Saturday, 18 November 2017

Chess and Beer

Due to a number of other activities I haven't been running Street Chess recently. Today was my first time back since the start of October, and on my return, I received a pleasant reward.
One of the event sponsors, King O'Malley's Bar, was running a 'design your own beer label' promotion, in conjunction with Adobe. This was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I created a very limited run of "Street Chess Beer". So limited that only 4 bottles were made. Three were given away as prizes(although not to the tournament winner Sankeertan Badrinarayan as he isn't quite 18), and one I kept myself (although I only have the bottle, as my 19 year old son consumed the contents).
A couple of people wondered If i had brewed the beer myself (No), but maybe this is something worth looking at in the future.
"Drink & play responsibly"

Thursday, 16 November 2017

FIDE Grand Prix resumes

The final event of the 2017 FIDE Grand Prix series begins today in Mallorca, Spain. While the GP series tends to get lost among the other big events on the calendar (GCT, World Cup plus big opens in Iceland, UK and Isle of Man), it still helps determine the qualifiers for next years Candidates Tournament. The top two finishers (who did not qualify through the World Cup) qualify for the Candidates, and at this stage there are 4 players still in with a chance. 
Mamedyarov and Grischuk currently hold down the top two places, but have already played there 3 events (each player plays 3 of the 4 GP tournaments). As a result, there is still a chance they can be overtaken by Vachier-Lagrave and Radjabov. Ding Liren is also in the leading group but has already qualified (via the World Cup).
The official site for the tournament is I'm pretty sure there is no free coverage from this site (it is a pay for view event), and I'm not seeing any of the other major websites with links to coverage (although I may have missed them). Whether this is due to legal reasons or indifference (or indifference caused by legal reasons) I do not know.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The injustice of it all

While wearing my ICCF Tournament Directors hat, I discovered something I had not previously been aware of. There are some Queen endings where two connected passed pawns aren't enough to win. This was drawn to my attention when a game in an event I was directing was drawn after one of the players made a tablebase claim (In Correspondence Chess a player can claim a draw or win if the position is assessed as such in a 6 piece or less tablebase). While the claim was perfectly valid I did feel a little sorry for the other player involved.
Even without the advantage of modern technology, the game may well have been drawn anyway, as it turns out there have been some precedents.  In 1985 Boris Spassky was defending exactly the same position against Zoltan Ribli and successfully held. Here is the game in question, with Black having a completely drawn potion by move 82.

Ribli,Zoltan (2605) - Spassky,Boris V (2590) [A30]
Candidates Tournament Montpellier (4), 1985

Tuesday, 14 November 2017


I've just caught wind of an unfortunate occurrence at the 2017 World Seniors. In the game between GM Rogelio Antonio and IM Alexander Reprintsev, the following miniature occurred. 1.e4 d5 2.exd Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qb5?? 1-0
In moving the queen to a5, Reprintsev placed it on b5 instead (or at least enough of it to matter), at which point it was able to be captured by bishop or knight (One report indeed had 4.Bxb5+ as being played, although this didn't appear in the online version I saw).
There is some argument that Antonio should have let the queen go to a5 as intended, and if I was White in these circumstances, I would have done so. On the other hand, if I was Black, I would have let the move stand, accepting the responsibility for my mistake. And finally, if I was an arbiter, I would almost certainly let the players sort it out among themselves (ie if neither player claimed a breach of the rules, I wouldn't go jumping in)

Sunday, 12 November 2017

2017 Vikings Weekender - GM Anton Smirnov wins

GM Anton Smirnov has won the 2017 Vikings Weekender with a perfect 6/6. He had to face IM Andrew Brown in the first round of the day, and then 3rd seed Fred Litchfield. Winning both those games he then been Tim Pearce in the final round to finish the event on 100%.
IM Andrew Brown recovered from his loss to Smirnov to win his two remaining games to finish second on 5/6. However he was once again fortunate to survive some difficult positions, being in a lost position against Donato Mallari with seconds left on his clock, only to see Mallari overstep the time limit. Mallari at least had the consolation of finishing in equal third, along with Dillon Hathiramani and Angelito Camer.
Amol Kiran finished first in the Minor event on 5.5/6. Kiran (who finished equal first last year) drew with Athena Hatirmani in the final round to finish a point clear of Hathiramani and Lachlan Ho.
Despite the numbers being down 25% this year (65 last year, 48 this time), the organisers were able to pay out more than $3000 in prizes, due to the generous sponsorship of Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club, Street Chess and Jim Flood. The ACT Chess Association also provided financial and material support for the tournament, as did the Tuggeranong Chess Club, who hosted the event.
Full results as well as games from the top 4 boards of the open (for each round) can be found at 

2017 Vikings Weekender - Day 1

The 2017 Vikings Weekender attracted a strong field for the Open section, with new Australian GM Anton Smirnov the top seed. At the end of the first day Smirnov leads with 3/3, along with second seed IM Andrew Brown. The two players had differing paths to the top, with Smirnov scoring decisive victories in his games, while Brown was forced to work hard, escaping from difficult positions (and time trouble) in rounds 2&3.
Due to venue issues (due to the final of the National Rugby Championship), the tournament lost an afternoon round, reducing it to a 6 round event. With Smirnov and Brown meeting in the first round tomorrow, the winner of this game is likely to win the tournament. However a number of dangerous players are still in the field, including Fred Litchfield (2017 ANU Open winner),.
The Minor also sees two players sharing the lead, with Amol Kiran (who finished equal first last year) and Jack Rojahn on 3/3. Unlike the Open, the field in this event is a little more bunched, making an eventual winner harder to pick. The Kiran Rojahn match tomorrow will help decide this, but as with a lot of rating restricted events, accidents over the last few rounds do happen.
Results for the tournament can be found at There is also a link to the top games from the open as well as the live coverage link. The 4th round starts at 10:30am Canberra time, with more rounds at 1:30 and 3:45pm.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Learn a new thing every day

How much better do you think you would be at chess if you learnt a new thing everyday? A lot, a little, or would you not be able to keep up the pace?
The question popped into my head after picking up a new book by Andrew Soltis called "365 Chess Master Lessons". To be fair, what appealed to me about the book wasn't the promise of daily chess improvement (I'm a bit old for that), but that each lesson featured a couple of interesting miniatures to illustrate the point. I've long been a fan of quick games of chess, so grabbing another collection  of said games was to tempting to pass up.
The book contains a wide selection of games, drawn from a number of different era's. I was quite pleased to find a quick win by Rashid Nezhmetdinov in one of the early chapters, but oddly I couldn't find the game in my reasonably large database. However I did find a few identical games (at least 4) which isn't that surprising, as the game is essentially a continuation of a trap in the Levenfish variation of the Dragon. So while the game below was played in 2002, it was also played in 1946 between Nezhmetdinov and Ermolin.

Torres Samper,Rafael - Molina Vinas,Marcos (2140) [B71]
Asturias-ch Preferente Gijon (3.7), 03.03.2002

Friday, 10 November 2017

2017 World Seniors

The 2017 World Senior Championship is up and running in Acqui Terme, Italy. Alan Goldmsith is the only Australian representative at the event (playing in the 65+ section), alongside 3 New Zealand players (Hilton Bennett 50+, Bob Gibbons 65+ and Helen Milligan W50+).
 Alan got off to quite a good start in his tournament, winning his first 2 games. This meant he faced GM Evgeny Sveshnikov on the top board in round 3 and went down after sacrificing most of his pawns for an ultimately unsuccessful attack.
Results from each of the events can be found at, along with a small selection of games from each of the tournaments. (Links to all the events can be found at the top of the page)

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

I think my brain is full

Last night saw another epic Ian Hosking v Shaun Press match up, in a rivalry that goes back 30 years. I thought I was better out of the opening but the game ended in a draw.
It turns out I was better in the opening as Ian had misplayed it as early as move 4, but I played it too safe on move 6, missing a chance to get a bigger advantage. Checking my database after the game I realised I should have followed theory from Ian Hosking v Shaun Press that was played in 1994. So not only did I fail to calculate the best line over the board, I also failed to remember playing the line against the same opponent previously.
So here is the original game, where I played the correct 6. ... Nxf2, rather than the insipid 6. ... dxc4 I played last night.

Hosking,Ian M - Press,Shaun [C55]
Ginninderra Cup Ginninderra (6), 1994

Monday, 6 November 2017

Surprise, surprise

Proving that you can play almost anything in the opening today, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov caught Alexander Grischuk with a bizarre opening idea in the Ruy Lopez. I don't think I've ever seen g5 played so early by Black in this opening, although the actual move was first played in 1968 (by Portisch against Korchnoi).
There does not seem to be too much subtlety to the move btw, as Mamedyarov used the g pawn to push the knight of f3 before running his h pawn up the board as well. The whole game had a kind of 'coffee house hack' vibe to it, but I am sure I'm doing both players a disservice by describing it like that.

Grischuk,Alexander (2785) - Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2791) [C72]
21st European Teams Hersonissos GRE (8.1), 05.11.2017

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A losing ending

Suicide (or Losing) Chess still continues to be one of the most popular chess variants, especially among junior players. Whether it is a search for variety or a retreat to a simpler form of the game is not clear to me, but the free play portion of a lot of my coaching classes sees more than few Losing chess games.
The diagrammed position is a problem that comes from a Suicide game. It is White to move an win (by forcing black to capture the white king). In suicide chess, capturing is compulsory, so all White has to do is to put his king in 'check'
Have at it.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

2017 Vikings Weekender - a week to go

Canberra's "Biggest Little Weekender" is less than a week away. The 2017 Vikings Weekender is on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th November, at the Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St Erindale. Last years event attracted a sizeable field of 65 players, and hopefully this year will do at least as well.
The Open section for this year is already quite strong, with GM Anton Smirnov the top seed. IM Andrew Brown and WIM Biljana Dekic have also entered, and there is a solid group of 2000+ rated players in the field as well.
Details of the tournament can be found at There is a downloadable brochure with all the tournament details, and you can register online (no pre-payment required). I'm in the process of setting up the tournament website and live coverage links, and they will be available in the next day or two
(NB I am a paid official for this event)

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Son, don't take the b pawn

There is an old chess tale about a father leaving hos fortune to his only son, on the condition that he never captures the b2 pawn with his queen in the opening. While the story is almost certainly invented, the advice is usually pretty sound. The one possible exception is the Sicilian Poisoned Pawn variation, but event then, opinion on this is still divided.
A very recent example of the danger that the queen can find itself in is from the current European Teams Championship. Black was only a little behind up until move 20, but after grabbing the b pawn, he only lasted another 3 moves. Maybe he missed 21.Ra1! but knowledge of a bit of ancient chess humour would have helped immensely.

Naiditsch,Arkadij (2702) - Morozov,Nichita (2467) [C77]
21st European Teams Hersonissos GRE (4.3), 31.10.2017

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Probably a first

For the first time in my chess career (IIRC) I ended up with 3 knights on the board. It was towards the end of a club game, and while I could have promoted to a queen, the knight promotion was slightly more forcing, as it was with check. My opponent did snap it off straight away, but for that brief moment I had more knights than I started with!

Monday, 30 October 2017

Three Golden Rules

According the the 'Steps' training program, the initial understanding of chess openings can be boiled down the 3 'Golden Rules'. They are:
1. Pawn in the centre
2. Pieces out
3. King to safety

With at least one of my coaching groups, this advice has proved useful enough, with their games starting to look like 'real chess' (according to a colleague!) And rather than tie them up with too many middlegame concepts, I've suggested that they go looking for checkmates, once their pieces are in the field.
Of course the success and failure of plans like these depends upon your opponents move, but punishing mistakes is part of the game. An example of this is in the following game, where Black ignored rules 2 & 3 and quickly ran into trouble.

White - Black [B00]
Club Game

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Chess versus shearing

I spent today at the Carcoar Show, which has been running for 140 years (BTW Carcoar is a small village in country New South Wales). I had all the attractions of a country show, including wood chopping, whip cracking, sheep dog trials, and sheep shearing. I'd always assumed that these events were about pride (and maybe a trophy), but I discovered there is some serious money in some of them.
Looking at the regional newspaper, I saw a competitive sheep shearing event to be held in the town of Young. While not surprised by the existence of the competition, the $16000 prize pool was surprising. This is greater than most chess events in Australia, and a reasonable sized prize pool for many events around the world. I have no idea what the size or quality of the field will be (or even if there is a professional competition shearing circuit), but I guess that you can pretty much make a contest out of anything!

Friday, 27 October 2017

Negligible Physical Element

The English Bridge Union has lost a further case concerning the classification of Bridge as a sport. The goal had been to receive exemption from VAT charges (the UK's Goods and Services Tax), as well as access to sports funding. The European Court of Justice has rejected the claim, stating that a sport must involve "a not negligible physical element".
I'm not sure if this is the first time a court has actually defined sport in these terms, but it seems to me to be a fairly clear cut definition. This of course would apply to arguments concerning the status of chess as a sport (at least in Europe), but oddly enough allows Ballroom Dancing (another contentious case) to become one.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

You would think this shouldn't happen

I'm currently deeply engrossed in 18 correspondence games, ranging from a few local events, some interstate teams tournaments, and a few international friendlies. I'm never the best at time management in CC, as I tend to put of my decisions while making that "one last check". It's now come back to bite me as I realise I have 8 games where I'm down to my last 24 hours, and another 3 where I have one extra day. Fortunately the time resets to the start  of the day every time you move, but I suspect I'm going to be in CC time trouble for quite a while yet!

2017 Belconnen Club Champion - Alana Chibnall

The Belconnen Club Championship is now in its 35th year, and the trophy contains the names of many of Canberra's leading players. Legends of yesteryear like John Alps and Michael Mescher were some of the earliest winners, while Andrew Brown and Fred Litchfield appeared in more recent years. Joining that list for the first time is WFM Alana Chibnall, who has won the 2017 Club Championship.
She finished the tournament with a quick win over Yizhen Diao. This left her a point ahead of Sankeerten Badrinarayan, who had the unenviable task of playing his younger brother in the final round (who he beat in a topsy-turvy game).
While Diao is to be commended for his aggressive opening play, 9.d4? was a pawn move too far. After  11. ... Qh4! there is no defence for White, although Black still needed to find a couple of strong moves to secure the quickest win.

Diao,Yizhen - Chibnall,Alana [C42]
Belconnen Club Championship, 24.10.2017

Monday, 23 October 2017

It's now two illegal moves for everything

Although the FIDE Laws of Chess are only supposed to be changed every 4 years, and only with the approval of a FIDE General Assembly, this rule seemed to go out the window a few years back, at least once the Presidential Board decided to have its less than timely say on these matters.
So it isn't a surprise that the Laws of Chess were amended at this years FIDE Congress, apparently to provide some clarity to the wording.
However at least one major change seems to have been made, concerning the handling of illegal moves. In the past the rate of play determined how many illegal moves lost a game (1 for blitz, 3 for standard). This was then altered to 2 for standard, and 1 for rapidplay and blitz. But there was always an underlying desire to make the Laws apply equally to all forms of competition chess, and this seems to have motivated the change.
Now 2 illegal moves lose across all forms of the game, including blitz (taking effect from 1 January 2018). For the first illegal move, the 'call the arbiter over' process applies, with a 2 minute time bonus being given to the non offending side. The 2nd illegal move loses (if claimed), subject to the usual caveats.
To be fair, I don't think this is a bad idea, although I can see arbiters being run off their feet at large blitz events. For rapidplay I think it is very sensible (and is actually the system I continue to use at Street Chess). If you want to check the minutes from the meeting where the decision was made, you can do so here.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

The joy of stalemate

White to play
While at the recent Asian Seniors I enjoyed a lecture by IM Herman van Riemsdijk on 'Stalemate in Chess'. This has inspired me to look for my own examples, as part of an article I hope to include in the upcoming issue of Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly.
While looking for recent examples, I came across this gem involving GM Dejan Bojkov. In the diagrammed position it looks as though White is in a bit of trouble, as his pieces are pinned or hanging, and any wholesale exchanges just leave Black with a couple of extra pawns.
But Bojkov must have spotted an idea in the position, as he quickly found a way of forcing stalemate. At first glance it looks impossible, as White has a number of pieces that need to be eliminated, but the clue was in the location of the king, and the fact is pawns were immobilised. All he needed was to make sure g1 was covered by Black and he would be OK.
So he started with 65.Nc5 'allowing' Black to threaten mate with a queen sac. 65. ... Rxa2 66.Nxe6 Ra1 So part one of the plan completed. Now on to part 2. 67.Nxg5+ fxg5 (otherwise Nxe4 wins) 68.Rc7+ Kg8 69.Rc8+ Kf7 (the King runs towards the rook) Now White ditches his last two pieces. 70.Rf8+ Kxf8 71.Qf1+ Rxf1 1/2-1/2

Thursday, 19 October 2017

As the world turns ...

While I was busy playing seniors chess in New Zealand, I missed the soap opera about the lives and loves of the FIDE management team. The 2017 Congress saw a public airing of a number of grievances, including "I hate it when you call me names" and "You don't bring me money, anymore".
FIDE Deputy President Makropoulos gave an opening speech highly critical of current President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, and the Executive Board  voted in favour of a motion asking Ilyumzhinov not to run for President again.
Now as the distance between me being on FIDE commissions and the present day gets longer (for reasons referenced here), I get less of the direct gossip and mainly receive my news second hand. So what I believe is going on may of course be wildly inaccurate. But here goes ...
Ignoring his own EB, Kirsan will run again. This is being pushed by the Russian government, who wish to show that US sanctions have no effect. While he has lost the support of the America's, Asia is still behind him (at the Continental management level).
The rest of the FIDE Management are either looking at finding a wealthy new Presidential candidate (to tip money into FIDE), or will run Makro as the candidate. Apparently Makro believes he is the only one who can run FIDE without a new source of cash.
A few 'outsider' candidates are thinking of making a run, although in this case the outsider's are actually FIDE insiders, just at a non management level (including one person from this part of the world). At this stage these candidates are not being taken seriously.
Finally, there is some serious sucking up between FIDE people and members of the losing side from the 2014 election. As was once memorably quoted in the movie Spinal Tap "Money talks, and bullshit walks"

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Thank you A.C.T. Government

The ACT Junior Chess League has just received a very generous grant from the Australian Capital Territory Government, to assist junior players taking part in next years Australian Junior Championship. The grant of $2000 is to be used to assist in the travel and entry costs of local junior players for the event which will be held in Melbourne.
At this stage it isn't clear how big the ACT contingent will be, but hopefully this grant will allow all interested players to take part.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Final Day

IM Mahmood Lodhi is the 2017 Asian Seniors Champion after beating FM Bob Smith in the final round. The win for Lodhi moved him to 7/9, and after Efram Bagamasbad could only draw with FM Leonard McLaren was enough for outright first. Unfortunately for Bagamasbad, the draw allowed both GM Darryl Johansen and FM Bruce Watson to catch him, and overtake him on tie break. As a result he missed out on the FM title by a narrow margin.
In the Veterans GM Eugene Torre completed a clean sweep with a win over Grant Kerr. FM Ewen Green finished 2nd, with Edmundo Legaspi earning the FM title with his third placed finish.
Importantly for Lodhi, first place also earned him his third and final GM norm. As a result he will become Pakistan's first GM (subject to confirmation).
As for me, I lost a tough last round game to finish on 4/9. Although I didn't make it to 50%, I at least performed slightly above my rating, so it wasn't all bad. I certainly enjoyed the tournament, and hope to play more seniors events in the coming years.
Full results for both events can be found here.

Lodhi,Mahmood (2344) - Smith,Robert W (2223) [A49]
2017 Asian Seniors (9.1), 15.10.2017

Saturday, 14 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Day 6

Round 8 of the Asian Seniors saw another upset win by Efram Bagamasbad, and he now shares the lead with IM Mahmood Lodhi. The two met in this round and for a long time Lodhi held the upper hand. But he pushed too hard for a win and it backfired on him in the ending, and Bagamasbad collected the scalp of another titled player. They're both on 6/8, half a point ahead of GM Darryl Johansen, FM Bruce Watson, FM Leonard McLaren and FM Bob Smith.
The key final round pairings sees Lodhi play Smith, McLaren against Bagamasbad, Johanesen against IM PK Chan, and Watson against FM Michael Steadman.
In the Veterans GM Eugene Torre has wrapped up first place with his 8th consecutive win. He leads by 2.5 points, and the only remaining interest in this event is who picks up the minor placings (and the FM title).
NB The final round starts at 10am local time (8am Canberra time), and will be broadcast at the links given in my earlier post.

Friday, 13 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Day 5

IM Mahmood Lodhi leads the 2017 Asian Seniors by half a pint with two rounds to play. Lodhi beat CM Don Eade to get to 6/7, half a point ahead of FM Bruce Watson. In third place is Efrem Bagamasbad, who scored an upset win over GM Darryl Johansen.  Round 8 sees Bagamasbad play Lodhi, while Watson is up against Johansen.
In the Veterans, GM Eugene Torrw scored his 7th straight win and now leads by two points with two rounds to go. David Lovejoy is outright second on 5, with Edmundo Legaspi and FM Ewen Green in third.
I've dropped back to 50% after losing to IM PK Chan. As with a number of my games at this level, my attack was just a move too slow. After that I missed a tactic and once I had run out of drawing tricks, it was time to resign.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors - Day 4

Day 4 of the 2017 Asian Seniors was the second (and last!) of the double round days. As a result the morning round saw a number of energy conserving draws (including my own 7 move effort), although the afternoon round was a little more full blooded.
After starting the event with 3 straight wins, GM Darryl Johansen added another 2 draws today, to fall back to 2nd place. He drew with IM Mahmood Lodhi in round 5, but Lohdi overtook hime in round 6, after Johansen drew with FM Leonard McLaren, while Lodhi beat IM PK Chan. The draw by McLaren leaves him tied for second, along with FM Bruce Watson, who beat FM Bob Smith.
In the Veterans event, GM Eugene Torre continues to dominate, reaching 6/6. FM Ewen Green was unable to stop the GM in round 6, and with Torre leading by 2 points, it is battle for 2nd and third.

As for my own results, the double round days have been reasonably kind to me. After the mornings draw, I managed to win my afternoon round to get to 3.5/6. My opponent FM Sujendra Shrestha played the very offbeat 1.e4 e5 2.g3 but after solving some early opening problems, I was able to exploit his damaged pawn structure and eventually win a QvR ending. Shresthra was the third Nepalese player I have faced in this event, and counting the couple of Olympiads, brings my score against to Nepal up to 3.5/5!

2017 Asian Seniors - Online coverage

Having taken the "non bye half point bye" this morning (otherwise known as the quick draw), I've been busy fixing up some of the online coverage for the tournament. If you want to see whats going on in real time here are the links

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors Day 3

GM Darryl Johansen and IM Mahmood Lodhi share the lead after 4 rounds of the 2017 Asian Seniors. Johansen drew with FM Bob Smith in today's round, while Lodhi score his third straight win, beating FM Bruce Watson. The two hold a half point lead over a group of players on 3, including Smith, FM Leonard McLaren, FM Ahmed Ismail and IM Peng Kong Chan.
In the Veterans, GM Eugene Torre has kept is perfect record intact, with another win today. At first it looked as though Edmundo Legaspi might hold the opposite coloured bishop ending, but Torre kept pushing until Legaspi went wrong and lost his queenside pawns. Torre has already played a few of his closest rivals, and it looks like New Zealand hopeful FM Ewen Greene is all that stands between Torre and a tournament victory.

Torre,Eugene (2456) - Legaspi,Edmundo (2087) [B06]
2017 Asian Seniors (4.9), 11.10.2017

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors Day 2

Day 2 of the 2017 Asian Seniors saw the first of two double round days. This normally gives players less time to prepare, but as it was rounds 2 & 3, it wasn't that critical.
Paul Spiller backed up from yesterdays draw with IM Lodhi, with a draw against FM Michael Steadman. WFM Helen Milligan also had a good day, drawing with FM Bruce Watson and finishing on 2/3.
GM Darryl Johansen leads the event overall, winning both his games today. At one stage I thought his position is round 3 game looked perilous, but a few moves later he was well and top and collected the point. In The Veterans event (65+) GM Eugene Torre leads with 3/3, scoring a couple of nice victories. Edmundo Legaspi is also on 3 points, and they face off tomorrow.
In other news, the live broadcast of the games was up an running from round three. The link to the games is at

Monday, 9 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors Day 1

The first day of the 2017 Asian Seniors was almost upset free, with the top seeds winning most (but not all) of the games. Tournament organiser Paul Spiller drew with second seed IM Mahmood Lodhi, while FM Mike Steadman and CM Hilton Bennett had a quick draw in an all NZ clash.
I found myself seeded at the halfway point of the tournament, and so faced top seed GM Darryl Johansen on board 1. Despite playing a few inaccurate moves in the opening, I manged to survive my worse position until then ending, when  things began to turn in my favour. Despite losing a pawn my active rook and knight created enough play to give me distinct drawing chances, but running short of time I rejected the best line and lost a few moves later. Nonetheless I was happy with my play (at least towards the end), and I did learn something from the game.
Updated results for both the Seniors and Veterans can be found at

Press,Shaun - Johansen,Darryl [B26]
2017 Asian Seniors (3), 19.08.2017

2017 Asian Seniors starts today

The 2017 Asian Seniors and Veterans starts today, 3pm Auckland New Zealand time. Unfortunately the first round games won't be broadcast live, due to a technical hitch with the DGT boards. However I expect pgn files for the game will be made available after the completion of the round, so you can catch up with the action at some stage.
I've visited the playing area and it looks quite nice. The venue has hosted a couple of previous zonals, so is familiar to a lot of the players. As an added bonus, the Waipuna Resort backs onto a lagoon, so a brisk 3.2km walk around it is a good warm up for this afternoons chess.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Most promotions

At Street Chess today I saw a game where one player promoted twice, so had three distinct queens during the game (but not at the same time). I don;t think that this is that unusual, as queenless endings often see a promotion, then a queen sac for the opponent remaining material, followed by a final promotion.
Promoting three times is no doubt rarer, although according to Tim Krabbe, there have been a few games where 3 pawns on each side have promoted. And the record for one side (in a serious game) is 4 times, as shown below. White even got in the act, promoting twice as well, meaning that the game had 8 queens taking part at various times!

Kubikova,Alena (2170) - Novy,Vaclav (2107) [B78]
Plzen op-A 9th Plzen (9), 24.08.2003

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Does move order always matter?

For some openings there is only one move order. For others, there are many ways to reach the desired position, although how you get there may be significant. I was wondering how important move order was all through the early stages of the following game.
The opening was slightly unusual to start with as my recent games against Matt had started with 1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nbd7 4.f4. So when he replied with 1. ... e5 I smelt a rat, thinking that after 2.Nf3 he would try and head back to that line with 2. ... d6 and avoid the sharp f4 line. Hence 2.Nc3. But it seems there was no trick, and I went into a Four Knights, which is kind of a 2nd/3rd string opening for me.
After 5.d3 I assumed we were heading down the mainline, but 5. ... Nd4 came as a surprise. Turns out I should have castled before playing d3, as Nd4 works a bit better in the game. Even my choide of 6.Bc4 is not that popular, although b5 again transposes to Ba4 lines.
After those adventures the game settled down a bit, but after Matt missed the main ideas behind 12.f4 I was always on top, and picked up a few pawns before he walked into a mate.

Press,Shaun - Radisich,Matt [C49]
Belconnen CC, 03.10.2017

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

2017 Asian Seniors and Veterans

The 2017 Asian Seniors and Veterans begins next Monday (9th October), in Auckland, New Zealand. At this stage there are 57 entries across the two events, with a large number of countries represented. Top seed in the Seniors is Australian GM Daryl Johansen, while GM Eugene Torre (PHI) is the top seed in the Veterans. The 9 round tournament will run from Monday through to Sunday (15th).
Currently I am seeded just below the halfway mark of the Seniors event, so will probably have a tough first round. Currently my main ambition is to not play bad chess, and hopefully score around 50%. My last playing trip to NZ was for the 2011 Oceania Zonal, where  I did hit 50%, so I;m counting on history repeating.
You can see the list of entries for both events at the tournament webpage, and once the tournament begins, downloads games etc.

Monday, 2 October 2017

A tale of two Nh7's

While no piece of chess advice applies in all situations, keeping your knights pointing forward is normally a reliable guideline. If you do have to retreat, h7 and a7 aren't high on the list of desirable squares, although they do rank ahead of a8 or h8.
In the following game, Black was already struggling due to White's space advantage in the centre, but bringing the knight back to h7 was an almost fatal loss of tempo for Black. While it took White a number of moves to convert the position, Black had very little opportunity to fight back, and had to defend until his position finally cracked.

Chibnall,Alana (1868) - Radisich,Matthew (1664) [B07]
Belconnen Club Championship (2.2), 19.09.2017

But I did say that this advice doesn't always apply. Having seen Nh7 not help in the previous game, Magnus Carlsen had no problems with playing it against Fabiano Caruana, in round 8 of the Isle of Man event. There is lay in wait, until move 32, when suddenly it jumped to g5, leaving Caruana facing a number of deadly captures and forks. It was all over a few moves later, with the knight playing a decisive role.

Caruana,Fabiano (2799) - Carlsen,Magnus (2827) [C78] Isle of Man International Mast Douglas (Isle of Man) (8.1), 30.09.2017

Sunday, 1 October 2017

2017 Vikings Weekender - 11&12 November

Save the weekend of the 11th and 12th of November for the 2017 Vikings Weekender. Once again the event will be hosted by the Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St, Wanniassa, ACT.
The event is run in two sections, with an Open and Under 1600 tournaments. Prizes for the Open is $1000, with $500 for first place in the Minor. Last year the tournament paid out over $2500 in prizes.
The time limit is 60m+10s per player per game, and there will be 7 rounds in each tournament (4 on Saturday, 3 on Sunday).
Entry fee is $65 ($45 for concessions) with GM/IM/WGM.WIM free. You can pre-register for the event at and pay your entry at the venue.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

2017 George Trundle

Auckland looks to be the place for chess over the next few weeks, with a couple of big events being held there. Starting the 9th of October is the Asian Seniors and Veterans, which is already attracting a large international field.
But before that, the annual George Trundle Masters is being held, with round 1 already finished. Once again the field for the IM tournament is a mix of top New Zealand  players, a couple of Australians, plus players from Brazil and Singapore. 
One player taking on both events is Australian GM Daryl Johansen. He has got off to a winning start in the George Trundle, beating FM Bob Smith in the only decisive game of the round. It was a pretty quick win as well, as can be seen below.
If you wish to follow the George Trundle, then the tournament links can be  found at the New Zealand Chess website. Rounds start at 1200 Canberra time, although the switch to daylight savings may change this by an hour.

Smith,Robert W (2230) - Johansen,Darryl K (2380) [E10]
George Trundle NZ Masters 2017 Auckland, NZL (1.2), 30.09.2017

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Old wine, new bottle

Learning tactics by playing through short games of chess is one coaching technique I've always been fond of. If you are working with a group, you can show a number of games in a short time, and normally not lose the interest of your students. You also just focus on one concept, if the game is quick enough, so you don't get side tracked by other issues.
So having a collection of quick games is always useful. One example is the game below, which I'm sure has been played a few times (or at least a version of it). This version was played at my local club the other night, and demonstrates the importance of looking at all checks and captures. If Black had been a little more cautious he would have realised that taking the biggest piece (normally the correct idea) was not best in this position. Instead he won the queen, but lost his king!

White - Black
Belconnen Chess Club Champs 26.09.2017

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Aronian ices World Cup

Lev Aronian has one the 2017 World Cup, after a convincing 2-0 win in the first playoff games, against Ding Liren. The 4 standard were all drawn, although Aronian did have winning chances in at least one game. However at rapid chess, Aronian played two excellent attacking games, winning both with direct assaults on his opponents king.
Both players have earned places in the upcoming Candidates tournament, but the win for the soon to be married Aronian gave him 120,000 first prize, which might pay for a very nice honeymoon.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Bad Karma

Hou Yifan must be thinking that some unseen hand is working against her, mainly for the amusement of others. After her infamous finish to the Gibraltar Masters (a deliberate loss to protest playing 7 female opponents in 9 games), she might have thought the issue was behind her. Bizarrely, her first 4 opponents at the Isle of Man Masters have also been female, including her round 1 random opponent. As some of the arbiting team at IOM also officiated at Gibraltar, I'm assuming they are making sure that the pairings for every round are (a) thoroughly checked and (b) explained in great detail to Yifan.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Wallace continues good form

One of the beneficiaries of the Isle of Man pairing system is IM John-Paul Wallace, who started the tournament with a win yesterday. It was against a higher seeded opponent, and shows he has continued his good form from last years event (where he scored a GM norm). So rather than slog his way through the early rounds hoping he plays strong enough players to keep his GM norms chances active, he has already collected one GM scalp, and is up against GM Emil Sutovsky in round 2.
In other games most of the top seeds won,  although one notable 'upset' was the win by Fabiano Caruana (2799) over Vladimir Kramnik (2803).

Bogner,Sebastian (2599) - Wallace,John Paul (2413) [A00] Isle of Man Open - Masters Douglas (Isle of Man) (1.33), 23.09.2017

Double header

I almost got the top board pairing of the Isle of Man tournament correct, although it was Kramnik v Caruana on Board 2, rather than Carlsen v Kramnik on Board 1. However it looks as though the randomised pairing experiment isn't that bad, with the mix of 'interesting' pairings providing a change from the usual top half v bottom half massacre of most large swisses. What will be interesting of course is the ripple effect of the first round pairings throughout the rest of the tournament.
Along with the IOM event, I'm also up late to watch the World Cup Final between Lev Aronian and Liren Ding. At the time of posting 30 moves have been played, and the position is pretty equal. Unlike the cut throat nature of swiss events, I expect this match will be a little more sedate, with both players happy to avoid risks, hoping their opponent goes astray instead.

Friday, 22 September 2017

So much for my predictions

Having tipped a MVL v So Final in the 2017 World Cup, I've woken up to the news that neither of those players have qualified. It will be an Aronian v Liren Ding final instead, after both of those players won their rapidplay playoffs.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave looked to have one foot through the qualifying door after beating Aronian in their first playoff game, but a gutsy piece sacrifice in the next game paid off for Aronian, and he evened the score. Four more draws meant the match went to  'Armageddon' where Aronian managed to win the Q v R ending.
So and Ding only saw one decisive game, but this was enough for Ding to go through to the final. So had one final chance to pull level, but in the final rapidplay game, Ding was happy to hold the position (rather than push for more), and the game finished in a draw.

Aronian Levon (ARM) (2799) - Vachier-Lagrave Maxime (FRA) (2789) [A50]
World Cup 2017 Tbilisi (38.1), 21.09.2017

Thursday, 21 September 2017

GM Anton Smirnov

By scoring 7/9 (finishing equal first) in the Anogia GM tournament,  16 year old Anton Smirnov has scored his third GM norm, which is enough for him to earn the GM title. Canberra born Smirnov needed to win his last round game against FM Antoine Favarel (FRA) and for a lot of the game it looked very touch and go. Smirnov decided to launch a kingside attack, and while trying to defend Favarel misplayed the position (36. ... Rd3??) allowing Smirnov to secure the point, and the title.
Smirnov now becomes Australia's 7th Grandmaster, and the third in recent years. Already a mainstay of the Australian Olympiad team, he may even be challenging for the number 1 spot in Australia;s 2018 team, which may be an all GM outfit for the first time in history.

Smirnov,Anton (2508) - Favarel,Antoine (2357)
2nd Capablanca Memorial GM Anogia (9.1), 19.09.2017

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Isle of Man 2017

The Isle of Man tournament has really taken off in the last decade, and is now challenging events like Gibraltar and the Iceland Open for the title of 'Best Open' in the world. This years event starts on Saturday, and has boosted it's prestige even further, with the news that World Champion Magnus Carlsen is taking part. In fact the tournament field contains 4 World Champion's, or 5 if you count Ilyumzhinov's bonkers scheme to declare Shirov as a former World Champion. The top 14 seeds are rated above 2700, and its GM's all the way down to seed 59.
The only Australian player in the field is IM John Paul Wallace, although I did note Bill Egan's name in the minor, but it his is English namesake, rather than the Canberra resident.
The tournament begins on Saturday 23rd September, and is a 9 round swiss. Apparently the pairings for the first round are totally random, so it might be worth tuning in to the first round, just to see a surprisingly early Carlsen v Kramnik match up!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Board games ranked

This Deadspin article about the ranking of board games is too good to pass up. Not so much the article actually, but the totally Not Safe For Work comments that follow it. You have been warned.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Tournament features

John Winkelman (previously featured in this blog here), returned from a recent trip to the United States bearing gifts. They were a number of tournament brochures from various large US chess opens, which he thought might be of interest to me. They of course were, not because I planned to enter any of them, but as an insight into how events in the US are structured.
While a lot of the entry fees, conditions and prizes are similar to Australia, there were a few things that caught my eye. In no particular order they were

  • Free entries for GM's and IM's have an equivalent amount deducted from any prizes won.
  • Tournaments are in sections, but there are a lot more sections (I assume a lot more players as well
  • Entry in the top section often costs more for lower rated players
  • The longer the event the more half point byes you can take (up to 4 in 9 round events!)
  • Players bring their own boards and clocks (none supplied by organisers)
  • 2 and 3 day schedules for weekend events (1-2-2 or 3-2 rounds)
  • Online ratings used for unrated players
The tournament information was generally printed on thick card (rather than the fancier brochures we use in Australia) which to me seems easier to distribute.
Some of the ideas might be useful in Australia (eg the use of online ratings to seed unrateds), but I can't see the whole "bring your own set" idea catching on.

2017 World Cup - Who's Next

The 2017 World Cup schedule is pretty tough, especially if your'e one of the players who keeps going to tie-breaks. So far there hasn't been a scheduled rest day, meaning that a win in regulation is the only way you can get a day off.
Tonight sees the start of the quarter finales, is as good a time as any to try and predict a winner. Firstly, with all the previous upsets, the reaming top half is a little stronger than the bottom half, and that is where I think the eventual winner will come from. As I write this, Aronian has already defeated Ivanchuk in that bracket, although he was going to be one of my picks anyway. The other pairing in that half is Vachier-Legrave against Svidler, and while Svidler has the experience of getting to this stage in 5 World Cups, I think MVL will win, and go on to play Aronian.
In the bottom half I think So and Liren Ding will progress, with So winning the semi-final. But I think the eventual winner will come from the top half, with MVL just shading Aronian, and then going on to beat So in the final!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The world's most famous two-mover?

White to play and checkmate in two moves
Here is a puzzle described by Hubert Phillips as "possibly the world's most famous two-mover". An interesting claim, in part because I'm note sure anyone else has bothered to keep a list of such things. Also, as these words were written in 1932 (and the puzzle was first published in 1905), I am wondering whether more recently published puzzles could now claim that title.
As with most two movers, this only has a passing resemblance to a 'real' chess position, and the composer has left plenty of false trails to catch the over confident.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

It's a trap - part 2

A number of years ago I posted this, concerning a trap in the Scotch Gambit. Tonight at the Belconnen Chess Club, I got to see what happens if both sides realise what is really going on, at least up until a point.
Black avoided the sometimes played 6. ... Resigns, and White knew that retreating the Bishop from h6 is also trouble. But Black failed to spot how strong White's attack was, possibly thinking that 13. ... Bf5 was enough to save the day. Of course it wasn't, and White ended up with the quickest win of the night.

Arps,Jan-Phillip - Luo,Ricky [C50]
Belconnen Club Championship, 12.09.2017

Monday, 11 September 2017

2017 Belconnen Club Championship

The 2017 Belconnen Club Championship begins tomorrow evening (Tuesday 12 September), at the Belconnen Chess Club, on Hayden Drive, University of Canberra. This is Canberra's only FIDE rated club event this year, so provides a good opportunity to either improve your international rating, or get one for the first time.
The tournament runs for 7 weeks, and is playing with a slightly faster time limit of 60m+30s per move. FIDE changed the rules regarding time control for rated events, so players over 2200 are no longer excluded, but at the same time, games involving players above the 2200 mark are not rated.
If you are planning to play, entries will be taken from 7pm, with the first round starting at 7:15

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Carlsen gets hacked

Magnus Carlsen started the World Cup with 4 from 4, befitting his number 1 seeding. However the first game of the third round didn't go according to plan, as he got hacked by Xiangzhi Bu from China. Carlsen played the Bishops Opening, and Bu sensibly played the Black side like a Ruy Lopez. He even went as far as playing a Marshall Gambit type sacrifice, and after Carlsen accepted, went nuts on king side. Carlsen could have taken an immediate draw after the sacrifice on h3, but decided to play for a win instead. However this blew up in his face, not so much because of his position, but that he spent so much time working out what to do. As a result, he got into severe time trouble and played a couple of second best moves. Bu gave him one chance at the end, but after Carlsen missed it, the upset was on the scoreboard.
In other weird news, Anton Kovalyov (CAN) walked out of the tournament after getting into an argument with the organisers over his choice of attire. He had worn shorts for the first two rounds, but was told that this was unacceptable just before the third round was due to start.  He then exchanged words with tournament organiser Zurab Azmaiparashvili, was apparently called a 'gypsy', and then left. Normally he may have decided to appeal to the FIDE appointed appeals committee over Azmai's actions, but FIDE appointed Azmai as the chairman of the appeals committee, so that option seemed pointless. (As an aside, being on a FIDE appeals committee is a sweet gig, and is used as part of the FIDE reward and patronage system, so Azmai's appointment makes sense, but only from that point of view)

Carlsen,Magnus (2822) - Bu,Xiangzhi (2710) [C55]
FIDE World Cup 2017 Tbilisi GEO (3.1), 09.09.2017

Friday, 8 September 2017

Maximum Haulage

The Canberra Lifeline Bookfair is on this weekend, and if you are looking for chess books, there are plenty to be had. I got in nice and early this morning (along with a few other collectors), and I'm pretty sure this year saw the biggest chess collection I can remember. There were a number of familiar titles, but there were also a few surprises. Someone donated quite a large number of Informators, including a No. 1, which I snapped up. Curiously there were a few books on the Laws of Chess, so I grabbed those as well, as they contained snapshots of the Laws for the years they were published.
Even the Board Games section had more than the usual amount of chess stuff, and I saw one shopper snap up every chess set she could fine. I found a Pavilion Talking Electronic Chess Computer for $8, adding to my growing collection of chess computers at home.
When I left there were plenty of books on the table, so you should be able to get something if you drop in over the weekend.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Today's Google Doodle

Today's Google Doodle commemorates Sir John Cornforth, who won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1975. Of course in the chess community he is was also known as a strong player, competing in the 1936 Australian Championship, as well as the first Australian Correspondence Chess Championship. Today is the 100th anniversary of his birth, and he passed away in 2013. Apart from an obituary I posted at the time, there was a very good article about his chess life written by Paul Dun in a recent issue of Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Know the Classics - Pirc Edition

The Pirc/Modern is often a system that aggressive players have some difficulty with. As Black's strategy is to sit back and wait till White over reaches, White can fall into the trap of playing too cautiously. If that happens, Black has already scored a small victory, as White is out of their comfort zone.
My personal preference is to take it head on, aiming for an early Bh6. Over the years there have been a number of crushing wins for White in this line, and they are worth studying. Probably the most famous was Kasparov's win over Topalov at Wijk aan Zee in 1999. Kasparov was not afraid to leave his queen out on h6, even after Topalov castled queenside, as he was busy getting his other pieces across to the queenside. Of course Kasparov's choice of opening in itself was not winning, as he needed to find 24. Rxd4!! but he did get a position where such an attack was possible.

Kasparov,Garry (2812) - Topalov,Veselin (2700) [B07]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee (4), 20.01.1999

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Perils of Prediction

At the time I was off to bed last night, I had chalked up a win for GM Alex Fier against higher rated GM Etienne Bacrot in the 2017 World Cup. When I awoke this morning, the win had turned into a draw. It was a lucky escape for Bacrot, and might explain why they drew so quickly in Game 2.
Meanwhile Australian IM Anton Smirnov continues to impress, holding GM Sergey Karjakin to another draw, and sending the match into tie breakers. At this stage there are already a few matches that will continue tomorrow, but like Smirnov, almost all of them are via the draw-draw path. Only Vladimir Fedoseev has bounced back from losing the first game to even the match, but I am sure there will be a few more as the round goes on. Of the tournament favourites, Svider, Giri and Nakamura are already through to the second round, while Number 1 seed Magnus Carlsen is still trying to overcome bottom seed FM Oluwafemi Balogun from Nigeria.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Draw for Smirnov

The first round of the 2017 FIDE World Cup is underway, and a few of the early results have come in. Significantly for Australia, IM Anton Smirnov has drawn his first game against GM Sergey Karjakin. The opening was a fairly sharp line of the QGD (with Bf4) but eventually simplified into a heavy piece ending that was drawn on move 30. The two players return to the board tomorrow, with Karjakin having the advantage of the white pieces.
Most of the other games to finish have ended in draws, with a few highly rated players (Ivanchuk, Radjubov) taking the peaceful route. So far there has only been one real upset, with Sambuev (CAN) cracking GM Yi Wei, but Alex Fier (BRA) is looking good against Bacrot (FRA) and that may also end in a win for the lower rated player.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Three Puzzles

Here are 3 puzzles to put your mind to, with 2 of them being related to chess, to some degree.

  1. How many distinct ways can 6 knights be placed on a 4 by 4 chess board, so that no knight attacks another knight? (And by distinct, rotations don't count as a separate solution)
  2. How many ways can N Queens be placed on a NxN chess board so that no queen attacks another queen? (NB There has been a flurry of reporting suggesting a solution to this problem will win you $1,000,000. In fact the prize is for solving the P v NP problem, of which this is just one example of an NP problem)
  3. N students are playing a variant of 'Duck, Duck, Goose'. In this variant, Student 1 goes around the ring of players (which now excludes Student 1), announcing Duck N-1 times, and Goose the Nth time. Student 1 then sits out while the 'Goose' repeats the process. Who is the last student to be the Goose?

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Canberra globe-trotters

I can remember a time when it was incredibly difficult for Australian (and New Zealand) players to play overseas events. The cost of international travel, plus overseas living expenses, made it a very expensive proposition. New Zealander Bob Wade simply moved to the UK in the 1950's, while Murray Chandler famously refused to return home after a World Junior in the 1970's, moving himself to London instead. Darryl Johansen apparently lived in a tree house in London in the early 1980's, while both he and Ian Rogers had to take side work (for Murray Chandler no less) to supplement their chess earnings.
These days travel is a lot cheaper (relatively) and there are more events that can be played in a shorter period of time. Chess tourism is now more of a thing, although the balance between the chess and tourism may be a function of age.
At the younger end two Canberra players are currently playing in international events. Siddhant Badrinrayan is one of 4 Australian players taking part in the World Cadet's Championship in Brazil. He is on 3.5/10 going into the final round. Xander Leibert is the best scoring Australian player on 5.5, while Byron Morris is on 4.5. Aiden Wen is playing in the Under 8 tournament, and is currently on 4/10.
Albert Winkelman is part of the Australian contingent at the Malaysian Chess Festival. He is currently on 2.5/6, but is performing around 400 points above his rating. IM Justin Tan is also playing in the Open event, and is among the leaders on 4/5. Tan is looking to complete the requirements for a GM title, and is currently well placed to do so.
Results from the Cadets can be found here, while the Malaysian Chess Festival home page is here.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

2017 World Cup

The 2017 FIDE World Cup begins in a few days in Tbilisi, Georgia. The 128 player knockout will see the top 2 players go forward into the Candidates Section of the World Championship cycle, as well as providing a substantial prize pool for all the participants (eg First round losers still earn $4800 USD)
Oddly, World Champion Magnus Carlsen has decided to take part in the tournament, raising the issue of what happens if he finishes in the top 2. I assume he isn't going to be seeded into the tournament that determines the challenger to his own title (unless we wish to see a Monty Python inspired World Championship match), so a playoff for third might be required.
Also taking part is Australian IM Anton Smirnov, with a seeding of 117. This means he has challenging first round match against faces GM Sergei Karjakin. Also taking part are a couple of players with Australian connections in the shape of Armenian GM's Melkumyan and Aronian. Both are in the top half of the draw and should make it to the second round at least.
The tournament starts on the 2nd of September (play starting on the 3rd). Rounds start at 3pm local time, which translates to 9pm Canberra time. You can find out more information, as well as follow the event at the official website.

Monday, 28 August 2017

More coffee-housing

Just a quick game from Street Chess on Saturday. My opponents final move was a big blunder but I was in a better position even if he found the correct defence.

Press,Shaun - McPherson,Erick [C01]
Street Chess, 26.08.2017

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Karl Galli RIP

Karl Galli, one of Canberra's more colourful chess players, has passed away. He had been unwell for the last few years, but even in poor health, he still made an effort to play at both his local club, and other Canberra events.
In his youth he was also a boxer, and on occasion, he brought the combative nature of the ring to the board. He was particularly well known for developing his own opening systems, building a protective barrier across the third rank with his pawns, hoping his opponent would overreach. As Black this was known locally as the "Galli Defence" and as White, it was termed the "Galli Attack".
Although he could be an irascible character, he loved his chess, and often showed a generosity across the board to younger players. A stalwart  at the Tuggeranong Chess Club (where he had a blitz event named after him) and Street Chess, he will be missed by all who knew him.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Duke of Brunswick wins one

For chess players the Duke of Brunswick is 'that guy who lost to Morphy' in the famous Opera Box game. And like most non-professional players who are famous for losing, that seems to be the extent of his chess notability. But he did play more than 1 game of chess, and while flicking through an old chess book "Chess Brilliants by I.O. Howard Taylor (1869)" I came across a game he actually won. He did have some help as it was played in consultation with German master Daniel Harrwitz against a similarly ennobled team, Viscount Casablanca and Herr Kaulla.
Apart from the novelty of the result, the game (or at least its publication) had a couple of interesting features. Firstly, the opening was reasonably modern (QGD), and Black tried to generate some queenside counterplay. Secondly, on move 30, the book does not show which promotion piece was chosen, and in fact has Blacks reply as "Q takes P" even though the pawn has reached the last rank. This of course would be a breach of the current Laws of Chess.
By this stage White has a huge advantage, and the main interest is seeing how the game finished, with the Black team eventually resigning down material (although White missed a forced mate starting with 35.Rxg7!!)

Harrwitz/Duke of Brunswick - Viscount Casablanca/Kaulla [D35]
Consultation, 1858

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Winning with e4

My father taught me early on that 1.e4 was the best way to open the game. Firstly he said, it allowed both my Bishop and Queen to be developed quickly, and secondly, Bobby Fischer always started that way.
Later on I learned that playing e4 was desirable in closed games (ie opened 1.d4, 1.c4, or 1.Nf3) In fact knowing that in such openings you should aim for an eventual e4 got me to the next level of opening knowledge. And while it isn't always possible to achieve, if you do  it can often turn out well for you.

Rakitskaja,Mariya (2165) - Eliseev,Alexey (2445) [A30]
St Petersburg White Nights op St Petersburg (4), 2004

2022 Olympiad to be held in Zimbabwe

I'm not 100% percent sure this report is accurate, but apparently Zimbabwe is to host the 2021 World Cup, and the 2022 Chess Olympiad. On the one hand they do quote FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the report, but on the other hand, the FIDE website seems to have nothing on this breaking news (and usually they report on anything Kirsan does), and more importantly, these decisions are made at the FIDE Congress 4 years before the event (ie the 2018 congress).
So it is either a misunderstanding on the part of the news agency, or Kirsan has decided to fully embrace his inner Trump and just say whatever he wishes.

Monday, 21 August 2017

A bit of a brain snap!

It was all going fine until I decided that I was going to deal with 21.Nf5 with 21 . ... Qg6?? Of course once the position appeared on the board I saw the flaw with this move, and as it was a Correspondence game, decided the most sensible thing to do was resign.

Taylor,Kelvin - Press,Shaun [D27]
CCLA, 05.06.2017

Saturday, 19 August 2017

How fast is fast

I've been playing a bit of online chess recently, which is a little surprising, as I am pretty hopeless at it. Part of the difficulty for me is finding the 'sweet spot' of time controls for a player of my age. Bullet Chess (1 min) is way to fast, as I tend to move too slowly. If I'm not mating by move 25 I'm normally doomed. On the other hand 5 minute chess isn't fast enough, as the games tend to drag on (NB in OTB chess, 5 mins is barely enough!).
So at the moment 3 minutes seem to be the mid point, although even this isn't perfect (the first half of the game is fine, its just the last 15 seconds where it all goes wrong). My early experiences at this time control seem promising, but it may take a larger set of games for me to be sure.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Kasparov Comeback

The first part of Gary Kasparov's brief return to competitive chess ended with a heartbreaking loss, a lucky win, and then a loss to Fabiano Caruana. Having started the last day of the Grand Chess Tour St Louis Rapidplay on -1, Kasparov looked to be getting back to 50% until David Navara turned the tables in a rook ending. He was then gifted a rook by Quang Liem Le in a position where Le was perfectly fine. Hist last game against Caruana was another loss, leaving him tied for last place with Anand and Navara.
While all of this was going on, Lev Aronian was winning the event. He finished with 6/9, half a point ahead of Nakamura and Caruana. It was very combative +3 for Aronian, wining 5 games, losing 2 and drawing 2 (including his game against Kasparov).
Tomorrow sees the first day of the blitz event. This is a double round event, so Kasparov at least has 18 games to try and improve on today's result.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Hard Quiz

There is a new-ish quiz show on ABC (Australia) Television, called Hard Quiz. I suspect it's an attempt to do a UL style quiz show, where the banter is as important as the knowledge. It isn't that bad, especially as it doesn't try and copy the UK style, instead taking a more Australian approach to the byplay between host and contestants.
I was watching this evenings episode, which had such subjects as Tomas the Tank Engine, and Queen Victoria (which were nominated by the constestants). The host (Tom Gleeson) also gets to pick a topic, and tonight the topic was Chess. Unlike a past episode of Sale of the Century where they did not know the difference between draw and stalemate, they seemed to have done their homework a bit better. For example, they knew that the first computer program to beat a GM in a tournament game was Deep Thought, which stumped most of the contestants.
However, for the final chess question, they featured 6 statements or actions by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.  Of course they were all quite outrageous (Flown in a spaceship, Aliens invented chess), and the challenge was to pick the one that wasn't said or did not happen. I suspect the question wranglers couldn't quite believe the list themselves, as the only non true choice was "Financed the musical Chess so he could play the lead"  which seemed pretty tame. Only one player got that right (IIRC) and I assume it was a wild guess.
If you want to catch the episode try this link. It is episode 3 of series 2, and you can watch a reply of it online (not guaranteeing this will work for non-Australian viewers)

Another lucky escape

Sometimes luck in chess runs your way, even when it might have been better if it didn't. Tonight I played quite a tough game at the Belconnen Chess Club, and was very fortunate to escape with a draw. Having mixed up a couple of lines in the Closed Sicilian I made a poor exchange in the opening and ended up with a bad position. My opponent played the obvious moves and soon had an overwhelming advantage. In fact we reached a position where I was losing material (on move 26), and was tossing up whether to resign. But I spotted one last try, based on a back rank check and decided to play a few more moves. Then when my opponent found 30. ... Nd1! I wondered whether it was time to resign now, but unable to see a checkmate for my opponent I played on. I saw he might try for checkmate with 31 ... Qf2+ (31. ... Rf2+ does mate btw) 32. Kh1 Qf1+ but we both thought that 33. Ng1 held. He even analysed 33. ... Nf2+ 34. Kh2 Ng4+ 35. Kh1 but decided there was nothing more than a repetition. What he (and I) missed at this point was that he could have played the brilliant 35. ... Qg2+!! as 36.Kxg2 Rf2 37.Kh1 Rh2# is a lovely forced mate. Instead he took the knight on e2, allowing me to complete the idea I had spotted on move 27, forcing a perpetual with a rook sac.
While I am pleased with my resourcefulness, and we both agreed  it was quite an enjoyable battle, I feel that it would have been a better game (with a fairer result), if it had finished with the queen sacrifice!

Press,Shaun - Arps,Jan-Philipp [B26]
Korda Memorial, 15.08.2017

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Crawling to a goal

A while ago I was told a fantastic story about how one Australian player managed to pick up a FIDE title. The player needed to get his rating above a certain level to claim the title, but was still a number of points shy of the target. While most players would simply try their best in an event and hope to score enough points, this player tried a slightly different track. Rather than risk going backwards with a loss or two, they simply played the first couple or rounds of an event, before withdrawing for 'work related' reasons. While a little slower than performing above the required level in one tournament, this slow but safe method eventually paid off.
Now to be fair, as this story was told to me, the facts may not be accurate (or even true). But the method itself seems sound, and is one that I am currently following, albeit for a different reason. Normally I play the role of the 'filler' or 'house man' in events I direct. So at Street Chess, I'll play if the event starts with an odd number. This happens quite often, but weirdly, there always seems to be a latecomer (or three) who brings the field back to an even number, without me in it. So I normally play rounds 1 and 2, before pulling out for the rest of the day. The side effect of this is that I suspect I'm picking up a few rating points per game, and getting close to the 2000 mark on the ACF Quickplay list. While obviously not as prestigious as a GM title, it is still a landmark rating, especially as I've never been rated that high in the Australian rating system. Of course it also may not come to pass, as I am sure there will come a week when I end up playing the whole event, and being forced to suffer for my sins.

How a tournament should end

The 2017 Sinquefield Cup has ended, in a manner that elite events should end. Three of the 5 last round games ended decisively, including games that ultimately decided first place.
It was Maxime Vachier Lagrave  who scored the most important win, beating Ian Nepomniachtchi to reach 6/9. Viswanthan Anand could have caught him but only drew with Wesley So, while Lev Aronian's chances of equal first were derailed by a loss to Magnus Carlsen. The win for Carlsen moved him into a tie for second with Anand and kept him in first place in the Grand Chess Tour series.
The next part of the tour is the St Louis Rapid and Blitz, starting Monday morning Canberra time, and including former World Champion Gary Kasparov in the field.

Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2789) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2751) [B92]
Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis (9.2), 11.08.2017

Thursday, 10 August 2017

What makes a good opening trap?

Playing for tricks in the opening isn't always the best use of ones resources. For every checkmate that begins with 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5, there are a number of games where such 'direct' play gets punished by more experienced players.  So choosing which opening traps you aim for often depends upon a few different factors.
My first (purely subjective) criteria is: How often will I see this opening? No good finding a particularly clever idea against the Dutch Defence if no one in your chess circle plays it. So traps in the Ruy, or the QGD probably have more value than traps on the black side of the Solkosky.
Secondly: Are the moves leading up to it plausible for my opponent? As any chess coach will tell you, don't reply on your opponent playing bad moves. Sure, some moves may only become bad after the right reply, but moves that seem sensible are more likely to be played than those that are not.
Thirdly: Do I still get a good position if my opponent spots the trap? This is about having it both ways. If the trap is sprung, fantastic, but if not what happens next. I had a situation like this in Gibraltar, where I could play a trappy move, but the right reply would see me in a worse position. I decided against it.
Flicking through one of my books on opening traps, I realised that there were only a few entries that passed all three tests. Some failed the 'length' test (the later in the opening the less likely it is to occur), while others relied on the opponent missing the correct refutation. But there were still a few that were a little new to me (albeit borrowing from traps in other openings). The one I've chosen to show comes from the Two Knights Defence, and is based on presenting White with an unusual variation, increasing the chances of a mistake. 6.d6 is obvious, but the start of the problems, while 7.Nxf7 is the big mistake. In my database there have been 62 games after Nxf7, so it still catches lots of fish.

Victim - Trapper
Anyclub, Australia

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Asian Club Champions League

The Sydney Chess Club has finished third in the Asian Club Champions League, in the just completed event in Sri Lanka. While the event had representatives from across Asia, it turned out to be a small tournament, with only 5 teams taking part. The Sydney team consisted of GM Max Illingworth on board 1, IM Gary Lane on 2, FM Lee Jones on 3, and FM Brian Jones on 4. They won 2 of their matches, narrowly lost against the second place getters from Bangladesh, and lost heavily to the winning Iranian team. Both Illingworth and Lane score 2.5/4 but the team was outclassed on the lower boards.
Results and games from the tournament can be found here.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Anand plays a brilliancy

Refusing to quietly ride off into the sunset, Viswanathan Anand continues to prove he can still compete at the top level, beating Fabiano Caruana in the current Sinquefeld Cup. At first it looked like Caruana was going to crash through with a strong attack, but he missed the strength of Anand's counterplay. Of course Anand needed find a nice queen sacrifice on move 26, but apparently this was quickly spotted, and Caruana lost a few moves later.

Anand,Viswanathan (2783) - Caruana,Fabiano (2807) [A29]
5th Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis USA (5.2), 06.08.2017

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Who owns what?

Protecting intellectual property in chess has always been a tricky issue. Copyright of games has consistently been a legal dead end, and preventing live broadcasts of events by third parties hasn't been a raging success either.
Even the domain of chess coaching is not immune to problem in this area, as this story shows. (NB This is a New York Post article, so be warned) A chess coach in New York is accused if stealing clients from the business he worked for, after resigning and setting up his own business. The parent business did get him to sign some sort of non-compete contract, but it seems not to have had its intended effect. So off to court they all go, with $100,000 is damages being claimed.
For those familiar with the Australian chess scene in the 1990's may remember that this sort of thing was actually quite common. A number of chess coaching businesses seemed to get their starts after the lead coach left their previous employer, leading to some bad blood in the coaching community. There were even 'third generation' businesses, where a break away coach then had their coaches set up competing businesses. This seemed to go on until a kind of market saturation occurred, where the number of businesses and the number of client reached a level. There was even claims that coaching materials were 'borrowed' and rewritten, but I don't believe it went as far as court action.
I think these days everything is a little calmer on the coaching scene, although I suspect their is still competition between coaching organisations. Of course healthy competition is normally a good thing (market forces and all that), so if their is, I hope its all on the up and up.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

It doesn't make coaching easy

"Proper chess players don't do this" is a comment I've often made when coaching juniors. This is normally in response to a player to win a game using just their queen, or developing their rooks via a3 or h3. And for a time I was able to get away with this, but modern players are making it harder and harder.
The rot possibly started with Nakamura playing some very early Qh5's. This caught a fellow coach off guard as he had been telling his students that 'only beginners play this move'. The the Quiet Italian came back into vogue at the top level, meaning it could no longer be dismissed as a 'school chess opening'.
Now Aronian is the one causing problems for me, as the following game shows. The early h4 is surprising enough, but bringing the rook to h4 is an even bigger shock. The tactical point is to 'protect' the bishop on a3, but it takes real imagination to play this move. The rook then hangs about on the h file for most of the game, until Aronian uses it to finish Nepo off.
So it looks like I'll have to amend my advice again, to "proper chess players normally don't do this" or something similar.

Aronian,Levon (2809) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2742) [A34]
5th Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis USA (1.3), 02.08.2017