Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Viva Anand

After a less than stellar 2017 (except for the last bit), Viswanathan Anand continues his resurgence at the Tata Steel event in The Netherlands. He won his first round game against Maxim Matlakov and then drew with Karjakin in round 2. In round 3 he was up against Fabiano Caruana, and defying the age gap, beat the young American in a complicated game. He now leads the event on 2.5/3, along with Anish Giri, who seemingly surprised everyone by winning his first two games.
As I type this Giri is up against World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a sharp line of the French, where Black has thematically sacrificed the g and h pawns for activity in the centre. Anand is facing countryman Adhiban, and might be outright first by the time I wake in the morning.

Anand,V (2767) - Caruana,F (2811) [C42]
80th Tata Steel GpA Wijk aan Zee NED (3), 15.01.2018

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

2018 Australian Junior

The 2018 Australian Junior Chess Championship is up an running in Melbourne, and it looks like there is a record field on hand. The main event is the Under 18 championship which has attracted a pretty solid field of 22 players, although typically missing the very top Australian juniors.
The older age groups (open) run the entire length of the tournament, while the majority of events start on Wednesday. The ACT is represented by 8 players this year, with Sulia Van Sebille probably the best hope of taking home a title, in the Under 14 girls.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Tata Steel 2018

After two weeks of watching chess during the day, now it is back to two weeks of watching chess late at night. The 2018 Tata Steel event has just begun (15 minutes ago!), with the heavyweight clash of Carlsen v Caruana first up. The 14 player round robin also has Kramnik, Giri, So, Anand in the field, so there should be plenty of good games each round.
This tournament should also provide something of a preview for the upcoming Candidates tournament with a few of Carlsen's likely challengers in the field. It may be an opportunity for them to both test Carlsen, as well as try and get a physiological edge over each other. Of course Carlsen could use the tournament to repeat Capablanca's dominant win in the 1927 New York tournament ( 2.5 points ahead of Alekhine), although if he does, he should hope that history does not repeat itself further, as Alekhine then defeated Capablanca for the World Championship title later that year.

2018 Australian Championships - Illingworth wins

GM Max Illingworth finished his dominate run in the 2018 Australian Chess Championship with a final round win over FM Gene Nakauchi. Nakauchi chose a line against the French Defence that was known to be bad from one of his previous tournament games and Illingworth was already better by move 10. The game ended with a sacrificial attack followed by a smothered mate combination. The win moved him to 10 points from 11 rounds, a full point ahead of GM Anton Smirnov.
Smirnov had a quick final round game after WGM Pauline Guichard miscalculated a pawn grab and dropped a piece. GM Moulthun Ly secured third fourth place with a short final day draw with IM James Morris.
The other game of significance was between IM Ari Dale and IM Gary Lane. A win for Dale would have given him a 9 game GM norm, as he was able to drop two winning games over lower rated opponent earlier in the event, to raise the average rating of his opponents to the required level. Lane chose an aggressive attacking line against Dale's Caro-Kan, but once the attack petered out, Lane's lack of development proved fatal. The win gave Dale a TPR of just over 2600 which was enough for the norm.
The Reserves event also had a dramatic finish with WCM Nguyen Phan beating round 10 leader Willis Lo, to capture first place on 9/11. Phan, who lost her first round game, recovered from a slow start to finish the tournament with a run of 6.5/7. Despite the loss, Lo still finished outright second on 8.5/11.

Lane,Gary W (2401) - Dale,Ari (2356) [B18]
2018 Australian Championship Sydney (11.4), 12.01.2018

Friday, 12 January 2018

2018 Australian Championship - Day 10

GM Max Illingworth is on the verge of winning the 2018 Australian Championship, after another strong win in round 10. The Only player who can now possibly catch him is GM Anton Smirnov, who kept the gap between the two players to a single point, after also winning his round 10 game.
Illingworth is playing FM Gene Nakauchi in today's last round, while Smirnov faces WGM Pauline Guichard. A loss to Illingworth, and a win to Smirnov would see the title decided by a future playoff match.
GM Moulthun Ly's chances of being part of the last round dramataics took a hit when he drew with IM Kanan Izzat in round 10. He now sits on 7.5/10, along with IM Ari Dale who beat IM Stepehen Solomon in a tricky Bishop v Pawns ending. Despite the win, Dale has fallen just short  (by half a point) of scoring a GM norm, as the tournament does not have enough GM's for a 10 game norm, and his TPR for a 9 game norm is just below 2600. (*** Correction ***) If Dale beats Lane he does get a 9 game GM norm as he an drop wins over his two lowest rated opponents, and just exceed the 2600 TPR required.
In the Reserves tournament, Willis Lo has kept the lead with a round 10 win over Pieter Bierkins. He faces WCM Phan Nguyen in the final round, with the tournament being decided by the result of this game.
The final round for both tournaments commences at 1015 this morning, with all the winners likely to be known by mid afternoon.

Illingworth,Max (2494) - Lane,Gary W (2401) [D20]
2018 Australian Championship Sydney (10.1), 11.01.2018

Thursday, 11 January 2018

2018 Australian Championships - Day 9

The 9th round of the 2018 Australian Championship saw wins for the tournament leaders, leaving the places at the top unchanged. GM Max Illingworth seemed to catch IM Kanan Izzat by surprise in the opening, with Izzat thinking for 15 minutes over his third move (and leading GM Ian Rogers to ask me if the DGT broadcast had frozen). As Izzat fell further behind on the clock, his position deteriorated and he went down to a quick defeat.  GM Anton Smirnov beat veteran IM Stephen Solomon in a game which had a long tactical sequence that ended in a winning knight ending for Smirnov. GM Moutlhun Ly had to work a lot harder against FM Brandon Clarke, and was rewarded when Clarke made a fatal mistake in a ending that may have been hold-able.
With 2 rounds to go, Illingworth leads with an impressive 8/9. Smirnov and Ly are a point behind, with IM Ari Dale in 4th place on 6.5/9.
In the Reserves tournament, Willis Lo has taken the outright lead after beating George Lester. Lo, who had applied to play in the championship (along with a few other Reserves players), goes into the last to rounds on 7.5/9, ahead of 5 players on 7.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

2018 Australian Championship - Day 8

The 2018 Australian Championship is now down to a race among 3 players, after some crucial round 8 games. On the top board GM Max Illingworth defeated IM Bobby Cheng, playing a very aggressive system against the Pirc. He held the initiative throughout the game, and Cheng resigned on move 34. IM Kanan Izzat had to fend off a strong attack from GM Anton Smirnov before drawing soon after the first time control. On board 3 GM Moulthun Ly put a dent in the chances of IM Ari Dale after beating him in 32 moves. Spotting a tactical chance, Ly got both of his rooks on the 7th rank, after which Dale's king was unable to be saved.
With 3 rounds to play, Illingworth leads with 7/8. Ly and Smirnov are a full point behind on 6/8. There is a group of players back on 5.5, but even if Illingworth does stumble in the final straight, I cannot see anyone from this group outpacing all the leaders.
The 2018 Reserves Championship continues to be a wide open event, with previous leader George Lester being brought back to the pack by CM Vishal Baht. They were joined on 6.5/8 by WCM Nugyen Phan, and Willis Lo, who both won their round 8 games. The top 4 are paired in round 9, so both this round and the next may decide who gets to play in the 2020 Championship.