Monday, 26 September 2016

Tal Memorial 2016

The first big post Olympiad event has just begun in Moscow, the 2016 Tal Memorial. This 10 player round robin is a little light on the top 10, but the assembled field are all rated above 2700, and the organisers have tried to invite exciting/attacking players.
Top seed is Vladimir Kramnik, and with Anand, Aronian and Mamedyarov in the field, it looks to be a hard fought event. Mamedyarov got his tournament off to a good start, winning the opening blitz event with 7.5/9, and getting to choose his seeding number.
The main event started a few hours ago (Canberra time) and while I'm watching it through chess24, the tournament website is here.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Week in Chesss

One of the great online chess resources "The Week in Chess" has just turned 22 years old. I used to subscribe to it when it came it as an email service, and it was a vitally important when Paul Dunn and I produced a weekly radio show on chess in the late 1990's and early 2000's.
It has always been a free service,  getting by on sponsorship and donations. Currently there is a donation drive going on, and it does have an added bonus. If you donate 30 pounds or more, Mark Crowther, (the man behind TWIC), will send you a copy of the entire TWIC database. The is contains around 1.9 million games from the last 22 years, and it is worth getting if you need to keep your reference databases up to date. Having made a recent donation I was delighted to get my hands on this file, which even included some of my efforts from various chess olympiads, including the following game, which was the first one I ever played at this level.


Press,Shaun - Bagheri,A (2409) [B16]
34th Olympiad Istanbul TUR (1), 28.10.2000

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Overs and Unders ( a continuing series)

It appears the Millionaire Chess tournament, which is being held in New Jersey USA in October may be the third and last of the series. A message from event organiser GM Maurice Ashley points to continuing financial losses as being the reason.
This of course raises the issues of how to make big money tournaments work in chess, without a big sponsor behind it. In the more successful examples, the organisers have generally done everything as cheaply as possible, and poured as much into the prize pool as possible, although this has been a bit hit and miss.
However chess players seem to have some expectation that an event will at least be comfortable, and having a good venue with plenty of other nice touches seems to be required (at least in Australia). But for this to happen, money needs to either be taken away from the prize pool, or entries increased, at which point players start to have second thoughts about playing.
This balancing act reminds me of an old software development comment. "On time, on budget, on spec. Pick any two". In this case it might be "Cheap entry, large prizes, quality event. Pick two".
So I sympathise with the organisers of Millionaire Chess, but without being able to provide any solutions to this problem. Hopefully future events of this type will either find the "sweet spot" to attract the right size field, or create an event that will be supported by sponsors. I have my fingers crossed.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Refactoring your openings

A lot of the players PNG faced at the Olympiad were a bit of an unknown quantity, which made opening preparation a little difficult. When I did have a large set of games for an opposing player, it was often because they were experienced 2300+ players, and opening prep would only go so far.
One game where it did work was Rupert Jones's game against Enrico Grassi from San Marino. It did help that the two players were of similar vintage and activity, and in fact had played in the 1986 Olympiad, when Jones was representing Botswana.
Oddly enough both played the Centre-Counter with black, so there was plenty of material to work with. In the end Rupert and I decided to go with an opening idea that had been used by another PNG player in the 2002 Olympiad. Alan Luga (also a past PNGCF President) was shown an attacking idea in the Centre-Counter by GM Ian Rogers (IIRC), where White plays Bc4, then d3. The idea is that the Black bishop usually ends up on f5 or g6, and after the normal d4, the c2 pawn is under threat. But with the pawn on d3, moves like Qe2 can be played with safety, and an attack on the kingside gets moving a little quicker.
We actually found the first 13 moves of the game on the morning of the round, but ran out of time to go that extra bit further. If we had we might have spotted that 14.Nxe6 is winning (14 ... fxe6 15.hxg5 followed by g6 is the main idea). Instead Rupert played the obvious recapture, but chaos ensured after Bxd3, with a queen versus wood middlegame where both players were not quite sure who was better.  In the end a 'tactical' draw was agreed, as this resulted in the match being drawn 2-2, and this seemed to come as a relief to both players.


Jones,Rupert (1851) - Grassi,Enrico (2049)
Baku Chess Olympiad | Open chess24.com (8.2), 10.09.2016

Thursday, 22 September 2016

2016 Ryde Eastwood Weekender

Having been a somewhat poor captain at the Olympiad, I'm thinking about putting my rating where my mouth is, and start playing some more events. I've certainly got a number of events scheduled over December and January (London Chess Classic, 4NCL, Gibraltar), but before I do that I may need to get some local practice. There are a few weekenders I can play in, with the first being the following.

The 2016 Ryde-Eastwood Weekender is being held in Sydney on the weekend of the 1st,2nd and 3rd of October. It is a 7 round event played with the slightly weird time control of 60m+30s per move (This is to prevent clashes with the NRL Grand Final that is being held on Sunday). It is a single division event with $3200 in prizes. Further details (plus online entry form) can be found at the NSW Chess Association website.


Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Taking your second chances

IM Anton Smirnov is getting some notice around the world after is stellar performance at the 2016 Chess Olympiad. He was featured in The Guardian chess column and a number of other chess writers are taking notice of what he achieved.
He played a number of brilliant games during the tournament, including the following one against Brazil. I was able to watch some of the end of the game from around move 35, but at the time wasn't sure if he had played a brilliancy or just a brilliant draw. Captaincy duties called me away before the end, and it was only afterwards that I learned that he had one, but that his opponent had missed the drawing resource at the end (37 ... Kh7 was the final mistake). But earlier than that, Smirnov himself had missed a stronger continuation when he played the Botvinnik-esque 29.Nh5+ instead of the more brutal 29.Rxb4. Of course chess is about taking your chances, and having missed one, he made sure he didn't miss the next one.


Smirnov,Anton (2482) - Barbosa,Evandro Amorim (2509) [D80]
42nd Olympiad 2016 Baku AZE (6.4), 08.09.2016

Monday, 19 September 2016

Blockchain and chess

Blockchain is a new idea which has the potential to radically change the world of online (and non online) business. It is essentially a distributed database that contains records secured from tampering or revision. It is the basis of a number of bitcoin type currencies and solves problems of forged, reversed, or double credit transfers.
As the technology matures there seems to be a number of uses that it can me integrated with. If you follow this link you will see that students in Berlin have built a chess game that uses the technology. As I am in a 'post-first, read-later' mood at the moment I'm not exactly sure what they are doing here, although at a guess, it is about transmitting moves in a non forge-able way.  At some point I will look at the source code to get a better idea of what is going on.