Sunday, 5 April 2020

The perils of online play

One of the questions I am constantly asked in my new role of online tournament organiser is "How do you deal with cheating?" My quick answer is "I don't" but the real answer is a little more involved than that.
At the moment the events I organise are small-ish events, with no more than 30 players. I also generally know all the players in the events, and those I don't, I ask them to clearly identify who they are in real life. The reasoning for this is that I believe players are less likely to misbehave in smaller social settings if they now everyone else knows who they are. Secondly, the platforms for online chess also have their own ant-cheating systems built in, which provides both a deterrent, and a system for sanctioning players.
As a result there haven't been anything I would describe as obvious cheating in anything I have organised, although I know of at least one player who did get sanctioned by the site these events run on (NB I am not privy to the reasons why this happened).
However it can still go somewhat wrong for other tournament organisers, as discovered by the Melbourne Chess Club. The MCC run a Saturday Allegro Competition (modelled after Street Chess), and have also moved it online. They also decided to "go big" with yesterdays event, attracting a field of 128 players. In the first round, one of the top seeds was beaten by an unrated/unknown player. While this may not have been a huge surprise in real life, in online chess it was enough to reverse the result and exclude the winner from the rest of the tournament. I believe there was a copy of the game that was briefly online, but has also now been removed from the tournament website.
At this time this is all the information I have seen on this matter, but I assume the organisers had more evidence than simply "this result doesn't seem right". There is a line between playing out of your skin and playing with electronic help, but sometimes organisers find it difficult to put a player on the correct side of it. Hopefully, as players and organisers gain more experience with these events, such incidents will diminish.

Nice work if you can get it

Despite the lack of OTB chess at the moment, Magnus Carlsen is keeping himself, and some other GM's, busy, announcing a $250,000 online chess event. The event will consist of Carlsen and 7 other top GM's, playing a round robin of 4 15m+10s games against each other. The top scorers then qualify for a playoff series.
The tournament is being hosted by chess24.com and begins on the 18th April. While the field has not be finalised as yet, there may be some interesting omissions, for commercial reasons. While online chess hasn't attracted the large sums of money that other eSports has, some GM's have signed contracts with specific cites, which may preclude them from playing on chess24.
As an added bonus, you can install the Premium version of the Magnus Trainer app (Android and iOS) from now until the end of the tournament. Details are at the above link.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Tools of the Trade

Having transitioned to providing online coaching (rather than face to face, which I prefer), here are my current tools.

  • A good collection of coaching books (Yusopov coaching series, 365 Chess Master Lessons by Soltis)
  • Lichess (You can share analysis boards and study collaboratively) 
  • Zoom video software (despite the fact it is currently being slammed in technology circles)
  • XSplit Gamecaster (for streaming lessons to multiple students)
At this stage it seems to work well for one on one sessions, and has the added benefit of getting me to prepare instructive positions in advance.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Everyone is doing it

It looks as though chess streaming is becoming a real growth industry. On all the major chess platforms you can now find GM's IM's and even humble FM's playing blitz and streaming the game at the same time. Some use built in software, while other streamers use external channels like twitch.tv. And given how much of it there is, you can probably log in at any time of the night or day to find some interesting games.
One of the many players doing this is GM Elshan Moradiabadi. He is active on lichess.org as 'elshan1985' and on twitch.tv as gmelshan1985 gm_elshan1985. He usually takes on all comers at bullet and blitz, while commentating on the game. His comments are both instructive and entertaining, especially when he realises he has had a lucky escape from a near certain loss.
He is normally active in the early afternoon Canberra time (which is late night in the US, where he lives). I logged in this afternoon to watch some of the action, and was fortunate to come across the following hack.

vicarryus (2020) - elshan1985 (2571) [A41]
Rated Blitz game https://lichess.org/mewrNI62, 02.04.2020


Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Where you can still earn titles

There is still some organised chess where you can still earn titles. The International Correspondence Chess Federation is still running events, taking advantage of the fact that all their chess is server based anyway. As a result you can still earn GM, IM and other CC titles while chilling at home. The Correspondence Chess League of Australia (of which I am the current President) is also organising lots of events, again mainly played on the ICCF server.
So if you want to play some serious chess, with the chance of earning a title or two, then check out the above links.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Arianne Caoili 1986-2020

Very sad news has come out of Armenia, with Arianne Caoili passing away at the age of 33. She had been involved in a serious car accident two week ago, and despite the best efforts of hospital staff, she died of her injuries yesterday.
Born in the Philippines, she represented that country up until 2004, before changing Federations to Australia. She was married to GM Lev Aronian in 2015 2017, moving to Armenia a few years previously to manage her business interests in Yerevan.
Apart from being a WIM, she also studied International Relations at the Australian National University, where she was a member of the ANU Chess Club. Outside of the chess community she was probably best known as a contestant on the television show, Dancing with the Stars, where she finished runner up in 2006.
While her professional career took priority over her chess career over the last decade, she still  performed at a high level when she did play. One event she took part in was the Veterans v Snowdrops match, where she scored the following win over legendary GM Wolfgang Uhlmann.


Caoili,Arianne (2242) - Uhlmann,Wolfgang (2412) [C15]
Marianske Lazne Czech Coal m Marianske Lazne (6), 25.11.2010


It isn't always easier playing online

The rush is now on to get as many online events up and running as possible. As with a lot of things in Australian chess, the ACT led the way ("with remarkable speed" according to GM Ian Rogers), but a number of other organisers are starting regular online events. Some are paid events, some have prize money on offer, while the rest are just being organised to keep the chess community connected.
I must confess I am not a great online player, and tonight proved this in spades. I decided to join in the Monday Blitz Arena, but it did not get off to great start. My first game started with a mouse slip, while my third game was a pre-move disaster where I left my queen en-pris in the opening. I even managed to forget some opening theory I should know, and went from winning to losing in the space of one move. I eventually scored a couple of very lucky wins and stumbled to +1 over 14 games. Once finished I once again had to face the question, "Do I suck because I don't play enough, or do I not play enough because I suck?"