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.