Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Hatfields and the McCoys

Next month sees two important chess events, played quite close to each other, but at the some time, also in competition with each other. The 2015 World Team Championship is being held in Tsakhkazdor, Armenia, from the 18th to the 29th of April. This is round robin event comprising of representatives from each FIDE Continent, plus the top placed teams from the Olympiad. It is a tough event, as an all play all, and certainly a harder event than the Olympiad.
A short distance away, the Shamkir Chess Fectival, including the Gashmov Memorial, is being held in Shamkir, Azerbaijan, from the 16th to the 26th of April. It is a 10 player round robin and has Carlsen, Kramnik, Anand, and Caruana as part of the field.
While clashes are inevitable on the chess calendar, the timing of these two events seem to be part of the ongoing friction between the Armenian and Azernaijani governments, using chess a a proxy battleground. In fact the Azerbaijani team had qualified for the World Teams event, but declined their invitation, while it is still not clear if Armenia will play in the 2016 Baku Olympiad. Despite the various conciliatory words I have heard from both Federations regarding such clashes, I suspect it may be a long time before genuine conciliation is achieved, and that if it is, it is under the umbrella of a broader political solution to the dispute between the two countries.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Cruelty abounds

I was doing a quick audit of my chess book collection, and I came across a couple of interesting things. Firstly, I seem to own 8 copies of Play Better Chess by Leonard Barden, and secondly, I really need to read more of the books I have.
One book I should revisit is 600 Endings, by Portisch and Sarkozy. It contains a number of interesting and practical positions, and I quickly discovered that cruelty can abound
One example is the diagrammed position, which was in fact the first one I looked at. In the book it is given as Black to play and draw, and is another example of how cruel chess is (see my previous column on this topic). White is 3 pawns up but in the following line the game is still drawn. 1. ... Kh8 2.g7+ Bxg7 (2. ... Kxg7? 3.h8(Q)+ +-) 3.f6 Bxf6 4.Kxf6 = There is a little side play on offer to make it interesting. 1. ... Bc3? 2.h8(Q)+ Kxh8 3.f6 Kg8 4.Ke7 Bb4+ 5.Ke8 Bc5 6.Bd5+ Kh8 7.g7+
There is an even meaner trick, not given in the book, where White tries to force Black into Zugzwang, but that fails, albeit in a slower way. 1. ... Kh8 2.Bd3 forces the Bishop to move, but now any push of the f pawn allows Bxf6= White can dance around with the King and the bishop, but as long as the Black bishop stays on the long diagonal, there is nothing to worry about. (For some extra fun, put this position into you chess engine and see what it thinks)

Monday, 30 March 2015

Chess week in Canberra

Without it being planned this way, the next week (and the last few days) has been a kind of unofficial chess festival in Canberra. Last week saw the ACT Junior Chess League's Interschools Championships get underway, with the Primary Girls North and South Zones being held (Congratulations to Caroline Chisholm, and Tuner for winning their zones). On Saturday the ACTCA then had a stand at the Connect and Participate Expo, while Sunday saw 77 junior players take part in the Autumn Allegro event (won by Thomas Johnston).
On Tuesday there will be a chess event in the Canberra City, in Garema Place, from 11 to 2pm. The big pieces will be in action at the giant chess board, while you can drop in for some casual (and not so casual games). WIM Heather Richards and FA Alana Chibnall are organising this event, which will bring chess to the city.
Wednesday night sees the Pre-Doeberl blitz at the ANU Chess Club. This is a free event which starts at 7pm, at the Asian Studies Building at the ANU.
Then on Thursday the O2C Doeberl Cup itself begins at University House. Round 1 of the Premier starts at 1pm, with the second round starting at 7pm. No charge for spectators, so even if you are not playing, come and down and see the Grandmasters in action.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

It can be a cruel game

Today's Street Chess saw a number of interesting games, some of which highlighted how cruel chess can be. In the diagrammed game, White is two pawns up and under normal circumstances this would be a straightforward win. But the poor position of the White rook allowed Black to force a draw, by using the threat of mate to drive the White king into a position where it could not escape the checking rook. 1.Kf1 Kf3 2.Ke1 Ke3 3.Kd1 Kd3 4.Kc1 Kc3 5.Kb1 Rh2! was the first part of the dance. In the actual game White then moved the rook, allowing the draw after Black checks on h1 and h2. But even after 6.a4 Black still draws with 6. ... Rh1+ 7.Ka2 Rh2+ 8.Ka3 Rh1! where the theme is repeated, just this time while turned 90 degrees. 9.Ka2 is forced when 9. ... Rh2+ leads to a repetition.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Falling a long way from home

During the week I helped run a couple of local interschool events in Canberra. As with a lot of these events the quality of play can vary, but on the upside, you get to see a lot of positions that probably have not occurred in 500 years of organised chess.
In one game I saw a Black King on a1, being checkmated by a white queen on h8, despite the board still having a reasonable amount of material on it. Wondering how common this might be, I did some searching of my database, but came up empty handed. Even with colours reversed (WK on h8) I found nothing, so I thought I would simplify my search.
Looking for White kings mated on h8 I came up with a few examples, mainly between lower rated players. But I did find one gem, from early in Gary Kasparov's career. It looks as though it was played in a simul, but in this case Kasparov was not giving the simul. He was playing Oleg Romanishin, and after around move 20 he was already winning. With his king exposed, Romanishin tried to use it as a fighting piece, but instead it was dragged up the board to h8, where it was mated in good junior fashion, with an 'electric fence' checkmate.

Romanishin,Oleg M - Kasparov,Garry [A03]
Romanishin-Junior sim Leningrad, 1975

Thursday, 26 March 2015

If this is a trap ...

I had an interesting experience during my game at the local club last night. Having played the first 9 moves of Marshall Gambit theory I was surprised by my opponents 10th move. 10.d4 seemed slightly odd, but at first I could not decide whether it was good, bad or just different. After taking the pawn I was then surprised by my opponents 12th move, when he took of d5 rather than d5. For a brief moment I thought I had been tricked, as the bishop on e7 hangs after Qxd5. But then I thought to myself "If this is a trap I would have heard of it before". The Marshall is a well established opening, and I have been playing it for 30 years, so a surprise like this would have come to my attention long ago. Armed with this knowledge it did not take me long to realise that Qxd5 was more than fine, as Bb7 threatening mate on g2 holds everything together.
It even turned out the the whole idea was worse for White than I or my opponent realised. After White played 14.f3 I decided to try and trap the rook with 14. ... Ne6 and eventually I won the exchange. But 14. ... Qc5 is even stronger hitting the rook on e7 and threatening all sorts of discovered attacks. So there is a trick in this variation, but it is a trick for Black, not for White.

Cunningham,Cam - Press,Shaun [C89]
ANU Challengers, 26.03.2015

2015 ANU Masters - Litchfield wins

Eighteen year old Fred Litchfield is the 2015 ANU Masters Champion, after a final win over Harry Press. The last round saw 4 players still with a chance to win the tournament, but the win by Litchfield, and a loss by Victor Bragine saw Litcfield win the tournament by a full point.
Tied for second were Braguine, Miles Patterson, and Alana Chibnall, on 4 points. Braguine, who lead the tournament for the first 6 rounds, was beaten by top seed Andrey Bliznyuk, who finished the tournament on 50%. Patterson looked like he was winning against Adrian De Noskowski, but a perpetual check saved De Noskowski, who finished the tournament with 5 draws from 7 games. Chibnall reached +1 with by beating Jeremy Reading, who ended up tied for 6th place with Press and De Noskowski.
In the supporting Challengers event, Brian Butler defeated Michael Reading to finish on 5./7, qualifying for next years Masters.

Litchfield,Frederick (1994) - Press,Harry (1965)
2015 ANU Masters Canberra AUS (7.1), 25.03.2015