Friday, 20 January 2017

2017 Oceania Zonal - Smirnov and Timergazi win events

IM Anton Smirnov (AUS) has finished outright first in the 2017 Oceania Zonal. Leading by half a point going into the last round, he drew a dramatic game against FM Karl Zelesco on the top board, which ended in a repetition after Zelesco sacrificed two rooks and Smirnov missed a move that refuted the whole attack. This result gave GM Max Illingworth and IM Ari Dale a chance to catch Smirnov, but both players could only draw their last round games.
WFM Layla Timergazi (NZL) finished first in the 2017 Oceania Women's Zonal, drawing her last round game with WFM Helen Milligan (NZL). She scored 7.5/9 and will receive the WIM title for her victory. Kathryn Hardegen (AUS) and Alana Chibnall finished in equal second after winning their last round games, and both have earned the WFM title.
This event proved to be a bit of a bonanza for title hunters, with a number of newly minted (W)FM's and (W)CM's. From a Canberra perspective it was very rewarding, with Michael Kethro scoring 6/9 to earn his FM title, and Albert Winkelman going within a whisker of drawing his last round game , which would have also given him 6 points (he can claim the CM title as consolation). Of course every zonal reignites the debate about whether the players deserve the title, and you can follow the latest instalment here. (NB If you have followed this thread in the past, only the dates on the postings will have changed, not the content of those posts)

Chibnall,Alana - Smith,Viv [B07]
2017 Oceania Women's Zonal , 19.01.2017

Thursday, 19 January 2017

A pint, a curry, with a Kings Gambit on the side

I'm not sure if I'm singing for my supper, but I did get roped in to playing a Leeds League much yesterday evening. It turned out to be an A/B match where the Leeds CC A team was playing the Leeds CC B teams. The A team was quite strong (IM, FM on boards 1&2) while Harry and I were dropped in to the B team on the top 2 boards.
In the end the A team gave the B's a going over (4.5-0.5), although I managed ti grab half a point. As you can see from the score they do things a little differently up north. 5 board matches is a little odd, and each team member plays the same colour (ie we were all black against the A team). Finally, the time limit is still a little 'old-fashioned' with 35 moves in 75 minutes, followed by 15 minutes to finish. I believe that the league is looking to move towards increments, but are still trying to solve the issue of fixed closing times at venues.
After the match both teams retired to a near by bar, before some of us partook in that most English of traditions, the late night curry. It all finished up around midnight, which was just the right time to watch round 8 of the Oceania Zonal from Auckland.

Gantner,Matthias - Press,Shaun [C34]
Leeds League , 18.01.2017

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Hans Berliner 1929-2017

Hans Berliner, former World Correspondence Chess champion, passed away a few days ago. He was an ICCF GM as well as a FIDE IM, and was also well known for his work in the field of computer science.
A Professor at Carnegie-Mellon, he helped developed the chess program Hitech, as well as the Backgammon program BKG 9.8, which defeated the Backgammon World Champion in a short match in 1979.
He was the World Champion in CC from 1965-68 and defeated Yakov Estrin in a celebrated game. After this he returned to University to complete his PhD, and had a long career in Comptuer Science, with an emphasis on Computer Chess.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

2017 Oceania Zonal

Instead of staying up late to watch chess tournaments in Europe, I'm currently staying up late to watch the 2017 Oceania Zonal from New Zealand.  Last night was a double round "day" so I got to see the early round, and woke up to get the round 6 results. GM Max Illingworth leads the Open with 5.5/6 (ahead of 5 players), while Layla Timergazi leads the Women's Zonal on 5/6 (with 3 in 2nd).
I've also been following the performance of Canberra players closely. Albert Winkelman is doing very well in the Open, currently on 4.5/6 which is enough for a CM title. Michael Kethro is on 4/6, and should have no trouble earning that title as well. (I was planning to show a nice win by Kethro over IM Anthony Ker, but the game, result, and possibly the names don't seem to line up).
In the Women's Zonal Alana Chibnall is in 2nd on 4.5/6 (WCM title if she wants it), but having played 3 of the top 4 seeds, is hoping for a top 3 finish at least.
Tournament results from the Open are here, and there is a link to the Women's Zonal there as well.

Monday, 16 January 2017

4NCL Weekend - Part 2

The second day of the 4NCL went pretty much the same as the first for me, in that a played the opening poorly, tried to survive, and eventually lost. Harry Press at least proved one family member can still play chess, finishing the weekend with a nice win, while the White Rose 1 team won their match on the top section.
Of course while events like this work in the UK (and Europe), sadly the issue of distance prevents this from working the same way in Australia. I'd guess that at least 30 million people live within 3 hours of the venue, which makes finding teams a lot easier. Also the sheer number of players rated above 2000 who took part (at least 80% of the 250 players) makes the event competitive all the way through. I suspect the only way an event like this might work in Australia is a one-shot event each year, held over a long weekend. But even then I couldn't see more than 60 players deciding to play.

Press,Harry - Burnett,Andrew [E15]
4NCL Northampton, 15.01.2017

Sunday, 15 January 2017

4NCL weekend - Northampton

The 4NCL is a significant part of the UK chess scene. It has become the premier teams event in this country (surpassing the county championships) and now runs over 4 divisions. In fact it is so large that divisions 3&4 are split into North and South zones.
I'm currently at the Div 1&2 weekend at Northampton. There 32 teams of 8 players playing here, with 16 teams in each division. The top teams range from almost all GM outfits, to a more mixed GM+IM+2200 outfits. The format is 1 round per day, with the Saturday evening given over to socialising. Most of the players are staying at the venue and when  I left the bar around 11pm the chess and conversation was still going strong.
I ended up on board 7 for the White Rose 2nd team, but let the team down with a fairly dismal game. We lost to 'Spirit of Atticus' 5.5-2.5 (+0=5-3) although Harry Press continues his torment of UK 2100's, picking up a draw after his opponent miscalculated a winning ending. Today doesn't get any easier, as we play Alba, a Scottish team that contains a number of former Scottish champions.
Apart from the Press's, there were a few other Australian players in attendance, including Murray Smith (a strong Australian player of the 1970's and 80's) who had been lured out of retirement for the weekend, and is now thinking of making a proper comeback.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Tie-breaks. But which one?

By all reports the 2017 Australian Open was an excellently organised event, which was enjoyed by all who played. However it appears there was an issue at the end of the event that seems to have left a sour taste in the mouths of the organiser.
Although there are no playoffs for the Australian Open (often due to the quick departure of overseas players), and all players who finish first are considered joint winners, there is still a trophy that is awarded to the winner on tie-break. When publicising the tournament the organisers specified a tie-break and this was used to determine the winner of the trophy. Having then announced the winner and awarded the trophy the organisers were then told by the Australian Chess Federation that they used the wrong tie-break and the wrong player was given the trophy.
The organisers defended themselves that they had attempted to find the correct regulations (that had disappeared from the ACF website) but were unsuccessful in doing so. They also pointed out that there was an official ACF representative whose job was to check the tournament regulations, and he raised no objection to the proposed method.
Now while it may just seem to be an unfortunate breakdown in communication, this type of situation has occurred in events I have organised on behalf of the ACF at least twice before. An almost identical situation occurred in the 1995 Australian Juniors where attempts to get any information from the ACF about tie-break and playoff procedures were met with absolute silence. Consequently we did the same as the 2017 Aus Open organisers and used what we thought were valid and sensible tie-breaks, only to be told almost instantly the event finished that we had got it wrong.
Then in the 2007 Australian Open attempts to get information on how to implement regulations on player approvals were met with a confused response, although myself and Stephen Mugford were still subsequently sanctioned for not implementing these regulations correctly. (NB This is not just an ACF problem. FIDE are very good at insisting you follow every regulation they specify, while simply picking, choosing or even ignoring regulations they need to follow).
Unfortunately  what happened this year is the rule rather than the exception, and it does have further consequences. The ACT Chess Association has been asked by the ACF in recent years to organise national events on their behalf. And while we have a good track record of running good events in Canberra (O2C Doeberl Cup, the very successful 2015 Australian Junior etc) I (as ACTCA Vice-President) always strongly recommend against anything to do with the ACF, because of their record of failure in this area. So while good organisers are hard to find, the ACF really need to improve their own procedures, otherwise they will have no one left willing to organise anything in the future.