Thursday, 13 December 2018

h6 is a blessing and a curse

The pawn on h6 (or h3) can be both a blessing and a curse. While it provides some breathing room for the castled king, and annoys adventurous bishops, in is often a target for sacrificial attacks. Many juniors (include myself when I was younger), hoped to line up the bishop and queen on the c1-h6 diagonal and blow open the kingside with Bxh6.
Older and more experienced players normally deal with such obvious threats, but sometimes the sacrifice is underestimated. Whether David Howell saw the threat and decided it didn't work, or simply thought Gawain Jones could not play it, is unknown to me, but the fact that it was played resulted in a very entertaining game. Objectively the sacrifice wasn't winning, but it gave Jones enough play that eventually Howell was unable to defend all the squares around the king, allowing Jones to win back the sacrificed piece. After that is was a matter of harassing the exposed king until a winning simplification could be played.

Jones,Gawain C B (2682) - Howell,David W L (2696) [C50]
ch-GBR KO 2018 London ENG (3.2), 12.12.2018

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Hack, Slash and Burn

While it seems that GM norms may be out of reach in the top event of the Australian Young Masters, there are still a few players with chances of picking up an IM norm. One player is Albert Winkelman, who is currently tied for first place in the IM tournament. He is currently undefeated with 3 wins and 4 draws, and needs 1.5/2 to score his first IM norm. His result is all the more remarkable as he is the tournaments bottom seed, but is performing at 300 points above his rating.
The following win (over Fedja Zulfic) demonstrates the form he is in. After Fedja seemed to unnecessarily drop the pawn on e3 his position rapidly went south. After Winkelman the exchange sacrifice on e2, the White king had very few safe squares. A couple of nice knight moves was then all that was needed to finish the game.

Zulfic,Fedja (2204) - Winkelman,Albert (2075) [A00]
2018 Lidums Australian Young Masters IM Adelaide, South Australia (5.3), 11.12.2018

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Phil Viner 1927 - 2018

News has just come through that Phil Viner has passed away at the age of 91. One of the veterans of the Australian chess scene, he represented Australia at 2 Olympiads (1964 and 1968) with a score of 9.5 from 18 games. He had a long and distinguished chess career, being a regular competitor in Australian Championships, NSW Championships and events like the Doeberl Cup (which he won in 1977).
He was born in 1927, and was the son of William Samuel Viner, who was Australian Champion in 1906 (until 1922) and again in 1924. His father passed away when he was quite young, but inherited both his fathers aptitude for chess, as well as his library of books and newspaper cuttings. He began to play seriously soon after World War 2, mixing over the board chess with correspondence chess. He became a CC IM in 1984, and won the NSW Championship in 1972 and 1978.
Away from the board he also served as President of the Australian Chess Federation (where I first met him), as well as being the chess columnist for The Australian for 30 years. Later in life he took to Seniors Chess with a passion, winning the Australian title a number of times and representing Oceania at the World Seniors Championship.
Always a gentleman, he will be missed.

Viner,Phillip - Averbakh,Yuri L [E70]
AUS-ch Adelaide (12), 19.10.1960

Monday, 10 December 2018

2018 London Chess Classic

The 2018 London Chess Classic is about to begin, with the traditional Pro-Biz Cup. This is an 'alternate move' competition, with teams of 2 players taking it turns to move the pieces.The teams consist of one GM and one amateur, although a few of the amateurs look quite strong. GM's taking part include Fabiano Caruana, Lev Aronian and Gary Kasparov.
Tomorrow the final of the Grand Chess Tour starts, although there is a different format this year. It is a four player knockout (Caruana, Nakamura, Aronian, Vachier-Lagrave), and combines classical chess with rapidplay.
Alongside all this are traditional events like the FIDE Open and British knockout. All the details can be found at along with games and links to live coverage.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

2018 Australian Young Masters

Let it not be said that there is no longer the opportunity for Australian players to earn title norms at home. In the last few years a number of events have expanded to become strong enough for players to earn IM or GM norms. One such event is the Young Masters tournament, held in Adelaide each year, usually in December.
Originally an event for Australian Junior players, the definition of 'young' has been stretched somewhat, and overseas players are also now welcome. This years GM event has 5 local players and 5 overseas visitors, headed by GM Frode Urkedal (Nor). However Urkedal found the first round of the tournament tough going, losing to FM Patrick Gong. Possibly he was affected by travel, as he had a crushing attack by move 26, but missed 27.Rxh5! and soon lost control of the position. The other visitors fared better, with GM Vasilly Papin beating IM Junta Ikeda, and IM Kanan Izzat beating Kris Chan.
The event runs until next next Friday, and you can follow the tournament at There is also live coverage of the top section at (albeit on a half hour delay)

Urkedal,Frode (2539) - Gong,Patrick (2328)
2018 Lidums Australian Young Masters GM Adelaide, South Australia (1.1), 08.12.2018

Friday, 7 December 2018

Alpha Zero returns

Alpha Zero, the self learning program that is able to master a number of rule based games, has popped up again. After a year working on improvements Alpha Zero has once again crushed its closest competitors in the world of Computer Chess/Go/Shogi.
Up against it's favourite whipping boy, AZ won a 1000(!) game match 155 to 6 (with 839 draws). Unlike the previous match both programs had longer time controls (3 hours plus a 15 second increment per move). AZ also played matches with a time handicap, and it was only when Stockfish had a huge time advantage did the results become less one sided.
There are a number of places to read about the latest results, but it is probably best to start at the source.  A number of games from the match have also been released, including this nice effort.

AlphaZero - Stockfish 8
Computer Match London, UK (255), 18.01.2018

Thursday, 6 December 2018

It's starting not to feel like Christmas

I understand that Christmas isn't a huge deal everywhere on the planet, but I still feel surprised when big chess events begin, or run across December the 25th. Over the years I have seen events in the Middle East, Singapore and even Spain which ask players to give up Christmas Day to play chess.
Added to that list is the 2018 World Rapid and Blitz Championship in St Petersburg, Russia. The event has been moved from Saudi Arabia to Russia, due to the inability to guarantee visa's for all players (eg players from Israel). However the dates remain the same, meaning Christmas Day is the scheduled arrival day for players wishing to take part.
The actual games (Rapid first) start on the 26th, and run through to the 30th of December. While the event isn't quite as open as it looks (you need to be rated above 2500 to enter), there is an exception for national champions, regardless of rating. However winter in Russia may not be that appealing, especially for us in the southern hemisphere, although it might be slightly more bearable than the December heat in Saudi Arabia.