NAO Paris played their line-up with a completely straight bat, putting regular heat leader Alexander Grischuk up against Kasparov. (To be fair, he did have a better record against the man than their other two 2700+s.) Likewise, regular #2 Peter Svidler stayed at #2 to face in-form Viktor Bologan and so forth. Svidler got a very quick win over Bologan, which must be regarded as a slight upset given Bologan's pace during the first four days - though Svidler is in good form himself, having recently won the Russian championship, which you don't tend to do by accident. The lower boards' results came in: draw, draw, draw, draw. (NAO will definitely have been hoping for better than that from the bottom two boards.) So with the score at 2-3, it was up to Kasparov-Grischuk on the top board to decide the result.
I lurked on the Internet Chess Club to follow the action today. It's fair to say they've been having problems with getting live coverage from Greece. The Kasparov game got to move 23 and then stuck. I'm not sure how long it stuck for, but I think people weren't joking when they said "about two hours". (For the top board on the top match, one would've thought that they could've got someone to dictate moves over a regular phone line, even assuming mobiles are barred from the building. HELLO! I'M AT THE EUROPEAN CHESS CLUBS CUP! WHAT? I CAN'T HEAR YOU! NO! NO, IT'S RUBBISH!) So we jumped from Kasparov having apparently a fraction-of-a-pawn assessed positional advantage after move 23 all of a sudden to 1-0. Match result: a tie, 3-3. Not all that surprising, really.
However, the surprising result comes in the second match - Norilsk Nikel, always borderline contenders, were edged out by one decisive result and five draws against twelfth-seed Beer-Sheva Chess Club of Israel, who field an all-Israeli line-up with a 2574, a 2456 and four in the 2550s. This should not be a powerful team, but five days in, it's tied with Kazan and Paris at the top of the leaderboard on four match wins and a draw. Beer-Sheva's wins haven't been big ones (+5 against Joensu of Finland, +3 against Barbican, a tie with Momot and +2 against the #2 Polish side) but they've been getting the results and have peaked at the right time. Even assuming that hard competition in the last two days sees them castle kingside in match result terms - that is, O-O - they'll be more than satisfied to finish with +4=1-2 for the week. Nikel must be livid.
Matches three, four and five were similarly close, 3½-2½. Tomsk pipped St. Petersburg, though this game had three draws and three results; five-draws-one-win matches saw Kiseljak make heavy weather of Momot and Tbilisi almost held Warsaw. Other results saw Werder Bremen shock Corpora Martin by going 3/3 at the top. Luke McShane has woken up at last, hooray! Bosna Sarajevo roll back into gear handing 5 points of brutality to a Belgian side with five Germans and a Ukranian, Barbican battered Kydon and Asker Schakklubb had their Turkish opponents for lunch.
So this makes for a very exciting conclusion to the tournament: Kazan, Paris and Beer-Sheva all on 9 match points out of 10 with Kiseljak, Warsaw, Tomsk, Sarajevo and Bremen on 8/10. The champion really has got to come from those eight. If, after fourteen rounds, teams tie on match points, whichever team has got better results from its 42 games will be declared the champion. Technically I suppose it's just about possible for the teams on 7/10 to still be in the hunt, but 11/14 match points would be a most unlikely winning score from this position.
Trivia of the day: NAO Chess Club Paris were known as Caissa Paris and almost bankrupt until a couple of years ago when Mme. Nahed Ojjeh became involved with what is her local club and splashed heavy amounts of cash. Mme. Ojjeh actually has a remarkable pedigree at the board game Diplomacy with an enviable winning streak; her strategy is inflexibly based upon maintaining control of the North Atlantic Ocean and co-ordinating both land and sea assaults from there. Her passion for the NAO inspired her to name her new chess toy accordingly. (Either that, or NAO happen to be her initials - but I think it's the Dip story.) Mme. Ojjeh is the daughter of the Syrian defence minister and a widow of a Saudi arms dealer, which might possibly explain why she can fling money about like Roman Abramovich.
(Joke of the day, though it's actually about six weeks old: Saddam Hussein has actually been captured in the depths of the Iraqi desert. The freedom fighters were just about to turn him in to claim the $25,000,000 reward from George W. Bush, but Chelsea offered twenty-nine million for him.)
Excitingly and intriguingly, at press time, the online pairing sheet for round six remains blank. Accordingly, I have to use my skill, judgement and knowledge of the Swiss system to predict the round six pairings. Here goes.
Ladya-Kazan-1000 will be taking on H@X0R-Grad-1337.
Tomsk-400-YKOS will are drawn to play Orinoco-Madame-Cholet-Uncle, representing Bulgaria.
Clichy Échecs 92 are matched against Cliché Ethetheth Pethethethetheth, featuring special guest captain Chris Waddle.
Norilsky Nikel to face Notwearing Knickers.
One of the Welsh teams who have lost all their matches but picked up a free match win from the bye will play... the other one.
Barbican are scheduled to play Sindycan't.
Werder Bremen are up against Weird Al Yankovic, who will be taking all six at once in a simul; NAO Chess Club Paris compete against Chelsea FC.
And that completes the draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup.
Seriously, the Swiss system attempts to pair teams on the same number of match points, but within numbers of points, it attempts to match up the team with the highest number of game wins and the team with the lowest number of game wins. If there are odd numbers, which in this case there clearly are, the middle team tends to play the middle team of the band on one point below. This is important because suddenly pounding every single opponent as mercilessly as possible becomes key; the more decisive your match wins, the easier the opponent of all those on the same number of points you'll get in a later round. Big wins over weak opposition breed big wins over weaker opposition in the future, and so on. (This is why Michael Adams conceding a lot of soft draws is particularly poor news for Paris; should Paris and Kazan both finish on six match wins and a draw apiece but Kazan win through more games won, it's not going to look good.)
Accordingly, of the three teams on nine match points out of ten, I presume we'll have top versus bottom - Ladya-Kazan-1000 against Beer-Sheva. Beer-Sheva have been upsetting the odds against teams they have no right to do so, but I can't see them doing it again. Middle 9/10 team NAO Paris get paired with the middle 8/10 team who look like... well, either undefeated Tomsk-400-Yukos or Bosna Sarajevo. Ouch. Now in order to be European Champion, you've got to take on the whole of Europe, but you really wouldn't want to face Sarajevo the day after facing Kazan - especially when you know every half-point here and there could be crucial. Matching up tops and bottoms of the 8/10, we have Kiseljak against Werder Bremen - ouch - and Warsaw taking on the other of Tomsk or Sarajevo. All subject to the normal Swiss "can't face the same team twice" criterion, of course.
The markets reckon that Kazan's draw has probably done enough to secure them the championship - you can only get 1.5 against Kazan now, compared to 2.5 against NAO. I have to say that NAO's weakness on the bottom boards today and subsequent failure to put Kazan away has made this probably about correct. For Kazan not to win, they'll have to slip up against either Beer-Sheva or their day seven opponents. Having to take on Bosna Sarajevo in round seven for the title would be a very fitting way to end, though. (It would require Sarajevo to have to win, whether they're facing Paris or Warsaw, plus sufficient other teams to end round six on 10/12 so that Kazan are paired down against them and not one of the others.)
Windows crashed hard today. I was doing nothing particularly special (Winamp open plus Mozilla Firebird with possibly a dozen or so tabs) when everything completely froze and Winamp started producing one particular quarter-of-a-second sound over and over again. alt-F4 did nothing and neither did very many CTRL-ALT-DEL poundings. Reset using the power button, boot up again, ScanDisk does the usual graunch. (I do want to punch ScanDisk at times. I would be very happy to shut down using Shut Down if sodding Windows 98 gave me the chance.) The problem is that 85% of the way through, it started going on about crosslinked clusters and crosslinked files, then started clicking through the disk drive v e r y v e r y s l o w l y i n d e e d. I didn't take a note of when the ScanDisk started, because I wasn't expecting it to take long, but I would estimate it took between 2¾ and 3 hours all told. Certainly going from 90% to 91% took 24 minutes.
Hmm, bad. Reboot (safely, thankfully). Kill the screen saver, kill everything but Systray and Explorer. Use Windows ScanDisk, which takes a sensible length of time. Defragment the drive, which takes something like 3¼ hours. (It's terrible when it only seems to be writing one cluster at a time. Yet... somehow mesmeric. I should've been reading a book, but...) Admittedly I hadn't Windows ScanDisked or defragged for approximately 240 days, which is the age of this installation - and, effectively, the age of this PC, though the hard drive dates back to the previous machine and can't be very far off 3¾ years old. Does the length of time taken by ScanDisk and defrag increase linearly with hard disk drive - if so, what do people with 160 GB hard drives do about it?
However, I'm really not confident that this isn't going to happen again in the near future and this worries me considerably. What more ought I be doing? I really ought to back everything up and consider a reinstall, but that's a process which fills me with horror. Recommendations for CD-R or CD-RW brands welcome, individually-boxed discs preferred to spindles; this writer is nominally capable of 12x write and 10x rewrite, but I'm not confident in it at anything above 4x with my current brand. Solutions involving switching to another OS are not appreciated unless you can also provide software to replace 36 applications I find essential. No, I am not prepared to consider emacs, even if it will replace all 36 at a single stroke. New! MAME for emacs!