Wednesday, 20 March 2019

No fun in winning

Sometimes I will win a game of chess, and find that I did not really enjoy it. This usually happens when I know I've played a number of awful moves, and it is only a mistake from my opponent that has given me the point.
This happened this evening at my club, where around 40 moves of plan-less play was redeemed by outplaying my opponent in a R+3P ending, with all the pawns on the same side of the board.
But the game I will show, is from an earlier round of the same tournament. My opponent went for the king side hack, offering a piece I shouldn't take. Instead I decided I  could take the piece, as I thought I saw how I could defend. However after my opponent played 16.Rh6! I realised I was in a bad way. If he had then played either 18.Rh7+!! (forced mate) or 19.Qh4! (covering g5) I would have resigned in short order, but instead he blundered with 19.Qh2? and the tables were truly turned. I converted the winning ending (and even then failed to calculate the best line), but left the club unsatisfied with the point.

Mayen,Gabriel - Press,Shaun [C55]
University Cup, 05.03.2019

Monday, 18 March 2019

Are looks deceiving?

Have a look at the game below, after White has played his 15th move. A similar position to this occurred at Street Chess on Saturday, and at first glance I just assumed White had a big advantage. (NB I cannot recall which White rook was on d1, so White's 14th move may have been Raxd1). With the bishop well posted on f3, and being the first to get to the d file, all I could see was White using the initiative to win the game (and in the game on Saturday, this is what happened).
So I am a little surprised that Black won the game given here. Of course the black pieces were being handled by GM Gawain Jones, and he did out rate his opponent by a significant amount, but White should at least hold this. Playing though the game a few times (with the engine off) I suspect that White was a little eager to swap pieces off (especially the bishops), until it reached a point (on move 31) when the final rook exchange left White with a lost pawn ending.
If there is a lesson to be had here, maybe it is that if you look like you have an advantage, keep the pieces that give you the advantage!

Storey,Charles (2268) - Jones,Gawain C (2549) [B73]
Coulsdon Jessie Gilbert Coulsdon (10), 25.08.2008

Saturday, 16 March 2019

The last writers left?

One of the duties I usually perform when arbiting small events (less than 20 boards), is to produce a game file. Normally there is enough time during the following round to type in the majority of games, and by the end of the event I usually have around 80% of the games ready for download.
But this has become more challenging over the last couple of years. One of the main reasons is that players either submit unreadable scoresheets, or ones that have illegal or ambiguous moves. As frustrating as this is, it occurred to me that as an activity, competition chess requires a skill that is no longer in fashion. That is, chess is one of the few activities where people are actually required to write. Most office jobs now involve typing things, and when something needs to be written down, it is often as a personal note or brief message. In fact the only other place where I come across a lot of handwriting is in the education sector (especially exams and quizzes), and recently marked a number of quiz papers, the quality of submissions is equally mixed.
As an example, here is a scoresheet I took a copy of from the recent ACT Championships. I have cropped the names to protect the guilty, but as yet, I have not been successful in deciphering most of the moves.
(BTW I have put some games from this event up at but there is still a lot of work to do)

Friday, 15 March 2019

A book so nice they named it twice

Taking advantage of an online book sale a couple of weeks ago, I thought I had picked up a bargain when i spotted David Bronstein's "The Chess Struggle in Practice". I'd seen a few people mention it as one of the classics, so buying it for $2 seemed like a great deal.
Alas, when it arrived I realised I had purchased a book I already owned. Bronstein's classic is also known as "Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953" and I already had a copy sitting on my shelf. Nonetheless, I won't be getting rid of my newer copy, as there are a few formatting differences that make it worth keeping. And as a book, it is probably worth reading twice, once in algebraic, and once in descriptive!

Taimanov,Mark E - Petrosian,Tigran V [E58]
Candidates Tournament Zuerich (20), 06.10.1953

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Where would we be without satnav?

I find it interesting going through my own games from the pre-computer age of chess. It certainly shows me that I wasn't very good when I started playing seriously, but it also reveals that I wasn't that great at analysis either.
There are more than a few games where I've kind of remember playing well, but after putting it through a modern engine, I've realised that it was more a question of "who makes the second last mistake" that decides the outcome. 
The game I've chosen to show this was not in fact my first (or second choice). However, those games turned out to be true blunder fests (including missed forced mates from my opponents), leaving me with this relatively tame example. There were a couple of opportunities for me to gain the upper hand (14.fxe6! and 18.Bxd5!) but the real mistake for my opponent was 22...Nf5. This allowed me to capture on d5, and get the tactics working in my favour. Fortunately there were no big mistakes after that (although I did miss a line leading to a quicker checkmate).

Press,Shaun - Cohen,Stan [B23]
Doeberl Cup (7), 04.04.1988

Repeating History

The recently completed Batavia GM tournament in Amsterdam tried a new approach to scoring. Before the main game in each round the layers played a blitz match, which was then used to allocate points in case the main game was drawn. The winner of the main game scored 2 points, but in the case of a draw, the winner of the blitz match scored 1 point, but the loser only received 0.5 of a point. 
Whether it changed how the tournament was played I'm not sure, but from the score table, it looked as though there were a lot of decisive games. The added bonus was that there were a number of entertaining blitz games as well. The most noticeable was John Van Der Wiel getting mated on move 15, in a game that has been played a couple of times previously.

Van Der Wiel,John - Warmerdam,Max [C45]
Batavia Blitz, 03.2019

Monday, 11 March 2019

2019 ACT Championship - Kethro completes Triple Crown

FM Michael Kethro is the 2019 ACT Chess Champion after finishing with a perfect 7 wins from 7 games. In today's final two rounds he started with a win over Victor Braguine, before beating Brian Butler in the final round. He finished a point and  half against Sankeerten Badrinarayan, who had the unsettling experience of playing his younger brother in the final round (the game ended in a draw). Tied for third were Glenn Ingham and unrated player Darryl Chen. The Under 1500 prize was shared between Paul Dunn and Dexuan Kong, while Velsami Karthick and Ken Zhang winning the Unrated prize (Chen taking a share of third place instead).
The win by Kethro also means he now holds all three ACT Championship titles, winning the Rapidplay in December 2018 and the Blitz in January 2019. This is possibly the first time this as happened, although IM Junta Ikeda may have also achieved the feat in a previous year.
Full results from the tournament  and games from the top 4 boards can be found here.