Playing like they mean it

first_img Related Art of chess They sat across from each other, quiet except for the occasional word or glance across as they placed pieces on the chessboard between them.Their attention was on the board — perhaps already on the war they planned to wage — and their focus such that each pair might have been alone in the large, glassed-in atrium at Harvard’s Smith Campus Center on Sunday.But they were in a crowd. Every two made up a pair in a row of pairs, sitting at a chessboard in a row of chessboards, and they all had something in common: Each was about to battle someone who just might understand their life’s passion better than anyone else.In addition to the rows of players, observers sat a few feet away, cordoned off from the tables but peering anxiously. Beyond them was the bustle of the campus center’s busy foot traffic as another semester careened to a close.The quiet broke when the blitz began, adding a new, peculiar rhythm to the space. Move, slap. Move, slap.In blitz chess games are timed, and on Sunday, each player had five minutes to complete all the game’s moves. So after shifting a piece, players immediately slapped the two-faced clock next to the board, stopping their own timer and starting their opponent’s.Move, slap, move, slap.Of necessity, the games went quickly. After each, the players shuffled opponents according to how well they did, winners playing winners and losers losers. A loss in the first round didn’t spell doom, however, as a victory in the second would boost the player into a match with another winner. As the rounds progressed, winners and losers shuffled and shuffled again.,“I can’t imagine Harvard without Harvard Square and the chess tradition here.” — Harvard statistics Professor Natesh Pillai, pictured below,“I played a lot in high school. I don’t have as much time here because of classes,” said Harvard first-year Michael Isakov. Isakov, Massachusetts’ reigning chess co-champion, by midafternoon had scored 2.5 out of 4, with three draws and a win, and would come in fifth overall. “It’s a very creative game, in a way you don’t get [from] academics. It’s like every game I play is different, and that’s very exciting.”The players were part of the Boylston Blitz, a blitz tournament under the auspices of the Boylston Chess Club. That blitz itself was as part of the Community Chess Weekend. Currier House Faculty Dean Latanya Sweeney, professor of government and technology in residence, said approximately 150 players came to the event from around the region.At afternoon’s end, Chinese grandmaster Jianchao Zhou came out on top, with 12 wins in 12 rounds. Among other top finishers were former Massachusetts state chess champ Lawyer Times and Ridvan Sakir, a visitor from Turkey now studying in a Harvard Square language program, who is a candidate master in the international chess rankings.Chess has long been a fixture at the Smith Center and its outdoor plaza. For decades, during the building’s previous incarnation, players tested their skills — and offered games to passing tourists for money — at tables outside. The square became known as a location where skilled players could find worthy opponents.Sunday’s blitz was the closing event of Harvard’s Common Spaces weekend. The event kicked off on Friday afternoon with an open tournament that welcomed players of all abilities. On Saturday, the qualifier for this fall’s Collins Cup chess tournament was held, and on Sunday morning, three-time U.S. champion and grandmaster Larry Christiansen played 30 challengers in simultaneous games.“It’s amazing,” said statistics Professor Natesh Pillai, who also played on Sunday. “I can’t imagine Harvard without Harvard Square and the chess tradition here.” The center in the crossroads New Smith Campus Center is a welcome to all Go wide, go long Players bring their best moves to Smith Center tournament last_img read more

Royal Mail maintains pension surplus on back of strong Gilt returns

first_imgIt also came the same month as the Pension Protection Fund 7800 index saw aggregate funding levels dip to 81.4%, although levels have since recovered.The UK postal service saw a large share of its pension liabilities transferred to the government ahead of its 2013 listing, with the reformed RMPP subsequently reporting an IAS 19 surplus of £830m.The company said it expected the initial surplus to decline over time, especially in light of what it accepted were worsening market conditions for defined benefit funds.“The increase in the surplus was largely driven by the return on assets – in particular due to the increase in the market value of Gilts and derivative assets principally held to hedge inflation and interest rate risk,” the report notes.Gilt holdings make up well over half of both funds’ £6.6bn in assets, with £3.7bn held in unit trusts – up from £2bn in March last year.A further £195m was held in index-linked UK bonds, £525m in overseas fixed-interest bonds and £60m in UK denominated fixed-interest bonds.The funds held an additional estimated £460m in unit trusts, with nearly £600m in direct equity holdings, £318m in listed and unlisted property and £175m in cash.The report went on to say that the surplus would be likely to decline to the point that there was “neither a material surplus or deficit” by 2018, as the company adjusted its contribution rates to reduce the surplus.Compared with 2014, both schemes assumed retail prices index (RPI) inflation of 3.1%, down 0.3 percentage points, an equal decrease in consumer prices index (CPI) inflation to 2.1% and a nominal discount rate of 3.5%, down by 1 percentage point.The falling inflation assumptions are likely to have reduced liabilities by £270m, while the lower discount rate would have caused liabilities to rise by £900m, according to the company’s actuarial assumptions. Royal Mail’s pension plans have bolstered their funding surplus, seeing it increase by nearly £1.4bn (€1.9bn) as average funding levels within UK schemes fell by more than 2 percentage points.According to the company’s latest annual report, covering the financial year to 29 March, the Royal Mail Pension Plan (RMPP) and the smaller Royal Mail Senior Executives Pension Plan saw a combined IAS 19 surplus of £3.2bn, up from £1.7bn in March 2014.The increased surplus comes despite a comparable increase in liabilities of £1.3bn across both funds. The actuarial surplus was less pronounced but still increased by £371m to nearly £1.8bn – with the Royal Mail expressing surprise that the surplus remained in place.last_img read more