Saturday, 30 August 2014

Three new IM's (all from Canberra!)

It is a rare day for Australian chess when 3 players become International Masters at the same time. Despite what was a shambolic FIDE General Assembly, the subsequent Presidential Board meeting at least ratified the titles earned in the previous 3 months, and the list of title holders included 3 young Australian players.
Junta Ikeda earned his title with his final norm at the 2014 O2C Doeberl Cup,with an extra one at the 2014 SIO for luck. Anton Smirnov was a little more suprising, getting his third norm at the 2014 Politiken Cup just before the Olympiad, although FIDE seems to have used his IM performance at the 2014 Olympiad in its place, and accepted his rating will top 2400 on the September 2014 Rating List. The third title has been awarded to Rishi Sardana, who like Smirnov and Ikeda was born in Canberra, but mainly plays his chess away from Australia, and currently lives in India.
With both Smirnov and Ikeda playing on the Olympiad team, and Sardana not far off, it is looking like the next decade of Australian chess will see they, and a number of up and coming players, be the new force on the local and international scene.

Baramidze,David (2612) - Smirnov,Anton (2334) [D85]
41st Olympiad Open 2014 Tromso NOR (11.4), 14.08.2014

Thursday, 28 August 2014

2014 Sinquefield Cup - Day 1

While there was only one decisive game in the first round of the 2014 Sinquefield Cup, it certainly looks like the spectators got their monies worth. The Aronian - Nakamura game was the first to finish, when the players felt that repeating the position around move 40 was the best plan. The Vachier-Lagrave - Carlsen game was probably the most interesting, with Carlsen showing of a bit of opening prep with a novelty in the Scotch Game. The idea involved a temporary piece sacrifice, but clearly it was all 'computer checked' at home, as Carlsen won back the piece and even held a slight edge. Vachier-Legrave kept his head and the game ended in a draw after Vachier-Lagrave sacrificed a rook for a perpetual.
In the only decisive game, Caruana beat Topalov after Topalov tried a speculative attack and then fell apart when it did not succeed. After move 23 Caruana had an advantage and it seemed to grow with every move, until finally Topalov realised his position was totally lost.

Topalov,Veselin (2772) - Caruana,Fabiano (2801) [A35]
2nd Sinquefield Cup 2014 Saint Louis USA (1.3), 27.08.2014

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

2014 Sinquefield Cup

The 2014 Sinquefield Cup is being billed as the strongest tournament in the history of chess. With Carlsen, Aronian, Caruana, Nakamura, Topalov and Vachier-Lagrave all in the worlds top 10, it would be hard to find a recent (post 1970) event that matches it in strength.
The tournament is a double round-robin, so each player gets White and Black against their opponents. While this removes the luck of the draw re colours, I have seen players adopt a 'draw with black, win with white' strategy in such events, which can bog the tournament down a little. However the assembled field looks top heavy with chess 'fighters' so this may not be a problem.
In terms of who I am tipping to be the winner, I am going to move away from my usual prediction of Carlsen. He seemed a little out of sorts at the Olympiad, and I am not sure he has recovered from the pressure of that event. The player who I think is still on the rise is Fabiano Caruana, and even though he lost to Carlsen at the Olympiad, I think he might just have enough to pull off a famous victory here.
The tournament starts early tomorrow morning Canberra time (5am!), which isn't the greatest time to start watching chess. However I'm assuming that most of the games will still be happening while I am eating breakfast, and work may see me distracted by some tough endgame play! Event details can be found here, and follow the links to the live coverage of the games.  

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Freaky chessboard graphic

While at the Olympiad a number of people asked me what my normal job is. While at some previous Olympiads I could impress them with 'Roboticist', these days I am more of a web programmer (CMS systems being my thing). As a result I do like to play around with html and css, especially now they can create some pretty cool websites with nary a line of program code to make them work.
An example I came across is a rotating chess board, with the animation handled entirely by css. You can see a demo here, and the author is kind enough to list the html and css code that made it all happen.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Mating the queen

As the queen is such a powerful piece it is often hard to completely trap it. When it does get trapped it is usually because it has wandered off to the edge of the board, or ends up in a tactical unfavourable position. It is less common to see it caught in the middle of the board, with nowhere to run.
Hrant Melkumyan (well known to Canberra players), pulled this off on his way to 6/6 at the Riga Tech Open. Capitalising on his doubled rooks, he found the clever Rd6!, which forced Q-Mate! Melkumyan finished the event with 3 draws to take equal first with Richard Rapport. Melkumyan has been on a bit of a tear over the summer, winning a number of big swisses on the European circuit. If he continues this form he may get close to (or over) the 2700 mark, and into consideration for the next Armenian Olympiad team.

Melkumyan,Hrant (2655) - Iturrizaga Bonelli,Eduardo (2653) [E15]
Riga Tech Open A 2014 Riga LAT (6.1), 21.08.2014

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Saving the day

In the BC (before computer) era of Correspondence Chess, a lot of effort was needed to make sure every move did not suffer a tactical refutation. Of course under such conditions double oversights might occur, but clearly it was better to be safe than sorry. An famous example of this was the game between Frank Vaughan and Cecil Purdy, played in 1945. Purdy plays a combination that looks like it is winning material, but it turns out to be a trap by White. However Purdy had already analysed the position and new that he one final escape, which was to force a perpetual check. Strangely, this opening variation was repeated in around 20 subsequent games, with both White and Black scoring the occasional win. The last was played in 1999, and I suspect it won't be played much in the future (unless to deliberately halve the point) as any modern engine spots the first draw as far back as move 7.

Vaughan,Frank L - Purdy,Cecil John Seddon [D82]
corr, 1945

Friday, 22 August 2014

Back to club chess

While watching the worlds top chess players go round at the Olympiad has been enjoyable, my return to the club chess scene has not been without it's charms. I saw a number of nice attacking games at the ANU Chess Club on Wednesday night, and while not quite up to 2700+ standard, at least I could predict most of the moves in advance. At least in the chess circles I normally move in, the aim of checkmating the opponents king is still front and centre, and so there is a lot of attacking chess on display.
As I don't have some of the more interesting games from Wednesday night to hand, here is a game from earlier in the same tournament. Dillon Hathiramani played a text book kingside attack with the Kings Indian Defence, and while Adrian De Noskowski tried to find counterplay on the other side of the board, Hathiramani got his attack in first. After De Noskowski missed the correct reply to 24 ... Nxg2 (25.Kh1) the game was all one way traffic.

De Noskowski,Adrian - Hathiramani,Dillon
2014 ANU Winter Swiss ANU Chess Club (3), 06.08.2014