A note on failure

This is such an interesting comment by Bareev, coach of the Russian team for a period. He had to account for the team’s failure when it ‘only’ gained the silver medal in the 2010 Olympiad.

When the interview came to Svidler, he said:

Svidler’s potential is colossal! But, unfortunately, he was totally unprepared for the Olympiad.

How could that be, given he was at the training camp with you all?

But it’s not a question of one day, it’s a question of his relationship to chess. Unfortunately, as became clear, chess isn’t the most important thing for him anymore. That’s the problem. Again, if chess again becomes something great and significant for Peter then he can and will play. The question is his relationship to chess. Chess doesn’t forgive such a relationship. And didn’t forgive him. I shouted to him about it before the tournament, and during it, but what of it? I can’t punish him, but chess punished him. Together with Svidler chess punished the whole team. And the trainer, who took a man into his team who didn’t love chess.

The whole article is interesting and well worth studying for the way in which this sort of thing is discussed at the highest levels. Failure is not at all an easy subject of analysis.


October 8, 2017 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

After being banned for refusing to wear the hijab….

Today the Guardian reports that Dora Derakhshani, the Iranian player who was banned for not wearing the hijab, has defected, so to speak, to the US. The full story is here.

Given how many males think it’s all cool in Iran and that female players including visitors shouldn’t boycott events there, but should instead cover up themselves, it’s all the more pleasing to see this stand.

October 6, 2017 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

Keeping women down

It’s hard to know what’s worse sometimes. Women who support the idea that their gender needs protected events or men who keep women separate to keep them down and to protect their own superiority.

I can see some point in all sports and games having an Open and then categories for human beings with physical or mental disadvantages, and we can include females in that. Presumably women who play female chess or bridge think that they are inferior mentally.

But to have Male and Female categories is a form of discrimination which has been perpetuated by men in the interests of men. Shameful. Most recently skier Lindsey Vonn wants to compete against men. It was refused her in the past and it is still refused her. The argument given for not, is mindbogglingly specious:

“It will be a very difficult challenge to find a reasonable way of doing this because one point that everyone is underestimating is that we need to have equal rights for everyone,” Skaardal said in a June statement. “So if the ladies are allowed to race with the men, then also the men need to be authorized to ski with the ladies, and I’m not sure this is a direction we want to go. I see it as a very difficult topic. … I’m confident that everyone will think this through.”

Most shocking is the story of Zhang Shan

Zhang Shan…is a Chinese sports shooter and Olympic champion. She won the gold medal in the Olympic Skeet Shooting event at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. This event was mixed, open to both men and women. Zhang Shan was the only woman to win a medal in this mixed event from 1972 to 1992. Zhang was not able to defend her title as the event was open to men only in 1996.

Does it get more disgusting? Let women play until they win and then bar them from competing against men.

It’s obvious that women will get better by competing against men (except in sports where women are already superior should there be any). Marathon running has the situation where the fastest female time is in an open event, and there was an attempt therefore to prevent it from being the world record for females. Apparently it only counts if you only run against women. You can read the details here.

Shaking my head.

September 28, 2017 at 6:40 pm 1 comment

Hou Yifan wins Biel GM tournament

This is the first time she has won a strong round-robin – and, no great surprise to discover yet again that when females stop playing in the women’s, they get better.

Females: get the big tip. STOP PLAYING FEMALE EVENTS. You will never be as good as you could be while you still play women’s chess, women’s bridge and, I expect, all other segregated activities.

Stop playing women’s events because the whole idea is sexist and an admission of inferiority. Stop playing them because they are bad for you. Get out of the vicious circle.

August 2, 2017 at 10:45 pm Leave a comment

Chess: Millenials Match – World vs US Under 17

Going into the last day, the star of the event is undoubtedly Australian Anton Smirnov. Sixteen years old and board 4, his performance rating is 2725, ie he is playing, as at the last Olympiad, at super Grand Master strength, defined as plus 2700.

Anton gets very few chances to advance his official rankings in chess. He is still at school – even going to the Olympiad last year meant missing a term – and if you live in Australia you are simply too far away to play seriously. It’s all the more amazing that when he does get these rare chances overseas, he shines. Imagine what he’d be like if he had the natural advantages of somebody like Carlsen, living in the thick of strong chess action all the time. I know, I’ve written about this before.

The last day’s play starts in half an hour as I write, Anton’s playing board 2, black against Sevian.

July 29, 2017 at 11:05 pm Leave a comment

Chess in schools: two TV news stories

Two stories a couple of days ago in the English press about chess in schools. The BBC had a short report headed by a kid saying ‘Chess makes me feel less angry’. Of the many reasons touted for playing chess that’s a new one for me. You can see the report here.

The other, longer report, was on ITV. It reported on Park End Primary in Middlesbrough UK. The first half of the story is entirely expected, kids playing chess and loving it. But then it moves into the school staff room where free teachers were playing chess. All the teachers in the school play, it’s required. Lessons are also provided for parents. It was really nice to see one teacher, I’m guessing the sports teacher, talking about how unlikely he found it that he would like chess and yet there was was, engrossed. One of the female teachers talked about discovering her competitive side which she hadn’t ever realised existed. Fascinating! You can see that one here.

July 29, 2017 at 2:58 am Leave a comment

For all the bridge players in China

I got taken to task by Paul Marston recently for quoting in the last APBF Bulletin in Seoul the number 32M bridge players in China, which he thought to be pure fantasy.

Certainly if you look around there are some wild figures out there. Judy Kay-Wolff in a blog post earlier this year states that ‘TODAY there are over 200,000,000 children learning and playing bridge in China. That is NOT A MISPRINT … OVER 200,000,000 IN CHINA …’

Unfortunately Judy gives no indication as to the source of this figure and as I write, I hope for a response to a query I left.

Both China and Indonesia mobilise youth in bridge in a way that maybe without parallel. But one would need these countries to have no more than hundreds of young players for this to be true.

I noticed a comment by Dunga Lui who is a young Chinese bridge player on Bridge Winners a while back to the effect that in China ‘no school has bridge as a REGULAR curriculum, they have it as an elective activity after regular school time (about 3-5pm Monday to Friday.) Also, not 70 schools having bridge that many in Beijing, it’s about 20 or so I think.’

I might add that some exclusive schools may have hundreds of students playing, but that isn’t going to get us very far on the way to 200M.

I wondered if I could extract more information from him about the situation there. He kindly suggested the following could be relied upon in broad terms.

1. CCBA(China Contract Bridge Association) has 90,000 registration members.

2. China has less than 1,000 PRO players, and most of them have another part time job.

3. Our National Championships (like CHN NABC) normally have 1,200 tables TOTAL (Compare to NABC about 10,000 tables).

4. We have quite a few regionals (about 30), each would have about 70 teams to attend. But we don’t have many clubs, so PROs only find job in regionals and nationals.

5. Roughly estimated, China has about 1.5 million people who know how to play bridge and 30,000 active competition players.

6. The youth bridge in China is growing well in recent years; in some provinces we have and education department or physical department of bureau supporting bridge elective classes in middle schools and primary schools as I mentioned in other threads. Also CCBA holds lectures more than twice a months in different universities.

7. Children’s bridge centralizes in metropolis such as Beijing and Shanghai, you can understand that because people there are well educated they like their child to learn new things. Beijing has 2,000 children playing bridge (under 15) while Shanghai is better which has 6,000. Other cities they have less.

8. Now there is a good bridge soft company in China named Synrey (it has a international version you can find in app store) which has more than 200,000 register users and 20,000 active daily users.

That last comment follows on from the problems that were faced in 2014 with the online viewing of the world championships hosted in China, as discussed on Bridge Winners (and no doubt elsewhere) at the time. By the sound of it the WBF made an unholy alliance. It’s a digression from the topic at hand, but worth recording. At the time Westerners were wondering why they weren’t able to view properly online the world championships despite the WBF’s arrangement.

Ourgame is a comprehensive online card games company, it does not make money/keep market by bridge which is just such a small piece of cake, but bridge has its unique world impact such as international events. So they spend money on bridge, buy the decency, and then with the satisfaction of government, they could make more money by their relations.

Base on that logic, they have finished their job. In regard to bridge and audience? They do not even care about bridge.

Once one looks past registered numbers of players in bridge, it is all but impossible to determine what’s happening behind that public scene. I will mention, not for the millionth time, that ‘bridge’ is so generic it’s a disastrous name. A simple way of getting some idea of the number of chess players in the world is to extrapolate from the number of chess sets (online sales, for example) whereas in bridge there is no possibility of such a thing. However many households own a deck of cards, no conclusion can be drawn about numbers of bridge players.

Although I understood Paul’s indignation, nonetheless it bothers me to draw the conclusions he has from at best tenuous information. After all, it is true that important men at the top of China going back many years were bridge fans and if they decided on a mobilisation at a grass roots level, it would surely happen. From this point of view, it strikes me that it is entirely possible that a large number of people in China suddenly became bridge players.

I followed up with Patrick Choy who recalls that in a meeting with LI Tie Ying, then Vice Premier and a keen player, he advised that in China there were 400M card players in China, with an estimate of 10% being bridge players.

Later on, I did enquire into the basis of the 10% of the 400 card players. On the mountainous West side of the country, card games is the main activities which helped the farmers to enjoy their past time, particularly in the community centres. Since the late eighties, bridge was introduced nation wide to junior, high schools and universities. Furthermore along the developing coastal area, all major corporations normally formed their own bridge clubs employing professionals to play for the corporations in Sectional/ Regional/ National Championship.

The Chinese Bridge Association did not have a register of the community and school/ university bridge player. They only have a register of players who played in the Regional/ National championship. There were however estimated numbers of community and schools/ universities played as reported from the provincial and municipal bridge organization. During the past two decades, I and the WBF Presidents have the pleasure of visiting the schools and community centers and I have always been impressed by the intensity of bridge activities. At the end I inclined to believe the 10% of card players guesstimate, but as a safely margin I put a 20% discount.

To this we have to add the observation that computer/video games are now in a state of dominance. This is a sudden transformation across the world over the last decade or so. The change is probably most dramatic in countries like China, Japan and Korea with extremely strong intellectual games cultures which are being decimated.

For example, Korea has lost millions of Go (Baduk) players to these games and now whole generations of children grow up in a milieu which could not be more different from that provided by the culture of Go.  There are still a couple of hundred professional Go players in Seoul (meaning living on prize money, I believe, not scratching out a living as ‘professionals’ do in bridge) and there is a 24 hour TV channel for the game. The TV channel’s studios are in a four storey building which is just for Baduk. There are clubs everywhere, but a Westerner wouldn’t be a chance to find one which is partly why I questioned Marston’s conclusion that there weren’t any bridge clubs in Shanghai (to speak of) simply because he hadn’t seen any.

No doubt the same has happened to bridge. Patrick Choy says that over the last decade ‘The population of card players have been sharply decreasing. Surprisingly, in my visit with Gianarrigo to China right before the Seoul Championship the Chinese Bridge Association’s guesstimate is it maybe less than 10 million bridge players. I have planned to visit China in July to review this situation.’

I’m guessing that this is only noticeable in China (maybe Indonesia?) because so many people there play bridge. As only a tiny handful of people play in the rest of the world, and as they are mostly old, this is not an impact bridge will notice. Elsewhere kids aren’t playing video games instead of bridge because they never played bridge in the first place. Indeed, if bridge continues to market itself as a game for old people, I wonder if there is a future where people who have spent their younger years glued to screens doing instant reflex gaming, will find a non-reflex game attractive as their reflex skills deteriorate.

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Patrick Choy and Dunga Lui for sharing their observations about bridge in China.




June 21, 2017 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts

September 2018
« Oct    

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.