Thursday, 27 April 2017

Mitrofanov's Deflection

White to play and win
The diagrammed position is one my favourite endgame studies of all time. It was first shown to me by FM Manuel Weeks way back when, and is rightly considered one of the best endgame studies of all times.
Now, I'm not going to torture you by requesting a solution, but I'm not going to hand one out either. The study itself has an interesting history (in part because the initial version was cooked), but this version stands the test of time (and the brutality of computer analysis). So if you want to find out more about the study, and the author, follow this link. But be warned, the answer is given, in all its brilliance.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Any sac you can play I can play better

In round 2 of the Gashimov Memorial, Topalov won against Wojtaszek with a stunning rook sacrifice. Two rounds later, Kramnik showed he can do at least as well, beating Harikrishna with a rook sac of his own. I'll leave it up to you dear reader to decide which is the better sacrifice.

Wojtaszek,R (2745) - Topalov,V (2741) [D12]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017 Shamkir AZE (2), 22.04.2017

Kramnik,V (2811) - Harikrishna,P (2755) [C84]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017 Shamkir AZE (4), 24.04.2017

When was white winning?

Lev Aronian has won the 2017 Grenke Chess Classic, ahead of a very strong field. His win may have been helped by the fact I did not give him the 'kiss of death' by tipping a win for him, but it was more likely to be due to his strong play.
One of his early tournament victories was against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a game that on the one hand exemplifies modern chess, but on the other, one I found difficult to get a handle on. Following the 'pawn structure be damned' approach, both players found themselves with rooks and bishops after 14 moves, and one open file to fight over. To my untrained eye this wasn't enough for either side to claim an advantage, but after another 20 moves, Aronian was able to force one of his pawns to f5 and Black's position collapsed. At first I thought Black must have made one big mistake, but going over the game it seems that it was more a succession of little ones that caused his defeat, culminating with him losing control of f5.

Aronian,Levon (2774) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2803) [A04]
GRENKE Chess Classic Karlsruhe (3.2), 17.04.2017

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Playing the back marker

You're cruising along, have a couple of wins under your belt, when you have to play someone at the tail end of the field (note, I'm talking about round robin events). Suddenly you have to make a choice. Do you (a) decide that the point is in the bag no matter what you do, and so play for the brilliancy, (b) play extra cautiously as you don't want to blow a sandshoe, or (c) ignore the scoreboard and play the position on the board?
Most people would say that (c) is the correct choice, but I suspect that in practice, the actual split may well be 40% a, 40% b and 20% c.
An extreme example of some choosing box A was Frank Marshall in the 1903 Monte Carlo tournament. Although he finished slightly below 50%, he decided to have some fun against possibly the most famous 'back marker' in tournament history. This was the event where Charles Paul Narcisse Moreau (known to chess history as Colonel Moreau) scored 0/26, losing all his games to the other 13 competitors. While Marshall was known for his attacking play, this game saw it taken to the extreme, playing a Muzio Gambit, offering two pieces within the first 8 moves. The unlucky Moreau was doing OK until move 16, where Bc6 turned out to be the losing move, as the pin down the d file resulted in material lose.

Marshall,Frank James - Moreau,C [C37]
Monte Carlo Monte Carlo (23), 13.03.1903

Saturday, 22 April 2017

So much late night chess

Spring must be a popular time for chess events in the Northern Hemisphere as three big tournaments are running at the moment. In Germany the Grenke Classic sees Carlsen, Caruana, MVL, and Aronian battling in an 8 player round robin, while the accompanying Open has attracted a massive field. In Reykjavik the Open is underway, with 33 GM's in the 266 player field. And the Gashimov Memorial is just starting, with So, Kramnik, Karjakin and Adams in the 10 player field.
The best bit about all these events is that they are all being broadcast live on Chess24. This makes following the tournaments a little easier, as you can just jump from tournament to tournament, without having to jump from site to site. And if you are pacing yourself, the Gashimov Memorial starts mid evening Canberra time, Grenke at 11:30pm and Reykjavik a couple of hours later.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - An arbiters reflection

As the Tournament Director of the 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup I think the tournament ran very well. In fact one common comment from the arbiting team was how quickly it seemed to finish, which usually indicates there were no major issues (which there weren't).
This was especially noteworthy as the field of 280+ players was the second largest on record, and the venue was a little trickier to handle this year. here were a couple of reasons why the tournament ran well this year, first and foremost due to the growing experience of the organising team. I was able to hand off most of the routine tournament management to my fellow arbiters, while I concentrated on pairings and keeping the DGT boards broadcasting (Note to self: A new laptop next year!).
On the whole the players themselves were much better behaved this year, almost certainly as a result of decisions taken last year concerning serious misbehaviour. We still have to patiently explain the 'no mobile phones' in the playing hall to parents (and no, having them on silent is not an excuse), and some conversations were a bit loud, but the spectators were pretty good this year as well.
There were a couple of interesting incidents in the tournament, including a game in the Premier where a player accidentally captured his own piece (two minute penalty and he had to move the piece first touched). A few players are still confused about the time control, with one game seeing both players surf the 30s increment until move 70, not realising that an extra 30 minutes was added when one clock went to zero. Next year we may shift the Premier back to a straight 90m+30s, in part because of this confusion.
The level of withdrawals was thankfully low, with only a few forfeits (one of which was the organisers fault), and 'silent' withdrawals. Disappointingly the last round of the Premier had one player forfeit his game stating he was unwell, but this seemed to be a short term illness as he hung around to watch the complete round.
I'd like to thank the rest of the team for their work this year. Charles Zworestine (Premier), Alana Chibnall (Major), Lee Forace (Minor) and Miona Ikeda (Under 1200) put in an enormous number of hours to make the tournament a success, and I for one am very grateful for their efforts.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Oh No, another time waster

Blizzard have just released a free version of the original StarCraft, along with the expansion. It has been patched to fix any bugs that have been noticed over the last 8 years(!) and runs under all the Window releases (including 10). You can download it from the Blizzard site.