Sunday was a creative day, if not what might be considered a productive one. 23 hours or so ago, during a LJ check between the two halves of my sleep, an idea for a game presented itself. It might be summarised as a puzzle version of Wario Ware - only more so - or as a two-minute pocket version of The Crystal Maze. The idea fermented in the bath; after today's efforts, I have a 68-frame Powerpoint presentation which is somewhere between a storyboard and a pseudo-playable demo, complete with three example puzzles, three practice puzzles and nine game puzzles. Not sure whether I have set the level of difficulty anywhere near correct.
Also not sure what, if anything, I'm going to do with it (I have a gut feeling it's more of a game show bonus round than a mass-market participation game) but if I show it to a few friendly gamers and they go "Cool!" then that would be a result. I have examples of 15 verbs (puzzle types) and descriptions of 35 more, but it shouldn't be too hard to get up to (say) 200, with four example puzzles of each, which would be enough to keep the world going for a while.
Also kicking around ideas for what might be termed a concentration game. I envision this to be a physical game version of something like the old Track and Field arcade game, where players have to complete successively increasingly difficult feats in successively increasingly tight time limits. The first level involves dealing out a pack of cards in front of you according to two simple rules; later levels involve adding more and more complicated ways of dealing depending upon the numbers on the cards you deal. Can't really see a way around a requirement for a human judge who sits in front of you and rings a bell if you make a mistake or take too long. Not sure whether this would be a fun game to play or merely a very irritating one, but again an interesting concept with which to play.
The first day in the men's competition of the European Chess Clubs Cup went completely to plan; the slightly accelerated Swiss seeding system saw the top clubs face the top-of-the-bottom-half clubs and the bottom-of-the-top-half clubs face the bottom clubs. (This is always very kind to the club just above half-way and very harsh to the club just below half-way, but never mind.)
Top-seeded NAO Chess Club Paris didn't even need to play their nominal board one, oft-claimed "future world champion" Alexander Grischuk, to roll over TZ Trinec Chess Club of the Czech Republic, conceding only one draw on the bottom board of six. Last year's champions, Bosna Sarajevo, made surprisingly heavy weather of the all-Swedish Limhamns SK - four of the Swedes will be very pleased with the draws they were able to earn when heavily overmatched.
On tables three, four and five, the three strongest Russian teams delivered almost a formation smackdown with sixteen wins and two draws against teams from Belgium, Denmark and Finland; tables six, seven and eight saw all eighteen games go to form: Bosnia-Herzegovina's second representatives, Kiseljak, pounded the Austrian Sparkasse Gleisdorf, Polonia Plus Warsaw showed no mercy to Reykjavik's Hellir Chess Club and St. Petersburg Lentransgaz blanked Cercle Royal des Echecs Liege.
It's hard to see the winner coming outside of those eight, but Slovakia's Corpora Martin 5½-½d my favourites Asker Schakklubb and the French Clichy Echecs 92 (1992 or 1892, one wonders?) made a good start at improving on their tenth seed over ESV Austria Graz. The closest we came to an upset all day was near-home-team Kydon S.C. Blue Star Ferries taking 2½ points from Tbilisi of Georgia, though I hear that the third seed South Urals Cheliabinsk were overturned in the ladies competition.
English hopes rest on Barbican, who took their fortunate position just above half-way in their seedings and thrashed the outsider Phibsboro Chess Club from Ireland accordingly. Phibsboro are surprisingly hotly tipped in the open poll, but I fear this says more about the polls than anything else.
NAO Chess Club of Paris, if they can get their strongest six out, have got to be at least a 60-40 favourite over any other team in the competition in a one-on-one match, but a single match loss over the seven rounds would make it very hard for them to win overall. Assuming we don't see too many of the locals at the tail end of Bosna Sarajevo's slightly pretentious ten-man squad playing, Bosna might be able to hang with NAO, but will have difficulty keeping their best players going for the duration and still hitting peak form for any Sarajevo-Paris match. Ladya-Kazan-1000 aren't quite a one-man team, but the support for Kasparov tails off quite sharply after board three and they might get picked off. Day one saw Norilsk Nikel programmed their strongest players on boards 2, 4 and 5, but you can hardly afford to concede boards one and three to the top teams and still hope to compete. Expect Tomsk-400-YKOS to do well on board count, but to lose matches against the strongest competition.
Accordingly, I would price up the cup like so:
NAO Chess Club Paris 13/8 Bosna Sarajevo 9/4 Ladya-Kazan-1000 8/1 Norilsky Nikel 11/1 Tomsk-400-Yukos 14/1 Kiseljak 18/1 Polonia Plus GSM Warsaw 22/1 St. Petersburg Lentransgaz 28/1 Corpora Martin 40/1 Clichy Echecs 92 66/1 100/1 bar (The Field vs. the above 10: 50/1)Let's see if I can do better at chess picks than my Friends list are doing at NFL picks. Looking at Round 2's top seven matches:
Werder Bremen (GER) vs. NAO Chess Club (FRA)
Bremen rolled over the Luxemburgois team 5-1 yesterday, but Bremen's single lost point came from their big star hope, Luke McShane. If he's not on form - overplayed? - then I can see some serious steamroller action here. ½-5½.
St. Petersburg Lentransgaz (RUS) vs. Bosna Sarajevo (BIH)
Bosna had a poor day yesterday with the even-numbered whites and St. Petersburg will fancy their chances after a 6-0 win. There's a real chance of an upset which would presumably set NAO odds-on, but I suspect Bosna struggling to do enough to win may prove thematic this year. 2-4.
R.V.H. Chess Club Belfast (IRL) vs Ladya-Kazan-1000 (RUS)
RVH of Belfast picked up the full-point bye yesterday. Looking at their squad, this may be the best result they get all week. Their reward is that their top board gets to face Kasparov. Whomp. 0-6. Heck, Kasparov could beat Belfast in a clock simul alone.
Norilsky Nikel (RUS) vs. Corpora Martin (SVK)
Wherever Norilsky place their three big guns, they'll fancy them to do well, and they should have enough strength in depth to sneak the other three boards also. 4½-1½.
Schachfreunde Neukölln (GER) vs. Tomsk-400-Yukos (RUS)
Neukölln struggled to get past the scratch team and are the sort of 24xx-ers who the Tomsk players eat for breakfast. 1-5 and it won't be pretty.
Kiseljak (BIH) vs. Tbilisi (GEO)
Tbilisi too were weak against opposition they should've dealt with handily; Kiseljak will be keen to establish their borderline challenge credentials - and, heck, maybe even be on the podium after day two. 5-1.
GKSz Polfa Grodzisk Mazowiecki (POL) vs. Polonia Plus GSM Warsaw (POL)
Polish derby! Look at the 8th September entry in the middle column; my Polish ain't up to much, but I think you and I can both translate "domination". Hard-fought, but can't see this one being less than 1½-4½.
...and the rest also ran.