Wednesday, 23 August 2017

2022 Olympiad to be held in Zimbabwe

I'm not 100% percent sure this report is accurate, but apparently Zimbabwe is to host the 2021 World Cup, and the 2022 Chess Olympiad. On the one hand they do quote FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the report, but on the other hand, the FIDE website seems to have nothing on this breaking news (and usually they report on anything Kirsan does), and more importantly, these decisions are made at the FIDE Congress 4 years before the event (ie the 2018 congress).
So it is either a misunderstanding on the part of the news agency, or Kirsan has decided to fully embrace his inner Trump and just say whatever he wishes.

Monday, 21 August 2017

A bit of a brain snap!

It was all going fine until I decided that I was going to deal with 21.Nf5 with 21 . ... Qg6?? Of course once the position appeared on the board I saw the flaw with this move, and as it was a Correspondence game, decided the most sensible thing to do was resign.


Taylor,Kelvin - Press,Shaun [D27]
CCLA, 05.06.2017


Saturday, 19 August 2017

How fast is fast

I've been playing a bit of online chess recently, which is a little surprising, as I am pretty hopeless at it. Part of the difficulty for me is finding the 'sweet spot' of time controls for a player of my age. Bullet Chess (1 min) is way to fast, as I tend to move too slowly. If I'm not mating by move 25 I'm normally doomed. On the other hand 5 minute chess isn't fast enough, as the games tend to drag on (NB in OTB chess, 5 mins is barely enough!).
So at the moment 3 minutes seem to be the mid point, although even this isn't perfect (the first half of the game is fine, its just the last 15 seconds where it all goes wrong). My early experiences at this time control seem promising, but it may take a larger set of games for me to be sure.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Kasparov Comeback

The first part of Gary Kasparov's brief return to competitive chess ended with a heartbreaking loss, a lucky win, and then a loss to Fabiano Caruana. Having started the last day of the Grand Chess Tour St Louis Rapidplay on -1, Kasparov looked to be getting back to 50% until David Navara turned the tables in a rook ending. He was then gifted a rook by Quang Liem Le in a position where Le was perfectly fine. Hist last game against Caruana was another loss, leaving him tied for last place with Anand and Navara.
While all of this was going on, Lev Aronian was winning the event. He finished with 6/9, half a point ahead of Nakamura and Caruana. It was very combative +3 for Aronian, wining 5 games, losing 2 and drawing 2 (including his game against Kasparov).
Tomorrow sees the first day of the blitz event. This is a double round event, so Kasparov at least has 18 games to try and improve on today's result.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Hard Quiz

There is a new-ish quiz show on ABC (Australia) Television, called Hard Quiz. I suspect it's an attempt to do a UL style quiz show, where the banter is as important as the knowledge. It isn't that bad, especially as it doesn't try and copy the UK style, instead taking a more Australian approach to the byplay between host and contestants.
I was watching this evenings episode, which had such subjects as Tomas the Tank Engine, and Queen Victoria (which were nominated by the constestants). The host (Tom Gleeson) also gets to pick a topic, and tonight the topic was Chess. Unlike a past episode of Sale of the Century where they did not know the difference between draw and stalemate, they seemed to have done their homework a bit better. For example, they knew that the first computer program to beat a GM in a tournament game was Deep Thought, which stumped most of the contestants.
However, for the final chess question, they featured 6 statements or actions by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.  Of course they were all quite outrageous (Flown in a spaceship, Aliens invented chess), and the challenge was to pick the one that wasn't said or did not happen. I suspect the question wranglers couldn't quite believe the list themselves, as the only non true choice was "Financed the musical Chess so he could play the lead"  which seemed pretty tame. Only one player got that right (IIRC) and I assume it was a wild guess.
If you want to catch the episode try this link. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/hard-quiz/ It is episode 3 of series 2, and you can watch a reply of it online (not guaranteeing this will work for non-Australian viewers)

Another lucky escape

Sometimes luck in chess runs your way, even when it might have been better if it didn't. Tonight I played quite a tough game at the Belconnen Chess Club, and was very fortunate to escape with a draw. Having mixed up a couple of lines in the Closed Sicilian I made a poor exchange in the opening and ended up with a bad position. My opponent played the obvious moves and soon had an overwhelming advantage. In fact we reached a position where I was losing material (on move 26), and was tossing up whether to resign. But I spotted one last try, based on a back rank check and decided to play a few more moves. Then when my opponent found 30. ... Nd1! I wondered whether it was time to resign now, but unable to see a checkmate for my opponent I played on. I saw he might try for checkmate with 31 ... Qf2+ (31. ... Rf2+ does mate btw) 32. Kh1 Qf1+ but we both thought that 33. Ng1 held. He even analysed 33. ... Nf2+ 34. Kh2 Ng4+ 35. Kh1 but decided there was nothing more than a repetition. What he (and I) missed at this point was that he could have played the brilliant 35. ... Qg2+!! as 36.Kxg2 Rf2 37.Kh1 Rh2# is a lovely forced mate. Instead he took the knight on e2, allowing me to complete the idea I had spotted on move 27, forcing a perpetual with a rook sac.
While I am pleased with my resourcefulness, and we both agreed  it was quite an enjoyable battle, I feel that it would have been a better game (with a fairer result), if it had finished with the queen sacrifice!


Press,Shaun - Arps,Jan-Philipp [B26]
Korda Memorial, 15.08.2017


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Crawling to a goal

A while ago I was told a fantastic story about how one Australian player managed to pick up a FIDE title. The player needed to get his rating above a certain level to claim the title, but was still a number of points shy of the target. While most players would simply try their best in an event and hope to score enough points, this player tried a slightly different track. Rather than risk going backwards with a loss or two, they simply played the first couple or rounds of an event, before withdrawing for 'work related' reasons. While a little slower than performing above the required level in one tournament, this slow but safe method eventually paid off.
Now to be fair, as this story was told to me, the facts may not be accurate (or even true). But the method itself seems sound, and is one that I am currently following, albeit for a different reason. Normally I play the role of the 'filler' or 'house man' in events I direct. So at Street Chess, I'll play if the event starts with an odd number. This happens quite often, but weirdly, there always seems to be a latecomer (or three) who brings the field back to an even number, without me in it. So I normally play rounds 1 and 2, before pulling out for the rest of the day. The side effect of this is that I suspect I'm picking up a few rating points per game, and getting close to the 2000 mark on the ACF Quickplay list. While obviously not as prestigious as a GM title, it is still a landmark rating, especially as I've never been rated that high in the Australian rating system. Of course it also may not come to pass, as I am sure there will come a week when I end up playing the whole event, and being forced to suffer for my sins.

How a tournament should end

The 2017 Sinquefield Cup has ended, in a manner that elite events should end. Three of the 5 last round games ended decisively, including games that ultimately decided first place.
It was Maxime Vachier Lagrave  who scored the most important win, beating Ian Nepomniachtchi to reach 6/9. Viswanthan Anand could have caught him but only drew with Wesley So, while Lev Aronian's chances of equal first were derailed by a loss to Magnus Carlsen. The win for Carlsen moved him into a tie for second with Anand and kept him in first place in the Grand Chess Tour series.
The next part of the tour is the St Louis Rapid and Blitz, starting Monday morning Canberra time, and including former World Champion Gary Kasparov in the field.


Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2789) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2751) [B92]
Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis (9.2), 11.08.2017


Thursday, 10 August 2017

What makes a good opening trap?

Playing for tricks in the opening isn't always the best use of ones resources. For every checkmate that begins with 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5, there are a number of games where such 'direct' play gets punished by more experienced players.  So choosing which opening traps you aim for often depends upon a few different factors.
My first (purely subjective) criteria is: How often will I see this opening? No good finding a particularly clever idea against the Dutch Defence if no one in your chess circle plays it. So traps in the Ruy, or the QGD probably have more value than traps on the black side of the Solkosky.
Secondly: Are the moves leading up to it plausible for my opponent? As any chess coach will tell you, don't reply on your opponent playing bad moves. Sure, some moves may only become bad after the right reply, but moves that seem sensible are more likely to be played than those that are not.
Thirdly: Do I still get a good position if my opponent spots the trap? This is about having it both ways. If the trap is sprung, fantastic, but if not what happens next. I had a situation like this in Gibraltar, where I could play a trappy move, but the right reply would see me in a worse position. I decided against it.
Flicking through one of my books on opening traps, I realised that there were only a few entries that passed all three tests. Some failed the 'length' test (the later in the opening the less likely it is to occur), while others relied on the opponent missing the correct refutation. But there were still a few that were a little new to me (albeit borrowing from traps in other openings). The one I've chosen to show comes from the Two Knights Defence, and is based on presenting White with an unusual variation, increasing the chances of a mistake. 6.d6 is obvious, but the start of the problems, while 7.Nxf7 is the big mistake. In my database there have been 62 games after Nxf7, so it still catches lots of fish.


Victim - Trapper
Anyclub, Australia


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Asian Club Champions League

The Sydney Chess Club has finished third in the Asian Club Champions League, in the just completed event in Sri Lanka. While the event had representatives from across Asia, it turned out to be a small tournament, with only 5 teams taking part. The Sydney team consisted of GM Max Illingworth on board 1, IM Gary Lane on 2, FM Lee Jones on 3, and FM Brian Jones on 4. They won 2 of their matches, narrowly lost against the second place getters from Bangladesh, and lost heavily to the winning Iranian team. Both Illingworth and Lane score 2.5/4 but the team was outclassed on the lower boards.
Results and games from the tournament can be found here.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Anand plays a brilliancy

Refusing to quietly ride off into the sunset, Viswanathan Anand continues to prove he can still compete at the top level, beating Fabiano Caruana in the current Sinquefeld Cup. At first it looked like Caruana was going to crash through with a strong attack, but he missed the strength of Anand's counterplay. Of course Anand needed find a nice queen sacrifice on move 26, but apparently this was quickly spotted, and Caruana lost a few moves later.


Anand,Viswanathan (2783) - Caruana,Fabiano (2807) [A29]
5th Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis USA (5.2), 06.08.2017


Sunday, 6 August 2017

Who owns what?

Protecting intellectual property in chess has always been a tricky issue. Copyright of games has consistently been a legal dead end, and preventing live broadcasts of events by third parties hasn't been a raging success either.
Even the domain of chess coaching is not immune to problem in this area, as this story shows. (NB This is a New York Post article, so be warned) A chess coach in New York is accused if stealing clients from the business he worked for, after resigning and setting up his own business. The parent business did get him to sign some sort of non-compete contract, but it seems not to have had its intended effect. So off to court they all go, with $100,000 is damages being claimed.
For those familiar with the Australian chess scene in the 1990's may remember that this sort of thing was actually quite common. A number of chess coaching businesses seemed to get their starts after the lead coach left their previous employer, leading to some bad blood in the coaching community. There were even 'third generation' businesses, where a break away coach then had their coaches set up competing businesses. This seemed to go on until a kind of market saturation occurred, where the number of businesses and the number of client reached a level. There was even claims that coaching materials were 'borrowed' and rewritten, but I don't believe it went as far as court action.
I think these days everything is a little calmer on the coaching scene, although I suspect their is still competition between coaching organisations. Of course healthy competition is normally a good thing (market forces and all that), so if their is, I hope its all on the up and up.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

It doesn't make coaching easy

"Proper chess players don't do this" is a comment I've often made when coaching juniors. This is normally in response to a player to win a game using just their queen, or developing their rooks via a3 or h3. And for a time I was able to get away with this, but modern players are making it harder and harder.
The rot possibly started with Nakamura playing some very early Qh5's. This caught a fellow coach off guard as he had been telling his students that 'only beginners play this move'. The the Quiet Italian came back into vogue at the top level, meaning it could no longer be dismissed as a 'school chess opening'.
Now Aronian is the one causing problems for me, as the following game shows. The early h4 is surprising enough, but bringing the rook to h4 is an even bigger shock. The tactical point is to 'protect' the bishop on a3, but it takes real imagination to play this move. The rook then hangs about on the h file for most of the game, until Aronian uses it to finish Nepo off.
So it looks like I'll have to amend my advice again, to "proper chess players normally don't do this" or something similar.


Aronian,Levon (2809) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2742) [A34]
5th Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis USA (1.3), 02.08.2017


Thursday, 3 August 2017

Non tilt

In the good old days, a bad loss in a tournament was necessarily the end of the world. Equilibrium could be restored by the simple trick of taking a quick draw, before focusing on winning the event. Of course this was if you were playing in a 23 round event, a luxury few of us can afford these days.
In a short swiss event, every round counts, meaning that a loss can be far more destabilising. In some cases a player can try a little too hard, and the whole event can go totally pear shaped. In Poker parlance, this is referred to as 'going on tilt', a term that is now also common in chess. On the other hand, if an aggressive response does work, then 'getting back on the horse' is the how it usually gets written up.
IM Andrew Brown had this exact experience at the ANU Open. After a loss to Fred Litchfield in round 5, he bounced back with a couple of good wins. Although it wasn't enough to catch Litchfield, it did provide the spectators with some entertaining chess, including this quick last round win.

Brown,Andrew - Hathiramani,Dillon [B21]
2017 ANU Open Canberra, Australia (7.2), 30.07.2017


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

2017 ANU Open - Organisers wrap up

The 2017 ANU Open was interesting from an organisational point of view. Due to various University policy changes, it wasn't clear whether this years event was even going ahead, but eventually it was decided to organise it anyway.
Last year saw around 60 players take part, as did this years event. Oddly, last year saw a larger than expected turnout for the Open (30+ players), with a smaller than usual field in the Minor. It was almost the opposite this year, with only 17 players in the Open, but 40+ in the Minor. If we could have combined the 2016 Open numbers with the 2017 Minor entries, it would have been a great field!
We tried something different with the prizes this year, awarding rating prizes based on W-We (points scored - points expected). While it kind of worked, it is probably something not worth repeating. The two major issues are the field is a little small to make it work, and handling the role of unrated players is tricky. At least one prize ended up being awarded based on final position, simply because every player in the section actually scored less than they were expected to.
One other change was the creation of a Unrated only prize, to deal with the issue of unrated players entering the Minor. This is often a tricky issue, as in most cases a Minor event is the best tournament for unrated players, but not always. Two years ago an unrated player did win the Minor (and the full first prize), but after that the organisers felt it was better to handle it this way. It turned out that one of the players that tied for first (John Adams) was also unrated, but this years T&C's made it clear he could only win the Unrated prize (which he was happy with).
While it is hoped that there will be a 2018 ANU Open, there is some debate about what format it might take. The 60m+10s time limit is a little limiting, and one suggestion is to try a FIDE rated 60m+30s event. A recent rule change means that all players are eligible to play in this event, although games involving players rated above 2200 don't get rated. As the current event is not FIDE rated this may not be a real loss. Of course the schedule would have to be changed, either to 3+2 rounds, or possibly a 1+3+2 6 round event.
Overall it was an enjoyable event, despite the small turnout. We even got some good publicity in the local media, with the appearance of Michael Pettersson MLA in the Minor being newsworthy. The Canberra Times did a nice story, which can be viewed here.


Sunday, 30 July 2017

2017 ANU Open - Fred Litchfield wins

The 2017 ANU Open has been won by local player Fred Litchfield. Litchfield set up his victory with wins over IM Andrew Brown in round 5 and Oladoyan Fasakin in round 6. Holding a full point lead over Brown and Fasakin going into a final round, a draw with WIM Emma Guo was enough to take outright first, and $1000 in prize money. Brown, who finished first in the previous 4 years, took second place on 5.5 with Guo and Fasakin tied for third.
The Minor (Under 1600) tournament saw a tie for first between John Adams and Ruofan Xu. Adams was making a return to competitive chess after 15 years but showed no signs of rust, winning his first 5 games. A loss by Adams to Xu in round 6 threw the event wide open, but both players then won in the final round to finish on 6/7. Kamal Jane and Athena Hathiramani recovered from slow starts to the tournament to finish tied for 3rd on 5.5.
Full results for this event can be found at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2017/ and you can replay the games and download pgns for the top board from this site.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

2017 ANU Open - Day 1

IM Andrew Brown is well placed to collect another ANU Open trophy, sharing the lead after the first 4 rounds of the tournament. He finished the day with 3.5/4, tied with Fred Litchfield and Oladoyin Fasakin. Brown and Fasakin drew a tough round 2 game, and won the other 3. Litchfield started the tournament with 3 wins, before a round 4 half point bye allowed Brown and Fasakin to catch him.
Canberra Junior Dillon Hathiramani is in 4th place with 3/4. Round 5 will see Brown and Litchfield play on board 1, with Fasakin and Hathiramani playing on board 2.
The Minor tournament sees ACF Treasurer John Adams hold a surprise lead on 4/4. Despite not playing in a tournament for 15 years, Adams has beaten a number of veteran players to lead by half a point over Neil Clark, Lee Forace and Mitchell Jones. The morning round sees Admas play Clark, while Forace and Jones play on board 2.
Coverage of the tournament (including standings and DGT games from the first day) can be found at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2017/


Litchfield,Fred - Ingham,Glenn [D11]
2017 ANU Open Canberra, Australia (1.3), 29.07.2017


Friday, 28 July 2017

Return of the Pawn

The opening event of the 2017 ANU Open was held this evening at King O'Malley's in the centre of Canberra. The 2017 ACT Teams Blitz was won by the aptly named, Return of the Pawn, with 9/10. Board 1 for Return of the Pawn was William Booth, making a bit of a comeback to competition chess, and scoring 5/5. Partnered with Elwyn Teki, they drew with the top seeded Retired Gardeners team in the first round 1-1, and then won their remaining games.
The Retired Gardeners (Roger Farrell and Baldev Bedi) also went through the 5 round event undefeated, but dropped an important point to the 'Fear Itself' team (Miles Patterson and Stephen Priest) in round 4. The 8 team event was quite tough and a number of strong teams fell by the wayside.
Tomorrow sees the first day ANU Open and Minor, a the ANU School of Art. The action kicks off at 10 am, and entries are still open for interested players.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

ACT Teams Blitz and ANU Chess Festival

The ACT Teams Blitz event is taking place on Friday 28th July (ie tomorrow) at King O'Malley's, in Canberra City. The event starts at 6pm and is open to all players. The format is a 5 round swiss for teams of 2, but if you don't have a partner, just turn up anyway, as teams can be formed on the spot.  There is no entry fee, and there will be prizes for the winning team, and the best scoring players.
On the 29th and 30th of June, the ANU Open and ANU Minor will be taking place. Current entries for each of the tournaments can be found at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2017/  Online registrations are still open at http://vesus.org/festivals/2017-anu-open/ and you can download the tournament brochure from that link. Entries are coming in slowly (only 48 at the moment), with the Minor tournament (Under 1600) looking particularly attractive for anyone rated over 1300 (as most of the field is rated below that).

Tony Salvage RIP

Tony Salvage, a regular member of the Belconnen Chess Club in the 1990's, passed away a few days ago. Originally from the UK, he had came out to Australia in the 1960's to work for the old Department of Supply, before ending up in the Department of Defence. This is where out paths first crossed, but discovering he was a chess player, encouraged him to join the Belconnen Chess Club. A few years later we ended up working in the same section, and while I outrated him in chess, he outranked me at work, being my boss for a few years.
Tony was a jovial player, playing more for enjoyment than glory. While never rising to any great heights, he was a difficult opponent for the younger members of the club (due to years of experience), beating a young Larua Moylan (now a WIM) among others. One evening he played out a tough draw against a newcomer to the club, who turned out to be an overseas player with a rating of around 1800. The player asked how strong his opponent was and was surprised to find out he was significantly lower rated. When Tony found out the strength of his opponent he was also surprised, but for the opposite reason.
In later years Tony retired from chess to take up Bridge, finding it a more social activity. He is survived by a large family, with 8 children, 23 grand children and 16 great-grandchildren.


Salvage,Tony - Wills,Colin [C02]
Belconnen-ch Belconnen, 1993


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

From little things big things grow

A nice chess story hit the national media in Australia this week. A small Western Australian primary school has inspired the local council to fund the carving of some giant chess pieces to celebrate their success in state and national junior chess competitions. However, these pieces aren't your normal large pieces. These are carved out of the trunks of old Jarrah Trees, which the council had originally  planned to remove completely. The Kendenup Council instead decided to leave the trunks in place, and a local wood carver had gone to work with his chainsaw. The pieces, some as large as 4 metres high, will stand in the towns main street, to greet visitors to the town of 1000 people.
The full ABC story (including pictures of some of the pieces) is here.

Monday, 24 July 2017

The toasted cheese sandwich test

I still believe that ChessMaster  10th Edition is one of the better pieces of chess software released. Apart from the chess engine (and graduated levels) it has a plethora of training modules and drills to help you improve your chess.
One of the drills I keep returning to (about once a year) is checkmate with KBN v K. I'm pretty sure I know have it down pat, but it is always a good idea to double check. So make it a little more interesting I had a go at lunchtime today, while making toasted cheese sandwiches.  I'd prepare the sandwich, turn on the toastie maker, and then try and checkmate before I burnt down the house.
I'm pleased to say that the house is still sanding, although this may be due to Chessmaster choosing the same defence each time, rather than trying to confuse me.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

When both players resign

"The game is won by the player whose opponent declares he resigns. This immediately ends the game." This is section 5.1.2 in the FIDE Laws of Chess. At some point in the past it was suggested that two players could scam the system by both resigning simultaneously, thereby earning each player a full point. The FIDE Rules Commission even discussed this (briefly), and IA Franca Dapiran made the sensible suggestion to only accept the resignation of the player who had the move.
Of course such a bizarre situation would not happen in practice now, would it? Well, not exactly.
At Street Chess today something awfully close to this did happen. The sequence of events seemed to go like this. The white player (who I shall call Scully) played a move, putting his opponent (who I shall call Mulder) in check. Now Mulder did not notice, and played a move putting Scully in check. At this point Scully simply stopped the clock but said nothing. Mulder, who thought he was winning, extended his hand, believing Scully was resigning. Scully accepted the offered hand, believing that Mulder realised he'd played an illegal move and was himself resigning. (NB At Street Chess we play second illegal move loses). Now I'm not sure which of the players realised something had gone awry, but at this point I was called over. Further confusion ensued as Scully was worried he'd done something illegal in stopping the clock (no, but he should have told his opponent why), and then decided to resign. Realising what had happened, I gave Scully 2 extra minutes, told him he wasn't to resign yet, and to continue the game. 
Unfortunately I had to return to the same game a few minutes later when another issue arose. By this stage both players were short of time, so after Scully moved, Mulder replied instantly (and before Scully had pressed his clock). Scully then pressed his clock, completing his last move ( which I encourage under these circumstances), and Mulder then pressed the clock (without moving of course), to complete his move. However this confused Scully, who thought that Mulder had not played a move (even though he witnessed it). About half way through me going over this issue with the players (and in the midst of a gathering crowd), Mulder offered Scully a draw, and rather than listen to me lecturing them, shook hands and split the point.

Out into the cold

I'm not sure if it is an age thing, but I'm feeling the Canberra winter a lot more than in previous years. For the last month or so, Street Chess (which begins at 11am) has had a succession of below zero (in Celsius) starts. For anyone familiar with the Canberra climate, this normally means that it will be a fine and sunny day (cloudless nights contribute to the cold), but as we play indoors in the winter months, we even miss out on this benefit.
Anyway, I think it is around -3 right now, although it is expected to get to at least 0 by the time we start this morning. Extra layers will be needed.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Andrew Paulson

Andrew Paulson, founder of Agon, and former ECF President has passed away at the age of 59. He made his first big splash on the chess scene in 2010 when Agon was given the commercial rights to the FIDE World Championship, bringing with it the promise of a new way to promote chess. A few years later he was elected as President of the English Chess Federation, although his time in office was quite short, resigning as part of the fallout concerning the 2014 FIDE elections.
I met Andrew on a couple of occasions, and found him an interesting and charming man. I suspect he had further political ambitions in the chess world (including eyeing the FIDE Presidency) although he probably  didn't have the right political connections to pull it off. And while he had same ambitious goals in publicising top level chess, he didn't quite bring all of it to fruition. Nonetheless he did see the importance of using multi-media platforms for presenting chess events, and was very keen to bring new technology to the game.
Away from chess he had an interest in media and IT, including an interest in the media company that manage LiveJournal, a social media site very popular in Russia.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

150 years of chess

It is a pretty special chess event when you get to celebrate a 150 year anniversary. In 1867 Dundee (Scotland) hosted a significant International event, with German Master Gustav Neumann finishing half a point ahead of Wilhelm Steinitz. This event was historic, in that it was the first major international tournament where a draw counted as half a point (rather than the game being replayed). In 1967 there was a centenary event,  which was won by GM Svetozar Gligoric, ahead of Larsen and Olaffson.
Now to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1867 tournament, Chess Scotland is hosting both a GM round robin, and the 124th Scottish Championship. The Dundee GM event has a couple of well known names taking part, including former Doeberl Cup winner GM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant, 'Ginger GM' Simon Williams and Swedish chess legend GM Pia Cramling. The Championship is also a strong event with 4 GM's and a number of other titled players in the field. The tournaments have been running for 3 days, so there is plenty of action to come. You can follow the live games, and get all the results at http://www.150chess.gs/ If you click on the various links you can also find a tournament blog, maintained by the always entertaining Andy Howie.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Caro-damn!

Vladimir Kramnik has a 'Federer' like record at the Dortmund Chess Classic (10 wins). So when he comes unstuck it is usually big news. And it doesn't get any bigger than losing in round 1, against the Caro-Kan of all openings. Playing Vladimir Fedoseev, Kramnik at first went into tranquil waters with 3.exd5, before deciding that the uncastled Black king made a juicy target. The only problem was that it just looked scary, and after a few obvious defensive moves Kramnik had nothing to show for a sacrificed bishop.


Kramnik,V (2812) - Fedoseev,Vl3 (2726) [B13]
45th GM 2017 Dortmund GER (1), 15.07.2017


Chess teaching resources

Chess coaching can be a hit and miss affair, as most coaches are chess players first and teachers second. So organising a teaching curriculum is not always the highest priority, with coaches usually picking a favourite book or two, or teaching from experience. While this technique often works with children who have already mastered the basics of chess (don't drop pieces, can mate with K+RvK, spot mates in 1 and 2), for children yet to reach that level it is sometimes less effective.
As a result I've always been on the lookout for well structured coaching material. A very battered copy of "Comprehensive Chess Course" has been my main resource for the last 25 years, but finding copies can be a bit difficult. A number of coaching companies have developed their own material, but this is usually 'commercial in confidence' and can't be handed around freely. But chess.com is doing us all a favour by providing free teaching materials, which they are happy to share. You can see the details here, and download a preview. The curriculum is connected with their chesskids.com site, which also provides plenty of material for players and coaches. And if you visit the information page, there is even a direct link to an earlier version of the teaching material, if you want to get an idea about what it covers.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Surely this cannot be good

In the early days of my chess career I struggled with working out which gambits were temporary and which were more permanent. The gambits after 1.e4 e5 I was better at handling (eg Kings Gambit or Danish) but the d4 gambit lines were more tricky. If I grabbed a pawn I often came under a lot of pressure to hang on to it, but if I sacrificed a pawn, my compensation often petered out, and I was just down a pawn.
I've once again run into the same problem with a line in the Queens Gambit Accepted, which I suspect is a little dodgy. After 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nd5 has been recommended. While the trickiness appeals to me, the results have been less than stellar. 5.e4 is the obvious move for White, and in one awful game my opponent just rolled over the top of me after 5. ... Nb6 6.Bxc4! On the other hand I have picked up a few points at faster time controls, as the shock value of Nd5, followed by the realisation that I am going to make my opponent work hard for the pawn at least gains me some time on the clock.
But ultimately, Nd5 is an idea that seems to break too many rules to be sensible, meaning that I should find something a little more sensible on move 4.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

2017 ANU Open (2 weeks away)

A reminder that the 2017 ANU Open is just over two weeks away. This year is the 25th edition of the tournament, which I guess is worth noting.
The tournament is being held on the weekend of the 29th and 30th of July, at the ANU School of Art, Childers St, Australian National University, Canberra. There are 2 sections, an Open and Under 1600 event, with $3300 prizes on offer. The time limit is G60m+10s, with 7 rounds in both tournaments (4 on Saturday, 3 on Sunday). Further details (including a tournament brochure) can be found at http://vesus.org/festivals/2017-anu-open/
Registering online (at the same link) also secures you the early entry discount (even if you pay on the day).

(** Disclaimer: I have a financial commitment to this event **)

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Gupta wins Commonwealth Championshipp

Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta has won the 2017 Commonwealth Championship for the 4th time, to become the most successful player in the tournaments history. He wrapped his title with a somewhat crushing victory over Australian IM Aleks Wohl. Wohl and Gupta had shared the lead on 6.5/8 going into the last round, but despite his loss, Wohl tied for 4th place, and was the only non Indian player in the top 10. Another good performer for Australia was IM Rishi Sardana, who finished on 6/9.
Although the field mainly came from the host country of India, there were players from 8 other Commonwealth nations, including New Zealand, Malaysia and South Africa.
Here is the crucial final round game between Gupta and Wohl. After a mistake on move 9 Wohl was already in trouble, and Gupta finished the game with ruthless GM precision.

Gupta,Abhijeet - Wohl,Aleksandar [E01]
Commonwealth Championship, 10.07.2017


War stops play

There have probably been a number of reasons why chess tournaments get suspended or cancelled, but the Mannheim event of 1914 probably has the most well known reason. Organised by the German Chess Federation, the tournament attracted a number of the worlds leading players, including Alekhine, Reti, Tarrasch and Marshall. But after 11 rounds, World War I broke out, with Germany declaring war on Russia. The organisers stopped the tournament at this point, and a number of players decided to head for the border. The unlucky players were those of Russian nationality, who were arrested and interned. The delay in France and England entering the war (by a couple of days), probably allowed a few extra players to get away, including Gunnar Gundersen, who had travelled from Australia to take part in the 'B' tournament. Gundersen, whose father had been a Norwegian diplomat, was able to reach Oslo, before returning to Melbourne and winning the Victorian Championship in 1915 (and 7 times after that).
Alekhine was declared the 'winner' of the event, and awarded some prize money. Despite being a Russian national, his stay in Germany was short lived, and he was able to travel to Switzerland after around 6 weeks in captivity. Here is his final game, where he won a game that I still see quoted from time to time when analysing the Alekhine-Chatard Gambit.


Alekhine,Alexander - Fahrni,Hans [C14]
DSB-19.Kongress Mannheim (11), 1914


Saturday, 8 July 2017

Some quick queen sac mates

For a change of pace here are a set of quick mates that involve a queen sacrifice. A few familiar themes here, especially game number 4 (which btw is unsound as played)

Bonnet de Jacquemet,Romain (1390) - Pignatelli,Daniel (1499) [A51]
FRA-ch op-D Aix-les-Bains (7), 21.08.2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.d5 Bc5 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bxd8 Bxf2# 0-1


NN - Du Mont [A02]
Paris Paris, 1802

1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.g3 Qg5 5.Nf3 Qxg3+ 6.hxg3 Bxg3# 0-1

Moore,Michael - Plotnikov,Vladimir [B21]
Internet Section 18-B Dos Hermanas (7), 18.03.2003

1.e4 c5 2.f4 g6 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 Bg4 5.Ne5 Bxd1 6.Bxf7# 1-0

Gottas,Mike - Brunke,Christian [C50]
GER-ch U18 NRW 9697 Germany, 1997

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bc4 Bg4 5.Nxe5 Bxd1 6.Bxf7+ 1-0


(BTW The shortest mate I can find involving a rook sacrifice is 6 moves long, and occurred in a tournament I was chief arbiter for back in 1995)

Friday, 7 July 2017

Kasparov's comeback

Apparently Gary Kasparov is making a comeback to competitive chess, although this isn't the dramatic news some headlines are making it out to be. He has accepted a wildcard slot at the Grand Chess Tour's St Louis leg, albeit the blitz and rapidplay section of the event. This event follows on *after* the Sinquefield Cup, which will be played at classical time controls, and has a slightly stronger field. Unfortunately for chess fans, the one big clash that won't be happening is a Kasparov Carlsen meeting, as Carlsen is skipping the Rapid and Blitz event, and Peter Svidler is the wildcard player in the Sinquefield Cup.
Still, this is news of some significance, even if Kasparov has played a few rapid and blitz exhibition events since his retirement from tournament chess. If you are aftyer more information, the Grand Chess Tour announcement can be found here.

A monster of your own creation

Over the last few years I have often used Joseph Blackburne as an example of a 'model' player for anyone who is looking for a chess 'hero' to study. Another player who falls into that category is Frank Marshall, especially for players more comfortable with 1.d4 as an opening.
His career spanned more than 50 years, and included a 27 year reign as US Champion. Unlike his contemporaries (with the possible exception of Alekhine), Marshall used 1.d4 as an attacking opening, figuring it was easier to build an attack from closed positions, rather than find one after 1.e4 e5. Nonetheless he had a varied opening repertoire, with a number of significant variations carrying his name.
His black defences were equally enterprising, keeping up with change in opening theory. An extreme example of this was shown in the following game, where he played the Nimzo-Indian Defence against its creator. Not only did he outplay Aaron Nimzowitsch, he won the tournament "Best Game Prize" as well.


Nimzowitsch,Aaron - Marshall,Frank James [E34]
British Empire Club Masters London (6), 1927


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The curse of the upside down rook

The 2017 Canadian Championship seems to have ended with some controversy after the final playoff game saw an all to familiar issue involving promotion. IM Nikolay Noritsyn and GM Bator Sambuev had tied for first place, and were even after 5 playoff games. In a 5m+3 blitz game Noritsyn promoted a pawn, but not being able to find a queen went for the old blitz standby of an upside down rook. At this point the chief arbiter stopped the clock and ensured that the piece on the board was a correctly placed rook. Sambuev then promoted (to a queen) and went on to win.
Despite the rules concerning promotion being quite clear for a number of years, players still manage to get this wrong. The key point is that if the piece you wish to promote to is not available you can stop the clock and request the arbiter fetch you a piece. In this case Noritsyn could not find the queen in among the already captured pieces, and there is a suggestion that Sambuev had the piece in his hand. (NB This is not against the rules, and indeed should make the case for stopping the clock even more obvious).
Personally I have little sympathy for players who get this wrong. While it may be argued that it is hard to think straight with seconds left on the clock, this is one of the few situations where you are legally allowed to 'steal' thinking time. If you recognise that promotion is likely to occur and you are short of time, the smarter thing to do is to remind yourself to stop the clock if necessary 30 seconds out, rather than kicking yourself after the game is over.
BTW I must commend the chief arbiter IA Pierre Denommee for handling the situation this way. The alternative would have been to say nothing (assuming Sambuev did not complain) and then default Noritsyn if he moved the rook diagonally.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Danish delight

As much as the Traxler is the one opening that will rule them all, my first love was the Danish Gambit. I can't quite remember where I first read about it (possibly the Penguin Book of Chess Openings), but I played it in my first few chess events, with a degree of success. It was only when people started playing the Schlecter line against me that I moved away from it.
Here is a game from 1909 where it was used to beat a reigning world champion, albeit in a consultation game. 5. ... Nf6 is a rare choice these days (as 5. ... d5 is considered the path to equality), but one that tries to hang on to material. For most of the game Black does keep the 2 gambit pawns, but as you can see, mate (aided by a huge lead in development) is far more important than material.


Janowski/Soldatenkov - Lasker/Taubenhaus [C21]
Consultation, 1909


Sunday, 2 July 2017

GM norm for Junta Ikeda

IM Junta Ikeda is partway through a European summer tour, hoping to earn a GM title, or at least get part of the way towards one. After a slow start he seems to have hit his stride, easily winning the 35th Balaton GM event with an impressive 7/9. He was undefeated in the tournament, and scored enough points for a GM norm.
The summer circuit looks to be a good one to try for Australian players, as IM Justin Tan also looks to be playing a few events (although he is studying in Edinburgh, so it is a bit easier for him). The decision by Ikeda to play in the European summer looks doubly sensible, as currently his home town of Canberra is going through a cold snap, with temperatures dropping to -8c across this weekend!

Friday, 30 June 2017

Is the Bird the Word?

Magnus Carlsen seems to be on a one man mission to make every opening playable again. His latest adventure involved playing 1.f4 against Vladimir Kramnik at the GCT Rapid, and winning with it. There is a theory that he was defending the honour of Bent Larsen after a comment by Kramnik earlier in the year, but going on his post game tweet, it may also be the influence of 'Family Guy' at play.
While this may be a bit of fun at rapidplay, I'd still be astonished if it ever gets played in say a World Championship match. It's just a little committal at this level, with Black having a few paths to easy equality. However if 1.f4 does hit the board, one reply I'd suggest not be tried is 1. ... f5, as the following game shows (Of course some readers will spot that is simply a reversed From Gambit, which has claimed a number of victims).

Sorbun,Cristinel (2075) - Uta,Adeline Ramona [A02]
Mos Craciun op Romania, 2000


Thursday, 29 June 2017

How much is a piece worth?

One of the more attractive, yet frustrating parts about chess is that the most interesting games are the ones where the normal 'rules' are broken. We jealously guard our pieces, up until we decide to sacrifice them, understanding that the side with the stronger army doesn't always win. While knowing when to 'break the rules' is normal for experienced players, it can be very confusing for new players.
But knowing when to take a piece can even be tricky for GM's. The first day of the GCT Rapid in Belgium saw a stark example of this in the Giri - Aronian game. Giri left his knight on the edge of the board as bait for Aronian, who decided to trap it with 8. ... g5. White Giri got in return was not an immediate win, but a lead in development and a strong enough attack that Aronian was only able to avoid mate by eventually returning more material than was initially captured.


Giri,A (2771) - Aronian,L (2793) [A29]
GCT Rapid YourNextMove Leuven BEL (3), 28.06.2017


What has been keeping me busy (and it isn't chess)

My posting has been a little sporadic over the last few months, mainly due to a big work project that is now due for completion. The project was an update/rewrite to a spam reporting and collection database that is used by the Australian Government, both updating the application, and moving the whole thing to the cloud.
We are rolling out the new system over the next month, but for now it is substantially completed (in that it has passed all the user acceptance testing).
For those with a technical interest, the system is written in python using the Django web framework. (There is a chess link here btw, as the late Malcolm Tredinnick was a significant contributor to Django). The backend database is Postgresql, with Elasticsearch for text searching, as well as javascript,css and html for the front end stuff. All of these tools are open source btw
It was developed in house, 37% under budget, exceeded the initial specification, and is designed to handle an average of 300,000 spam filled emails a day.
I hope I have't risked fate by blowing my trumpet too loudly or too early, but if everything goes according to plan, the work/chess balance may be heading back into chess's favour.

Monday, 26 June 2017

The (almost) kiss of death

Having talked up Magnus Carlsen at the Paris Grand Chess Tour event, the wheels came of almost the moment I hit the 'publish' button. He was on 18/22 and looking as if he was running away with the tournament. Then  there were a couple of losses in the blitz and things got a lot more interesting. He only managed to score 6 from 14 in the remaining rounds, allowing Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to lead with 1 round to play, and only catching him with a final round win (MVL drew).
But if Carlsen knows one thing, it is what he needs to do to win an event (a trait he seemingly shares with Karpov).  Having tied with MVL he then won the playoff to take the winners trophy. The fact that Carlsen won the playoff is probably not a surprise, as apparently he is 8 from 8 in playoffs since 2007. MVL at least has the consolation that he split the prize money with Carlsen, earning $31000 for his efforts.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

GCT - Carlsen in beast mode

The 2017 Grand Chess Tour has begun with the Rapid/Blitz event in Paris. Carlsen currently leads the pack, having finished first in the 3 day rapid, and is following it up by starting the blitz with 4 straight wins. This put's him on 18/22 as the Rapid games are worth 2 points a win (1 for a draw), with the blitz games worth half of that. The Blitz runs over 2 days btw, so if you aren't up watching the action as I type this, you can catch it tomorrow night (from 10pm Canberra time)

The team trap

Although I drew a few games when I was younger, I tended to have a win/lose mentality at the board. This all changed when I started playing Olympiad chess for PNG. After my first Olympiad (in 2000) I realised the speculative attacks that may have worked in club chess were no longer good, and I needed to play a lot more solidly. The downside of this was that I began to draw a lot more games, which probably helped the team, but at the same time, carried over into my non-olympiad games.
Of course the dynamic in a team event is different from an individual tournament, as your play and result is important to more than just you. One of the worst things that can happen is if you screw up your opening prep and walk into a trap. It can be quite demoralising to your teammates to see you shake hands after 30 minutes or so, and the post match 'show and tell' can be quite awkward.
I've had a few of these happen to me (and my team) over the last 2 decades. On the other hand I've also managed to pull this off on occasion, and getting opening prep to work in a team event is quite satisfying.
Here is a happier example for me, from the 2004 Olympiad.


Press,Shaun (2070) - Kumar,Manoj (2036) [D03]
Calvia ol (Men) Mallorca (Spain) (12.60), 27.10.2004


Friday, 23 June 2017

VR Chess

There have been a few experiments with Virtual Reality Chess (including in the area of live coverage), but actual VR Chess games are now starting to be developed.
Chess Ultra is a new title where you get to play against the Grim Reaper (an obvious The Seventh Seal reference) for the usual stakes (your soul). It is being released on various VR platforms, and there is also a non-VR version. The developers are also looking at organising VR tournaments, which I think may be quite an interesting development (from a psychological point of view).
I've seen a few online reviews and pre release coverage (some quite funny but NSFW), but I'll leave you with this one if you want to find out more.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

50 moves and counting

A bit of a first for me tonight, as I finally had a 75 move draw ruling to make. In a topsy turvy game, the two players involved took turns at gaining and then losing the advantage until a Rook v Bishop ending was reached. As there were no pawns left, the player with the bishop headed straight to the corner, correctly choosing the one his bishop did not control. This allowed him to block any annoying checks, and set up some stalemate situations. The stronger side kept pushing (as is his right), but to no avail. Once they reached move 50 (around move 140 in the actual game), I wondered if a claim would be made (by the player with the bishop most likely), but none was forthcoming. As the players were moving quite quickly I did not mind, and soon enough move 75 was reached, at which point I stopped the clocks.
I've had longer games, and indeed I once was an arbiter where the players played at least 80 moves after the last pan move or capture, but this was before the 75 move rule was on the books.
 

Maybe I should have said nothing

I had an interesting game on Saturday. The first few moves were 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd 5.e5 Ne4 then after a longish think, my opponent found the novelty 6.dxe5! For a moment I thought I had missed something, but quickly realised what had happened. I pointed out to my opponent that he had moved one of my pawns, and he apologised, laughed, and we corrected the mistake.
But two pawns is two pawns, and if I play 6. ... Nf6 instead of 6. ... Bc5 (which runs into 7.Qd5) I should be OK. Silence maybe golden!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Aronian wins in Norway, while Giri blows a sandshoe

Lev Aronian has won the very tough 2017 Altibox tournament in Norway, with 6/9. 3 wins and 6 draws was enough to leave him a full point ahead of Hikaru Nakamura and Vladimir Kramnik. Nakamura did have a chance to catch Aronian, but got caught by some Caruana preparation in the Poisoned Pawn and lost his first game of the tournament. Kramnik was then able to grab a share of second place after Giri completely miss played his opening an lost on 20 moves.
The other big news was Carlsen's less than stellar performance, finishing on 4/9. To be fair, Carlsen has performed poorly in Norwegian events (at least in recent years), and never seemed to get into gear. This result, combined with Kramnik's strong performance has closed the gap at the top of the rating list to just under 11 points.
It looks as though most of the players in this event are taking a break from 'classical' chess, although there is a couple of GCT rapids coming up. All eyes may be on the Dortmund event in July, as Kramnik is taking part in that event, and usually he does well there.

Kramnik,Vladimir (2808) - Giri,Anish (2771) [D05]
5th Norway Chess 2017 Stavanger NOR (9.4), 16.06.2017


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Big (Street Chess) Data

A few years ago I put up an archive of Street Chess results, dating back to 2009. I have periodically updated this data, and added some new categories of information. Over the last few weeks I've been working on the latest updates, and have now uploaded them to the Street Chess Archive page (www.streetchess.net/archive).
The main addition is now players can see a list of tournaments they played in, as well as their performance against individual opponents. The lists are sortable, so you can find out who has scored the most wins etc, and which players have faced each other the most.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

25th ANU Open - 29th & 30th July 2017

The 25th Australian National University is being held on the weekend of the 29th & 30th of July 2017. Once again the venue is the ANU School of Art, Childers, St, Acton, ACT. The tournament will be held with 2 sections, an Open tournament for all players, and an Under 1600 event. The time limit will be 60m+10s and there will be 7 rounds (4 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday).
If you wish to register early (and save $10 on the entry fee) then go to http://vesus.org/festivals/2017-anu-open/ and choose the tournament you wish to play in.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Sometime Bxh7 does work

Last week I lost a game after I completely miscalculated a Bxh7+ sacrifice. Mixing up two lines, I imagined my opponents king on the wrong square, and consequently gave up two pieces for nothing. The over the weekend I witnessed a game at the NSW Open where a similar issue occurred, although in that case the sacrifice eventually worked after Black missed the correct defence.
However there are still some players who do get it right, although that are operating at a higher level than myself. Lev Aronian pulled off a brilliant win against Magnus Carlsen in the Norway tournament, using Bxh7 as an attacking motif. What made this win even better though, was that had already sacrificed the exchange a few moves earlier, to drag the Black queen out of play, making his king side attack even more effective.


Aronian,Levon (2793) - Carlsen,Magnus (2832) [D45]
5th Norway Chess 2017 Stavanger NOR (4.2), 10.06.2017


Monday, 12 June 2017

2017 NSW Open - 3 way tie for first

The 2017 NSW Open has ended in a 3 way tie for first place, with GM Max Illingworth, IM Andrew Brown and IM Gary Lane all finishing on 6/7. Illingworth and Lane shared the lead on 5.5 going into round 7, but drew their game, allowing Brown to catch them. after defeating FM Jason Hu on board 2. Tied for 4th place were GM Zong Yuan Zhao (who Illingworth defeated in Round 6), IM Anton Smirnov, and FM Brandon Clarke.
The Minor event (Under 1600) was won by Jigando Balin (IND) on 6.5/7. However, as he did not hold a local Australian rating, he was ineligble for the cash prizes, meaning Frank Jia on 6/7 took home first prize. Second prize (and third place) was shared by Mike Canfell, Eva Ge, and Michael Tracey, on 5.5.
The tournament attracted a good field of 142 players, with the new venue proving popular with most of the players. From an arbiters point of view, the tournament itself was easy to manage, although noise from the analysis/lounge area was difficult to control. There were also a number of slightly odd arbiting questions and incidents (nothing that serious), but I will leave the discussion of that for another post.
Final results for the tournament can be found at http://nswopen.nswca.org.au/

2017 NSW Open Day 2

Day 2 of the 2017 NSW Open has ended with the top 4 seeds sharing first place on 4.5/5. The key game from the 5th round was the clash between IM Anton Smirnov and GM Max Illingworth, which ended in a hard fought draw. This allowed GM Zong Yuan Zhao and IM Gary Lane to catch the leading two, setting up an exciting finish tomorrow. Lane recovered from his draw in round two the win all 3 of his games today, while Zhao was held to a draw by IM Andrew Brown in round 4.
Although the winner is likely to come from the current set of leaders, there is still some dangerous players in the group of players on 4.
In the Minor Jigando Balin leads on 5/5. However the fact that Balin does not have an ACF rating (although he does have a FIDE rating below 1600) complicates matters, as he is ineligible for the major prizes. This means that it may be a  battle between Eva Ge (on 4.5) and a group of players on 4/5 to decide where the cash goes.
The 6th round starts at 9:45 tomorrow, with round 7 starting at 2:15. The top board sees GM Illingworth against GM Zhao, while on board 2, IM Lane plays IM Smirnov.


Brown,IM Andrew - Zhao,GM Zong-Yuan [A80]
2017 NSW Open (1.1), 11.06.2017


Saturday, 10 June 2017

2017 NSW Open - Day 1

This years 2017 NSW Open started with a field of 142, roughly the same as last year, and not bade considering a venue move from lats year. This years tournament is being held at the Russian Club is Strathfield, which is very convenient for anyone travelling by public transport. Apart from the usual raft of Sydney players, there was a good contingent from Canberra (including the arbitiing team), and a number of junior players from Singapore.
Top seed is GM Zong Yuan Zhao ahead of GM Max Illingworth, IM Anton Smirnov, and IM Gary Lane. The top 3 seeds all ended the first day on 2/2, but Lane was held to a draw by Jesson Montenegro in the final round 2 game to finish. There are also another 13 players on 2/2, but tomorrows tough 3 round day should quickly winnow the leaders.
The Minor event (Under 1600) has attracted 63 players and there are 14 players who have started this event with 2/2. One interesting first round pairing saw top seed Mike Canfell play Mary Wilkie, as both players had travelled quite a distance from Armidale, only to be paired together.
The tournament itself got off to a smooth start, although there was a slight hiccup with the live coverage. However the technical issues look like they've been sorted out, and so you can watch the top 6 boards in the Open from 9:30 am tomorrow.  Just visit the tournament website at http://nswopen.nswca.org.au/ and click on the live games link. You can also check out the parings and standings from that site as well.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Repe-repe-tition

What happens if agreed draws aren't allowed in chess? The answer to this question is currently being answered at the Altibox Tournament in Norway, but not necessarily in a good way.
The tournament has a "no agreed draws" rule, although this is also expressed as a "no talking between players" regulation. Nonetheless 8 of the first 10 games have been drawn, meaning that the players have found a way to split the point. The most obvious way, and one that has yet to be abolished by FIDE, is by repeating the position. In some cases this has involved a set of checks, but in others it is more of "move there, move back" arrangement. And in one case, it simply involved the two players ignoring the arbiter and walking off.
So what's the take away from this? It isn't a decrease in the number of draws, although that isn't necessarily the aim. It has resulted in longer games, which probably is the aim, so to that end it has worked. But it seems to have annoyed the participants as well, which may not be the most desirable outcome for this years strongest event.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A memory for tactics

Today I came across another website that estimates your chess rating. The Elometer website presents you with a set of problems and asks you to choose the move you would play. When you've finished, it asks you a few more questions and then gives you an estimate of your rating.
The purpose of the site is twofold, in that it both gives you a way of seeing what you know, as well as being part of a research project from the University of Dusseldorf (details on the page). It is the second part that interested me the most, as it helps explain how the test was constructed.
While not revealing my score, I did recognise a number of positions in the test. Out of the 76 positions (from a bigger set), I probably had already seen around 30 of them (and this was asked in the post test questioning). Whether this affected my final rating I know not, but I assume that this is part of the study.
If you are planning to do the test, set aside around an hour to get through it, assuming you take it seriously. Some of the questions are pretty straight forward, but as you progress, more thought is required.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Cricket or chess

I've become less regular in my blog posting over the last few months, mainly due to work commitments (and other chess related activities). In fact I'm travelling a little more due to work, usually to Melbourne every couple of months.
And it was in Melbourne last week that I rediscovered one of my lost joys, falling asleep with the cricket on. The ICC Champions Trophy is currently running in the UK, so it starts around 10pm Canberra time. This means I can catch a couple of hours before the eyelids start to sag, and I drift off to sleep.
However I now have the choice to watch the cricket, or the Norway Altibox tournament. This starts early tomorrow morning, and runs for the next 11 days. The field is so strong I'm not even going to name them, but Anish Giri is the bottom seed. The first day sees the traditional blitz event (with Kramnik seeded last for this one), with the main event starting the next day. The Blitz begins at 2:30am my time, but for the rest of the event, I think a midnight start is scheduled.
So the pleasant choice between top level cricket, and top level chess waits.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

That's a paddlin'

Fischer famously destroyed both Taimanov and Larsen 6-0 in the Candidates Matches leading up to his 1972 World Championship title. At the time this was considered extraordinary, as it was assumed that a strong GM could at least take half a point of an opponent, if necessary. It turns out there have been some historical precedents for this feat, including one I found very surprising.
In 1876 Wilhelm Steinitz and Henry Blackburne played a match in London, for the stakes of 60GBP. The match was open ended, with the winner being the first player to score 7 wins. The time control was 30 moves in 2 hours, followed by 15 moves in an hour, although a player had to exceed this by 5 minutes before they were forfeited. There was also a draw by repetition rule, although it was based on one player repeating a move (or sequence of moves) six times.
Despite the fact that both players were already considered the strongest in the world, the match was totally one sided, with Steinitz winning all 7 games. It might be easy to think that this was due to Blackburne being unable to cope with Steinitz's more positional play, but the first game of the match showed that Steintz knew how to play a slashing attack. The loss may have put Blackburne back on his heels, as for the rest of the match Steinitz seemed to have the upper hand, playing a number of fine games, and condemning Blackburne to an ignominious defeat.


Steinitz,William - Blackburne,Joseph Henry [C77]
London m1 London (1), 17.02.1876


2017 NSW Open

The Queens Birthday long weekend (in most of Australia), sees a number of chess weekenders in various states. The NSW Open and the Victorian Open are the two big ones, but I think most states hold some sort of event (with the exception of the ACT).
I'm heading off to the NSW Open (as a paid arbiter) with this year seeing another new venue. It is being held at The Russian Club in Strathfield NSW, and runs from the 10th to the 12th of June. It will be run in two sections (Open and Under 1600), with both tournaments having a very generous prize pool. There will be 7 rounds (2,3,2 format), with a time limit of G/90m+30s.
Further information, plus a link to online entry, can be found here.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Can I invent a new opening?

The title of this post is borrowed from a question I recently saw on Quora. Answers seemed to range from 'No' to "sure, but it won't be any good". The general consensus is that all 'openings' have been invented, although the OP may find a new variation.
Of course this depends upon deciding what is an opening, and what is a variation. For example 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 is not yet an opening, with 3.Bc4 , 3.Bb5 or 3.Nc3 all becoming named openings, but after 3.Bc4 Nf6, 4.d4 and 4.Ng5 are only variations of the Two Knights Opening. As with most things in chess, history and convention take precedence over logic.
However, variations can be discovered (and possibly named), even if they might not be good. Just today I came across a line against the Caro-Kann which I had previously been unaware of, the Apocalypse Variation! It starts with 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd cxd 4.Ne5 I have seen White's 4th move given a ! and a ? and while I would lean towards ?! it has claimed some high profile victims. The idea is to keep the knight on e5 for as long as possible, or to exchange it at an advantageous time. Oddly, for such an aggressive idea, this line seems devoid of cheap traps, although I did see a few games end with Qxf7#.
To give you a feel for this line, here is a game between a couple of very strong GM's. I don't know if Black was caught by surprise, but his play looks a little unconvincing, giving White a fairly easy path to victory.

Petrosian,Tigran L (2580) - Macieja,Bartlomiej (2616) [B10]
Lake Sevan Martuni (4), 09.07.2007


AlphaGo

The AlphaGo program not only continues to beat the best Go players in the world, but it is also influencing how the game is being played. Talking with some Go playing friends, they were amazed at how AlphaGo was demonstrating ideas and concepts that had been considered bad, were in fact playable. As a result, top level professional players are reassessing how the game is being played.
It seems that this effect may be even more profound than the effect computers had on chess. While computers probably taught the modern generation the increased importance of tactical calculation, and probably helped resurrect some openings that had been considered less than optimal.  the underlying strategic concepts did not really change. Computers did the same things that humans did, just faster and better. With AlphaGo, it seems that its learning method of recognising good and bad moves based on patterns and previous games has not only come up with better moves, but also enabled it to recognise better structures.
AlphaGo has just completed a series of matches in China, against some of the worlds leading players. At the end of the match the AlphaGo developers have released a set of 50 games which AlphaGo played against itself, to show some of the new ideas it has learned. You can play through all 50 games here.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Superstitions

I suspect chess players aren't really a superstitious lot. All that rational thinking at the board probably extends to real life, leaving little room for the irrational. However I still come across players who have their little 'quirks' which may be considered superstitions by some.
Probably the most common is the 'lucky pen'. Players who start and event with a couple of pins may attribute this to their choice of writing implement, and therefore try and hang on to it for as long as possible. Apparently Tal was a believer in the 'lucky pen' and attributed his World Championship loss to it going missing during the match.
Related to this is the lucky shirt/socks/key ring etc Unlike the lucky pen, if items of clothing are involved, a winning streak may not be so much due to magical forces, as to the smell from wearing the same socks six days in a row.
I've also observed scoresheet superstitions. Not writing an opponents name down until the completion of the game is one attempt at voodoo, while incredibly cheeky players might try and get away with a pre-filled result. Not shaving during a winning streak has been mentioned, although I'm not sure whether I've witnessed this happening at chess Olympiads, or are just mixing with people of poor personal grooming.
Finally, I once had a player who said that one of the best ways to not lose was to avoid players whose surnames started with 'Fischer' or 'Kasparov'

Saturday, 27 May 2017

The bigliest World Championship ever

While holidaying in the UK I took some delight in making the obvious comparisons between the President of FIDE and the President of the USA. This led to some slightly awkward conversations with people who were astonished at the outcome of the 2016 US elections, but had campaigned for Kirsan in the 2014 FIDE elections (although there was one friend who was happy with both outcomes).
And it seems that the similarities have not ended, with a report the London is being considered as a venue for the next World Championship Match. The source of this proposal was Kirsan himself, in an interview he gave with the Tass News-agency. Of course it seems that FIDE themselves no nothing about it, or of they do, nothing is showing on their website. I'm pretty sure this isn't because the designated spokesperson is hiding in the bushes trying to get their story straight, but almost certainly because the days of breathlessly reporting every statement, trip or activity of the FIDE President is now over.
That's not to so it won't happen (although it seems that the ECF has not yet been informed), but I'm assuming credit for making it happen will be claimed no matter where the Championship match is eventually held.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Capablanca's two part rule

Very early on I learned that you should put your pawns on the opposite coloured square to your bishop (if you have one). Later I learned that this was known as "Capablanca's Rule". However it was only recently that I read that there are in fact two parts two this rule, and I'd probably been throwing away half points by not knowing the second part.
The second part deals with the case where your opponent has a bishop, and you don't. In this case you should put your pawns on the same coloured squares as your opponents bishop, to restrict its activity. Of course there are almost always other factors at play, but if you are faced with a knight v bishop middlegame and are unsure what to do, this may help.
Here is an example game (taken from'Techniques of Positional Play ' by Broznik and Terekhin), where Capablanca applies his own rule on move 20, creating a pawn chain on the dark squares. By the time the players agreed to a draw, all of black's pawns were on dark squares, white's pawns were on light squares, and yet the white bishop still couldn't help white win.

Lasker,Emanuel - Capablanca,Jose Raul [C66]
New York New York (2), 17.03.1924


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Out, back and out again

As I get older (and more forgetful) I have a tendency to screw up my openings more and more. It is both a function of not learning all the lines, and playing careless moves without checking the consequences.
In the following very recent game, I played 7. ... Bf5 without much thought. After 8.Qf3 I was suddenly required to do a lot of thinking, but most of it was deciding whether to go berserk and sacrifice my queenside pawns, or eat crow and retreat the bishop. In the end I decided crow was the tastier meal, and retreated both the bishop and the queen. After that it was a battle not to get run off the board, bring out my pieces again, and try and salvage something from the game. Turns out I managed to find enough play to not lose, but all that post-blunder thinking left me short of time, and so a draw was offered an accepted.


Patterson,Miles - Press,Shaun [A09]
Autumn Leaves, 23.05.2017


Sunday, 21 May 2017

Pick the century

A challenge for readers of this blog. Have a look at the game below and decide which century it was played in (or which century it belongs to). I have of course removed anything that identifies the players, or where it might have been played.


White - Black [C37]
From a galaxy far far away


Saturday, 20 May 2017

The top 10

Where do you go to to get your chess fix (apart from Chessexpress)? According to one list chess.com is the most popular chess site, and the 1181 most popular site on the internet overall. Lichess is number 2, while Chess24 comes in third. The FIDE website is only ranked number 7, 2 spots behind chess-results.com
The full list is

  1. chess.com
  2. lichess.org
  3. chess24.com
  4. chessbase.com
  5. chess-results.com
  6. chessgames.com
  7. fide.com
  8. sparkchess.com
  9. chesstempo.com
  10. chess2700.com
So playing sites are the most popular, followed by news sites, and finally some training sites.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Attack of the clones

When I was a member of the FIDE Rules Commission we would occasionally discuss areas where the rules were silent. This wasn't because we felt the issue was too difficult to rule on, but more because we wondered what we would do if someone tried something really bizarre.
One topic was about playing more than 1 game at the same time. It started out as a method of avoiding defaults in team matches (ie could someone play boards 7 and 8 in the same round), and moved on to whether Kasparov could just enter the Olympiad by himself (playing a simul each round). We decided he could not (if the games were to be rated). There was also talk about whether a player could enter two sections of an event and play both at the same time, with a semi-famous case being Michael Adams playing a junior and open event at a British Championship early in his career. Again we thought it wasn't acceptable, in part because there was a risk that a player could 'transfer' information from one game to another, thereby violating the rule about analysing a game on another chessboard.
However the Denver Chess Club has decided to organise a tournament where players can play more than one game at once. The Clone Wars tournament allows a player to enter either as themselves, or to clone themselves once or twice. After that it is a normal event, except clones players are required to play two or three game each round. I assume you can't be paired against your clone, but your (or your clone) could play a different clone of a player you've already met. Whether you could play multiple games against the same opponent in the same round wasn't clear.
The event was run as a 4 round G/60m event, which I would assume gave players enough time to jump between boards (assuming you remembered which boards you were on!). The prize structure was also interesting, where a players total score (including clones) determined the payout (each point was worth a fixed amount). I don't know if the event was USCF rated, but I would assume that such event would not be FIDE rated (even with an eligible time control).
Here is a link to the tournament report, which contains a little more detail on the event than I can give you.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Better math through chess

I've just come across another study attempting to measure whether teaching chess in the classroom results in better learning outcomes for students. In this case the study looked at replacing 1 math lesson a week with a chess lesson (as opposed to adding an extra chess lesson). The study was carried out in Denmark, involving primary aged students.
Overall the study found a slight improvement in test scores (around 0.1 to 0.18 of a standard deviation), which at first might not sound like much. However, as these were replacement lessons, the result is in fact a lot better, especially if you are trying to get chess coaching into an already crowded calendar. Also of interest is that the study looked at the effects on children who were either unhappy or bored and found  that both these groups showed greater improvement than happy or engaged children. In fact most of the improvement in test scores was attributed to students in these groups.
The whole study is available here and is worth reading not just for the conclusions, but also for the description of the studies methodology. In describing quite clearly their approach, the authors not only help the reader understand their work, but also provide an idea of what to look for in similar studies on chess in education.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Quality control

I was doing a little research for one of my correspondence chess games today, and I came across an issue that occasionally bedevils chess writers (and sometimes players). One of the games in a variation I'm playing was between Kaidanov and Kamsky, both very strong GM's, and therefore a game worth studying. The game itself followed theory up until move 14, when Black played the slightly unusual 14. ... Qe7. However it was his 16th move (16 ... Nh7) that was the real surprise, as it allowed the queen to be captured by the bishop on g5. Fortunately for Black it seems Kaindanov was feeling kind as the bishop retreated the d2 instead!
Of course the real story was that Black almost certainly played 14 ... Qc7 (which is theory) and only later moved the queen to e7 (on move 22). Kaidanov eventually won the game as White, and the mistaken move is quite clear, so the game may prove to be useful after all. However it is always worth double checking whether the moves make sense, as the risk is to blindly follow something that never happened in the first place!


Kaidanov,Gregory S (2640) - Kamsky,Gata (2645) [E75]
USA-ch Long Beach (8), 1993


Saturday, 13 May 2017

Stephen Fry explains the Dunning Kruger Effect

The Dunning Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where low-ability individuals overestimate their abilities. It has been known (formally) since 1999, although I am sure this effect was observed well before then, possibly under the heading 'to stupid to know they're stupid'.
For anyone unfamiliar with this effect, there is a short video (narrated by Stephen Fry) which explains it in the context of current American politics.


But what has this to do with chess? In this case not a lot, but it does relate to an observation I've made over the years. The biggest mistakes we make in chess don't happen when we don't have an answer to the problem in front of us, but when we (incorrectly) think we have the best answer to the problem in front of us. Often a game is lost because the move we thought that worked had a fatal flaw in it, and we would have been better off choosing a less flashy move. Usually this is described as over-confidence, which of course is a manifestation of Dunning-Kruger.
By the way, there is a flip side to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Often people who excel at a task don't realise that what they are doing is difficult for the average practitioner, and assume because it is easy for them, it must be easy for everyone. Anyone who has ever coached chess is probably aware of this (although maybe not consciously!)

Friday, 12 May 2017

All the way with CAA

While holidaying in the UK over Christmas I got to work with a number of British Arbiters. One thing they do is take arbiting a little more seriously than they do in Australia, even going so far as having an Arbiters Association. The Chess Arbiters Association (CAA) not only provides information and resources to British Arbiters it runs courses for National Arbiters, and produces a regular newsletter on arbiting matters.
The last couple of issues contained some interesting articles, including commentary on the 2016 Victorian Lightning Championship (I did share my perspective with the magazine editor, IA Alex McFarlane). It also reports on interesting incidents that have occurred in other events, including a "What would you decide?" section.
If you want to have a look at back issues of the 'Arbiting Matters' magazine, or just access some of the other resources, you can get all of this at the Chess Arbiters Association homepage.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

2017 Asian Individual

The 2017 Asian Individual Championship starts tomorrow in Chengdu, China. As a Continental Championship it has attracted a very strong field, with 33 GM's in the 69 player field. The half way point in the field is 2470 and there are even GM's in the bottom half of the draw.
Now normally I would only have a passing interest in this event (unless Papua New Guinea sends a representative) but I will be taking  greater notice as Australia (and even Canberra) is sending a representative. Junior player Albert Winkelman is the Australian representative this year, and although at the tail of the field, is clearly hoping to continue his good form from the Oceania Zonal, where he just missed out on a direct FM title.
In the first round he is playing GM John Paul Gomez from The Philippines. Certainly a tough opponent, but first rounds of any big events have a few upset results and I am sure Albert is hoping he can create one of them.
The only official website I can find is in Chinese, but there is live coverage at chess24 and results can be found at chess-results.com.  The games start at 4pm Canberra time.