Saturday, 26 May 2018

In praise of trash

I've never got out of my habit of playing 'coffee house' openings, especially when I'm actually playing in a 'coffee house' type event. And so it was today, where I played a couple of terrible games, interspersed with a few 'coffee house' wins. And in true coffee house style, I was helped by my opponent getting somewhat confused with what I was doing. Here is Exhibit A

Press,Shaun - Dude, A [C21]
Pub Chess, May 2018

Friday, 25 May 2018

And the bottom seed is ... Anand!

I've just had a look at the upcoming Altibox tournament in Norway, and noticed that the *bottom* seed in this 10 player event is Viswanathan Anand. He is in good company though, as the 9th seed is Lev Aronian a mere 4 rating points ahead of him.
At the other end of the event, Carlsen, Caruana, and Mamedyarov are the 2800+ players, with the rest of the field squeezed in between them. The first round of play is on Monday 28th May, although there are other events leading into, including a simul by Wesley So.
Also interesting is the format for the open event running alongside the main event. Although it is a 7 round event, the first 3 rounds are rapidplay games (15m+10s), played on the Friday evening. Saturday and Sunday see four 90m+30s (2 on each day), to round out the event. The entry fees are quite pricey, at what would be $150 Australian, although pretty much everything in Norway is pricey!
With such a strong field lined up, it is very difficult to pick a winner. I generally do well at this by picking Carlsen in whichever event he is playing in, but I'd love to see Anand win, as it isn't every day that the bottom seed wins a high level RR.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Making my life easier

I spent today running a small interschool competition in Canberra. As the field wasn't very large, the rounds tended to finish quite quickly. To make sure we stuck to some sort of sensible schedule, I used the time in between rounds to do a bit of coaching.
The first lesson I gave was on the 'Electric Fence' checkmate (Mate with Q+R or R+R). Fortunately for me the players were quite attentive, as it seemed that the lesson sunk in. Over the next few rounds, this became the 'go to' method of winning the game, especially by players who had never checkmated this way before. As a result, there were very few games that were dragged out by kings being unsuccessfully chased around the board. This meant the rounds finished even quicker(!), giving me more time to do even more coaching.
So if you are running a school event, showing a few basic checkmating ideas (Electric Fence, K+Q v K) might make the event run a little more smoothly.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Chess Club

When is a chess club not a chess club? When is it The Chess Club.
The club I am referring to is the Chess Club in London, which is a private members club located in Mayfair. It has a bar, restaurant and lounge areas, and indeed some chess sets, but I assume its main function is as a club, rather than somewhere to play chess. If you want to check out the interiors before visiting, covers it nicely. If you are interested in visiting or joining, the clubs own website has all the details.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Memorising endgames

Chess players learn/memorise openings, but don't really do the same for endings. This kind of makes sense, as there is no guarantee you will ever see a particular ending, but there are some that are common enough that committing them to memory would not hurt.
One classic example is the Rook and Pawn ending from the final game of the Capablanca-Alekhine World Championship Match (1927). It is a good example of how you convert and ending where you have an outside passed pawn on the queenside, while there are equal pawns on the kingside.
The key ideas are to put your rook behind the passer, forcing your opponents rook to blockade. Then bring your king towards the queenside, forcing your opponents king to try and keep your king out. Then shift your king to the kingside to attack the pawns. Finally, break up the pawns on the kingside with a pawn push of your own, before picking them off and winning!
While it takes a little time to complete, the general method is usually enough to collect the point. I've even had the need to use it recently, when playing some casual games at Street Chess.

Alekhine,Alexander - Capablanca,Jose Raul [D51]
World-ch12 Alekhine-Capablanca +6-3=25 Buenos Aires (34), 26.11.1927

Fast start, gentle finish

GM Wenjun Ju is the new Women's World Champion, winning her match against Zhongyi Tan 5.5-4.5. After a pretty violent start to the match (games 2-6 were all decisive), the game finished with 4 draws.
This of course was what Bobby Fischer had predicted was likely to happen in fixed length matches, with on player taking a lead, and then drawing their way to victory. Nonetheless, his proposed solution (first to 10 wins, but the challenger requiring a 2 win margin for the title) was never adopted, except in his 1992 match against Boris Spassky, The other solution, which was the first to 6 wins, was tried after 1972, but fell out of favour after the Karpov v Kasparov match that was aborted after 48 games. Since then World Championship matches have become shorter and shorter, making Fischer's prediction more likely to be correct.

Friday, 18 May 2018

An easy chess engine example

If you are interested in how chess engines work (and can read/understand Javascript). then 'A step-by-step guide to building a simple chess AI' might be worth a read. It is a simple explanation/tutorial about how chess engines are coded.
It  mainly looks at the evaluation and search functions, using the existing chess.js library for move generation and validation. As it is a very basic implementation, it is missing a few things that makes a chess program really strong. There is no quiescence search (a search extension which follows capture sequences beyond the specified search depth), no transposition table, and no move ordering.
However, if you are interested in tinkering with a chess program, the source is free and downloadable from the above links, and if you are feeling energetic, you can probably add those features yourself.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Two Famous Actors

While flicking through 365 Chess Master Lessons by Andrew Soltis, I came across a game between two famous actors, Michael Redgrave and John Steadman. Looking a the date it was played (2007) and the venue (Sydney) I immediately figured something wasn't quite right, as Sir Michael Redgrave had died in 1985, and John Steadman passed away in 1993.
It turned out that the surnames of the players had been transposed, and the two participants were in fact Michael Steadman (NZ) and John Redgrave (AUS) who had met in the first round of the 2007 Sydney International Open. Soltis features the game as part of a lesson on when is the optimal time to play a move. In the game, 9.Nd5 was strong, and made even stronger by 9...Bb7??, although 9.a4 was even stronger, as it sets up some extra tactics for White. After Steadman found the knockout blow with 10.Ne6! there wasn't much left for Black.

Steadman,Michael - Redgrave,John [B94]
SIO, 2007

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

It just went horribly wrong

Trying to bluff your opponent in OTB chess is a risky proposition, doing so in Correspondence Chess is complete foolishness. Here I tried a bluff against my opponent, hoping he wouldn't find 9.Nh7!, or realise it had been played in a similar position previously (9...Qe8 is better). Of course he did find it, and after that, my game just disintegrated (aided in part by other horrible moves from me)

Schreuders,Arjo - Press,Shaun [C57]
Australia v Netherlands, 05.03.2018

Monday, 14 May 2018

The strongest player you've never heard of

While doing some research on the 1876 Steinitz - Blackburne Match, I came across mention of a player I'm not sure I've ever really been aware of, John Wisker. According to the Chessmetrics website, he was the 4th ranked player in the world at that time, with an historical rating of 2623.  This high ranking was probably based on his two victories in the British Championship, in 1870 and 1872 (the last Championship until 1904 btw). However his career was cut short in 1876 when he contracted tuberculosis, which resulted in a move to Australia (and possibly making him Australia's highest ranked OTB player ever!). I'm not sure if he played any chess while living here (I cannot find any games), but he wrote a chess column for the Australasian, before passing away in 1884 in Melbourne.

Wisker,John - Zukertort,Johannes Hermann [C80]
Zukertort 1st game in ENGWestminsterCC London, 22.06.1872

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Not playing doesn't just hurt yourself

A quick comment in the recent selections for the Australian Olympiad team (NB I am not revealing my selections, or who has been selected as there is still a chance of appeals by non selected players)

For the last few Olympiads I've been one of the selectors for the Australian teams. This year I was on the selection panel for the Open and Women's teams. One issue that arose for me was the geographical advantage/disadvantage some players suffered from. For a couple of players, the access to strong players was somewhat limited, making it harder for me to rank them highly. When they did play similar events to other players (ie international FIDE rated events), the results were quite comparable, but it was in their 'home' tournaments where they fell behind.
It wasn't because they scored badly, but simply because there wasn't enough strong players to test themselves against. And as playing in the Olympiad requires you to play against strong players, a 80% score against a field of 1700's isn't as impressive as a 50% score against 2100's.
Sadly, in at least a couple of cases, it isn't because there are no strong players close by, but that there aren't enough 'active' strong players close by. Now there are many reasons for choosing not to play (especially if you are a strong player), but it is becoming clear to me, that this has a knock on effect for other players. And I would hate to think that this would contribute to a cascading effect of discouraging the next level down from playing as well.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Chess and Meditation

Every now and then I get sent free stuff as a result of this blog. Usually it is books to review, but occasionally it is software. My latest review copy is a program called "Zen Chess: Mate in One", which is available on Steam.
At first I wasn't sure what the program was intended to be. It presents you with a succession of mate in 1 problems, and when you solve one, you move to the next one. It doesn't keep score (as far as I can find), and the problems don't seem to get harder the further you go.
But on a second visit I realised that the clue is in the name. It isn't so much a training program as it is a meditation tool. The program comes with a soothing soundtrack which gently plays while you solve the puzzles. The colours are very light, and the slow fade in and out of positions, is quite relaxing.
I've solved the first 60 positions so far, out of the 100 it is supposed to contain. I don't know the punishment for suggesting the wrong answer, as even in a relaxed state, I still have a competitive instinct.
The minimalist approach to the program seems to have carried over to the price, as it listed at 99c (US) on the steam website.
If you are looking for a tactics trainer, then this isn't going to be it. But if you just want to solve easy problems while imaging yourself floating in a tropical lagoon, the the cost won't kill you.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Value for money

Despite the low profile of the current Women's World Championship Match, spectators are certainly getting value for money. After the first game was drawn, the next 4 games were decisive with Wenjun Ju leading Zhongyi Tan 3.5-1.5. Ju won games 2,3 and 5, while Tan picked up the point in game 4.
The players are having a short break while the tournament moves to the second venue (Chongqing), with the match recommencing on the 12th.

Ju,Wenjun (2571) - Tan,Zhongyi (2522) [E04]
WCh Women 2018 Chongqing/Shanghai CHN (3), 06.05.2018

4NCL News

(Disclaimer: I am an occasional sponsor of the White Rose team)

The 4NCL season has finished in the UK, with Guildford once again running away with the trophy. Generally fielding a team of all GM's (or as close to it as possible), they won all their matches comfortably, and score 45.5/56 game points. Second place was shared between Cheddleton and White Rose on 10 points, with Cheddleton having the better tie break. White Rose had a tough final weekend, but managed to score 4 points from 6, to reach the podium.
In good news for Australian chess, IM Justin Tan scored his final GM norm playing for the Oxford team. He now needs to get his rating above 2500 for FIDE to approve the title. Unfortunately this result has come to late to assist his application for the Australian Olympiad team, as according to unofficial sources he was not selected.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Short throws his hat into the ring

GM Nigel Short has become the third candidate for FIDE President, with the official announcement that he is running. At this stage he hasn't revealed the rest of his ticket, although I assume this will take place shortly.
With a three cornered contest in play (assuming no one drops out), the electoral dynamics change. According to the FIDE electoral regulations, if one of the candidates receives 50%+1 on the first ballot, they win there and then. But if no candidate receives a majority, then there is a second vote, and the candidate receiving the most votes is elected (even without a majority).
So one path for victory for Short, or indeed each of the candidates, is to hope that it goes to a second vote, and to pick up enough defectors to get the most votes. In such circumstances it may even be an advantage to run 3rd on the first vote, and hope the ticket that runs second then prefers to vote against the first place finisher!
Of course FIDE politics being what it is, privilege over principle is the rule rather than the exception, so any calculations like this need to take into account the inevitable horse trading that will occur.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Play chess, live longer

A newly released study shows that playing chess may contribute to a longer lifespan. The three study authors (including GM David Smerdon) compared the life span of Grandmasters, with Olympic medallists from the same countries (to account for environmental factors). 
The study found that GM's and athletes had a similar lifespan, and that both groups lived longer than the general population. While physical activity and longevity seems plausible, the extra lifespan for extra thinking is a little more surprising. The paper does not come to a firm conclusion on why this is so, but it does suggest that the higher social status that comes with being a GM is an asset in some countries (eg Eastern Europe).
You can read about the study at and it is open for comment, if you want to add your 2 cents.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Blink or you'll miss it

To make up for the monster Nakamura game I'm offering a much shorter game, from today's Street Chess event. Both players seem keen to sacrifice something, but in the end White gave away a little too much, relied too much on his queen, and got mated quite quickly.

McPherson,Eric - Forace,Lee [C40]
Street Chess 05.05.2018

Friday, 4 May 2018

2018 Women's World Championship

The Women's World Championship matches have always been a little low-key, compared to the main show, and the 2018 event is no different. Harking back to the USSR days, the match is between two players from the same country, only this time it is China. Ju Wenjun and Tan Zhongyi are playing the 10 game match to decide the new champion.
One interesting aspect of the match is the 'home and away' format, with the home cities of each player hosting 5 games each. The first half of the match is in Shanghai, before moving to Chongqing for the second half.
The first game of the match was drawn, but the second game (which has just finished) was a win for Ju Wenjun. With a rest day after every 2nd game, Zhongyi has a day to regroup, before trying to even the score.
The tournament website is at while chess 24 (and other sites) are broadcasting the games.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

If you have the time ...

This is possibly the longest game I will ever post on this blog. It was from a 3 minute game between Hikaru Nakamura and Rybka around 10 years ago, and goes for an amazing 271 moves.
I came across it today via a video post on by IM Kostya Kavutkiy, who is starting a feature on some of the funniest games played.
This one certainly qualifies, as Nakamura exploited Rybka's refusal to agree to a draw by repetition of the 50 move rule, forcing the engine to sacrifice pawns to avoid such an outcome. Even the end is quite amusing, as Nakamura underpromotes to 6 bishops, although a nicer touch could have been to promote to the piece belonging to the file (which has happened is at least one arranged game).
Any way, get your clicking finger warmed up, if you want to play through the whole thing.

Rybka (computer) - Nakamura,Hikaru (2697) [A00]

Monday, 30 April 2018

Shankland wins US Championship

GM Sam Shankland is the new US Champion after finishing half a point ahead of GM Fabiano Caruana in the 11 round event. Shankland's score of 8.5 equalled the best score in the modern 12 player era. Shankland and Caruana were tied after 8 rounds, but it was Shankland's 3 wins in a row, to Caruana's draw followed by 2 wins were the difference.
In third place was Wesley So on 6.5, while Hikaru Nakamura was in a group of players on 5.5.
Despite his second place finish, Caruana played one of the more interesting games in the tournament. Up against Varuzhan Akobian, he decided to go charging straight up the middle, while Akobian was aiming his forces on the queenside. It turned out to be the right plan, even when Akobian had a pawn on a2, looking to promote. Once f7 fell to Caruana, the game was essentially over.

Caruana,Fabiano (2804) - Akobian,Varuzhan (2647) [C11]
ch-USA 2018 Saint Louis USA (7.2), 25.04.2018

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Carlsen wins Shamkir - Two bishops theory strengthened

After a slow star (by everyone) the second half of the Shamkir tournament saw a lot more action. After Topalov broke the run of draws, Carlsen kicked into gear, winning 3 games and finishing on 6/9. Ding Liren showed he now firmly belongs in the top echelon by finishing on 5.5, while Sergey Karjakin was the only other player to finish above 50%, with 5/9. At the other end, Topalov collapsed after his loss to Kramnik, and finished on 4 (-2 overall), only ahead of David Navara on 2.5. And while Anish Giri finished on 50%, he wasn't actually the 'Giri' of the tournament, as that honour went to Teimour Radjabov, who drew all his games.
Giri's only loss of the tournament was to Carlsen in round 8, in a game that further demonstrates that the bishop pair may well be worth a full porn pawn.

Giri,Anish (2777) - Carlsen,Magnus (2843) [A29]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2018 Shamkir AZE (8.3), 27.04.2018

Saturday, 28 April 2018

More Gareyev Magic

GM Timur Gareyev made quite a splash during his visit to Canberra a few weeks back, winning the 2018 Doeberl Cup, the Doeberl Blitz, as well as winning a blindfold simul 10-0.
As his blindfold exploits are what sets him apart from most other GM's, here is a film clip demonstrating just how good his memory for chess positions is.  It is from a Russian TV show where people do amazing things, and in this case, Gareyev is given 5 minutes to memorise 48 positions. Then 3 are picked at random, and he has to play 3 CM's while blindfold.  To see how it turns out, you will have to watch the clip (Hat tip to Miles Patterson for forwarding the clip to me)

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Two FIDE Announcements - One good, one not so good

FIDE have made two announcements in the last few days, one good and one not so good.
The one that can be classified as good is the announcement of the details for the 2018 Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia. The details are at this link, and pretty much cover the calendar and organisation of the tournament.
The one that is not so good concerns the shutting down of the FIDE Bank Accounts. Despite this being an issue that dates back to the reelection of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in 2014, FIDE have failed to find a solution to their self inflicted financial problems, and so for now have told Federations "please do not send any monies to our accounts with UBS as it will only be returned to you at your cost."

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Open Source Alpha Zero Chess

One of the benefits of supporting (and using) open source software is that for every closed source product, there is an open source version that quickly appears. And as a programmer, open source code is a real boon for just about any project I am working on, as reading code is almost always more informative than reading coding books.
With all the excitement about Alpha Zero Chess, it isn't a surprise that an open source version is now available. Leela Zero Chess is an attempt at recreating Alpha Zero Chess, based on what was published by the DeepMind group. It isn't as strong as Alpha Zero at this stage, in part due to the smaller hardware it is running on, and the fact that it hasn't had as much time to self learn.
Nonetheless it has already taken part in some high profile matches (with limited success), including the Top Engine Chess Championships (where it is off to a rough start).
However, if you are interested in chess engine programming (or just like reading C++ code at bedtime), you can see the source code at the github repository. It can be downloaded and run on your local machine if you are interested, and I'm sure they're always looking for contributors.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Is the Bishop pair worth a pawn?

Having just bagged out the 2018 Gashimov Memorial, I've return to the tournament to discover some interesting games. Topalov broke the run of draws in round 4 beating Mamedyarov, and followed it up with a win in round 5 over Navara. Carlsen then got into the act, beating Wojtaszek in the same round.
Topalov's win over Navara contained a lot of interesting ideas and tactics. One thing that struck me was what was happening around move 20, where Navara won a pawn but conceded the Bishop pair. Obviously 2B v BN favours the Bishops, but is it worth a full pawn. Based on subsequent play, Navara may well have thought so, as Topalov offered an exchange of queens on move 25, which Navara declined. To my mind, if Navara thought he could cope with the Bishop's he would have swapped off, otherwise he wanted to keep as many pieces on the board as possible.
In the end Topalov got the ending he was looking for, and with all the major pieces off the board, was able to win back the pawn, and convert the ending.

Navara,David (2745) - Topalov,Veselin (2749) [A07]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2018 Shamkir AZE (5.1), 23.04.2018

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Suppose they threw a tournament and nobody won

On paper, the 2018 Gashimov Memorial looks like it could be a very interesting event. And it kind of is, just not on the leader board. As I type this, 4 players lead on 2/4, with the remaining 6 players on 1.5/3 (as their games are still going). Given that every game so far has ended in a draw, having a 10 way tie for 1st place at the end of the day is quite possible.
To be honest, this does kind of surprise me, as there are a couple of 'fighters' in the event. On the other hand, having a field of players rated so closely together (including 3 players within a single point of each other), does lead to this kind of outcome.
As the time zone is more favourable for live games in this part of the world, I will probably keep an eye on the tournament, but seeing everyone inch forward half a point at a time is not a great inducement.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Not all FM's (or CM's) are created equal

Quite a remarkable result from the 2018 Bangkok Open, with Indonesian FM Novendra Priasmoro winning the tournament with a very impressive 8/9. After starting with a first round draw against a 1927 rated WIM, he ran off 7 straight wins, before drawing with GM Nigel Short in the final round. Along the way he defeated GM's Moulthun Ly, Anton Smirnov and Hrant Melkumyan. earning himself a GM norm.
Almost as impressive was the equal third placed finish by CM D Gukesh, who scored 7/9, and earned an IM norm. Gukesh, who is 12 years old, does have a rating of 2400, but seemingly has not bothered to claim his FM title at this stage.
Of the Australian players, GM Anton Smirnov did the best with 6.5/9. A couple of Canberra players also made the trip across, with WIM Emma Guo and Albert Winkelman both scoring 5/9.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Sometimes you have to play good moves

The US Championships has just started in St Louis, once again attracting a strong field. Caruana, Nakamura and So are the top seeds, and given the gap between themselves and the rest of the field, should take the top 3 spots. But as this is an olympiad year, the rest of the field might be aiming for the sort of performance that gets you on the defending champions team.
One player who has got off to a good start is former Doeberl Cup winner Varuzhan Akobian. He scored a 25 move win over Alexander Onischuk, using the Dutch Defence. Playing through the game it seemed that White was making most of the aggressive moves, but as it turned out, this only forced good replies from Akobian. Around move 18, Akobian suddenly got his d pawn running and after Onischuk failed to find the best defence it was all over.

Onischuk,Alexander (2672) - Akobian,Varuzhan (2647) [A84]
US-ch Men 2018 Saint Louis (1), 18.04.2018

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Champion of the Champions

(The question below was originally directed to me on Quora. As one of the reasons why I'm blogging a little less is because of Quora, I decided to balance the scales by reposting the answer here)

Hypothetically, who would win a tournament featuring all the world chess champions in history at the peak of their form? Who would be an outsider?

It would certainly be a fun tournament, although I suspect their may be some disputes about who would be allowed to play. So for the sake of this answer I’m using the list of players from here List of World Chess Championships - Wikipedia but excluding unofficial champions before Steinitz, as well as Knockout World Champions (sorry Khalifman, Ponomariov and Kasimdzhanov). By my count this means there are 17 players in the tournament.

Now for some rules. To be fair the event will be a 17 player double round robin. The players will obviously know what they already know, but to make it fair for all, each player will be allowed only one second, and no computers will be allowed (either for the player or second). There will be rest day after every 4 rounds. The time limit will be 40 moves in 100 minutes (plus 30 second increment) followed by 20 moves in 50 minutes (plus 30 seconds increment) followed by an additional 30 minutes (plus 30 second increment) for the rest of the game.

Before I get onto my likely winners some comments on the rest of the field

Steintz and Euwe are likely to struggle. While both have had plenty of tournament experience they would be the likely targets for everyone else.

Tal, Alekhine and Topalov would be the real wildcards in the event. While I can’t see them winning, each of them could have a significant impact on the final result.

Capablanca, Smyslov, Karpov and Botvinnik would probably be mid-field players at best. While tough to overcome, I could see each of them content to draw games they found disagreeable. However the ‘tournament within the tournament’ between them would be fascinating.

Spassky, Anand, Lasker and Kramnik would be the tournament pragmatists. Even with a bad start, they would be dangerous throughout, and if they had a good start, then they would be even harder to beat. I would predict Anand and Spassky to finish in the top 6, with Lasker and Kramnik in the top half.

Petrosian kind of sits out on his own. Incredibly difficult to beat (unless you are Fischer) he might come into his own in the second half of the tournament, as the more recent world champions begin to tire (34 rounds is a tough schedule).

That leaves Fischer, Kasparov and Carlsen. These are my top 3. Fischer has the edge over the other 2 in playing longer tournaments, as well as his experience in working on his own (no computers remember). Kasparov has the edge in terms of opening theory, while Carlsen has a will to win that seems only to be matched by Fischer (and would be younger than the other 2 in this event). But if I had to pick a finishing order then it would be (1) Fischer, (2) Carlsen and (3) Kasparov.

If I had to pick a shock winner outside these 3, then it would be Spassky.

Monday, 16 April 2018

And then there's sandbagging

Following on from my last post, some other claims of unethical behaviour is in the chess news. From the US comes a story of a team winning a rating restricted national school championship, after losing a (rated) warm up match 0-28 in the months leading up to the tournament. Other teams were quick to draw attention to these somewhat mixed performances, and the whole thing is now under investigation.
In any sport where players are classified by previous performance, under performing is always an issue. Golf and professional running spring to mind, but I'm sure there are plenty of others. US chess events were plagued by this issue for a number of years, so much so that the USCF eventually introduced a policy on rating 'floors' to deal with it.
It hasn't been that much of an issue in Australia, although there are a couple of well known players who never quite seem to crack the 1600 rating level, despite doing well in Under 1600 events. Of greater trouble in Australia has been how to deal with unrated players, as for most, the lowest section of an event is the correct place to be, but every now and then, there is an exception that causes an issue. The provision of an unrated prize in the bottom section does help, but again this isn't always the perfect solution.
My most recent attempt at dealing with the issue is to take advantage of the prevalence of online chess and at least use a players online rating as a source of information (with sensible modifications for rating inflation). It isn't always perfect, but it is better than outright guessing.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Still not getting it right

Another high profile case involving accusations of cheating has recently blown up, although in this case it was the accuser who ended up in trouble. GM Evgeniy Solozhenkin was suspend for 18 months by the FIDE Ethics Commission, after an investigation concerning the World Girls Under 14 Championship last year.
Solozhenkin's daughter was playing in the tournament, and reported an opponents suspicious behaviour to her father. At this stage Solozhenkin seemed to do the right thing, by making a report to the arbiters, and making a formal complaint to the FIDE Anti-Cheating Commission. And if he had left it at that he would have been fine.
However, he then made this accusation public, and compounded his error by making other accusations against the player in a public forum (and not to the ACC). At this point the mother of the player concerned filed a complaint with the FIDE Ethics Commission. After a hearing the Ethics Commission sanctioned Solozhenkin, not for the initial complaint, but for his other statements.
Unless it can be demonstrated that complains to the ACC are clearly malicious, there is no penalty for making a formal complaint. Even if no evidence of cheating is found, as it was in this case, there is no blow-back to the complainant.  But what you can't do is to go shooting off your mouth to all and sundry, as you can find yourself in trouble. So in this case the process almost worked for Solozhenkin, until he decided to shoot himself in the foot.
For more info on this (plus a number of comments), click on this link.

(NB I was a member of the FIDE ACC when the initial regulations concerning formal reporting were drawn up)

Friday, 13 April 2018

Polishing my crystal ball

There is a thread on one of the Australia chess forums about Australian players who have played World Champions. David Smerdon did it at the last Chess Olympiad (drawing with Magnus Carlsen), although I believe that future/past World Champions count as well.
Based on his devastating win in the 2018 Grenke Open (8/9), I'm peering into my crystal ball and suggesting that German IM Vincent Keymer may one day be part of that list. And if he is, then this is an early entry for an addition to the OZ v WC list.

Keymer,Vincent (2408) - Chibnall,Alana (1906) [A00]
Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2018 Caleta Hotel, Gibraltar (1.124), 23.01.2018

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

FIDE field begins to take shape

The field for the upcoming FIDE elections is beginning to take shape with 2 starters already stepping forward. incumbent President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has declared his intention to run again, while incumbent Deputy President Gergios Makropoulos is also standing, after being 'asked by the majority of the Presidential Board, and many delegates'.
The first shots have already been fired, with members of the Makro team already using the increasingly weaponised FIDE Ethics Commission to take action against members of the Kirsan team (a tactic that was used after the 2014 election against Kasparov and Ignatius Leong).
And in what can be filed under 'coincidence, really?' is a request from FIDE for facebook pages and twitter accounts of Federations, Federation President's and delegates. Apparently FIDE think this is now an important resource to share 'FIDE news and also check and promote chess related news which is published by your federation and officials'. I assume any news that doesn't pass the FIDE check in the lead up to the election will be closely examined by the Ethics Commission.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Last round pressure

The last round of any sporting contest can be a real make or break situation (yes I did see the highlights from the US Masters today!). For some players it is all about controlling nerves, while for others it is an opportunity to step up, and lift their game to the level required for victory.
The last round of the 2018 Doeberl Cup Minor saw an example of this, with Oliver Yang needing to beat Lachlan Lee to grab a share of first place. Not only did Yang do this, he did it in a particularly brilliant way.

Lee,Lachlan - Yang,Oliver [A45]
2018 Doeberl Cup Minor, 02.04.2018

Sunday, 8 April 2018

All your chess questions answered

There is an old joke in computer academia that goes like this. "Professor, what programming language do you use?" "Hmmm, Graduate student I guess". These days the answer might be "Stack Overflow", and not just for university professors. For those not familiar, Stack Overflow is a website where you can ask questions about programming problems and hopefully receive a useful solution (although I do get annoyed when the only response to a question is a request for more information, followed by silence).
What I've just discovered is that Stack Overflow has a number of sister sites (through the Stack Exchange network), including chess. ( You ask a question, answers are given, and if the answer is particularly helpful, users can upvote it (or downvote bad ones). Questions can be tagged (to allow easy grouping and searching), and you can filter questons by votes or open/closed status.
A cursory look at the questions shows a lot of questions concerning the laws of chess (or how they are interpreted). There are also questions on more general topics (best reply to d4 etc), as well as queries about online chess.
I've signed up an account, although I'm not sure how long my own interest will last (Quora takes up a lot of my time in this area). But it is worth checking out, if only because Stack Overflow has proved to be a useful resource in the past, and I'm assuming that this site will be too.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Some Doeberl Observations

I felt that this years Doeberl Cup ran very well, with the main reason being the new venue. Over the years I have always felt that the larger the venue, the easier the event to handle, and this year was a good example. Having everyone play in the same room not only added to the overall atmosphere of the event, but made the job of arbiting the tournament significantly easier. The arbiting team were able to keep an eye on all the tournaments from one central vantage point, freeing up team members to carry out other duties.
I also felt this contributed to a better 'behaved' event, with very few noise issue, or problems with spectator and player behaviour. The extra space also allowed more spectators to watch the top boards, without inconveniencing the players.
The new venue (The Southern Cross Club in Woden) also had better facilities for food and drink than the previous one (University House), which benefited both players and spectators. The shorter time control in the Premier (back to 90m+30s) also meant there was a bigger break between rounds, which was appreciated by almost everyone. We also had the benefit of the club management being incredibly helpful, resulting in a smooth running event.
As for the tournament itself, we did have a few issues with the composition of the field. On the plus side we had an increase in the number of overseas players, with the visiting Grandmasters really adding something to the event. And while GM's Darryl Johansen and Anton Smirnov flew the flag for the local players, the absence of the other Australian GM's (for various reasons), probably affected the chances of players achieving title norms (especially IM James Morris).
Of course there were a couple of strange incidents we had to deal with (including a curling board, a bizarre last round game in the Major, and some amusing/unfortunate pairings) but compared to some years, the event was fairly incident free. Even the constant lectures on mobile phone behaviour seem to be having an effect as we did not default anyone for a ringing phone, and we only had to deal with a couple of very embarrassed spectators.
The club seemed pleased to have us there, so it looks like we will be returning to the same venue in 2019 (and beyond), and if you did not play this year, I highly recommend you pay us a visit in 12 months time.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

The things children say

The ACT Interschool season started today with the North Canberra Primary Girls Zone. While the chess was hard fought but fun, it was some of the comments I overheard (or were directed at me) that were even more interesting

  • One of the team supervisors only had one leg, so a 2nd grade student immediately said "Where is your leg? What happened to it?" After it was patiently explained to her that it was removed as a child due to cancer, she followed with "Do you still have it?"
  • Later on a player was told she couldn't move her king to a square as it was check. She then asked "What is check and why does everyone keep saying it?" (Note: I do coach this player)
  • When one player forcefully told her opponent she couldn't move her king to a square because her bishop was attacking it I suggested she speak a little more softly as we were here to have fun and enjoy ourselves. She looked at me and said "But this is chess"

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Throwing chairs

At first I had planned to feature a game I played last night at Belconnen Chess Club. Spotting an idea in the opening I had forced my opponent to give up castling rights, before calculating a long tactical sequence that involved sacrificing a piece before recovering it with a 2 pawn advantage. As usual I had missed something along the way, and I didn't recover the piece (but did pick up a third pawn), and we agreed to draw when we both realised we had no idea what was happening in the position. Further analysis revealed that I could have played a knockout move even earlier, while my sacrificial combination was far worse than a number of other choices.
So instead I've picked another, far better game from the same event. WFM Alana Chibnall gets a good position against the French using the Kings Indian Attack, with the pawn on e5 dividing the Black forces in two. After looking at invading on d6, she instead finds the f6 square more to her liking, and the queen and knights combine to effect a pretty mating attack.

Chibnall,Alana - Patterson,Miles [C00]
Murphy Memorial, 03.04.2018

Monday, 2 April 2018

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Gareyev and Morris tie for first

The 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup has been won by GM Timur Gareyev on countback over IM James Morris after they both finished on 7.5/9. Going into the final round both had 7/8, and were not only watching their own boards, but the board next to them. It turned out that there was an element of 'double bluff' involved in this strategy, with Morris offering a draw (which was accepted) after he saw Gareyev play into a drawish opening line. However, Garayev and GM Qun Ma then played on for another hour or two before they reached a drawn rook and pawn ending, at which point the game ended peacefully.
IM Igor Bjelobrk took outright third (and a share of the Fighting Fund) with a win over IM Irine Sukandar. On board 4 FM Brandon Clarke need to draw with GM Deep Sengupta to earn an IM norm, which he did after 32 moves. IM Junta Ikeda picked up the other half of the Fighting Fund prize with a nice win over GM Abhijit Kunte, which was also enough to give him a share of 4th place.
Matthew Clarke finished outright first in the Major with 6.5/7. He defeated Alex Mendes Da Costa in the last round to finish half a point ahead of Sterling Bayaca. In equal third place were Sankeerten Badrinarayan and David Lovejoy on 5.5/7.
Oliver Yang scored a brilliant win over Lachlan Lee to snatch first on tiebreak in the Minor. Lee had been leading on 6/6, but the win by Yang allowed him to reach 6 as well, and with a slightly better tie-break, Yang took the first place trophy.
The tournament itself was mostly incident free, although there was one strange happening in the final round. On one of the boards in the minor, water was spilled on the table before the start of the round. Although it was cleaned up, some of it seeped into the hard cardboard boards, causing it to curl up (on Black's side of the board). At first it wasn't an issue, but by the time the Black king looked like it was riding the lip of a wave, the players felt the need to request a replacement board.

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 4

The race for first in the 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup looks like it is down to 2 players. GM Timur Garayev and IM James Morris share the lead with 7/8, although a 5 way tie for first is a remote possibility. Morris closed the gap on Gareyev by beating IM Junta Ikeda and GM Deep Sengupta in rounds 7 and 8, while Gareyev started with a win over IM Igor Bjelobrk before drawing his round 8 game with GM Ahbijit Kunte.
The final round (in progress as I type this) has Gareyev against top seed GM Qun Ma on board 1, with Morris against Ke Mu on board 2. The pairing gods were very unkind to both these players, as both would have had chances for a title norm if Morris had faced another Gm, and Ke Mu had been paired with a non Australian player. As it stands, neither player can now score a GM (for Morris) or IM (more Ke Mu) norm.
In the Major event, the just started Round 7 has seen a 'Hou Yifan' moment with one game beginning 1.Nf3 e5? 2.Nxe5 Qh4 3.Nf3 Qxf2?? 4.Kxf2 Black was checkmated soon after.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 3

Second seed GM Timur Gareyev is the outright leader after six rounds of the 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup. after 5 wins to start the tournament he drew with IM James Morris in yesterdays second round. The draw leaves Morris in 2nd place, along with IM Igor Bjelobrk, both on 5/6.
Apart from leading the tournament, Gareyev also collected first prize in the traditional Blitz event, finishing on 9/9 ahead of 83 other players. Amusingly Gareyev gave his opponents a little head start in each round,  often rushing in a minute after the game had started.
Matthew Clarke leads the Major event with 4/4 ahead of Martin Barakat, Sterling Bayaca, and Angelo Tsagarakis. Dashiell Young, Alex Poyiatzis, and Lachlan Lee share first place in the Minor with 4/4.
The first round today starts at 9:30am and coverage of the top boards can be found at

Saturday, 31 March 2018

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 2

Day 2 of the 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup saw plenty of upsets across all the events. With the Major, Minor and Under 1200 events starting, the spacious venue at the Canberra Southern Cross Club filled up nicely, with around 240 players sitting down to play.
The big surprises in Round 3 were the loss by GM Qun Ma to IM Irine Sukandar, and FM Dusan Stojic's win over GM Anton Smirnov. However round 4 saw both giant killers come back to earth, with Sukandar losing to GM Deep Sengupta, and Stojic losing to IM James Morris.
After 4 rounds the lead is shared by GM Timur Gareyev, GM Deep Sengupta and IM James Morris, all on 4/4. Today sees the shift to the morning/afternoon schedule (never popular with the players), with Gareyev and Sengupta playing on the top board.
The Major has traditionally seen less upsets than either the Premier or Minor, and so it is this year. After 2 rounds most of the top seeds are on 2/2, although this will of course change when the begin to clash in the third round. The Minor on the other hand has seen most of the top 10 seeds drop points to lower rated opponents. Of course with 5 rounds left to play, there is a good chance that they can recover, setting up a challenging finish for all concerned.
Today's rounds start at 9:30 am (Canberra time), and you can see the live coverage (8 board from Premier, plus boards 1 from the Major and Minor) at the tournament website.

Friday, 30 March 2018

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 1

The first day of the 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup saw the first 2 rounds of the Premier. Quite unusually for the tournament, there were very few upsets in the first round, with the top 19 seeds beating their lower rated opponents. Probably the closest player to upsetting the form guide was Fred Litchfield, who lost on time against GM Abhijit Kunte in a position where he was still better. Otherwise it was smooth sailing, at least until round 2 came along.
The first shock was IM Trevor Tao losing to Sean Christian Goh in pretty quick time. This was then topped by FM Pengyu Chen's win over GM Kunte, who now seems a little out of form. The board 4 clash between IM Stephen Solomon and GM Anton Smirnov was a hard fought struggle, with Smirnov unable to break down Solomon's defense. Wins for Stojic over Ikeda and Bennett over Kuan were further evidence that no one is safe in this field.
There are still 11 players on 2/2, including 3 of the 5 GM's. Each of the leading GM's face an IM keen to create further updates. Round 3 starts at 1pm (Canberra time) and you can catch the action from the top boards at

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Gareyev 10 from 10 in simul

GM Timur Gareyev help kick off this years O2C Doeberl Cup by scoring a perfect 10 from 10 in a blindfold simul. It was pretty impressive feat, given that the field had a number of strong club players taking part, as well as a few up and coming juniors.
To keep the simul to a manageable time, clocks were used, with Gareyev having 90 minutes with a 1 minute increment, while his opponents had 55 minutes and no increment. Unlike a normal simul where players move in turns, each player could move at anytime, and push the clock to start Garayev's time running. It turned out that time was a factor in a couple of games, with two players losing on time, although their positions were collapsing at this point.
Probably the best game of the evening was against Leron Kwong, where a mistake in the opening by Kwong saw Gareyev throw all his pieces at the kingside, leaving Kwong unable to defend (If I get a copy I will try and post it)

With the first event out of the way, the next tournament up is the Premier. This starts at 1pm at the Southern Cross Club in Woden. There will be live coverage of the games via Chess24, albeit with a 30 minute delay. If you are in Canberra (and not already playing) you can come to the venue and watch GM Ian Rogers give live commentary. This normally starts about an hour into the round.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Being a smarty-pants

The diagrammed position came from a club game I played recently. I was a little luck that my opponent had given me a piece in time trouble, but there was still a bit of work to be done in the ending. I could have gone down the slow and steady route, but I spotted a couple of nice tricks in the position that lead me to a fancier way of winning.

32.e5+ Kf5 33.Nh4+ Kg5 34.Ke4! Trick number 1. If 34... Kxh4 then 35.Kxf4 imprisons the Black king and allows the e pawn to promote. 34...f3 35.gxf3 Kxh4 36.fxg4 hxg4 Setting up trick number 2. 37.e6 g3 38.Kf3! And here it is. The Black king is forced to an unfavourable square. 38...Kh3 39.e7 g2 40.e8Q Now promoting to anything but a knight allows mate in 1, while promoting to a knight doesn't help. 40...Kh2 41.Qe2 1-0

Monday, 26 March 2018


I just came across the following clip, which is definitely worth watching. I'm not sure how long it took to create, but hats off to those that did.

The actual moves were:
Roesche - Schlage 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Qe2 b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. c3 O-O 8. O-O d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nf4 11. Qe4 Nxe5 12. Qxa8 Qd3 13. Bd1 Bh3 14. Qxa6 Bxg2 15. Re1 Qf3 16. Bxf3 Nxf3#

Sunday, 25 March 2018

And speaking of cheating ...

The Australian Cricket Team is quite fortunate that FIDE isn't running world cricket (in so so many ways I must add). I'm not sure what the exact equivalent for 'ball tampering' in chess is (probably clock tampering), but if that sort of cheating went on at say a Chess Olympiad, I would expect both player and captain (or coach) to no longer be playing for the rest of the event. Of course cricket doesn't have a 'send off' rule (so the players involved can continue in this Test), but players can be suspended from future matches, which is what I expect will happen here.

I woke up this morning ....

I've just woken up to see a couple of results from the Candidates tournament that have thrown the whole thing wide open. Both leaders (Caruana and Mamedyarov) lost overnight, which means that there are now 5 players within half a point of the lead.
The most significant result is Karjakin's win over Caruana, as they are now tied for 1st place, although the most surprising win was Ding Liren over Mamedyarov. This was Liren's first win of the event, after he had drawn his previous 11 games.
With 2 rounds to play I think Caruana still has the best chance of winning, but after last nights results, anything could happen!

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Australian Kangaroos fail to jump final hurdle

The Australian Kangaroos fell just short of qualifying for the Pro Chess League Semi Finals after narrowly losing their final match against Chengdu Pandas. The Kangaroos had qualified 4th in the Pacific Zone before beating top placed San Diego Surfers to set up a match with Chengdu. The Chinese team won 9-7, after trailing for most of the match.
Looking at the makeup of the team (both in the regular season and finals) it seemed that GM Anton Smirnov was carrying the Australian flag. For a lot of the matches, the remaining three players were from other countries (although to be fair, FM Brandon Clarke is living in Australia, while still registered with England). A few other strong Australian players (Zhao, Li, Morris, Ikeda) did make brief appearances, but as the rules allow OS players, it looked like the team relied heavily on that.

Friday, 23 March 2018

That one time I lost to Lloyd Fell

One of the reasons my wife stopped coming to chess tournaments was Lloyd Fell. Not because she had any personal issues with him mind you, but simply because his games were almost always the last ones to finish. And as I always hung around for the prize giving (despite never winning a prize), this meant hanging around until Lloyd finished.
Over the years my wife has conflated her memories of watching Lloyd play, with watching Lloyd play me. "I hope you don't have to play Fell in the last round" would often be the farewell she would give me as I left for a weekend (when Lloyd was still alive). As it turns out, I may have only ever played Lloyd on a single occasion, although it certainly was in the last round. And looking over the score of the game, it seems it wasn't a very long game, as I blundered a pawn early, and lost without too much effort.

Fell,Lloyd - Press,Shaun [C56]
Sydney Uni Open, 10.08.1989

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Some pretty obvious cheating

I'm not sure when I decided I was 'old', but I have no doubt that I am know. One of the warning signs is getting sucked into watching too many detective mysteries such as 'Lewis', 'Midsomer Murders' or 'Murdoch Mysteries'.
And it was the last of these shows that had a very chess heavy episode on last night. The plot revolved around the murder of a Russian chess master before a tournament in Toronto. To investigate the murder, one of the young constables has to go undercover as a competitor in the tournament.
Without giving too much away, there was a large amount of what we would now call cheating involved. To pass himself off as a chess master, the young constable (Crabtree) had the moves relayed to him via an earpiece, which was pretty novel technology for the turn of the 20th century (when the series is set). However, to transmit his opponents moves, he had to say them out loud, so they could be picked up my the microphone. No one seemed to either mind, or notice. And in at least one game, his opponent was also cheating, via the real player tapping signals on his shoulder, which most people could see.
Of course it was all part of the slightly tongue-in-cheek nature of the show, so it could be excused. Especially as  they seemed to get most of the chess right. Openings were called by their correct names (eg Queens Gambit) and even followed the correct moves. The tournament had demonstrations boards hanging up (although not used), and the tables had country flags. One thing that was missing however were chess clocks, allowing the games to be dragged out.
Overall it was a good 'chess' episode, and one worth watching if it pops up on a TV channel near you.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Blindfold Simul and Lecture

World record holder GM Timur Gareyev is the latest GM entrant to this years O2C Doeberl Cup. He holds the record for the largest documented blindfold simul, with 48 games in 2016.
As part of his trip to Canberra, he will be conducting a 10 board blindfold simul at the Southern Cross Club on Wednesday 28 March (the night before the Doeberl Cup begins). This event is being organised by the ACT Chess Association, and members are invited to take part. You can either contact ACTCA President Cam Cunningham if you are interested (contact details here)  or respond to the email invitation if you are on the ACTCA mailing list.
Gareyev will also be giving a lecture on Friday morning (30 March) to junior players. As space is limited, this will be for ACT junior players with a FIDE rating (or ACF rating above 1000). Invitations will be sent out shortly, or you can reply directly to me at the above link if you wish to attend.
Both these events are free to ACTCA/ACTJCL members

Sunday, 18 March 2018

2018 Dubbo Open - IM Stephen Solomon wins

IM Stephen Solomon completed a clean sweep of the 2018 Dubbo Open scoring another 3 wins on day 2. He started off the day with a win over joint leader WFM Alana Chibnall, followed it up with a win over Trevor Bemrose, before reaching 6/6 by scoring a nice win of Don Keast.
The battle for second place was a little more dramatic, with 4 Canberra players paired together on boards 2&3 in the final round. Matt Radisich reached 4.5 by beating a somewhat flagging Graham Saint, while Glenn Ingham leapfrogged Chibnall in the last game to finish, converting a tricky opposite coloured bishop ending. This left Ingham and Radisich tied for 2nd place.
Milorad Lukic and Stephen Taylor (4/6) finished equal first in the Under 1650 category, Keith Farrell (3.5) had an excellent event to collect the Under 1400 prize, while 10 year old Eamonn Fitzgerald (3.0) was the best unrated player.
Full standings from the event, plus a small selection of games, can be found at

Solomon,Stephen J (2412) - Keast,Don A (1913) [C06]
Dubbo Open 2018 Dubbo AUS (6), 18.03.2018

Saturday, 17 March 2018

2018 Dubbo Open - Day 1

IM Stephen Solomon and WFM Alana Chibnall lead the 32 player Dubbo Open at the end of the first day. The are on 3/3, and will play in the first round on Sunday morning.
Solomon had two fairly straightforward wins in the first two rounds, but had to work a little harder in the third round. Chibnall got to 100% by overcoming former winner Don Keast in the third round after Keast played a piece sacrifice that was almost, but not quite, winning.
Tied for third are Trevor Bemrose and Slavko Kojic on 2.5. They will also meet in the 4th round, with the winner up against the winner of Solomon and Chibnall.
The club also hosted the regular handicap blitz event, which was won by WFM Alana Chibnall for the 4th time in the last years. Going the final round she was tied with Glenn Ingham, but an upset win by Helen Aylwin over Ingham in round 5 saw Chibnall finish outright first.

Kanostrevac,Zeljko (1764) - Solomon,Stephen J (2412) [A45]
Dubbo Open 2018 Dubbo AUS (3), 17.03.2018

Friday, 16 March 2018

2018 Dubbo Open

The 2018 Dubbo Open begins tomorrow at the Dubbo RSL Club. The event has attracted a very strong last minute entry in IM Stephen Solomon, who  is making journey back from Ballarat to Queensland, and has decided to have a chess break along the way.
While Solomon looks to be the clear favourite, I'm sure other players in the event hold out hope of scoring an upset win, especially at the slightly faster time limit of 60m+10s
While there will not be live coverage of the games, you can get all the tournament results at If I get enough time during or between rounds I will try and enter a few games, which can be replayed from the result web page.

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


Way back in 1988, the NSWCA organised an International Swiss at the Hakoah Club in Sydney, to take advantage of the World Junior, which had just finished in Adelaide. Towards the end of the tournament FM Craig Laird was looking good for an IM norm, having beaten one of the overseas GM's (IIRC). But it all came crashing down in the next round, when he lost a game that many thought he was a lock to win. Despite my hazy knowledge of who Laird's opponents were, I can still clearly remember a quote from Patrick Halpin about what happened. "One day a rooster, the next a feather duster"
I suspect Vladmir Kramnik might be feeling that way, having followed up his crushing win over Aronian in the Candidates Tournament, with a disastrous loss to Caruana in the next round. It wasn't that he was expected to win against Caruana that was the issue, but how the game played out. At first Caruana was winning, then it was equal, then Kramnik was winning, then it was equal, before Kramnik blundered in time trouble and lost. So instead of streaking ahead in the tournament, he has fallen back into the pack, and will need to regroup for tonight's game. It will be interesting to see if he bounces back, plays it safe, or goes 'on tilt'

Kramnik,Vladimir (2800) - Caruana,Fabiano (2784) [C42]
FIDE Candidates 2018 Berlin GER (4.4), 14.03.2018

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

2018 Candidates - Aronian (and my tips) get crushed

The third round of the 2018 Candidates Tournament saw one of the biggest hammerings at this level that I can remember. Kramnik uncorked an opening idea against Aronian that he had kept up his sleeve for 2 years, and totally demolished him. 7. ... Rg8 looked on the surface to be a hackers move, but it was actually a good method of exploiting Aronian's setup. Aronian either didn't take the idea seriously, or just missed the key ideas, but within a few moves he was unsuccessfully trying to avoid being overrun on the kingside. The game finished in a complete rout, with Kramnik's pawns ending up on f3 and g2.
Having tipped against Kramnik at the start of the event, he has proved me wrong by leading with 2.5/3. Aronian is on 1/3, only ahead of So (someone else I thought had a chance btw) on 0.5.

Aronian,L (2794) - Kramnik,V (2800) [C65]
FIDE Candidates 2018 Berlin GER (3), 12.03.2018

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

2018 ACT Chess Championship - Lo and Brown share title

The final day of the 2018 ACT Chess Championship could not split the overnight leaders, leaving IM Andrew Brown and Willis Lo sharing the title of 2018 ACT Champion. Lo had the slightly tougher run to the finish, but also had fortune go his way, after a dramatic round 6 win over FM Michael Kethro. Short of time Kethro played an unsound combination which left Lo a piece up, but Kethro still had possible drawing chances. However he lost on time after mishitting his clock, giving Lo the point. In the final round against Brian Butler, Lo gambled on a king and pawn ending which was still drawn after both players queened, but a misstep by Butler allowed Lo to reach another king and pawn ending, but this time a winning won.
IM Andrew Brown played two pretty convincing games against Adrian de Noskowski in round 6 and Joshua Lee in round 7. The game against Lee was probably the best game of the event, with Brown offering a rook for a number of moves while building up a winning attack. These wins left both Lo and Brown on 6.5/7, and joint champions.
Equal third was shared by Sankeertan Badrinarayan and Tim Pearce on 5/7. Ricky Luo and Lachlan Ho shared the Under 1500 prize, with Ho picking up the best performance against rating prize (otherwise known as W-We). Thomas Lin was the best FIDE unrated with 4/7, while Liam Miller won the best newcomer prize.
Full results, plus a selection of games (including the top 4 boards from each round) can be found at

Monday, 12 March 2018

2018 ACT Championship - Brown and Lo share lead after 5 rounds.

IM Andrew Brown and Willis Lo share the lead in the 2018 ACT Championship after 5 rounds. The two players met in round 4, with Brown looking good early in the game, before Lo turned the tables, and reached an almost winning position around move 40. However Brown found enough to keep the game going, and after Lo was not able to find the right lines, the game ended with KvK!
Adrian De Noskowski is outright third on 4 points, after a good 5th round win against Brian Butler. He faces Brown in the mornings round, while Lo is up against FM Michael Kethro. Kethro had a tough day 3, being held to a draw by Sankeerten Badrinarayan, before losing a quick game against Brown in the afternoon round.
With two rounds to play Lo and Brown are in the box seat, but with 7 players tied for 4th on 3.5, the final placings are still a little up in the air. Round 6 starts at 10am (Canberra time). Live coverage of the top 4 boards can be found at

Brown,Andrew (2278) - Lo,Willis (2005) [D19]
2018 ACT Championships Canberra AUS (4), 11.03.2018

Sunday, 11 March 2018

2018 Candidates

The 2018 Candidates tournament is about to start in Berlin (1am Canberra time). The field of 8 players will play each other twice to determine who will challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship. While there are a couple of notable names missing from the field (Nakamura and Anand spring to mind), the fact that only 46 rating points separate the top seed (Mamedyarov) and the bottom seed (Karjakin) means that the tournament will either be incredibly competitive, or super cautious. I'm certainly hoping for the former, but I wouldn't be surprised if Round 12 (out of 14) is reached with 1 point separating the entire field!
As for who is going to win, I honestly don't know. I'm going to discount Ding Liren and Grischuk's chances, and I can't see Kramnik taking first place either (despite his 2800 rating). That leaves 5 players (Aronian, Caruana, So, Mamedyarov and Karjakin) that I think could all take first place. If I had to pick one of form, I'd take Mamedyarov, while one sentiment, I'd like to see Aronian across the board from Carlsen later in the year.
The official tournament website is here, while chess24 is also covering the game at this link.

Friday, 9 March 2018

2018 ACT Championship - Round 1

The first round of the 2018 ACT Championships saw no real upsets, with the top half of the field winning on almost all the boards. The only exception was a draw between unrated James Minogue, and Banner Shafer, where a drawn rook and pan ending was reached after 3 hours of play.
There was quite a gap between the top seeds and the rest of the 37 player field, although the longest games did occur on the top boards. Probably the game of the round was played by FM Michael Kethro against Ricky Luo, with Kethro finding some nice tactics in the middle game. (You can see the top 4 games here)
The first round tomorrow starts at 10:00 am, with live coverage of the top 4 games. You can also late enter the event, taking a half point bye for the first round. Current standings from the tournament (and future draws etc) can be found here.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Time to get your entries in

If you are planning your chess activities over the next month, no is the time to get entries in for each of these.
The 2018 ACT Chess Championship is starting tomorrow night, at Campbell High School, Cambpbell ACT. This is a 7 round FIDE rated event with a time limit of 90m+30s per move. As it is a long weekend in the ACT (Canberra Day!) the tournament has a relativity relaxed schedule of 1 round Friday evening, followed by 2 rounds on each of the following days. There are already 24 player entered, and entries will be taken up until the start of the first round at 7:00pm. Further details can be found here.
If you are in Victoria, or planning to travel there, the 2018 Ballarat Begonia Open is being held this weekend as well. Considered the number 2 weekend event in Australia (after the Doeberl Cup) it looks like a strong event, with 4 Australian GM's at the top of the field. Entry details can be found at the tournament website.
Next weekend is the 2018 Dubbo Open, in western NSW. This event normally attracts a personable mix of players from Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, and the host city, and often provides a good opportunity for players in the 1700 - 2000 rating range to win a weekend event. Event details can be found at this link.
And of course Easter sees the 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup. Entries have sailed past the 120 mark, with the Premier starting to fill up. (NB each section has a maximum number of available places). The Premier already has 4 GM's and 7 IM's officially entered, with at least one more overseas GM close to being confirmed. You can enter online at the tournament website, as well as see who has already entered in each of the sections.

(** I am a paid official at 3 of these events **)

Tuesday, 6 March 2018


Losing a game over the board is bad enough, but to lose it for other reasons can be especially painful. By now most experienced players are familiar with the dreaded mobile phone forfeit, but if you've played chess long enough, you eventually learn there are other ways to hand over a point.
Oversleeping is always a goody, and looking over Bill Egan's book on the Doeberl Cup, I see that a few players have fallen foul of this. IM Aleks Wohl did this on at least two occasions, missing out on playing GM Eduard Gufeld in 1988, while I was even guilty of this offence in my first Doeberl Cup in 1985 (In my defence I had worked a 10pm to 6am shift, and my mother ignored my instructions to wake me at 9am).
Flipping a chess board is a rarity, but I know of at least one incident (at a local club) where a player upended a table, and walked out before being defaulted. (It seems that the player had tangled his bag around the table leg, and in grabbing the bag, upset the table.)
Of course with the various "no draw before x moves" rules in play, it is now easier to be double forfeited. This has happened on occasion, but not in any tournaments I've directed. On the other hand, failure to report a result has resulted in me recording 0-0 in lots of tournament, usually in blitz, but also in at least one Doeberl Cup.
Fortunately the one object that has caused more forfeits during the game (the mobile phone), is probably responsible for less accidental forfeits by sleeping in. Whether it has been a net gain, I'm not totally sure.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Form is temporary

But class is permanent. So goes an old saying, which could be applied to Vishwanathan Anand. After winning the most World Rapid Championship he has backed it up with a win in the 2018 Tal Memorial. While the event isn't quite what it was (previously it was a classical all play all, now it is a rapid and blitz), it did have an incredibly strong field. His 6/9 was a full point ahead of Mamedyarov, Nakamura and Karjakin. He lost to Mamedyarov, but beat Nakamura, Dubov, Grischuk and Nepomniachtchi. Quite an impressive feat for a player many were suggesting was past it towards the end of 2017!

One rule to change?

Of all the rule proposals that I read while I was a member of the FIDE Rules Commission, there was one potential rule change (to how the game was played) that I did not reflexively dismiss.
It was in fact a very very old rule (rather than a new 'I can make chess better' rule), and it used to be part of the game. I am talking about the 'Bare King' rule, where losing all your pieces (except your king) counted as a loss.
Now, while I said I didn't reflexively dismiss it, I don't actually think it should be reintroduced to the game, with a possible exception. One variation on this rule was that a win by 'Bare King' only earned you half the stake for winning the game (when chess was a betting game). Using that idea, it may be possible to use it as a tie-break, or secondary scoring system. Keep the usual result system, but assign a secondary score based on this feature. The diagrammed position is an example, where under the old rules this is white to play and win, under the current rules this should be a draw (with best play), but incorporating secondary results, this is a draw, but White earns more from the game than Black.
Of course proposals like this tend to fall foul of my "Exactly what problem are we trying to fix here" rule, so apart from its possible use in novelty events, I don't see it catching on.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Innovations can come from anywhere

While looking at the latest coverage of the Pro Chess League at, I saw a shout out to GM David Smerdon, from a game played by World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen had a quick win as Black playing the Scandinavian, and Smerdon's book on the opening was given credit. However I thought the opening idea looked both familiar and older, and a bit of research confirmed this.
Where I remember it from was the 1998 Australian Junior Championship, where Kylie Coventry scored a 19 move win using the same line. I'm pretty sure the FM Manuel Weeks was the source of the idea (as he coached Coventry on the way to winning the Australian Girls Championship that year), although the line was first played (unsuccessfully)  in 1994. But it is no surprise that Smerdon included it in his book, as he played in the Australian Junior that year, and probably saw how powerful it was, as it was being played!

Norris,Shiloh (1348) - Coventry,Kylie (1533) [B01]
AUS jr ch U18 Girls Adelaide (2.33), 13.01.1998

Friday, 2 March 2018

Before I found the Traxler

There was a time when I did not play the Traxler against the Two Knights Defence. Way back in the dim distant past I did play the more normal 4. ... d5 lines, although even this move "simply loses a pawn" according to Nigel Short.
But if the following game is anything to go by, the reason I switched to the Traxler is if I was going to surrender material (as I did in this game), then I should do so for the right reasons (rather than just missing my opponents moves)

Austin,David - Press,Shaun [C59]
Belconnen, 1986

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Did Black move first?

While digging through some information concerning the "Immortal Game", I came across a piece of information I have never seen before. According to the July 1851 edition of "The Chess Player" by Horwitz and Kling, Anderssen actually played with the black pieces during the game. But before you think the result has been misreported for over 150 years, the game is given with Anderssen (as Black) still making the first move. It does not seem to be a typo in the magazine, as the notes attached refer to Black as the winner.
If this were the case Anderssen's play is even more impressive, as playing with white as black can be quite off putting. I've seen it done on occasion (usually after a quick loss at skittles and the players are too lazy to swap the pieces) but even then, the king and queen are often swapped, so that short castling is still to the right for 'Black'.

Monday, 26 February 2018

2018 ACT Chess Championship 9-12 March 2018

The 2018 ACT Chess Championship is being held on the long weekend of the 9th to the 12th of March 2018. It will be a 7 round FIDE rated Swiss with the first round on Friday evening (9th), and 2 rounds on each of the following days. Time limit is 90m+30s
The tournament will be held at Campbell High School, and there will be a cafe/canteen running during the tournament. The tournament is open to all ACTCA members ($25/$15 per year) and for players without an international rating, this provides an ideal opportunity to get one.
Further details (including entry information) can be found at

(** I will be a paid official at this event **)

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Neglecting development

One of the big risks in neglecting development in the opening is that you increase the risk of getting hit by a surprise tactic. Here is a short example of this, from a game I played today at Street Chess.

Press,Shaun - Tiwari,Rajiv [D00]
Street Chess, 24.02.2018

It's not always how many moves

For a couple of different reasons, I've been looking over some the work I had previously done in the field of Anti-Cheating in Chess. While doing so, I came across a slightly different take on detecting engine use in online chess.
The simple approach is to compare the moves played with what a strong engine might play. However this generally only catches people who aren't smart enough to cover their tracks, although this is still quite a large number of guilty players. As discussed in this answer on Quora, it is often a shorter run of moves that is the giveaway, rather than the entire game (Note: This method was recognised as a possibility when I was a member of the FIDE Anti-Cheating Committee). Also mentioned in the answer are the conditions for turning on (or off) an engine during the game.
The other issue with move matching is that it returns differing results for different styles of games. The classic example of this were the respective performances of Mikhail Tal and Anatoly Karpov at the Montreal 1979 Super Tournament. In a retrospective examination of the games by Professor Kenneth Regen, Tal has the highest move match with modern chess engines, at a little under 70% (IIRC). Karpov had the lowest match of the players in the event, at least than 50%. Interestingly, they tied for first place with 12/18.
The explanation for this is due to the differing styles of players. Tal's games involved a lot of positions where the second or third best move was significantly worse than the best choice (due to the tactical nature of the positions), while Karpov's positions had a number of moves that were good, and it was a matter of his long term understanding of the position as to which one was chosen.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

In praise of club chess

For some players, the regularity of club chess can be a real chore. Facing the same opponents, not being able to skip a week to go to the movies, or simply becoming too strong are some of the reasons that come into play.
For other players (including myself), playing at a local club is what makes chess, chess. Knowing that a mistake in one game isn't the end of the world, or engaging in multi-year theoretical debates about favourite openings, is something that keeps members playing week in week out. And while the chess isn't perfect, it usually is interesting enough that each player (and spectators) get something out of it.
A few weeks ago I published one of my wins from the current tournament at Belconnen Chess Club. Here is a far more interesting game from round 3 of the same event (This time it isn't mine, as I played like a knuckle-head last night and lost). Milan Ninchich looked like he was gone for all money against Miles Patterson, until he found a clever double rook sacrifice at the death, to salvage a draw by repetition.

Ninchich,Milan - Patterson,Miles [B02]
University Cup Belconnen, 20.02.2018