Sunday, 1 March 2015

The worlds largest chess set

I'm not sure what the record for the worlds largest chess set is (real life elephants maybe) but a set made by Toyota would go close. It consisted of various models of Toyota Cars, and board was a floor of a stadium in Japan.
If you look at the video contained in the new story here, you will of course notice that are not actually playing chess, but Shogi (Japanese Chess). However I am still going to include it under the "chess" heading, as the games are quite similar, and more importantly, one of the players was Habu Yoshiharu. I have covered him in previous posts, but he is both a FIDE Master in chess, as well as being one of the strongest Shogi players in history.
And for those that are familiar with the rules of Shogi, I'm pretty sure that did not play the game exactly according to the rules, as it would have been difficult to turn the pieces over to signify a promotion being made!

Saturday, 28 February 2015

2015 O2C Doeberl Cup - Have you entered?

This year is one of the "Easter is early" years, which means that the O2C Doeberl Cup is only 5 weeks away. So if you are planing to play in this years event (and I hope as many readers as possible do), you need enter pretty soon. The Premier Section is already filling up quite nicely with 7 GM's entered so far and 47 of the 80 places already filled. As in previous years, the other events (Major, Minor and Under 1200) still have plenty of room, but it is still worth getting your entries in as soon as possible.
While the tournament web site has all the information, the key details are: When - 2nd - 6th April (3-6 for the Major/Minor and 3&4 for the Under 1200) Where - University House, Australian National University Canberra.
Other points are: For the first time the Under 1600 event will be FIDE Rated, providing an opportunity for players rated below 1600 to earn an International rating. There will be GM Master Classes held on Wednesday 1st April (see website for details). The popular Blitz event will be on Saturday 4th April. And the ANU Chess Club will be holding a blitz event 5 minutes walk from the venue on Wednesday 1st April for anyone who gets into town early.

(*** I am a paid official for this event ***)

Friday, 27 February 2015

Who is ... Itzhak Kfir?

Looking for a change from the usual 'OMG Another monster swiss' I started looking at the bottom end of the 2015 European Individual Championship. The tournament, which is being held in Jerusalem, has the usual strong field of 2600+ GM's, and has attracted 250 players.
While David Navara (2753) is the top seed (by virtue of being alphabetically ahead of Nikita Vitiugov who is also rated 2745), Itzhak Kfir is seed number 250. He is one of a group of FIDE unrated Israeli players who have braved an event where the half way player is rated 2457. And just as at the top, Kfir got the bottom spot courtesy of his surname.
Keeping with the bottom up view of the tournament, the lowest seeded title player is IM Vladimir Chuba (2066).  This puts him below the lowest rated FM (Dan Drori) and the lowest rated CM (Saar Drori). However the field gets quite strong after that, with GM Jacob Murey (2428) seeded 135, the lowest of the GM's.
The whole event kicked off on Tuesday, and so there are still plenty of players on 2/2. Based on previous versions of this event, I assume one of the top seeds will clear out at the top, a large bunch will keep pace, and the final two rounds will see players aiming for World Cup places with strategic draws.
Results for the event are here, and it includes a link to download games from the early rounds.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

2015 ANU Masters - Week 3

Victor Braguine is the only player on a perfect score after 3 rounds of the 2015 ANU Masters. He had a stroke of luck in tonight game after Fred Litchfield forgot about his clock and lost on time in an equal rook and pawn ending.
Top seed Andrey Bliznyuk scored his first win of the event, defeating Adrian De Noskowski in the longest game of the evening. Early on Bliznyuk advanced his pawn all the way to a3, where it remained for much of the game. Eventually Bliznyuk was able to pick off De Noskowski's a2 pawn in the ending, and this was enough to win the game.
Alana Chibnall scored her second win in a row, with an attacking win over Harry Press. Press was a pawn up in the midlegame, but after missing a tactical shot (23. ... Bxf5), fell behind in development. Chibnall built up a strong kingside attack, and finished the game off with a nice sacrifice on g7.

Chibnall,Alana (1931) - Press,Harry (1965)
2015 ANU Masters Canberra AUS (3.1), 25.02.2015

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Do you think you could win this?

The diagrammed position came from the Vachier-Lagrave v Tomashevsky game played yesterday at the Tbilisi Grand Prix event. Pawnless endings are reasonably rare in chess, although John Nunn did write an entire book about them. In this case it was R v BBN which was fortunate for Tomashevsky, as R v BNN is almost always drawn after RxB.
Of course to win this ending, you also need to know how to win the simpler(?) KNB v K position as well. In the above game MVL did not 'ask' Toamshevsky if he could do this with RxB at the end, but I suspect at lower levels this would have been tried.
I've also attached the whole game to the post, as how they got to the diagrammed position is just as interesting as what happened once they reached it.

Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2775) - Tomashevsky,Evgeny (2716) [C88]
Grandprix Tbilisi 2015 Tbilisi (8.4), 23.02.2015

Monday, 23 February 2015

Storing a chess board in memory

Recently I started doing some programming work for ePlusChessBooks , and one of the tasks is parsing chess diagrams in document files, and turning them into something an app can use. Fortunately this kind of work intersects nicely with previous programming I had done in the field of computer chess, so the learning curve is not that steep.
In starting on the problem, I remembered an idea I had a number of years ago concerning the efficient storing of chess boards in memory. By 'chessboard' I mean both the location of each of the pieces, plus the state of the game (eg castling rights, en passant status, 50 move rule). At the time I was thinking of storing only pawn structures and using this information to build a 'chess planning system'. (NB Mark Hummel is currently working on a similar system). Unfortunately the method I was thinking about was actually less efficient than just storing a full board representation, and I let the whole project drop.
In doing some further reading I discovered that there are some quite efficient ways of storing such information. The obvious way is 1 byte per square, plus flags, so around 66 bytes of information. However there is some redundant information in there, as there are only 12 different pieces (each piece + white or black) meaning you can use 4 bits per square (halving the size). An greater refinement is the record the number of empty squares between the pieces (eg 4 bits for a piece followed by empty square count). The advantage of this method is that it uses less memory as more pieces get captured.
Of course this probably has very little practical application in the field of chess programming, as early on I learnt it is often a choice between memory and speed (ie if you want speed, you need to use lots of memory). But if you are interested in this topic, for whatever reason, there is a whole wikipedia page on it!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

A chess hotel

Looking for somewhere to stay in Paris? Doing a little random research on the internet, I stumbled across The Chess Hotel. It is aptly named. as it uses a black and white motif throughout, including a number of chessboard patterns on the floors and walls.
Looking at the hotels website I spotted a few direct chess items (chess boards and pieces), and a number of chess influenced features. More importantly it looked like a very nice hotel and seems centrally located. Of course such quality and location comes at a cost, but 150 euros per night for a double seems pretty reasonable to me.
While it is unlikely I will be in Paris any time soon, if I do end up there, I may have to make in person inspection.