CONFESSIONS of a Winnipeg chess and hockey fan: last weekend featured two televised Jets games, and two live rounds of the world championship candidates games.
I watched the entire Jets-Leafs game and was happy I did, as you don't get to see a 10-round overtime shootout too often. I have to admit, though, I was less thrilled with the next day's game against Ottawa.
Then there was the live web broadcast of the candidates games from London, where eight of the world's best chess players are locked in battle to see who will earn the right to challenge for the world championship.
OK, the chess matches are much less physical. There is no bodychecking, and I can't remember the last time a chess player sustained a concussion. But it doesn't mean that excitement and tension are absent.
Watching live chess online may seem like dull activity, but it's wrong to draw any hasty conclusions. I had to bang out a work project on my laptop, and I had the live games on another tab which I checked every now and then. As long as no Rook and Pawn endgame analysis crept into my work paper, I figured I would be all right.
The games themselves were fascinating. Especially interesting were games by Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, two of the favourites in the eight-player round robin.
Carlsen, the 22-year-old Norwegian superstar, played a Cambridge Springs Defence against Boris Gelfand. It's an opening I used to like playing, but it is old fashioned and I thought it had fallen out of favour. Gelfand seemed to have a bit of edge, and a healthier position.
Each time I checked back on the game, Carlsen's position improved slightly. At times it seemed like they were heading for a draw. All of a sudden Carlsen's Queenside pawns starting marching forward. The inevitable happened -- Gelfand resigned, and I marvelled at Carlsen's technique.
Then there was Aronian's game against Vassily Ivanchuk. Aronian, considered Carlsen's main rival in this event, played calmly as Ivanchuk tried to set up a tactical onslaught against his King. A nice Queenside pawn breakthrough put Ivanchuk into deadly time pressure, and he eventually lost on time. Another impressive win, also with the Black pieces.
The winner in London earns the right to challenge Viswanathan Anand for the official title. Anand has held it since 2007, but few people believe he can retain it against either Carlsen or Aronian. Other players with an outside chance of winning include Vladimir Kramnik, Peter Svidler and Alexander Grischuk.
If you're in the mood to watch some exciting live action chess this weekend, you can catch Rounds 7 and 8 of the tournament at http://london2013.fide.com. I have no idea what hockey games are on offer.
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The second Tyndall Park chess tournament runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 20 at the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba, 737 Keewatin St. There will be $2,000 in cash prizes up for grabs in all ratings categories, including Unrated.
MLA Ted Marcelino is a driving force behind the tournament, a follow-up to the successful first edition of the event. You can register at the Tyndall Park Constituency office, Unit 24-360 Keewatin, or by calling Rey Sangalang at 204-421-9493. Registration is $15 before April 15 and $20 afterwards. It's a bargain: registration includes a free lunch.
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This week's problem: White to mate in 2 (Bilfinger). Solution to last problem: White draws with 1.h8B Ke5 2.g8+R+ K any 3.g7 followed by stalemate.