Thursday, 2 March 2017

Sharjah GP ends in 3 way tie

The first event of the new FIDE GP Tournament has ended in a 3 way tie for first. Grischuk, Vachier-Lagrave and Mamedyarov shared first place (and the GP points) on a less than inspiring 5.5/9. If this was a round robin event this would be a pretty low score, but it was actually an 18 player swiss. The fact that the best anyone could do was +2 indicates either how even the event was, or how cautious the players were.
Based on reports from Chess24 and the consensus was it was the latter. Each round saw plenty of draws, and it seemed most of the fighting chess occurred between players on 50%. Otherwise it was either protecting a lead, or stopping the rot, all the while keeping tabs on the other leaders. Significantly this tournament had no rules concerning draw offers, which is where some players are point the finger at, although I personally am still not a fan of such measures. A slightly more inventive points and prize structure is probably a better solution, with wins scoring bonus GP points on top of normal GP points being one idea.
The next event is in Moscow in May, and the organisers may make some tweaks to the format to encourage more interest.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Batavia 2017

The Batavia 2017 event is underway at the Cafe Batavia 1920 in  Amsterdam, and Australian IM Bobby Cheng currently leads with 4/4. He is a point clear of second place and is looking good for a GM norm. He beat GM Eric Lobron in yesterdays game and only needs 50% over the remaining 5 games for a GM norm. Of course this isn't always an easy task, but having played both Hastings and Gibraltar, Cheng at least had some tough events under his belt.
Round 5 has just begun  (Midnight Canberra time), and is being carried live on Chess24. You can watch the tournament, as well as see online commentary etc at the tournament website

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

It is not always that solid

I spent the weekend writing a couple of articles covering my trip to the UK, and in them I made the observation that UK chess is a lot more solid and positional than Australian chess. While in the UK I also made this observation, remarking that a lot of games sin Australia start with players just throwing pieces out there, and then looking for whatever tactics may arise.
There are of course exceptions in both directions, as I saw at the 4NCL weekender. In the game below I'm not convinced either side was looking for a positional edge, especially after 8.d5 set fire to the position. White then decided to throw more wood onto the fire with 11.Nxg6 with the idea of keeping the kin in the centre. But it wasn't until Black passed on 15. ... Nd3+ that White could begin to breath easier, and a few move later it was a full on king hunt, ending in Black getting mated.

Eagleton,Greg T (2055) - Hand,Freddie (2205)
4NCL Division 2b Northampton, ENG (4.72), 15.01.2017

Saturday, 25 February 2017

It depends upon your background

While listening to Australia spin its way to victory in the 1st Test Match against India, I heard on of the commentators say "Smith is like a chess grandmaster, moving the pieces around the board". It was of course one of the Indian commentators, who said this, while the Australia commentator did not seem to react.
I suspect for an Indian sports fan, or commentator, such a comment was perfectly sensible and understandable, tapping into the cultural awareness of chess in that country. For Australian fans, the comment might be a little bit more confusing or odd, although even then I think that most Australian fans would at least recognise the terms.
Anyway, I thought it was a nice intrusion into the normally dry cricket commentary (at least in Australia), and I hope to hear more of it over the next couple of tests.

Friday, 24 February 2017

I'd thought I'd seen this disaster before

Flicking through the games from the FIDE GP in Sharjah, I was surprised by the number of draws. I know at the top level it is pretty easy to make a draw if you want to, especially with White, but I had expected the change in format to an 18 player swiss (rather than a round robin) would have at least encouraged more decisive games. As it stands around 75% of the games have been drawn, although this number seems to be coming down.
There was one real disaster in round 5, although it wasn't the one I first thought it was. Playing through the game at firt I thought Black was in big trouble after Qc6+. I've seen a number of games where the king gets kicked around the board after going to e7 and I assumed this was one of those. It turns out the Black is fine, and it was White who quickly found himself in trouble. 17.O-O could bes be described as 'brave' but 19.Rd1 was the real lemon, and after Black found Qh3, White did the sensible thing and resigned (as f4 drops the rook to Qg4+)

Riazantsev,Alexander (2671) - Jakovenko,Dmitry (2709) [A30]
Sharjah Grand Prix 2017 Sharjah UAE (5.7), 22.02.2017

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Things I've never been asked to do

A few people have asked me about the dress code that was put in place for the 2017 Womens World Championship being held in Iran. Instead of debating whether it is appropriate, or whether the event hosts have the right to set such conditions, I simply point out that despite playing chess in a number of countries, I have never been told what I must wear at the board (although I have been asked to wear a suit on occasion while working as an arbiter). I'm not saying that those who played or chose not to were right/wrong, just that this rule seems to be only applied to 50% of the worlds population.
I've also never been asked not to play an opponent for political reasons. The issue of refusing to play against players from a certain country has come up again, with news that Iranian player Borna Derakhshani has been suspended by his federation for playing against Alex Huzman from Israel at the Gibraltar Masters. This has been an issue at other events, including the Chess Olympiad, although my suggestion that such boycotts are only legally acceptable if supported by a directive from the players country hasn't gained much traction within FIDE. Instead FIDE publicly pretend they have no policy on this matter, although privately they do (eg at Olympiads). However I do find this case slightly surprising, as there was at least one instance in the tournament where and Iranian v Israeli pairing was changed. So I'm not sure why this one went through.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I might have to start watching the Simpsons again

A long time ago I was an avid watcher of The Simpsons. But as I got older I kind of lost interest, mainly due to the fact that most 'new' episodes recycled ideas and characters from previous episodes. So eventually I moved on the Futurama, Family Guy, and more recently Rick & Morty, and Archer. (PS Bring back Duckman).
However there is still a little life left in the Simpsons, at least for chess fans. World Champion Magnus Carlsen appeared in the latest episode (shown in the US), and it wasn't just a drive by. The whole episode revolved around Homer's previous chess career(!), with Carlsen encouraging Homer to continue playing. At least one review I read not only said Carlsen's performance was good (and self deprecating), but the writers seem to get the chess stuff right (including some pretty accurate name drops).
I'm not sure what the lag is between US showings and Australia but hopefully I'll be alert enough to catch it when it turns up.