Monday, 23 October 2017

It's now two illegal moves for everything

Although the FIDE Laws of Chess are only supposed to be changed every 4 years, and only with the approval of a FIDE General Assembly, this rule seemed to go out the window a few years back, at least once the Presidential Board decided to have its less than timely say on these matters.
So it isn't a surprise that the Laws of Chess were amended at this years FIDE Congress, apparently to provide some clarity to the wording.
However at least one major change seems to have been made, concerning the handling of illegal moves. In the past the rate of play determined how many illegal moves lost a game (1 for blitz, 3 for standard). This was then altered to 2 for standard, and 1 for rapidplay and blitz. But there was always an underlying desire to make the Laws apply equally to all forms of competition chess, and this seems to have motivated the change.
Now 2 illegal moves lose across all forms of the game, including blitz (taking effect from 1 January 2018). For the first illegal move, the 'call the arbiter over' process applies, with a 2 minute time bonus being given to the non offending side. The 2nd illegal move loses (if claimed), subject to the usual caveats.
To be fair, I don't think this is a bad idea, although I can see arbiters being run off their feet at large blitz events. For rapidplay I think it is very sensible (and is actually the system I continue to use at Street Chess). If you want to check the minutes from the meeting where the decision was made, you can do so here.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

The joy of stalemate

White to play
While at the recent Asian Seniors I enjoyed a lecture by IM Herman van Riemsdijk on 'Stalemate in Chess'. This has inspired me to look for my own examples, as part of an article I hope to include in the upcoming issue of Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly.
While looking for recent examples, I came across this gem involving GM Dejan Bojkov. In the diagrammed position it looks as though White is in a bit of trouble, as his pieces are pinned or hanging, and any wholesale exchanges just leave Black with a couple of extra pawns.
But Bojkov must have spotted an idea in the position, as he quickly found a way of forcing stalemate. At first glance it looks impossible, as White has a number of pieces that need to be eliminated, but the clue was in the location of the king, and the fact is pawns were immobilised. All he needed was to make sure g1 was covered by Black and he would be OK.
So he started with 65.Nc5 'allowing' Black to threaten mate with a queen sac. 65. ... Rxa2 66.Nxe6 Ra1 So part one of the plan completed. Now on to part 2. 67.Nxg5+ fxg5 (otherwise Nxe4 wins) 68.Rc7+ Kg8 69.Rc8+ Kf7 (the King runs towards the rook) Now White ditches his last two pieces. 70.Rf8+ Kxf8 71.Qf1+ Rxf1 1/2-1/2

Thursday, 19 October 2017

As the world turns ...

While I was busy playing seniors chess in New Zealand, I missed the soap opera about the lives and loves of the FIDE management team. The 2017 Congress saw a public airing of a number of grievances, including "I hate it when you call me names" and "You don't bring me money, anymore".
FIDE Deputy President Makropoulos gave an opening speech highly critical of current President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and the Executive Board  voted in favour of a motion asking Ilyumzhinov not to run for President again.
Now as the distance between me being on FIDE commissions and the present day gets longer (for reasons referenced here), I get less of the direct gossip and mainly receive my news second hand. So what I believe is going on may of course be wildly inaccurate. But here goes ...
Ignoring his own EB, Kirsan will run again. This is being pushed by the Russian government, who wish to show that US sanctions have no effect. While he has lost the support of the America's, Asia is still behind him (at the Continental management level).
The rest of the FIDE Management are either looking at finding a wealthy new Presidential candidate (to tip money into FIDE), or will run Makro as the candidate. Apparently Makro believes he is the only one who can run FIDE without a new source of cash.
A few 'outsider' candidates are thinking of making a run, although in this case the outsider's are actually FIDE insiders, just at a non management level (including one person from this part of the world). At this stage these candidates are not being taken seriously.
Finally, there is some serious sucking up between FIDE people and members of the losing side from the 2014 election. As was once memorably quoted in the movie Spinal Tap "Money talks, and bullshit walks"

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Thank you A.C.T. Government

The ACT Junior Chess League has just received a very generous grant from the Australian Capital Territory Government, to assist junior players taking part in next years Australian Junior Championship. The grant of $2000 is to be used to assist in the travel and entry costs of local junior players for the event which will be held in Melbourne.
At this stage it isn't clear how big the ACT contingent will be, but hopefully this grant will allow all interested players to take part.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Final Day

IM Mahmood Lodhi is the 2017 Asian Seniors Champion after beating FM Bob Smith in the final round. The win for Lodhi moved him to 7/9, and after Efram Bagamasbad could only draw with FM Leonard McLaren was enough for outright first. Unfortunately for Bagamasbad, the draw allowed both GM Darryl Johansen and FM Bruce Watson to catch him, and overtake him on tie break. As a result he missed out on the FM title by a narrow margin.
In the Veterans GM Eugene Torre completed a clean sweep with a win over Grant Kerr. FM Ewen Green finished 2nd, with Edmundo Legaspi earning the FM title with his third placed finish.
Importantly for Lodhi, first place also earned him his third and final GM norm. As a result he will become Pakistan's first GM (subject to confirmation).
As for me, I lost a tough last round game to finish on 4/9. Although I didn't make it to 50%, I at least performed slightly above my rating, so it wasn't all bad. I certainly enjoyed the tournament, and hope to play more seniors events in the coming years.
Full results for both events can be found here.


Lodhi,Mahmood (2344) - Smith,Robert W (2223) [A49]
2017 Asian Seniors (9.1), 15.10.2017



Saturday, 14 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Day 6

Round 8 of the Asian Seniors saw another upset win by Efram Bagamasbad, and he now shares the lead with IM Mahmood Lodhi. The two met in this round and for a long time Lodhi held the upper hand. But he pushed too hard for a win and it backfired on him in the ending, and Bagamasbad collected the scalp of another titled player. They're both on 6/8, half a point ahead of GM Darryl Johansen, FM Bruce Watson, FM Leonard McLaren and FM Bob Smith.
The key final round pairings sees Lodhi play Smith, McLaren against Bagamasbad, Johanesen against IM PK Chan, and Watson against FM Michael Steadman.
In the Veterans GM Eugene Torre has wrapped up first place with his 8th consecutive win. He leads by 2.5 points, and the only remaining interest in this event is who picks up the minor placings (and the FM title).
NB The final round starts at 10am local time (8am Canberra time), and will be broadcast at the links given in my earlier post.

Friday, 13 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Day 5

IM Mahmood Lodhi leads the 2017 Asian Seniors by half a pint with two rounds to play. Lodhi beat CM Don Eade to get to 6/7, half a point ahead of FM Bruce Watson. In third place is Efrem Bagamasbad, who scored an upset win over GM Darryl Johansen.  Round 8 sees Bagamasbad play Lodhi, while Watson is up against Johansen.
In the Veterans, GM Eugene Torrw scored his 7th straight win and now leads by two points with two rounds to go. David Lovejoy is outright second on 5, with Edmundo Legaspi and FM Ewen Green in third.
I've dropped back to 50% after losing to IM PK Chan. As with a number of my games at this level, my attack was just a move too slow. After that I missed a tactic and once I had run out of drawing tricks, it was time to resign.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Day 4

Day 4 of the 2017 Asian Seniors was the second (and last!) of the double round days. As a result the morning round saw a number of energy conserving draws (including my own 7 move effort), although the afternoon round was a little more full blooded.
After starting the event with 3 straight wins, GM Darryl Johansen added another 2 draws today, to fall back to 2nd place. He drew with IM Mahmood Lodhi in round 5, but Lohdi overtook hime in round 6, after Johansen drew with FM Leonard McLaren, while Lodhi beat IM PK Chan. The draw by McLaren leaves him tied for second, along with FM Bruce Watson, who beat FM Bob Smith.
In the Veterans event, GM Eugene Torre continues to dominate, reaching 6/6. FM Ewen Green was unable to stop the GM in round 6, and with Torre leading by 2 points, it is battle for 2nd and third.

As for my own results, the double round days have been reasonably kind to me. After the mornings draw, I managed to win my afternoon round to get to 3.5/6. My opponent FM Sujendra Shrestha played the very offbeat 1.e4 e5 2.g3 but after solving some early opening problems, I was able to exploit his damaged pawn structure and eventually win a QvR ending. Shresthra was the third Nepalese player I have faced in this event, and counting the couple of Olympiads, brings my score against to Nepal up to 3.5/5!

2017 Asian Seniors - Online coverage

Having taken the "non bye half point bye" this morning (otherwise known as the quick draw), I've been busy fixing up some of the online coverage for the tournament. If you want to see whats going on in real time here are the links



Wednesday, 11 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors Day 3

GM Darryl Johansen and IM Mahmood Lodhi share the lead after 4 rounds of the 2017 Asian Seniors. Johansen drew with FM Bob Smith in today's round, while Lodhi score his third straight win, beating FM Bruce Watson. The two hold a half point lead over a group of players on 3, including Smith, FM Leonard McLaren, FM Ahmed Ismail and IM Peng Kong Chan.
In the Veterans, GM Eugene Torre has kept is perfect record intact, with another win today. At first it looked as though Edmundo Legaspi might hold the opposite coloured bishop ending, but Torre kept pushing until Legaspi went wrong and lost his queenside pawns. Torre has already played a few of his closest rivals, and it looks like New Zealand hopeful FM Ewen Greene is all that stands between Torre and a tournament victory.


Torre,Eugene (2456) - Legaspi,Edmundo (2087) [B06]
2017 Asian Seniors (4.9), 11.10.2017



Tuesday, 10 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors Day 2

Day 2 of the 2017 Asian Seniors saw the first of two double round days. This normally gives players less time to prepare, but as it was rounds 2 & 3, it wasn't that critical.
Paul Spiller backed up from yesterdays draw with IM Lodhi, with a draw against FM Michael Steadman. WFM Helen Milligan also had a good day, drawing with FM Bruce Watson and finishing on 2/3.
GM Darryl Johansen leads the event overall, winning both his games today. At one stage I thought his position is round 3 game looked perilous, but a few moves later he was well and top and collected the point. In The Veterans event (65+) GM Eugene Torre leads with 3/3, scoring a couple of nice victories. Edmundo Legaspi is also on 3 points, and they face off tomorrow.
In other news, the live broadcast of the games was up an running from round three. The link to the games is at http://www.newzealandchesslive.co.nz/Live/tfd.htm

Monday, 9 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors Day 1

The first day of the 2017 Asian Seniors was almost upset free, with the top seeds winning most (but not all) of the games. Tournament organiser Paul Spiller drew with second seed IM Mahmood Lodhi, while FM Mike Steadman and CM Hilton Bennett had a quick draw in an all NZ clash.
I found myself seeded at the halfway point of the tournament, and so faced top seed GM Darryl Johansen on board 1. Despite playing a few inaccurate moves in the opening, I manged to survive my worse position until then ending, when  things began to turn in my favour. Despite losing a pawn my active rook and knight created enough play to give me distinct drawing chances, but running short of time I rejected the best line and lost a few moves later. Nonetheless I was happy with my play (at least towards the end), and I did learn something from the game.
Updated results for both the Seniors and Veterans can be found at http://www.newzealandchesslive.co.nz/Vega2017/wwwAsianSeniors/


Press,Shaun - Johansen,Darryl [B26]
2017 Asian Seniors (3), 19.08.2017



2017 Asian Seniors starts today

The 2017 Asian Seniors and Veterans starts today, 3pm Auckland New Zealand time. Unfortunately the first round games won't be broadcast live, due to a technical hitch with the DGT boards. However I expect pgn files for the game will be made available after the completion of the round, so you can catch up with the action at some stage.
I've visited the playing area and it looks quite nice. The venue has hosted a couple of previous zonals, so is familiar to a lot of the players. As an added bonus, the Waipuna Resort backs onto a lagoon, so a brisk 3.2km walk around it is a good warm up for this afternoons chess.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Most promotions

At Street Chess today I saw a game where one player promoted twice, so had three distinct queens during the game (but not at the same time). I don;t think that this is that unusual, as queenless endings often see a promotion, then a queen sac for the opponent remaining material, followed by a final promotion.
Promoting three times is no doubt rarer, although according to Tim Krabbe, there have been a few games where 3 pawns on each side have promoted. And the record for one side (in a serious game) is 4 times, as shown below. White even got in the act, promoting twice as well, meaning that the game had 8 queens taking part at various times!


Kubikova,Alena (2170) - Novy,Vaclav (2107) [B78]
Plzen op-A 9th Plzen (9), 24.08.2003



Thursday, 5 October 2017

Does move order always matter?

For some openings there is only one move order. For others, there are many ways to reach the desired position, although how you get there may be significant. I was wondering how important move order was all through the early stages of the following game.
The opening was slightly unusual to start with as my recent games against Matt had started with 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.f4. So when he replied with 1. ... e5 I smelt a rat, thinking that after 2.Nf3 he would try and head back to that line with 2. ... d6 and avoid the sharp f4 line. Hence 2.Nc3. But it seems there was no trick, and I went into a Four Knights, which is kind of a 2nd/3rd string opening for me.
After 5.d3 I assumed we were heading down the mainline, but 5. ... Nd4 came as a surprise. Turns out I should have castled before playing d3, as Nd4 works a bit better in the game. Even my choide of 6.Bc4 is not that popular, although b5 again transposes to Ba4 lines.
After those adventures the game settled down a bit, but after Matt missed the main ideas behind 12.f4 I was always on top, and picked up a few pawns before he walked into a mate.


Press,Shaun - Radisich,Matt [C49]
Belconnen CC, 03.10.2017



Wednesday, 4 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors and Veterans

The 2017 Asian Seniors and Veterans begins next Monday (9th October), in Auckland, New Zealand. At this stage there are 57 entries across the two events, with a large number of countries represented. Top seed in the Seniors is Australian GM Daryl Johansen, while GM Eugene Torre (PHI) is the top seed in the Veterans. The 9 round tournament will run from Monday through to Sunday (15th).
Currently I am seeded just below the halfway mark of the Seniors event, so will probably have a tough first round. Currently my main ambition is to not play bad chess, and hopefully score around 50%. My last playing trip to NZ was for the 2011 Oceania Zonal, where  I did hit 50%, so I;m counting on history repeating.
You can see the list of entries for both events at the tournament webpage, and once the tournament begins, downloads games etc.

Monday, 2 October 2017

A tale of two Nh7's

While no piece of chess advice applies in all situations, keeping your knights pointing forward is normally a reliable guideline. If you do have to retreat, h7 and a7 aren't high on the list of desirable squares, although they do rank ahead of a8 or h8.
In the following game, Black was already struggling due to White's space advantage in the centre, but bringing the knight back to h7 was an almost fatal loss of tempo for Black. While it took White a number of moves to convert the position, Black had very little opportunity to fight back, and had to defend until his position finally cracked.


Chibnall,Alana (1868) - Radisich,Matthew (1664) [B07]
Belconnen Club Championship (2.2), 19.09.2017



But I did say that this advice doesn't always apply. Having seen Nh7 not help in the previous game, Magnus Carlsen had no problems with playing it against Fabiano Caruana, in round 8 of the Isle of Man event. There is lay in wait, until move 32, when suddenly it jumped to g5, leaving Caruana facing a number of deadly captures and forks. It was all over a few moves later, with the knight playing a decisive role.


Caruana,Fabiano (2799) - Carlsen,Magnus (2827) [C78]
Chess.com Isle of Man International Mast Douglas (Isle of Man) (8.1), 30.09.2017



Sunday, 1 October 2017

2017 Vikings Weekender - 11&12 November

Save the weekend of the 11th and 12th of November for the 2017 Vikings Weekender. Once again the event will be hosted by the Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St, Wanniassa, ACT.
The event is run in two sections, with an Open and Under 1600 tournaments. Prizes for the Open is $1000, with $500 for first place in the Minor. Last year the tournament paid out over $2500 in prizes.
The time limit is 60m+10s per player per game, and there will be 7 rounds in each tournament (4 on Saturday, 3 on Sunday).
Entry fee is $65 ($45 for concessions) with GM/IM/WGM.WIM free. You can pre-register for the event at http://vesus.org/festivals/2017-vikings-weekender/ and pay your entry at the venue.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

2017 George Trundle

Auckland looks to be the place for chess over the next few weeks, with a couple of big events being held there. Starting the 9th of October is the Asian Seniors and Veterans, which is already attracting a large international field.
But before that, the annual George Trundle Masters is being held, with round 1 already finished. Once again the field for the IM tournament is a mix of top New Zealand  players, a couple of Australians, plus players from Brazil and Singapore. 
One player taking on both events is Australian GM Daryl Johansen. He has got off to a winning start in the George Trundle, beating FM Bob Smith in the only decisive game of the round. It was a pretty quick win as well, as can be seen below.
If you wish to follow the George Trundle, then the tournament links can be  found at the New Zealand Chess website. Rounds start at 1200 Canberra time, although the switch to daylight savings may change this by an hour.


Smith,Robert W (2230) - Johansen,Darryl K (2380) [E10]
George Trundle NZ Masters 2017 Auckland, NZL (1.2), 30.09.2017


Thursday, 28 September 2017

Old wine, new bottle

Learning tactics by playing through short games of chess is one coaching technique I've always been fond of. If you are working with a group, you can show a number of games in a short time, and normally not lose the interest of your students. You also just focus on one concept, if the game is quick enough, so you don't get side tracked by other issues.
So having a collection of quick games is always useful. One example is the game below, which I'm sure has been played a few times (or at least a version of it). This version was played at my local club the other night, and demonstrates the importance of looking at all checks and captures. If Black had been a little more cautious he would have realised that taking the biggest piece (normally the correct idea) was not best in this position. Instead he won the queen, but lost his king!


White - Black
Belconnen Chess Club Champs 26.09.2017


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Aronian ices World Cup

Lev Aronian has one the 2017 World Cup, after a convincing 2-0 win in the first playoff games, against Ding Liren. The 4 standard were all drawn, although Aronian did have winning chances in at least one game. However at rapid chess, Aronian played two excellent attacking games, winning both with direct assaults on his opponents king.
Both players have earned places in the upcoming Candidates tournament, but the win for the soon to be married Aronian gave him 120,000 first prize, which might pay for a very nice honeymoon.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Bad Karma

Hou Yifan must be thinking that some unseen hand is working against her, mainly for the amusement of others. After her infamous finish to the Gibraltar Masters (a deliberate loss to protest playing 7 female opponents in 9 games), she might have thought the issue was behind her. Bizarrely, her first 4 opponents at the Isle of Man Masters have also been female, including her round 1 random opponent. As some of the arbiting team at IOM also officiated at Gibraltar, I'm assuming they are making sure that the pairings for every round are (a) thoroughly checked and (b) explained in great detail to Yifan.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Wallace continues good form

One of the beneficiaries of the Isle of Man pairing system is IM John-Paul Wallace, who started the tournament with a win yesterday. It was against a higher seeded opponent, and shows he has continued his good form from last years event (where he scored a GM norm). So rather than slog his way through the early rounds hoping he plays strong enough players to keep his GM norms chances active, he has already collected one GM scalp, and is up against GM Emil Sutovsky in round 2.
In other games most of the top seeds won,  although one notable 'upset' was the win by Fabiano Caruana (2799) over Vladimir Kramnik (2803).

Bogner,Sebastian (2599) - Wallace,John Paul (2413) [A00]
Chess.com Isle of Man Open - Masters Douglas (Isle of Man) (1.33), 23.09.2017


Double header

I almost got the top board pairing of the Isle of Man tournament correct, although it was Kramnik v Caruana on Board 2, rather than Carlsen v Kramnik on Board 1. However it looks as though the randomised pairing experiment isn't that bad, with the mix of 'interesting' pairings providing a change from the usual top half v bottom half massacre of most large swisses. What will be interesting of course is the ripple effect of the first round pairings throughout the rest of the tournament.
Along with the IOM event, I'm also up late to watch the World Cup Final between Lev Aronian and Liren Ding. At the time of posting 30 moves have been played, and the position is pretty equal. Unlike the cut throat nature of swiss events, I expect this match will be a little more sedate, with both players happy to avoid risks, hoping their opponent goes astray instead.

Friday, 22 September 2017

So much for my predictions

Having tipped a MVL v So Final in the 2017 World Cup, I've woken up to the news that neither of those players have qualified. It will be an Aronian v Liren Ding final instead, after both of those players won their rapidplay playoffs.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave looked to have one foot through the qualifying door after beating Aronian in their first playoff game, but a gutsy piece sacrifice in the next game paid off for Aronian, and he evened the score. Four more draws meant the match went to  'Armageddon' where Aronian managed to win the Q v R ending.
So and Ding only saw one decisive game, but this was enough for Ding to go through to the final. So had one final chance to pull level, but in the final rapidplay game, Ding was happy to hold the position (rather than push for more), and the game finished in a draw.


Aronian Levon (ARM) (2799) - Vachier-Lagrave Maxime (FRA) (2789) [A50]
World Cup 2017 Tbilisi (38.1), 21.09.2017


Thursday, 21 September 2017

GM Anton Smirnov

By scoring 7/9 (finishing equal first) in the Anogia GM tournament,  16 year old Anton Smirnov has scored his third GM norm, which is enough for him to earn the GM title. Canberra born Smirnov needed to win his last round game against FM Antoine Favarel (FRA) and for a lot of the game it looked very touch and go. Smirnov decided to launch a kingside attack, and while trying to defend Favarel misplayed the position (36. ... Rd3??) allowing Smirnov to secure the point, and the title.
Smirnov now becomes Australia's 7th Grandmaster, and the third in recent years. Already a mainstay of the Australian Olympiad team, he may even be challenging for the number 1 spot in Australia;s 2018 team, which may be an all GM outfit for the first time in history.


Smirnov,Anton (2508) - Favarel,Antoine (2357)
2nd Capablanca Memorial GM Anogia (9.1), 19.09.2017


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Isle of Man 2017

The Isle of Man tournament has really taken off in the last decade, and is now challenging events like Gibraltar and the Iceland Open for the title of 'Best Open' in the world. This years event starts on Saturday, and has boosted it's prestige even further, with the news that World Champion Magnus Carlsen is taking part. In fact the tournament field contains 4 World Champion's, or 5 if you count Ilyumzhinov's bonkers scheme to declare Shirov as a former World Champion. The top 14 seeds are rated above 2700, and its GM's all the way down to seed 59.
The only Australian player in the field is IM John Paul Wallace, although I did note Bill Egan's name in the minor, but it his is English namesake, rather than the Canberra resident.
The tournament begins on Saturday 23rd September, and is a 9 round swiss. Apparently the pairings for the first round are totally random, so it might be worth tuning in to the first round, just to see a surprisingly early Carlsen v Kramnik match up!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Board games ranked

This Deadspin article about the ranking of board games is too good to pass up. Not so much the article actually, but the totally Not Safe For Work comments that follow it. You have been warned.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Tournament features

John Winkelman (previously featured in this blog here), returned from a recent trip to the United States bearing gifts. They were a number of tournament brochures from various large US chess opens, which he thought might be of interest to me. They of course were, not because I planned to enter any of them, but as an insight into how events in the US are structured.
While a lot of the entry fees, conditions and prizes are similar to Australia, there were a few things that caught my eye. In no particular order they were

  • Free entries for GM's and IM's have an equivalent amount deducted from any prizes won.
  • Tournaments are in sections, but there are a lot more sections (I assume a lot more players as well
  • Entry in the top section often costs more for lower rated players
  • The longer the event the more half point byes you can take (up to 4 in 9 round events!)
  • Players bring their own boards and clocks (none supplied by organisers)
  • 2 and 3 day schedules for weekend events (1-2-2 or 3-2 rounds)
  • Online ratings used for unrated players
The tournament information was generally printed on thick card (rather than the fancier brochures we use in Australia) which to me seems easier to distribute.
Some of the ideas might be useful in Australia (eg the use of online ratings to seed unrateds), but I can't see the whole "bring your own set" idea catching on.

2017 World Cup - Who's Next

The 2017 World Cup schedule is pretty tough, especially if your'e one of the players who keeps going to tie-breaks. So far there hasn't been a scheduled rest day, meaning that a win in regulation is the only way you can get a day off.
Tonight sees the start of the quarter finales, is as good a time as any to try and predict a winner. Firstly, with all the previous upsets, the reaming top half is a little stronger than the bottom half, and that is where I think the eventual winner will come from. As I write this, Aronian has already defeated Ivanchuk in that bracket, although he was going to be one of my picks anyway. The other pairing in that half is Vachier-Legrave against Svidler, and while Svidler has the experience of getting to this stage in 5 World Cups, I think MVL will win, and go on to play Aronian.
In the bottom half I think So and Liren Ding will progress, with So winning the semi-final. But I think the eventual winner will come from the top half, with MVL just shading Aronian, and then going on to beat So in the final!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The world's most famous two-mover?

White to play and checkmate in two moves
Here is a puzzle described by Hubert Phillips as "possibly the world's most famous two-mover". An interesting claim, in part because I'm note sure anyone else has bothered to keep a list of such things. Also, as these words were written in 1932 (and the puzzle was first published in 1905), I am wondering whether more recently published puzzles could now claim that title.
As with most two movers, this only has a passing resemblance to a 'real' chess position, and the composer has left plenty of false trails to catch the over confident.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

It's a trap - part 2

A number of years ago I posted this, concerning a trap in the Scotch Gambit. Tonight at the Belconnen Chess Club, I got to see what happens if both sides realise what is really going on, at least up until a point.
Black avoided the sometimes played 6. ... Resigns, and White knew that retreating the Bishop from h6 is also trouble. But Black failed to spot how strong White's attack was, possibly thinking that 13. ... Bf5 was enough to save the day. Of course it wasn't, and White ended up with the quickest win of the night.


Arps,Jan-Phillip - Luo,Ricky [C50]
Belconnen Club Championship, 12.09.2017


Monday, 11 September 2017

2017 Belconnen Club Championship

The 2017 Belconnen Club Championship begins tomorrow evening (Tuesday 12 September), at the Belconnen Chess Club, on Hayden Drive, University of Canberra. This is Canberra's only FIDE rated club event this year, so provides a good opportunity to either improve your international rating, or get one for the first time.
The tournament runs for 7 weeks, and is playing with a slightly faster time limit of 60m+30s per move. FIDE changed the rules regarding time control for rated events, so players over 2200 are no longer excluded, but at the same time, games involving players above the 2200 mark are not rated.
If you are planning to play, entries will be taken from 7pm, with the first round starting at 7:15

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Carlsen gets hacked

Magnus Carlsen started the World Cup with 4 from 4, befitting his number 1 seeding. However the first game of the third round didn't go according to plan, as he got hacked by Xiangzhi Bu from China. Carlsen played the Bishops Opening, and Bu sensibly played the Black side like a Ruy Lopez. He even went as far as playing a Marshall Gambit type sacrifice, and after Carlsen accepted, went nuts on king side. Carlsen could have taken an immediate draw after the sacrifice on h3, but decided to play for a win instead. However this blew up in his face, not so much because of his position, but that he spent so much time working out what to do. As a result, he got into severe time trouble and played a couple of second best moves. Bu gave him one chance at the end, but after Carlsen missed it, the upset was on the scoreboard.
In other weird news, Anton Kovalyov (CAN) walked out of the tournament after getting into an argument with the organisers over his choice of attire. He had worn shorts for the first two rounds, but was told that this was unacceptable just before the third round was due to start.  He then exchanged words with tournament organiser Zurab Azmaiparashvili, was apparently called a 'gypsy', and then left. Normally he may have decided to appeal to the FIDE appointed appeals committee over Azmai's actions, but FIDE appointed Azmai as the chairman of the appeals committee, so that option seemed pointless. (As an aside, being on a FIDE appeals committee is a sweet gig, and is used as part of the FIDE reward and patronage system, so Azmai's appointment makes sense, but only from that point of view)


Carlsen,Magnus (2822) - Bu,Xiangzhi (2710) [C55]
FIDE World Cup 2017 Tbilisi GEO (3.1), 09.09.2017


Friday, 8 September 2017

Maximum Haulage

The Canberra Lifeline Bookfair is on this weekend, and if you are looking for chess books, there are plenty to be had. I got in nice and early this morning (along with a few other collectors), and I'm pretty sure this year saw the biggest chess collection I can remember. There were a number of familiar titles, but there were also a few surprises. Someone donated quite a large number of Informators, including a No. 1, which I snapped up. Curiously there were a few books on the Laws of Chess, so I grabbed those as well, as they contained snapshots of the Laws for the years they were published.
Even the Board Games section had more than the usual amount of chess stuff, and I saw one shopper snap up every chess set she could fine. I found a Pavilion Talking Electronic Chess Computer for $8, adding to my growing collection of chess computers at home.
When I left there were plenty of books on the table, so you should be able to get something if you drop in over the weekend.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Today's Google Doodle

Today's Google Doodle commemorates Sir John Cornforth, who won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1975. Of course in the chess community he is was also known as a strong player, competing in the 1936 Australian Championship, as well as the first Australian Correspondence Chess Championship. Today is the 100th anniversary of his birth, and he passed away in 2013. Apart from an obituary I posted at the time, there was a very good article about his chess life written by Paul Dun in a recent issue of Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Know the Classics - Pirc Edition

The Pirc/Modern is often a system that aggressive players have some difficulty with. As Black's strategy is to sit back and wait till White over reaches, White can fall into the trap of playing too cautiously. If that happens, Black has already scored a small victory, as White is out of their comfort zone.
My personal preference is to take it head on, aiming for an early Bh6. Over the years there have been a number of crushing wins for White in this line, and they are worth studying. Probably the most famous was Kasparov's win over Topalov at Wijk aan Zee in 1999. Kasparov was not afraid to leave his queen out on h6, even after Topalov castled queenside, as he was busy getting his other pieces across to the queenside. Of course Kasparov's choice of opening in itself was not winning, as he needed to find 24. Rxd4!! but he did get a position where such an attack was possible.


Kasparov,Garry (2812) - Topalov,Veselin (2700) [B07]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee (4), 20.01.1999


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Perils of Prediction

At the time I was off to bed last night, I had chalked up a win for GM Alex Fier against higher rated GM Etienne Bacrot in the 2017 World Cup. When I awoke this morning, the win had turned into a draw. It was a lucky escape for Bacrot, and might explain why they drew so quickly in Game 2.
Meanwhile Australian IM Anton Smirnov continues to impress, holding GM Sergey Karjakin to another draw, and sending the match into tie breakers. At this stage there are already a few matches that will continue tomorrow, but like Smirnov, almost all of them are via the draw-draw path. Only Vladimir Fedoseev has bounced back from losing the first game to even the match, but I am sure there will be a few more as the round goes on. Of the tournament favourites, Svider, Giri and Nakamura are already through to the second round, while Number 1 seed Magnus Carlsen is still trying to overcome bottom seed FM Oluwafemi Balogun from Nigeria.


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Draw for Smirnov

The first round of the 2017 FIDE World Cup is underway, and a few of the early results have come in. Significantly for Australia, IM Anton Smirnov has drawn his first game against GM Sergey Karjakin. The opening was a fairly sharp line of the QGD (with Bf4) but eventually simplified into a heavy piece ending that was drawn on move 30. The two players return to the board tomorrow, with Karjakin having the advantage of the white pieces.
Most of the other games to finish have ended in draws, with a few highly rated players (Ivanchuk, Radjubov) taking the peaceful route. So far there has only been one real upset, with Sambuev (CAN) cracking GM Yi Wei, but Alex Fier (BRA) is looking good against Bacrot (FRA) and that may also end in a win for the lower rated player.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Three Puzzles

Here are 3 puzzles to put your mind to, with 2 of them being related to chess, to some degree.


  1. How many distinct ways can 6 knights be placed on a 4 by 4 chess board, so that no knight attacks another knight? (And by distinct, rotations don't count as a separate solution)
  2. How many ways can N Queens be placed on a NxN chess board so that no queen attacks another queen? (NB There has been a flurry of reporting suggesting a solution to this problem will win you $1,000,000. In fact the prize is for solving the P v NP problem, of which this is just one example of an NP problem)
  3. N students are playing a variant of 'Duck, Duck, Goose'. In this variant, Student 1 goes around the ring of players (which now excludes Student 1), announcing Duck N-1 times, and Goose the Nth time. Student 1 then sits out while the 'Goose' repeats the process. Who is the last student to be the Goose?

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Canberra globe-trotters

I can remember a time when it was incredibly difficult for Australian (and New Zealand) players to play overseas events. The cost of international travel, plus overseas living expenses, made it a very expensive proposition. New Zealander Bob Wade simply moved to the UK in the 1950's, while Murray Chandler famously refused to return home after a World Junior in the 1970's, moving himself to London instead. Darryl Johansen apparently lived in a tree house in London in the early 1980's, while both he and Ian Rogers had to take side work (for Murray Chandler no less) to supplement their chess earnings.
These days travel is a lot cheaper (relatively) and there are more events that can be played in a shorter period of time. Chess tourism is now more of a thing, although the balance between the chess and tourism may be a function of age.
At the younger end two Canberra players are currently playing in international events. Siddhant Badrinrayan is one of 4 Australian players taking part in the World Cadet's Championship in Brazil. He is on 3.5/10 going into the final round. Xander Leibert is the best scoring Australian player on 5.5, while Byron Morris is on 4.5. Aiden Wen is playing in the Under 8 tournament, and is currently on 4/10.
Albert Winkelman is part of the Australian contingent at the Malaysian Chess Festival. He is currently on 2.5/6, but is performing around 400 points above his rating. IM Justin Tan is also playing in the Open event, and is among the leaders on 4/5. Tan is looking to complete the requirements for a GM title, and is currently well placed to do so.
Results from the Cadets can be found here, while the Malaysian Chess Festival home page is here.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

2017 World Cup

The 2017 FIDE World Cup begins in a few days in Tbilisi, Georgia. The 128 player knockout will see the top 2 players go forward into the Candidates Section of the World Championship cycle, as well as providing a substantial prize pool for all the participants (eg First round losers still earn $4800 USD)
Oddly, World Champion Magnus Carlsen has decided to take part in the tournament, raising the issue of what happens if he finishes in the top 2. I assume he isn't going to be seeded into the tournament that determines the challenger to his own title (unless we wish to see a Monty Python inspired World Championship match), so a playoff for third might be required.
Also taking part is Australian IM Anton Smirnov, with a seeding of 117. This means he has challenging first round match against faces GM Sergei Karjakin. Also taking part are a couple of players with Australian connections in the shape of Armenian GM's Melkumyan and Aronian. Both are in the top half of the draw and should make it to the second round at least.
The tournament starts on the 2nd of September (play starting on the 3rd). Rounds start at 3pm local time, which translates to 9pm Canberra time. You can find out more information, as well as follow the event at the official website.

Monday, 28 August 2017

More coffee-housing

Just a quick game from Street Chess on Saturday. My opponents final move was a big blunder but I was in a better position even if he found the correct defence.


Press,Shaun - McPherson,Erick [C01]
Street Chess, 26.08.2017


Sunday, 27 August 2017

Karl Galli RIP

Karl Galli, one of Canberra's more colourful chess players, has passed away. He had been unwell for the last few years, but even in poor health, he still made an effort to play at both his local club, and other Canberra events.
In his youth he was also a boxer, and on occasion, he brought the combative nature of the ring to the board. He was particularly well known for developing his own opening systems, building a protective barrier across the third rank with his pawns, hoping his opponent would overreach. As Black this was known locally as the "Galli Defence" and as White, it was termed the "Galli Attack".
Although he could be an irascible character, he loved his chess, and often showed a generosity across the board to younger players. A stalwart  at the Tuggeranong Chess Club (where he had a blitz event named after him) and Street Chess, he will be missed by all who knew him.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Duke of Brunswick wins one

For chess players the Duke of Brunswick is 'that guy who lost to Morphy' in the famous Opera Box game. And like most non-professional players who are famous for losing, that seems to be the extent of his chess notability. But he did play more than 1 game of chess, and while flicking through an old chess book "Chess Brilliants by I.O. Howard Taylor (1869)" I came across a game he actually won. He did have some help as it was played in consultation with German master Daniel Harrwitz against a similarly ennobled team, Viscount Casablanca and Herr Kaulla.
Apart from the novelty of the result, the game (or at least its publication) had a couple of interesting features. Firstly, the opening was reasonably modern (QGD), and Black tried to generate some queenside counterplay. Secondly, on move 30, the book does not show which promotion piece was chosen, and in fact has Blacks reply as "Q takes P" even though the pawn has reached the last rank. This of course would be a breach of the current Laws of Chess.
By this stage White has a huge advantage, and the main interest is seeing how the game finished, with the Black team eventually resigning down material (although White missed a forced mate starting with 35.Rxg7!!)

Harrwitz/Duke of Brunswick - Viscount Casablanca/Kaulla [D35]
Consultation, 1858


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Winning with e4

My father taught me early on that 1.e4 was the best way to open the game. Firstly he said, it allowed both my Bishop and Queen to be developed quickly, and secondly, Bobby Fischer always started that way.
Later on I learned that playing e4 was desirable in closed games (ie opened 1.d4, 1.c4, or 1.Nf3) In fact knowing that in such openings you should aim for an eventual e4 got me to the next level of opening knowledge. And while it isn't always possible to achieve, if you do  it can often turn out well for you.


Rakitskaja,Mariya (2165) - Eliseev,Alexey (2445) [A30]
St Petersburg White Nights op St Petersburg (4), 2004


2022 Olympiad to be held in Zimbabwe

I'm not 100% percent sure this report is accurate, but apparently Zimbabwe is to host the 2021 World Cup, and the 2022 Chess Olympiad. On the one hand they do quote FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the report, but on the other hand, the FIDE website seems to have nothing on this breaking news (and usually they report on anything Kirsan does), and more importantly, these decisions are made at the FIDE Congress 4 years before the event (ie the 2018 congress).
So it is either a misunderstanding on the part of the news agency, or Kirsan has decided to fully embrace his inner Trump and just say whatever he wishes.

Monday, 21 August 2017

A bit of a brain snap!

It was all going fine until I decided that I was going to deal with 21.Nf5 with 21 . ... Qg6?? Of course once the position appeared on the board I saw the flaw with this move, and as it was a Correspondence game, decided the most sensible thing to do was resign.


Taylor,Kelvin - Press,Shaun [D27]
CCLA, 05.06.2017


Saturday, 19 August 2017

How fast is fast

I've been playing a bit of online chess recently, which is a little surprising, as I am pretty hopeless at it. Part of the difficulty for me is finding the 'sweet spot' of time controls for a player of my age. Bullet Chess (1 min) is way to fast, as I tend to move too slowly. If I'm not mating by move 25 I'm normally doomed. On the other hand 5 minute chess isn't fast enough, as the games tend to drag on (NB in OTB chess, 5 mins is barely enough!).
So at the moment 3 minutes seem to be the mid point, although even this isn't perfect (the first half of the game is fine, its just the last 15 seconds where it all goes wrong). My early experiences at this time control seem promising, but it may take a larger set of games for me to be sure.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Kasparov Comeback

The first part of Gary Kasparov's brief return to competitive chess ended with a heartbreaking loss, a lucky win, and then a loss to Fabiano Caruana. Having started the last day of the Grand Chess Tour St Louis Rapidplay on -1, Kasparov looked to be getting back to 50% until David Navara turned the tables in a rook ending. He was then gifted a rook by Quang Liem Le in a position where Le was perfectly fine. Hist last game against Caruana was another loss, leaving him tied for last place with Anand and Navara.
While all of this was going on, Lev Aronian was winning the event. He finished with 6/9, half a point ahead of Nakamura and Caruana. It was very combative +3 for Aronian, wining 5 games, losing 2 and drawing 2 (including his game against Kasparov).
Tomorrow sees the first day of the blitz event. This is a double round event, so Kasparov at least has 18 games to try and improve on today's result.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Hard Quiz

There is a new-ish quiz show on ABC (Australia) Television, called Hard Quiz. I suspect it's an attempt to do a UL style quiz show, where the banter is as important as the knowledge. It isn't that bad, especially as it doesn't try and copy the UK style, instead taking a more Australian approach to the byplay between host and contestants.
I was watching this evenings episode, which had such subjects as Tomas the Tank Engine, and Queen Victoria (which were nominated by the constestants). The host (Tom Gleeson) also gets to pick a topic, and tonight the topic was Chess. Unlike a past episode of Sale of the Century where they did not know the difference between draw and stalemate, they seemed to have done their homework a bit better. For example, they knew that the first computer program to beat a GM in a tournament game was Deep Thought, which stumped most of the contestants.
However, for the final chess question, they featured 6 statements or actions by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.  Of course they were all quite outrageous (Flown in a spaceship, Aliens invented chess), and the challenge was to pick the one that wasn't said or did not happen. I suspect the question wranglers couldn't quite believe the list themselves, as the only non true choice was "Financed the musical Chess so he could play the lead"  which seemed pretty tame. Only one player got that right (IIRC) and I assume it was a wild guess.
If you want to catch the episode try this link. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/hard-quiz/ It is episode 3 of series 2, and you can watch a reply of it online (not guaranteeing this will work for non-Australian viewers)

Another lucky escape

Sometimes luck in chess runs your way, even when it might have been better if it didn't. Tonight I played quite a tough game at the Belconnen Chess Club, and was very fortunate to escape with a draw. Having mixed up a couple of lines in the Closed Sicilian I made a poor exchange in the opening and ended up with a bad position. My opponent played the obvious moves and soon had an overwhelming advantage. In fact we reached a position where I was losing material (on move 26), and was tossing up whether to resign. But I spotted one last try, based on a back rank check and decided to play a few more moves. Then when my opponent found 30. ... Nd1! I wondered whether it was time to resign now, but unable to see a checkmate for my opponent I played on. I saw he might try for checkmate with 31 ... Qf2+ (31. ... Rf2+ does mate btw) 32. Kh1 Qf1+ but we both thought that 33. Ng1 held. He even analysed 33. ... Nf2+ 34. Kh2 Ng4+ 35. Kh1 but decided there was nothing more than a repetition. What he (and I) missed at this point was that he could have played the brilliant 35. ... Qg2+!! as 36.Kxg2 Rf2 37.Kh1 Rh2# is a lovely forced mate. Instead he took the knight on e2, allowing me to complete the idea I had spotted on move 27, forcing a perpetual with a rook sac.
While I am pleased with my resourcefulness, and we both agreed  it was quite an enjoyable battle, I feel that it would have been a better game (with a fairer result), if it had finished with the queen sacrifice!


Press,Shaun - Arps,Jan-Philipp [B26]
Korda Memorial, 15.08.2017


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Crawling to a goal

A while ago I was told a fantastic story about how one Australian player managed to pick up a FIDE title. The player needed to get his rating above a certain level to claim the title, but was still a number of points shy of the target. While most players would simply try their best in an event and hope to score enough points, this player tried a slightly different track. Rather than risk going backwards with a loss or two, they simply played the first couple or rounds of an event, before withdrawing for 'work related' reasons. While a little slower than performing above the required level in one tournament, this slow but safe method eventually paid off.
Now to be fair, as this story was told to me, the facts may not be accurate (or even true). But the method itself seems sound, and is one that I am currently following, albeit for a different reason. Normally I play the role of the 'filler' or 'house man' in events I direct. So at Street Chess, I'll play if the event starts with an odd number. This happens quite often, but weirdly, there always seems to be a latecomer (or three) who brings the field back to an even number, without me in it. So I normally play rounds 1 and 2, before pulling out for the rest of the day. The side effect of this is that I suspect I'm picking up a few rating points per game, and getting close to the 2000 mark on the ACF Quickplay list. While obviously not as prestigious as a GM title, it is still a landmark rating, especially as I've never been rated that high in the Australian rating system. Of course it also may not come to pass, as I am sure there will come a week when I end up playing the whole event, and being forced to suffer for my sins.

How a tournament should end

The 2017 Sinquefield Cup has ended, in a manner that elite events should end. Three of the 5 last round games ended decisively, including games that ultimately decided first place.
It was Maxime Vachier Lagrave  who scored the most important win, beating Ian Nepomniachtchi to reach 6/9. Viswanthan Anand could have caught him but only drew with Wesley So, while Lev Aronian's chances of equal first were derailed by a loss to Magnus Carlsen. The win for Carlsen moved him into a tie for second with Anand and kept him in first place in the Grand Chess Tour series.
The next part of the tour is the St Louis Rapid and Blitz, starting Monday morning Canberra time, and including former World Champion Gary Kasparov in the field.


Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2789) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2751) [B92]
Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis (9.2), 11.08.2017


Thursday, 10 August 2017

What makes a good opening trap?

Playing for tricks in the opening isn't always the best use of ones resources. For every checkmate that begins with 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5, there are a number of games where such 'direct' play gets punished by more experienced players.  So choosing which opening traps you aim for often depends upon a few different factors.
My first (purely subjective) criteria is: How often will I see this opening? No good finding a particularly clever idea against the Dutch Defence if no one in your chess circle plays it. So traps in the Ruy, or the QGD probably have more value than traps on the black side of the Solkosky.
Secondly: Are the moves leading up to it plausible for my opponent? As any chess coach will tell you, don't reply on your opponent playing bad moves. Sure, some moves may only become bad after the right reply, but moves that seem sensible are more likely to be played than those that are not.
Thirdly: Do I still get a good position if my opponent spots the trap? This is about having it both ways. If the trap is sprung, fantastic, but if not what happens next. I had a situation like this in Gibraltar, where I could play a trappy move, but the right reply would see me in a worse position. I decided against it.
Flicking through one of my books on opening traps, I realised that there were only a few entries that passed all three tests. Some failed the 'length' test (the later in the opening the less likely it is to occur), while others relied on the opponent missing the correct refutation. But there were still a few that were a little new to me (albeit borrowing from traps in other openings). The one I've chosen to show comes from the Two Knights Defence, and is based on presenting White with an unusual variation, increasing the chances of a mistake. 6.d6 is obvious, but the start of the problems, while 7.Nxf7 is the big mistake. In my database there have been 62 games after Nxf7, so it still catches lots of fish.


Victim - Trapper
Anyclub, Australia


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Asian Club Champions League

The Sydney Chess Club has finished third in the Asian Club Champions League, in the just completed event in Sri Lanka. While the event had representatives from across Asia, it turned out to be a small tournament, with only 5 teams taking part. The Sydney team consisted of GM Max Illingworth on board 1, IM Gary Lane on 2, FM Lee Jones on 3, and FM Brian Jones on 4. They won 2 of their matches, narrowly lost against the second place getters from Bangladesh, and lost heavily to the winning Iranian team. Both Illingworth and Lane score 2.5/4 but the team was outclassed on the lower boards.
Results and games from the tournament can be found here.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Anand plays a brilliancy

Refusing to quietly ride off into the sunset, Viswanathan Anand continues to prove he can still compete at the top level, beating Fabiano Caruana in the current Sinquefeld Cup. At first it looked like Caruana was going to crash through with a strong attack, but he missed the strength of Anand's counterplay. Of course Anand needed find a nice queen sacrifice on move 26, but apparently this was quickly spotted, and Caruana lost a few moves later.


Anand,Viswanathan (2783) - Caruana,Fabiano (2807) [A29]
5th Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis USA (5.2), 06.08.2017


Sunday, 6 August 2017

Who owns what?

Protecting intellectual property in chess has always been a tricky issue. Copyright of games has consistently been a legal dead end, and preventing live broadcasts of events by third parties hasn't been a raging success either.
Even the domain of chess coaching is not immune to problem in this area, as this story shows. (NB This is a New York Post article, so be warned) A chess coach in New York is accused if stealing clients from the business he worked for, after resigning and setting up his own business. The parent business did get him to sign some sort of non-compete contract, but it seems not to have had its intended effect. So off to court they all go, with $100,000 is damages being claimed.
For those familiar with the Australian chess scene in the 1990's may remember that this sort of thing was actually quite common. A number of chess coaching businesses seemed to get their starts after the lead coach left their previous employer, leading to some bad blood in the coaching community. There were even 'third generation' businesses, where a break away coach then had their coaches set up competing businesses. This seemed to go on until a kind of market saturation occurred, where the number of businesses and the number of client reached a level. There was even claims that coaching materials were 'borrowed' and rewritten, but I don't believe it went as far as court action.
I think these days everything is a little calmer on the coaching scene, although I suspect their is still competition between coaching organisations. Of course healthy competition is normally a good thing (market forces and all that), so if their is, I hope its all on the up and up.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

It doesn't make coaching easy

"Proper chess players don't do this" is a comment I've often made when coaching juniors. This is normally in response to a player to win a game using just their queen, or developing their rooks via a3 or h3. And for a time I was able to get away with this, but modern players are making it harder and harder.
The rot possibly started with Nakamura playing some very early Qh5's. This caught a fellow coach off guard as he had been telling his students that 'only beginners play this move'. The the Quiet Italian came back into vogue at the top level, meaning it could no longer be dismissed as a 'school chess opening'.
Now Aronian is the one causing problems for me, as the following game shows. The early h4 is surprising enough, but bringing the rook to h4 is an even bigger shock. The tactical point is to 'protect' the bishop on a3, but it takes real imagination to play this move. The rook then hangs about on the h file for most of the game, until Aronian uses it to finish Nepo off.
So it looks like I'll have to amend my advice again, to "proper chess players normally don't do this" or something similar.


Aronian,Levon (2809) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2742) [A34]
5th Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis USA (1.3), 02.08.2017


Thursday, 3 August 2017

Non tilt

In the good old days, a bad loss in a tournament was necessarily the end of the world. Equilibrium could be restored by the simple trick of taking a quick draw, before focusing on winning the event. Of course this was if you were playing in a 23 round event, a luxury few of us can afford these days.
In a short swiss event, every round counts, meaning that a loss can be far more destabilising. In some cases a player can try a little too hard, and the whole event can go totally pear shaped. In Poker parlance, this is referred to as 'going on tilt', a term that is now also common in chess. On the other hand, if an aggressive response does work, then 'getting back on the horse' is the how it usually gets written up.
IM Andrew Brown had this exact experience at the ANU Open. After a loss to Fred Litchfield in round 5, he bounced back with a couple of good wins. Although it wasn't enough to catch Litchfield, it did provide the spectators with some entertaining chess, including this quick last round win.

Brown,Andrew - Hathiramani,Dillon [B21]
2017 ANU Open Canberra, Australia (7.2), 30.07.2017


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

2017 ANU Open - Organisers wrap up

The 2017 ANU Open was interesting from an organisational point of view. Due to various University policy changes, it wasn't clear whether this years event was even going ahead, but eventually it was decided to organise it anyway.
Last year saw around 60 players take part, as did this years event. Oddly, last year saw a larger than expected turnout for the Open (30+ players), with a smaller than usual field in the Minor. It was almost the opposite this year, with only 17 players in the Open, but 40+ in the Minor. If we could have combined the 2016 Open numbers with the 2017 Minor entries, it would have been a great field!
We tried something different with the prizes this year, awarding rating prizes based on W-We (points scored - points expected). While it kind of worked, it is probably something not worth repeating. The two major issues are the field is a little small to make it work, and handling the role of unrated players is tricky. At least one prize ended up being awarded based on final position, simply because every player in the section actually scored less than they were expected to.
One other change was the creation of a Unrated only prize, to deal with the issue of unrated players entering the Minor. This is often a tricky issue, as in most cases a Minor event is the best tournament for unrated players, but not always. Two years ago an unrated player did win the Minor (and the full first prize), but after that the organisers felt it was better to handle it this way. It turned out that one of the players that tied for first (John Adams) was also unrated, but this years T&C's made it clear he could only win the Unrated prize (which he was happy with).
While it is hoped that there will be a 2018 ANU Open, there is some debate about what format it might take. The 60m+10s time limit is a little limiting, and one suggestion is to try a FIDE rated 60m+30s event. A recent rule change means that all players are eligible to play in this event, although games involving players rated above 2200 don't get rated. As the current event is not FIDE rated this may not be a real loss. Of course the schedule would have to be changed, either to 3+2 rounds, or possibly a 1+3+2 6 round event.
Overall it was an enjoyable event, despite the small turnout. We even got some good publicity in the local media, with the appearance of Michael Pettersson MLA in the Minor being newsworthy. The Canberra Times did a nice story, which can be viewed here.


Sunday, 30 July 2017

2017 ANU Open - Fred Litchfield wins

The 2017 ANU Open has been won by local player Fred Litchfield. Litchfield set up his victory with wins over IM Andrew Brown in round 5 and Oladoyan Fasakin in round 6. Holding a full point lead over Brown and Fasakin going into a final round, a draw with WIM Emma Guo was enough to take outright first, and $1000 in prize money. Brown, who finished first in the previous 4 years, took second place on 5.5 with Guo and Fasakin tied for third.
The Minor (Under 1600) tournament saw a tie for first between John Adams and Ruofan Xu. Adams was making a return to competitive chess after 15 years but showed no signs of rust, winning his first 5 games. A loss by Adams to Xu in round 6 threw the event wide open, but both players then won in the final round to finish on 6/7. Kamal Jane and Athena Hathiramani recovered from slow starts to the tournament to finish tied for 3rd on 5.5.
Full results for this event can be found at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2017/ and you can replay the games and download pgns for the top board from this site.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

2017 ANU Open - Day 1

IM Andrew Brown is well placed to collect another ANU Open trophy, sharing the lead after the first 4 rounds of the tournament. He finished the day with 3.5/4, tied with Fred Litchfield and Oladoyin Fasakin. Brown and Fasakin drew a tough round 2 game, and won the other 3. Litchfield started the tournament with 3 wins, before a round 4 half point bye allowed Brown and Fasakin to catch him.
Canberra Junior Dillon Hathiramani is in 4th place with 3/4. Round 5 will see Brown and Litchfield play on board 1, with Fasakin and Hathiramani playing on board 2.
The Minor tournament sees ACF Treasurer John Adams hold a surprise lead on 4/4. Despite not playing in a tournament for 15 years, Adams has beaten a number of veteran players to lead by half a point over Neil Clark, Lee Forace and Mitchell Jones. The morning round sees Admas play Clark, while Forace and Jones play on board 2.
Coverage of the tournament (including standings and DGT games from the first day) can be found at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2017/


Litchfield,Fred - Ingham,Glenn [D11]
2017 ANU Open Canberra, Australia (1.3), 29.07.2017


Friday, 28 July 2017

Return of the Pawn

The opening event of the 2017 ANU Open was held this evening at King O'Malley's in the centre of Canberra. The 2017 ACT Teams Blitz was won by the aptly named, Return of the Pawn, with 9/10. Board 1 for Return of the Pawn was William Booth, making a bit of a comeback to competition chess, and scoring 5/5. Partnered with Elwyn Teki, they drew with the top seeded Retired Gardeners team in the first round 1-1, and then won their remaining games.
The Retired Gardeners (Roger Farrell and Baldev Bedi) also went through the 5 round event undefeated, but dropped an important point to the 'Fear Itself' team (Miles Patterson and Stephen Priest) in round 4. The 8 team event was quite tough and a number of strong teams fell by the wayside.
Tomorrow sees the first day ANU Open and Minor, a the ANU School of Art. The action kicks off at 10 am, and entries are still open for interested players.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

ACT Teams Blitz and ANU Chess Festival

The ACT Teams Blitz event is taking place on Friday 28th July (ie tomorrow) at King O'Malley's, in Canberra City. The event starts at 6pm and is open to all players. The format is a 5 round swiss for teams of 2, but if you don't have a partner, just turn up anyway, as teams can be formed on the spot.  There is no entry fee, and there will be prizes for the winning team, and the best scoring players.
On the 29th and 30th of June, the ANU Open and ANU Minor will be taking place. Current entries for each of the tournaments can be found at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2017/  Online registrations are still open at http://vesus.org/festivals/2017-anu-open/ and you can download the tournament brochure from that link. Entries are coming in slowly (only 48 at the moment), with the Minor tournament (Under 1600) looking particularly attractive for anyone rated over 1300 (as most of the field is rated below that).

Tony Salvage RIP

Tony Salvage, a regular member of the Belconnen Chess Club in the 1990's, passed away a few days ago. Originally from the UK, he had came out to Australia in the 1960's to work for the old Department of Supply, before ending up in the Department of Defence. This is where out paths first crossed, but discovering he was a chess player, encouraged him to join the Belconnen Chess Club. A few years later we ended up working in the same section, and while I outrated him in chess, he outranked me at work, being my boss for a few years.
Tony was a jovial player, playing more for enjoyment than glory. While never rising to any great heights, he was a difficult opponent for the younger members of the club (due to years of experience), beating a young Larua Moylan (now a WIM) among others. One evening he played out a tough draw against a newcomer to the club, who turned out to be an overseas player with a rating of around 1800. The player asked how strong his opponent was and was surprised to find out he was significantly lower rated. When Tony found out the strength of his opponent he was also surprised, but for the opposite reason.
In later years Tony retired from chess to take up Bridge, finding it a more social activity. He is survived by a large family, with 8 children, 23 grand children and 16 great-grandchildren.


Salvage,Tony - Wills,Colin [C02]
Belconnen-ch Belconnen, 1993


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

From little things big things grow

A nice chess story hit the national media in Australia this week. A small Western Australian primary school has inspired the local council to fund the carving of some giant chess pieces to celebrate their success in state and national junior chess competitions. However, these pieces aren't your normal large pieces. These are carved out of the trunks of old Jarrah Trees, which the council had originally  planned to remove completely. The Kendenup Council instead decided to leave the trunks in place, and a local wood carver had gone to work with his chainsaw. The pieces, some as large as 4 metres high, will stand in the towns main street, to greet visitors to the town of 1000 people.
The full ABC story (including pictures of some of the pieces) is here.

Monday, 24 July 2017

The toasted cheese sandwich test

I still believe that ChessMaster  10th Edition is one of the better pieces of chess software released. Apart from the chess engine (and graduated levels) it has a plethora of training modules and drills to help you improve your chess.
One of the drills I keep returning to (about once a year) is checkmate with KBN v K. I'm pretty sure I know have it down pat, but it is always a good idea to double check. So make it a little more interesting I had a go at lunchtime today, while making toasted cheese sandwiches.  I'd prepare the sandwich, turn on the toastie maker, and then try and checkmate before I burnt down the house.
I'm pleased to say that the house is still sanding, although this may be due to Chessmaster choosing the same defence each time, rather than trying to confuse me.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

When both players resign

"The game is won by the player whose opponent declares he resigns. This immediately ends the game." This is section 5.1.2 in the FIDE Laws of Chess. At some point in the past it was suggested that two players could scam the system by both resigning simultaneously, thereby earning each player a full point. The FIDE Rules Commission even discussed this (briefly), and IA Franca Dapiran made the sensible suggestion to only accept the resignation of the player who had the move.
Of course such a bizarre situation would not happen in practice now, would it? Well, not exactly.
At Street Chess today something awfully close to this did happen. The sequence of events seemed to go like this. The white player (who I shall call Scully) played a move, putting his opponent (who I shall call Mulder) in check. Now Mulder did not notice, and played a move putting Scully in check. At this point Scully simply stopped the clock but said nothing. Mulder, who thought he was winning, extended his hand, believing Scully was resigning. Scully accepted the offered hand, believing that Mulder realised he'd played an illegal move and was himself resigning. (NB At Street Chess we play second illegal move loses). Now I'm not sure which of the players realised something had gone awry, but at this point I was called over. Further confusion ensued as Scully was worried he'd done something illegal in stopping the clock (no, but he should have told his opponent why), and then decided to resign. Realising what had happened, I gave Scully 2 extra minutes, told him he wasn't to resign yet, and to continue the game. 
Unfortunately I had to return to the same game a few minutes later when another issue arose. By this stage both players were short of time, so after Scully moved, Mulder replied instantly (and before Scully had pressed his clock). Scully then pressed his clock, completing his last move ( which I encourage under these circumstances), and Mulder then pressed the clock (without moving of course), to complete his move. However this confused Scully, who thought that Mulder had not played a move (even though he witnessed it). About half way through me going over this issue with the players (and in the midst of a gathering crowd), Mulder offered Scully a draw, and rather than listen to me lecturing them, shook hands and split the point.

Out into the cold

I'm not sure if it is an age thing, but I'm feeling the Canberra winter a lot more than in previous years. For the last month or so, Street Chess (which begins at 11am) has had a succession of below zero (in Celsius) starts. For anyone familiar with the Canberra climate, this normally means that it will be a fine and sunny day (cloudless nights contribute to the cold), but as we play indoors in the winter months, we even miss out on this benefit.
Anyway, I think it is around -3 right now, although it is expected to get to at least 0 by the time we start this morning. Extra layers will be needed.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Andrew Paulson

Andrew Paulson, founder of Agon, and former ECF President has passed away at the age of 59. He made his first big splash on the chess scene in 2010 when Agon was given the commercial rights to the FIDE World Championship, bringing with it the promise of a new way to promote chess. A few years later he was elected as President of the English Chess Federation, although his time in office was quite short, resigning as part of the fallout concerning the 2014 FIDE elections.
I met Andrew on a couple of occasions, and found him an interesting and charming man. I suspect he had further political ambitions in the chess world (including eyeing the FIDE Presidency) although he probably  didn't have the right political connections to pull it off. And while he had same ambitious goals in publicising top level chess, he didn't quite bring all of it to fruition. Nonetheless he did see the importance of using multi-media platforms for presenting chess events, and was very keen to bring new technology to the game.
Away from chess he had an interest in media and IT, including an interest in the media company that manage LiveJournal, a social media site very popular in Russia.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

150 years of chess

It is a pretty special chess event when you get to celebrate a 150 year anniversary. In 1867 Dundee (Scotland) hosted a significant International event, with German Master Gustav Neumann finishing half a point ahead of Wilhelm Steinitz. This event was historic, in that it was the first major international tournament where a draw counted as half a point (rather than the game being replayed). In 1967 there was a centenary event,  which was won by GM Svetozar Gligoric, ahead of Larsen and Olaffson.
Now to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1867 tournament, Chess Scotland is hosting both a GM round robin, and the 124th Scottish Championship. The Dundee GM event has a couple of well known names taking part, including former Doeberl Cup winner GM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant, 'Ginger GM' Simon Williams and Swedish chess legend GM Pia Cramling. The Championship is also a strong event with 4 GM's and a number of other titled players in the field. The tournaments have been running for 3 days, so there is plenty of action to come. You can follow the live games, and get all the results at http://www.150chess.gs/ If you click on the various links you can also find a tournament blog, maintained by the always entertaining Andy Howie.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Caro-damn!

Vladimir Kramnik has a 'Federer' like record at the Dortmund Chess Classic (10 wins). So when he comes unstuck it is usually big news. And it doesn't get any bigger than losing in round 1, against the Caro-Kan of all openings. Playing Vladimir Fedoseev, Kramnik at first went into tranquil waters with 3.exd5, before deciding that the uncastled Black king made a juicy target. The only problem was that it just looked scary, and after a few obvious defensive moves Kramnik had nothing to show for a sacrificed bishop.


Kramnik,V (2812) - Fedoseev,Vl3 (2726) [B13]
45th GM 2017 Dortmund GER (1), 15.07.2017


Chess teaching resources

Chess coaching can be a hit and miss affair, as most coaches are chess players first and teachers second. So organising a teaching curriculum is not always the highest priority, with coaches usually picking a favourite book or two, or teaching from experience. While this technique often works with children who have already mastered the basics of chess (don't drop pieces, can mate with K+RvK, spot mates in 1 and 2), for children yet to reach that level it is sometimes less effective.
As a result I've always been on the lookout for well structured coaching material. A very battered copy of "Comprehensive Chess Course" has been my main resource for the last 25 years, but finding copies can be a bit difficult. A number of coaching companies have developed their own material, but this is usually 'commercial in confidence' and can't be handed around freely. But chess.com is doing us all a favour by providing free teaching materials, which they are happy to share. You can see the details here, and download a preview. The curriculum is connected with their chesskids.com site, which also provides plenty of material for players and coaches. And if you visit the information page, there is even a direct link to an earlier version of the teaching material, if you want to get an idea about what it covers.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Surely this cannot be good

In the early days of my chess career I struggled with working out which gambits were temporary and which were more permanent. The gambits after 1.e4 e5 I was better at handling (eg Kings Gambit or Danish) but the d4 gambit lines were more tricky. If I grabbed a pawn I often came under a lot of pressure to hang on to it, but if I sacrificed a pawn, my compensation often petered out, and I was just down a pawn.
I've once again run into the same problem with a line in the Queens Gambit Accepted, which I suspect is a little dodgy. After 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nd5 has been recommended. While the trickiness appeals to me, the results have been less than stellar. 5.e4 is the obvious move for White, and in one awful game my opponent just rolled over the top of me after 5. ... Nb6 6.Bxc4! On the other hand I have picked up a few points at faster time controls, as the shock value of Nd5, followed by the realisation that I am going to make my opponent work hard for the pawn at least gains me some time on the clock.
But ultimately, Nd5 is an idea that seems to break too many rules to be sensible, meaning that I should find something a little more sensible on move 4.