mercoledì 24 maggio 2017

Alone in the World


No one today
Called me
If I die today
No one
Will know it

任航 (Rén Háng), March 6, 2014

Gender neutrality
Women’s World Chess Champion 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán) talks about her career as a child prodigy

Ksenia Petrova, May 17, 2017

Chess – An Élite and Predominantly Male Sport – In recent years chess quickly returned to its ancient popularity. The world is again struck with the matches of the super-Grandmasters, and even those who know little or nothing about chess have heard a bit about the the dramatic last year’s World Chess Championship match between Sergey Alexandrovich Karjakin from Russia and Magnus Carlsen from Norway. Now in Moscow is underway the second stage of one of the key chess Stargates – the Grand Prix series: the top two finishers will accede to 2018 Candidates Tournament and will enjoy the opportunity to fight for challenging Carlsen for the World title.
Even here, at Moscow’s stage, 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán) from China is the only female Grandmaster to perform in the Grand Prix series, by direct nomination from World Chess/Agon Limited, which organises all the tournaments of the World Championship cycle. Although 逸凡 (Yìfán) is only 23 years old, hardly anyone would ever dare to call her “budding”: at the age of 12 she became the youngest International Grandmaster in chess history, and at 14 she reached the finals of the Knockout Women’s World Chess Championship Tournament. The four-time defending Women’s World Chess Champion pretty soon began to show up at men’s tournaments, where the average strength level is far higher (as well as the money prizes).
Before the beginning of the Moscow Grand Prix, we talked with 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán) about her childhood as a “chess prodigy” and the reason why women don’t compete in men’s chess circuit.

Chess Childhood

I was five and a half when I started studying with my first teacher – an amateur player who put up a small school at his home in 南京 (Nánjīng). Before the diffusion of the Internet, there was very little devoted literature and, in general, almost no information about chess. I particularly remember the old book from which our teacher chose the exercises: it was necessary to arrange the chess pieces as shown in the diagram, and start the game from such positions.
I was very young and I can’t remember exactly how it all started, but my parents told me that I began playing Chinese checkers very early – and almost immediately I was able to outplay those who taught me. Mom and Dad decided that it would be nice to introduce me to other mind games that develop logical thinking, and they enrolled me in the chess section, where I started spending several hours a week. At the same time, like all children, I was involved in a lot of other things which interested me: music, dance; I played and talked with my peers. At some point, I ended up attending too many classes, and my parents advised me to choose one – so I decided to study chess, because I liked it the most. Then I started participating in chess tournaments in Northern China – at the time I was assisted by a coach who once was a national Champion, but retired at his peak. And within ten years I was admitted to the National Chess Center in 北京 (Běijīng).

Support for Family and Friends

Child prodigies are often doomed to feel regret – no matter whether objectively or subjectively – for not having had a serene childhood and having missed some important life experiences that won’t repeat themselves. That was not my case: I always did what I liked, nobody forced me to anything. When it became clear that chess was a serious matter for me, our family moved to 北京 (Běijīng). Mom was a nurse, but she decided to quit her job to follow me through my chess odyssey – this was especially important when I was a teenager and I could not have travelled alone. Usually, the players can bring with them a friend or family member, and my constant support is my mother. Yet, she is still here with me, in Moscow.

“Mom was a nurse, but she decided to quit her job to follow me through my chess odyssey”

Chess now takes up most of my time, but this doesn’t mean that I haven’t other hobbies and time for entertainment. It hasn’t been always easy to combine chess with curricular study, especially in high school, but I think I did not miss anything important at school. Last year I graduated from the Faculty of International Relations and, probably, I will continue my studies by pursuing a Master’s degree in the United States.
Today, computers play a big role in chess training, but it is not all about it: together with other members of the national team, we read chess books, solve problems, analyse other people’s games and play training games with each other. Of course, sometimes I play with friends, just for fun. In the chess community there is a pleasant atmosphere, and, naturally, I have a lot of friends among players, not only from China. The circle of people constantly participating in international tournaments is rather narrow, and sooner or later you end up building friendly relationships with players from other countries.

Why We Need “Female” Chess

Although sometimes I hear things about a “male” and a “female” style of play, I think, first of all, it all depends on the individual characteristics of the player as well as on some cultural aspects. It is thought, for instance, that men are more aggressive and more easily willing to assume risks, but really I do not think of these qualities as being gender-related. Generally speaking, on average women play worse, but it’s not a matter of biology, but rather of historical heritage – although we should not forget that chess, like other sports, requires physical strength and endurance, and men are usually physically stronger. Perhaps women used to make more emotional decisions, and they are also more impressionable, but it’s not a matter of male and female brains; it’s rather due to the lack of a consolidate tradition of women’s chess and a minor degree of experience. How can women emerge as chess players if they are not seriously involved in chess education from early childhood?

“The existence of a Women’s World Championship is out of question as it gives the players the opportunity to test their skills and gain competitive experience”

The existence of a Women’s World Championship is out of question as it gives the players the opportunity to test their skills and gain competitive experience. It’s important, however, to participate in mixed tournaments on even terms with men – otherwise you won’t ever know your true strength. The main problem of women’s circuit lays in its systemic imperfections, but these are rather technical details, which I hope may be amended [Ed. Note: This year, 侯逸凡 (Hóu Yìfán) refused to defend her title at the Knockout Women’s World Chess Championship Tournament in Tehran, since she considers unfair the knockout format]. For instance, according to the current rules, the reigning World Champion doesn’t need to pass again through all the qualifying stages to defend his title: now Magnus Carlsen just sits and waits until all his contenders played each other, and in 2018 he will play a match with the winner of the Candidates. The rules for the Women’s Championship are different: every year you have to start it all over again, which seems unfair to me.

Future Plans

It is unlikely that, in the foreseeable future, men’s and women’s tournaments will finally become gender-neutral. Actually, the separation depends upon the will of the players themselves – especially since women have every right to participate in men’s field. However, the difference in the average level of men and women in chess is yet too big: only one woman [Ed. Note: Hungarian Grandmaster Judit Polgár] is ranked in the FIDE rating list of the top 100, and there are almost no strong female players in the top 1000 – if there weren’t distinct tournaments and a distinct Grandmaster title for women only, solely few female players would be able to claim titles, participate in tournaments and earn enough money, and all will develop even more slowly. Each of us is working to reduce the gap, but it will take a long time to completely cancel it.
I’m not sure I will be interested to train professional players in my future. I do not exclude it a priori, but I am much more interested to involve myself in popularizing chess among those who never played and don’t plan to devote all their time to it. I myself experienced how much chess may be as much helpful as pedagogical in other spheres of life – I wish to share my experience and knowledge to help others.

(Free translation by Nobody’s Perfect)

Building Europe

Dress Rehearsal

An Eye on the Thames
Ilyumzhinov: London is entitled to host the World Chess Championship match in 2018

Earlier, Japan, South Korea and Singapore also expressed the wish to hold the World Chess Championship match

MOSCOW, May 24, 2017. TASS correspondent: Andrei Kartashov. London intends to submit a bid for the 2018 World Chess Championship match. Thus stated the President of the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov.
In 2016, the World Chess Championship match was held in New York, United States. Magnus Carlsen from Norway confirmed himself as World Champion, winning the crown in the tie-break against Sergey Alexandrovich Karjakin from Russia.
“I just flew to England today, where I met businessmen and lawyers who expressed the wish and availability to assist in holding the World Chess Championship match in London”, Ilyumzhinov said. “So there will be another hosting challenge”.
Earlier, Japan, South Korea and Singapore expressed their wish to hold the match.

Pictured left to right: World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and the President of the Fédération Internationale des Échecs (FIDE) Kirsan Nikolayevich Ilyumzhinov. Photo © Mikhail Metzel/TASS.

martedì 23 maggio 2017



Friday’s call
Is for Saturday’s date
Sunday’s stars
Are to sparkle in the lover’s eyes

任航 (Rén Háng), March 14, 2008

Effect with no cause


Birds like to live in cities
People are not willing to live in the woods

任航 (Rén Háng), June 12, 2009

The Peacock Throne

Tbilisi, Georgia: A peacock displays its feathers inside its enclosure at Tbilisi Zoo. Photo: Zurab Kurtsikidze/EPA.

Not Dead & Not for Sale
A record 250,000 young people signed up to vote in 24 hours after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn extended his tuition fees pledge. Photo © PA.

Odds And Ends (But Mostly Odds) For Sale

The Longest Kiss

Today (May 23, 2017) is Anatoly Yevgenyevich Karpov’s 66th birthday. It looks like yesterday when he kissed his second wife Natalia Bulanova during the wedding ceremony. Photo:

The Importance of Not Being Arcovazzi
Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May
Photo: Getty Images

Girls Never Shut Up

The Importance of Not Being Arcovazzi

The aftermath of the 天津 (Tiānjīn) warehouse explosion, which killed 173 people and exposed the darker side of compulsive urbanisation. Photo: VCG via Getty Images.

Far-Right Dirty Games

Jeremy, tell Gordon to tell Tony to sum up

Rain and Rainmaking

“You appeared on a rainy day”

Since then
My heart
Suffered from rheumatism

任航 (Rén Háng), June 17, 2009

lunedì 22 maggio 2017

Jeremy, why is Tony rereading your Manifesto and not translating Theresa’s one?

The Temple of the Water Goddess (Reloaded)

A man gestures at the demolition site of the 九星 (Jiǔxīng) furniture market in the suburbs of 上海 (Shànghǎi), China. The market used to consist of an indoor and outdoor complex that housed shops selling building materials, furniture and household items. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images.

Good Night, Sleep Tight

Last night Arcovazzi burglarized my (old) car. Well, unfortunately, it’s not the first time. Twice he slashed my tires. At other times, more benevolently, he caused other minor damages, such as, for instance, car door lock breaking. But, this time, he just entered and took over the driver’s seat. He opened the big bag where I keep my chess sets and angrily spread Pawns and other pieces all everywhere. He set up, however, three Pawns on the car’s dashboard, wishing to make a display of his sign language skills. Then he threw down an April 2014 issue of an Italian chess review and stepped it off. Finally, he rummaged in the ashtray looking for smokable butts – or maybe was he looking for traces of scarlet lipstick?
Since he did not find anything, he eventually got out of my car and hitched back (his) home, where he fell to his bed (which I think to have been limp and empty).

But no. Whether you lose by 10 points, or you lose by 100 points, she doesn’t want anyone but you
Theresa May arrives at an election campaign event in Wrexham, Wales, United Kingdom. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters.

Bravo, Jeremy; it is the right time to offer Tony for sacrifice into the fire
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the crowd at Wirral Live at Prenton Park. Photo: Visionhaus via Getty Images.

Saturday Night Fever

The Associazione Culturale “Il Delta della Luna”’s final dance showdown performance will be held at the Teatro SMS of the People’s House in Grassina on Saturday, June 17, 2017, starting at 20,30.

Shoot to Thrill

Sofia Nutini, virtuoso dancer of Associazione Culturale “Il Delta della Luna”, modeling as a bride for a Lidia Sposi’s wedding fashion photo shoot. Photo courtesy of her herself.

Don’t worry, Jeremy. The staff finally found Gordon standing in front of 10 Downing Street while, disguised as a dog, was chatting with Larry about what Theresa looks like when you are outside London