“There are only 41, I am sure, one for every discipline,” said Marcela Rissato, Skol’s operations manager for the Olympics. There was speculation that a 42nd cup might exist for the unofficial gymnastics gala –– the friendly non-medal event in which Olympic gymnasts strip-tease or dance in wigs — or that maybe there were two cups for wrestling, one for Greco-Roman and one for freestyle. The confusion comes in part because no official marketing materials were released by Ambev, the South American distributor of Skol, stating the number of cups or how best to collect them. But the mystery has only fueled fascination, making the frenzy around the cups more happy accident than calculated guerrilla marketing. “I think we are bigger with the cups than the pins, compared to the other Olympic games,” said Rissato, referring to the more traditional on-site collectible.She did say, however, that Skol is attempting to crack down on any vendors selling the cups — which at their core are ad space — without any of the beer they’re advertising. “That is against the rules; every cup must come with beer,” Rissato said.Their success at that has been questionable. The yellow cerveja stands at every venue have been unusually packed, but not because people are clamoring for the Bud Light of South America. There are two lines at the stands — the first to pay and the second to collect your beer after selecting your cup — and each person takes about five minutes to sort through the stack of randomly sorted cups in search of certain sports. Most vendors look exasperated — JUST PICK A CUP ALREADY — while others have been angered as crazed cuppers rummage through the supply boxes behind their stands. We’re on the ground in Rio covering the 2016 Summer Olympics. Check out all our coverage here.RIO DE JANEIRO — “We’ve got them all! We’re leaving today, and we finally have all 42 of them,” boasted one half of a couple in line for beers at the Olympic BMX Centre, claiming that they’d completed the elusive set of plastic souvenir cups from this year’s Olympics in Rio.I was standing nearby with David Marquardt, a 30-year-old from Utah who said he’d been averaging about seven cups of beer a day and was seeking out the last two cups to complete his family’s set. “They don’t know what they’re talking about,” he joked under his breath. Marquardt’s theory is that there are only 41 variations of the cups — the number of sports listed on the official Rio site (counting each individual equestrian event) — and not the 42 that has been reported widely.For the past two weeks, people at the Olympics have been losing their minds trying to collect yellow and blue plastic souvenir cups that feature the silhouetted athletes of each sport. The cups are sold only with the official Olympics beer — Skol — though many collectors are just dumping out the beer or paying full price (13 reais, or about $4) for an empty cup, several vendors confirmed. But although the cups, which are an advertising product for the beer, have been hugely popular, there is little in the way of official information from the company about the collectibles, which has led to the curious situation of visitors trying to complete a set of some indeterminate number. Tracking down a complete set shouldn’t be impossible. Each sport’s cup was manufactured in equal number, Rissato said, but Skol doesn’t know how many cups exist in total, let alone where to find each kind.“We don’t know which sports we will get,” said Mônica De Azevedo, a vendor coordinator. Each stand gets a couple of boxes filled with cups each morning, she said, but the stands don’t know what each day will bring. Some vendors have decided that the best way to quell the crowd is to memorize their stack. “If you show them the photo and Portuguese word, that’s your best chance,” said Marquardt, who managed to pick up one of the equestrian cups he needed when we were together — the rider that “looks like he’s taking a pee.” So what becomes of the collectibles once they’re back home? A Canadian couple from Alberta holding a stack of about 20 cups told me that they planned to use them for beer pong, which seems a lot more reasonable than displaying 41 yellow cups across your mantel. As for Marquardt and his family, they weren’t totally sure what they’d do with their collection. “We thought maybe this would be an ‘Antiques Roadshow’-type situation, where if you have a full set, the value multiplies tenfold,” he said. “But we’ll probably just use them as party cups.” For now, they’re displaying their complete set at Flamengo beach.
ST. LOUIS — In 1972, Bobby Fischer became the world chess champion in the most-watched chess event in history, a best-of-24-game Cold War match against a Russian grandmaster that routinely jockeyed with the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War for placement on the evening news. On Monday, Fischer’s most likely American successor, Wesley So, won the United States Chess Championship, cementing his position as the American most likely to win the world title. Only a few dozen people were there to see it.So’s — and American chess’s — small profile may not last long. The world’s No. 2 player, So is part of a new generation of American chess talents. He changed affiliation from the Philippines team to the U.S. in 2014, the year before Fabiano Caruana, the world No. 4, transferred to the U.S. team from Italy. Rounding out an elite threesome is American stalwart Hikaru Nakamura, world No. 7. The three form the so-called “Holy Trinity” who have transformed a national championship languishing in irrelevance into one of the strongest tournaments on the calendar. They also represent the best chance of an American world champion since Fischer captured the nation’s imagination by single-handedly defeating the Soviet chess machine.All three were joined by nine other grandmasters in St. Louis over the past two weeks for an 11-game round robin that would decide the title. Caruana and Nakamura had mildly disappointing showings and finished tied for third with a third player. But So lived up to his top billing, tying for first after regulation with the underdog Alexander Onischuk, the 2006 U.S. champion and current world No. 58. So won three games, drawing the rest; Onischuk won four, lost one (to So) and drew the rest.1Wins are worth 1 point, draws half a point and losses zero.So’s games showed flashes of brilliance and beauty. On his 21st move of the ninth game, facing 16-year-old world junior champion Jeffery Xiong, So, as black, faced the following position: So found the best move, according to the computer chess engine Stockfish: sacrificing his knight on the f2 square. It’s far from obvious to a human sitting alone without technological aid, however. Commentators called the gambit “very beautiful,” “sublime” and “unbelievable.” After Xiong captured the knight with his king, So launched a long-range attack, sliding his rook down the length of the board to take the pawn on b2 and putting white in check. After the king retreated to f1, black slid his queen over to h5, setting up a powerful attack from both sides, with the queen on the right and the rook on the left. White could do little to quell the pressure. So went on to win the game 10 moves after the sacrifice. He later said the move was 85 percent calculation, 15 percent intuition.With a tie between So and Onischuk atop the leaderboard after the 11th round, the tournament headed to rapid overtime games, with each player starting with 25 minutes on his clock, rather than the 90 minutes players had had during regulation. The silence of the tournament, which for two weeks had only occasionally been punctuated by the dull thump of hands hitting chess clocks and throats clearing, became an accelerating crescendo of thwacks as the time wound down. When the final result was decided, after two weeks of play, the pair had mere seconds remaining before instant defeat.The pressure had an effect. Onischuk cracked on the 20th move of the first tie-breaker game, playing black in the following position: The best option for black, according to Stockfish, was backing up the queen to b6. Why retreat, leaving the rook at b2 exposed? Even if the rook is left alone, black is later afforded strong counterattacking possibilities: If So, as white, captures the black rook on b2 with his bishop, black can launch its own attack, capturing the knight on e3 with the queen and putting white in check. The white king must then retreat into the corner, and black can capture the pawn on d3 with its bishop, forking white’s queen and rook.Instead, Onischuk forwent this possible counterattack and retreated his rook to relative safety on b4. After the two traded queens on the d3 square, So pushed his white pawn to f5, forking the black knight and bishop and causing Onischuk all kinds of problems. Onischuk resigned nine moves later.The current world champion, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, “is the best player in the world,” Maurice Ashley, an American grandmaster and chess commentator, told me. “But Wesley So is playing the best chess in the world.” In a post-tournament interview, So, for his part, described his play over the past two weeks as “so-so.” The next world championship — the championships unfold according to an intricate two-year cycle — is in 2018.So draws heavily on his Christian faith, and when I asked him whether he was already thinking about a world championship he said, “No.” But he added: “If I ever become a world champion, I will glorify Him in that way.” After the final game, he thanked his parents, U.S. chess benefactor Rex Sinquefield and God. Chess is a lonely pursuit, he explained, and that trinity provides his support.After the 21st move of the final game, So untucked a necklace with a silver cross from under his sweater. And throughout play, he appeared monklike. “Players think it’s what makes him scary on the board. He doesn’t seem to have anything else going on. He has a lack of distractions,” Robert Hess, an American grandmaster, told me. “I wouldn’t be that surprised if nobody knows Wesley particularly well.”So’s adoptive mother, Lotis Key, spent most of the final two games in an adjacent room, somewhat removed from the tension. She was reading a book that argues for the role of divine providence in the history of the U.S. Its title: “The American Miracle.” read more
The group stage of the Champions League starts Tuesday, and FiveThirtyEight’s club soccer predictions are ready. In the video above, FiveThirtyEight’s sports editor, Geoff Foster, breaks down what to expect in the coming days and lays out which group is really the Group of Death.Read more: FiveThirtyEight’s club soccer predictions
“Not much really happened today,” Caruana said after the game, to a bit of uncomfortable laughter from the crowd.While Caruana may have very briefly felt some unpleasantness in the middlegame, “he may suffer successfully,” said Sam Shankland, the U.S. national champion, on a Chess.com broadcast. (To suffer successfully — what a lovely idea.) And indeed Caruana did. Indeed we all have over these past two weeks. Here’s exactly how, according to the computer’s unblinking eye: “Chess in its present form will die the death of the draw,” wrote Emanuel Lasker, a former world champion, nearly 100 years ago. Yet here we are! Draws “are ingrained in the fabric of the game, a part of chess theory and culture,” another former national champ, Joel Benjamin, wrote in 2006. “Grandmasters play the opening better and make fewer mistakes. Willpower alone cannot ensure a decisive result.”There is an austere beauty in the equilibrium of draws that this match has reached: Two goliaths, pushing each other with all their might, yet moving nowhere. At any moment, though, the ground can shift.The mounting draws bring both good and bad news for the American challenger. On one hand, Caruana has proved beyond a doubt his ability to hang with and even outplay Carlsen, perhaps the best player of all time, in lengthy games under the sport’s brightest lights. On the other, should the match remain tied after the final game, the two will move on to speedier tie-breaking games. I wrote about what those look like in 2016. Carlsen is rated No. 1 in the world in both speedy chess formats that will be used, and he is almost universally thought to be a heavy favorite in the tiebreaker.The match rests tomorrow. Game 12 — the final game of regulation and in which Caruana will have the white pieces — begins Monday at 10 a.m. Eastern. The tie-breaking games, if necessary, will happen on Wednesday. I’ll be covering it all here and on Twitter.CORRECTION (Nov. 26, 2018, 9:51 a.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly listed when potential tie-breaking games would occur. They would happen on Wednesday, not Tuesday as listed on the match organizer’s website. 87654321abcdefgh read more
Dan Cohen AUTHOR Due to questions as to whether energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) deliver the savings promised installations, the House Armed Services’ Readiness Subcommittee directs the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the projects’ effectiveness, according to report language included in its portion of the fiscal 2017 defense authorization bill.ESPCs, under which energy services companies finance infrastructure upgrades intended to reduce power consumption at defense facilities, have played a major role in helping installations conserve energy and shift their reliance to renewables. Installations repay the providers based on the cost savings attributable to the projects. For example, a naval air station obtained ground source heat pumps through an ESPC and an Army post obtained a wind turbine using a utility energy services contract.In more than half of the projects reviewed by GAO, though, contractors overstated the savings generated by their upgrades, the panel states.“The Government Accountability Office findings raise concerns about the financial performance of these projects and the extent of fiscal exposure the department is experiencing by using appropriated funds in their budgets to repay contractors on these alternative financing arrangements,” the panel states.GAO’s review should answer the following questions:what energy savings, efficiency or generating-capacity projects have been financed through alternative financing arrangements since 2012, and what is the estimated value of the projects?to what extent have the estimated savings or efficiencies from these projects materialized?how does DOD ensure the savings reported by the service providers accurately reflect the projects’ performance?since 2012, what portion of installations’ utilities budgets have been dedicated to repaying contractors for ESPCs, utility energy services contracts or other alternatively financed projects, and what trends have occurred over that period?The subcommittee marks up its portion of the annual policy bill today at 9:30 a.m. The subcommittee’s mark is available on the Armed Services Committee website. read more