BONG! NAO Paris 3½, Polonia Plus GSM Warsaw 2½. Yesterday I said "The top three boards are all too close to call, but NAO Paris ought to be able to make the difference tell somewhere on the lower three. Can't see there being more than a point or two in it, though. Can't see there being more than a point or two in it, though." The top three boards were all drawn; of the bottom three, NAO won two and lost one to complete a victory by the seldom-seen margin of "the odd game of six".
BONG! Ladya-Kazan-1000 do manhandle St. Petersburg Lentransgaz, 4 to 2. Kasparov wins, as predicted. Bologan wins, as predicted. The bottom four boards are split evenly. (Interested to know how Korchnoi-Rublevsky turned into a draw - I caught it when there was a very exciting-looking endgame in prospect, with an advantage of a knight taking on a very far advanced pawn which looked dangerous to promote.)
BONG! Norilsky Nickel, who actually do come from Norilsk (which, Pravda tells us, is a city in the Krasnoyarsk Territory of Siberia which was closed to foreign citizens) do see off Alkaloid Skopje 4-2.
BONG! A.V. Momot Chess Club Energomashspetsstal, who come from Kramatorsk rather than either A.V., Momot or Energomashspetsstal, play out of their skin to overcome the defecit against Tomsk and 2-2-2 their match. Performance of the round, Brian.
BONG! Barbican get squatted by Werder Bremen 1-5, but Luke McShane still doesn't win for Bremen. Worst of both worlds.
BONG! Thank you for not inquiring about the result of Cercle Royal des Echecs de Liege versus Asker Shakklubb.
One. Hundred. And. Twenty. Seven. Pawns. BONG! Whoops.
So, four days down, we're down to just two teams with perfect records. Tomorrow sees Ladya-Kazan-1000 taken on NAO Chess Club Paris for all the marbles - except that chess isn't played for marbles. (Maybe it should be. The king would be worth one of those eff-off big blood alleys, the queen one of those made from white opaque glass and so on. Actually, I picked up some lovely sets of marbles in France about 15 years ago; they're made of glass, but they have this cool metallic sheen to them. Each pawn would be worth a cracked marble at best. Or, given that we're in Greece, perhaps the stake should be the Elgin Marbles. Perhaps a Greek team might win them back, which would make William G. Stewart very happy, at least.)
The big question is how the teams will line up against each other. We can expect both teams to put out their strongest possible starting six, but the order is crucial. We can safely assume Kasparov will be playing white board one for Kazan; whoever NAO place in opposition will almost certainly be thinking "draw" from the start. NAO have been playing Grischuk on board one so far, but they might not do so tomorrow. Looking at Chessbase's online database (which I don't imagine is going to be up-to-the minute, for accurate databases command good money) Kasparov's record as white against all three of NAO's 2700+ GMs is pretty scary: +2=3-0 against Grischuk, +4=3-0 against Svidler and +8=2-1 against Adams. Ouch. The smart - but disrespectful - play for NAO would be to put Lautier as board one, who actually has two wins over Kasparov (the remarkably even record quoted is +3=2-2) and try to power the three 2700+s on boards two to four. This is the sort of thinking that would put your best cricket batsmen to come in at the end and your bowlers at the start, though.
Kasparov is on a WWW streak, Bologan a WWWW streak. If NAO can squeeze a point against these two together, they're off to a good start. Where NAO might be able to get a slight advantage is in the mid-section; Kazan don't have the flexibility to have options other than Rublevsky (WWWD) on 3 and Smirin (WWDD) on 4. Given that the two of them could only get draws against Korchnoi and Smirnov (the player, not the vodka) then I think they'll struggle against 2700+ opposition. Kazan's board five, Karlov, has gone WWWW so far but hasn't faced good opposition yet. Kazan have been playing Timofeev on board six, but he's on a WWLL streak and so might be rested tomorrow. Trouble is, Kazan don't actually have a spare GM to sub on - the best they're looking at is 2515-rated Ramil Hasangatin.
So if I were the NAO Chess Club captain, which I am not, this is how I would line the lads up and this is what I'd expect to happen:
KAZAN NAO PARIS PREDICITON Board 1 Kasparov (w-b) Lautier 60% 1-0, 30% =-=, 10% 0-1 Board 2 Bologan (b-w) Adams 50% 1-0, 40% =-=, 10% 0-1 Board 3 Rublevsky (w-b) Grischuk 20% 1-0, 50% =-=, 30% 0-1 Board 4 Smirin (b-w) Svidler 20% 1-0, 40% =-=, 40% 0-1 Board 5 Kharlov (w-b) Bacrot 20% 1-0, 40% =-=, 40% 0-1 Board 6 Timofeev (b-w) Vallejo Pons 10% 1-0, 30% =-=, 50% 0-1...so it's really looking too close to call.
The general point definitely applies. If NAO Paris are going to win this match, they're going to do so on the bottom boards, where they need their powerful lower order (any two of Vallejo Pons, Bacrot and Fressinet) to perform against Kazan's vulnerable-looking five-and-six. (Admittedly this is where my punditry falls down. It's one thing to know about Kasparov, but I admit that the lower order is just as important or possibly even more so - and, at that level, they're all just ELO ratings to me.) Really just one or two incidences of heroism anywhere could swing it either way.
Let's look at what the market thinks. The biggest money for this tournament is at Betsson rather than the more usual Betfair (both MSIE only). Betsson have markets for both the Kazan-NAO match and the overall tournament; for the match, you can back Kazan at 2.5 (6/4), NAO at 2.1 (11/10) and the tie at 4.0 (3/1). (Only about a 111% book, so not that bad.) Overall, NAO are quoted at 2.25 for the tournament with Kazan at 2.4 and the rest nowhere. (Someone will take 15.0 if you're willing to offer it against Bosna, though.)
Now at the start of the tournament I thought that Kazan looked very underpriced and indeed quite layable at the odds at the time. If you were ever going to lay Kazan, now would be the time - you can lay them at 3.3 (effectively backing them not to win overall at 30/100) and you might be able to get better than that still. The reasons why Kazan have been doing much better than I predicted are (a) I failed to account for the Rublevsky factor as he wasn't listed on their line-up and (b) Viktor Bologan is on the rampage. I still favour Paris overall, but it's going to be a great day for chess. (And a great day for pinball.)
However, the tournament isn't just about Paris and Kazan. There's a fair possibility of a 3-3 draw in the match, then we may be down to several co-leaders, all with just one draw and four wins. Match two sees Norilsky No-Foreigners take on Beer-Sheva of Israel. Beer-Sheva haven't faced any of the top teams to get this far (their draw was against the abovementioned Momot, for instance) but you really can't argue with three match wins and a draw from four. Match three permutes another Russian pair: Tomsk against St. Petersburg, which seems to be the cream of the matches among the crop of pairings of 3/4 teams. Werder Bremen take on Corpora Martin - favour the Slovakians; Barbican will take on homeboys Kydon (Barbican ought to win, but Kydon have been enjoying the familiar territory... up until getting beaten 1-5 by Sarajevo yesterday) and Asker take on Ankara in a titanic North-versus-South Norway-Turkey clash. (It's match number 22 of 22, but we don't talk about that.)
It occurs to me that a chess tournament like this would be absolutely fantastic for modern-overview-of-lots-of-games-at-once-style TV coverage, with an anchorman in the middle and two or three guests poring over the action in progress and piping up whenever there's some hot news. Endless scope for previews, discussion of openings and their past histories for the first hour or so of play, pick up some meaty midgames for deeper discussion for another hour or two and then watch the results flow in one at a time after that. After the time control, pick an interesting-looking endgame in a game which will be crucial to a match and just follow that.
It also occurs to me that there's nothing in the 4NCL (British pro chess league) rules to stop NAO Chess Club Paris participating as a team in the British league as well as in the French one. In fact, the 4NCL would probably welcome it as an influx of more strong French players. Those teams who have stars that also turn out for NAO (that would be Wood Green) might well object, but fairly groundlessly. Technically NAO would probably have to start at the bottom in Division 4 next year and work their way up like everyone else, but maybe they might find a team willing to sell their instant-top-flight place (or, rather, subtly rename themselves accordingly...) and might be prepared to ride out the instant hoo and ha that would doubtlessly follow. Mostly I just think it would be really cool - and a true statement about pro team chess - that the same club might win both the British pro chess league and the French league.
One of the most ambitious LJ posts I've yet seen and enjoyed is bateleur's potted autobiography celebrating his thirtieth birthday. daweaver is going further and serialising his own over the month. It's Friends-only, alas, but Iain is well worth beFriending and this should be something to follow with very great interest.
No plans to do anything quite so ambitious myself; my ambition manifests itself in other ways. Last year, my entry into the "100 things about yourself" craze was my one hundred ambitions. A year (and a bit) later, it feels like time to revisit them and see how I'm doing.
One change is that I've decided to copy the one hundred across to my To-Do list on the grounds that (a) I wasn't using it for anything else, (b) a list of ambitions overtly is a to-do list and (c) this permits me to conveniently add things one at a time as and when they occur without inconvenience. There's no reason why there should be great ceremony for adding an ambition to a list - you just decide that you want to do something and commit it to a list for the sake of having it down on a record. Accordingly, last year's 100 has swelled to this year's 113. There's no reason why this shouldn't keep growing, but I'll eventually reach a Y9999 problem. (An A999 problem, I suppose.) Hey, there's always hexadecimal.
Another related question is under what circumstances I am prepared to declare an ambition complete. I'm happy to accept that my tastes change and what might have seemed like a good idea last year no longer seems so attractive. Similarly, there have been occasions when I have done something which appeared to be on the ambitions list, but having done it, I've found that I was really seeking to do something else in the first place after all. I'm happy with that. I'm not happy with the thought that I might never be satisfied with my achievements. Short of trying to work out specific goals for each of the ambitions on the list - which might really be the best solution after all - I have a suspicion that some of these ambitions really are "do this once" and others really are "do this and keep doing it until I decide I don't want to do it any more". This is, at least, natural, even if not quite as atomic as would be useful for a cell in an ambitions list.
It's also relevant that a lot of the ambitions are to do with confidence; I would become a lot happier and feel that I have achieved much in my life if I somehow become confident about being able to do some, really, pretty ordinary things. Perhaps "gaining confidence" isn't a glamorous ambition, but it's one that will permit me to live my life more fully, and so is as perfectly valid and worth striving for as any other sort of ambition. Of course, confidence is relative - it's hard to say "I am now confident enough for my own tastes". It's also possible to lose confidence over time. Nevertheless, they certainly feel like ambitions to me.
The same comments apply as when I first made the list: the style in which I manage to achieve things matters at least as much as what gets achieved and there are a fair number of things I'd like to do which certainly are never going down on a list for public view. In fact, I suspect these more intimate desires and dreams aren't ambitions as such - they've got to occur naturally, contextually and with the right partner[s] rather than being done for the sake of crossing the fantasy off the list. It's almost the parts that go before and after the fantasies, the getting there, the leaving again and the ways that things don't turn out quite as planned that make them so attractive.
The other fun feature about using the To-Do list to store my ambitions is that I can assign status percentages. These are seldom meaningful, but they are at least fun.
Over the last year, I have done the following things which I've always wanted to do:
34. See an excellent comedian live. The original expression was "Visit a comedy club and see an excellent comedian live." Seeing Tim Vine at Middlesbrough Theatre certainly fulfils the "excellent comedian" part, for he is my single comedian of choice. (Barring, possibly, Mike Myers or Stephen Fry.) However, Middlesbrough Theatre doesn't have the "comedy club" atmosphere, which is part of what I am after. Only 75% complete.
31. Visit Disneyworld. It turns out that it was implicit that "visit" actually included "go round the parks", which I didn't do. However, if I never go back there again, will I be satisfied? Mostly satisfied, so it's mostly complete. I'll score that 80% and mark getting to 100% as very low priority.
The Nimbus trip ties in with 56. See 50 high-level sports live. I had a separate post about this - how I've got to a count of 7 so far. On balance, Quidditch does spiritually count as an eighth on the grounds that we defined top-level Quidditch and I had the best seat in the house.
The same trip also ties in with 73. Invent a successful new game. I can see Quidditch of the sort found at Nimbus being more likely than not to prove successful by my definition of success; played for ten years, 100 participants playing or watching each time. However, I can't really take credit for it; it's JKR's game and I was working from other people's developments already for the real-life interpretation. It'll be interesting to see whether history records my name as having been there and codified it at Nimbus - 2003 or not. I'm betting on "not", so can't really see this as the fulfilment.
The same trip also ties in with 93. Be a paid public speaker or a ring announcer. OK, it wasn't paid, but Nimbus gave me the taste of being a MC in front of a large crowd. (Two large crowds, actually, for Quidditch and for Squares.) I wasn't great, but I was good enough for my own concerns. This is why I go on about the Nimbus trip and the people I met there so much; it featured so many of the things that I have always wanted to do.
So zero absolutely crossed off and five "sort of"s in a year, which doesn't strike me as terribly many. There are ones that could be fulfilled relatively easily - for instance, I note that 64, "take part in paintballing", is £6 club membership plus £30 for a day's fees away were I to join the paintballing club at Teesside University. Again, merely to "take part in paintballing" is just shorthand for what my dream paintball experience would include - playing on a team alongside a good crowd of friends, playing at a reasonably spectacular venue, getting to play with some enjoyably ludicrous equipment. In some ways, it's almost as if I would be more satisfied if I tried it, felt I had played it at its utmost and then felt I never wanted to play it again in order to feel comfortable with crossing it off.
The numbers are all completely arbitrary, too. Watch fifty sports? Meet fifty game show hosts? (The latter of these deserves its own post, because eleven notches so far is evidently way up there compared to most.) Fifty is definitely a number plucked out of thin air with a vague sense of "most of the big ones". However, I do note it's less than 52, as in Dave Gorman's famous "meet 52 people called Dave Gorman". 52 - chosen because of the number of cards in a deck - would just be madness.
Incidentally, another of my (sillier!) ambitions is 95. Throw a significant wad of real money into an unsuspecting crowd to cause a small riot. Causing riots is inherently bad, so this one may have to remain as a funny idea only. Evidence for this is given by a BBC News story about Kevin "The Money Man" Shelton who hands out dollar bills to all-comers willy-nilly and fires cash in the air... only twelve injured. Twelve? Were I to repeat the stunt and rack up a body count of twelve, I would probably declare the riot insufficiently sizeable and declare the stunt not to be fully successful!
So, yes, ambitions. What are yours? How are you doing at fulfilling them?