Friday, 31 July 2015

Crude but effective tactics

A little gem turned up on my doorstep the other day. "Samuel Lipschutz. A Life in Chess" by Stephen Davies, chronicles the chess career of Samuel Lipschutz, one of leading American players of the late 19th Century. But as it has just arrived (and I have only just started to read it), a full review will wait for another day.
Instead I simply mention an interesting story that occurs early in the book. Lipschutz lived in New York, and one of the great attractions of the time was "Ajeeb" the Chess playing automaton. It was hosted at the Musee Eden, and it cost 50c to enter the Eden, 10c to see the Automaton, and a further 10c to play against Ajeeb. While it was billed as a chess machine, from contemporary reports it was clear that most people assumed that there was a person hidden inside. While this did not diminish the popularity of the attraction, it did allow for a little skulduggery on the part of one of its opponents.
A player (not Lipschutz in this case), described in the book as "a man, ... , who everybody beats at his chess club" managed to defeat Ajeeb, when so many stronger players could not. His simple strategy was to light up a cigar ("fearfully bad") and blow as much smoke into Ajeeb as he could. Clearly this had a debilitating effect on the operator, who was trapped inside, whose play, and health got worse with every puff.
As for Lipschutz, he did play Ajeeb on at least twice, winning both the games that records exist of.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

2015 Politiken Cup

Oddly enough, one of the reasons why last years numbers were down at the ANU Open (as opposed to this years good turnout) was due to a tournament on the other side of the world. The 2014 Politiken Cup in Denmark was scheduled to run just before the start of the Chess Olympiad, and so a number of strong Australian players used it (instead of the ANU Open) as a warm up.
This years event did not have the benefit of serving as a lead in for the Chess Olympiad, but it seems not have troubled the event, which has attracted a record field. Having a quick look at the tournament home page I can see why it is such a success, as apart from the main event, there are lectures and simuls for players to take part in. The line up of lecturers is quite impressive, with Timman, Sune Berg Hansen and  Agaard amongst the talent. There is even a lecture from Chessbase about how to use Chessbase effectively, which I am sure will be very popular.
As for the hordes of Australian's playing, this year it is down to 1. IM Justin Tan (who is based in Europe) is taking part, and after a 3/3 start has slowed down a little to sit on 3.5/5. With such a large field (431 players) 5 rounds is still not enough to separate the leaders and their are still 4 players with 5/5. The tournament is showing around 60 games live, and with online commentary, it may just be the distraction I need from what is turning out to be a catastrophic start for Australian in the cricket!

The ups and downs of turn based chess

Apart from my ICCF based chess, I also play some turned based chess on This differs from usual CC in that each move has a fixed time limit (usually 3 to 5 days per move). So you cannot build up time by moving quickly, as the clock simply restarts with every move.
To be honest I don't mind this format, as it means I have to look at my game on a regular basis. On the ICCF server I often fall into the trap of briefly looking at a game, then coming back to it over a week, before realising I have to play 5 moves in 2 days. On the other hand it seems a little easier for me to play a 'casual' move in the turn based format, as the following game demonstrates.
At various points I thought I had found a winning line, only to realise it didn't quite work. And when I did find a winning line I immediately undid my good work by castling, allowing my opponent to recover some material. Fortunately I was able to reach a winning ending, but even then it took a large amount of work (and a few inaccurate moves by me) before the game was put to bed.

Messi000 (1958) - shaunpress (2273)
Let's Play!, 09.05.2015

Monday, 27 July 2015

No more English GM's?

I was having a look at the field for the 2015 British Championship and I noticed a strange distribution of titled players. The Championship has done well to attract 11 GM's, but oddly, only has 3 IM's playing. In a similar fashion, there are 12 players rated above 2400, but only another 9 above 2200.
I'm pretty sure this situation has occurred somewhat regularly in recent years, and have seen discussion of this situation on the English Chess Forum. It is a little similar (on a larger scale) to what happened with the Australian Open in 2007 (4 GM's and only 2 IM's), and I wonder why it is so.
Some of the given reasons have to do with the likelihood of winning prizes against the cost of playing, which if true, does strike me as odd. An admission that you don't quite have what it takes to move to the next level is one that most top players would never openly make, but essentially it seems to be saying the same thing. Conditions might be another issue, although the solution to that is of course becoming a GM yourself.  Otherwise I am at a loss to come up with a rational reason for the absence of GM's, unless it is simply that England has generated as many GM's as it can, and there are no more left to be had!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

2015 ANU Open Day 2

IM Andrew Brown has become the first player to win the ANU Open three years in a row, after an exciting final round. He started the day with a win of overnight leader IM Junta Ikeda, before maintaining his lead with a win over Jason Hu. In the final round he was paired against WIM Emma Guo, and after overpressing an attack fund himself down a piece. However he had some compensation, in the shape of a trapped opposition bishop, but the smart money was on an upset win for Guo. But with both players running short og time, he continually frustrated Guo's attempts to promote a pawn, and after one final misstep, was able to draw the game.
His score of 6/7 (+5=2) was enough to win the tournament by half a point over IM Anton Smirnov. Smirnov started the day badly, with a loss to Jason Hu, before finishing with 2 wins, including a crucial last round win over IM Junta Ikeda. As a result Ikeda finished in a tie for third place with Canberra junior player Michael Kethro.
The Minor event (Under 1600) was won by Nhorval Valle, who started the day with 2 more wins (to go with the 4 from yesterday) before being held to a draw by Hikaru Oka in the final round. The draw by Oka gave him a share of 2nd place, alongside Jared Plane and Bazli Karattiyattil. The 56 player event was very competitive with Joshua Lee (5/7) winning the Under 1200 prize and Ruofan Xu (4.5/7) winning the Under 1000 prize.
With 83 players taking part, this years event was a big success. The tournament ran smoothly (if a little overtime on the first day), and the competitors enjoyed themselves. The 7 round format can be tough (especially on older players), but everyone got their money's worth.
The rest of the ANU Chess Festival sees the ANU High Schools and Primary Schools Teams Championships, and numbers are already looking good for these events. Thanks for a succesful tournament should go to Shun Ikeda, Paul Dunn and IA Charles Zworestine, as well as all the volunteers who helped throughout the weekend.

Brown,Andrew - Guo,Emma [D85]
2015 ANU Open Canberra, Australia (7.1), 26.07.2015

Saturday, 25 July 2015

2015 ANU Open Day 1

At the end of a gruelling 4 round day, IM Junta Ikeda is the outright leader of the 2015 ANU Open. He was the only player to go 4 from 4, beating IM Richard Jones in round 3, and CM jason Hu in round 4. He is closely followed by IM's Anton Smirnov and Andrew Brown, who drew their round 3 game, and won all the rest.
The tournament has attracted 83 players across the 2 sections (27 in Open, 56 in Minor), which is up 20 players from last year. The Open is headed by 4 IM's (Smirnov, Jones, Ikeda and Brown), with 5 other players rated above 2000. Tomorrow mornings round sees an all local clash on board 1, with Ikeda and Brown playing for the lead, going into the final two rounds.
In the Minor (Under 1600) section David Zanon, Jared Plane and Nhorval Valle share the lead with 4/4. Apart from the surprise performance of the unrated Valle, Jaykob Brooks-Johnson (3/4) and Nellie Clayden (2/4 in her first ever tournament) are among some of the lower rated players who have impressed on the first day.

Full results from the tournament, as well as a link to live coverage of the top two boards can be found at And if you missed some of today's action, here is the exciting round 3 game between IM Andrew Brown and IM Anton Smirnov, where Brown failed to find the win when down to his last seconds, and Smirnov held on the draw the game.

Brown,Andrew - Smirnov,Anton [D15]
2015 ANU Open Canberra, Australia (3.1), 25.07.2015

Friday, 24 July 2015

ANU Chess Festival Day 1

The 2015 ANU Chess Festival began with its now traditional city chess activity at King O'Malley's Pub. While in years past it was a lunchtime simul, it has since been replaced by a teams blitz event. This year 9 teams of 2 players turned up for the 5 round swiss, which turned out to be a close affair. Some of the teams represented the local clubs (ANU Scholars, Belco Blitzers), some were work related (The Budget Busters from Treasury/Finance) while others were made up of players who shared a common interest.
Going into the last round the ANU Scholars lead the next 4 teams by half a point (7 v 6.5), but a 2-0 win by the Scholars over Readings Rebels left them a full point ahead of the Belco Blitzers. This was the second time in 3 years that the ANU Chess Club has provided the winning team, which for this year consisted of Harry Press and Miles Patterson. It was a fun event, and the only regret from the players was that it should have run for longer!
Tomorrow the 2015 ANU Open begins at the ANU School of Art. At this stage there are 76 players entered (once I excluded Magnus Carlsen, Gary Kasparov and Hikaru Nakamura from the entry list), and a few more should enter on the day. The tournament website is as and I hope to broadcast the top 2 games from the open each round.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Chess and doping

The topic of random drug testing in chess events is a subject I am well acquainted with (see here for some of the details), so when the topic comes up I do take an interest.
The latest piece on this topic comes from WIM Salomeja Zaksaite, who discusses it in terms of general issues, and legal ones. Possibly the most interesting point concerns whether doping control in chess is "proportionate to the aim that is being sought to achieve?" The seems to hint that the restrictiveness caused drug testing might actually fall foul of the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights. As a result anyone who refuse to take a test (as I did) and is sanctioned may be able to have this sanction overturned.
But I suggest you read the paper yourself (I do get a mention btw) and make up your own mind about what the author is saying. It is worth noting that since 2004 FIDE did change their drug testing policy so that only players rated 2700 and above get tested, at least removing the burden on the vast majority of competitors.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Biel Chess Festivel

The annual Biel Chess Festival began the other day, and already there has been plenty of entertaining chess. Normally I am not a fan of the 6 player double round robin (as it leads to a lot of shadow boxing), but the organisers have invited a fairly combative group of players. No one in the top 15, but a close grouping of players ranked 17 to 31 (plus 19 year old Richard Rapport). As a result it is less of a battle between the players plus seconds, and more of a battle between clashing ideas.
The feature game from round 2 was the Rapport v Adams game. Rapport played a Kings Gambit (becoming a more frequent visitor at the top these days), while Adams responded with a defence that was popular in the 1970's but one I don't see so much these days. In a game that would make "structural purists" gasp in horror, Rapport looked to be winning, until Adams found a nice counter attack to force a draw.
Alongside the GM event is a Masters tournament, which contains plenty of GM's as well. Of interest (at least to me) are two non GM competitors, IM John-Paul Wallace (AUS), and FM Sunil Weeramantry, who is GM Hikaru Nakamura's step father.

Rapport,R (2671) - Adams,Mi (2740) [C36]
48th Biel GM 2015 Biel SUI (2), 21.07.2015

I missed International Chess Day

July 20th is International Chess Day, but for some reason I missed it. Possibly due to time zone differences, as the day is almost over when Europe wakes up. I am not sure how widely it is celebrated, but everyone seemed to get an email from Kirsan Ilyumzhinov thanking us for being chess players (If you didn't just ask to see my copy)
I did see a smattering of related news, where some cities organised simuls, but I am not sure it was really celebrated with any great gusto. Something to work on for next year perhaps?

Monday, 20 July 2015

Play with your city

I have come across another novel design for a chess set, this time using architectural themes for piece design.  Skyline Chess have used some iconic buildings from the London skyline to symbolise chess pieces, with the pieces either being matched to form, or importance. For example rook are represented by Big Ben, while the Canary Wharf building is the King (money never sleeps!). The most interesting choice is of the London Eye as the knight, but I guess it makes sense, in terms of where knights can end up!
This concept can obviously be extended to other cities of the world, although some may be easier to adapt than others. Sydney has a few obvious candidates (Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Centrepoint Tower), although Canberra may find it a little harder. If I had to have a stab at it I might choose

  • King = Parliament House
  • Queen = High Court
  • Bishop = National Library
  • Knight = Captain Cook Fountain
  • Rook = War Memorial
  • Pawn = Black Mountain Tower
Not convinced about my choice for the Knight, and maybe Black Mountain Tower should be promoted to something more important!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Player or players wanted

The Correspondence Chess League of Australia is looking for a female player to represent the country at the 10th Ladies Olympiad, which starts on 1 September 2015. Unlike the OTB Olympiad, this Olympiad will not cost you anything except time, as all the games are played over the internet.
Australia currently has 3 players for the team, but needs a board 4 player to take part. There is no requirement to have played Correspondence Chess before, although experience at online chess is helpful.
If you fit the bill, and wish to represent Australia at the international level, feel free to get in touch with me as soon as possible. The deadline for submitting a complete team is pretty close, and so speed is of the essence.

And slowly it dawns on you

When I get inspired to study some 'hacking' chess, I often look at the games of Joseph Henry Blackburne aka 'The Black Death'. He was an attacking player of the first order, and his collection of games remains one of my favourites. Indeed, when looking through his games I often come across new ideas or surprise finishes that I have not seen before.
When I first saw the moves to the following game I thought it must have ended by mistake (or the moves were cut off in my database). Then it dawned on me that Black was in serious trouble, no matter what they did (eg 12 ... Rf8 13.Qh5) I suspect that this was the same experience that his opponent had, as he played no further moves in this position!

Blackburne,Joseph Henry - De Vere,Cecil Valentine [C60]
BCA-02.Challenge Cup London, 1868

Friday, 17 July 2015

Being distracted by sport

Winding down from the Oceania Zonal, I find myself increasingly distracted by late night sport. The collision of Australia v England in the Cricket, the Tour de France, the British Open Gold, as well as various other options has resulted in late nights, and less of a focus on chess. Not that I am complaining, as every now and then the brain needs a break of 64 black and white squares.
However it will ramp up again in the next week, with the 2015 ANU Open. As this event is part of the ANU Chess Festival, there will be other events (Blitz, Schools tournaments) to go with it, meaning I should have my hands full.
Speaking of the Oceania Zonal, almost all the games from the event have been uploaded. These can be found at, as part of the tournament results (just some round 8 games in the open to go). Many thanks to Alana Chibnall, Charles Zworestine, Brian Jones, Ian Rogers, Cathy Rogers, David Webster and Nick Cooper for typing these in (apologies if I have missed anyone btw)
And speaking of sport, Steve Smith just brought up his double century!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

2015 ANU Open

The 2015 Australian National University Open is just a week and a half away. This year is the 23rd running of this event, which started in the early 1990's, to encourage more people to visit Canberra in winter!
In fact winter is one of the best times to visit Canberra, as while it may be chilly, the weather is often fantastic (clear blue skies and sunshine!). And with it being the off season for tourists, you can get to see the cities attractions while avoiding the crowds (Questacon, Old Parliament House, and the National Gallery are all good places to see).
Of course the 23rd ANU Open should be the main attraction, with a prize fund of $3300, and a strong field already shaping up. As in previous years the tournament is split into 2 sections, with an Open, and an U/1600 event. First prize in the Open is $1000, while the Under 1600 has $500 as the top prize.

Further details are

  • Venue: ANU School of Art, Childers St, Acton (10 minutes walk from the city)
  • Dates: Saturday 25th, and Sunday 26th July 2015
  • Format: 7 round swiss (4 rounds Saturday, 3 rounds Sunday)
  • Time Control: G60m+10s
  • Entry Fee: $70 Adult, $50 Concession (if registered before 18 July)
If you wish to register online, simply go to and click on the event you wish to play in. You will get the earlybird discount if you register, even if you do not pay until the day of the event! (NB The Vesus system uses FIDE ratings for registered players, so it may show Over 1600 rated players in the Under 1600 event. Be assured these players have ratings Under 1600 on the ACF list)

And if you get to Canberra early, or are a local looking for some fun, then drop into King O'Malleys on Friday from 5pm for the ACT teams Blitz Event. It is for teams of 2, and is a 5 round swiss. No entry fee and anyone can come and play!

(NB I am an unpaid official for this event)

Finished my first event

Apart from being an International Arbiter, I have started directing some tournaments for the ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation). The roles has a slightly different title (Tournament Director) but the responsibilities are generally the same. Nonetheless it is a little easier to be a TD than an IA, as my role is a lot more hands off. With most CC played on servers these days, there are no worries about illegal moves, forgetting to press the clock, or players disturbing their opponents.
Mostly it is dealing with queries about opponents who have 'gone silent', claims for wins on time, and draw claims. Otherwise the process (including result collection) is mainly automated.
Happily I have had very few issues so far, and just this evening, completed my first tournament. It was a round robin for the North America/Pacific Zone (NZPF) and was won by Daniel Fisher (USA). I am pleased to say there were no dramas with this tournament and it was quite exciting, with the top four all within a point of each other. I'm pleased it was a pretty easy introduction to CC arbiting, and I hope to direct many more events in the future.

Fisher,Daniel E - Rogers,Dustin
NAPZ/WS/O/52 ICCF, 23.01.2015

Monday, 13 July 2015

Push counters for clocks

A few days ago I was asked to comment on whether "Push Counters" (to use their proper name) should be used in chess competitions. For those unfamiliar, some models of Digital Clocks (including all official FIDE clocks) can keep track of the number of times the clock has been pressed during the game. This allows the clock to add additional time for second and subsequent time controls.
The correctness of this process assumes that the number of pushes equals the number of moves played. If players accidentally push the clock too many times, extra time may be added before the first time control has been reached. On the other hand, if a player forgets to press their clock, then players may wonder why they have not been given extra time.
When this feature first came in, I was wary of using it. I figured that there would be too many problems, and arbiters would have to interrupt games at move 38-42 to fix these issues. It turns out that my fears were unfounded.
The first big event where I used "push counters" was at the 2012 Queenstown tournament in New Zealand. It was a large event, and it had a reasonably complicated time control (40/100m, 20/50m, G/15m+30s per move from move 1). The clock needed to keep track of 40 moves, then a further 20 moves to add the required time. Apart from being a little slow to set before the first round, there were very few problems during the event. The number of extra/insufficient pushes problems could be counted on 1 hand, and in a couple of instances, a fault with the clock was the problem. Certainly the arbiting team checked boards around the first and second time controls, but the system worked as advertised. It also had the added benefit of players feeling a little more comfortable, as they always knew how much time they had available to them.
Since then I have used "push counters" more than I have not. For the Doeberl Cup we use them, and there have been very few problems. At this years Zonal, there was 1 major problem (caused by players hitting the clock too many times), and a couple of minor ones (not hitting the clock enough), but not even close to a number that would make me rethink using this option.
The alternative, which is to allow the clock to run to 0 before adding time, has its own problems. Anecdotally, players may rush their moves after the time control, worried about what will happen if they allow their clock to run down (As an aside, Magnus Carlsen lost against Topalov in part because he assumed that this system was in place, and expected extra time once his clock reached 0). When this setting has been used, I am often asked by players at the board about when they get extra time, meaning I have to interrupt the game anyway.
There are also some time controls that require the use of a push counter. Some tournaments only start an increment after a certain number of moves (40 or 60), so the clock has to know when this move number has been reached.
As for whether you "must" use this option, the choice is still up to arbiters. The FIDE Arbiters Manual mentions their use, without mandating it. Certainly this setting is not used at the Olympiad, although I think it would be better if it did. And if you are an arbiter I would recommend you do use it, both to gain experience for bigger/more important competitions, and that players seem to prefer having time added when they reach the time control, rather than at some random time afterwards.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Australia v Norway - Final result

A fortnight ago an Australian Women's team played a Norwegian Women's team in a 6 board match, hosted by the chess server Despite being outrated on each board the Australian team drew the match 3-3 with Alana Chibnall and Giang Nguyen winning their games. Emma Guo and Leteisha Simmonds drew , while Heather Richards and Alexandra Jule lost. The match went pretty smoothly, although a couple of players were flagged by the server when they possibly still had some time on the clock (1 player from each side).
As part of the publicity from the match WIM Heather Richards did a radio interview with SBS for their Norwegian service, and you can listen to it here. Although the interview is in English, Heather could well have conducted it in Norwegian having spent some time their as a student a number of year ago.
The match was held at the end of a training session for a group of leading Australian female players, held alongside the JETS training squad on the Gold Coast. The good result for the players should be helpful for Australian chess, as it puts forward a number of Olympiad contenders for the 2016 Baku team.

Haug,Marianne W (2042) - Chibnall,Alana (1922) [C60]
AUS vs NOR Women's Online Match, 28.06.2015

On the topic of titles

Like swallows returning to Capistrano, the discussion of "cheap" titles always comes up around the top of the Oceania Zonal. Usually it is the same characters returning to the debate as well, proving that some people will never be happy.
In the case of the 2015 Oceania Zonal (Open), there was 1 IM (International Master) title, 3 FM (FIDE Master) titles and possibly 38 CM (Candidate Master) titles awarded. In the case of the IM and FM titles, the Australian Chess Federation (all players were from Australia btw) pay the fees for these titles. For the CM title it is up to the player to pay the 50 euro fee.
In the distant past the angst was about players receiving the FIDE Master title. Up until the turn of the millennium a player needed to score 50% in a zonal for recieve the title. This was fine until Zonal's became large swisses (as opposed to smaller Round robins), when events were awarding a large number of titles. As a lot of players received their FM title by getting their rating above 2300, and a lot of newer FM's did not have this rating, there was a lot of argument about who really deserved to be an FM. But given that the FM title was (at the time), the lowest title you could achieve, I never understood why some FM's felt that 'their' title had been devalued by this process, given that it was designed to cover a whole range of strengths.
Nonetheless FIDE introduced a lower title, the Candidate Master title. One change to the title system saw the qualification level for FM's at a zonal (50%) become the new requirement for the CM, while the FM was moved up to the old IM mark (65%). I would have thought this would have made the previously aggrieved FM's happy (and note, I am referring to a couple of specific and well known FM's in Australia), but it seems that the notion that anyone below a certain strength receiving a title somehow devalues their own title. All this shows to be me is a certain fragility of ego, as I don't see how this effects their own achievements.
My take on the whole matter of CM titles is that they are a good thing. For some players it will obviously be a stepping stone to higher titles, but for others, it will be the highest title they are likely to achieve. In both cases it makes sense to take the title, although I understand the reasons why some may not. Personally I would like to see more CM's in the region as it would combat the snobbery that works against taking the title, a snobbery that comes from people, who as I said previously, are never going to be happy anyway.

(Now for a couple of disclaimers: I have received both the CM and FM titles. Both were achieved for performances at the Chess Olympiad earning the CM title in 2008 and the FM title for my performance in the 2002 Olympiad, although it was awarded much later. I recognise that the FM title I earned is a distinct over achievement based on my actual chess strength, but I did score an undefeated 6/9 at a Chess Olympiad to earn it. And while I may have had concerns about taking it at an earlier time, the whole debate about who was a "real" FM actually made it a simple decision for me!
The second is that my son earned the CM title at the 2015 Oceania Zonal. At the time of writing this he has indicated he will not be claiming the title. He feels that as the FM title is an achievable goal, this is what he is aiming for)

Saturday, 11 July 2015

2015 Oceania Zonal - Final Day

The final day of the 2015 Oceania Zonal saw a surprising and dramatic end to the Open Zonal, with Brodie McClymont beating IM Max Illingworth in the final round. The result allowed McClymont to catch Illingworth on 7.5. IM Anton Smirnov had a chance to join them, but could only draw with Pengyu Chen leaving him on 7, along with FM Malcolm Stephens.
As a result of the two way tie, there was a playoff match between Illingworth and McClymont. Following the playoff format from the World Cup, the players played 2 25m+10s games. In the first game McClymont missed a couple of drawing lines, and two queens (against knight and rook) was enough for Illingworth to go one up. In the second game McClymont had a clear advantage, but failed to capitalise on having queen and rook charging down the h file and after Illingworth set up a successful defence, Brodie offered a draw, conceding the match.
Illingworth is now the Zone 3.6 representative for the World Cup which is being held in Baku later this year. As a consolation, McClymont received a share of first prize, as well as earning the International Master title for sharing first place.  FM Malcom Stephens capped a fine tournament with a win over IM Junta Ikeda, therebye finishing third on countback and earning a 9 game IM norm. Chen, Zachary Loh and Kevin O'Chee all earned the FM title (for scoring 6 or above), while there were around 40 player(!) who scored 50% or above, earning the Candidate Matster title (if they wish to claim it).
In the Women's Zonal, WIM Emma Guo beat WFM Layla Timergazi to win the tournament on 7/9. WIM Nancy Lane was outright 2nd on 6.5, while WIM Biljana Dekic and Katherine Quek tied for third on 6. Quek missed out on Bronze on countback, but does become a WFM from this tournament.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

2015 Oceania Zonal - Day 6

IM Max Illingworth's charge to first place in the 2015 Oceania Zonal has slowed a little, after drawing with IM Anton Smirnov in round 8. The 26 move draw still leaves Illingworth a full point ahead of the field, but does give a couple of opponents a chance to catch up in the final round. Illingworth is paired against Brodie McClymont, and a win for McClymont would leave both players on 7.5 points. If that does happen, then Smirnov can possibly join them with a win over Pengyu Chen. In the case of two players tieing for first the tournament regulations stipulate a playoff to take place straight after the completion of the round, but in the case of a 3 way tie, the title goes straight to tie-breaks.
The Women's Zonal has a closer finish in store, with WIM Emma Guo holding a half point lead over WIM Nancy Jones. With WIM Biljana Dekic and Kristine Quek only a point behind Guo, there is at least one set of results that could lead to a multiple tie for first. However none of the leaders play each other, so Guo should still be the favourite to win this event.
Last round action starts at 10:30 am tomorrow. Live coverage of the top 5 boards from the open, plus the top board from the Women's Zonal can be found at the tournament web site.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

2015 Oceania Zonal - Day 5

IM Max Illingworth has maintained his perfect record in the 2015 Oceania Zonal, scoring his 7th consecutive victory. Today he defeated FM Malcolm Stephens in 26 moves to remain a point ahead of second place. The only player in touching distance of Illingworth is IM Anton Smirnov, and as fate would have it, they play in tomorrow's round. A win for Smirnov would at least give the chasing pack a chance to catch up, while Illingworth would be assured of at least equal first with a draw, regardless of his final round result.
Back in third place are a group of players either hoping for a chance at first, or to score enough points to earn a title. The currently untitled Brodie McClymont would earn an FM title with a draw or win tomorrow, while a win for FM Gene Nakauchi would leave him well placed for an IM norm (earned by the top 3 place getters).
The Women's Zonal sees WIM Emma Guo pushing her lead out to the full point after a couple of results went her way in today's round. A quick draw with WIN Nancy Lane might have allowed WIM Biljana Dekic to catch up, but Dekic lost to WIM Katherine Jarek. With two rounds to play Guo is leading on 5.5/7 and having played her closest rivals is well placed to win this event.

Wallis,Christopher - Smirnov,Anton [D11]
2015 Oceania Zonal (7.2), 08.07.2015

2015 Oceania Zonal - Day 4

IM Max Illingworth has extended his lead in the 2015 Oceania Zonal to a full point, after winning his round 5&6 games. He defeated 2nd seed IM Moulthun Ly in the morning round, and 4th seed IM Junta Ikeda in the afternoon round. With 6/6 he leads a pack of players on 5 points, made up of IM Anton Smirnov, Brodie McClymont, FM Malcolm Stephens and FM Chris Wallis. FM Malcolm Stephens continued his good return to top level chess with a win over defending champion IM Igor Bjelobrk. So far he is unbeaten in the tournament, but faces his toughest test tomorrow when he takes on Illingworth.
The Women's Zonal saw a change at the top with WIM Emma Guo overtaking previous leader WIM Biljana Dekic. Guo defeated Dekic in their round 5 game, before beating WIM Katherine Jarek in round 6. Dekic played WIM Nancy Lane is round 6, but was could only draw despite pushing for the full point.
Tomorrow is a single round day with an early start (10:30am). Fill results and links to live coverage can be found at the tournament website.

Monday, 6 July 2015

2015 Oceania Zonal - Day 3

IM Max Illingworth holds the outright led of the 2015 Oceania Zonal, with 4 wins from 4 games. He beat IM Igor Goldenberg on board 1, while his closest challengers drew on Board 2&3. Tomorrow is another double round day (the last), and starts off with Illingworth up against second seed IM Moulthun Ly. Of the 7 players on 3.5/4 Zachary Loh is the real high achiever, beating IM Ari Dale and drawing with IM Igor Bjelobrk in successive rounds. He is currently second on tie-break and is on track for an IM norm.
There were a couple of other meritorious performances from overseas participants. Calvin Prasad drew with FM Malcolm Stephens to reach 3/4, joined by CM Alphaeus Ang who beat IM Ari Dale. PNG rep Stuart Fancy also scored his 3rd win of the tournament to keep his good run going.
In the Women's Zonal WIM Biljana Dekic leads with 4/4. After a slow start WIM Emma Guo has moved up to 3/4, and they play in tomorrow mornings game. With the rest of the field at least another half point back, this might be the game that decides the tournament.

Illingworth,Max (2506) - Goldenberg,Igor (2341) [A00]
Oceania Zonal 2015 Sydney, Australia (4.1), 06.07.2015

Oceania Zonal 2015 - Random Games

Thought I might throw out a random selection of interesting games from the 2015 Oceania Zonal. The first is a nice win by IM Stephen Solomon over FM Michael Steadman

Solomon,Stephen - Steadman,Michael [B06]
2015 Oceania Zonal (3.5), 05.07.2015

2015 Oceania Zonal - Day 2

The second day of the 2015 Oceania Zonal was the first of 2 double round days,  and saw the leading pack begin to thin out. The first surprise of the morning round was 2nd seed IM Moulthun Ly being held to a draw by Calvin Prasad of Fiji. This was followed by a number of draws in the afternoon round, with IM Anton Smirnov drawing with FM Malcolm Stephens, IM Junta Ikeda drawing with Brodie McClymont, and Zachary Lo's win over FM Karl Zelesco being the most significant results.
Nonetheless there are still 6 players on a perfect 3/3. IM Max Illingworth leads this group, with IM's Lane, Bjelobrk, Goldenberg, Solomon plus Loh to keep him company.
The women's Zonal has also had its fair share of upsets, with WIM Biljana Dekic the only player on 3/3. Kristine Quek holds outright 2nd on 2.5, ahead of a group of 4 players on 2/3.
Tomorrow is a single round day, with the action starting at 1pm. The top board pairings see Illingworth v Goldenberg, Bjelobrk v Loh, and Lane v Solomon.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

2015 Oceania Zonal - Day 1

The 2015 Oceania Zonal began with 103 players in the Open and 14 players in the Women's event. With such big numbers in the Open event (a new record), the gap between the top half and the bottom half was quite large. The top boards all went according to rating, and it wasn't until Board 20 before the first upset was recorded. This was Paul Russell's win over Jason Hu, while both Tom and Henry Slater Jones scored wins over higher rated opponents.
The Women's Zonal had a couple of semi-upsets where the Guo v Anton was quite a roller coaster, before the point was eventually split. Kashish Christian drew with Layla Timergazi, but the rest of the games went according to seeding.
The only real difficulty on the first day was with the live broadcasts (What? No!). Adding to the list of obscure things that can go wrong, a faulty extension cord failed to provide enough juice to the top boards, leading to intermittent coverage. However the problem has been fixed, so 6 boards should be in operation for the rest of the event.
Tomorrow is a double round day, with round 2 starting at 10:30am. The top two boards will be interesting from a Pacific point of view with Stuart Fancy (PNG) and Calvin Prasad (FIJ) up against the top two seeds (Illingworth and Ly).

Kelly, Adam - Illingworth, Max
2015 Oceania Zonal, 2015.07.04

A super hack

I quite like a good hack, and this one is one of the best of the modern era. 16 year Wei Yi builds up the usual king side attack, before kicking off the real fun on move 22 with Rxf7. After that it is like a playground game of chasies with the black king running to and fro. A "modern day Morphy" was one description of his play.

Wei Yi - Lazaro Bruzon
Danzhou, 3.07.2015

Friday, 3 July 2015

2015 Oceania Zonal

The 2015 Oceania Zonal begins on Saturday at the North Sydney Leagues Club, and at the moment the Open Zonal has around 100 entries. This is the largest field for zonal since the Oceania Zone was formed, and while the majority of entries are from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Papua New Guinea are also sending representatives.
The tournament is a qualifier for the upcoming FIDE World Cup, and the top of the field contains a number of players aiming for that event. Current Australian Champion Max Illingworth is the top seed, with Moulthun Ly and Anton Smirnov seeded just behind him.
The event also provides an opportunity for players to earn FIDE titles, with anyone score 50% or above eligible for a Candidate Master title, while 66% earns a FIDE Master title. FIDE have tightened up the regulations for the direct IM title from Zonal's with a player having to finish 1st to receive the title.
The tournament begins on the July 4 at the North Sydney Leagues Club at 1pm. There will be live coverage of the top boards, and spectators are most welcome. Results/pairings etc will be available from the tournament website.

(** I am a paid official for this event **)

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Don't speak to soon

As a rule I don't discuss games while they are in progress. Either my games or even games where I am not involved. This is mainly due to the fact I direct a lot of events, and I want to make sure everything is by the book.
Of course when I was younger (and before I became a serious arbiter), I often chatted about the state of my game, especially if I felt I was winning. Of course this sort of talk can lead to a quick downfall if you are not careful.
At my local chess club (ANU) this evening this almost happened. A player (who shall remain nameless) sidled up to me and said "I think have a mate in two, against any defence". I just said "uh, huh" and waited till the player returned to the board. Taking a quick glance I noticed two things. Firstly, his opponent had a fairly obvious defence, and secondly, this was almost a copy of a famous incident that occurred over 100 years ago.
In the 1911 Karlsbad tournament, Frank Marshal was up against Fedor Dus Chotimirsky. After a fairly even opening, Dus Chotimirsky spotted a chance to mate Marshall. With Queen, Knight and Bishop all converging in Marshall's King, he went even as far to explain to spectators that 'Poor Marshall dead. Must be mate'. Unfortunately there was a hole in his analysis, and after Marshall's obvious reply  he exclaimed "Oh oh. Marshall not dead, I dead" before resigning.
However, unlike Dus Chotimirsky, the confident ANU player at least ad the satisfaction of winning his game, but it did take longer than he thought.

Marshall,Frank James - Dus Chotimirsky,Fedor Ivanovich [D21]
Karlsbad Karlsbad (25), 24.09.1911

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Yoko Chess

There are very few things that I have as an absolute belief. One, Don Bradman  is simply the greatest sportsmen, of any sport, in history. Two, The Beatles produced the best music of any recording artist, ever.
So anything related to the Beatles peaks my interest. When there is a chess crossover, then my interest is doubled. These two things came together with the news that Yoko Ono has released a chess app called 'Yoko Chess'. The basic 3D version if free (for the iPad/iPhone) but you can get a premium version as well. This contains both a board where all the chess pieces are dogs, while the second set is a version of her famous all white set from 1968, titled 'Play it by Trust'.
The all white set is about showing we are all on the same side, but those who can play "Kibitzer's Chess" can also use it to play that variant.
If you want a copy, click through the story here, and follow the links.