Saturday, 27 May 2017

The bigliest World Championship ever

While holidaying in the UK I took some delight in making the obvious comparisons between the President of FIDE and the President of the USA. This led to some slightly awkward conversations with people who were astonished at the outcome of the 2016 US elections, but had campaigned for Kirsan in the 2014 FIDE elections (although there was one friend who was happy with both outcomes).
And it seems that the similarities have not ended, with a report the London is being considered as a venue for the next World Championship Match. The source of this proposal was Kirsan himself, in an interview he gave with the Tass News-agency. Of course it seems that FIDE themselves no nothing about it, or of they do, nothing is showing on their website. I'm pretty sure this isn't because the designated spokesperson is hiding in the bushes trying to get their story straight, but almost certainly because the days of breathlessly reporting every statement, trip or activity of the FIDE President is now over.
That's not to so it won't happen (although it seems that the ECF has not yet been informed), but I'm assuming credit for making it happen will be claimed no matter where the Championship match is eventually held.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Capablanca's two part rule

Very early on I learned that you should put your pawns on the opposite coloured square to your bishop (if you have one). Later I learned that this was known as "Capablanca's Rule". However it was only recently that I read that there are in fact two parts two this rule, and I'd probably been throwing away half points by not knowing the second part.
The second part deals with the case where your opponent has a bishop, and you don't. In this case you should put your pawns on the same coloured squares as your opponents bishop, to restrict its activity. Of course there are almost always other factors at play, but if you are faced with a knight v bishop middlegame and are unsure what to do, this may help.
Here is an example game (taken from'Techniques of Positional Play ' by Broznik and Terekhin), where Capablanca applies his own rule on move 20, creating a pawn chain on the dark squares. By the time the players agreed to a draw, all of black's pawns were on dark squares, white's pawns were on light squares, and yet the white bishop still couldn't help white win.

Lasker,Emanuel - Capablanca,Jose Raul [C66]
New York New York (2), 17.03.1924


Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Out, back and out again

As I get older (and more forgetful) I have a tendency to screw up my openings more and more. It is both a function of not learning all the lines, and playing careless moves without checking the consequences.
In the following very recent game, I played 7. ... Bf5 without much thought. After 8.Qf3 I was suddenly required to do a lot of thinking, but most of it was deciding whether to go berserk and sacrifice my queenside pawns, or eat crow and retreat the bishop. In the end I decided crow was the tastier meal, and retreated both the bishop and the queen. After that it was a battle not to get run off the board, bring out my pieces again, and try and salvage something from the game. Turns out I managed to find enough play to not lose, but all that post-blunder thinking left me short of time, and so a draw was offered an accepted.


Patterson,Miles - Press,Shaun [A09]
Autumn Leaves, 23.05.2017


Sunday, 21 May 2017

Pick the century

A challenge for readers of this blog. Have a look at the game below and decide which century it was played in (or which century it belongs to). I have of course removed anything that identifies the players, or where it might have been played.


White - Black [C37]
From a galaxy far far away


Saturday, 20 May 2017

The top 10

Where do you go to to get your chess fix (apart from Chessexpress)? According to one list chess.com is the most popular chess site, and the 1181 most popular site on the internet overall. Lichess is number 2, while Chess24 comes in third. The FIDE website is only ranked number 7, 2 spots behind chess-results.com
The full list is

  1. chess.com
  2. lichess.org
  3. chess24.com
  4. chessbase.com
  5. chess-results.com
  6. chessgames.com
  7. fide.com
  8. sparkchess.com
  9. chesstempo.com
  10. chess2700.com
So playing sites are the most popular, followed by news sites, and finally some training sites.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Attack of the clones

When I was a member of the FIDE Rules Commission we would occasionally discuss areas where the rules were silent. This wasn't because we felt the issue was too difficult to rule on, but more because we wondered what we would do if someone tried something really bizarre.
One topic was about playing more than 1 game at the same time. It started out as a method of avoiding defaults in team matches (ie could someone play boards 7 and 8 in the same round), and moved on to whether Kasparov could just enter the Olympiad by himself (playing a simul each round). We decided he could not (if the games were to be rated). There was also talk about whether a player could enter two sections of an event and play both at the same time, with a semi-famous case being Michael Adams playing a junior and open event at a British Championship early in his career. Again we thought it wasn't acceptable, in part because there was a risk that a player could 'transfer' information from one game to another, thereby violating the rule about analysing a game on another chessboard.
However the Denver Chess Club has decided to organise a tournament where players can play more than one game at once. The Clone Wars tournament allows a player to enter either as themselves, or to clone themselves once or twice. After that it is a normal event, except clones players are required to play two or three game each round. I assume you can't be paired against your clone, but your (or your clone) could play a different clone of a player you've already met. Whether you could play multiple games against the same opponent in the same round wasn't clear.
The event was run as a 4 round G/60m event, which I would assume gave players enough time to jump between boards (assuming you remembered which boards you were on!). The prize structure was also interesting, where a players total score (including clones) determined the payout (each point was worth a fixed amount). I don't know if the event was USCF rated, but I would assume that such event would not be FIDE rated (even with an eligible time control).
Here is a link to the tournament report, which contains a little more detail on the event than I can give you.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Better math through chess

I've just come across another study attempting to measure whether teaching chess in the classroom results in better learning outcomes for students. In this case the study looked at replacing 1 math lesson a week with a chess lesson (as opposed to adding an extra chess lesson). The study was carried out in Denmark, involving primary aged students.
Overall the study found a slight improvement in test scores (around 0.1 to 0.18 of a standard deviation), which at first might not sound like much. However, as these were replacement lessons, the result is in fact a lot better, especially if you are trying to get chess coaching into an already crowded calendar. Also of interest is that the study looked at the effects on children who were either unhappy or bored and found  that both these groups showed greater improvement than happy or engaged children. In fact most of the improvement in test scores was attributed to students in these groups.
The whole study is available here and is worth reading not just for the conclusions, but also for the description of the studies methodology. In describing quite clearly their approach, the authors not only help the reader understand their work, but also provide an idea of what to look for in similar studies on chess in education.