Monday, 19 August 2019

Knowing the tricks

White to move
One of the differences between new chess players (especially in competition) and experienced players, is that the experienced player knows more 'tricks'. These can be simple tactical tricks like 'capture then fork' or Philidor's Legacy (Queen and Knight smothered mate), or more subtle ideas in the ending.
One example occurred recently in a quickplay game I was watching. Black had come back from a piece down to reach this ending, but was unaware of the winning idea when you have pawns one file apart. After 1.Ke2 he started off correctly by pushing the b pawn with 1. ... b4. After 2.Kd2 the winning idea is keep the pawns a knight move apart eg 2 ... d4 3.Kc2 Kf6 (Black has enough time to catch the h pawn) 4.Kb3 d3! If White takes the b pawn the d pawn queens. So 5.Kb2 Kg4 6.Kc1 b3! 7.Kd2 b2 and the b pawn promotes.
Unfortunately Black was probably unaware of this trick and thought his only winning chance was to promote the d pawn with the help of the king. As a result the h pawn was able to queen before this could happen, and White then won quite easily.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Waking up to this

The 2019 Sinquefeld Cup is starting shortly, and with the time zone difference between St Louis and Canberra, the games will be underway when I awake in the morning. I've already had a bit of a warm up, with the St Louis Rapid and Blitz running over the last few days. Unfortunately for me, one of the first games I saw was the following win by Liren Ding over Fabiano Caruana!

Ding,Liren (2805) - Caruana,Fabiano (2818) [A25]
Saint Louis Blitz 2019 Saint Louis USA (9.5), 13.08.2019

Friday, 16 August 2019

Stopping the 4 move checkmate

I, like so many new players, suffered the indignity of losing to the 4 move checkmate early in my career. It happened in a school chess competition, and I was so shocked and annoyed, that I spent the next class drawing a chess board in the back of an exercise book, and then moving the pieces using pencil and eraser until I worked out what had happened.
Fortunately technology is now sufficiently advanced that we have computers that do this for us. And the theory of the 4 move checkmate has moved forward as well, with a strong GM demonstrating the correct defence when confronted with the opening.

Carlsen,Magnus (2882) - Dominguez Perez,Leinier (2763) [C20]
Saint Louis Blitz 2019 Saint Louis USA (7.3), 13.08.2019

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Vale Richard Voon

Richard (Dick) Voon, one of Australian Chess's more colourful characters has passed away in Melbourne. He had been a constant figure on the chess scene throughout my time at the board, being a regular competitor in the Doeberl Cup, and often turning up unexpectedly at other far flung chess event. When I first started playing he was a good 2000+ rated player, and his strength did not fall much below that for most of his career. He was a keen blitz player, and often he was the last player out of the tournament hall, protesting as the organisers packed up for the night.
His blitz skills did prove useful on occasion, especially in the days of no-increment chess. In a 40 moves in 90 minute event back in the 80's, he had only reached move 15 with his flag hanging, and needed to play the next 25 moves in around 60 seconds. As his opponent still had over an hour on the clock, Voon was trapped at the board for that time, having the reply instantly to whatever move was made. Apparently he did manage to make it to move 40 with seconds to spare, and went on to draw the game!
Dick Voon will be missed by the Australian chess community, who will be poorer for his passing.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Maintaining tension

IM Bill Hartston once commented that the the player who has the choice between pushing a pawn or exchanging it usually has the initiative in the centre. Implied in this comment is doing one or the other then dissipates this initiative.
This game from the 2019 NSWCA August Weekender is an example of this. On Move 12 White played c4, which actually helped Black a bit (12.Ne3 was more testing). Black could have maintained the tension with moves like Ne7 and Bb7, but instead pushed the d pawn immediately. With the centre now locked up, White had a free hand to start attacking on the king side, which she did with h4. Manoeuvring the knight to f6 was the next part of the plan, and after Blacked erred by not immediately exchanging it off, a piece sacrifice was enough to decide the result.

Chibnall,Alana - Clarke,Matthew [A08]
2019 NSWCA August Weekender (5.4), 11.08.2019

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Outsourcing from Canberra

It is a popular election promise to 'take jobs from Canberra' by getting staff to move from the nations capital, to rural areas (ignoring the fact that more federal public servants live in Sydney than anywhere else). But while there are a number of good reasons why a centralised public sector works better than a distributed one (concentration of talent, the ability to exchange staff and ideas, better recruitment pool, dispatching people from Canberra has other effects.
Fred Litchfield journeyed from the cold cold winter of Canberra, to the warmth of Queensland, and played in the 2019 Bundaberg Open. Seeded 6th behind 4 IM's and a WIM, he won the event with a very impressive 5.5/6. After starting with 2 wins, he played the 4 IM's over the final 4 rounds, scoring 3.5/4. He drew with IM Stephen Solomon (in round 5), and beat IM Alex Wohl, IM Brodie McClymont and IM Peter Froelich. Solomon and McClymont  tied for 2nd on 5/6, in a field of 42 players.
Litchfield's win over Wohl started his charge to the finish. Wohl offered a pawn in the opening, and then dropped one in the middlegame. This looked to unsettle him as a bigger blunder occurred soon after, and faced with ruinous material loss, he resigned.

Litchfield,Fred - Wohl,Alex [D32]
Bundaberg Open, 10.08.2019

DIY Chess Clock

One of the many unfinished (or unstarted) projects on my to do list, was building my own digital chess clock. I'd first thought about this in the early 1980's, but it never got beyond the concept stage, as I have no talent for basic electronics.
As components have become cheaper and more accessible, it has in fact become easier to pull this off. And rather than it being a heavy duty construction activity, a trip to the local electronics store should allow to by all the parts you need.
As for the actual building of a chess clock, this article "How to make a Chess clock with Arduino" provides you with the details. As the Arduino is programmable, you can extend the features of the clock if you wish, adding other time controls and playing modes if needed.