Sunday, 29 November 2015

Comparative chess interviews

The Telegraph newspaper has done a large piece on Magnus Carlsen. It is both a profile and interview, and has already attracted some comment, mainly due to his comments on past World Champions (he could beat Tal 'easily'), and the quality of his current rivals.
Of course he isn't the first chess player to attract attention for such claims, with a young Bobby Fischer making similar claims in his infamous 1962 interview with Ralph Ginzburg. Of course Carlsen is more measured (and polite) in his comments, but is still an interesting exercise to read both interviews side by side. While both interviews show the level of confidence needed to reach the top in international chess, I am sure that Carlsen's interview won't have the same end result as Fischer's interview, which was Fischer refusing to do interviews ever again.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Frankenstein-Dracula Part II

While writing yesterdays blog post about losing on the white side of the Frankenstein-Dracula, I remembered an interesting game I had previously played on the black side of the same opening. It was from the 2006 Chess Olympiad, and was played as part of the PNG v Bermuda match. We lost the match 2.5-1.5, but if I had taken my chances (instead of a repetition), then 2-2 would have been the result on the day.

Faulks,Nick (2104) - Press,Shaun (2098) [C27]
Turin ol (Men) 37th Turin (7), 28.05.2006

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Some good old fashioned patracide

Competitive games between myself and my son tend to follow the same script these days. I look for the sharpest opening possible, try and hack him off the board, he defends until I make a mistake, and then he moves in for the kill. On rare occasions he either slips up in defence, or I manage to find the right attacking moves, but this is increasingly rare.
The latest example came from a rapidplay game played earlier this week. The Frankenstein-Dracula variation of the Vienna, gives White material at the expense of development. To be honest I think Black has better chances, although in this case once I castled I was more than OK. However I overplayed my hand with a discovered check, and when there was no good followup, Ra1+ just destroyed me.

Press,Shaun - Press,Harry [C27]
ANU Summer Rapid, 25.11.2015

Wellity, weillity, wellity

Earlier this year there was talk the the next World Championship Candidates tournament might be held in the United States. It was an attractive proposition, with two US players in the field (Caruana and Nakamura), and FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov even going so far as announcing it would be in the US (at the closing ceremony of the 2014 World Championship).
However, when it came to finalising the details, the US option disappeared, and the tournament will now be held in Moscow. At the time of the announcement it might have been safe to assume that the US option was just posturing and was never a serious contender, but it may now be for another, far more serious reason.
The US Treasury has announced sanction on a number of individuals, for "providing support to the Government of Syria, including facilitating Syrian Government oil purchases from ISIL". One of the individuals on the list is FIDE President, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.  While these dealings are (I assume) in his private capacity as a businessman, the press release does highlight his role as President of FIDE, and also the murder of Larisa Yudina in  1998.
Given the serious nature of these charges, it is of course unthinkable that Ilyumzhinov would have been allowed to travel to the US, and that the source of any funding for the event would have come under very close scrutiny.
I assume at some point FIDE will release a statement on this matter, although for now there is nothing on its official website.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Russia win ETCC Open

Russia has won both the Open and Womens Sections of the European Teams Championship. For a long time this sort of news would be in the same category as "sun rises in east" and "water is wet". However in recent times the Open team has struggled to match its individual talents, with wins in World Teams (2005, 2009, 2013) being the main exception.
The last time Russia won this event was 2007, and the drought is even longer for the Chess Olympiad (2002). There have been a few theories put about why this is so, but the two I lean towards are (a) the pressure of expectation and (b) they still haven't quite mastered the team oriented approach (+1=3 match results).
On the other hand the Womens Team has bee far more successful. They have won all the events since 2007, with the exception of 2013, and have won the last 3 Olympiads as well. In this case the I suspect the gap in talent between Russia and other teams is a little greater than in the Open section, so individual ability counts for more.
As for the other teams, Armenia finished second on tie-break, ahead of Hungary and France. England seemed happy with their top 10 finish (despite being 5th seed), while Norway had the services of Magnus Carlsen on top board, although the mid table finish, and his own score of 50% showed that it is not only teams that have trouble in this format.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

English chess under the spotlight

The article "Grandmaster crash: The inside story of how English chess pawned its future"  has caused a bit of a stir in English chess circles. Coming soon after a somewhat bizarre AGM (mentioned in the article), it highlights the effect that problems with the English Chess Federation have on English chess itself.
Written by Stephen Moss from the Guardian (who is an active player as well), it has already attracted a bit of blowback in the English Chess Forum, as well as some choice comments below the story itself.
I might be tempted to draw parallels with the Australian chess scene, but in all honesty I would struggle to. The governance systems are different (although Nigel Short's comments on small organisations ring true), but the major reason is that Australia never fell from any great heights in the first place. The ACF has always been a "limited government" style organisation, so the list of things it has failed to do well is actually quite small.
I suspect this will probably blow over in a week or two, and it will be business as usual. Those involved will point out that their small bit of English chess is running well, extrapolate that to "what needs to be improved" and potentially miss the broader picture.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Bashing openings you like

I always have mixed feelings when I come up against opening system I have a fondness for. While it doesn't happen that often (due to my somewhat narrow opening repertoire) I have been on both sides of the Blackmar, the Marshall Gambit, and the Frankenstein-Dracula over the years.
Back in 2003 I must have been on a bit of a 1.d4 d5 bender, as I had a couple of games against the BDM with the Black pieces (not sure where I had stashed my Griuenfeld). One of the games was against many times ACT Champion Milan Grcic, and was essentially decided by one move. On move 13 Gricic chose to attack my Knight and threaten my f pawn with Qf3, but I realised that I could let f7 fall with check as he did not have a decent follow up. I on the other hand had lots of good moves after capturing on d4, and his position fell apart after I played Qxe5 and then Nf3+. A sad defeat for the BDM (which is my main weapon against 1.e4 d5) but an enjoyable win for me.

Grcic,Milan - Press,Shaun [D00]
Ginninderra Cup CCLA (10), 11.04.2003