Saturday, 22 July 2017

When both players resign

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

Out into the cold

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

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Andrew Paulson

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

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

150 years of chess

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

Monday, 17 July 2017


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

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

Chess teaching resources

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

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Surely this cannot be good

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

Thursday, 13 July 2017

2017 ANU Open (2 weeks away)

A reminder that the 2017 ANU Open is just over two weeks away. This year is the 25th edition of the tournament, which I guess is worth noting.
The tournament is being held on the weekend of the 29th and 30th of July, at the ANU School of Art, Childers St, Australian National University, Canberra. There are 2 sections, an Open and Under 1600 event, with $3300 prizes on offer. The time limit is G60m+10s, with 7 rounds in both tournaments (4 on Saturday, 3 on Sunday). Further details (including a tournament brochure) can be found at
Registering online (at the same link) also secures you the early entry discount (even if you pay on the day).

(** Disclaimer: I have a financial commitment to this event **)

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Gupta wins Commonwealth Championshipp

Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta has won the 2017 Commonwealth Championship for the 4th time, to become the most successful player in the tournaments history. He wrapped his title with a somewhat crushing victory over Australian IM Aleks Wohl. Wohl and Gupta had shared the lead on 6.5/8 going into the last round, but despite his loss, Wohl tied for 4th place, and was the only non Indian player in the top 10. Another good performer for Australia was IM Rishi Sardana, who finished on 6/9.
Although the field mainly came from the host country of India, there were players from 8 other Commonwealth nations, including New Zealand, Malaysia and South Africa.
Here is the crucial final round game between Gupta and Wohl. After a mistake on move 9 Wohl was already in trouble, and Gupta finished the game with ruthless GM precision.

Gupta,Abhijeet - Wohl,Aleksandar [E01]
Commonwealth Championship, 10.07.2017

War stops play

There have probably been a number of reasons why chess tournaments get suspended or cancelled, but the Mannheim event of 1914 probably has the most well known reason. Organised by the German Chess Federation, the tournament attracted a number of the worlds leading players, including Alekhine, Reti, Tarrasch and Marshall. But after 11 rounds, World War I broke out, with Germany declaring war on Russia. The organisers stopped the tournament at this point, and a number of players decided to head for the border. The unlucky players were those of Russian nationality, who were arrested and interned. The delay in France and England entering the war (by a couple of days), probably allowed a few extra players to get away, including Gunnar Gundersen, who had travelled from Australia to take part in the 'B' tournament. Gundersen, whose father had been a Norwegian diplomat, was able to reach Oslo, before returning to Melbourne and winning the Victorian Championship in 1915 (and 7 times after that).
Alekhine was declared the 'winner' of the event, and awarded some prize money. Despite being a Russian national, his stay in Germany was short lived, and he was able to travel to Switzerland after around 6 weeks in captivity. Here is his final game, where he won a game that I still see quoted from time to time when analysing the Alekhine-Chatard Gambit.

Alekhine,Alexander - Fahrni,Hans [C14]
DSB-19.Kongress Mannheim (11), 1914

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Some quick queen sac mates

For a change of pace here are a set of quick mates that involve a queen sacrifice. A few familiar themes here, especially game number 4 (which btw is unsound as played)

Bonnet de Jacquemet,Romain (1390) - Pignatelli,Daniel (1499) [A51]
FRA-ch op-D Aix-les-Bains (7), 21.08.2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.d5 Bc5 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bxd8 Bxf2# 0-1

NN - Du Mont [A02]
Paris Paris, 1802

1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.g3 Qg5 5.Nf3 Qxg3+ 6.hxg3 Bxg3# 0-1

Moore,Michael - Plotnikov,Vladimir [B21]
Internet Section 18-B Dos Hermanas (7), 18.03.2003

1.e4 c5 2.f4 g6 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 Bg4 5.Ne5 Bxd1 6.Bxf7# 1-0

Gottas,Mike - Brunke,Christian [C50]
GER-ch U18 NRW 9697 Germany, 1997

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bc4 Bg4 5.Nxe5 Bxd1 6.Bxf7+ 1-0

(BTW The shortest mate I can find involving a rook sacrifice is 6 moves long, and occurred in a tournament I was chief arbiter for back in 1995)

Friday, 7 July 2017

Kasparov's comeback

Apparently Gary Kasparov is making a comeback to competitive chess, although this isn't the dramatic news some headlines are making it out to be. He has accepted a wildcard slot at the Grand Chess Tour's St Louis leg, albeit the blitz and rapidplay section of the event. This event follows on *after* the Sinquefield Cup, which will be played at classical time controls, and has a slightly stronger field. Unfortunately for chess fans, the one big clash that won't be happening is a Kasparov Carlsen meeting, as Carlsen is skipping the Rapid and Blitz event, and Peter Svidler is the wildcard player in the Sinquefield Cup.
Still, this is news of some significance, even if Kasparov has played a few rapid and blitz exhibition events since his retirement from tournament chess. If you are aftyer more information, the Grand Chess Tour announcement can be found here.

A monster of your own creation

Over the last few years I have often used Joseph Blackburne as an example of a 'model' player for anyone who is looking for a chess 'hero' to study. Another player who falls into that category is Frank Marshall, especially for players more comfortable with 1.d4 as an opening.
His career spanned more than 50 years, and included a 27 year reign as US Champion. Unlike his contemporaries (with the possible exception of Alekhine), Marshall used 1.d4 as an attacking opening, figuring it was easier to build an attack from closed positions, rather than find one after 1.e4 e5. Nonetheless he had a varied opening repertoire, with a number of significant variations carrying his name.
His black defences were equally enterprising, keeping up with change in opening theory. An extreme example of this was shown in the following game, where he played the Nimzo-Indian Defence against its creator. Not only did he outplay Aaron Nimzowitsch, he won the tournament "Best Game Prize" as well.

Nimzowitsch,Aaron - Marshall,Frank James [E34]
British Empire Club Masters London (6), 1927

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The curse of the upside down rook

The 2017 Canadian Championship seems to have ended with some controversy after the final playoff game saw an all to familiar issue involving promotion. IM Nikolay Noritsyn and GM Bator Sambuev had tied for first place, and were even after 5 playoff games. In a 5m+3 blitz game Noritsyn promoted a pawn, but not being able to find a queen went for the old blitz standby of an upside down rook. At this point the chief arbiter stopped the clock and ensured that the piece on the board was a correctly placed rook. Sambuev then promoted (to a queen) and went on to win.
Despite the rules concerning promotion being quite clear for a number of years, players still manage to get this wrong. The key point is that if the piece you wish to promote to is not available you can stop the clock and request the arbiter fetch you a piece. In this case Noritsyn could not find the queen in among the already captured pieces, and there is a suggestion that Sambuev had the piece in his hand. (NB This is not against the rules, and indeed should make the case for stopping the clock even more obvious).
Personally I have little sympathy for players who get this wrong. While it may be argued that it is hard to think straight with seconds left on the clock, this is one of the few situations where you are legally allowed to 'steal' thinking time. If you recognise that promotion is likely to occur and you are short of time, the smarter thing to do is to remind yourself to stop the clock if necessary 30 seconds out, rather than kicking yourself after the game is over.
BTW I must commend the chief arbiter IA Pierre Denommee for handling the situation this way. The alternative would have been to say nothing (assuming Sambuev did not complain) and then default Noritsyn if he moved the rook diagonally.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Danish delight

As much as the Traxler is the one opening that will rule them all, my first love was the Danish Gambit. I can't quite remember where I first read about it (possibly the Penguin Book of Chess Openings), but I played it in my first few chess events, with a degree of success. It was only when people started playing the Schlecter line against me that I moved away from it.
Here is a game from 1909 where it was used to beat a reigning world champion, albeit in a consultation game. 5. ... Nf6 is a rare choice these days (as 5. ... d5 is considered the path to equality), but one that tries to hang on to material. For most of the game Black does keep the 2 gambit pawns, but as you can see, mate (aided by a huge lead in development) is far more important than material.

Janowski/Soldatenkov - Lasker/Taubenhaus [C21]
Consultation, 1909

Sunday, 2 July 2017

GM norm for Junta Ikeda

IM Junta Ikeda is partway through a European summer tour, hoping to earn a GM title, or at least get part of the way towards one. After a slow start he seems to have hit his stride, easily winning the 35th Balaton GM event with an impressive 7/9. He was undefeated in the tournament, and scored enough points for a GM norm.
The summer circuit looks to be a good one to try for Australian players, as IM Justin Tan also looks to be playing a few events (although he is studying in Edinburgh, so it is a bit easier for him). The decision by Ikeda to play in the European summer looks doubly sensible, as currently his home town of Canberra is going through a cold snap, with temperatures dropping to -8c across this weekend!

Friday, 30 June 2017

Is the Bird the Word?

Magnus Carlsen seems to be on a one man mission to make every opening playable again. His latest adventure involved playing 1.f4 against Vladimir Kramnik at the GCT Rapid, and winning with it. There is a theory that he was defending the honour of Bent Larsen after a comment by Kramnik earlier in the year, but going on his post game tweet, it may also be the influence of 'Family Guy' at play.
While this may be a bit of fun at rapidplay, I'd still be astonished if it ever gets played in say a World Championship match. It's just a little committal at this level, with Black having a few paths to easy equality. However if 1.f4 does hit the board, one reply I'd suggest not be tried is 1. ... f5, as the following game shows (Of course some readers will spot that is simply a reversed From Gambit, which has claimed a number of victims).

Sorbun,Cristinel (2075) - Uta,Adeline Ramona [A02]
Mos Craciun op Romania, 2000

Thursday, 29 June 2017

How much is a piece worth?

One of the more attractive, yet frustrating parts about chess is that the most interesting games are the ones where the normal 'rules' are broken. We jealously guard our pieces, up until we decide to sacrifice them, understanding that the side with the stronger army doesn't always win. While knowing when to 'break the rules' is normal for experienced players, it can be very confusing for new players.
But knowing when to take a piece can even be tricky for GM's. The first day of the GCT Rapid in Belgium saw a stark example of this in the Giri - Aronian game. Giri left his knight on the edge of the board as bait for Aronian, who decided to trap it with 8. ... g5. White Giri got in return was not an immediate win, but a lead in development and a strong enough attack that Aronian was only able to avoid mate by eventually returning more material than was initially captured.

Giri,A (2771) - Aronian,L (2793) [A29]
GCT Rapid YourNextMove Leuven BEL (3), 28.06.2017

What has been keeping me busy (and it isn't chess)

My posting has been a little sporadic over the last few months, mainly due to a big work project that is now due for completion. The project was an update/rewrite to a spam reporting and collection database that is used by the Australian Government, both updating the application, and moving the whole thing to the cloud.
We are rolling out the new system over the next month, but for now it is substantially completed (in that it has passed all the user acceptance testing).
For those with a technical interest, the system is written in python using the Django web framework. (There is a chess link here btw, as the late Malcolm Tredinnick was a significant contributor to Django). The backend database is Postgresql, with Elasticsearch for text searching, as well as javascript,css and html for the front end stuff. All of these tools are open source btw
It was developed in house, 37% under budget, exceeded the initial specification, and is designed to handle an average of 300,000 spam filled emails a day.
I hope I have't risked fate by blowing my trumpet too loudly or too early, but if everything goes according to plan, the work/chess balance may be heading back into chess's favour.

Monday, 26 June 2017

The (almost) kiss of death

Having talked up Magnus Carlsen at the Paris Grand Chess Tour event, the wheels came of almost the moment I hit the 'publish' button. He was on 18/22 and looking as if he was running away with the tournament. Then  there were a couple of losses in the blitz and things got a lot more interesting. He only managed to score 6 from 14 in the remaining rounds, allowing Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to lead with 1 round to play, and only catching him with a final round win (MVL drew).
But if Carlsen knows one thing, it is what he needs to do to win an event (a trait he seemingly shares with Karpov).  Having tied with MVL he then won the playoff to take the winners trophy. The fact that Carlsen won the playoff is probably not a surprise, as apparently he is 8 from 8 in playoffs since 2007. MVL at least has the consolation that he split the prize money with Carlsen, earning $31000 for his efforts.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

GCT - Carlsen in beast mode

The 2017 Grand Chess Tour has begun with the Rapid/Blitz event in Paris. Carlsen currently leads the pack, having finished first in the 3 day rapid, and is following it up by starting the blitz with 4 straight wins. This put's him on 18/22 as the Rapid games are worth 2 points a win (1 for a draw), with the blitz games worth half of that. The Blitz runs over 2 days btw, so if you aren't up watching the action as I type this, you can catch it tomorrow night (from 10pm Canberra time)

The team trap

Although I drew a few games when I was younger, I tended to have a win/lose mentality at the board. This all changed when I started playing Olympiad chess for PNG. After my first Olympiad (in 2000) I realised the speculative attacks that may have worked in club chess were no longer good, and I needed to play a lot more solidly. The downside of this was that I began to draw a lot more games, which probably helped the team, but at the same time, carried over into my non-olympiad games.
Of course the dynamic in a team event is different from an individual tournament, as your play and result is important to more than just you. One of the worst things that can happen is if you screw up your opening prep and walk into a trap. It can be quite demoralising to your teammates to see you shake hands after 30 minutes or so, and the post match 'show and tell' can be quite awkward.
I've had a few of these happen to me (and my team) over the last 2 decades. On the other hand I've also managed to pull this off on occasion, and getting opening prep to work in a team event is quite satisfying.
Here is a happier example for me, from the 2004 Olympiad.

Press,Shaun (2070) - Kumar,Manoj (2036) [D03]
Calvia ol (Men) Mallorca (Spain) (12.60), 27.10.2004

Friday, 23 June 2017

VR Chess

There have been a few experiments with Virtual Reality Chess (including in the area of live coverage), but actual VR Chess games are now starting to be developed.
Chess Ultra is a new title where you get to play against the Grim Reaper (an obvious The Seventh Seal reference) for the usual stakes (your soul). It is being released on various VR platforms, and there is also a non-VR version. The developers are also looking at organising VR tournaments, which I think may be quite an interesting development (from a psychological point of view).
I've seen a few online reviews and pre release coverage (some quite funny but NSFW), but I'll leave you with this one if you want to find out more.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

50 moves and counting

A bit of a first for me tonight, as I finally had a 75 move draw ruling to make. In a topsy turvy game, the two players involved took turns at gaining and then losing the advantage until a Rook v Bishop ending was reached. As there were no pawns left, the player with the bishop headed straight to the corner, correctly choosing the one his bishop did not control. This allowed him to block any annoying checks, and set up some stalemate situations. The stronger side kept pushing (as is his right), but to no avail. Once they reached move 50 (around move 140 in the actual game), I wondered if a claim would be made (by the player with the bishop most likely), but none was forthcoming. As the players were moving quite quickly I did not mind, and soon enough move 75 was reached, at which point I stopped the clocks.
I've had longer games, and indeed I once was an arbiter where the players played at least 80 moves after the last pan move or capture, but this was before the 75 move rule was on the books.

Maybe I should have said nothing

I had an interesting game on Saturday. The first few moves were 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd 5.e5 Ne4 then after a longish think, my opponent found the novelty 6.dxe5! For a moment I thought I had missed something, but quickly realised what had happened. I pointed out to my opponent that he had moved one of my pawns, and he apologised, laughed, and we corrected the mistake.
But two pawns is two pawns, and if I play 6. ... Nf6 instead of 6. ... Bc5 (which runs into 7.Qd5) I should be OK. Silence maybe golden!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Aronian wins in Norway, while Giri blows a sandshoe

Lev Aronian has won the very tough 2017 Altibox tournament in Norway, with 6/9. 3 wins and 6 draws was enough to leave him a full point ahead of Hikaru Nakamura and Vladimir Kramnik. Nakamura did have a chance to catch Aronian, but got caught by some Caruana preparation in the Poisoned Pawn and lost his first game of the tournament. Kramnik was then able to grab a share of second place after Giri completely miss played his opening an lost on 20 moves.
The other big news was Carlsen's less than stellar performance, finishing on 4/9. To be fair, Carlsen has performed poorly in Norwegian events (at least in recent years), and never seemed to get into gear. This result, combined with Kramnik's strong performance has closed the gap at the top of the rating list to just under 11 points.
It looks as though most of the players in this event are taking a break from 'classical' chess, although there is a couple of GCT rapids coming up. All eyes may be on the Dortmund event in July, as Kramnik is taking part in that event, and usually he does well there.

Kramnik,Vladimir (2808) - Giri,Anish (2771) [D05]
5th Norway Chess 2017 Stavanger NOR (9.4), 16.06.2017

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Big (Street Chess) Data

A few years ago I put up an archive of Street Chess results, dating back to 2009. I have periodically updated this data, and added some new categories of information. Over the last few weeks I've been working on the latest updates, and have now uploaded them to the Street Chess Archive page (
The main addition is now players can see a list of tournaments they played in, as well as their performance against individual opponents. The lists are sortable, so you can find out who has scored the most wins etc, and which players have faced each other the most.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

25th ANU Open - 29th & 30th July 2017

The 25th Australian National University is being held on the weekend of the 29th & 30th of July 2017. Once again the venue is the ANU School of Art, Childers, St, Acton, ACT. The tournament will be held with 2 sections, an Open tournament for all players, and an Under 1600 event. The time limit will be 60m+10s and there will be 7 rounds (4 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday).
If you wish to register early (and save $10 on the entry fee) then go to and choose the tournament you wish to play in.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Sometime Bxh7 does work

Last week I lost a game after I completely miscalculated a Bxh7+ sacrifice. Mixing up two lines, I imagined my opponents king on the wrong square, and consequently gave up two pieces for nothing. The over the weekend I witnessed a game at the NSW Open where a similar issue occurred, although in that case the sacrifice eventually worked after Black missed the correct defence.
However there are still some players who do get it right, although that are operating at a higher level than myself. Lev Aronian pulled off a brilliant win against Magnus Carlsen in the Norway tournament, using Bxh7 as an attacking motif. What made this win even better though, was that had already sacrificed the exchange a few moves earlier, to drag the Black queen out of play, making his king side attack even more effective.

Aronian,Levon (2793) - Carlsen,Magnus (2832) [D45]
5th Norway Chess 2017 Stavanger NOR (4.2), 10.06.2017

Monday, 12 June 2017

2017 NSW Open - 3 way tie for first

The 2017 NSW Open has ended in a 3 way tie for first place, with GM Max Illingworth, IM Andrew Brown and IM Gary Lane all finishing on 6/7. Illingworth and Lane shared the lead on 5.5 going into round 7, but drew their game, allowing Brown to catch them. after defeating FM Jason Hu on board 2. Tied for 4th place were GM Zong Yuan Zhao (who Illingworth defeated in Round 6), IM Anton Smirnov, and FM Brandon Clarke.
The Minor event (Under 1600) was won by Jigando Balin (IND) on 6.5/7. However, as he did not hold a local Australian rating, he was ineligble for the cash prizes, meaning Frank Jia on 6/7 took home first prize. Second prize (and third place) was shared by Mike Canfell, Eva Ge, and Michael Tracey, on 5.5.
The tournament attracted a good field of 142 players, with the new venue proving popular with most of the players. From an arbiters point of view, the tournament itself was easy to manage, although noise from the analysis/lounge area was difficult to control. There were also a number of slightly odd arbiting questions and incidents (nothing that serious), but I will leave the discussion of that for another post.
Final results for the tournament can be found at

2017 NSW Open Day 2

Day 2 of the 2017 NSW Open has ended with the top 4 seeds sharing first place on 4.5/5. The key game from the 5th round was the clash between IM Anton Smirnov and GM Max Illingworth, which ended in a hard fought draw. This allowed GM Zong Yuan Zhao and IM Gary Lane to catch the leading two, setting up an exciting finish tomorrow. Lane recovered from his draw in round two the win all 3 of his games today, while Zhao was held to a draw by IM Andrew Brown in round 4.
Although the winner is likely to come from the current set of leaders, there is still some dangerous players in the group of players on 4.
In the Minor Jigando Balin leads on 5/5. However the fact that Balin does not have an ACF rating (although he does have a FIDE rating below 1600) complicates matters, as he is ineligible for the major prizes. This means that it may be a  battle between Eva Ge (on 4.5) and a group of players on 4/5 to decide where the cash goes.
The 6th round starts at 9:45 tomorrow, with round 7 starting at 2:15. The top board sees GM Illingworth against GM Zhao, while on board 2, IM Lane plays IM Smirnov.

Brown,IM Andrew - Zhao,GM Zong-Yuan [A80]
2017 NSW Open (1.1), 11.06.2017

Saturday, 10 June 2017

2017 NSW Open - Day 1

This years 2017 NSW Open started with a field of 142, roughly the same as last year, and not bade considering a venue move from lats year. This years tournament is being held at the Russian Club is Strathfield, which is very convenient for anyone travelling by public transport. Apart from the usual raft of Sydney players, there was a good contingent from Canberra (including the arbitiing team), and a number of junior players from Singapore.
Top seed is GM Zong Yuan Zhao ahead of GM Max Illingworth, IM Anton Smirnov, and IM Gary Lane. The top 3 seeds all ended the first day on 2/2, but Lane was held to a draw by Jesson Montenegro in the final round 2 game to finish. There are also another 13 players on 2/2, but tomorrows tough 3 round day should quickly winnow the leaders.
The Minor event (Under 1600) has attracted 63 players and there are 14 players who have started this event with 2/2. One interesting first round pairing saw top seed Mike Canfell play Mary Wilkie, as both players had travelled quite a distance from Armidale, only to be paired together.
The tournament itself got off to a smooth start, although there was a slight hiccup with the live coverage. However the technical issues look like they've been sorted out, and so you can watch the top 6 boards in the Open from 9:30 am tomorrow.  Just visit the tournament website at and click on the live games link. You can also check out the parings and standings from that site as well.

Friday, 9 June 2017


What happens if agreed draws aren't allowed in chess? The answer to this question is currently being answered at the Altibox Tournament in Norway, but not necessarily in a good way.
The tournament has a "no agreed draws" rule, although this is also expressed as a "no talking between players" regulation. Nonetheless 8 of the first 10 games have been drawn, meaning that the players have found a way to split the point. The most obvious way, and one that has yet to be abolished by FIDE, is by repeating the position. In some cases this has involved a set of checks, but in others it is more of "move there, move back" arrangement. And in one case, it simply involved the two players ignoring the arbiter and walking off.
So what's the take away from this? It isn't a decrease in the number of draws, although that isn't necessarily the aim. It has resulted in longer games, which probably is the aim, so to that end it has worked. But it seems to have annoyed the participants as well, which may not be the most desirable outcome for this years strongest event.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A memory for tactics

Today I came across another website that estimates your chess rating. The Elometer website presents you with a set of problems and asks you to choose the move you would play. When you've finished, it asks you a few more questions and then gives you an estimate of your rating.
The purpose of the site is twofold, in that it both gives you a way of seeing what you know, as well as being part of a research project from the University of Dusseldorf (details on the page). It is the second part that interested me the most, as it helps explain how the test was constructed.
While not revealing my score, I did recognise a number of positions in the test. Out of the 76 positions (from a bigger set), I probably had already seen around 30 of them (and this was asked in the post test questioning). Whether this affected my final rating I know not, but I assume that this is part of the study.
If you are planning to do the test, set aside around an hour to get through it, assuming you take it seriously. Some of the questions are pretty straight forward, but as you progress, more thought is required.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Cricket or chess

I've become less regular in my blog posting over the last few months, mainly due to work commitments (and other chess related activities). In fact I'm travelling a little more due to work, usually to Melbourne every couple of months.
And it was in Melbourne last week that I rediscovered one of my lost joys, falling asleep with the cricket on. The ICC Champions Trophy is currently running in the UK, so it starts around 10pm Canberra time. This means I can catch a couple of hours before the eyelids start to sag, and I drift off to sleep.
However I now have the choice to watch the cricket, or the Norway Altibox tournament. This starts early tomorrow morning, and runs for the next 11 days. The field is so strong I'm not even going to name them, but Anish Giri is the bottom seed. The first day sees the traditional blitz event (with Kramnik seeded last for this one), with the main event starting the next day. The Blitz begins at 2:30am my time, but for the rest of the event, I think a midnight start is scheduled.
So the pleasant choice between top level cricket, and top level chess waits.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

That's a paddlin'

Fischer famously destroyed both Taimanov and Larsen 6-0 in the Candidates Matches leading up to his 1972 World Championship title. At the time this was considered extraordinary, as it was assumed that a strong GM could at least take half a point of an opponent, if necessary. It turns out there have been some historical precedents for this feat, including one I found very surprising.
In 1876 Wilhelm Steinitz and Henry Blackburne played a match in London, for the stakes of 60GBP. The match was open ended, with the winner being the first player to score 7 wins. The time control was 30 moves in 2 hours, followed by 15 moves in an hour, although a player had to exceed this by 5 minutes before they were forfeited. There was also a draw by repetition rule, although it was based on one player repeating a move (or sequence of moves) six times.
Despite the fact that both players were already considered the strongest in the world, the match was totally one sided, with Steinitz winning all 7 games. It might be easy to think that this was due to Blackburne being unable to cope with Steinitz's more positional play, but the first game of the match showed that Steintz knew how to play a slashing attack. The loss may have put Blackburne back on his heels, as for the rest of the match Steinitz seemed to have the upper hand, playing a number of fine games, and condemning Blackburne to an ignominious defeat.

Steinitz,William - Blackburne,Joseph Henry [C77]
London m1 London (1), 17.02.1876

2017 NSW Open

The Queens Birthday long weekend (in most of Australia), sees a number of chess weekenders in various states. The NSW Open and the Victorian Open are the two big ones, but I think most states hold some sort of event (with the exception of the ACT).
I'm heading off to the NSW Open (as a paid arbiter) with this year seeing another new venue. It is being held at The Russian Club in Strathfield NSW, and runs from the 10th to the 12th of June. It will be run in two sections (Open and Under 1600), with both tournaments having a very generous prize pool. There will be 7 rounds (2,3,2 format), with a time limit of G/90m+30s.
Further information, plus a link to online entry, can be found here.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Can I invent a new opening?

The title of this post is borrowed from a question I recently saw on Quora. Answers seemed to range from 'No' to "sure, but it won't be any good". The general consensus is that all 'openings' have been invented, although the OP may find a new variation.
Of course this depends upon deciding what is an opening, and what is a variation. For example 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 is not yet an opening, with 3.Bc4 , 3.Bb5 or 3.Nc3 all becoming named openings, but after 3.Bc4 Nf6, 4.d4 and 4.Ng5 are only variations of the Two Knights Opening. As with most things in chess, history and convention take precedence over logic.
However, variations can be discovered (and possibly named), even if they might not be good. Just today I came across a line against the Caro-Kann which I had previously been unaware of, the Apocalypse Variation! It starts with 1.e4 c6 2.Nf3 d5 3.exd cxd 4.Ne5 I have seen White's 4th move given a ! and a ? and while I would lean towards ?! it has claimed some high profile victims. The idea is to keep the knight on e5 for as long as possible, or to exchange it at an advantageous time. Oddly, for such an aggressive idea, this line seems devoid of cheap traps, although I did see a few games end with Qxf7#.
To give you a feel for this line, here is a game between a couple of very strong GM's. I don't know if Black was caught by surprise, but his play looks a little unconvincing, giving White a fairly easy path to victory.

Petrosian,Tigran L (2580) - Macieja,Bartlomiej (2616) [B10]
Lake Sevan Martuni (4), 09.07.2007


The AlphaGo program not only continues to beat the best Go players in the world, but it is also influencing how the game is being played. Talking with some Go playing friends, they were amazed at how AlphaGo was demonstrating ideas and concepts that had been considered bad, were in fact playable. As a result, top level professional players are reassessing how the game is being played.
It seems that this effect may be even more profound than the effect computers had on chess. While computers probably taught the modern generation the increased importance of tactical calculation, and probably helped resurrect some openings that had been considered less than optimal.  the underlying strategic concepts did not really change. Computers did the same things that humans did, just faster and better. With AlphaGo, it seems that its learning method of recognising good and bad moves based on patterns and previous games has not only come up with better moves, but also enabled it to recognise better structures.
AlphaGo has just completed a series of matches in China, against some of the worlds leading players. At the end of the match the AlphaGo developers have released a set of 50 games which AlphaGo played against itself, to show some of the new ideas it has learned. You can play through all 50 games here.

Sunday, 28 May 2017


I suspect chess players aren't really a superstitious lot. All that rational thinking at the board probably extends to real life, leaving little room for the irrational. However I still come across players who have their little 'quirks' which may be considered superstitions by some.
Probably the most common is the 'lucky pen'. Players who start and event with a couple of pins may attribute this to their choice of writing implement, and therefore try and hang on to it for as long as possible. Apparently Tal was a believer in the 'lucky pen' and attributed his World Championship loss to it going missing during the match.
Related to this is the lucky shirt/socks/key ring etc Unlike the lucky pen, if items of clothing are involved, a winning streak may not be so much due to magical forces, as to the smell from wearing the same socks six days in a row.
I've also observed scoresheet superstitions. Not writing an opponents name down until the completion of the game is one attempt at voodoo, while incredibly cheeky players might try and get away with a pre-filled result. Not shaving during a winning streak has been mentioned, although I'm not sure whether I've witnessed this happening at chess Olympiads, or are just mixing with people of poor personal grooming.
Finally, I once had a player who said that one of the best ways to not lose was to avoid players whose surnames started with 'Fischer' or 'Kasparov'

Saturday, 27 May 2017

The bigliest World Championship ever

While holidaying in the UK I took some delight in making the obvious comparisons between the President of FIDE and the President of the USA. This led to some slightly awkward conversations with people who were astonished at the outcome of the 2016 US elections, but had campaigned for Kirsan in the 2014 FIDE elections (although there was one friend who was happy with both outcomes).
And it seems that the similarities have not ended, with a report the London is being considered as a venue for the next World Championship Match. The source of this proposal was Kirsan himself, in an interview he gave with the Tass News-agency. Of course it seems that FIDE themselves no nothing about it, or of they do, nothing is showing on their website. I'm pretty sure this isn't because the designated spokesperson is hiding in the bushes trying to get their story straight, but almost certainly because the days of breathlessly reporting every statement, trip or activity of the FIDE President is now over.
That's not to so it won't happen (although it seems that the ECF has not yet been informed), but I'm assuming credit for making it happen will be claimed no matter where the Championship match is eventually held.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Capablanca's two part rule

Very early on I learned that you should put your pawns on the opposite coloured square to your bishop (if you have one). Later I learned that this was known as "Capablanca's Rule". However it was only recently that I read that there are in fact two parts two this rule, and I'd probably been throwing away half points by not knowing the second part.
The second part deals with the case where your opponent has a bishop, and you don't. In this case you should put your pawns on the same coloured squares as your opponents bishop, to restrict its activity. Of course there are almost always other factors at play, but if you are faced with a knight v bishop middlegame and are unsure what to do, this may help.
Here is an example game (taken from'Techniques of Positional Play ' by Broznik and Terekhin), where Capablanca applies his own rule on move 20, creating a pawn chain on the dark squares. By the time the players agreed to a draw, all of black's pawns were on dark squares, white's pawns were on light squares, and yet the white bishop still couldn't help white win.

Lasker,Emanuel - Capablanca,Jose Raul [C66]
New York New York (2), 17.03.1924

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Out, back and out again

As I get older (and more forgetful) I have a tendency to screw up my openings more and more. It is both a function of not learning all the lines, and playing careless moves without checking the consequences.
In the following very recent game, I played 7. ... Bf5 without much thought. After 8.Qf3 I was suddenly required to do a lot of thinking, but most of it was deciding whether to go berserk and sacrifice my queenside pawns, or eat crow and retreat the bishop. In the end I decided crow was the tastier meal, and retreated both the bishop and the queen. After that it was a battle not to get run off the board, bring out my pieces again, and try and salvage something from the game. Turns out I managed to find enough play to not lose, but all that post-blunder thinking left me short of time, and so a draw was offered an accepted.

Patterson,Miles - Press,Shaun [A09]
Autumn Leaves, 23.05.2017

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Pick the century

A challenge for readers of this blog. Have a look at the game below and decide which century it was played in (or which century it belongs to). I have of course removed anything that identifies the players, or where it might have been played.

White - Black [C37]
From a galaxy far far away

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The top 10

Where do you go to to get your chess fix (apart from Chessexpress)? According to one list is the most popular chess site, and the 1181 most popular site on the internet overall. Lichess is number 2, while Chess24 comes in third. The FIDE website is only ranked number 7, 2 spots behind
The full list is

So playing sites are the most popular, followed by news sites, and finally some training sites.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Attack of the clones

When I was a member of the FIDE Rules Commission we would occasionally discuss areas where the rules were silent. This wasn't because we felt the issue was too difficult to rule on, but more because we wondered what we would do if someone tried something really bizarre.
One topic was about playing more than 1 game at the same time. It started out as a method of avoiding defaults in team matches (ie could someone play boards 7 and 8 in the same round), and moved on to whether Kasparov could just enter the Olympiad by himself (playing a simul each round). We decided he could not (if the games were to be rated). There was also talk about whether a player could enter two sections of an event and play both at the same time, with a semi-famous case being Michael Adams playing a junior and open event at a British Championship early in his career. Again we thought it wasn't acceptable, in part because there was a risk that a player could 'transfer' information from one game to another, thereby violating the rule about analysing a game on another chessboard.
However the Denver Chess Club has decided to organise a tournament where players can play more than one game at once. The Clone Wars tournament allows a player to enter either as themselves, or to clone themselves once or twice. After that it is a normal event, except clones players are required to play two or three game each round. I assume you can't be paired against your clone, but your (or your clone) could play a different clone of a player you've already met. Whether you could play multiple games against the same opponent in the same round wasn't clear.
The event was run as a 4 round G/60m event, which I would assume gave players enough time to jump between boards (assuming you remembered which boards you were on!). The prize structure was also interesting, where a players total score (including clones) determined the payout (each point was worth a fixed amount). I don't know if the event was USCF rated, but I would assume that such event would not be FIDE rated (even with an eligible time control).
Here is a link to the tournament report, which contains a little more detail on the event than I can give you.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Better math through chess

I've just come across another study attempting to measure whether teaching chess in the classroom results in better learning outcomes for students. In this case the study looked at replacing 1 math lesson a week with a chess lesson (as opposed to adding an extra chess lesson). The study was carried out in Denmark, involving primary aged students.
Overall the study found a slight improvement in test scores (around 0.1 to 0.18 of a standard deviation), which at first might not sound like much. However, as these were replacement lessons, the result is in fact a lot better, especially if you are trying to get chess coaching into an already crowded calendar. Also of interest is that the study looked at the effects on children who were either unhappy or bored and found  that both these groups showed greater improvement than happy or engaged children. In fact most of the improvement in test scores was attributed to students in these groups.
The whole study is available here and is worth reading not just for the conclusions, but also for the description of the studies methodology. In describing quite clearly their approach, the authors not only help the reader understand their work, but also provide an idea of what to look for in similar studies on chess in education.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Quality control

I was doing a little research for one of my correspondence chess games today, and I came across an issue that occasionally bedevils chess writers (and sometimes players). One of the games in a variation I'm playing was between Kaidanov and Kamsky, both very strong GM's, and therefore a game worth studying. The game itself followed theory up until move 14, when Black played the slightly unusual 14. ... Qe7. However it was his 16th move (16 ... Nh7) that was the real surprise, as it allowed the queen to be captured by the bishop on g5. Fortunately for Black it seems Kaindanov was feeling kind as the bishop retreated the d2 instead!
Of course the real story was that Black almost certainly played 14 ... Qc7 (which is theory) and only later moved the queen to e7 (on move 22). Kaidanov eventually won the game as White, and the mistaken move is quite clear, so the game may prove to be useful after all. However it is always worth double checking whether the moves make sense, as the risk is to blindly follow something that never happened in the first place!

Kaidanov,Gregory S (2640) - Kamsky,Gata (2645) [E75]
USA-ch Long Beach (8), 1993

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Stephen Fry explains the Dunning Kruger Effect

The Dunning Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where low-ability individuals overestimate their abilities. It has been known (formally) since 1999, although I am sure this effect was observed well before then, possibly under the heading 'to stupid to know they're stupid'.
For anyone unfamiliar with this effect, there is a short video (narrated by Stephen Fry) which explains it in the context of current American politics.

But what has this to do with chess? In this case not a lot, but it does relate to an observation I've made over the years. The biggest mistakes we make in chess don't happen when we don't have an answer to the problem in front of us, but when we (incorrectly) think we have the best answer to the problem in front of us. Often a game is lost because the move we thought that worked had a fatal flaw in it, and we would have been better off choosing a less flashy move. Usually this is described as over-confidence, which of course is a manifestation of Dunning-Kruger.
By the way, there is a flip side to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Often people who excel at a task don't realise that what they are doing is difficult for the average practitioner, and assume because it is easy for them, it must be easy for everyone. Anyone who has ever coached chess is probably aware of this (although maybe not consciously!)

Friday, 12 May 2017

All the way with CAA

While holidaying in the UK over Christmas I got to work with a number of British Arbiters. One thing they do is take arbiting a little more seriously than they do in Australia, even going so far as having an Arbiters Association. The Chess Arbiters Association (CAA) not only provides information and resources to British Arbiters it runs courses for National Arbiters, and produces a regular newsletter on arbiting matters.
The last couple of issues contained some interesting articles, including commentary on the 2016 Victorian Lightning Championship (I did share my perspective with the magazine editor, IA Alex McFarlane). It also reports on interesting incidents that have occurred in other events, including a "What would you decide?" section.
If you want to have a look at back issues of the 'Arbiting Matters' magazine, or just access some of the other resources, you can get all of this at the Chess Arbiters Association homepage.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

2017 Asian Individual

The 2017 Asian Individual Championship starts tomorrow in Chengdu, China. As a Continental Championship it has attracted a very strong field, with 33 GM's in the 69 player field. The half way point in the field is 2470 and there are even GM's in the bottom half of the draw.
Now normally I would only have a passing interest in this event (unless Papua New Guinea sends a representative) but I will be taking  greater notice as Australia (and even Canberra) is sending a representative. Junior player Albert Winkelman is the Australian representative this year, and although at the tail of the field, is clearly hoping to continue his good form from the Oceania Zonal, where he just missed out on a direct FM title.
In the first round he is playing GM John Paul Gomez from The Philippines. Certainly a tough opponent, but first rounds of any big events have a few upset results and I am sure Albert is hoping he can create one of them.
The only official website I can find is in Chinese, but there is live coverage at chess24 and results can be found at  The games start at 4pm Canberra time.

Another quick way to draw

One of the benefits of being a chess blogger/magazine editor is that every now and then you receive free books and magazines, either to review, or just because some is looking to send them to a good home. Recently I was fortunate to end up with a collection that included bound copies of Chess World (edited by CJS Purdy) and have been happily flicking through them. In doing so I came across a reasonably well known game, that falls under the heading of the 'quick repetition draw'.
The game was played in 1945 Australian Correspondence Championship and ended in a draw after 7 moves. As it was CC the draw offer was backed up by plenty of analysis, which is sound to this day. In fact after this game was played, this exact variation was played at least 27 times in over the board tournaments, although not every game was drawn. The games where White won seemed to be a case of Black missing the correct follow up on move 11, while Black won if White tried to avoid the draw.

Vaughn,Frank - Purdy,CJS [D82]
Australian CC Championship, 1945

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Chess on a sphere

At school I found spherical trigonometry quite difficult, which is why my career as a Napoleonic Era Naval Captain never really took off. Working with flat surfaces was OK, which instead explains my affinity for chess.
So I assume that I would do quite poorly on the chess board highlighted here. It is a spherical chess board, where the pieces are held in place by magnets. It sits in a frame, and I assume has mechanisms to to rotate the globe so as to provide access to all the pieces and squares.
I'm not sure what the rules for playing on it are, but I assume it is akin to Cylinder Chess (where pieces can leave the board on one side and reenter on the other.). I'm also assuming that pieces cannot cross the 'poles' although it might be a more interesting game if they could.
The set seems to be a one off creation, but the designer (Ben Myers) has posted instructions on how he made it, so if you are interested, you may be able to build one yourself.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Sandu controversy - redux

In 2015 concerns were raised about the performance of Mihaela Sandu in the European Women's Championship. Sandu started the event with 5/5, at which point a number of competitors raised questions about the anti-cheating methods in place for the competition, and somewhat unwisely, mentioned Sandu by name. Sandu in return lodged a complaint with the FIDE Ethics Commision, which has finally been decided. (My initial post on the matter is here. I recommend you read the comments as well).
The Ethics Commission has handed downs its judgement, with a variety of punishments being handed out to 15 players named in the complaint. Natalia Zhukova has received a 3 month ban from chess, suspended for a year on the condition she makes no further unfounded accusations against another player. The Ethics Commission regarded her as the chief complainant, and as a result, deserving of the greatest punishment. A further 9 players received a reprimand and warning, while the remaining 5 players received a warning not to repeat the behaviour.
Ultimately this is an important judgement, albeit one that was a little late in delivery. While I was a member of the FIDE Anti-Cheating Committee (ACC), the issue of false public accusations was one that I thought needed to be dealt with, and I pushed hard to have regulations dealing with this included. Of course the work of the ACC was stalled in 2014 as the FIDE Executive lost interest in almost everything that did not directly contribute to re-election of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, but it seems that after a 2 year hiatus, work is now progressing in this area.
Finally, there are some who may think this judgement will discourage players from reporting suspect cheaters. This was taken into account when the regulations were drafted, and there is a distinction between reporting concerns directly and privately to an arbiter (although a formal complaint may still be requested), and making such suspicions public (noting that there is some dispute about whether this occurred in the Sandu case).
For further coverage on this issue, including a link to the judgement, read the Chessbase report.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Winning (and losing) quickly at CC

It is still possible to win (or lose) quickly at correspondence chess. While there is a belief that *all* CC is played with computers, this belief is misplaced in most instances. Having said that, the quality of CC has increased because of computers, or more correctly, computer databases.
These days most players have access to reasonably similar collections of games, meaning that opening choices should be a little sounder. Also, keeping track of your analysis is a lot easier, as you can just enter, save and review variations, before choosing your move.
Nonetheless, even with these advantages, quick losses still occur. The most common cause of the quick loss is CC is the dreaded loss on time. This sometimes occurs when a player 'silently withdraws' from an event, but simply losing track of a game and forgetting to move is another cause (and one of which I have been guilty).
The second cause is the bane of online players everywhere, the mis-click. And while online CC has a 'enter and confirm' system, I have still seen plenty of games decided this way.
And the third is the good old 'miscalculation'. Often our biggest mistakes happen when we think we've found the best move, only to find we've missed something along the way. This happens quite a lot in non-engine assisted CC, especially when one player fails to look that one move further.
The featured game for this article comes from the 2016 Australian Interstate Teams. I'm pretty sure that this falls under section 2(the 'mis-click'), as White's 12th move is difficult to explain otherwise. After that, all Black needed to do was head for the kingside and mate the undefended king.

Hughes,David (1752) - Gray,Garvin (1993)
AUS/2016/IT (AUS) ICCF, 30.06.2016

Saturday, 6 May 2017

4NCL - Guilford win again, White Rose survive

The 4NCL season in the UK has just finished, with Guildford winning the competition again. For their final round game they field 7 GM's and an IM, so it isn't surprising that they scored the maximum 14/14 in match points and 45/56 game points in the Championship section. Cheddleton finished in 2nd place, while the Guildford second team took third.
The White Rose team did not do as well as they have in previous years, but a 5th place finish (with more game points than the teams that finished third and fourth) leaves them in the top division for another year. They also saw one of their players, Matthias Gantner, score an IM norm.
The Second Division was won by Alba (with a strong Scottish representation) with The AD's runners up. They, along with Spirit of Atticus and Cambridge University are promoted to the top section next season. White Rose II (which Harry Press and I played two games for), avoided relegation to Division 3, finishing third in the relegation pool (2 places above the relegation zone).

Thursday, 4 May 2017

2017 Asian Seniors

The 2017 Asian Seniors is being held in Auckland, New Zealand from the 9th to the 15th of October. It is being organised by the New Zealand Chess Federation and the Oceania Chess Confederation on behalf of the Asian Chess Federation.
The tournament is a 9 round swiss and will award titles for Over 50 Open, Over 65 Open and Over 50 Womens. (According to FIDE regulations IM for the winner, FM for second and third). The venue is the Waipuna Conference Centre, which was the venue for the 2017 Oceania Zonal, held earlier this year.
The organisers have already announced their first high profile entrant, GM Eugene Torre from The Philippines. Torre was the first GM from Asia, and last year picked up a bronze medal for his score at the 2016 Olympiad. While entries are likely to mainly come from Australia and New Zealand, I would not be surprised to see more than a few IM's and GM's from other Asian countries make the trip to the shaky isles.
Full details of the tournament, including entry conditions can be found at this link.

Ah, chess parents

Last week a story broke about a 12 year old girl who withdrew from a chess event in Malaysia, after being told her dress was 'inappropriate'. I held off on covering the story, as I have seen this sought of story start with sensationalist coverage, before turning out to be not quite what it seemed to be.
The last few days has seen more information come to light, and it does seem that there is more to the case than initially reported. There appears to be no dispute that the comment was made, but the claim is that the comment came from a teacher from the hosting school. But to confuse matters, the teacher was also a tournament arbiter, so it isn't clear whether it was the teacher speaking or the arbiter.
Nonetheless it is still a pretty poor state of affairs, as I have never heard a complaint of this type levelled against a male player (of any age). Nigel Short once had a complaint made against him for playing in shorts, but I don't recall if this was because the sight of his legs was making it hard for other players to concentrate. On the other hand I know of at least 2 well reported incidents in Australia, where the 'making it difficult to concentrate' complaint has been made against female players.
The Malaysian incident has now turned into a battle of competing versions, and legal action is being tossed around by both sides. It will probably run for a bit, and like most incidents of this type, will be misremembered and misreported for years to come.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Seniors Chess

Now that I am eligible, Seniors Chess (50 years+) is of greater interest to me than previously. I am thinking of heading to New Zealand in October to player the Asian Seniors, and getting a team to a future World Seniors Championship might also be a goal.
Currently the 2017 edition of the World Seniors Teams Championship is underway in Crete, and while not as popular as the Olympiad, it doesn't look to dissimilar. Of the 98 players in the 50+ section, 20 of them gold the GM title, with the England 1 team fielding 4 of them (Short, Nunn, Speelman and Arkell). However they are only third in the tournament with the St Petersburg team (also containing 4 GM's ) well out in front after 7 rounds.
The 65+ section doesn't have quite as many GM's (only 5!), but 35 titles players in that field is still impressive.
While the top seeded England team may once again fall just short of gold (shades of 1986 Olympiad, plus any Football World Cup bar 1966), GM John Nunn did score a nice attacking win, which reminded me of his games from that earlier period.

Nunn,John - Beilfuss,Wilfried [B30]
World Seniors Teams, 2017

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The short of it

Having given you a super long game yesterday, here is a much shorter game. GM John Nunn once remarked to lose a miniature (under 25 moves, you need to make 3 mistakes as White in the opening, or 2 as Black. This was certainly true in this game, where b5 is inadvisable, Bd7 is inappropriate, and cxb5 is indefensible.

Blackburne,Joseph Henry - Fleissig,Maximilian [D11]
Wiener Schachkongress 1st Vienna (3), 1873

Friday, 28 April 2017

A real monster

Tournament games that go over 100 moves are quite rare while 150+ movers are rarer still. As an arbiter I have had to sit through a few games that went past the century mark and a couple that went beyond 150. Normally these games end in draws, with the length of the game being caused by extended attempts to beat a fairly solid defense.
I suspect the spectators (and arbiters) at the following game probably enjoyed their experience more than I did. For one it was played during a time when adjournments still existed, and so probably ran over a few days, allowing both players and spectators a break. Secondly, it was played during one of the great pre World War I tournaments, the San Sebastian event of 1911, which was where Capablanca sensationally announced his arrival at the top level.
The game itself was played in the first round, and at the time, set the world record for the longest master game. Mot of it was endgame manoeuvring, although the final stage would be familiar to most players.

Duras,Oldrich - Janowski,Dawid Markelowicz [C77]
San Sebastian IT 1st San Sebastian (1), 20.02.1911

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Mitrofanov's Deflection

White to play and win
The diagrammed position is one my favourite endgame studies of all time. It was first shown to me by FM Manuel Weeks way back when, and is rightly considered one of the best endgame studies of all times.
Now, I'm not going to torture you by requesting a solution, but I'm not going to hand one out either. The study itself has an interesting history (in part because the initial version was cooked), but this version stands the test of time (and the brutality of computer analysis). So if you want to find out more about the study, and the author, follow this link. But be warned, the answer is given, in all its brilliance.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Any sac you can play I can play better

In round 2 of the Gashimov Memorial, Topalov won against Wojtaszek with a stunning rook sacrifice. Two rounds later, Kramnik showed he can do at least as well, beating Harikrishna with a rook sac of his own. I'll leave it up to you dear reader to decide which is the better sacrifice.

Wojtaszek,R (2745) - Topalov,V (2741) [D12]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017 Shamkir AZE (2), 22.04.2017

Kramnik,V (2811) - Harikrishna,P (2755) [C84]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017 Shamkir AZE (4), 24.04.2017

When was white winning?

Lev Aronian has won the 2017 Grenke Chess Classic, ahead of a very strong field. His win may have been helped by the fact I did not give him the 'kiss of death' by tipping a win for him, but it was more likely to be due to his strong play.
One of his early tournament victories was against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a game that on the one hand exemplifies modern chess, but on the other, one I found difficult to get a handle on. Following the 'pawn structure be damned' approach, both players found themselves with rooks and bishops after 14 moves, and one open file to fight over. To my untrained eye this wasn't enough for either side to claim an advantage, but after another 20 moves, Aronian was able to force one of his pawns to f5 and Black's position collapsed. At first I thought Black must have made one big mistake, but going over the game it seems that it was more a succession of little ones that caused his defeat, culminating with him losing control of f5.

Aronian,Levon (2774) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2803) [A04]
GRENKE Chess Classic Karlsruhe (3.2), 17.04.2017

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Playing the back marker

You're cruising along, have a couple of wins under your belt, when you have to play someone at the tail end of the field (note, I'm talking about round robin events). Suddenly you have to make a choice. Do you (a) decide that the point is in the bag no matter what you do, and so play for the brilliancy, (b) play extra cautiously as you don't want to blow a sandshoe, or (c) ignore the scoreboard and play the position on the board?
Most people would say that (c) is the correct choice, but I suspect that in practice, the actual split may well be 40% a, 40% b and 20% c.
An extreme example of some choosing box A was Frank Marshall in the 1903 Monte Carlo tournament. Although he finished slightly below 50%, he decided to have some fun against possibly the most famous 'back marker' in tournament history. This was the event where Charles Paul Narcisse Moreau (known to chess history as Colonel Moreau) scored 0/26, losing all his games to the other 13 competitors. While Marshall was known for his attacking play, this game saw it taken to the extreme, playing a Muzio Gambit, offering two pieces within the first 8 moves. The unlucky Moreau was doing OK until move 16, where Bc6 turned out to be the losing move, as the pin down the d file resulted in material lose.

Marshall,Frank James - Moreau,C [C37]
Monte Carlo Monte Carlo (23), 13.03.1903

Saturday, 22 April 2017

So much late night chess

Spring must be a popular time for chess events in the Northern Hemisphere as three big tournaments are running at the moment. In Germany the Grenke Classic sees Carlsen, Caruana, MVL, and Aronian battling in an 8 player round robin, while the accompanying Open has attracted a massive field. In Reykjavik the Open is underway, with 33 GM's in the 266 player field. And the Gashimov Memorial is just starting, with So, Kramnik, Karjakin and Adams in the 10 player field.
The best bit about all these events is that they are all being broadcast live on Chess24. This makes following the tournaments a little easier, as you can just jump from tournament to tournament, without having to jump from site to site. And if you are pacing yourself, the Gashimov Memorial starts mid evening Canberra time, Grenke at 11:30pm and Reykjavik a couple of hours later.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - An arbiters reflection

As the Tournament Director of the 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup I think the tournament ran very well. In fact one common comment from the arbiting team was how quickly it seemed to finish, which usually indicates there were no major issues (which there weren't).
This was especially noteworthy as the field of 280+ players was the second largest on record, and the venue was a little trickier to handle this year. here were a couple of reasons why the tournament ran well this year, first and foremost due to the growing experience of the organising team. I was able to hand off most of the routine tournament management to my fellow arbiters, while I concentrated on pairings and keeping the DGT boards broadcasting (Note to self: A new laptop next year!).
On the whole the players themselves were much better behaved this year, almost certainly as a result of decisions taken last year concerning serious misbehaviour. We still have to patiently explain the 'no mobile phones' in the playing hall to parents (and no, having them on silent is not an excuse), and some conversations were a bit loud, but the spectators were pretty good this year as well.
There were a couple of interesting incidents in the tournament, including a game in the Premier where a player accidentally captured his own piece (two minute penalty and he had to move the piece first touched). A few players are still confused about the time control, with one game seeing both players surf the 30s increment until move 70, not realising that an extra 30 minutes was added when one clock went to zero. Next year we may shift the Premier back to a straight 90m+30s, in part because of this confusion.
The level of withdrawals was thankfully low, with only a few forfeits (one of which was the organisers fault), and 'silent' withdrawals. Disappointingly the last round of the Premier had one player forfeit his game stating he was unwell, but this seemed to be a short term illness as he hung around to watch the complete round.
I'd like to thank the rest of the team for their work this year. Charles Zworestine (Premier), Alana Chibnall (Major), Lee Forace (Minor) and Miona Ikeda (Under 1200) put in an enormous number of hours to make the tournament a success, and I for one am very grateful for their efforts.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Oh No, another time waster

Blizzard have just released a free version of the original StarCraft, along with the expansion. It has been patched to fix any bugs that have been noticed over the last 8 years(!) and runs under all the Window releases (including 10). You can download it from the Blizzard site.

An arm-brain puzzle

Arm-Brain is a partnership variant where one player names a piece to be moved (eg King or Knight), while their partner decides which piece (if there is more than one) and the move to play. It is a fun game, although I find it very challenging. But not as challenging as the following puzzle.
While not quite 'Arm-Brain' the conditions of the puzzle are as follows: White starts with 1.e4 and can then tell Black the type of piece they can move (again, Knight or pawn etc). Black is free to make any move with the type of piece named (so if White says pawn, any pawn move will do). Can you find a Mate in 5 for White? (NB White can name a different piece for each Black move).
This challenge was set by GM Michal Krasenkow over dinner after the Doeberl Cup had finished. Tournament winner GM Surya Ganguly solved it in around 20 minutes, while I gave up after 10.

Monday, 17 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Ganguly dominates

The 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup has finished with a dominating win for Indian GM Surya Ganguly. Going into the final round he led by a point over GM Michal Krasenkow, and a relatively short draw with GM Bartlomiej Heberla secured him outright first on 8/9. Krasenkow had a tougher game on board 2, but was able to hold off a strong attack by Fedja Zulfic to take outright second. GM Zong Yuan Zhao was the best of the local players, finishing in third place with 7/9.
Ganguly was clearly the dominant player of the tournament, beating Krasenkow in their decisive Round 5 games, and only conceding draws to Zhao and Heberla. Krasenkow also showed his strength, winning 7 games, and drawing with Zhao in round 7. Zhao should also be pleased with his performance, drawing with the top 2 seeds and finishing undefeated.
Further down FM Luis Chan had an excellent tournament, picking up the prize for the best Australian junior. Unrated Longfei Zhao (CHN) also did well, scoring 5/9 in his first international event.
The Major was won by Brendan Zou with 6/7, while the Minor saw Parunithan Ranganathan and Aiden Odenthal  share first prize on 6.5/7, having drawn with each other in round 4 and winning all their other games.

Krasenkow,Michal (2620) - Ganguly,Surya Shekhar (2640) [D47]
2017 O2C Doeberl Cup Canberra Australia (5.1), 15.04.2017

Sunday, 16 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 3

Day 3 of the 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup saw the top seeds continued domination. GM Surya Ganguly went to 5.5/6, with a win over GM Michal Krasenkow in the morning round, before a hard fought draw in round 6 against GM Zong Yuan Zhao. Krasenkow recovered from his round 5 loss to score a convincing win over IM Trevor Tao to finish the day on 5/6. GM Zong Yuan Zhao is also on 5/6 after his draw with Ganguly, and he and Krasenkow are due to play in round 7.
IM Gary Lane, IM James Morris, IM Junta Ikeda and English FM Brandon Clarke are just behind the leading group on 4.5, with Clarke in the frame for an IM norm, while good results for the other players could leave them with GM norm chances.
Last night saw the traditional Doeberl Cup Lightning, which attracted a field of 105 players. IM Junta Ikeda entered at the very last minute, and proceeded to dominate the tournament, starting with 8 straight wins before a final round draw secured an easy first place.