* The second London Chess Classic is in progress at the moment, featuring past world champion Vladimir Kramnik, current world champion Vishy Anand and potential future world champions Magnus Carlsen (of Small Talk fame) and Hikaru Nakamura in a round-robin also featuring the UK's four best players, Michael Adams, Nigel Short, Luke McShane and David Howell. Five rounds in, McShane is doing remarkably well, joint-leading with Anand, with wins over Carlsen (!) and Short as well as three draws and a relatively gentle run-in over the last two rounds. I mention it particularly because of the live video and audio stream from the commentary room, which is best of breed for a live chess Internet broadcast in my experience.
The players come in and share their post-mortem with the viewers, at a grandmaster rate that is difficult to follow, but when it's just the commentators, it all proceeds at quite a reasonable pace and is kept fairly bright and breezy; it's fun to let it all wash over you, at the very least. The graphics and live vision mixing are pleasantly sophisticated and the overall production is really not far off, say, BBC 4 live broadcast quality, probably on a fairly tight budget. There are well over three thousand viewers for a live stream on the Internet, which is not bad at all. Sadly there are no broadcasts tomorrow for it is a rest day, but the last two rounds start at 2pm GMT on Tuesday and at noon GMT on Wednesday. Commentators Danny King and Jonathan Rowson are always good value, though I wonder if Julian Hodgson is available?
* If chess isn't your game, I thoroughly enjoyed the recorded celebrity game of Dungeons and Dragons from the Penny Arcade Expo, featuring three web comic artists and Wil Wheaton as players. You really don't need to understand the game to follow, not least because the players aren't taking the game desperately seriously, which should probably be of reassurance to hack'n'slash campaign DMs of every age everywhere as reassurance that it's OK not to take the game too seriously, even at what would appear to be quite a high level; there are tons of stray pop culture references, mostly very geeky ones, which are very funny in context, and occasional bursts of interactivity for the fans in the audience. In fact, there are plenty of (fourth-edition?) specifics that I am years behind the times to appreciate, but again it's fun just to let it all wash over you in the background, not least because everyone is very clearly having a blast. More, please!
* Also quite exciting is the Pandanet Go European Team Championship, an online go competition between national teams from across Europe. There are three divisions of ten nations, each nation featuring a squad of twelve players and picking four of them to play in each match. The leagues are then played as single round-robins, one match every three weeks or so, with the top division featuring an additional play-off in person between the top players. The UK team are in the middle division, lost 3-1 to Poland in their first match but take on Belgium on Tuesday. The enterprise looks well-organised and has potential to grow into something quite special over the years, though the slow pace may detract from the excitement. (Would holding the divisions in alternate weeks, so there's always one division or another playing each week, make the league more fun to follow?)
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