Tuesday, 24 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 0

Quite a busy day yesterday, which is the reason for the missing blog post. Most of it was taken up with settling in to the hotel, a bit of sightseeing, and working out the various ways of getting to the venue. It turns out we didn't do the last bit quite as well as we could, as this mornings round (for the challengers) necessitated a shift to taxi's so Harry didn't forfeit his first round.
Gibraltar is nice, and obviously small. For Canberran's it is about the same size as Amaroo and Ngunawal combined, although we don't have a huge rock in the middle. The rock does present a bit of a problem, as our hotel is quite close to the venue, but only if there was a tunnel drilled through it. Otherwise it is about a 55 minute walk (although a lot quicker by bus).
The Masters begins tomorrow at 3pm (1am Wednesday Canberra time), and runs over 10 rounds. Already the top seeds are arriving, as I spotted Caruana, Adams and Svidler at the Calata Hotel. There will be a lecture by GM Ray Keene at the venue this evening, followed by the opening ceremony. Indeed, every night has a different social activity for the players, including master classes, novelty blitz events, and simuls.
I'm not sure how the round times (and time zone shifts) will affect my blogging, but hopefully I will be able to report sometime after the round is finished (which is likely to be late morning Canberra time)

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Next stop Gibraltar

The final leg of my chess holiday start tomorrow, with a morning flight to Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Masters starts on Tuesday, with 256 players in the top section. I'm currently seeded 228th and expect a couple of tough rounds before a find my level. I'm not expecting a stellar result (given my current form), but hopefully I will get some tough games, and some good practice.
The Masters is a 10 round event, with Caruana as the top seed. There are 72 GM's, 51 IM's and 39 FM's. From Australia IM Bobby Cheng and FM Zachary Loh are playing, and there are players from 55 Federations.
The tournament website is http://www.gibraltarchesscongress.com/ and contains details on the main event, as well as the supporting tournaments.

Friday, 20 January 2017

2017 Oceania Zonal - Smirnov and Timergazi win events

IM Anton Smirnov (AUS) has finished outright first in the 2017 Oceania Zonal. Leading by half a point going into the last round, he drew a dramatic game against FM Karl Zelesco on the top board, which ended in a repetition after Zelesco sacrificed two rooks and Smirnov missed a move that refuted the whole attack. This result gave GM Max Illingworth and IM Ari Dale a chance to catch Smirnov, but both players could only draw their last round games.
WFM Layla Timergazi (NZL) finished first in the 2017 Oceania Women's Zonal, drawing her last round game with WFM Helen Milligan (NZL). She scored 7.5/9 and will receive the WIM title for her victory. Kathryn Hardegen (AUS) and Alana Chibnall finished in equal second after winning their last round games, and both have earned the WFM title.
This event proved to be a bit of a bonanza for title hunters, with a number of newly minted (W)FM's and (W)CM's. From a Canberra perspective it was very rewarding, with Michael Kethro scoring 6/9 to earn his FM title, and Albert Winkelman going within a whisker of drawing his last round game , which would have also given him 6 points (he can claim the CM title as consolation). Of course every zonal reignites the debate about whether the players deserve the title, and you can follow the latest instalment here. (NB If you have followed this thread in the past, only the dates on the postings will have changed, not the content of those posts)

Chibnall,Alana - Smith,Viv [B07]
2017 Oceania Women's Zonal , 19.01.2017

Thursday, 19 January 2017

A pint, a curry, with a Kings Gambit on the side

I'm not sure if I'm singing for my supper, but I did get roped in to playing a Leeds League much yesterday evening. It turned out to be an A/B match where the Leeds CC A team was playing the Leeds CC B teams. The A team was quite strong (IM, FM on boards 1&2) while Harry and I were dropped in to the B team on the top 2 boards.
In the end the A team gave the B's a going over (4.5-0.5), although I managed ti grab half a point. As you can see from the score they do things a little differently up north. 5 board matches is a little odd, and each team member plays the same colour (ie we were all black against the A team). Finally, the time limit is still a little 'old-fashioned' with 35 moves in 75 minutes, followed by 15 minutes to finish. I believe that the league is looking to move towards increments, but are still trying to solve the issue of fixed closing times at venues.
After the match both teams retired to a near by bar, before some of us partook in that most English of traditions, the late night curry. It all finished up around midnight, which was just the right time to watch round 8 of the Oceania Zonal from Auckland.

Gantner,Matthias - Press,Shaun [C34]
Leeds League , 18.01.2017

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Hans Berliner 1929-2017

Hans Berliner, former World Correspondence Chess champion, passed away a few days ago. He was an ICCF GM as well as a FIDE IM, and was also well known for his work in the field of computer science.
A Professor at Carnegie-Mellon, he helped developed the chess program Hitech, as well as the Backgammon program BKG 9.8, which defeated the Backgammon World Champion in a short match in 1979.
He was the World Champion in CC from 1965-68 and defeated Yakov Estrin in a celebrated game. After this he returned to University to complete his PhD, and had a long career in Comptuer Science, with an emphasis on Computer Chess.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

2017 Oceania Zonal

Instead of staying up late to watch chess tournaments in Europe, I'm currently staying up late to watch the 2017 Oceania Zonal from New Zealand.  Last night was a double round "day" so I got to see the early round, and woke up to get the round 6 results. GM Max Illingworth leads the Open with 5.5/6 (ahead of 5 players), while Layla Timergazi leads the Women's Zonal on 5/6 (with 3 in 2nd).
I've also been following the performance of Canberra players closely. Albert Winkelman is doing very well in the Open, currently on 4.5/6 which is enough for a CM title. Michael Kethro is on 4/6, and should have no trouble earning that title as well. (I was planning to show a nice win by Kethro over IM Anthony Ker, but the game, result, and possibly the names don't seem to line up).
In the Women's Zonal Alana Chibnall is in 2nd on 4.5/6 (WCM title if she wants it), but having played 3 of the top 4 seeds, is hoping for a top 3 finish at least.
Tournament results from the Open are here, and there is a link to the Women's Zonal there as well.

Monday, 16 January 2017

4NCL Weekend - Part 2

The second day of the 4NCL went pretty much the same as the first for me, in that a played the opening poorly, tried to survive, and eventually lost. Harry Press at least proved one family member can still play chess, finishing the weekend with a nice win, while the White Rose 1 team won their match on the top section.
Of course while events like this work in the UK (and Europe), sadly the issue of distance prevents this from working the same way in Australia. I'd guess that at least 30 million people live within 3 hours of the venue, which makes finding teams a lot easier. Also the sheer number of players rated above 2000 who took part (at least 80% of the 250 players) makes the event competitive all the way through. I suspect the only way an event like this might work in Australia is a one-shot event each year, held over a long weekend. But even then I couldn't see more than 60 players deciding to play.

Press,Harry - Burnett,Andrew [E15]
4NCL Northampton, 15.01.2017