee and WADA. However the use of computers is not only technically quite possible but has also been detected in isolated cases in Open tournaments. It's therefore perfectly reasonable that players should have to pass through a metal detector in the most serious of competitions. Moreover, the various allegations about cheating at the highest level, while I believe them to be utterly baseless, have certainly not come out of thin air.

The imbroglio during the Kramnik v Topalov match this October was fuelled initially by a whispering campaign against Topalov himself, following his sterling victory at the world championship tournament in San Luis in Argentina, last October. It was suggested that Topalov had improved 'too much' and must therefore have been receiving help. Some of this emanated from Russian sources and while Kramnik himself was certainly not involved, it surely provided some motivation for the campaign that Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov unleashed in Elista as he alleged quite openly that Kramnik was going to the toilet in order to receive help from 'Fritz'.

It's recently been confirmed that a 'UTP-5' computer cable was found in the suspended ceiling above Kramnik's toilet during the inspection at Elista. This was hardly a revelation in a theatre building (and indeed, if you're into conspiracies, could even have been planted). But it does explain the vehemence of the Topalov camp's protests at a supremely tense time when it was all too easy for paranoia to take over.


Nigel Short: "This title means a lot to me" – Sportstar Weekly, India, Jan. 06, 2007

  • For someone who has challenged Garry Kasparov for the World chess title, winning his second Commonwealth Championship may not mean much, one would have thought. But Nigel Short just couldn't stop smiling after beating Surya Shekhar Ganguly in the final round of the Commonwealth Championship in Mumbai. He explains why, in this interview with Sportstar. Highlights:

  • Being a Commonwealth champion means a lot to me. In my career I have won many more prestigious tournaments, but for the general public if I won some high category tournament in Estonia or Holland or somewhere else, they wouldn't understand the significance of it.

  • Harikrishna and Sasikiran are both tremendously strong. Harikrishna could break into the top ten. Parimarjan Negi has great potential, but let's give him some time. Humpy could easily win the World title. She is effectively the World No. 1, as Judit Polgar doesn't play with women. I am pleased to find Humpy is lightening up a bit now.

  • [About the accusations against Kramnik from Topalov's camp in Elista] It was a plan to upset Kramnik. As simple as that. And they succeeded. They almost won the match thus. The charges were completely baseless in my opinion.

  • I believe cheating takes place in chess. There is a bigger danger today of cheating because computers are stronger.

  • I am very disappointed with the state of chess in England. We don't have enough tournaments, so how can we produce players?

  • Read the full interview in Sportstar Online


A beautiful mind

Her face hasn't launched a thousand products yet. It perhaps could have, if she were playing a more glamorous sport. Not that Tania Sachdev, India's most glamorous chess player, is complaining.

More than the hair conditioners and the foundation creams, it is the variations in Sicilian Defence and the techniques in the end-game that she has always been more concerned about. On December 17, in Chennai, Tania's sweet smile looked even sweeter. Because India's prettiest chess player had just become India's 13th National women's `A' champion; the fact that there have been just 12 champions before her in the 33-year history of the country's premier domestic tourney for women would prove that it is not the easiest of titles to win.

The Delhi-based Woman Grandmaster was in great form in Chennai, as she finished unbeaten in the 11-round event. She scored five wins, including the one against the top-seed and six-time champion S. Vijayalakshmi. Tania has come of age, finally.

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