Thursday, 31 May 2007

A lovely piece of writing

The Riot-Act is a bulletin board that discusses all things Canberra. Politics, live music scene, various weird stuff is their usual beat, but one thing they do well is fan based rugby coverage (especially the ACT Brumbies). So there is some angst about the direction that Australian Rugby is heading under coach John Connelly. It provoked "johnboy" to write an open letter to the Australian Coach, which began with the following passage

Dear John,
We know that as a fat old neanderthal Queenslander you despise the Brumbies and all their works and long for the happy days when Queensland v. NSW was all that mattered in the world of rugby.

I think that eloquently sums up all that is wrong with Rugby in this country.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

It's getting harder to attack

I was having a conversation (via Skype) with my PNG Olympiad teammate, Stuart Fancy. During the course of the conversation I remarked that chess had got much harder, especially over the last 15 years. This, I might add, is not because of the effects of age (well maybe a little), but due to the fact that players just defend better these days. I attribute this to the widespread use of computers.
As an experiment (for over 35's) , try and feed some of your early games (pre-1990) into Fritz and check out the error count for both sides. Then, if you can, try and remember what you thought of the game at the time. I'm sure the 'computer-assisted' conclusion is much harsher than the original one. Indeed, for my game against Fritz Van Der Waal that I gave a couple of days ago, I spent 5 or 6 years believing that instead of Bxf6 I would have won with Rxf6+. It was only when I put the game through my computer did I discover that I was lost no matter what I played.
Of course some games still stand the test of time, and here is one played in the 1982 Olympiad by Stuart Fancy himself. While it is certainly true that Black could have defended a whole lot better at the start, the Queen sacrifice by Fancy remains perfectly sound.

Fancy,S - Pickering,H [B06]
Luzern ol (Men) Luzern (4), 1982
1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 e6 4.Be3 Ne7 5.Qd2 0-0 6.h4 h5 7.0-0-0 d5 8.e5 Nbc6 9.Bh6 Nf5 10.Bxg7 Kxg7 11.Nge2 Nxh4 12.Qf4 Nf5 13.g4 g5 (D) 14.gxf5!! gxf4 15.f6+ Kh6 16.Nxf4 Kg5 17.Nxh5 Ne7 18.f4+ Kg6 19.Bd3+ 1-0

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Games that are not Chess - Poker

Apart from chess there are other games I play. Bridge, Backgammon, Poker are the more serious of them, although I've even played an Othello tournament.
At the moment there is a real concern that Poker (specifically Texas Hold-em) is taking players away from the chess world. And it is probably a valid concern, but only in the short term. I think Chess and Poker (and Bridge, Backgammon, Pokemon etc) can all happily co-exist, and indeed provide a source of players for each other.
My recent experiences with Poker have not convinced me to give up chess. I don't believe I'm a good poker player (people keep stealing my blinds), but I thought I'd give the online tournament scene a go. The online site I used offered a series of "freeroll" qualifiers (free entry) to a money tournament. The qualifiers ran for a month, were restricted to Australian players only, and the tournament final was last night. The prize money was pretty generous compared to chess, $17,000+, especially as there was no entry fee. Each qualifier attracted about 1500 players, so I'm guessing there were 40,000+ entries in the series, although most of those would have been multiple entries. Over the month I probably played 7 to 10 qualifiers, which would have taken about 12 hours of my time. I made it to the final in the second last qualifier (top 50 finish required), and needed a top 250 placing (out of 1,320 players) in the final to earn some prize money.
Now this is not going to be some pathetic tale of how I caught a bad beat and missed out on a trip to Vegas. Instead I played very tight poker, folded most of my hands, and after two and a half hours went out when I played 55 v AQ offsuit and my opponent paired the ace. I finished 155th and earned some prize money.
How much? For 14.5-15 hours of play I earned $10. Thats about 75 cents an hour. For that I'm not giving up my day job. And indeed for that, I'm certainly not giving up chess, even if I earn $0.00 an hour for playing.
Nonetheless it was an interesting exercise to see how I would go in what is basically my first experience in tournament poker. The plus side was that I could play from home, usually lying on the lounge, and I got some free entertainment when players completely lost it after getting "backdoored" on the river.
But I guess like everything in life, if your not doing it for a living, then you're doing it for enjoyment. And if you enjoy chess more (as I do), why would you give that up.

Monday, 28 May 2007

2007 Candidates Matches

The 2007 Candidates Matches are underway in Elista. 16 players qualified by various means (2006 World Cup, Rating etc) and the top 4 players will make it to the World Championship tournament later this year. The Candidates is being run as a knock-out with 6 games matches.
The first game of Round 1 was played last night, with results and games available at the official site There is also coverage at the site for the World Championship tournament
The players are bracketed into groups of 4 based on seeding so that the winner of the Aronian v Carlsen match will play the winner of the Adams v Shirov match to determine one of the World Championship slots.
My predictions for the 4 qualifiers are: Aronian (beating Adams), Leko (beating Bareev), Grischuk (over Ponomariov) , Gelfand (over Kamsky).
Of course with such a strong field my predictions could be utterly wrong, especially the Grischuk/Ponomariov group.
At the time of this post, both Aronian and Grischuk won their opening games, while the rest of the games were drawn.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Giving it all away

One thing I try and do with this blog is to post something new each day. So far I've been able to do that, and hopefully I will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Of course to do this I need a collection of interesting things to talk about. Sometimes current events provide me with enough information (Doeberl Cup, SIO, Zonal etc) but sometimes I have to dip into my archives to find the post of the day.
While looking through a back issue of Australian Chess Forum (a magazine I used to edit/publish, email me for prices on back issues!) I came across an article I wrote for the Xmas 1999 issue. The article was titled The Season of Giving and contained two remarkable games. Here I present the second of the two games (keeping the first up my sleeve for another day).
The games is between Grigory Serper and Ioannis Nikolaidis from 1993. The remarkable thing about this game is that Serper sacrifices every piece he has, either by allowing it to be captured for nothing or by exchanging it for a piece of lesser value. (Notes for the game are from the original article)

Serper,G - Nikolaidis,I [E70]
St Petersburg, 1993

1.c4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.d4 d6 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.Nge2 Nbd7 6.Ng3 c6 7.Be2 a6 8.Be3 h5 9.f3 b5 10.c5 dxc5 11.dxc5 Qc7 12.0-0 h4 13.Nh1 Nh5 14.Qd2 e5 15.Nf2 Nf8 16.a4 b4 17.Nd5! The first in a stunning sequence of sacrifices. 17...cxd5 18.exd5 f5 19.d6 Qc6 [better is 19...Qa5 20.Nd3 f4 21.Bf2 h3] 20.Bb5! axb5 21.axb5 Qxb5 [21...Qb7 22.c6 Qb8 23.Rxa8 Qxa8 leaves the position balanced between the avalanche of Whites pawns and the extra black pieces] 22.Rxa8 Qc6 23.Rfa1 f4 24.R1a7 [Also good is 24.Nd3 fxe3 25.Qxe3 Kf7 26.R1a7+ Kg8 27.Nxb4 Qb5 28.Rxc8 Qxb4 29.d7+-] 24...Nd7 only move 25.Rxc8+! Qxc8 26.Qd5! fxe3 27.Qe6+ Kf8 28.Rxd7 exf2+ 29.Kf1 [29.Kxf2?? throws it all away 29...Qxc5+ 30.Kf1 Qc1+ 31.Kf2 Qxb2+ 32.Kf1 Qc1+ 33.Kf2 Qd2+ 34.Kf1 Ng3+ 35.hxg3 Qd1+ 36.Kf2 hxg3+ 37.Ke3 (37.Kxg3 Qe1+ 38.Kg4 Qh4#) 37...Bh6+ 38.f4 Bxf4+ 39.Ke4 Qd4+ 40.Kf3 Qe3+ 41.Kg4 Qe2#] 29...Qe8 [Attempting to simplify with 29...Qa6+ 30.Kxf2 Qe2+ 31.Kxe2 Nf4+ 32.Kf1 Nxe6 33.c6 fails due to Whites pawns] 30.Rf7+ Qxf7 31.Qc8+! Qe8 32.d7 Kf7 33.dxe8Q+ Rxe8 34.Qb7+ Re7 35.c6 e4 36.c7 e3 37.Qd5+ [Obviously not 37.c8Q e2+ 38.Kxf2 e1Q#] 37...Kf6 38.Qd6+ Kf7 39.Qxe7+ Kxe7 White has sacrificed all his pieces! 40.c8Q In return White gets a new Queen. 40...Bh6 41.Qc5+ Ke8 42.Qb5+ Kd8 43.Qb6+ Ke7 44.Qxg6 Black only has tricks to play for. 44...e2+ 45.Kxf2 Be3+ 46.Ke1 1-0

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Oceania Zonal Titles - The Final Word(?)

Given that there is still some debate about whether players really earned their titles at the 2007 Oceania Zonal, I contacted a couple of FIDE officials concerning the reading of the regulations in the FIDE Handbook.
In part my question was

Specifically the FIDE Handbook Section on titles states

1.2 Titles achieved from International Championships:
1.21 As indicated below, a player may gain a title from such an event or, gain a single title result (norm). The requirements in 1.42, 1.46, 1.47, 1.48 and 1.49 have to be applied.

As Sections 1.42,1.46,1.47,1.48 and 1.49 refer to the requirements for title norms, is it correct to say that this clause only applies to the earning of norms in zonals (ie 20 game IM norm for 2450+ result) and does not apply to titles awarded directly for Zonal placings and performance (ie IM title for 66%, FM title for 50% results)?

The response I received from Stewart Rueben was

When I rewrote the regulations I did not intend the titles awarded for zonal placings to be subject to the norm regulations. What is written is arguably ambiguous. Even if not, if it has caused confusion, it should be rewritten.

There is no doubt in my mind that the woman who came second and scored more than 2/3rds is entitled to the WIM title. That was the purpose of the regulation written long before my time and possibly written before there were ratings.

Hopefully this closes the argument on this matter.

Many thanks to Stewart Rueben for responding so quickly to this question, and to an almost identical query from ACF Vice President Bill Gletsos.


Here is an idea I've had kicking around in my head for a while about how to make televised chess interesting to the non-chessplayer.
The idea is BulletTime, and is a based on presenting Bullet (1 minute) chess in a way that anyone can follow. Instead of expecting the spectators to work out who is winning themselves, you incorporate that information into the visual presentation.
If you look at the diagram on the right you can see that apart from the chessboard, there are a couple of other pieces of information. The vertical bars down the sides indicate how much time each player has left. At the start of the game the bar would be entirely filled, and be represented by some "safe" colour, such as green. As the players times run down, the bar would empty, and the colour would change towards a more threatening red. When a player runs out of time the graphic would change to indicate this.
Across the bottom the horizontal bar indicates who is winning. If white is in front the light part of the bar would move to the right, if black is winning the dark part would move to the left. This information would be provided by a computer either doing real time analysis, or in post production.
In this way spectators would be able to see at a glance who was winning the game (without having to work it out themselves) and who had more time left.
The intention is to combine this with live action footage of Bullet chess, with the video appearing on the screen where the computer board is located in the diagram. In this way you could combine the fast paced anarchy of Bullet chess, with a way of allowing people to follow what is happening.

At this stage I've just toyed with the concept, playing around with some filming and computer software, but at some point I'd like to present a 'proof of concept' demo. When I am ready I'll let you all know.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Shades of Grey

One of the important observations made by Lasker in the previous quote is that in Chess there is only Win, Draw, and Loss. This points to the difficulty that chess has in attracting and keeping the non-competitive player. Unlike most other sports there is no intermediate feedback in chess. While you may think your winning (or losing) at various stages of the game, it is only when the game is over that you know for sure.
In modern society fast feedback has become an important requirement for any activity to become popular. Whether it is video games or Sudoku, people feel more comfortable if the activity contains signposts to indicate how well you are doing as you go along. Chess, for most of us, doesn't have these signposts. Of course this is only partly as a result of the rules of chess, as I suspect that the greater skill a chessplayer has, the more likely he is able to determine the correct assessment of any given position.
Would chess be more popular if it contained an intermediate scoring system? Personally I doubt it, but thinking about this matter did lead me to an idea about how to 'better' market chess, an idea I will share in tomorrows post.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Lasker's Chess Wisdom

"The difficulty in any abstract reasoning on Chess is mainly its lack of grading in the final result. Loss. Draw. Win. This is the scale of success in chess. Life is infinitely more varied. Life goes on, it knows no permanent defeat, nor permanent victory, therefore one cannot detect in chess such striking and exact application of the concepts of Force, Value, Balance as can be found in life."
Lasker's Chess Primer, Dr Emanuel Lasker

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Small town, big moves

The ACT Junior Chess League has been running its Primary Schools Open tournament over the last 2 weeks. Due to the large numbers of teams being entered the competition is split into 6 zones, with the top 4-6 teams from each zone qualifying for the finals.
Today was the Gungahlin Zone competition. The competition is not restricted to Canberra schools only, but extends into surrounding New South Wales. This allows schools from surrounding country areas to enter teams.
In fact the school with the biggest enrollment was St Joseph's from Boorowa. Boorowa is a small country town about 120km north of Canberra, which equates to a 1 and half hour drive each way. Factor in the traveling time for some kids to get into town (up to an hour) and you can see how impressive it is that they even entered.
Even more impressive was the score of their No. 1 team, the Boorowa Blues. They scored 27/28, dropping only two draws, and winning by 7 points. Third place was also taken by a team from the school, meaning that from a town of 1,200 people, they managed to fill 2 of the 4 qualifying spots.
So nest time you worry that taking you kids to a chess competition will take you 10 minutes out of your way, think of the effort that St Josephs Boorowa put in every time they want to play in a chess competition.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

BDG Disaster

Over the weekend I travelled up to Orange, NSW, to help celebrate my Grandmothers 90th birthday. It was good to see family again, especially those I hadn't seen for 20+ years. But it wasn't just family memories I caught up on, it was also some chess memories.
On the Sunday morning the Press family had breakfast at the Orange RSL. Good breakfast, and cheap too. But 20 years previously (almost to the day!), the Orange RSL was the scene of one of my biggest chess disasters.
In those days the Orange Chess Club ran an annual weekender, and as my grandmother lived there, I always went up to play. In 1987 I must have been doing pretty well as I went into the last round needing a win to collect a ratings prize. My last round opponent was local player Fritz Van Der Waal, who had beaten me a couple of times previously (and a couple more times since). From previous encounters I knew that Fritz played the Centre Counter, so I transposed into the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit.

Press,S - Van Der Waal,F [B01]
Orange, 1987
1.e4 d5 2.d4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Bf5 4.f3 exf3 5.Qxf3 Qc8 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.Qf2 c6 8.Nf3 e6 9.0-0 Bd6 10.Bg5 Nbd7 11.Rae1 0-0 12.h3 Qc7 13.g4 Bg6 14.Re2 h6 15.Bh4 b5 16.Bd3 Bxd3 17.cxd3 Nd5 18.Nxd5 cxd5 19.g5 h5 20.g6 f6 21.Rxe6 Rfe8 22.Ng5 Nf8 23.Qf3 Nxe6 24.Nxe6 Rxe6 25.Qxh5 Qc2 26.Qh7+ Kf8 27.Bxf6
At this stage I was feeling pretty confident that victory was in my grasp. Although I was down material I couldn't see how he could escape from deadly discovered checks. The game had attracted a small crowd, including GM Ian Rogers, and after playing 27.Bxf6 I confidently got up from the board to stretch my legs. As I walked away from the board the spectators began to give me strange looks, and when I informed former Australian Junior Champion Konrad Hornung that I was pretty sure I was winning, he replied "Are you sure?"
I returned to board, and quickly realised what he meant.
27...Qh2# 0-1

So no prize, no brilliancy, and an important lesson about checks and captures.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Before Chessbase

I suspect before Chessbase (or Nicbase or Scid), players had various ways of storing and sorting important games. Some players may have used filing cabinets, folders or even old shoe boxes. The other way was to use notebooks.
While doing some research in my chess library this afternoon I came across a just such a set of notebooks that I had picked up in a second hand shop almost 20 years ago. I do not know who the original owner was but the books (8 or 9 or them) contained collections of games from important tournaments from before and just after World War II. Featured were various Zonal and Candidate tournaments, as well as US Championships and Hastings Congresses. The games were all handwritten and most entries were accompanied by crosstables listing the tournament results.
While looking through the books for a suitable game to feature I came across the following game, one I think will amuse an occasional reader of this blog.

Stuart - Bonham,R [C11]
Oxford v Worcester, 1939

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.Nce2 c5 6.c3 Qb6 7.f4 Nc6 8.Nf3 f6 9.f5 cxd4 10.exf6 Nxf6 11.fxe6 dxc3 12.Nxc3 d4 13.Na4 Bb4+ 14.Bd2 Qa5 15.Qb3 Bxd2+ 16.Nxd2 Qe5+ 17.Kd1 Bxe6 18.Qxb7 0-0 19.Qxc6 Rac8 20.Qa6 Nd5 21.Nf3 Ne3+ 22.Ke1 Nxg2+ 23.Kd1 Rxf3 24.Bxg2 Rf2 25.Bd5 Qxd5 0-1

Sunday, 20 May 2007

It's not all doom and gloom

Despite the tenor of the posts (both here and elsewhere) concerning the ACT Chess Association Annual General Meeting, the make up of the ACTCA doesn't really effect chess in Canberra that much. The main reason is that Canberra has a group of volunteers who are willing to work hard and organise events, no matter which way the politics goes.
Indeed the last few years has seen a divergence between what I would call 'hard workers' and the ACTCA executive, with the notable exceptions of Paul Dunn (Doeberl Cup) and Shun Ikeda (ANU Open), who held executive positions.
Major ACT events such as the Doeberl Cup, ANU Open, Vikings Weekender, Street Chess, Australian Open, and Australian Junior Championships have been organised without the ACTCA's assistance. This is normally by organisers choice, although in the rare instance of the ACTCA being asked to organise an event (as the ACF did re the 2006-07 Australian Open), the ACTCA has stated it is unable to.
But chess in Canberra still happens, as you can see in the picture above. People like Shervin Rafizadeh still run Street Chess every Saturday morning in City Walk, the ANU Open still gets held every July, and the ANU Chess Club still provides a well lit, quiet and friendly place to play chess every Wednesday night.
And while it would be nice that the people in Canberra who actually organise these activities get to use their skills in ACT chess administration, it's not the end of the world if they don't.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Charles Watson

During the week a review copy of Capablanca In The United Kingdom (1911-1920) by Vlastimil Fiala turned up in my mailbox. A review of this book will appear in time (in Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly), but it did trigger my memory of the Australian chess player Charles Watson.
While Watson isn't a forgotten figure in Australian Chess, the fact that he only played one international tournament, and was soon overshadowed by the next generation of players (Purdy, Koshnitsky, Steiner), means that his career is often overlooked when discussing great Australian chess players.
His one international tournament was the 1922 London International Chess Congress, which was won by Capablanca, with Alekhine second and Vidmar 3rd. Watson himself finished 15th in the field of 16 (with 4.5 points), but did score wins over Marotti (ITA), Morrison (CAN), many times British Champion H.E Atkins (GBR), and most famously Richard Reti (CZE).
Here is his game against Capablanca, which may have been the first between an Australian player and a reigning World Champion.

Watson,C - Capablanca,J [D02]
London London (12), 1922

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.d4 d5 3.Bf4 c5 4.e3 Nc6 5.c3 Qb6 6.Qc1 Bf5 7.Nh4 Be4 8.Nd2 e6 9.f3 Bg6 10.Nxg6 hxg6 11.Nb3 c4 12.Nd2 Nh5 13.Be2 Nxf4 14.exf4 Bd6 15.g3 g5 16.Qc2 gxf4 17.0-0-0 Qa5 18.Bxc4 dxc4 19.Nxc4 Qd5 20.Qb3 0-0-0 21.Nxd6+ Qxd6 22.g4 Rh3 23.Rhf1 Rxh2 24.Qa4 Rdh8 25.Qb5 Qd5 26.Qa4 Rg2 27.Qa3 Rhh2 28.Rd3 Rc2+ 29.Kd1 Qc4 30.Qf8+ Kc7 31.Qxf7+ Kb6 32.Qg6 Qxa2 0-1

Friday, 18 May 2007

Kasparov on Lateline

Former World Champion Gary Kasparov appeared on the ABC current affairs program Lateline last night (17th May 2007). He was interviewed by the program host Tony Jones about the political scene in Russia.
I only caught the end of the interview (as I was watching Family Guy on another station!), but i found the following comment interesting.

TONY JONES: You've often said that one of the greatest assets of a chess player is the ability to see the whole board. And you've made the point that the United States at the present moment is so fixated on the disaster that its created in Iraq that it is not seeing the whole board. It's ignoring what's happening in Russia. Is that generally the case throughout the world?

GARRY KASPAROV: It's even worse. Just recently Condoleezza Rice was here a couple of days ago in Moscow and there are statements after seeing Putin and other top officials was quite simple, that United States, she said, would ignore Russian opinion on missiles in Europe, missile defence system and on Kosovo, while the United States would not interfere in Russian domestic affairs at the time of the election. Basically she said the way Russians select their government is their own business.

So that's a trade, that's a deal. That's what Putin wanted. He creates an illusion of the Cold War. He puts pressure on America and on Europe and he expects them to give him concessions on domestic politics. And at the time when Europe is raising its voice, Angela Merkel, is making very strong statements trying to corner Putin with his oppressive domestic politics. The United States walks away, which it's probably the worst thing, because the double standards that's the worst promotion of democracy. If America is saying about its attempts to build up democracy in Iraq, how can they sacrifice the concept of democracy in Russia?

The full transcript of the interview is available here.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Red State, Blue State

The ACT Chess Association AGM was held last night (16th May). Now I know chess politics is increadibly boring, even for those involved, so I'll keep it brief.
The meeting was held at the Canberra Chess Club premises. I haven't been there previously, but it is incredibly noisy, making a lot of the meeting discussion hard to follow. I can understand why it was considered an inappropriate venue for the ACT Chess Championship, but I can't see how it is a suitable venue for any chess tournament.
Dr Stepehen Mugford, chief organiser of the 2006-07 Australian Open, stood for election for the position of ACTCA President. As a number of executive members were standing down, Stephen felt that now was the time to inject some new blood, and new ideas, into ACT Chess. Unfortunately Stephen had a previous business commitment interstate last night and could not attend in person, but his nomination was accepted in his absence.
I read a statement on his behalf laying out his experience in management, both in sports and in business. I also informed the meeting of Stephens success in attracting sponsorship to chess activities in Canberra ($20,000+ in the last year), something that Stephen was too modest to state himself.
Incumbent President Mos Ali was also nominated. Sadly he started his case for re-election by smearing his opponent, and only stopped when challenged by an outraged member of the audience. He defended his approach by indicating that in an election, "anything goes".
A paper ballot was used for the election and at the close of counting the vote was tied 13-13. After some confusion Mos Ali used what I believe to be his casting vote to re-elect himself as President.
The rest of the meeting was somewhat of an anti-climax with the positions of Vice-President and Secretary filled unopposed, the position of Treasurer left vacant when no one was nominated, and the Junior Rep position filled by a reluctant Shun Ikeda.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Writing for Chess Magazines

Usually hard work, especially for the reward.
At the moment I write for one magazine, Australian Chess, and I write and edit another magazine, Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly (ACCQ).
For Australian Chess I usually write a regular column, Open and Shut, and the occasional feature. The current issue of Australian Chess contains both, although the fact that I had written a feature (on the Doeberl Cup) did come as a surprise to me. The magazine editor Brian Jones had quite skillfully put together my posts from this blog on the Doeberl Cup (click on the archive link for the originals) into a full report on the tournament! If only all my articles were so easy to write.
As for ACCQ this is still hard work. If you are anxiously waiting for the May issue, I can tell you it is at the printers and will be sent out shortly. Meanwhile, here is a game that came from an article on the Danish Gambit which I wrote for the current issue.

Bird,H - Lasker,E [C21]
Newcastle upon Tyne, 1892

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 cxb2 5.Bxb2 Qg5 6.Nf3 Qxg2 [As the text move leads to an almost forced loss, the following may be Blacks most sensible choice. 6...Qg6 7.0-0 d6 (7...Qxe4?? 8.Re1) 8.Nc3 Bg4? (8...c6 preventing the knight from reaching d5 appears to be Blacks best choice, although the lack of development must be a worry. 9.Nh4 is one way that White can strive for an advantage, inviting the following plausible, but flawed continuation. 9...Qg4 10.Nf5 Qxd1 11.Raxd1 Bxf5 12.exf5 d5 looks good at first glance but now White simply crashes through. 13.Bxd5!! cxd5 14.Nxd5+-) 9.Nd5±] 7.Rg1 Bb4+ [7...Qh3 8.Bxf7+] 8.Ke2! Qh3 9.Bxf7+ Kd8 [9...Kxf7 10.Ng5+] 10.Bxg7 Ne7 11.Ng5 Qh4 12.Ne6# 1-0

On Blog Comments

Obviously a couple of posts in the last few days have piqued some interest, judging by the activity in the comments section. As an avid reader of blogs (mainly political ones), I have seen that a busy comment section adds to the attraction of a blog, and indicates that the blog is "working".
The other benefit of the comment section is it allows you to ask questions or inform me of any errors I have made in my posts. Unlike Bulletin Boards, blogging is more of a one-way activity, where one person speaks, and everyone else listens. But if you want to engage me in a discussion on anything I've written, posting in the comment section is the way to go.
But there is one caveat. I normally only engage online with people who's identity I know. That's not the same as me knowing you, just that I know who you are. I've found over the years that this has allowed me to avoid getting into senseless slanging matches with big hairy creatures who live under bridges. Of course if you would just like to comment without the expectation of a reply, anonymity is fine by me.

ACT Chess Association AGM

Just a quick reminder for readers from Canberra and surrounding regions. The ACT Chess Association Annual General Meeting is on this evening at 8:00pm in the City Club, Garema Place, Canberra City. I encourage all ACTCA members to get along to this meeting.
Probably the most important activity will be the election of office bearers. I know that Stephen Mugford is standing for President, and hopefully he will be elected to that position.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Zonal Titles

Having spoken to IA Gary Bekker, the following titles from the 2007 Oceania Zonal will be awarded. In the Open Zonal the IM title goes to Puchen Wang (NZ). The FM titles go to Gene Nakauchi (AUS) and James Morris (AUS). The CM (Candidate Master) titles were earned by Max Illingworth (AUS), and Alex Mendes da Costa (AUS).
In the Womens Zonal Alexandra Jule (AUS) earns the WIM title, while Sue Maroroa (NZ) and Rebecca Harris (AUS) become WFM's. The CM titles go to Vivian Smith (NZ), and Imelda Flores (PNG).
Both Igor Goldenberg and Bob Smith earned IM norms, and as this is a zonal, these count as 20 game norms.

There has been some debate about the tie break systems used. The tie breaks used were specified in the FIDE Handbook in Section D.1.01 World Championship General Provision
Subsection 5.1.17 describes the standard tie-break regulations as follows

For Swiss tournaments where the players involved have all played only against rated opponents, after eliminating the lowest rated opponent, find the sum of opponents` ratings. The highest total wins. If still tied, eliminate the rating of the next lowest rated opponent(s) until a decision is possible.

1. For other Swiss tournaments, the sum of progressive scores. The highest total wins. If still tied, deduct the first round score, and if necessary the second round and so on.
2. For other tournaments, including Round Robins, elimination of scores against opponents in the lowest final score-group. The highest total wins. If still tied, eliminate scores from the next lowest final score-group, and so on. If the tie remains unbroken, decide by lot.

For the IM title in the Open tournament the players tied on 6.5 had all played only FIDE rated opponents so the "Sum of Opponents Ratings" was used. For the Womens Zonal this wasn't possible so Sum of Progressive Scores was used. Even then Rebecca Harris and Vivian Smith were still tied, so the first round result was dropped. Now in the first round Harris lost her game, while Smith had drawn. This meant that Harris edged out Smith for the second FM title.
Now what is odd about the Harris-Smith tie break is the Sum of Progressive Scores is supposed to reward players who start off with a high score, indicating that they are likely to play a harder field in later rounds. So dropping the first round doesn't make any sense in this system. Surely dropping the final round seems more logical. The organisers plan to ask FIDE about this.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Soft Titles

Hand in hand with the Oceania Zonal (either this years or previous ones) is the debate about "soft" titles. Under current FIDE regulations players that score 66% or above are eligible for an IM (International Master) title, while players that score 50% or above are eligible for an FM (FIDE Master) title.
However, since Zonals moved from being exclusively Round Robin to big open swisses, there were a couple of instances where large numbers of titles were awarded. Not just in Oceania (which is the example most often quoted), but also in a Central American Zonal. Consequently FIDE regulations only allow the awarding of 1 IM title, and 2 FM titles per Zonal. But even under these restricted conditions there is still a debate about whether the IM/FM title is being devalued.
So to my thoughts ....
This debate is only occasionally about the IM title. This is because by and large, the players who have earned their IM titles at the Oceania Zonal have gone on to, or already were, that strength. In the case of young Australian IM's David Smerdon and Zong-Yuan Zhao, both earned their titles at Zonal's, both played Olympiad chess for Australia, and both have GM norms under their belts Smerdon has 2 GM norms under his belt, and both will probably earn the GM title in the near future.
It is the FM title that seems to generate the most discussion. This is because there appears to be a division between "real" FM's and "zonal" FM's. The "real" FM earned their title the hard way, ie by getting their rating over 2300, while the "zonal" FM picked up their title due to FIDE watering down the title regulations in an effort to generate more cash. And the "real" FM's resent having to share the title. Or at least that is how it seems to me.
However, this description doesn't cover everything.
Way back when (prior to the late 70's), the FM title was a norm based title, earned in the same way as the IM and GM title. But in the late 70's FIDE decided to change the way titles were earned, in part due to the perception that it was too easy to get an IM or GM title. So they increased the performance ratings required for IM and GM norms. But at the same time they changed the rules for an FM title to make it a ratings based, rather than performance based, title. It was still hard to earn, but easier than it had been previously, especially if FIDE ratings inflation is taken into account.
By the early 80's it also suited FIDE to make it easier to earn titles, especially FM titles, as a way of spreading the reach of chess into "non-traditional" areas such as Africa and Asia. This also extended to the ratings system as players could earn FIDE ratings by scoring 50% in Olympiads, Asian Cities etc etc
I suspect the increased spread of FM titles isn't the real money maker that people suppose, as payment to FIDE is a one off, and then you have the title for life. Instead the real money maker is the number of players on the rating list, and awarding of titles was more a way of improving the standing of chess in that country, and consequently getting more players onto the ratings list.
Over the years FIDE have made it easier to earn the FM title, which is now held by an estimated 4,700 players around the world. And while this has suited FIDE's globalist agenda, it has devalued the title.
Having said that, different players seem to attach different values to the title anyway. In the early 90's the Doeberl Cup (of which I was an organiser), decided to extend discounts to FIDE Masters. IM' and GM's received free entry, while FM's entered for half price. This was motivated by a discussion I had had with FM Craig Laird about what recognition FM's received compared to other titled players. So we tried it for a few years in the hope that FM's would feel rewarded and play. In fact they didn't. There was no increase in the number of FM's entering after the scheme was introduced, and around the time of the 1998 Oceania Zonal when a whole raft of "zonal" FM's were created, we dropped the idea. Also a number of players who were eligible for the title didn't bother to apply, on the grounds that it wasn't a "real" title.
At the time I wrote an editorial for "Australian Chess Forum" lamenting the cheapening of the title, especially the effect it had on titles earned by Eddy Levi or Max Fuller. And I still stick with this position.
Nonetheless I feel the major opponents of "cheap" FM titles are doing it out of a belief that the "FM club" should be an exclusive club, for themselves and other strong players, possibly ignoring the fact that even when they earned the title it had become even easier than for the previous generation.

Now for my own disclaimer. At the Bled FIDE Congress (2002), FIDE changed the rules for the FM title. Players who scored 66% or above in future olympiads (2004 onward) would be awarded the FM title. Now I happened to score 6/9 at the Bled Olympiad (playing for PNG). So my timing was out in terms of earning the title. In the 2004 Olympiad I managed to score 0/14 (you can look up those reasons yourself), while in Turin I again fell short.
However at the Turin Congress the Titles commission ruled on a couple of FM applications for results prior to 2004 and decided to accept them. Commision member Stewart Rueben then told me that all Olympiad results back to 1976 are now eligible for consideration re FM titles, so apparently my Bled result counts. However this change has yet to make it into the FIDE hand book, so I am holding off on my application. And to be honest I have considered not applying, but in watching the debate about "cheap" titles I have seen how precious some people consider "their" FM title. So I figure that if such a title is so valuable I'd be a fool not to grab one for myself.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

2007 Oceania Zonal - Congrats Zong-Yuan Zhao

The 2007 Oceania Zonal finished yesterday, with Australian IM Zong-Yuan Zhao finishing outright first on 7/9. Zhao defeated James Morris (AUS) in the final round, while each of his closest challengers could only draw. The win qualifies Zhao for the next stage of the FIDE World Championship series.
In equal second were Puchen Wang (NZ), Igor Goldenberg (AUS) and Bob Smith (NZ), all on 6.5 points. It is not entirely clear which tie break system was used for the tournament (and FIDE regulations leave the choice up to the organisers) so I am not sure which players earn which titles (1 IM and 2 FM's) . If the ordering on the website is based on the tournament tie-breaks then the IM title goes to New Zealand Champion Puchen Wang, while FM titles are awarded to Australian juniors Gene Nakauchi and James Morris.
The Womens Zonal was a little more clearcut with IM Irinia Berezina leading from start to finish, scoring an undefeated 7.5 points. Outright second was Alexandra Jule on 6.5, which means that she will become a WIM. Again, based on the published standings Sue Maroroa and Rebecca Harris become WFM's, with Viv Smith being the unlucky player to miss out.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Oceania Zonal 2007 - With 1 round to go

The final round of the 2007 Oceania Zonal is being played today, and there are a number of players still in with a chance of finishing first. After 8 rounds 4 players share the lead on 6 points. They are IM Zong-Yuan Zhao (AUS), FM Igor Goldenberg (AUS), FM Puchen Wang (NZ) and FM Bob Smith (NZ). For the FM's reaching 6 points is also the first step in earning an IM title, although FIDE rules only allow the awarding of one such title in an Open Zonal. This means that the highest scoring player, or the player with the highest tiebreak in case of a tie, will get the title.
Interestingly, none of the 4 leaders play each other in Round 9, meaning that the final round is likely to be played for "keeps". IM Zong-Yuan Zhao has the easiest pairing of the 4, with White against James Morris (AUS). Igor Goldenberg has it tough against IM David Smerdon, and Bob Smith will find it hard against a motivated ex NZ international (now representing Australia) Igor Bjelobrk. Puchen Wang is playing fellow NZ player Stephen Lukey, in a game where Wang is favourite.
So my fearless final round prediction is that Zhao and Wang will both win, with Wang earning an IM title, and Zhao finishing with the better tie-break.
In the Womens Zonal, IM Irina Berezina (AUS) is a full point ahead of Alexandra Jule (AUS), and therefore only needs a draw against WIM Nancy Lane to take outright first. I suspect that this will be the outcome of that game. Jule is playing Imelda Flores (PNG), and given her form I expect Jule to at least draw that game. Jule already has enough points for the WIM title, but a draw would make that a certainty, as there is a group of players on 5 points. Given the small size of the Womens Zonal field, there are a couple of pairings that almost guarantee at least 2, and possibly 3, players will reach 6 points.

Friday, 11 May 2007

When should you resign?

While following the Oceania Zonal from Fiji, I came across the following game between IM David Smerdon and Gene Nakauchi. Nakauchi has been the real surprise of the tournament so far, but was outclassed by Smerdon in this game. Before I looked at the actual moves it appeared to be a hard fought game, due to it's length. However, when I played through the moves I realised it was something altogether different.
In the first position, reached after 42 moves, Smerdon is clearly winning, as Black cannot stop the a pawn from Queening. Nonetheless Nakauchi decides to play on, allowing Smerdon to to reach the position in the final diagram. By this stage it was move 69.
Now I don't know what transpired at the board during this process (as I am thousands of kilometres away), but I am sure it provoked some interesting looks and comments from the spectators present.
For the record I think players can play on, no matter how ridiculous the position is, but in doing so they run the risk of their opponent making them look even more ridiculous. That's just the risk you take.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Useful Chessbase Stuff

Over the last few days I've discovered some useful Chessbase stuff. Firstly a new version of ChessBase Light has just been released (hat tip to Milan Ninchich for this info). The previous version of ChessBase Light (free as in beer!) is about 10 years old, so I guess it was time for an upgrade.
The new Chessbase Light (click on the link for info) looks more like Chessbase 8, and has plenty of cool features. The obvious restrictions still apply, although the database size has been increased to 32,000 games. The downside is that the old version was about 1MB in size, while the new one is 40MB.
The other bonus, at least for me, is that it is happy to use my copy of Fritz 8 as an analysis engine, while my full copy of Chessbase 8 insists I insert the original Fritz 8 CD, and then refuses to recognise it.
The other useful ChessBase link is the ChessBase and Correspondence Workshop. This is a multipart series, so you may have to do a search on the ChessBase website to find all the parts. Even if you aren't a correspondence player, a lot of the advice is useful if you are using ChessBase to manage your opening repertoire.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Oceania Zonal 2007 - Halfway

The 2007 Oceania Zonal has reached the halfway point, with 4 players sharing the lead. Top seed IM Zong-Yuan Zhao (AUS) is on 4 points, along with IM hopefuls Puchen Wang (NZ), Igor Goldenberg (AUS) and Igor Bjelobrk (AUS).
On 3.5 points are Bob Smith (NZ), IM Gary Lane (AUS), and the real tournament surprise Gene Nakauchi (AUS). Nakauchi is the Australian Under 12 champion and is so far undefeated, starting the event with 3 draws before defeating PNG No.1 Stuart Fancy in Rd 4, and James Morris (AUS) in Rd 5.
At this stage Zhao looks to be the favourite, as I suspect the other leaders are also thinking about the best way to score the 6+ points needed to earn the IM title. Already a couple of draws between IM hopefuls have taken place, and like the middle overs of a 1 day cricket game, risk-free chess may be the plan.
In the Womens Zonal, IM Irinia Berezina has a handy 1 point lead with 4.5/5. Second place is shared by Sue Maroroa (NZ), Alexandra Jule (AUS) and Vivian Smith (NZ).

Games up until Rd 4 are available for download here. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
One interesting game was between Stephen Lukey (NZ) and IM David Smerdon (AUS). Choosing the Rb1 variation in the Exchange Gruenfeld (always a tough line to meet as Black), Lukey decides to sacrifice on move 14 with Bxf7+, and the game ends in a draw by perpetual.

Lukey,S (2290) - Smerdon,D (2453) [D85]
Oceania zt Nadi Fiji (3.3), 07.05.2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Rb1 c5 8.Nf3 Qa5 9.Rb5 Qxc3+ 10.Bd2 Qa3 11.Qc2 c4 12.Bxc4 Na6 13.e5 Bf5 14.Bxf7+ Kxf7 15.Qc4+ Ke8 16.Ng5 Bh6 17.Qf7+ Kd8 18.Qd5+ Ke8 19.Qf7+ Kd8 20.Qd5+ Ke8 ½-½

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Oceania Zonal 2007 - Rd 4 update

At the end of Round 4 Puchen Wang (NZ) and Igor Goldenberg (AUS) were joint leaders on 3.5/4. Goldenberg held tournament top seed IM Zong-Yuan Zhao (AUS) to a draw in round 4, while Wang defeated IM Gary Lane (AUS).
In the Womens Zonal, IM Irina Berezina (AUS) leads with 3.5/4, half a point ahead of Sue Maroroa (NZ), Rebecca Harris (AUS), and Alexandra Jule (AUS).
Round 5 is being played today and hopefully there will be some updates later this evening.
Games from Round 1&2 are also available from the official website.
Round 1 saw an instructive clash between tournament top seed Zong-Yuan Zhao, and Fiji's top player, Manoj Kumar.

Zhao,Z (2476) - Kumar,M (2028) [C42]
Oceania zt Nadi Fiji (1.1), 06.05.2007
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0-0 0-0 8.c4 c6 9.Qc2 Bg4 10.Ne5 Bxe5 11.dxe5 Na6 12.Bxe4 dxe4 13.Qxe4 Be6 14.b3 Nc5 15.Qe3 Nd7 16.Bb2 Qh4 17.Nd2 Rfd8 18.Ne4 Nf8 19.f4 Qh6 20.Nd6 Rd7 21.Rad1 Rc7 22.Qe4 Qh4 23.Qe3 Qh6 24.Qe2 Bd7 25.f5 Be8 26.Rd3 Re7 27.e6 fxe6 28.Rh3 Qg5 29.Rg3 Qh5 30.Qxh5 Bxh5 31.f6 Rc7 32.f7+ 1-0

Monday, 7 May 2007

Oceania Zonal 2007 - Rd 3

The Oceania Zonal website has been updated with latest information available here.
After 3 rounds in the Open, Igor Goldenberg (AUS) is the sole leader on 3 points. He defeated joint leader Michael Steadman (NZ) in Rd 3, while the other leaders Zong-Yuan Zhao and Puchen Wang drew their game.
In the Womens Zonal Irina Berezina leads on 3/3 (no surprise there) ahead of Sue Maroroa (NZ) and Keiren Lyons (FIJ) on 2.5. PNG Representative Imelda Flores is in equal 4th on 2/3, although she had already played the top 2 seeds, defeating WIM Nancy Lane in Rd 1 before losing to Berezina in Rd 2.
While scanning for news of the event I saw a report of two rather large earthquakes in the vicinity of Fiji earlier today. Clearly this has had no effect on the tournament.

Random News

I had hoped to do some blogging about the Oceania Zonal, but the website is a little slow in updating. If news comes through from Fiji I'll try and post something.
Instead I decided to trawl through various chess news from around the world. There have been a couple of big events held/about to start in the shape of the Aronian-Kramnik match and the Mtel Masters, but some other items struck me.
The Hindu is reporting that 7 year old Harshal Sahi has become the countries youngest FIDE rated player. I'm not sure whether this is a credit to the Indian chess scene or an indictment on the FIDE ratings system, so I'll let you decide. Full article is here.
A small article in the Wall Street Journal titled
Chess Teaches Kids Skills, But Not the Ones Claimed looks interesting. It addresses the claims that chess is a shortcut to becoming smarter, and looks at it with a skeptical eye.
And in somewhat minor news, Gary Kasparov has been named as one of Time magazines 100 most influential people for the year. While this list also includes Hillary Clinton and comedian Sascha Baron Cohen (in the guise of Borat), at least he doesn't have to share the honour with George W. Bush, whose influence didn't even extend to the editors of Time.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Can Queenslanders get anything right?

Last round of the Super 14 Rugby competition this weekend, and after last weekends win, the ACT Brumbies still had a mathematical chance of making the playoffs. They kept their chances alive with a win over the Otago Highlanders, scoring the required 4th try 3 minutes after the final siren sounded. All they needed was the Queensland Reds to beat the Bulls in Sth Africa.
Now while this wasn't likely, as the Queensland Reds were coming last, they could have at least made a game of it. And for the first few minutes they did, leaping to a 3-nil lead. Unfortunately this was the extent of their resistance, as the Bulls scored 92 unanswered points to score a record 92-3 win. So the Bulls made the playoffs, the Brumbies miss out, and the Reds add to the list of Queensland sporting screw ups.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Why play at a chess club?

In the comments section attached to the post "Why do we have chess clubs?", Matt Phelps from the Metrowest Chess Club (Massachusetts, US) provided a link to an information sheet that they provide to prospective (or tentative members). The sheet addresses the differences between online chess and club chess, as well as issues such as "Why shouldn't I be afraid to play at the club (because I am !)?"
The address of this particular sheet is to big to fit on the screen, so just click here.
The link to the homepage for the club is
Also worth looking at are the "Knowledge and FAQs" section which contains a number of resources that may be useful to players and organisers.
Many thanks Matt.

Friday, 4 May 2007

More Chess Photos - 2006 Olympiad

I've been going back through my collection of digital photos and have uploaded a whole lot of pictures I took at the 2006 Chess Olympiad. Although the immediacy of the event has passed, I figure that some people would still be interested in looking at them.
You can either access them by clicking on the "My Chess Photos" link on the left, or go straight to the gallery by clicking here.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Why do we have chess clubs?

(This is a follow up to my March post "Why do we play chess?")

Having decided to play chess, the next logical step is to find someone to play chess against. Initially this may be a family member, a work colleague, or someone else who you are already in contact with who can play chess. While this is often a convenient arrangement in the short term, it often doesn't stand the test of time.
In my case my regular opponent was my father, until I began to beat him, at which point he decided that Backgammon was much more interesting. (To be fair to my father, he had already won the ACT Backgammon Championship a few years before he began to lose to me at chess).
Therefore there is a requirement to find other opponents. In the olden days (ie before 1985), the most obvious place was the local chess club, if one existed. In fact, it was about the only place you could find opponents, unless you took up correspondence chess. However, the development of chess computers, and then the growth of online chess, meant that you didn't need to go to a chess club to find useful opponents. This also had other benefits as well, in that you could play anonymously, protecting your fragile ego if you lost.
On the other hand, by not playing at a chess club you lose the social aspect of face to face chess. And by a rather circuitous route I've reached my answer to my initial question.
The main reason we have chess clubs today (as opposed to the past) is to provide a social environment for chess players. Having said that however, my belief is that a lot of chess clubs are failing to provide this. And consequently their numbers are starting to drop off.
While I'll continue this commentary at some point in the future, I'll suggest for now that for a club to increase it's numbers, it needs to revisit what demand it is trying to fill, and to see if that demand still exists.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Oceania Zonal 2007 - Preview

The 2007 Oceania Zonal is only a couple of days away. The event starts on Sunday 6th May and runs until the 12th May. You can follow the results and games at the tournament website
At the moment the Open Zonal has 30 entries, with half the field from Australia. The leading players are IM's David Smerdon, Zhong-Yuan Zhao, Gary Lane and Vladimir Feldman. There is also a group of players keen to earn either an IM title (for scoring 66% or better), or an FM title (for scoring 50% or better). Due to past rule changes, only 1 IM title and 2 FM titles can be earned.
My pre-tournament tip to win the Zonal is IM David Smerdon. He had a couple of good tournaments over the last 2 months (Bangkok and Doeberl), and although he had a mixed Sydney International Open, he has the drive to take first place. His main challenge should come from IM Zhong-Yuan Zhao, who had a phenomenal Australian Open earlier this year.
As for the players earning the titles I think that FM Puchen Wang (NZ) should become an IM, narrowly beating out the two Igors, Goldenberg and Bjelobrk. As for the FM titles it is a complete lottery, but I would like to see Stuart Fancy (PNG) and Michael Steadman (NZ) pick those up.
The Women's Zonal has a smaller field of 14 players. IM Irena Berezina is the clear favourite for this event I would be very surprised if she doesn't win. The surprise packet of the tournament may turn out to be Imelda Flores (PNG) who is returning to tournament chess after a long layoff. She had previously represented the Phillipines at the 1996 Olympiad before moving to PNG, who she now represents. Apart from Flores, Vivian Smith has a good chance of scoring an IM title, with Alexandra Jule my tip to earn an FM title.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Visualisation Exercises

I believe it was CJS Purdy who stated that you need to look at "All checks and captures" before you even begin to analyse your likely moves. While such advice seems obvious, it's simplicity makes it easy for players to ignore. Many a game has been lost in the rush of excitement when your opponent plays an unexpected check.
One simple training exercise is to choose a game and start to play through it. The first time you play through it, simply list all the checks and captures that can be played on the move. Do this for the whole game. Once you have played through a few games and are confident you aren't missing anything, move onto the next level.
The next level consists of visualising the next move, but don't play it on the board. Then list all the checks and captures that can be played in reply to the game move. Again, do it for a number of games, until you feel confident.
Then once you've mastered that you can extend to 2,3 4 or more half-moves ahead. In doing this exercise you develop two skills. Firstly you improve your visualisation skills by keeping a new position in your head, and secondly, you develop your tactical awareness.
If you need a game to give you a kick start here is one between Vasilly Smyslov and a very young Boris Spassky

Smyslov - Spassky [B76]
clock simul Soviet Union, 1948
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 Qa5 11.Bc4 Rd8 12.Kb1 Be6 13.Bxe6 fxe6 14.h4 Rac8 15.h5 b5 16.hxg6 hxg6 17.Qg5 e5 (D)
For example, in the diagrammed position White has 1 check (Rh8+) and 6 captures (Qxg6, Qxf6, Qxe5, Bxe5, Bxa7, and Nxb5). If you were looking 1 half move ahead (after White plays Qxg6) you would see that Black has 1 check (Qxa2+) and 5 captures (Qxa2, Qxc3, Rxc3, exd4 and Nxe4)
18.Qxg6 exd4 19.Nd5 Rd7 20.Rh3 Qd8 21.Rdh1 1-0