Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016/17 Hastings International - Day 3

Icelandic IM Gudmunder Kjartansson has taken the outright lead after three rounds of the 2016/17 Hastings International. Kjartansson was the only winner on the top 5 boards, beating English FM Ravia Haria.
Australian IM Bobby Cheng drew with English GM Mark Hebden on board 2, while compatriot Justin Tan had a nice win a little further down.
The leading pack is starting to sort themselves out, although there are a few dangerous players floating around the lower groups. Top seed SP Suthuraman scored his first win of the tournament to move up to 1.5, while the group of players on 2/3 contains no fewer than 6 GM's.
As this event has no rest day, there is both a New Years Eve, and New Years Day round. Players are able to take a bye (half point) on request, but surprisingly few have availed themselves of this option.

TAN,Justin (2451) - FOO,William J (2145) [A00]
Hastings Masters 2016/17 Horntye Park Sports Complex, B (3.8), 30.12.2016

If you wish to see the results, or follow the live games, then visit the tournament website at

Friday, 30 December 2016

2016/17 Hastings International Day 2 - A good day for the Australians

Day 2 of the 2016/17 Hastings International saw the 3 Australian players all end up with good results. IM Bobby Cheng defeated GM Deep Sengupta on the top board to go to 2/2, while IM Justin Tan had a quick win over IM Robert Bellin. Harry Press scored his second draw of the tournament, holding on despite being a pawn down against Alan Byron.
Top seed SP Sethuraman had another tough day, drawing with English FM Robert Eames. GM Danny Gormally was another upset loss, with FM Ravi Haria finding a nice win in a Q+2 Minors v Q+R position.
Currently 9 players are on 2/2, including GM's Allan Rasmussen (DEN) and Mark Hebden (ENG). Tomorrows round is the last accelerated round as well, with the top half getting a bonus 0.5 for this round (as defined in the new Baku rules). So far the acceleration seems to have worked well, with the pairings not being too problematic. In round 4 everyone will be paired using their 'natural' scores, but even then I don't expect too many unbalanced pairings.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

2016/17 Hastings International - Day 1

It is tough at the top. The first day of the 2016/17 Hastings International saw a number of upsets on the higher boards, with seeds 1 and 3 losing, and the third second seed being held to a draw. The acceleration of the pairings obviously resulted in tougher first round opponents than usual, but it was still a surprise to see the carnage unfold.
After that there were more 'normal' results, although a number of higher rated opponents conceded draws to lower rated opposition. and there was still the odd upset victory. Nonetheless there some of the higher rated opponents still handed out the chess lesson to their opponents including the following quick win by Danny Gormally.

Gormally,Daniel W - Teh,Eu Wen Aron [E54]
2016/17 Hastings Masters, 28.12.2016

If you wish to see the results, or follow the live games, then visit the tournament website at

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Hastings - First Impressions

I am starting to settle in at Hastings, with the 2016/17 Hastings International Chess Congress starting this afternoon. Despite the stories about trudging through 4 feet of snow, or the see freezing over, it is quite pleasant at the moment. I am staying on the sea front, with a nice view across the English Channel.
I spent yesterday evening helping the organising team set up at the venue. A lot of hard work goes into an event like this, especially as there are a couple of different events being held at the same time. Apart from the 97 player Masters events, there is a Christmas Congress, which is split into 4 sections. The top 24 boards from the Masters will be covered live via DGT boards, and you can follow the action from the tournament website.
One interesting feature of the Masters is that they are using Accelerated Pairings. The new Baku System is going to be tried although it is not clear if the pairing software ISwiss Manager/JavaFo) is able to handle it yet. So the first few rounds will be paired by hand (apparently a Hastings tradition anyway) before moving over the computer pairings.
Round times for the Masters is 2:15 pm local time, which is 1:15 am Canberra time. As the time limit is a very generous 40 in 100m followed by 50m with a 30 second increment, you may be able to catch the tail end of the games in the morning.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Rapid and Blitz in Qatar

For the last few years the Qatar Masters has been a big event this time of year, but for 2016 it has been replaced with the FIDE World rapid and Blitz Championship. 120 players in the Open and 36 in the Womens event are playing a 3 day 15 round Rapid, and a 2 day 21 round Blitz. Magnus Carlsen is the top seed, but plenty of the worlds top players are also taking part.
After the first day Anton Korabov is the only player on 5/5. Lev Aronian is on 4.5, with a number of players on 4. Carlsen had a very shaky start, drawing with SS Ganguly (with Ganguly missing a forced mate), and losing to Pantsulaia in the 2nd round. 3 straight wins kept him in touch with the leaders, but he now has some work too do.
The official website is here, while you can follow the games at Chess24

Monday, 26 December 2016

Christmas Cracking

It is Christmas Day here in the UK, so I've just enough time to throw in a late Christmas present. This was an online game played earlier today, where an early deviation from theory met with an untimely end. For those looking to repeat this line (with either colour), taking the knight on b4 was not sound, but neither was Na6 for Black (O-O!), The final big mistake was 15. ... d4 as White has a forced win after that.

Press,Harry - Saint,Nick [C17]
Xmas Blitz, 25.12.2016

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Rapidplay Revisted

Having seen the success of big Rapidplay in the UK, I am still wondering why it didn't catch on in Australia. There was a push in the 1990's to make it a 'thing', including the Australian Rapidplay Open in Sydney, which had some big sponsorship, and an appearance by the Polgar Sisters. However it seemed to fizzle out after a couple of years, and hasn't really been tried since.
One obvious reason is the market for it. Players seem happy with weekend events with longer time controls (especially FIDE rated ones), or faster events like Street Chess. A single day rapid falls between the two, and so does not attract travellers from afar, or players willing to sacrifice an entire day.
Having said that, when I get back to Australia I may try and test the market, at least in Canberra. A single day 6 round Quickplay (as the ACF now calls it), with a time limit of G20m+10s per move, with a minimum prize pool of $900. $50 flat entry fee (sorry, no concessions) with 6 to 9 prizes on offer, depending on the size of the field. As it is a serious event, FIDE rating it is a given. I'd also use the English method for awarding category prizes, which is based on Score Achieved minus  Score Expected, so as to reward good play and avoid the luck of the last round draw.
To make it work properly I would need to run at least 2 events, to see how it performs as a concept. The only other issue I need to work around is the somewhat crowded Canberra chess calendar. ACT Champs and Doeberl are to big events early in the year, but possibly I can squeeze it in somewhere.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Hastings in a few days

The Hastings International Chess Congress begins a couple of days after Christmas, and after years of saying I've wanted to attend this event, I am actually going to attend this event. I'm going as an arbiter rather than a player, and given my recent form, this looks to be the smart choice.
The Masters event has the usual mix of UK and OS GM's, and there will be at least 3 Australian players in the field. IM's Justin Tan and Bobby Cheng will be looking for GM norms from this event, while Harry Press is hoping to pick up more rating points.
Looking back at previous events I came across the following game, which is of some interest. It is between veteran Hastings player Bernard Cafferty and Maris Cekulis, from Australia. It was played in 2012, and was a win for the local champion.

Cekulis,Maris (1811) - Cafferty,Bernard (2105) [A62]
Hastings Masters 88th Hastings (1), 28.12.2012

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Not an appealing tournament

It seems that the Victorian Lightning Championship started as one of the strongest state blitz championships in Australia, but ended as one of the most controversial. On paper an event with 3 GM's, 5 IM's, 1 WIM, 5 FM's and 1 WFM in a 54 player field should be considered a success for the organisers, but the heavy hand of the arbiting team saw it run off the rails.
The main issue was a the announcement of a new rule that prevented players from starting their move (by touching a piece) before their opponent had pressed the clock. The punishment for this was loss of game. As a result a number of games were decided in this manner, including games between the top seeds.
It is not clear why the arbiters thought such a rule was either valid or necessary. There is no such rule in the FIDE Laws of Chess that prevents a player from moving immediately after their opponent has made a move. Of course some players find this tactic annoying (including myself), but it is not illegal. Indeed the rules (6.2.A in the FIDE Laws of Chess) explicitly describe the case where an opponent has moved while his opponent has not pressed their clock, and simply state that the first player can complete their move by pressing the clock. (NB I was on the FIDE Rules Commission when this rule was discussed and it was decided that there will be no rule change to prevent players from moving before the opponent has pressed their clock)
To introduce such a rule is also asking for trouble. In my experience the best run events require as little involvement from arbiters as possible. For example the 2 day 10 round 475 player LCC Super Rapidplay had only one issue that I saw (an incorrect draw offer involving raised voices), in part because the arbiters only involved themselves at the request of the players. There was a brief explanation about the application of A.4 (Rapidplay Rules), but otherwise the arbiters left the players to manage their own affairs.
The other reported issue from this event was involving appeals. IM James Morris lodged a formal complaint after losing a game in this manner, but the appeals committee included the arbiter who had made the initial ruling. This is not how appeals committees are supposed to operate, and I am surprised that the VCA (the organising body) would allow this to stand.
As a consequence the whole event is now under a cloud. There is talk of not submitting it for rating (either with FIDE or with the Australian Chess Federation) while the predictable debate about the quality of arbiters (and the suitability of their titles) has begun. This issue might run for a while, as I'm sure the organisers might feel aggrieved if such an action was taken, although how they balance this with the actual conduct of the event remains to be seen.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The journey continues

As I am currently on a chess holiday in the UK, this blog is a little more travelogue than usual.
With the London Chess Classic out of the way, Harry and I have travelled down to Gloucestershire to spend Christmas with family, before moving onto the Hastings Chess Congress a few days later. Although this part of the trip is a little chess-lite, trips to this part of th UK usually involve excursions to second hand book shops, looking for additions to my chess library. If I have the time, Hay-on-Wye is on the agenda, but if not, Gloucester and Bath may provide some decent alternatives.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

2017 Oceania Zonal - 14th to 20th January 2017

Entries for the 2017 Oceania Zonal are coming in, and the Open is starting to look quite strong. Up for grabs is a spot in the 2017 World Cup in Georgia, as well as the opportunity to earn titles for good performances.
IM Anton Smirnov is currently the top seed, with GM Max Illingworth, IM Gary Lane and GM Darryl Johansen at the top of the field. There are 2 GM's and 6 IM's entered so far, with 28 players rated above 2000.
The Women's Zonal currently has a smaller field, with 11 players entered at this time. IM Irina Berzina is the top seed, with Layla Timergazi the big hope for host country New Zealand.
The tournament runs from the 14th to the 20th January 2017 in Auckland New Zealand.

Monday, 19 December 2016

LCC Super Rapidplay - Valentina Gunina wins

Russian GM Valentin Gunina has won the 2016 LCC Super Rapidplay with an impressive 9/10. A last round win over GM Luke McShane gave her outright first and the 5000 GBP first prize. Seeded 33rd in the tournament she played seeds 2,3,4,5,6 and 8 and scored 5/6 against them. Eltaj Sarfali finished in second place on 8.5, while 11 players finished in a tie for 3rd.
Of the Australian players taking part, WIM Arianne Caoili finished with the best score of 6/10. Harry Press scored 5.5, and Chris Skulte finished with 5. David Guthrie, formerly of New Zealand, but now based in London, also finished on 5.5, drawing with Harry Press in the final round.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

LCC Super Rapidplay day 1

Day 1 of the London Chess Classic Super Rapidplay saw around 470 take part in the UK's largest ever rapid event. As someone who is used to arbiting somewhat smaller events, I was impressed by both the organisation of the tournament, and the general vibe of the event.
There are 10 arbiters for the tournament, including a dedicated pairing arbiter, plus other helpers. This helped the tournament stick to the published schedule, as arbiters weren't involved in managing games, and then running off to do pairings, like in Australian events. Also each game has a result ticket at the board, which players fill out and hand in at the end of the game, resulting in less confusion about results. Also, from an arbiters point of view, the players seem to be a bit more serious about their chess than in Australia, meaning that their were no disputes in my section, and hardly any problems in the rest of the tournament.
As for the actual chess, there are still 7 players with a perfect 5/5. English GM David Howell is waving the flag for the host country, but with GM's filling the next 33 places, the likely winner is still hard to predict.
Interesting there are a number of players with a Canberra connection. GM Hrant Melkumyan  is on 4.5 (drawing in round 1!), while Arianne Caoili is on 4. Canadian player Daniel Abrahams (formerly at the ANU) is on 3/5, beating GM Abhijeet Gupta in round 2, while Harry Press is on the same score, drawing with GM Benjamin Bok in the opening round.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Scaling up

My usual experience with Rapidplay events is the regular Street Chess tournaments I run. It happens every Saturday and the average size if the field is around 16 players. Occasionally there will be a bigger field for a special event like the ACT Rapid Championship, where 30 to 40 players will normally play.
Today I'm helping out at the London Chess Classic Super Rapidplay. This is an incredibly popular event and attracts a field of over 400 players. It runs for 2 days, with a slightly longer time control of 25m+10s. One of the reasons for its popularity is almost all the strong GM's playing in the LCC FIDE Open back up for this event, and it gives everyone a change to mix it with the heavy hitters.
There will be a large team of arbiters handing the event, and it will be interesting to see how it all gets managed. So far I've only heard positive things about previous tournaments, so I'm guessing that the organisers have it down pat.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Prepped to death

One of the differences between club chess and tournament chess is the level of opening preparation you face. In almost every game I have played so far, my opponents have prepared a specific opening line against me. Sometimes it works for them, and sometimes it doesn't.
I lost a horrible game in round 2 after missing a opening tactic, but for some reason my round 4 opponent avoided playing the same line. Instead he thought he would avoid my previous opening choices, but instead played into a Gruenfeld, which is an opening I have played for about 15 years.
But rather than show that game (which ended in a draw) I'll show an example where prep worked to deadly effect. Harry Press noticed his opponent played the same line of the Veresov, and after some investigation found a nice idea involving Ba3!!. His opponent started to go wrong straight away, and after another 5 moves resigned a he was about to lose a rook.

Salewski,Bernd - Press,Harry [D01]
London Chess Classic Under 2050, 15.12.2016

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Do I have a generous looking face - redux

I'm not to sure whether my recent play has been unconvincing, but I seem to be having a difficulty in convincing my opponents to resign. Twice in the last three games at the LCC Under 2050, I've managed to be up a rook for a couple of pawns, but have needed to play another 20 moves or so before the point has been conceded. Possibly I have been a little over cautious in converting, giving my opponents some hope, but better safe than sorry. To be fair to my opponents I don't begrudge them playing on, but there is only so many late dinners I can handle, before hunger overwhelms my good nature.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Wisdom of the ageing

On thing that I have noticed on my various trips to the UK is that the average age of the players is significantly older than in Australian events. The generation that began playing as part of the "Fischer boom" is well represented, as is the next wave of players who followed the "English Chess Explosion" of the late 1970's and 80's. What is less prevalent is the hordes of primary aged children we do get in Australian events, with most junior players at the LCC being teenagers.
That is not to say there isn't a strong primary school chess scene in the UK, as there were large numbers of school groups visiting the London Chess Classic, but they were there as spectators, not as players.
Conventional wisdom might be that the lack of active primary players might be detrimental to the future of UK chess, but the numbers indicate that this might not be the case. Where the UK chess scene has it over Australia is in retaining active players. While Australia has a large junior pool, keeping them active beyond their late teens is the challenge. As a personal example, I began playing tournaments as a 16 year old, but in any event I play (or run), there would be very few players with careers as long as mine (35 years). On the other hand, I suspect a much larger percentage of UK players have been playing for that long, a figure that I would place as high as 50%
That is not to say that chess in the UK is just for oldies. But certainly they have succeeded in both developing new players,but more importantly, turning them into life long supporters of the game , something that Australia has been less good at doing.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

One in a row

The chess part of my 2 month holiday started this afternoon at the London Chess Classic Under 2050 event. This 5 round event is running alongside the LCC Open, and has attracted a field of around 50 players. I started in the top half of the field, but even then had to work for my point.
My game started well after my opponent missed a tactical trick out of the opening, forgetting that the f pawn was pinned after he castled. After swapping off some material my opponent then dropped a piece, but in return a trio of passed pawns looked menacing. Despite being downa rook he found some clever moves, but eventually I was able to win a pawn and swap queens, at which point he resigned.
It is always good to get a first win out of the way, but I suspect tomorrow I may have a much tougher opponent, as there were a number of draws between top half and bottom half players.

Press,Shaun - Patel,Rishi [C48]
London Chess Classic Under 2050, 12.12.2016

Monday, 12 December 2016

2016 Australasian Masters

The Melbourne Chess Club is the venue for the 2016 Australasian Masters. The top event is a 10 player GM norm event, while there is also an IM norm event running alongside.
IM Anton Smirnov is off to a good start, beating GM Vasily Papin in round 2. He needs 7/9 to score his second (and final) GM norm, while the rest of the non-GM's need 6.5. FM's Chris Wallis and Karl Zelesco can also score IM norms, needing 5/9. In the Masters event, the IM norm score is an equally tough 7/9.
The tournament runs until the 18th of December, with most rounds starting at 4pm. Live coverage of the GM event can also be found on

Smirnov,Anton - Papin,Vasily [B42]
Australasian Masters, 11.12.2016

Sunday, 11 December 2016

London Chess Classic

I manged a quick visit to the London Chess Classic this afternoon, and was able to experience the shear size of the event. Apart from the 10 player Classic, the FIDE Open had a field of over 200 players, while the weekend events have attracted another 300 players. Apart from the playing areas, the foyer was filled with analysis boards, and the large commentary room was 80% full.
I didn't stay for too long, but I did get to see one of the playoff games from the British Knockout Championship (another innovative event). Nigel Short was paired with Luke McShane and played a line against the Pirc which he said served him well against Yasser Seirawan about 25 years ago. Once Short played e6 McShane had to find the right defensive moves, but it was on move 12 that McShane played to wrong move. After that Short was always better, and won both the game and the playoff.

Short,Nigel - McShane,Luke [B00]
British Knockout Ch'ship Olympia Conference Centre (9.1), 10.12.2016

Saturday, 10 December 2016

2016 Lidums Young Masters - 2 new IM's

The 2016 Lidums Young Masters finished with FM's Ziangyi Liu (SGP) and Li Tian Yeoh (MAS) tieing for first place with 6/9. Not only was this score good enough to win the event, but was also enough for both players to score their final IM norms. Yeoh lead by half a point going into the final round (along with IM Bobby Cheng), but only drew with Patrick Gong (AUS). Cheng lost to IM Kanan Izzat (AZE) to stay on 5.5, and a win by Liu over FM Yi Liu (AUS) enabled him to join Yeoh at the top of the table.

Top seed GM Adrien Demuth tied for third with 5.5 alongside Izzat and Cheng, while early leader IM James Morris defeated IM Andrew Brown to finish on 5/9.

Hughston Parle (AUS) won the Junior Masters event with 7/9, and Gavyn Sanusi-Goh won the Under 1600 event with 8.5/9

Yeoh, Li Tian (2432) - Morris, James (2457)
2016 Lidums Australian Young Masters (Adelaide, South Australia), 08.12.2016

Friday, 9 December 2016

Normal service being resumed

I have touched down in London, but getting back online took me a little longer than I thought. Throwing a little money British Telecoms way seems to have done the trick, and hopefully this will keep me socially connected for the next month or so.
Yesterday was spent settling in to where we (my son and I) are staying for the next week and a half, as well as overcoming the urge to fall asleep at random moments. This problem may persist for the next few days, but hopefully will be conquered by the start of out first chess tournament.
For now it is a bit of sight seeing and exploration. Might drop in to see the early rounds of the London Chess Classic as well, and if I do I'll be sure to report it.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Heading out

Of to England tomorrow morning, spending the usual 36 or so hours going from door to door. I touch down just as the London Chess Classic starts, but as I will still be in recovery mode for a few days, I might not drop in until Sunday or Monday.
In the meantime I squeezed in one last game at Belconnen Chess Club before I left. It was a useful warm up before I go, but both myself and my opponent missed an import nuance on move 40, which would have turned my single tempo win into a single tempo draw.

Pearce,Tim - Press,Shaun [D20]
Swiss Festive Fun, 06.12.2016

2016 Lidums Australian Young Masters

Adelaide is hosting a strong IM event, as well as a couple of junior tournaments for up and coming players.
The Australian Young Masters is being held at Adelaide Uni, and is offering IM norms in the top section. GM Adrien Demuth (FRA) is the top seed, with IM Kanan Izzat, FM Li Tian Yeoh, and FM Ziangyi Liu making up the overseas contingent. However it is IM James Morris (AUS)  who leads the event with 3.5/4. He is being closely followed by FM Liu on 3.0, with IM Bobby Cheng the only other player above 50%. Results for this event are being posted here.
Alongside this event are the Junior Masters, and Junior Masters Under 1600 tournaments. These events have just begun (2 rounds today), so it is too early to predict a winner.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

The Grand Tour

Apologies for the somewhat sporadic blogging recently. Apart from work keeping me busy, an upcoming overseas trip is also taking up my time. Starting on Wednesday (7th December), I, accompanied by my son, will be off on a 9 week trip to the UK. Unsurprisingly, there will be a heavy chess component to the trip, with the London Chess Classic, Hastings International, a 4NCL weekend (and weekender), plus Gibraltar Masters all on the schedule. For some events we will be playing, while for a couple of others I will be an arbiter.
I will be blogging on the trip, so hopefully I can provide some on the spot coverage of these events. Given my current form I suspect my rating might take a bit of a hammering, but as most of these events have been on my to-do list for a number of years, I'm pretty sure the loss of ratings points will be worth it.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Carlsen wins World Championship after playoffs.

The 2016 World Championship Match ended today with Magnus Carlsen winning the playoffs 3-1 over Sergey Karjakin. The final two games of the playoffs were both won by Carlsen, after Karjakin blundered in time trouble in game 3, and rolling the dice in game 4, got mated with a nice queen sac.
While the final day had plenty of excitement, the match itself was fairly dull. A narrow choice of openings and strategy by both players resulted in fairly risk free chess, with Carlsen trying to convert small advantages, while Karjakin seemed happier to defend. Of course if Carlsen had converted some advantageous endgames earlier in the match Karjakin may have been forced to change his approach to stay afloat, but as it was, this situation only occurred in the very final game.
This is Carlsen's third World Championship win, and his narrowest. The cycle to determine the next challenger starts anew, and while I still hope for a Carlsen v Caruana match, there may be a number of other players trying to change that.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Mark Taimanov 1926 - 2016

Mark Taimanov, Grandmaster, former USSR Champion, and noted concert pianist, has passed away at the age of 90. One of the worlds top players from the 1950's to the 1970's he qualified for two Candidates series, but famously lost to Fischer in 1971, 6-0. For a while after that match he was on the outer with the USSR government, but after Fischer beat Petrosian and Spassky, was somewhat rehabilitated.
Born in 1926 he became a GM in 1952 and was an active player until 2003. Away from chess he was also an acclaimed concert pianist, often performing with his first wife, who he met as a 19 year old music student.
Taimanov was also noted as an opening theoretician, with a number of opening lines baring his name. The Taimanov Sicilian is the most well known, but he also had lines in the Gruenfeld, Modern Benoni and the Nimzo Indian named after him.
In the following game he defeated Walter Brown with a nice attack, possibly because Browne did not play the Taimanov variation (4. ... Nc6). After wrecking Browne's pawn structure, Taimanov found some nice attacking moves and Browne's position eventually collapsed.

Taimanov,Mark E (2500) - Browne,Walter S (2555) [E54]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee, 1981

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Off to the playoffs

Thinking I would have plenty of time to follow Game 12 of the World Championship Match, I resisted the urge to set an early alarm. In a sense I'm glad I did, because although I missed all of the final game, I missed all of the final game.
As dramatic last round battles go, this wasn't it. The opening was familiar (Ruy Lopez Berlin), the middlegame was perfunctory (the ending was reached by move 21), and the result almost pre-ordained (shaking hands on move 30).
So playoffs tomorrow, which in my opinion, has never been a satisfactory way of determining a world champion.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Last game strategy

So the World Championship Match comes down to game 12, although playoffs are a distinct possibility. And it is the existence of playoff games that have certainly changed how final World Championship games are now played.
In an earlier time, a tied match meant that the Champion retained the title. Therefore, if the match reached game 24, it was a do or die game for at least one player. In the case of the Karpov v Kasparov matches, Kasparov won the title in 1985 by winning game 24 (and the match 13-11), and retained the title in 1987 by repeating the feat, but in this case drawing the match 12-12.
In both cases there was a sense of anticipation about what strategies both players would employ, but in both games, Kasparov did not deviate from his normal style, a wise decision as it turned out.
I suspect this will also be the case for game 12 of Carlsen v Karjakin, as a switch to rapidplay games may be agreeable to both sides. Probably 1.e4 will be played although there is also scope for a real surprise. Back in 1987 I can remember see "Guess the Opening for Game 24" competition at the Melbourne Chess Club, and while most choices were pretty main stream, one enterprising soul plumped for 1.g4!

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The one Castro game?

With the passing of Fidel Castro, I did a quick search to see if he had played any recorded games of chess. Turns out I could only find a single game, and one in which both players seemed to play poorly. Usually the existence of a single game for a person rings some alarm bells as well, as games like this often turn out to be faked. However I've seen the same game in a couple of sources, and while not ruling out that they both came from the same source,  I've decided to show it here.
It looks like it was played during the 1966 Olympiad in Havana, although not as part of the Olympiad. Castro had black and was losing for most of the game. But whether by luck, or his opponent realising who he was playing, the game turned on a single move, when his opponent allowed a mate in 1!

Terrazas - Castro,Fidel [C34]
Havanna, 1966

Even Stevens

The 2016 World Championship Match is now back on level terms after Magnus Carlsen beat Sergey Karjakin in Game 10. Like most of the games in the match it involved a lot of patient manoeuvring, but unlike previous games, Karjakin was not able to defend a worse position. That is not to say it was all one way traffic, with Carlsen once again running the risk of over finessing the position, rather than pushing for a more direct win. However Carlsen created too many weaknesses for Karjakin to defend, and eventually the pawns began to fall.
Tomorrow is another rest day, before Karjakin starts with the White pieces for the last time (unless the match goes to tie breaks). This may be his last big chance to claim the title, as anything other than a win would leave Carlsen better placed going into the final game.

Carlsen,Magnus (2853) - Karjakin,Sergey (2772) [C65]
WCh 2016 New York USA (10), 24.11.2016

Friday, 25 November 2016

Just a little puzzle

Here is a little puzzle that came from a real game. It is White to play and find the shortest path to victory.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Not what Carlsen wanted

After 7 drawn games the 2016 World Championship sprung to life after Karjakin beat Carlsen in the 8th game. Once again Carlsen played a surprise opening as White (Colle-Zuketort) but the choice backfired on him as Karjakin built up a small advantage. However Karjakin passed up some aggressive choices in the middlegame, content to nurse a small advantage instead. Just before the first time control, Carlsen found a tactic to keep him in the game, and most of the commentators predicted another draw. Instead, Carlsen tried to push a little too hard and suddenly Karjakin spotted a winning line that involved a running 'a' pawn. Carlsen realised far too late he had no decent moves to save the ending and resigned on move 52.
This is the first time Carlsen has fallen behind in a World Championship match. With 4 games left to play he will need to find a way of creating more winning chances than he has so far in the match. Karjakin on the other hand can now continue his 'rope a dope' strategy, as the onus is on Carlsen to make the running. Of course the psychological aspect should not be overlooked, as sometimes taking a lead can disorient a player.
Tomorrow is a rest day, and I assume both Carlsen and Karjakin will be spending most of it planning a startegy for the last 4 games.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A couple of chess stories in the national media

I cam across not one, but two chess stories that made it to the pages of the national media (in Australia).
The first highlighted the girls chess teams from Caroline Chisholm School, who are off to represent the ACT in the Australian Schools Teams Chess Championship. As a K-10 school they qualified both their Primary and High School teams for the finals, which will be held in Perth early next month. A lot of the credit to the improvement at the school is down to the hard work of Steven Sengstock, who is a teacher at the school, as well as being a strong chess player himself.
The second story featured IM Gary Lane, who opened a new giant chess board at Cambridge Park primary in Sydney. The school won it's local interschool chess competition in just its second year of play, and with the big board to inspire the players, is looking for further trophies to add to the cabinet.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

2016 Vikings Weekender - Day 2

IM Anton Smirnov has won the 2016 Vikings Weekender, with a score 6/7. He went into the last round with a half point lead over IM Junta Ikeda, and a draw with FM Jason Hu guaranteed him at least a share of first place. However Ikeda was not able to overcome IM Andrew Brown, and had to settle for a draw. This left Ikeda on 5.5, tied with Fred Litchfield who continued his good tournament form with a win over Brown in round 5.
The Under 1600 event finished in a tie between Mark Patterson and Amol Kiran. Patterson started the event with 6 wins, before being beaten by Kiran in the last round. Curiously Kiran lost his opening game, but finished the event with 6 straight wins.
Final results can be found at You can also download the pgn file for the top 4 games in the open for every round. (NB A couple of games look weird, as the DGT boards had dicciculty in keeping up with some of the moves when players were in time trouble)

2016 Vikings Weekender - Day 1

The 2016 Vikings Weekender is underway, with 4 of the 7 rounds played today. Numbers were good this year, with 65 players across both events, with 25 (or 23) in the top section, and 40 in the Minor.
Joint leaders after 4 rounds are top seed IM Anton Smirnov, and Fred Litchfield. The two drew there third round game, and have won all the rest. Smirnov had a couple of quick wins in rounds 2 and 4, beating me in 12 moves after I blundered a piece in the opening, and IM Junta Ikeda in 20 moves in a very sharp Sicilian. Litchfield started off with wins over Kevin and Fiona Shen, before beating Jason Hu in a game where Litchfield sacrificed his queen for piece activity and an eventual mating attack.
Tied for third on 3.0 are Ikeda, IM Andrew Brown (who arrived late and was paired with 'house man' IM Vlad Smirnov in Round 1!), and tournament surprise Saffron Archer. Archer picked off a couple of higher rated scalps in today's games, and will face Smirnov in round 5.
The Minor had its share of upsets as well, with a number of higher rated players coming unstuck. Mark Patterson and Thomas McMenamin lead the event on 4/4 and they play in tomorrow mornings first round.
Scores from the tournament can be found at along with a link to live coverage of the top 4 boards from the Open.

Hu,Jason - Litchfield,Fred [A40]
2016 Vikings Weekender Tuggeranong (4.2), 19.11.2016

Saturday, 19 November 2016

A real squeaker

Australia has just finished a CC match against Wales, and the winning margin could not have been any smaller. The match was played over 34 boards, and Australia eked out a 34.5-33.5 win. Wales was stronger on the top 13 boards (+8=18-0) but it was the lower boards that made the difference. While my own effort was poor (losing both of my games), a number of 2-0 match results edged Australia in front.
Here is one of the wins for Australia, where  Steve McNamara launches a nice kingside attack with 12.e5. Black tries to keep his king safe, but a marauding queen is too much and the point goes to the Australians.

McNamara,Steve (1843) - Meara,Paul (1708)
AUS-WLS 2015 ICCF, 01.10.2015

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Slow Starts

Game 4 of the 2016 World Chess Championship ran a similar course to game 3. Carlsen gained an advantage, tried to grind down Karjakin, missed stronger moves in the ending, and the game was a draw.  So 4 games, 4 draws to start the match.
This got me thinking about previous matches, and how long fans had to wait to see a decisive result. At first I thought that the move to a 12 game format (which I dislike) caused players to start more cautiously, but it turns out that this isn't always the case, and I was only remembering the worst cases.
Going backwards (until 2000) here is a list of matches with the game number of the first decisive game, as well as if it was won by the eventual match winner or loser.

  • 2014 2 (W)
  • 2013 5 (W)
  • 2012 7 (L)
  • 2010 1 (L)
  • 2008 3 (W)
  • 2004 1 (W) (14 games)
  • 2000 2 (W) (16 games)
At a stretch I would argue that the starts are getting slower in recent matches. It also helps to be the first to take the lead, although Anand came from behind in both 2010 and 2012 (but not in 2013 or 14).

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A bigger battle

The third game of the 2016 World Championship was more in line with pre-match expectations, although the result was still a draw. I watched the game up until move 22, and the online comments indicated that most people expected another colourless draw. But Carlsen kept pushing and pushing, and on move 32 found a way to win a pawn. After that Karjakin knuckled down to defend the ending, but the smart money was on Carlsen. Eventually he won a piece on move 69, but immediately went wrong on move 70. Karjakin then returned the favour, and the next few moves saw missed chances, and missed defences. Finally Karjakin spotted a drawing line with 72. ... Ra1, and Carlsen's hard work came to nought.

Carlsen,Magnus (2853) - Karjakin,Sergey (2772) [C67]
WCh 2016 New York USA (3), 14.11.2016

Monday, 14 November 2016

To lose once is misfortune, to lose twice looks like carelessness

There is quite a high powered 4 player round robin happening in St Louis at the moment. Anand, Nakamura, Topalov and Caruana are playing a mixed 60m, Rapid and blitz event, held over 4 days. I'm not sure what the scoring system is, but Anand is a player in form, finishing on top of  both the 60m and Rapid sections.
Veselin Topalov tied with Anand in the 60m section, but suffered the embarrassment of losing in 14 moves to Nakamura. If that wasn't enough it turns out the entire game was a repeat of a 2003 internet blitz game, between two 2300 players. The culprit in the position was 10. ... Bf5 which is losing after 11.Bxb8 Black ends up with too many pieces hanging, and Topalov chose an early resignation. (the source game lasted another 18 moves btw)

Nakamura,Hikaru (2779) - Topalov,Veselin (2760) [E35]
Champions Showdown 60m Saint Louis USA (3.2), 11.11.2016

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Karjakin trumps Tromp - First World Championship Match drawn

The first game of the 2016 World Championship was a fairly staid affair, with neither player really pushing for more than equality during the game. Carlsen played the Trompowsky as White, which while not being mainstream (for the World Championship), was not a total surprise, given the nature of Carlsen's opening repertoire.
The usual Tromp middlegame was soon reached, with White surrendering the bishop pair to give Black doubled f pawns. For Carlsen this was probably a position he wanted, as he has an opportunity to probe for weaknesses in the position, but accurate defence by Karjakin left Carlsen without any winning chances.
So 0.5-0.5 after the first game, and a result that will surely please Karjakin. Tomorrow will see colours reversed, and it will be interesting to see if Carlsen tries a risky opening with Black, or is happy to equalise via more mainstream systems.

Carlsen,Magnus (2853) - Karjakin,Sergey (2772) [A45]
WCh 2016 New York USA (1), 11.11.2016

Friday, 11 November 2016

When they were kids

Carlsen v Karjakin kicks off in a few hours. For the first game I will probably just follow in on a non-official site, but I will probably shell out for the on site coverage at some point. As for my predictions, I think it will be a Carlsen victory, by a 2 point margin.
As a warm up, here is game played when both players were a lot younger. Although it was in the Corus B event, it was clear to most pundits that both players were destined for bigger things.

Carlsen,M (2553) - Karjakin,Sergey (2599) [A35]
Corus B Wijk aan Zee NED (4), 18.01.2005

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Movember Fundraising Event

Each year Street Chess runs a fundraising event for Movember. Normally it happens towards the end of the month, after I've managed to grow most of my mo. However a couple of other activities have intervened (including the Vikings Weekender on the 19th&20th of November), so the Movember Fundraiser is a little earlier this year.
It all takes place on Saturday the 12th. It is a usual Street Chess event, but all entry fees will be donated to Movember. I'm also taking other donations if you wish to contribute. And just to encourage extra entries, I will be giving a bonus prize for the best score by a player with a moustache ( drawn on ones count btw!)

So come on down to City Walk, Canberra City before 11am to join in the fun. Entry is $5 and there will be plenty of prizes on offer.

2016 World Championship

You know there's a World Championship match about to start when stories of people getting sued over the coverage start to hit the press. As usual it seems to be about whether chess moves are 'information' and can be relayed freely, or 'content' where the rights to rebroadcast them are held by a single entity (Note: IANAL). My own opinion is that the moves are information, but other content, such as video coverage etc are indeed content.
One argument I feel does not hold water btw is comparing a chess game to a cricket match or football game (in part because it is moves that are important, not how they are played). Indeed look no further than cricinfo for an example of how information can be distributed via the internet (live updates of scores, and even text commentary). Obviously it does not broadcast live coverage of the game (in the traditional sense of radio or TV), but it has not been prevented from providing a huge amount of information via the web.
The whole things kicks of in a couple of days from New York. The rounds start at a slightly inconvenient time for Australia (5am) but it may mean that you can watch the real action over breakfast. There are a number of options to watching the match, but the best starting point is probably Ian Roger's "The couch potatos guide to  the World Chess Championship"

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

2017 Oceania Zonal

The 2017 Oceania Zonal is a little over 2 months away, so if you are planning to play, time to get organised. This year the tournament is being organised by the New Zealand Chess Federation, and will be held in Auckland from the 14th to the 20th of January 2017.
There is an Open Zonal and Women's Zonal, both running over 9 rounds. As with previous Zonals, there are direct titles on offer (International Master title for the winner, FM title for 66% and CM title for 50%). The winner of each Zonal will also qualify for the 2017 World Cup in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Full details of the tournament can be found here. I played in the 2011 Zonal in Rotorua and found it enjoyable, if a lot of hard work. New Zealand is always nice to visit at that time of year. At this stage there seems to be plenty of Australian players making the journey across the Tasman, so if you want a relaxing week of playing international chess, this should be the tournament for you!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Looking for Gamers - Canberra

If you want to take a break from chess, or want to warm up for the 2016 Vikings Weekender in a non-traditional way, then Looking for Gamers Canberra (LFG) is organising a board game event this weekend at the Canberra Southern Cross Club. The event is organised by the same team that organises the Doeberl Cup each year (O2C) so it will be a quality event. The event is title Essen:Unplugged and will showcase a number of new games that were presented at the recent Essen Spiel. It will run over 3 days starting Friday 11th November and finishing on the 13th. Tickets are from $15 per session and can be ordered from The link also contains information about the weekend, s well as more general information about LSG.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Larks, Owls, and Arrythmics

"Science identifies three types of people. Name them?" Without context this seems like a nonsense question (Short, dark haired, Beatles fans?). But it was asked during the recent FIDE Trainers course in Baku, and fortunately there was context. For those playing at home, the correct answer is "Larks, owls and Arrhythmics" The context was the time of day people operate best in (Early, late, or middle).
Now a new study has looked at this as applied to decision making. Using online blitz chess as a data source, the study looked at when people made good or bad decisions. Studying thousands of 2 or 3 minute games in FICS, the study reported that we make worse decisions as the day wears on, with mid-afternoon seeming to be when it plateaus out. The study looked at both the time to make a decision, and how good that decision was. On average players were more cautious earlier in the day (moving slower but more accurately), and played faster, but less accurately in the afternoon.
Nonetheless the study did not say that we have better results early in the morning (as good and bad decisions may not effect the overall result of the game), so if you feel comfortable playing from 10pm to 4am (as opposed to getting out of bed at 6:30am), there is no need to change you sleeping habits for the sake of a few rating points.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Well known to many

While looking at some QGA theory I came across a game between Taimanov and Polugaevsky from the 1960 USSR Championship. Graeme Buckley (author of 'Easy guide to the Queens Gambit Accepted') described the opening variation played in that game (after 4. ... Nbd7)  as 'well-publicised', which assumes that one should know enough to avoid it.
Having found the game I wondered how many players did in fact know the line (as Black) and was a little surprised with some of the names who played the 'wrong' side of the position. After White plays 8.e5 the score is 85% in Whites favour, yet Zsuza Polgar, Karpov and Gelfand have all tried to defend the position. I suspect that they may not have been aware of the Taimanov Polugaevsky game, and instead were caught by surprise, as they don't seem to have made a habit of playing this position. (Polgar did play this twice, but chose 8. ... b5 the second time around).
Given how good the line looks for White (although Black can vary earlier), it is no wonder that Buckley suggests 4. ... Nc6 as the most sensible way to deal with 4.Qa4+

Taimanov,Mark E - Polugaevsky,Lev A [D23]
URS-ch27 Leningrad (13), 1960

Thursday, 3 November 2016

European Club Championship - Now with interesting names

The 2016 European Club Championship starts in a couple of days, and as usual it is a very strong event. Top seeded Syberia (yes, with a Y) has an average rating of 2745, and are 1 of 5 teams with an average rating above 2700.
As the pinnacle of the European club season, the event is guaranteed to attract some very strong teams, and some with slightly odd names. There are some good old chess themed clubs like 'En Passant', 'Schachfreunde' or the "Chania Chess Academy". Then there is the slightly more aggressive "The Smashing Pawns Bieles". The very ambitious "Perfect" team is clearly hoping to improve on its 38th seeding. And then there are just the plain weird like "Alkaloid" (2nd seeds btw), "IntelliMagic" and "LugPoker Chess". I assume in this case it is the team sponsor who is being highlighted here.
The tournament itself beings on the 6th November, and there will be plenty of Super GM v Super GM action to watch. Kramnik, Svidler and Aronian are just some of the players leading there teams, with Giri, and Ding Liren even being relegated to slightly lower boards!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Where I critique a movie I've yet to see

At very short notice I was called upon to a radio interview about the newly released move "Queen of Katwe". The difficulty I faced was the movie hasn't been released where I live, so I was kind of flying blind. However I had read a number of reviews and summaries, and coincidentally, had previously met Tim Crothers, the author of the book it was based on. Armed with a summary of the movie I managed to get through the interview without saying anything too dopey (I hope), and was able to talk about other chess topics as well.
If you want to hear the interview, I think it will be up for a few days, on the ABC Radio website. It part of the Canberra Drive program and the link to the page is here. As the full recording is 3 hours long, you can jump to my bit, which is around the 2 hour 35 minutes mark. However if you play it from the start you do get the added bonus of hearing the call of this years Melbourne Cup!

Heads up, its Movember

Time to warn you all, but Movember kicks off tomorrow. Once again I will be growing an impressive set of whiskers, while raising money for men's health. Last years Movember was pretty rewarding for me, as I picked up a prize in the fundraising raffle (A new Mini to drive around for a year).
My Movember page is and you can donate there. You are all welcome to contribute, especially anyone who I have given a lift to in the past 10 months :)

And to remind you of what to expect of the next thirty days I present you this magnificent specimen.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Luke Cage

I'm normally not a big fan of superhero movies and television series, simply because I don't think such over powered characters could exist in modern society without changing it into something significantly different. But I have been watching Luke Cage on Netflix, in part due to the heavy-ish chess content.
Essentially Luke Cage is indestructible and super strong, but otherwise operates as a normal person. He goes around fighting evil and writing wrongs, with the assistance of people he knows and works with.
One of the side characters in the show is Bobby Fish, clearly named after Robert James Fischer (I assume the name in the show is his nickname), who plays chess in the barber shop where some of the action takes place. What is good about both the character, and his chess scenes, is that the producers resisted the temptation to just make stuff up. The games look real enough (eg Sicilian Dragons etc) and any show that name checks the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit goes well up in my estimation. While in part the whole 'chess as a metaphor' happens, it is more the use of chess in the background (prison, street, shop) that impresses me.
Currently around half way through, and I hope to see the rest in the next few weeks, if I manage to find the time.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Hmmm, did this actually happen?

At Street Chess today, Lee Forace (who had heard it from another source) regaled the crowd with a story of how Viswanathan Anand once got mated on the second move of a game. Anand was challenged to a game by an unnamed (in his version of the story) eastern European grand master, but the grandmaster had one condition. Instead of the Queen moving like a Rook and Bishop, with would move like a Rook and Knight (Fairy Chess fans would recognise this as an Empress). Wishing to try something new Anand agreed and the GM began 1.Qc3 Anand replied with 1. ... Nf6?? and was then mated with 2.Qxc7# (Qd8xc7 now being illegal!)
We all had a good laugh, but a voice in the back of my head said that I've heard this story before. However some searching on the interent (an inexact science to be honest) hasn't turned up any other versions of the story. So (a) is this an old story dressed in new clothes or (b) if it is not, did it really happen to Anand?

2016 Vikings Weekender - Online entry

The online entry page for the 2016 Vikings Weekender is up. Details for the event can be found in this article, while you can register online at You can also downl;oad the tournament brochure which contains all the information about the event.

With 3 weeks before the event (and with entries just opening), there are already 2 IM's in the field (Junta Ikeda and Andrew Brown). A number of leading club players have also registered and  suspect the event may be quite a strong tournament this year.

As with the ANU Open, to qualify for the early entry discount you only have to register early ( the sooner the better), and you can still pay on the day.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Carlsen v Nakamura is hosting the Carlsen v Nakamura Grandmaster Blitz Battle Championship today. Unfortunately for Australian fans we are in the most difficult time zone, with the match due to start at 4am and finish around 7am. The format is a mix of 5m+2s, 3m+2s, and 1m+1s. The match isn't of a fixed length, rather being of a fixed time, with 5m+2s going for 90 minutes, 3m+2s for 60 minutes, and 1m+1s for 30 minutes. Based on the preliminaries, there is usually 20 to 30 games played, even if one player has an insurmountable lead.
However if you read this post in time, and are up early enough, it looks like it is worth watching, as there will be live commentary, a video feed, and competitions for spectators. As for the likely winner, I would normally tip Carlsen, but for this one I'm going to change my ways and suggest Nakamura is the slight favourite, mainly based on the amount of online blitz he plays.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Trolling at Blitz

Looking for a surprise opening at Blitz? The following line, first played by Paul Morphy might be worth a try. 1.e4 e5 2.c3 is guaranteed to at least gain you a few seconds on the clock, while your opponent decides if Nf6 or something else works.
In the example game, Black decides to grab the f2 pawn with the knight, which loses on the spot. Capturing with check is better, but even then Black has to tread carefully. 5. ... Bxf2+ 6. Ke2 d5 7.Qxg7 seems to be best play, but at a fast time limit, Black could easily go wrong.

Morphy,Paul - Bottin,A [C20]
Paris it Paris, 1858

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

My one track mind

Recently I've developed a bad habit of not reassessing my position, to see if I have a better move or plan. Instead I am following my chosen plan fairly robotically, and then find out afterwards that I have missed a number of quicker wins. I do try and make sure I am not missing any good moves by my opponent, but annoyingly, I don't apply this discipline to myself.
Case in poit: my last round game from the Belconnen Club Championship. I thought I had played a nice smooth game, where I kept the position under control, didn't rush my attack, and found the simplest path to victory. In reality I missed the win of a pawn on move 27, a win of a rook(!) 2 moves later, a forced mate  on move 30, and finally, a totally winning combination on move 32. Instead I followed the plan I had previously chosen, where if I calculated correctly, I would be a pawn up in a queen and pawn ending!

Press,Shaun - Pearce,Tim [B26]
Belconnen CC, 26.10.2016

Sunday, 23 October 2016


My absence over the weekend isn't to do with Civ VI (as hinted a previous post), but due to attending the 50th birthday party of Charles Zworestine (one of Australia's leading arbiters). Issues with trains late in the evening resulted in a fairly late return to where I was staying (after 1 am) and a missed deadline for yesterdays post.
Despite this I have a quick look at Civ VI and I already think its pretty good. My son mentioned that in updating the game from Civ V (and early versions) the developers used the 33/33/33 rule. Basically, they kept 33% of the game from Civ V as is. They improved 33% of the features in Civ V, and finally, the added 33% new features to the game.
This then got me thinking how this could be applied to chess improvement. Changing how we play is often difficult, but a similar idea might be helpful. If you are thinking of a change of style/opening or approach, then look after you more recent set of games, and see what you are doing right and wrong. Keep 33% of the features where it seems to be working for you, improve the next 33% and finally, replace what isn't working with something that is. By using these ratios, you don't completely throw away everything you know, but at the same time, you do commit to improving existing skills and learning some new ones.
It probably applies best to openings (keep a third, improve a third, change a third), but it may also be applicable to other parts of the game as well.

Friday, 21 October 2016

And in other news ...

Civilization VI was released today. That is all ....

Thursday, 20 October 2016

I do win the occasional CC game

Despite my somewhat poor results in correspondence chess (19/57) I have yet to throw in the towel. I normally have around 10 to 12 games going at any one time, with a mixture of tournament games and international/domestic matches.
When I started out I spent a lot of time analysing my games (like a good CC player) but in recent years it is a cursory glance, some unstructured analysis, and then an agonising choice about which is the least worst move to play. As a result I play less like a CC player, and more like a OTB player who has forgotten what he had planned to play next. Nonetheless I do occasionally manage to play the right moves, which is somewhat satisfying.
An recent example comes from the Australian Interstate teams event, where I was up against Graeme Deacon from NSW. Normally the choice of the Petroff's indicates a drawish game was likely, but the opening went down a side street, which gave chances both sides. The pawn on e5 turned out to be a thorn in Blacks position, and once it was joined by the f pawn, I had enough of an advantage to force an early resignation.

Press,Shaun - Deacon,Graeme [C43]
CCLA Interstate, 04.08.2016

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Carlsen hustles the hustlers

Taking a leaf from Maurice Ashley's late night chess adventures, Magnus Carlsen decided to have a try at playing some New York chess hustlers. The outcome wasn't really a surprise, with Carlsen handing out some Norwegian chess justice. He played a few games for the crowd (which included actress Liv Tyler) although it turns out some of his opponents had no idea who he was.
Gizmodo has a nice story about the whole activity, including video of the goings on. If you watch the clip, make sure you stay until the end, where a black squirrel almost steals the show.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

It was 60 years ago

Yesterday and today I saw a couple of articles about Bobby Fischer in the Australian media, and at first I wondered why the sudden interest. It turns out that yesterday (17th October) was the 60th anniversary of Fischer's "Game of the Century" against Donald Byrne. This seems to be enough to spark some interest, with a nice historical article about Fischer appearing in the Daily Telegraph, and IA Gary Bekker doing a radio interview on Fischer, and Australian chess in general earlier today.
While the game is very well known, it is always nice to play through it again, so here it is for those that haven't seen it before, or those who just wish to see it again.

Byrne,D - Fischer,Robert James [D97]
New York New York, 1956

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Return of the robot chess board

In the 1980's I can remember seeing a computer chess board that had a robot arm to move the pieces. It was even featured on television, playing against Shane Hill (IIRC). But it was a bit of a fad, and soon the whole "self moving" chess board went away.
However it isn't entirely dead, as a new design group is developing a slightly more aesthetic board, using magnets under the board, rather than a more obtrusive robot arm. There is even a kickstarter campaign to support it, and at the time of writing they are two thirds of the way to their goal.
The product is called "Square Off" and it is a normal chess board, except it can move the pieces itself, using a 2-axis robotic arm with a magnetic head, so it can slide the pieces around the board. It is controlled by a phone app and has extra features to enable live broadcasting of games.
Of course such boards aren't exactly cheap, although the base model is 200 euros (for early purchasers)  which is cheaper than a DGT board.
I'm not sure if I will ever shell out for one, but as someone who used to work in robotics, it seems like a smart approach to an old problem.

If you can't believe Donald Trump ...

As much as US politics interests me (I am an avid reader of US political blogs), I rarely post about it here. Unless of course there is a chess component, when I am more than happy to share.
In a recent speech Donald Trump discussed the complexity of handling multilateral trade agreements and stated "you have to be a grandmaster" to understand them (look at this link for further context). He then followed up with the claim that "We don't have any of them" (The "we" being the United States). Of course this claim is wrong (the US has 90 GM's), and the fact checkers action into action. Pointing out the errors in this statement, Politifact rated this as a 'pants on fire' claim, which I guess is fair enough.
Nonetheless I assume Trump did not make a statement he knew wasn't true, as it was more likely he just had no idea what he was talking about. The "stupid not dishonest" defence has been used by his team on a few other issues, and this may be another example. He may have confused Grandmasters with Chess World Champions (thinking of Bobby Fischer), but if so, he is ignoring the recent US win at the Chess Olympiad. And even if he was thinking of individuals, he must not be aware of GM Jeffrey Xiong, who is the current World Junior Champion.
Semi-surprisingly, one person who was critical of Trump's claim, and the whole Trump campaign in general, is Gary Kasparov, who has tweeted a number of criticisms of Trump over the last few months. Previously Kasparov seemed to share Trump's views on US foreign policy (and possibly still does), but Trump's praise of Putin (who Kasparov is strongly opposed to), is no doubt the deal breaker for Kasparov, no matter how many other opinions they share.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

A twist on odds

A new chess app for iPad/iPhone is creating a bit of a buzz on the various tech news feeds I read. "Really Bad Chess" is chess game with an interesting twist. Instead of starting as a normal game, it is kind of a hyper charged version of Chess 960, with players starting with a random collection, and arrangement, of pieces.  However in this case, the arrangement, and collection of pieces is asymmetrical. One side might have 2 queens, 3 rooks, 7 knights, 2 pawns, 1 bishop and a king, while the other might start with 6 pawns, 2 rooks, 4 knights, 3 bishops and a king. The pieces start on the back two ranks, the king is always on the correct starting square (as far as I've seen),  and the moves are the same as in real chess.
Clearly this random set up favours one side or the other, but this is in fact part of the game. When you start, you will normally get the stronger collection of pieces, but as you win, your in game ranking improves. And with each improvement, the balance of forces becomes more even. Once you get above 50 (the scale is 0 to 100) then it is the app that will end up with a stronger army.
So far I've only played a couple of games, but have found it fun and challenging. Possibly the hardest thing to overcome is that unfamiliarity of the starting position, which sometimes reminds me if positions found in interschool chess. A lurking bishop or a clump of knights might cover more squares than I initially expect, so double checking every move is required. On the other hand I suspect the AI isn't that strong (deliberately so) so it is more about observation than deep thinking, which is what I would want from an app like this.
Currently it is available for iOS, and can be found by searching for "Really Bad Chess" at the app store.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Big chess numbers

Lets start with an integer sequence: 0, 0, 0, 0, 8, 347, 10828, 435767, 9852036, 400191963, 8790619155, 362290010907, 8361091858959 
This is the number of ways a game of chess ends in checkmate after n-ply moves. (NB a ply is a move by one side only, and the sequence starts at 0 ply)
As you can see, the numbers grow quite rapidly, as they do in a number of other chess related integer sequences. While the size of the numbers is impressive, the fact that someone made the effort to work these things out is just as impressive (in a nerdy way).
A more obvious sequence begins with 1,20,400, 8902 which is the number of different games that can be played in n plys, while 1,20,400, 5362 is a companion sequence, as it is the number of positions that can be reached after n plys (the difference in the 4th term is due to transpositions)
The source for this (and other sequences) is the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. If you do a search for chess you will find around 450 chess related sequences. Included in those are at least 2 with connections to former World Champions, Lasker and Euwe, who of course were both Mathematicians as well.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Over in a flash

While these days quick wins in Correspondence Chess are rare, they aren't completely unheard of. At the non championship level, players are happy to do without engines, relying upon their analysis and judgement. Of course this sometimes goes wrong, and like in over the board chess, the results can be catastrophic.

Williams,J. M. P (1763) - Deacon,Graeme (1857)
AUS/2016/S4201 (AUS) ICCF, 05.09.2016

Monday, 10 October 2016

A late bloomer!

IM John Paul Wallace has scored a spectacular GM norm at the just completed 2016 Isle of Man tournament. He played 8 GM's in 9 rounds, and finished on 5.5/9. The strength of the field meant that he had a PR over 2600, which is required for a GM level result.
This is a remarkable achievement for Wallace, who is just short of his 40th birthday. Born in 1976, he is the youngest ever Australian Champion, winning the title in 1993/94, at the age of 17. Ten years later he won the Australian Open, before moving to London and stepping back from competitive chess. In recent years he has become more active again, and clearly he has lost none of the strength of his youth.
In the top event Eljanov and Caruana tied for first on 7.5/9, ahead of Naiditsch. For the Australian's the last round was not kind, with Max Illingworth and Emma Guo both losing, finishing on 4.5 and 2.5 respectively.

Wallace,John Paul (2355) - Bachmann,Axel (2645) [E16]
Isle of Man Masters 2 Villa Marina (7.14), 07.10.2016

Sunday, 9 October 2016

2016 Vikings Weekender 19-20 November

Time to save the date for the 2016 Tuggeranong Vikings Weekender. It will be held on  the 19th and 20th of November, at the Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St, Waniassa ACT.
There are 2 sections, Open and Under 1600, with $1000 for 1st in the Open, and $500 for 1st in the Under 1600. It will be 7 round event, played with a time limit of G/60m+10s per move.
Entry fees are $65 for adults, $45 for juniors and concessions.
Further details of the event, plus online entry forms will be posted closer to the event.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

2016 Isle of Man

A couple of Australian players stayed in Europe after the Olympiad to play a few extra events before returning ho,e. GM Max Illingworth and WIM Emma Guo are currently playing in the 2016 Isle of Man event, where they have been joined by IM John-Paul Wallace (who now lives in the UK).
In fact it is Wallace who doing the best of them, currently on 5/7, with a performance rating of over 2600. This is hardly surprising as he has played 6 GM's so far, and is paired with GM Peter Leko in this evenings round.
Illingworth is also doing well, currently on 4.5/7, and performing above his rating at this point. Guo is finding it a little tougher, back on 2/7, but a couple of wins in the last two rounds could salvage that event for her.
The overall lead is currently being held by Eljanov, followed by 3 members of another Olympiad team, in this case the victorious US team, with Caruana (6.0), So (5.5) and Nakamura (5.0) holding down the next 3 places.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Why we blunder

If no one made a mistake at chess, then it would be a very boring game. So mistakes are important to chess, even if we preferred that only our opponents made them.
When we make mistakes we have plenty of reasons (or excuses) for doing so. Shortness of time, missing a strong reply, or choosing the wrong plane, are just some of the more serious reasons. Feeling sick, assuming the opponent was weak, or being distracted by the lighting, are some of the less serious ones.
Now a study has looked at possible cause for why we blunder. "Assessing Human Error Against The Benchmark of Perfection"  analysed over 20 million games between amateur players, and 1 million Grandmaster games to determine under what conditions mistakes were made. The paper identified three main indicators of blunders, but came up with a somewhat surprising conclusion.
The three major factors were

  • Shortness of time
  • Skill level of the player
  • Complexity of the position

Shortness of time seems obvious, although it appears that once you have taken more than 10 seconds to make a decision, the chances of blundering drop off. Skill level is also pretty straight forward, in that stronger players blunder less. That leaves the complexity of the position, which the authors believe is the major factor in whether a player makes a mistake or not.
As suggested in this article which summarises the paper, this conclusion probably requires more testing.  If the claim holds up, it may explain why players like Lasker and Tal seemingly 'hypnotised' their opponents into losing, as both relied on keeping the game complicated. Of course such a strategy may backfire, but or players looking to close the gap with stronger opponents, this may be a new approach to improvement.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

All moves need to be good

Unlike sports like Golf or Tennis, every move you play needs to be good, as it is hard to come back from a big blunder. I learnt this when I started playing Olympiad chess, although I still full victim to playing good moves up until a point in the game, and then going downhill.
My round 3 game from the Ryde-Eastwood tournament was an example of this. Ignoring my opponents attempt to target my e pawn, I set up a strong attack on his king with Qe3 and Nf5. However it required some exact calculation to work, I immediately began to go wrong. Bxf8 straight away was much stronger, but I decided to remove Nxf3+ as an option by exchanging on e5 first. This wasn't a real problem as after the next few moves I was still better. However I was still in 'forcing' mode when he played Rc6 (which I had foreseen), so missed the idea of b4, activating the bishop on c2. After Ng8 I wasn't worse, but thinking I had run out of strong moves, meekly swapped on f6, and then put up little resistance in the ending.

Press,Shaun - Kargosha,Bahman [C99]
Ryde Eastwood, 01.10.2016

Monday, 3 October 2016

2016 Ryde Eastwood Weekender - Day 3

IM Igor Bjelobrk and Dmitri Silver overtook IM Andrew Brown on the final day, to finished equal first in the 2016 Ryde Eastwood Weekender. Brown had started the event with 5 from 5, but took a short draw with second seed Bahman Kargosha in round 6. Playing Bjelobrk in round 7, Brown knocked back a draw offer in an attempt to secure outright first, but active defence by Bjleobrk turned the tables. Short of time Brown returned an exchange in an attempt to reach a drawn rook ending , but Bjelobrk found the winning plan, and the game was soon over.
Dmitri Silver had started the day on 4 points, but a round 6 win over Frank Low, set up a round 7 clash with Kargosha. Silver launched a big attack on Kargosha's king, and was rewarded with a quick win. Kevin Willathgamuwa capped a very good event, beating Christopher Ball in the final round to share third place with Brown.
Having started the day on 2.5/5, I managed two wins to reach 4.5/7. It wasn't a great 4.5, but I was still pleased with what was essentially a return to weekend chess after 5 or 6 years. The time control on 60m+30s probably helped, as I'm sure I would have performed worse at 60m+10s  As with a lot of weekend events these days, I played mainly junior opponents (5 in this case), but I didn't mind that, and scored 4/5 against them. My openings need some work (of course), and exercises in calculation wouldn't go astray, but all in all, it was an enjoyable event, and I am glad I played.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

2016 Ryde Eastwood Weekender - Day 2

IM Andrew Brown is on a perfect 5 from 5 after the second day of the 2016 Ryde Eastwood Weekender. Wins over Dimitri Silver and Donato Mallari leave him half a point ahead of second seed Bahman Kargoshi, and a point in front of Silver, IM Igor Bjelobrk, and Frank Lo. Brown is paired against Kargoshi in the first round of day 3, and I suspect that he will face Bjelobrk in the final round, assuming results go according to seeding.
Your humble columnist did not have such a great day of it today, only scoring 0.5/2, missing chances in both games. I took a repeition in round 4 when I had a continuation that would have been winning, while in round 5 I missed a couple of defensive ideas (through not calculating correctly), and walked into a mate.
Tomorrow sees the final two rounds of the tournament, providing a chance for the leaders to secure a good final placing, and for myself, a chance to salvage something from the event.

2016 Ryde Eastwood Weekender - Day 1

The 2016 Ryde Eastwood Weekender started today, with  field of 52 players. With some leading players still overseas after the Olympiad (or back at full time work), the top seeds were IM's Igor Bjelobrk and Andrew Brown, along with Baham Kargosha. The rest of the field was made up of strong club players, talented juniors, and those who wished to avoid seeing the Sydney Swans lose the AFL Grand Final.
There were 3 rounds on the first day, and after the games were finished, there were only 3 players on a perfect score. IM Andrew Brown had to work hard to collect his points with some stiff resistance from his opponents, while Dimitri Silver upset top seed Bjelobrk on his way to 3 from 3. Donato Mallari rounded out the trio, beat CM Christopher Ball in the evening round.
There are five more players on 2.5, including Baham Kargoshi, who beat me in an exciting third round game (I will post it at a later time). But probably the real surprise of the tournament is 9 year old Marco Le Lun Zheng, who despite being unrated, is in the 2.5 group.
Tomorrow sees the next two rounds (with the NRL Grand Final an evening priority), and Monday sees rounds 6&7.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Has it been this long?

As I am heading off to play in 2016 Ryde-Eastwood Weekend tournament, I thought I'd have a look at my earlier weekend results. To my surprise, I haven't played a full weekend tournament since 2010. I have played as a filler in a few events (eg 3 rounds of the ANU Open this year), but this is my first event as a proper competitor in over 6 years.
The previous event was the 2010 Dubbo Open, where I scored 4/6, losing to George Xie and Vladimir Smirnov, as well as being flagged by a much younger Anton Smirnov in a double rook ending during the blitz tournament. I wouldn't mind a similar score this weekend.

Guo,Jamie-Lee - Press,Shaun [C56]
Dubbo Open, 21.03.2010

Friday, 30 September 2016

I may not try this

The saga of finding an opening system against 1.d4 continues for me. Having tried the Dutch for the last 3 years, I've become less than satisfied, and for now am reflexively playing the Grunfeld again. Previously I've dabbled with various QGD systems, with mixed results, and this includes the Semi-Slav.
I did wheel it out at the 2008 Chess Olympiad, but a crushing defeat against South Korea did not help my confidence in it. And having seen the following game from the 2016 Tal Memorial, I'm not sure I'll be rushing back to it.
To be fair, Gelfand was OK going into the middle game, so the opening isn't entirely to blame. However it did look as though Mamedyarov did have an easier time of it, and maybe this influenced Gelfand's risky play (Qxb2 and g5). With Mamedyarov's well posted pieces targeting an exposed king, Gelfand tried to find a way to defend, but the game ended far more quickly than Gelfand would have hoped when he decided on 1. ... d5

Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2761) - Gelfand,Boris (2743) [D43]
10th Tal Mem 2016 Moscow RUS (3.5), 29.09.2016

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A strange strange headline

I kept seeing the following headline in my newsfeeds "Chess Grandmaster takes on 11 opponents, all at the same time in Jersey City". The story itself was listed under to section "Hobbies and Interests", placing it alongside stories such as "Go Topless Day Parade in NY", and "New Jersey woman stabbed man for refusing sex".
Clicking on the story, you will find the headline understates what was going on. The GM in question was Magnis Carlsen, playing a 30 minute clock simul against players who had won a "Play Chess with Magnus" competition.  Also in attendance was Fabiano Caruana, who was there as part of the celebrations for the US team winning the Chess Olympiad.
But as they say in the media, all news is local, so it wasn't important that they might be the best players in the world, what was important was they visited Jersey City.