Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Some big improvement

The release of the 2015 December Australian Ratings threw up a somewhat remarkable occurrence. On the list of most improved players there were 8 players (out of 30), all from the one club. The Belconnen Chess Club recently became a bit of a mecca for improving juniors, and this is now being shown on the rating list.
To be absolutely honest,  in a lot of cases the players who joined the club were already on the improve, and would have jumped up the list anyway. But there are also some players (with higher ratings) who's improvement has been helped by the step up in competition. Of course the trade off for the club is that some existing members ratings have taken a bit of a hit, although this hasn't been too drastic (due to the use of the Glicko 2 System in Australia).
So congratulations to the young Belconnen members for their improvement, and it will be interesting to see how far this improvement extends.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Accelerated pairings - what do we want?

The FIDE Swiss Pairings Commission is having another stab at  defining a good method of accelerated swiss pairings, although it has already run into some predictable problems. The first is one of defining what a 'good' system is while the second is find a method.
For most people a 'good' system is one that minimises 'junk' rounds, although how this is measured can be tricky. Reducing the average difference of ratings in the early rounds seems to be a good measure, although this may cause unintended side effects. Another measure might be getting approximately the same standings in a N-2 round event as you would in an N round event. And coming at it from a slightly different direction, increasing the number of norms in the event might also be a goal.
As for the method a number of different systems are being trialled. The somewhat discredited bonus point system is being looked at, although the issue of 'bad' pairings when the acceleration stops is already apparent. Graduated bonus points systems (eg 1 bonus for the top half for 2 rounds, dropping to 0.5 for the next 2) are also being trialled, although the results aren't conclusive. Slightly more complicated systems are also being investigated, but for know it is still a work in progress.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Comparative chess interviews

The Telegraph newspaper has done a large piece on Magnus Carlsen. It is both a profile and interview, and has already attracted some comment, mainly due to his comments on past World Champions (he could beat Tal 'easily'), and the quality of his current rivals.
Of course he isn't the first chess player to attract attention for such claims, with a young Bobby Fischer making similar claims in his infamous 1962 interview with Ralph Ginzburg. Of course Carlsen is more measured (and polite) in his comments, but is still an interesting exercise to read both interviews side by side. While both interviews show the level of confidence needed to reach the top in international chess, I am sure that Carlsen's interview won't have the same end result as Fischer's interview, which was Fischer refusing to do interviews ever again.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Frankenstein-Dracula Part II

While writing yesterdays blog post about losing on the white side of the Frankenstein-Dracula, I remembered an interesting game I had previously played on the black side of the same opening. It was from the 2006 Chess Olympiad, and was played as part of the PNG v Bermuda match. We lost the match 2.5-1.5, but if I had taken my chances (instead of a repetition), then 2-2 would have been the result on the day.

Faulks,Nick (2104) - Press,Shaun (2098) [C27]
Turin ol (Men) 37th Turin (7), 28.05.2006

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Some good old fashioned patricide

Competitive games between myself and my son tend to follow the same script these days. I look for the sharpest opening possible, try and hack him off the board, he defends until I make a mistake, and then he moves in for the kill. On rare occasions he either slips up in defence, or I manage to find the right attacking moves, but this is increasingly rare.
The latest example came from a rapidplay game played earlier this week. The Frankenstein-Dracula variation of the Vienna, gives White material at the expense of development. To be honest I think Black has better chances, although in this case once I castled I was more than OK. However I overplayed my hand with a discovered check, and when there was no good followup, Ra1+ just destroyed me.

Press,Shaun - Press,Harry [C27]
ANU Summer Rapid, 25.11.2015

Wellity, weillity, wellity

Earlier this year there was talk the the next World Championship Candidates tournament might be held in the United States. It was an attractive proposition, with two US players in the field (Caruana and Nakamura), and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov even going so far as announcing it would be in the US (at the closing ceremony of the 2014 World Championship).
However, when it came to finalising the details, the US option disappeared, and the tournament will now be held in Moscow. At the time of the announcement it might have been safe to assume that the US option was just posturing and was never a serious contender, but it may now be for another, far more serious reason.
The US Treasury has announced sanction on a number of individuals, for "providing support to the Government of Syria, including facilitating Syrian Government oil purchases from ISIL". One of the individuals on the list is FIDE President, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.  While these dealings are (I assume) in his private capacity as a businessman, the press release does highlight his role as President of FIDE, and also the murder of Larisa Yudina in  1998.
Given the serious nature of these charges, it is of course unthinkable that Ilyumzhinov would have been allowed to travel to the US, and that the source of any funding for the event would have come under very close scrutiny.
I assume at some point FIDE will release a statement on this matter, although for now there is nothing on its official website.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Russia win ETCC Open

Russia has won both the Open and Womens Sections of the European Teams Championship. For a long time this sort of news would be in the same category as "sun rises in east" and "water is wet". However in recent times the Open team has struggled to match its individual talents, with wins in World Teams (2005, 2009, 2013) being the main exception.
The last time Russia won this event was 2007, and the drought is even longer for the Chess Olympiad (2002). There have been a few theories put about why this is so, but the two I lean towards are (a) the pressure of expectation and (b) they still haven't quite mastered the team oriented approach (+1=3 match results).
On the other hand the Womens Team has bee far more successful. They have won all the events since 2007, with the exception of 2013, and have won the last 3 Olympiads as well. In this case the I suspect the gap in talent between Russia and other teams is a little greater than in the Open section, so individual ability counts for more.
As for the other teams, Armenia finished second on tie-break, ahead of Hungary and France. England seemed happy with their top 10 finish (despite being 5th seed), while Norway had the services of Magnus Carlsen on top board, although the mid table finish, and his own score of 50% showed that it is not only teams that have trouble in this format.