Sunday, 31 May 2015

Pairing and rating multiplayer games

I spent part of today at the Canberra Bordgames Titles, both to test (and fix) the tournament management software, and also to get a feel for how these events run. I quite enjoyed the experience and in part it reminded a little of my early chess playing days when events were a little more informal (and signs like "Consider your opponents. Please shower" were more common).
For some of the multiplayer events a fairly simple pairing algorithm was used. The winners of each (4 player) game earned 4 match points (MP), second was worth 3, third 2 and last was 1. Victory Points (VP) were  Then the players were sorted by total MP (and total VP as the next ranking value)  and the top 4 were placed on Board 1, the next 4 on board 2 etc. To avoid byes if the field was not a multiple of 4, the bottom boards were 3 player games (so as to give everyone a game).
While this rough and ready pairing system is generally OK, there were of course a couple of questions about whether there was a better system. For example, in a close event, it seems better to be on Board 2 (with a higher chance of picking up 4 points) than on Board 1 in the final round (NB The top 4 finishers then qualified for a final playoff). Also there was no restriction on playing the same opponent(s), so in some tournaments the players at the top (and the bottom) remained fairly constant (and familiar).
Related to this is the question of ratings. For this event ratings were not used, meaning everyone started in a random order. If this event is repeatable, then there is the possibility that the results from this tournament could be used to produce some sort of ranking for the next. I wondered if something akin to the ELO system could be used to produce such a list. My guess is yes (and I have already thought about such a method), but what the k factors and Score Expected (Se) tables should be is something I haven't established as yet.
The broader question is whether such a ranking system would help or hinder such events. I think the majority of people who played over the weekend did so because they simply enjoyed playing the games (Settlers, Dominion, TTR, Carcassone and Rummikub) and not because of any ranking/rating glory. While there is no doubt that having a rating system has contributed to the increased popularity of chess, I am not sure that such a system is for everything.

Things I am not surprised to see

After all the excitement earlier in the week surrounding FIFA, the re-election of Sepp Blatter was probably the least surprising thing about the whole affair. Of course this has lead to a number of "how could this possibly happen" in the media, but anyone who has attended the last few FIDE elections (as I have), would know how these things in fact work. Although the articles are about football rather than chess, they have a familiar ring about them, right down to which continents get blamed.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Pawn Sacrifice

The long awaited Bobby Fischer Biopic "Pawn Sacrifice" is due for release in September. The first official trailer for the movie has been released, and it certainly looks like it will be a high quality film. The trailer shows the the movie is striving for a high level of accuracy in its portrayal of Fischer, although I suspect there will be some artistic licence as well. Click on the trailer link to judge for yourself.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Oh what a tragedy

Chris Skulte sent me a link to the game below, which was played in 4NCL Div 3 earlier this month. A full blooded Traxler (without the wimpy Bxf7), Black received the usual full compensation for the sacrificed bits around move 13. Missing the sneaky threat of 15. ... Nd3 White thought it would be a good idea to attack the queen with 14.Bg5 only to discover Black did not care for this piece. After that Black's advantage grew and grew, but unfortunately at the expense of almost all the time on his clock. Missing a couple of KO's in time trouble, Black suddenly saw White getting back into the game.  After 23.Nhf7 the assessment flipped in White's favour, and stayed that way for the rest of the game. Quite a sad end to what could have been an absolute masterpiece.

Alcock,Graham - Haldane,Robin [C57]
4NCL, 04.05.2015

Things I never expected to see

News that various FIFA officials have been arrested in a corruption probe is something I never expected to hear. Not that I am privy to the inner workings of FIFA, but international sporting organisations tended to avoid too many legal difficulties, by virtue of being "international". Enough conflicting jurisdictions meant that anything too dubious could be parked in a friendly country, away from prying eyes. But it seems that this is no longer the case, after the news out of Switzerland.
I suspect a number of other sporting associations may be rechecking their current codes of conduct as clearly this sets a new standard for what is actual corruption as opposed to "just business". And while FIFA (along with the IOC and maybe Forumla 1) is at the top of the sporting tree, who knows where the spotlight is shone next.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Not another stalemate

I spent an exhausting, but enjoyable, day running one of the Zones for the ACT Interschool Teams event. The quality of chess varies from team to team, but the important thing is that the kids get to play, and they enjoy themselves in doing so.
One thing I always keep my eye on are interesting stalemates. There seems to be a formula that is unconsciously followed by many young players to ensure the game that should be one ends in a draw. Step 1 is to capture lots of material. Step 2 is to then start checking the king in the hope that something comes of it. Step 3 is to *not* check the king the moment the king is finally trapped and has no escape squares. Step 4 is to shake hands with the opponent, as though what happened is perfectly normal!
Unfortunately I did not see that many egregious examples of players drawing while ahead large amounts of material. As a result I only have the diagrammed position to show you, where despite being a Queen, Bishop and 5 pawns ahead, White managed to trap the Black king in the corner, but failed to finish him off.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Who decides the result of a game?

Last year during a meeting of the FIDE Rules Commission one discussion turned to the topic of who actually decides the result of  a chess game. I had simply assumed the game was decided by the players by actually playing the game (with a few minor exceptions) and if I remember correctly made this point. I was a little surprised that there was a strong argument that in fact it is the arbiter who decides the result, which was put forward by some of my colleagues. There position was that as the arbiter is required to ensure that the Laws of Chess are followed, they have the final say, as there are situations where the Laws may not be followed (eg outside assistance, intimidating the opponent) or simple situations like losing on time or claiming repetitions.
While I realise that we may be splitting hairs on this topic (it would be a shortly unemployed arbiter who just changed results based on a whim), it still may be a distinction worth making.
Round 9 of the current FIDE Grand Prix event saw an incident which is related to this topic. There was a repetition claim in the game between Karjakin and Caruana, and after checking the arbiter declared it a draw. Then the arbiter realised a mistake had been made (due to misreading the scoresheet) and the claim was incorrect. Although both players signed the scoresheets (with a draw recorded as the result) they were asked to recommence the game, which they did (It was still drawn somewhat later). In this case the arbiter was correct in fixing up the mistake, which supports the argument that the arbiter decides the result. Of course if the players had been happy with a draw at that point they could have agreed to one, which then supports my argument!

(As an aside, I am no longer a member of any FIDE Commissions. Short reason: Elections have consequences. Long reason: The subject of a future blog post)

Monday, 25 May 2015

With best play by both sides

As a programming exercise (and because I have an interest), I am currently building a Double Dummy solver for Bridge (using Python for starters). Unlike a playing program, such a solver finds the optimal play by searching all the alternatives. At the end of the process it should end up with list of tricks which result in the best outcome for both sides.
This is not dissimilar to  building a search routine for a chess engine as the outcome there is also about finding an outcome that is based on best play by both sides. Normally there isn't a definitive result (eg 1-0 or 0-1) due to the size of the search space, but there are instances where this happens. Forced mates is one example, as is endgame positions.
In fact I cam across one such position in an article titled "Most difficult chess problem" It is from a maths blog (Complex Projective 4-Space) and was discussing longest minimal solutions to a couple of problems. The chess problem they showed was a mate in 549, which was discovered while compiling 7 man table bases. To be honest it does not look like a 'nice' problem, but that isn't the point in this case. What it says is the starting position is the furthest known position from ending in checkmate, assuming best play by both sides. Nonetheless I wouldn't say it's the most 'difficult' in terms of solving (as a human), but from a maths perspective, it probably is.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

How many mistakes do you need to lose in the opening?

GM John Nunn was of the opinion that White needed to make 3 mistakes to lose a miniature (ie in under 20 moves), while Black, by virtue of being down a tempo needed only 2. I certainly proved this in spades today, losing a very quick game against Alana Chibnall at Street Chess. Trying a dubious Philador's may not have been the first mistake, but 7. ... Bxg5 was. 12. ... Kd7 was the second big one as after 13.O-O-O the only question was how quickly I could get mated. As it turns out Alana did not spot the quickest win (she played 17.Bd5+ winning the rook, although she realised she had missed a mate almost immediately) but I though I would show how the game should have ended.

Chibnall,Alana - Press,Shaun [C41]
Street Chess, 23.05.2015

Saturday, 23 May 2015

A sad(ish) day for the Traxler

There was a time when the Traxler was almost unbeatable. Sure you might struggle with it against a GM, but 3.Bc4 was rarely part of the GM repertoire (no doubt due to fear) this was never likely to happen.
Then along came computers and the Internet, which ruined the fun. Now almost everyone with an engine or a browser could found out what the best lines against the Traxler were, and like a snake in the grass, wait until the right moment to strike.
It can be a particularly disappointing experience in CC, especially if your opponent takes on f7 with the bishop (rather than the knight). After that it is usually just grind, grind, grind a pawn up before you resign on move 42 (rather than mate your opponent on move 17).  The following game is a kind of exception to that script, with my opponent at least hitting back with an attack of his own. I was a little surprised he gave me the piece on g3, but it turns out he was still better as I was a move or two slower than he was. The final moves were quite nice, with the rook sac on c7 finishing me off.

Putukhov,Viktor - Press,Shaun [C57]
AUS v Russia, 12.11.2014

Friday, 22 May 2015

Engines, who needs engines?

As someone who does a bit of chess magazine editing, engines are both a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand they do my my job easier, as I am not going to make too many huge mistakes when annotating a game, at least in the area of tactics. One the other hand, they do make games a little less interesting, especially Correspondence Chess games, where all the top players use engines in deciding their moves.
The other issue is that players seemed to be a little more adventurous, especially in there choice of openings. Opening secrets tended to stay secret for longer, and refutations were a little harder to come by. An example of this was a game I came across while reading about Akiba Rubinstein. Against the ever inventive Rudolf Spielmann, he played his own variation in the Four Knights Spanish variation. Spielmann counterd with a line of his own invention, playing the daring Kf2-g3, allowing Black all sorts of discovered checks. Although Black eventually won, a number of players have been willing to try this exact line, as recently as 2008 (according to my database). While the consensus is that Black is simply better in this line, a number of players including both Keres and Teichmann, burnt the midnight oil to show that this was so.

Spielmann,Rudolf - Rubinstein,Akiba [C48]
Baden-Baden Baden-Baden (4), 20.04.1925

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Thud or Cyvasse

Apart from chess variants that exist in the real world, there are a number of chess like games that exist in the world of literature. "The Glass Bead Game" (Hermann Hesse) is a famous example of this, imagining a society where the mastery of the game is an end to itself.
"The Player of Games" by Iain M. Banks has similar themes, although mastery of a number of different games is required by Gurgeh, the stories hero, before he embarks on a quest to defeat another civilization whose entire order is built around a game called Azad.
Some games in literature have become real world games themselves. "Thud" from the Terry Pratchett book of the same name is one example, although the game is similar to the Norse game of Tablut. And there is even a game that has come from Game of Thrones, called Cyvasse. It has most of the GoT elements in it (Dragons, Kings, Knights) although the rules I have seen seem a bit light on the gratuitous nudity the the television series has. Interestingly, the version I have come across may not be the only version out there, as further searching has thrown up a couple of others.
As with most of these "Disrupt Chess" inventions, they don't actually do that, but if you are trying to out nerd your nerd friends, mastery of one of these games may win you a tankard of mead at the next comics convention.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Caruana back on top

After his win in St Louis last year, it was felt that 2015 would be a race between Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana for the World No. 1 spot. However Caruana then fell back a little, and was still mixing it the rest of the world top 4 or 5 players.
Now with the final Grand Prix event of the current series underway, it looks as though Caruana back in front of the pack. After 4 rounds he is on 3/4, having beaten Vachier-Lagrave and Tomashevsky. Going into the first rest day he is half a point ahead of Peter Svidler and Lenier Dominguez (with Caruana drawing with both players).
Of course Caruana still has a number of tough games to go (Nakamura, Grischuk, Giri etc) but it is easier to win a tournament from in front rather than behind.
In round 4 he played an interesting game against Vachier-Lagrave. The opening was a line I played when first learning about the positional aspects of chess, especially queenside play. By exchanging of d5 White can play a minority attack, using the a and b pawns to break up the black queenside. The usual counter is for Black to strike in the centre, or try for a kingside attack, but modern GM's don't always follow these scripts any more. Instead White made noises on the kingside, and it was Black who broke up the queenside. The emergence of a passed e pawn was too much for White who lost a piece dealing with it, and resigned soon after.

Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (FRA) - Caruana,Fabiano (ITA) [D38]
FIDE Grand Prix 2015 Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia (4.5), 17.05.2015

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Australian Boardgames Tournament

If you want a break from the agony and ecstasy that is chess, then the ACT section of the Australian Boardgames Titles is being held on the 30th & 31st May 2015. There a 5 separate games on offer, Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Dominion, Carcassonne and Rumikub. There are rpizes for each tournament, including entry into the National Titles being held in Melbourne later this year.
The venue is The Games Capital, Garema Place, Canberra City (just across from Street Chess), and the tournaments begin at 10:30am on both days.
Further details of the event, including entry fees and playing schedules are available here.

 (There is a chess connection BTW. The organisers of this event are also the team that organise the O2C Doeberl Cup, so it should be a fantastic weekend)

A reminder of times past

Just as there was an Indian chess explosion when Anand became World Champion, there is currently a Norwegian chess explosion, due of course to Magnus Carlsen. One effect of this is that chess has become a mainstream television sport in Norway, with coverage of last years Olympiad being but one example.
This year the organisers of Norway Chess 2015 held a qualifying event, where 6 players battled it out for a spot in the Super GM event. The tournament was a mixture of classical and rapid time controls, and was broadcast on Norwegian TV. Taking a leaf from the 1970's Master Game series, the players were asked to provide their thoughts after the game, and as an added bonus, World Champion Magnus Carlsen was on hand to provide commentary.
The decisive game of the event also provided a little bit of a glimpse into the past. It was played during the rapid play section of the tournament, between Laurent Fressinet and Jan Ludvig Hammer. While the opening was a little old fashioned, it was the finish of the game, and the reasons, which were also 20th century. As the game was played without an increment, both players had to watch the board, and the clock. However they then ran quite short of time playing for the attack, and the ending turned into a bit of a crap shoot. Both players were winning (and losing) at various points, until Fressinet made the last blunder and was mated. As a result Hammer took the lead and ended up as the last player for the main event.

Fressinet,Laurent (2712) - Hammer,Jon Ludvig (2665) [C50]
Scandinavian Masters Rapid Oslo NOR (2.2), 15.05.2015

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Just moving pieces

The late Patrick Connell (well known to Canberra players in the 1990's) decided early on in his chess career that analysing variations was not for him. He was happier looking at the aesthetics of a move, and if it looked like a good move, then he would play it. Proving that the move was sound or unsound was something for his opponent to decide, not Patrick. And while he didn't rise above the ranks of 1300 to 1400 on the ACF rating list, he did score a couple of wins over me at various time controls.
I was reminded of this approach in one of my own online games which recently finished. It was played with a time limit of 5 days per move, which should have given me plenty of time to analyse. But not really having the time to, I instead went for the "that looks sensible" approach to the game. In this case it worked, and to be fair most of my moves were OK, but not brilliant. But just like Patrick, there were a few moves that only worked because my opponent made them work, And there were a few moves by my opponent that I made look a lot better than they should have been.
Moral of the game: Sometimes you just want to move pieces and worry about the consequences later.

Press,Shaun - LaiCiCung [B02]

Thursday, 14 May 2015

The 30 second chess tactic

Black to play and win
Canberra player Victor Braguine is currently enjoying a bit of a chess holiday in Europe, and has sent me the diagrammed position. He was Black against a higher rated player, and had good chances with an extra piece against two pawns. Almost at the time control he thought for a bit and then swapped queens with Qd4. After that he could not turn his extra piece into a win, and the game was a draw.
But he asks, can you find the winning move (which he missed) in under 60 seconds?
(SP: At my first attempt I spotted the correct move, but then I discarded it, after not finding the correct follow up)

Movement in the transfer market

News that Fabiano Caruana is transferring to the USA (from Italy) has once again shone the spotlight on the FIDE transfer rules. Caruan, who holds both US and Italian citizenship, has represented Italy for the last decade, but has decided to return to the land of his birth (in a chess sense). Coming soon after Wesley So transferred from The Philippines, the USA is going to be fielding a pretty strong team at the next Olympiad.
Oddly enough, this transfer seems like it is going to sail straight through. Under FIDE regulations, Caraua can represent the USA,  after either sitting out a waiting period (2 years) or by paying a fee to FIDE. Also, the Italian Chess Federation can receive a fee (50,000 euros) if they wish, to shorten the residency period required.
It was these fees that were the point of contention when So transferred to the USA, as it seemed no one (So or the USCF) was willing to pay them. As a result he missed out on playing the 2014 Olympiad, although he will be eligible for 2016. The talk this time is that Caruana is going to play for the US in 2016 so clearly someone is stumping up the cash.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Starting to miss the checks and captures

Age is beginning to catch up with me over the board. Recently I have started to make more mistakes during my games, and I suspect it is due to changes in my thinking process. In two recent games I spent a great degree of time calculating some nice forcing variations, only to then play the wrong move at the board. In one game it caused a swing of a rook (from winning the exchange to losing a piece), although the second case was not so bad (just didn't win a piece in the best way). In both cases it was caused by making the wrong choice, even though I knew what the correct choice was.
To be honest, it does not concern me greatly, as I assume it is part of the ageing process. It just means I need to be more alert to what is going on, and not rely so much on my 'automatic thinking' but to check and recheck what I am about to do.
(Without being too harsh on myself, moves 20 and 24 were the main examples, while f4 would have been strong from move 16 onwards)

Press,Shaun - Rojahn,Jack [B23]
Murphy Memorial, 12.05.2015

Monday, 11 May 2015

The Australian Chess Annual

While searching for all things chess at I stumbled across "The Australian Chess Annual" It was published in 1896 and I think (based on the handwritten notes inside the cover) that it was the first edition of what is supposed to be a series. It is a very comprehensive book, and seemed to run for over 150 pages, with tournament reports, club directories and chess problems filling its pages. The author was H.B. Bignold, who listed himself as a member of the Arts, Sydney and Petersham Chess Clubs. Also interesting was the number of Chess & Draughts clubs (as opposed to just chess clubs). I assume that both games were on equal footing at the time, something that is not the case these days.
If you want to do some digging around of your own, just go to archive,org and type "chess" in the search bar. Plenty of stuff turns up, including books, magazines and even old chess playing software. However it may be a bit tricky to get exactly what you want as I found a couple of books that were catalogued as chess books, but instead turned out to be essays on dead French poets!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Is this just clickbait?

"The Mathematically proven winning strategy for 14 of the most popular games" screams the headline. But on clicking on the link (which I have helpfully provided), it turns out to not be quite that. A more correct headline might instead be "Mathematical observations about 14 of the most popular games"
Of course some of the observations will direct you towards choosing better moves (and yes it does include a fool proof tic-tac-toe map borrowed from XKCD) but as a 100% set of winning strategies go, it falls a little short.
But if you like your numbers crunched and your data massaged it is still an interesting article (although I'm a little sad it gave away one of the hidden secrets to winning Monopoly, a strategy I have followed for 20 years!)

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Chess in music videos

Not only does chess turn up in movies or TV, but it also occasionally turns up in music videos. Of course there are really obvious examples like "One night in Bangkok" or "White Rabbit" , but have spotted the odd chess reference or chess motif in some completely unconnected songs. 
Today I realised that there was even a little bit of chess in a song I have always liked, Michael Penn's 1989 hit(?) "No Myth". A couple of the scenes have a chess set in them, although I am not entirely sure what the connection is with either the song or the narrative of the clip. However it does give me an excuse to link to it on this blog!  

Friday, 8 May 2015

The first century

While I am sure that there were thousands upon thousands of chess games played in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, not that many were recorded for posterity. This is why a lot of the "first game to" records are probably not entirely accurate, and should instead be "the first recorded game to".
An example of this is the first *recorded* game to reach 100 moves. According to my database (which may not be 100% complete), this occurred during the De Labourdonnais - McDonnell match. In fact it was in the ninth game of the fifth match between them, although history tends to treat these matches as one giant match.
The game went for exactly 100 moves, with Black's 100th move being "resigns". As the game was played without a timer, I have no idea how long it actually lasted, but I am assuming it went for quite a while (and possibly over more than 1 day). I also suspect both players might have been quite tired at the end, as on move 93 both players missed a trick that might have ended the game a few moves short of the century, and with an entirely different result.

De Labourdonnais,Louis Charles Mahe - McDonnell,Alexander [C51]
London m5 London (9), 1834

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Time management

Continuing the whole "Chess as life" theme, does chess help you manage your time better? Mark Scully, a regular reader and background contributor to this blog, send me an article titled "The secret to a calm life" The article makes references to using chess type strategies, including looking ahead and developing strategies. And like chess, the author suggests that time management skils can be improved through practice.
While this all makes sense, I am not convinced that chess players themselves would make the best example of time managers. Apart from getting into time trouble or wasting time analysing irrelevant lines, chess players often turn up late for rounds, forget to bring their own pen, or leave it until the last minute to enter an event.
The fact that chess players behave this way is somewhat curious to me, as all competitive chess is played with a time limit, unlike a lot of non chess activities. If anything playing chess should teach you how to efficiently use your time, how to make quick decisions under pressure, and to trade off accuracy for speed as the situation arises. And yet it does not seem to. Why?

Do chess players have Q scores?

For those unfamiliar with the concept (or familiar with the concept, but not the name) a "Q Score" measure both the familiarity of a personality and their overall appeal. The higher the score, the more "bankable" the personality.
For the entertainment and advertising industry, the Q score is an important metric, and it has me wondering about potential Q Scores of chess players. Within the chess community I assume that a number of players might have high Q scores, although this would drop (due to lesser recognition) among the wider non-chess community. Fischer and Kasparov would certainly have high recognition levels (as would Nigel Short in the UK) even among non chessplayers. I would even suggest that there Q score might even be higher in the general population, than in the chess population (although Short's might be on the slide!)
Among the chess community Carlsen, Anand and Aronian seem to be both recognised and popular, while Nakamura is an example of a more polarising figure. In the past, Euwe would no doubt be popular in The Netherlands, while Donner might be recognised, but not necessarily popular.
Related to this is an academic paper I have just looked at concerning the correlation between merit and fame. In the paper (which can be found here), the authors measure the historical ELO ratings of players, with their google rankings. At first I thought that this was an odd choice of topic to research, but it a follow up to studies done in other fields. At least the advantage of using chess as a starting point in merit can be measured reasonably accurately (and objectively), something they may not be possible in physics or economics (two other areas looked at),

Monday, 4 May 2015


I've mentioned in the past that one of the advantages of playing Correspondence Chess (CC) is it is far easier to represent your country than in over the board (OTB) chess. One of the reasons for this is that international friendlies are a regular part of the CC scene. Such matches are often played over numerous boards, with 60 board matches not uncommon.
One opponent that has consistently posed problems for Australia in recent years is Germany. In a previous friendly we were comprehensively walloped, but Australia bravely fronted up again for the return match. We are still behind in the new match, but at least we aren't losing by quite as much.
To bolster our ranks we even brought in some help from the OTB world,  with GM David Smerdon joining the team. I'm not sure how much CC David has played in the past, but in the following game he showed he could hold his own against one of Germany's top players.
BTW, if you want to see the current standings from this event, and play through the games, just click on this link.

Fischer,Wolfgang (2495) - Smerdon,David
GER-AUS/NZ 2015 ICCF, 08.02.2015

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Will chess make us smarter, better people?

Two interesting articles were published in the Australian media today, touting the educational benefits of chess, and calling for it to be taught as a core subject in Australian schools. John Adams, Government Relations Director for the Australian Chess Federation argues that chess may play an integral role in boosting the educational performance of Australian children. He plans to spend the next year producing a report that gathers empirical evidence to support this claim, with the intention of getting chess accepted as part of the standard curriculum.
Alongside this was an article by Peter Martin, economics editor for The Age, who described what he learnt from playing chess, lessons he believe he may not have learnt if he had not played the game. In conclusion he argues that not only will a generation of Australian chessplayers make us a smarter country, but possibly even better people.
The report on John Adam's work is here, while you can read Peter Martin's article here.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Off to the fair

Tomorrow I am taking a short journey south of Canberra, to the annual Michelago Mayfair. Apart from the usual delights of a village fair, I will be giving a chess display. The display will probably be just me taking on all comers, but to make it interesting, I will probably give myself a time handicap (eg all moves in 1 or 2 minutes).
I did this a few years ago as a replacement for Lee Forace (who has done it on and off for around 5 years), so this is my second attempt. If you are interested in enjoying a trip to the country (and read this early enough to get there), Michelago is 45 minutes south of Canberra, along the Monaro Highway. The fair runs from 10am to 3 pm, and apart from chess there will be plenty of other activities to do.

I for one am not yet ready to greet our poker overlords

While there is little doubt that the Computers v Humans chess race has been run and done (although I have yet to see an official announcement), this means that game developers have moved onto other challenges. Go is still yet to be cracked, although it is starting to get close, while Poker seems to be another area that is gaining in popularity.
There is currently an ongoing match between an poker bot from Carnegie-Mellon and a group of poker professionals, at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburg. The poker game of choice is No-Limit Holdem, which is a more difficult game for computers to master, as a lot of the game involves stack management, rather than just odds calculation.
At the halfway point the computer program, Claudico, is quite a way behind, down around $160,000 against the professional. Each pro will play 20,000 hands against Claudico, and at the end of the tournament will share $100,000 in appearance money. However these seems not to concern the program developers as this exercise is both a competition and a learning experience for the bot. As with a lot of AI bots these days it is designed to evolve its strategy as it plays, so even while it is getting beaten it should be getting stronger.