Friday, 16 February 2018

In author mode

I'm currently in 'Author Mode', trying to write some new titles for e+ChessBooks (Disclaimer: I am employed by the company as a software developer). It is a mixture of typesetting older books, converting some newer books to electronic format, and putting together some original content.
The work I am trying to get finished first is a reworking of a 19th century collection of brilliancies, which was published without annotations. As a result I've spent the past week going through the games (with computer assistance) trying to find different ways of saying 'Black missed a better defence with ...'. And while the attacking play is quite ingenious, I have to agree with Bent Larsen's contention that he would have easily been World Champion in the 19th Century (if he had the same chess knowledge) as he would have simply defended better.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

FIDE chickens looking for roosts

The fallout from the 2014 FIDE election continues to roll on, with the FIDE bank account in Swistzerland being frozen. (
As the above article says, this is due to  FIDE President Kirsan Ilymzhonov being under US government sanctions for his involvement in financing aspects of the conflict in Syria. Of course this has been an ongoing issue for FIDE for a few years now, but has come to a head at a somewhat unfortunate time.
The article does quote FIDE Treasurer Adrian Siegal placing the blame directly on the FIDE President, but he would do better to look at the actions of some of his other FIDE colleagues. One of the problems that FIDE face is that they have no real mechanism for removing Ilyumzhinov, but this is a problem that the organisation created for itself.
In pushing so hard for Kirsan to win the past two elections (2010 and 2014), the FIDE executive essentially ran roughshod over any idea of executive accountability. This has meant that there are no real mechanisms for holding anyone accountable for their actions (unless you are a former FIDE executive member or unsuccessful candidate), and so Kirsan will remain president until the next election.
That this has occurred is of little surprise to me, based on what I witnessed during the 2014 election in Tromso. There was a definite 'win at all costs' mentality on show there, which I personally thought crossed the line in terms of what should have been an independent process. An obvious example of this was Kirsan's promise of $40,000,000 to support chess, which while being an obvious lie, was praised or excused by members of the FIDE Executive, rather than condemned by the very people who knew it was untrue.
After the election was I was even accused of being depressed because 'my guy lost', to which I replied, "No, I'm upset at the level of behaviour I've seen from people I expected better of". And it is this attitude of privilege over principal that has left FIDE painting itself into a corner.
Of course it is the same people who campaigned so passionately (and in some cases unethically)  for Kirsan's election who are now turning around to claim that they are the only people who can fix it. I have no doubt that they themselves believe it, and that is part of the problem with the current executive. Better for all would see them confess their past sins, take some responsibility for this fiasco, and then consider what they should do in retirement.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Crossing the board

There have been a couple of celebrated games where the Black king gets checkmated on the opposite side of the board. Normally a piece (or greater) sacrifice was involved and the king was frog marched to its doom. Most games I have seen take more than 20 moves before checkmate is achieved, but the following looks like some sort of record, in that Black is mated on e1 in only 15 moves. Unlike some other record setting games, this one does look legitimate, with Black just blundering in the open.

Abdel Aziz,Shehab (2116) - Tawfik,Neamet [C21]
Cairo op-B Cairo (1), 2000

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Order to Chaos

Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura are currently playing a match for the unofficial title of Fischer Random World Champion. After 4 games Carlsen leads 5-3, having won the 4th game.
The match is over 16 games, with the first 8 played at a slower time limit (40 moves in 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes flat) than the last 8 (15m+10s). Scores are also doubled for the first 8, which accounts for the slightly odd score. For the first half players are shown the start position 15 minutes before the start, while for the rapid they will only have 2 minutes to see the position (NB the same position is used for each pair of white/black games).
I've had a quick look at the games, and there seems to be just enough in the initial setups to challenge the players. To my untrained eye, it seems that the positioning of the rooks is a significant factor in what sort of game you will see. If the rooks start off in (or close to) the corners (as they did in games 3-4) you get a 'normal' position, much sooner than if the rooks already occupy the centre files. I also noticed that sound pawn structures seems a little less important than I'm used to, but then I realised that seems to be the trend in normal chess at this level anyway.
I'd like to show you a game, but attempts at getting the pgn view to work have been a little tricky. If I discover the secret tomorrow, I might update this post.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

You snooze, you lose

Today was the first day of the 2018 Lifeline Bookfair in Canberra, so I made the effort to try and get there early. While I'm not mad enough to bring a tent and sleep by the door (in fact, no one is) I do try and make sure I'm at least close to the door when it opens.
The strategy was reasonably successful this year, as almost all the second hand chess books were still on the table, although a few had been picked up by one fleet of foot chess parent!
As I've mentioned in the past, I usually don't buy that many books these days, as I already have copies of most of them. I did get an Informator No. 2, to go with the No. 1 I picked up last time. A couple of problem books, a collection of games by Rubenstein and of course a copy of "Play Better Chess" by Barden were also some of the books I grabbed.
Luckily I was in early, as about 5 minutes after I made my selection, a lot of books went in one sweep of the hand as someone just tipped half of them into an open bag. I'm assuming it was a second hand book seller, as a more discerning collector would have at least checked the prices.
If you do plan to visit tomorrow, I'm not sure if there will be many chess books left. They usually have extra boxes for most categories, but if past years are anything to go by, the whole chess collection goes out at the start and does not get replaced.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

A proto-Traxler

While the Traxler did not make its debut until the late 19th century, there were games played earlier than that, that at least showed some of the ideas that were employed. One example was a game from 1850 where Black allowed a fork on f7 and sacrificed the rook on h8 to gain time for his attack. Unlike the Traxler proper, there was no sacrifice on f2, although the bishop on c5 still played an important role.

Moor - Dubois,Serafino [C50]
Rome Rome, 1850

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Gratuitous Blogging

The Belconnen Chess Club has reopened for the year, which means gratuitous blogging of chess wins from me. For the first round of the 2018 University Cup I was up against Matt Radisich, which is a tougher than usual round 1 pairing.
After I plunked a knight on d5 I felt I was better, although there was a miscalculation by myself on move 27 which Matt did not take advantage of. After that I went into a R v BN ending, which normally favours the two pieces, but fortunately a combination of a better placed king, and a tactical trick missed by Matt (36.Rf1) was enough for me to convert.

Press,Shaun - Radisich,Matt [B26]
University Cup, 06.02.2018

Goodnight Sweetheart

For non serious chess players, the Knight (or the horsey) is the most interesting piece on the board. Its slightly unusual movement, and its ability to jump over other pieces quickly gains it attention above and beyond its station. It is hardly surprising then, that moves involving knights stand out. Knight forks are spoken of far more than Bishop forks or Rook forks, while under promoting to a knight is a pretty big deal. And long sequences of knight moves do get noticed, as the following game demonstrates. From move 22 to 34 Anand (as white) moves nothing but his Knights, forcing the black pieces to duck and weave from square to square.

Anand,Viswanathan (2787) - Topalov,Veselin (2805) [E04]
World-ch Anand-Topalov +3-2=7 Sofia (6), 01.05.2010

Monday, 5 February 2018

Plan, calculate, move

White to play and win
Here is a position from the recent Gibraltar tournament (one of the Amateur events I believe). It is White to play and win.
Given the unbalanced nature of the position, trying to pick an obvious move is a little difficult. Instead a better approach is to try and develop a more general winning plan before choosing a specific move. Once you have a plan, then you can calculate more efficiently, and hopefully come up with the correct move.
(Note: When I first saw it, I did get the right plan, but still manged to choose the wrong first move, so this method isn't fool proof)
Thanks to WFM Alana Chibnall for sending it to me.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

An odd, but important game

If I asked you to name a game where White sacrifices a queen on d8 and mates after a double check from rook and bishop, you wouldn't be wrong if you said 'Reti v Tartakower'. But as with most things, this game wasn't the first example of this idea, just the most popular. Well before, Ernst Falkbeer (of the Falkbeer counter gambits) demonstrated the winning method, in an odds game. Falkbeer started without his queens knight, which in this case may have been more of a help than a hindrance, as he was able to castle one move quicker than normal, and getting his rook ready for the mate.

Falkbeer,Ernst - Simpson,Mr

Friday, 2 February 2018

Aronian wins Gibraltar Masters

Lev Aronian has won the 2018 Gibraltar Masters, after a marathon playoff session that involved the top 4 finishers. In fact the final round results left 7 players tied for the lead on 7.5/10, but the tournament regulations only allowed the top 4 (on tie-break) to go though to the playoff.
In the semi-finals, Vachier-Lagrave defeated Nakamura to end his attempt to claim a 4th successive title, while Aronian defeated Rapport. Then in the final Aronian beat MVL to claim his second title (the first being a multiway tie in 2005, which in fact lead to the introduction of the playoff system).
IM John-Paul Wallace was the best of the Australian players finishing 5/10, although his final round win came at the expense of WIM Heather Richards. A win for Richards would have seen her score a WGM norm (by the narrowest of margins) but it wasn't to be. Alek Safarian finished alongside Richards with 4 points, while WFM Alana Chibnall score 3.5 (matching my score from last year).

Aronian,Lev - Nakamura,Hikaru [B06]
2018 Gibraltar Masters, 01.02.2018