Friday, 28 August 2015

Library Chess

A number of years ago Melbourne chess entrepreneur  David Cordover suggested that it should be a goal in Australia for every local library to have its own chess club. While undoubtedly a good idea, it hasn't really come to fruition, probably because Australia doesn't have the chess playing population to make it work. Of course this is kind of chicken and egg reasoning, as you need the players to support the club, and you need the club to support the players.
But every now and then there is the opportunity to draw on Library resources to have some chess activity. Kippax Library in Canberra is celebrating its 10th anniversary tomorrow (29 August), and they are running some chess activities as part of the celebrations.  If you are in the area (West Belconnen) feel free to drop in between 12 and 2 to play some chess, or witness a little bit of bullet between myself and all comers. Junior players are especially welcome, as the library is keen to organise a regular junior club, and tomorrow will help them gauge how much interest there is.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Aronian back in form

The last 12 months have been pretty lean for Lev Aronian, with a drop in form seeing him slide down the world rankings. However he has started the 2015 Sinquefield Cup strongly, and currently shares the lead with Veselin Topalov.
In the 4th round he played a smashing attack attack against Wesley So to record the only win of the round. The game is already being described as a classic, with Aronian finding play on both sides of the board. With So's king trapped in the centre, Aronian was even able to sacrifice a piece with no harm to his winning chances.
Just as it wasn't clear why Aronian was struggling in the last 12 months, it probably isn't clear why his form has returned. If *I* had to give a reason, it may be because I have stopped giving him the kiss of death by predicting him as a likely tournament winner.

So,Wesley (2779) - Aronian,Levon (2765) [E20]
3rd Sinquefield Cup 2015 Saint Louis USA (4.3), 26.08.2015

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Street chess players rubbing shoulders with the gliterati

A cute story popped up in my newsfeed this morning, and it concerned one of the regular guests at Street Chess. Baldev Bedi is a regular visitor to Street Chess in Canberra, although he does not play in the actual events, preferring to play blitz while kibitizing the competition games.
In winter months he occasionally decamps to warmer climes, including Coffs Harbour on the NSW North Coast. And it was at Coffs Harbour he was spotted playing chess with a legend of Australian cinema, Jack Thompson. For Australian move goers some of his memorable roles include "The Club" and "Breaker Morant", while for overseas viewers, he was Anakin Skywalker's Step-father in Star Wars:Attack of the Clones.
The article from the Coffs Coast Advocate show the two playing a friendly game at the Coff's Bollywood Markets. The accompanying pictures shows the game in the early stages, although the article does say the Thompson was likely to be checkmated!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Quality versus excitment

Chess as sport or chess as art? Those that favour shorter time controls line up in the first camp, while others (including me btw) think that quality games are produced with slower time controls.
An interesting data point in this debate occurred in the second round of the 2015 Sinquefield Cup. Caruana v Carlsen saw both players starting with 0/1, and so a loss for either of them would almost doom their tournament. For most of the game Caruana held an advantage, but at the cost of most of his time. It is important to note that for the events of the Grand Chess Tour, the first time control is simply 40 moves in 2 hours, with an additional hour added after that, along with a 30s per move increment (from move 41). So with Caruana running short of time, salvation would only happen once he played move 40.
It turned out that Caruana did get to move 40, but only by playing a 1 move blunder which lost on the spot. By all reports the finish of this game was very exciting for the spectators, but as a distant observer it just looked like Carlsen got very very lucky. I am not knocking Carlsen's win by the way, as he took advantage of the situation before him (and his play contributed to Caruana's shortage of time). It is more that the trend of chess has been to move away from these 'sudden death' types of games (with the introduction of clocks with increments), and to see it become part of top level chess again is a little jarring (at least to me).

Caruana,Fabiano (2808) - Carlsen,Magnus (2853) [C78]
3rd Sinquefield Cup 2015 Saint Louis USA (2.4), 24.08.2015

Monday, 24 August 2015

Canberra Chess 960 Championship

Chess 960 (or Fischer Random) has its fans, but hasn't really taken off in a big way. There have been a few big tournaments here and there, but it probably still considered a 'variant' rather than a 'version of chess (NB I know that the rules for Chess 960 are included in the Official FIDE Laws of Chess, but despite being a member of the FIDE Rules Commission at the time, I must have missed the meeting where they were officially added)

However as a variant it is probably one of the better ones, and tournaments are still being held. In fact the ANU Chess Club is hosting a Chess 960 event this coming Wednesday (26 August) and for want of a better claimant, this might be considered the ACT Chess 960 Championship (NB This is not an official ACTCA title!)
For those wishing to take part, the tournament will be a 9 round event, played at a Blitz time control (G/5m). For each round a single position will be generated, and the players will have 60 seconds to work out what is in front of them. Entry into this (fun) event is free, and is open to all players (no club membership necessary). The club opens at 6:45 pm, Asian Studies Building, Ellery Cres, ANU, with play starting at 7pm

Sinquefield Cup starts with a bang

Five games, five wins! The Sinquefield Cup has got off to quite a remarkable start, not only with 5 decisive games, but with some pretty surprising results.
Caruana's will not be emulating last years starting streak, having lost to Lev Aronian in a very sharp game. Magnus Carlsen started this event with a similar results to Norway 2015, losing to Topalov again, although it wasn't on time. Nakamura has local fans cheering with a win over Anand, although he was the only US player to win, with Wesley So losing to Vachier-Lagrave.   In fact the only game that went according to rating was Giri's win over Grischuk.
With so many interesting games to pick from, I decided to go with Aronian's win over Caruana. Lev has been out of form (by his high standards) for a while, so this is a good win to get under his belt. At first look it seems that both players were happy to take risks to keep the position as dynamic as possible, but once Aronian sacrificed his rook on c2, it was effectively over.

Aronian,Levon (2765) - Caruana,Fabiano (2808) [D37]
3rd Sinquefield Cup 2015 Saint Louis USA (1.3), 23.08.2015

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Losing the won game

Throwing away winning positions is a common problem for most chess players. Of course the winning games we lose tend to stick in our memory far more than the losing positions we win, possibly because out losses are tragedies, but our wins are deserved.
Looking back at some of my old games to find such an example, I came across this significant game (which I hope I haven't posted before). It was played in the 1983 ACT Junior Championship and was the game that decided the title. I'd only been playing tournament chess for  around 12 months, so to win the ACT Junior was going to be quite an achievement. In fact I was quite nervous the night before the game, and had a lot of trouble sleeping.
When you look at the game from distance of 30+ years, you realise that both of us had chances to in the game. My style at the time was threat based, so I most of my moves were lining up one or two move cheapo's. My opponent handled most of them easily, but then missed some good moves of his own. At one point I missed a very strong move (20.Qc2) while my opponent missed a win of material with 27. ... Bxd2. Eventually I played the last big blunder (on move 32) and after that my opponent was able to win a piece ahead.
For years I grumbled over playing 32.Nd4 (rather than say 32.Nc3) but on reflection I should take two things away. Firstly, my loss was due to my inexperience as a tournament player, and overcoming this only comes with practice. And secondly, given my choice of moves in the game, I cannot honestly say I was 'winning' in the objective sense, as at no stage did I try and consolidate whatever advantage I my have thought I had.  So it would be unfair to my opponent to say I runied a good position, as I didn't play like I had such a position at all.

Press,Shaun - Marshall,Justin [B86]
ACT Junior Championship, 27.11.1983