Monday, 3 August 2015

King of the ring

Over the years I have experimented with various tournament formats, to see whether variety is really the spice of life. However one format I was not aware of is currently being used in the Russia v China Match. It is apparently borrowed from Go, and it is a combination of a team match and a 'last man standing' type event.
Each team submits a playing order before the start of the match (unknown to the other team), and then the first two players meet. After that it is 'winner stays on' while the loser is replaced by the next player on the list. Obviously the match winner is the team which wins the final match, and eliminates the last player on the opposing team.
As it turns out, the Russian's are running away with the match, as Sergey Karjakin has turned into a one man wrecking queue. He has dispatched his first 4 opponents (Wei Yi, Ding Liren, Ni Hua, Yu Yangyi) and only needs to beat Wang Yue to complete a clean sweep. Even if he now loses, Wang Yue has to beat the other 4 Russian players to win the match!
Despite what seems to be a somewhat shorter match than the organisers anticipated, this format may be worth repeating. One tweak, which has been used in the USA, is to rank the teams in order of rating, and start with the lowest rated players first. This at least has the advantage of stretching the match out, as opponents are more likely to become harder to beat, rather than easier!

Sunday, 2 August 2015


Not sure what was happening here, but I can safely assume it was a concocted game between the two players involved. Further evidence supporting this idea, an identical game, from the same year turned up in my database, between two other players. Maybe it's what passes for chess humour in Germany.

Weber,Winfried (2095) - Weidenhoefer,Martin [A00]
Postbauer op Postbauer, 1997

Saturday, 1 August 2015

All along the h file

When perusing a copy of "Bent Larsen's Best Games" I noticed a position where there were 7 piece lined up along the h file. I though this must have been a rare occurrence, and concluded games with 8 pieces along the h file must be scarcer still.
But doing a search on chessbase I found they were not that uncommon. I discovered nearly 100 games, and that was just with a search that had white pieces on ranks 1 to 4 and black pieces on ranks 5 to 8. The list of players who have played such games even include some famous names, such as Solkosky, Ian Rogers, Lajos Portisch and Johannsen (with 2 n's).  There soesn't seem to be any specific opening that leads to these positions either (upsetting my thesis that KID's were played in lots of these games),and the length of the games seems evenly distributed.
So without finding anything significant about this setup, I have randomly chosen a shortish game to at least show you that there is nothing special about being special.

Reefat,Bin Sattar (2487) - Abdulla,Al Rakib (2514) [C55]
BAN-ch 34th Dhaka (8), 28.04.2008

Friday, 31 July 2015

Crude but effective tactics

A little gem turned up on my doorstep the other day. "Samuel Lipschutz. A Life in Chess" by Stephen Davies, chronicles the chess career of Samuel Lipschutz, one of leading American players of the late 19th Century. But as it has just arrived (and I have only just started to read it), a full review will wait for another day.
Instead I simply mention an interesting story that occurs early in the book. Lipschutz lived in New York, and one of the great attractions of the time was "Ajeeb" the Chess playing automaton. It was hosted at the Musee Eden, and it cost 50c to enter the Eden, 10c to see the Automaton, and a further 10c to play against Ajeeb. While it was billed as a chess machine, from contemporary reports it was clear that most people assumed that there was a person hidden inside. While this did not diminish the popularity of the attraction, it did allow for a little skulduggery on the part of one of its opponents.
A player (not Lipschutz in this case), described in the book as "a man, ... , who everybody beats at his chess club" managed to defeat Ajeeb, when so many stronger players could not. His simple strategy was to light up a cigar ("fearfully bad") and blow as much smoke into Ajeeb as he could. Clearly this had a debilitating effect on the operator, who was trapped inside, whose play, and health got worse with every puff.
As for Lipschutz, he did play Ajeeb on at least twice, winning both the games that records exist of.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

2015 Politiken Cup

Oddly enough, one of the reasons why last years numbers were down at the ANU Open (as opposed to this years good turnout) was due to a tournament on the other side of the world. The 2014 Politiken Cup in Denmark was scheduled to run just before the start of the Chess Olympiad, and so a number of strong Australian players used it (instead of the ANU Open) as a warm up.
This years event did not have the benefit of serving as a lead in for the Chess Olympiad, but it seems not have troubled the event, which has attracted a record field. Having a quick look at the tournament home page I can see why it is such a success, as apart from the main event, there are lectures and simuls for players to take part in. The line up of lecturers is quite impressive, with Timman, Sune Berg Hansen and  Agaard amongst the talent. There is even a lecture from Chessbase about how to use Chessbase effectively, which I am sure will be very popular.
As for the hordes of Australian's playing, this year it is down to 1. IM Justin Tan (who is based in Europe) is taking part, and after a 3/3 start has slowed down a little to sit on 3.5/5. With such a large field (431 players) 5 rounds is still not enough to separate the leaders and their are still 4 players with 5/5. The tournament is showing around 60 games live, and with online commentary, it may just be the distraction I need from what is turning out to be a catastrophic start for Australian in the cricket!

The ups and downs of turn based chess

Apart from my ICCF based chess, I also play some turned based chess on This differs from usual CC in that each move has a fixed time limit (usually 3 to 5 days per move). So you cannot build up time by moving quickly, as the clock simply restarts with every move.
To be honest I don't mind this format, as it means I have to look at my game on a regular basis. On the ICCF server I often fall into the trap of briefly looking at a game, then coming back to it over a week, before realising I have to play 5 moves in 2 days. On the other hand it seems a little easier for me to play a 'casual' move in the turn based format, as the following game demonstrates.
At various points I thought I had found a winning line, only to realise it didn't quite work. And when I did find a winning line I immediately undid my good work by castling, allowing my opponent to recover some material. Fortunately I was able to reach a winning ending, but even then it took a large amount of work (and a few inaccurate moves by me) before the game was put to bed.

Messi000 (1958) - shaunpress (2273)
Let's Play!, 09.05.2015

Monday, 27 July 2015

No more English GM's?

I was having a look at the field for the 2015 British Championship and I noticed a strange distribution of titled players. The Championship has done well to attract 11 GM's, but oddly, only has 3 IM's playing. In a similar fashion, there are 12 players rated above 2400, but only another 9 above 2200.
I'm pretty sure this situation has occurred somewhat regularly in recent years, and have seen discussion of this situation on the English Chess Forum. It is a little similar (on a larger scale) to what happened with the Australian Open in 2007 (4 GM's and only 2 IM's), and I wonder why it is so.
Some of the given reasons have to do with the likelihood of winning prizes against the cost of playing, which if true, does strike me as odd. An admission that you don't quite have what it takes to move to the next level is one that most top players would never openly make, but essentially it seems to be saying the same thing. Conditions might be another issue, although the solution to that is of course becoming a GM yourself.  Otherwise I am at a loss to come up with a rational reason for the absence of GM's, unless it is simply that England has generated as many GM's as it can, and there are no more left to be had!