Saturday, 30 June 2007

Australian Open 2006-07 Finances

In the most recent Australian Chess Federation Newsletter, the ACF has called for bids for the 2007-08 Australian Championship. Of course this is not the first time the ACF has called for bids for this event, an technically the bids for this event closed 12 months ago (ie 30 June 2006).
But as of this moment no one has shown any real interest in hosting this event, and the ACF has offered to underwrite to event to the tune of $2,000 and allow the organisers too keep all the profit. This is a change from previous years where the ACF has insisted that organisers carry all the losses, but split the profit 50-50 with the ACF. Desperate times, desperate men I guess.
Of course the last Australian Open (2006-07) ran under the model of the ACF carry all the risk, but retain all the profit, which I think is the model the ACF should have always had.
For those thinking of putting in a bid (as well as those lying in wait to criticise whatever bid is accepted), here are some figures from the 2006-07 Australian Open. The initial bid based based on a total of 230 players entering. This was made up of 150 in the Open plus 40 players each in the Major and Minor. The Seniors event was not part of the bid and was therefore a self funded event (as was the Lightning event). In the end the event attracted less than 50% of that estimate, with only 104 players entering the 3 events. Consequently there was always going to be a shortfall, especially as the total budget came to $30,442
So how much was that loss. In the end it was only $4,719 which isn't bad considering the low entries. If we had had the budgeted numbers of players (ie an extra 126 players) then the tournament would have run at a considerable profit.
And that is what a poorly attend (but well run) national tournament cost the ACF. Although curiously the ACF themselves could have reduced the loss a lot further. At the Australian Schools Teams Championship in December 2006, incoming ACF President Gary Wastell asked me what the ACF could do to help make the tournament a success. "Simple" I replied. "Just get each member of the ACF Council to enter the tournament". In the end only 2 council members (IIRC) actually entered the event (ACTCA President Mos Ali and CAWA President John Fedec) meaning that at least 11 did not. This could have reduced the ACF's loss by $1,980. Gary Wastell didn't seem to take my suggestion seriously, and I assume it wasn't followed up.
But a word of caution to any prospective organisers. The ACF has very high standards you need to meet. During the Australian Open Gary Wastell called me "incompetent" not once but twice. So I guess the ACF won't be looking for my help in the future.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Harry Potter teaches Chess

As part of the relentless "Harry Potter" marketing machine, there is the "Harry Potter Chess" magazine. It is one of these magazine series where each issue builds into an entire collection of encyclopedias/handy man library/killer robot. In this case not only do you get a magazine but you also get part of a "Harry Potter Chess Set". The only catch is that the set consists of 47 issues, costing a total of $462. Nonetheless I bought the 1st and 3rd issues.
Why don't I have the second issue? Basically I couldn't find it in the newsagents. At first I assumed it was because they only stock issue 1 and then you have to sign up for the rest over the phone/web, but this wasn't the case. The newsagents where I got issue 3 said that they "sell like hot cakes", and they had no issue 2 in stock.
This then is hopefully good news for generating for chess players in this country. Instead of the "Fischer" generation of the 70's we may end up with the the "Potter" generation of the 10's, although it doesn't have quite the same ring.

And by the way. For those that want to know what happens at the end of the next Harry Potter book, a reliable source tells me he gets killed in a skateboarding accident.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Dortmund and Aerosvit

Two big international events are taking place, although there is an overlap between the two. Dortmund 2007 is half way through, while the Aerosvit tournament in the Ukraine, is almost complete.
While both events are probably Category 100 or so, the Dortmund event is probably the "A" event due the participation of Anand, Carlsen, Kramnik, and Leko, although a "B" event containing Ivanchuk, Karjakin, Shirov and Svidler isn't too shabby.
Click on the above links for current standings.

Fellow ANU Chess Club member Andrey Bliznyuk tipped me off about the following game between Karjakin and Van Wely from the Aerosvit tournament. As I believe the Sicilian Defence only exists to give 1.e4 players a chance to practice their King-side attacks, I found it quite enjoyable.

Karjakin,S (2686) - Van Wely,L (2674) [B90]
Aerosvit Foros UKR (7), 25.06.2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nf3 Be7 8.Bc4 0-0 9.0-0 Nc6 10.Re1 b5 11.Bf1 Rb8 12.Bg5 Ng4 13.Bc1 Qb6 14.Qd2 Nf6 15.h3 Re8 16.Qd1 h6 17.b3 Bf8 18.a4 b4 19.Nd5 Nxd5 20.exd5 Na5 21.Be3 Qc7 22.Nd2 f5 23.Nc4 Be7 24.Qh5 Rf8 25.Nxa5 Qxa5 26.Bxh6 gxh6 27.Qg6+ Kh8 28.Qxh6+ Kg8 29.Qg6+ Kh8 30.Re3 f4 (D)
31.Rxe5 dxe5 32.Qh6+ Kg8 33.d6 Rf7 34.Bc4 Bf5 35.dxe7 1-0

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Choose your (opponents) move

I'm a big fan of the "Choose Your Move" magazine articles. I find that they are a fun exercise, both as a player and a coach. The only difficulty is having someone to do it with. I know that they are intended to be done as a solo exercise, but the mechanics of covering up future moves can be a little annoying, and difficult to always get right.
Even if you have a partner, one person often feels left out, as the solver seems to have all the fun. But there is a related exercise that can involve both players.
The following coaching technique was shown to me by Julian Mott, who ran the first junior chess club that I joined as a teenager.

Simply play a normal game of chess, either without clocks, or with a reasonably generous time lime (G/20 or above). When you write down your move, also write down what you expect your opponents reply to be as well. Both of you can do this for every move of the game. At the end you can compare who got the most predictions right.
For experienced players this just may be a function of knowing the other persons game. But for newer players it helps build up the discipline to anticipate an opponents reply to your move. Too many beginners go for the "hit and hope" strategy, rather than the "if I go here, then he goes there" approach. By using this method, hopefully new players will build a more all-round understanding of the game at an earlier age.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

ANU Open 2007 - Venue

The organisers of the ANU Open (28th & 29th July 2007) have confirmed that this years event will be held at Fenner Hall, 210 Northbourne Ave, Braddon. For those that played in the ANU Open or Doeberl Cup around the turn of the century (doesn't that sound old!), this will be a familiar venue for you, but for those that haven't, it is located on the main avenue to Canberra City, as you approach from the north.
Fenner Hall is located close to accommodation with the Canberra Rex Hotel across the road. It is less than 5 minutes drive from Canberra City, or at most 15 minutes walk. There are plenty of places to stay in Canberra City, including the City Walk Hotel, or the Novotel.
The main reason for the venue change was that hailstone damage to the previous venue
(Canberra School of Art) meant we were unable to access parts of the building that we had previously used. Nonetheless the move to Fenner Hall will allow us to provide better facilities not only for the chess tournament, but also for the Go and Backgammon events.

ACT Under 10's Championship 2007

Congratulations to Bevan Lee, Lucinda Flood and Niranjan Gupte for finishing equal first in the ACT Under 10's Championship. It was a close tournament with half a point separating the top 6 players.
The level of chess was quite high, and before the start of the tournament I felt that any one of the top 8 seeds could win it. In the end the performance that impressed me most was by 9th seed Lucinda Flood. She managed to come back from some dire positions to not only save games, but also win games that I thought were simply lost.
Full results from the event are here. Thanks must go to the organising team headed by Rebekah Gupte, not only for putting the event on, but for getting the results up so quickly.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Best Chess Movie Ever

To be honest, there haven't been that many movies about chess. "Searching for Bobby Fischer" is an obvious example, while "Knight Moves" is an abysmal one. If only Milos Forman (Amadeus) would make the Bobby Fischer bio-pic the world is waiting for.
However, based in what is currently out there, my vote for best chess movie ever is the German film "Black and White, like Day and Night". Made for German TV in 1978 it is the story of a mathematician/computer programmer, Thomas Rosemund (played by Bruno Ganz) who develops a chess playing program, only to have it humiliated on live TV by the World Champion. Vowing revenge, he becomes a chess professional himself and tries to become World Champion.
There are a couple of interesting facets to the story. One is the opening that Rosemunds program tries against the World Champion. After 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2, the program plays 3. ... a6 and the World Champion, followed by the studio audience, begin to laugh. Of course this is a perfectly respectable line, played by Bronstein amongst others.
The other is that the film makers gave Rosemund every documented psychosis in chess history. From fear of his food being poisoned (Morphy), playing God with pawn and move odds (Steinitz), and paranoid conspiracy theories (Fischer), Rosemund appears to be an amalgam of various mad chess players. But rather than detract from the movie, this made it more interesting.
The only problem is getting to see it. The only time I saw it was in 1983 or 84, when it was shown on SBS television in Australia, and I haven't seen it since. If you are fortunate enough to spot a copy, I do recommend you watching it.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Odd Chess Rules

Over the years I've come across a number of "odd" chess rules. Rules that you won't find in any official FIDE Rule Book, but ones which your opponent believes (or even insists) are real chess rules. They are usually supported by the claim that "my father told me" or "I've always played this rule".
My own first experience with "alternative" rules was soon after I learned chess, at the age of 6 or 7. A schoolfriend who taught me claimed that pawns couldn't capture on their first move. This lead to various attempts at smothered mate, usually involving the plan Nb1-c3-e4-d6# This all went well until I tried it on my father, who both took my knight, and taught me the correct rules of chess.
Since then I've come across a number of "rules". Here a a few that I can remember (all of which are untrue btw)

Promotion (All ways a rich vein!)
  • You can only promote to a piece that has already been captured
  • When you promote to a queen you have to put it back on its starting square
  • If you promote the a pawn you must take a rook, b pawn = knight etc (What happens with the e pawn? Two kings?)
  • You have to leave your pawn on the back rank for a move before promoting it
  • Can't castle if your rook is attacked
  • King goes to h1, rook to e1
  • Pawns can capture pieces en-pas
  • En-pas works any time a pawn passes another

and finally my favourite (courtesy of a recent Geurt Gijssen Chess Cafe Column)
  • If you only have a king left, but you manage to get it to the other end of the board, you add an extra rook to your side.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

A Mysterious Disappearance

Anyone who has traveled by road between Sydney and Canberra has passed by the body of water known as Lake George. Although sometimes when you drive past, the lake isn't there at all. Lake George is one of the worlds "disappearing" lakes, one that alternates between full and empty. Why Lake George does this isn't known as yet, and most theories are either simplistic or unconvincing.
In the Canberra chess scene we have a similar phenomenon. Over the last 20 years Canberra has had 3 or 4 senior clubs in operation. At various times some clubs do well, while others do badly. Which clubs these are change over time, sometimes without clear reasons why. Over the last 5 or so years Belconnen Chess Club has been the largest club in Canberra, mainly fueled by a large number of juniors. 40 to 50 player events were common at the club, up until this year that is. This year has seen a marked decline in numbers with fields half the size of previous years. In part this can be attributed to the loss of experienced club organisers, but I'm not convinced this is the entire reason. Usually a (non-acrimonious) change in organisers doesn't drive people out of a club, although it may mean a club fails to attract new members. And from talking to players who still play at the club, nothing has happened to make the club a less attractive place to play.
In years past this might be explained by players moving to other clubs but again this doesn't seem to be happening. The Canberra Chess Club is in an almost terminal decline, while the ANU Chess Club is attracting new members from other areas. And while Tuggeranong chess club has had a good turn out over the past 18 months, its numbers are starting to slide as well.
So what is the cause? Is it that clubs can't expect players to keep turning up, and they need to continually "urge" members to come back next week? Is it that members are simply taking a "short" break, which then extends into a "long" break? Or is it an avalanche effect where the decline in numbers becomes a disincentive for remaining members to stay?
Opinions and comment on this question are most welcome.

Friday, 22 June 2007

PNG Profile - Rupert Jones

For such a small chess playing community, Papua New Guinea has produced some decent administrators, none more so than FM Rupert Jones (pictured here waiting for the Rome-Turin Express).
Rupert was born in Papua New Guinea, and did all his early schooling there until returning to England to start High School. Beginning a career in teaching, he moved to Botswana, and played a pivotal role in developing chess in taht country, as well as other countries in Southern Africa. It is a testament to Ruperts efforts there that Chess is the number 2 sport in Botswana, behind Football, and chess is regular back page news in the countries newspapers.
Having returned to England after more than a decade in Botswana, Rupert plunged into the dicey waters of English chess politics and served as the BCF International Director for a number of years. He also took on the role of the manager of the White Rose 4NCL team, a role that he continues to fill.
On the international scene he is also a member of CACDEC (FIDE's commission for the Assistance of chess in developing countries) and still maintains strong ties with the African chess community.
And despite all this he is a more than useful Board 3 for the Papua New Guinea team at the Chess Olympiad, having also represented Botswana previously.
His debut for the PNG is the Majorca Olympiad in 2004 was pretty spectacular. Having been drafted into the team as a last minute replacement for players who were stranded by visa trouble, he scored an impressive 10/13 earning a FIDE Master title along the way.

Here is one of his games from the 2004 Olympiad, where he finishes his opponent off with a neat queen sacrifice.

Jones,R - Tjipueja,W [B23]
36th Olympiad Calvia ESP (9), 24.10.2004

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Bb5+ Nc6 5.Qe2 Be7 6.Nf3 a6 7.Bxc6+ bxc6 8.d3 Nf6 9.0-0 0-0 10.e5 Nd7 11.Bd2 Re8 12.h4 a5 13.Rfe1 h6 14.Nh2 Ba6 15.Qg4 Kh7 16.Nf3 Nf8 17.Qh5 Kg8 18.Qg4 Kh8 19.Qh5 Nh7 20.Kg2 Rf8 21.Ne2 c4 22.d4 c5 23.c3 Rb8 24.Rab1 a4 25.a3 Rb3 26.g4 Qb6 27.g5 hxg5 28.hxg5 g6 29.Qh6 Rg8 30.Rh1 Rg7 31.Rh3 Kg8 32.Rbh1 Kf8 (D) 33.Qxg7+ 1-0

Thursday, 21 June 2007

O2C Doeberl Cup -> Australian Championship

Revisiting the issue of the 2007-2008 Australian Championship, I've noticed that discussion in various places is starting to turn towards alternative proposals. One such suggestion is to modify an existing event and turn that into an Australian Championship. At least 1 Victorian Club weekender has been suggested in this regard.
However, if the ACF does go down this path, then surely an event such as the Doeberl Cup should come into consideration. For a couple of reasons.
Firstly the tournament already attracts an Australian Championship calibre field (and this year easily exceeded it). Secondly, the event is located in a reasonably central location, both geographically and demographically. And thirdly, it offers a prize pool that would adequately compensate the championship participants.
There are a couple of other reasons that would support this proposal. Former ACF President Denis Jessop had already suggested the Doeberl Cup as a replacement for the Australian Open, so I assume that this revamped idea would also have his support if it were to go to the ACF Council. Secondly, the current ACF President Gary Wastell was talking to the Doeberl Cup Sponsors O2C about them sponsoring the 2007-2008 Australian Championship. I'm not privy to how those talks went, but if the sponsor won't come to the ACF, the ACF can come to the sponsor!
Of course such a proposal would involve some negotiation between the ACF and the Doeberl Cup organisers, especially in the area of incredibly silly ACF tournament by-laws, but I guess the ACF would have to be prepared to be 'flexible' in this area.
But of course at this stage it is just a trial ballon I've launched, as I neither speak for the Doeberl Cup, or understand what goes on inside the minds of the ACF Council!

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Alana Chibnall - ACT Womens Champion

Congratulations to Alana Chibnall for winning the 2007 ACT Womens Championship. Alana was the defending champion and had a perfect score in winning the 7 round event. In second place was Alice Kristofferson, with Joanne Mason and Megan Setiabudi tied for 3rd place. Full results are available here.

Blayney Chess Club Website

Not only is the Blayney Chess Club running their first weekender on the 8th & 9th of September, they have also got a club website up and running. Click on and take a look!

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

ANU Open 2007 - Prize List and Format

The Australian National University Open is taking place on the 28th and 29th July 2007. For this years event the organisers have made two significant improvements. Firstly, the prize pool has been increased to $3,300 , and secondly the event has been split into Open and Under 1600 sections. There will be $2,200 in prizes for the Open, and $1,100 in prizes for the Under 1600 event.
Entry fees are $75 ($50 for concessions (unwaged)) with a $10 discount for entries received before 20th July 2007.
Further information is available from Shun Ikeda ( or myself (

**update** Click this link for more details and to to download an entry form.

Monday, 18 June 2007

About Chess

Late last week I managed to hose the OS on my laptop (Windblows if you must know) and am slowly putting the pieces back together. This has left me in a grumpy mood, so I did a little bit of egosurfing to cheer myself up. I was at least modest enough not to use my own name, using the blog name instead.
I came across a couple of mentions but the most interesting ones were at This website (run by Mark Weeks) has an enormous amount of chess information, including beginner guides, newsletters, product reviews, links to blogs etc etc It also has a regular monthly round up of other chess blogs called "Blogtrekking" which is well worth a read.
So with such wide coverage of the various facets of chess I've added it to the list of chess sites I link too from this page.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

More Free Chess Books(?)

I had previously mentioned a resource for free downloadable chess books (check the posts for April 2007), and I have just come across another one. A website called Bookyards has a collection of chess books (and a whole lot of other books) for downloading in pdf format. Simply visit the site and do a search on "chess" to see what comes up.
While the majority of books seem old enough to be out of copyright (and in the public domain) there seems to be a number of more recent books such as "The Art Of Attack In Chess" that I wonder about the copyright status of. The website has a legal disclaimer stating that all books are in the Public Domain but if you're not sure of the legality, I'll leave the decision up to you.
The only other thing to note is before downloading a book you have to wait about 15 seconds while a short video is played. What the video is for, and what videos are shown (seems to change each time) are at this stage unknown to me. (So viewer beware!)

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Take My Rooks

Take My Rooks is the title of one of the more enjoyable chess books in my collection. It was written by Yasser Seirawan and Nikolay Minev and dealt with double rook sacrifices. One of the games that appeared in the introduction to the book was the celebrated (at least by some) game Steel v Amateur, Calcutta, 1886.
In fact this wasn't my first sighting of this game as it had appeared in "Opening Traps", and excellent column written by Don Keast for Chess in Australia in the 1970's. But I had mislaid my copy of the magazine and had to wait until "Take my Rooks" before discovering it again.
Here is the game, with the notes I produced for it for the December 1999 issue of Australian Chess Forum.

Steel - Amateur [C25]
Calcutta, 1886

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 exf4 4.d4 Qh4+ 5.Ke2 d5 6.exd5 Bg4+ 7.Nf3 0-0-0 [7...Bxf3+ 8.gxf3 Nce7³] 8.dxc6 Bc5 9.cxb7+!? [9.Qe1 is considered to be better] 9...Kb8 10.Nb5 Nf6 [10...Bxf3+ 11.gxf3 Nf6 (Lasker-Shipley 1893) Black hopes that the exposed position of the White king provides compensation for the sacrificed material] 11.c3 [The incredibley brave 11.Kd3 forces Black to decide where his pieces should go. Possibly best (but by no means definitely) is 11...Qh5 12.c3 Ne4! 13.Qe2 Qg6 14.Qxe4 Bf5 15.Qxf5 Qxf5+ 16.Kd2±] 11...Rhe8+ Still theory, although not when this game was played. 12.Kd3 Bf5+ 13.Kc4 Be6+ 14.Kxc5 White has grabbed two pieces but his King is very exposed. Black now tries to trap the errant monarch. 14...a5! 15.Nxc7! [15.Nxh4 Ne4+ 16.Kc6 Bd5#] 15...Qh5+(D)
[16.d5 is equally wild but ultimately better for Black 16...Kxc7 17.Bxf4+ Kxb7 18.Qb3+ Ka8 19.c4 Bxd5 20.Ng5 (20.Ne5 Rxe5! 21.Bxe5 Qxe5 22.cxd5 Ne4+ 23.Kc6 Qe8+ 24.Kb6 Rb8+ 25.Kxa5 Qd8+ 26.Ka4 Nc5+ 27.Ka3 Qa5+ 28.Qa4 Qxa4#) 20...Qg4! (20...Ne4+ 21.Kb6 Rb8+ 22.Bxb8 Rxb8+ 23.Kc7 Rb7+ (23...Rxb3?? is a huge mistake 24.axb3 and nothing can prevent the mate!) 24.Qxb7+ Bxb7 25.Nxe4 Bxe4 and Black must be better based on his lead in development.; 21.Qg3 Qf5!-+] 16...Nd7+ [16...Qxd1? 17.Nc6+ Kxc7 (17...Kxb7? 18.Nxd8+ Rxd8 19.Ba6+ Kxc7 20.Bxf4+ Kd7 21.Rhxd1+-) 18.Bxf4+ Kxb7 19.Nxa5+ Ka8 20.Rxd1+-] 17.Kb5 Qxd1 18.Bxf4?? [Obviously keen to sacrifice more material White overlooks a simpler winning line. 18.Nxd7+ Ka7 (18...Rxd7 19.Bxf4 Qxa1 20.Kb6! forces mate; 18...Kxb7 19.Nc5+ Ka7 20.Nxe8 Rxe8 21.Kxa5+-) 19.Nc5 Re7 20.Kc6 Rxc7+ 21.Kxc7 Rb8+-] 18...Qxa1 19.Ka6! with the threat of mate 19...Nxe5 20.Nxe8 f6 [Black misses 20...Rd5 21.Bxe5+ Rxe5 22.dxe5 Qxb2-+] 21.dxe5 f5 22.Be3! Rxe8 [22...Qxf1+? 23.Rxf1 Bc4+ 24.Kb6 Rxe8 (24...Bxf1 25.e6!) 25.Bc5!+-] 23.Bb5 Qxh1 [23...Qxb2! forces White to take the draw 24.Ba7+ (24.Bc5 Rc8!) 24...Kc7 25.Bb6+ Kb8] 24.Ba7+ Kc7 25.Bc5 Rd8?? [Missing the last chance to draw with the amazing 25...Rc8!! 26.Bb6+ (26.Ka7?? Kd8-+) 26...Kb8 27.Ba7+=] 26.Ka7 and mate is forced 1-0

Friday, 15 June 2007

Australian Championship(?)

The murmurs of the future of the Australian Championship are getting louder. As of this time it appears that no one has placed a bid for the 2007-08 Championship, and given that it is only 6 months before it is supposed to begin, I would be surprised if a substantial bid is submitted.
As one of the organisers of the 2006-07 Australian Open, I for one, am not surprised by the state of affairs. But more importantly, neither should the ACF be, based on the circumstances of the Australian Open bid. And here's why.

The ACF generally will only accept bids from State Chess Associations. They even have a roster of states who have first refusal on a tournament, although this has rarely been followed in practice. There was an expectation that the ACT Chess Association would put in a bid for the 2006-7 Australian Open, an expectation heightened by the fact that the ACT Junior Chess League was going to bid for the 2007 Australian Junior. The ACTJCL even invited the ACTCA President along to their meetings where the bid was discussed in the hope of organising a combined side by side bid. But the ACTCA failed to do anything towards bidding and the ACTJCL submitted a bid for their events only.
The deadline for Australian Open bids was the 31st October 2005, and I suspect there was a belief in the ACF that the ACTCA would come through at the last minute. Certainly there did not appear to be any effort from the ACF to solicit bids from other sources. However on the 31st October 2005 I received a phone call from Jey Hoole, who was both the Secretary of the ACTCA, and of the ACF. He informed me at a hastily convened ACTCA meeting earlier that evening, they had decided that "they were incapable of organising such an event", and decided that the only people who could do it were myself or Stephen Mugford.
After much begging from Jey, and much invective from me concerning the adequacy of both the ACTCA and the ACF, I said I would talk to Stephen and consider it.
Now there is more to the story than just that, but I can tell that another time. Instead I would simply point out that the ACF has been struggling for a while to attract event organisers and that more than anything State Associations (and not just the ACTCA) have been failing them. And to add a wry observation from Stephen Mugford ...

"Hope is not a method"

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Off to Mexico

The final 4 qualifiers form the Mexico World Championship Tounament have been decided from the 2007 Candidates Matches. Earlier in the week Peter Leko and Boris Gelfand qualified with 3.5-1.5 wins over Kamsky and Bareev respectively. Lev Aronian nursed his 1 point lead (from Game 1) over Alexei Shirov all the way to the end to win 3.5-2.5. The only match that went to tiebreaks (after finishing 3-3 in regulation) ended in a 2.5-0.5 win by Alexandar Grischuk over Sergei Rublevsky.
The field for WCC 2007 will be Kramnik, Anand, Svidler, Morozevich, Leko, Gelfand, Aronian, and Grischuk. Although the tournament is still a way off (starting 13th September) I feel that it might be Anand's turn to wear the World Champions crown.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007


The strange title for this post actually stands for "Learn Chess Or Call Me An Idiot". This is the wonderful name that IM Javier Gil chosen for his free chess learning software. The package is available from his excellent coaching website
As it says on the site, the software is free to download and use. It has been available since September 2006 and I for one have found it fun to use. It is easy to install and provides a colourful and interactive introduction to chess. It is ideal for young children and even adults trying to keep up with their kids.
There are also a lot of other goodies on the Chessnia website, so if you are looking for chess coaching resources this is one place I would highly recommend.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Van Geet's Opening (1.Nc3)

Van Geet's Opening (also known as the Dunst Opening), can often be a useful surprise weapon. The opening beings with 1.Nc3 and basically invites Black to choose what happens next. Sometimes Black will choose lines that transpose into other known openings (eg 1... c5 heading for a Closed Sicilian) but normally the reflexive 1... d5 or 1... e5 is played before Black even thinks of what to do next. This provides White with an opportunity to lead Black down some dangerous lines.
I first became aware of the danger the opening poses for Black in an article by IM Gary Lane in Australian Chess Forum. Since then I've found it a useful addition to my repertoire, especially against booked up juniors. It's even appeared in the higher chess echelons with the top two boards of the Papua New Guinea Olympiad team using it (with varying degrees of success) in the 2006 Turin Olympiad.
To show you how badly it can turn out for Black, here is a very short game from 2001. NB This is a plausible line for Black (at least until the end) as I found a couple of versions of this game in my database.

Havenaar,J (2235) - Von Saldern,R (2133) [A00]
Guernsey op 27th Guernsey (5), 25.10.2001
1.Nc3 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nxe4 e5 4.Bc4 Bf5 5.Qf3 Bg6 6.Ng5 Nf6 7.Qb3 1-0

My main use for the opening (apart from shock value at Olympiads) is when I sit down at the board with no idea what opening I should play. Here is a game I played last week that demonstrates this.

1.Nc3 d5 2.e4 d4 3.Nce2 c5 4.f4 This is now a line of the Sicilian Grand Prix, although still classified A00 by Chessbase. 4...Nc6 5.Nf3 Nf6 6.Ng3 e5? The start of an unsound sacrificial plan. 7.fxe5 Nxe5 [7...Ng4 8.Bb5+=] 8.Nxe5 Bd6 9.Bb5+ Kf8 10.Nf3 Bxg3+ 11.hxg3 Nxe4 12.0-0 Bg4? [12...Nxg3 had to be played to justify the preceding moves.] 13.Re1 Nd6 14.Be2 h5 15.d3 f6 16.Nh4 Bxe2 17.Qxe2 Kg8 18.Ng6 Rh7 19.Qe6+ Nf7 20.Bf4! Black is now Zugzwanged! 20...Rc8 21.Ne7+ Kf8 22.Nxc8 1-0

Of course no opening is a forced win, but if you want to avoid the perils of memorisation, 1.Nc3 is a good choice. However, one final warning. In a recent article in New In Chess it was observed that Dirk Van Geet, of whom the opening is named after, gave up playing it long ago.

Monday, 11 June 2007

The Welfarist Mentality

As you may or may not know, Stephen Mugford and myself were involved in organising the 2006-2007 Australian Open Championship. One of our duties as part of this job was to prepare a report for the Australian Chess Federation. While the report was required to contain details concerning the tournament financials, and tournament results, there was also scope to add other observations. While reading through the first draft of the report, one paragraph (written by Stephen) stood out.

At the same time, it appears that competitors are reluctant to pay real market costs—many commented upon the current fees being high and a large proportion of the competitors sought and obtained some form of concession (student, aged, pensioner, etc) and it is reasonable to note that the dominant ‘mentality’ is essentially ‘welfarist’. Unfortunately, since these events are provided by non-government agencies, this mentality is not especially helpful or realistic.

Now it is worth giving some background on Stephen. Dr Stephen Mugford (to give his correct description) was a lecturer for many years at the Australian National University in Sociology, and retired as a Reader in Sociology (ie one level below a full Professor). Since then he has established his own consultancy company providing leadership and organisation training to various businesses and Australian government departments. So when he makes an observation about people (or groups of people) then it is worth taking notice of.

Unfortunately in Canberra (and probably Australia) the "Welfarist Mentality" is becoming (has always been?) entrenched in the chess culture. In some local clubs there may be only 2 or 3 players paying the "full" entry rate to tournaments, with the other 20 players claiming some sort of concession or other. Indeed Paul Dunn (past ACTCA treasurer) told me that in the last ACT Lightning Championship he was the only player not to claim a concession, despite at least one other entrant being in salaried employment.
And ultimately this becomes a downward financial spiral for chess. Players begin to resent having to pay full entry when "that person didn't" and either choose not to participate, or engage in dubious or dishonest behaviour to claim a concession themselves. And consequently there is less income for holding good chess events.

Solutions? There are a couple at least. One club in Canberra eventually abolished concession rates when it became clear that no-one was paying the full rate. This is certainly tempting to implement on a wider scale (eg only 1 entry fee for a chess tournament) but it may be a little drastic. However a crack down on the sort of concessions offered may be called for.

The second solution is just one of personal honesty. In most tournaments my definition of "concession" is someone not drawing a wage. So if you are unemployed or a full time pensioner, fine. But if you are being paid for any work (including flipping burgers at Mickey D's), then you don't qualify for a concession. And it should be up to chess players to police themselves. Instead of pulling out various concession/student/entitlement cards or simply claiming you don't have a "real" job, just accept that concessions aren't some sort of free ride that you would be stupid not to jump on to, but instead are a genuine attempt by tournament organisers to help those who really need it.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Cheeky Dream USB Chess Board - Review

A month or two ago I mentioned a cheap USB chess board. Well blog contributor Milan Ninchich was motivated to order one from the Hong Kong distributors. Once it arrived he was also kind enough to lend it to me, so I could do a review.
But before I get into my review it is only fair to publish what Milan thinks of it.


Well forewarned is forearmed and with some trepidation I opened the box. First thing to notice is the size. It isn't very big, and obviously unsuitable for anything other than solo human v computer chess. Getting out my slide rule and set square I did some measurements. The board is 23cm x 23 cm and the height of the King is 5cm. This is about half the size of a competition set, both in board and piece size. (See photo for comparison).
Next I installed the supplied software, which was as simple as inserting a CD. I then plugged to board into my computer and started the software. A screen with a board on it popped up, with some menu options. Choosing Human v Computer I was asked what level I wanted (Easy, Medium, Hard), so I chose easy and began to play.
My main purpose in playing was to discover the mechanics of the board, rather than the strength of the program (Which was a good thing as I flogged it easily). What I discovered was that the product is a set of pressure pads for each square. Press a square and it registers on the computer. Press a destination square and if the move is legal then that is the move played. Replies are shown on the screen and no action is required on the board to recognise this (ie pressing the squares for your opponent).
What this means is that the pieces are irrelevant as you need to watch the computer screen anyway. Realising this I played my second (and so far last) game simply by pushing the squares with my finger. This had the added benefit of increasing the accuracy of the device as in my first game, pushing on one square with a piece was sometime recorded as a move to an adjacent square.
And pretty much thats it. I couldn't work out how to replay games, take back moves, or save a record of the game in anything other than CCP format, which is a text format game record that only the product software understands. Any hope I had of using it to play on FICS, or live broadcasting etc has been dispelled by actually using it.
So basically Milan's description is pretty accurate. And given the current $Aus v $US exchange rate it is expensive junk. I certainly would not recommend buying it, unless you intend to reverse engineer the interface and turn it into something useful.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

2007 Candidates Matches - Round 2

Round 2 of the 2007 Candidates Matches has already reached the halfway point, with a clear leader in each match. Closest to qualifying for the Mexico World Championship tournament is Peter Leko who has two wins and a draw against Evgeny Bareev. In the other 3 matches Aronian, Grischuk and Gelfand lead 2-1 over their opponents, having each won a game, and drawn the other two.
Just as in Round 1, the matches are over 6 games, with tie-breaks played if the score ends 3-3. While 6 games is still a little short to decide who is the superior player in a match (8 games would be my preference) it is a vast improvement over the lottery that is the 2 game 'mini-matches' used in previous World Championship Knockouts.
Coverage of the event has been good, with live game broadcasts followed by a news summary, and post game GM analysis available for download. The games are even on at a reasonable time for Australian spectators (late evening) so you can catch a good part of the opening before going to bed. Of course this can be a trap as I had caught the first 22 moves of Grischuk-Rublevsky Game 1, and decided that Grischuk's sacrifice was unsound and that he was already lost. Of course it was home preparation and when I awoke the next day Grischuk had won.
Alongside the Candidates Matches is the Deep Junior v Deep Fritz match, with Deep Junior leading 2-1. It appears the major interest in this match isn't who will win, but why Rybka (believed by most to be far stronger than both programs) isn't involved.

Friday, 8 June 2007

2007 ANU Chess Festival

Slot the dates of the 28th and 29th July 2007 into your calendar for the ANU Chess Festival. Running since 1993 the ANU Chess Festival is Australia's biggest multi-event chess tournament. The Festival is sponsored by the Australian National University in Canberra, and contains simuls, school tournaments, computer chess, and of the course the ANU Open, which is one of Australia's biggest weekenders.
The ANU Open is on the 28th and 29th of July and GM Ian Rogers is a confirmed participant. If you live in Canberra, or plan to get here a day early, the you can also play GM Rogers in the ANU Bookshop Simul held at King O'Malley's (home of Street Chess) at Friday lunchtime. Ian usually starts with a blindfold simul against a selected group of ACT juniors, before conducting a normal simul against all comers.
Also being played over the weekend will be the ACT Go Championships, a tournament organised by Backgammon ACT, and hopefully Chinese Chess (for the first time).

(Standard Disclaimers: I work for the ANU and am an organiser of the ANU Chess Festival and Street Chess).

Add another to the collection

To prove that it isn't just kids who walk into stalemates, here's another for the collection. Played at the ANU Chess Club on Wednesday night, White had been winning for a while but both players were short of time (down to the 10s increment) and were basically blitzing out their moves. In the position Black had just moved Kb8 and White ,thinking the promotion path was clear, played that semi-fatal d7. As both players were short on time, neither of them realised what had happened, and it was only after Black tried to move his King into check (and was stopped by the arbiter) that it become clear to them that the game was over.
Now some people might argue that at that time limit Black should either be allowed to play an illegal move (and suffer some penalty) or that Black may even lose on time before realising it is stalemate, but the FIDE rules on this are clear.

  1. The game is drawn when the player to move has no legal move and his king is not in check. The game is said to end in `stalemate`. This immediately ends the game, provided that the move producing the stalemate position was legal.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

FM Rupert Jones second in Barbados

Papua New Guinea's first titled player FM Rupert Jones has just finished in second place in the RBTT Challengers Chess Tournament in Barbados (How does he get these invitations?). He scored an undefeated 7.5/9 to finish half a point behind local player Shamel Howell who was also undefeated, on 8 points.
Full report for the tournament is available in the The Nation, the leading Barbados newspaper. (Click here if you are not a subscriber).

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

ACT Primary School Allegro - Redux

Results for the ACT Primary School Allegro are available (for those that are interested). Click for K-3 or 4-6.
It takes a lot of work to run events like these and it is important that thanks go to the people that make it happen. Firstly Rebekah Gupte for managing the event and having to deal with lots of last minute phone calls from anxious parents trying to get their children in to the tournament. Then there are a whole lot of helpers. Rebekah herself has a better handle on who assisted on Sunday so I'll just quote from her report in the ACTJCL Bulletin.

A big thank you to all those who stepped in to help with the extra work, but particular thanks needs to go to the Gruen and Dunstone families and Libby Smith and Jim Flood for their help in running the tournament and to Shaun Press and Joshua Bishop for their wonderful arbiting skills, particularly with the younger kids, many of them participating in their first tournament. Josh is one of our older juniors, coaching at Souths and arbiting at his first BIG tournament.

And a thank you to Milan Ninchich for providing the picture of those who played on Sunday.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

News from Siberia

It's not often that I bring chess news from Siberia but I spotted an interesting story from Siberian News Online. The chess organisers of Krasnoyarsk attempted to set a new world record for the most number of players playing chess at the same time. Unfortunately they came up short. But what I found interesting was the chess sets they were using to set the record. It appears the pieces are flat cardboard(?) discs with the symbols of the pieces printed on them.
This is the first time I've seen such sets and I wonder how widespread they are. Certainly this would be a good way of distributing cheap chess sets to schools/countries who have difficulty in paying for proper tournament sets.

Monday, 4 June 2007

The greatest toy I have ever seen

I was doing some robot testing at Questacon this morning, and I came across the greatest toy I have ever seen. In the gift shop was a 'Leonardo Da Vinci Action Figure'. It had movable arms and came with a tiny paintbrush and easel. It even had a set of pictures you could slot in and out of the display frame. On the back it had biographical information (Date of birth etc), including a section labeled 'Weapon of Choice'. The answer: 'Awesome Intellect'
Apparently there is also an Albert Einstein Action Figure (With Chalk!) as well, but they may have sold out of that one.

2007 Candidates Matches - Round 1 over

Round 1 has been completed in the 2007 World Championship Candidates matches, with 3 players going through after tie breaks.
Alexei Shirov continued a good career record over Michael Adams by defeating him 2.5-0.5. Adams had lead 3-2 with 1 game remaining in the regular games, but a final round win by Shirov shifted the momentum in his favour, and he carried that through to the playoffs.
Boris Gelfand also won 2.5-0.5 over Rustam Kasimdzhanov, with the first decisive games occurring during the tie-breakers, as they drew their 6 regular games.
The Aronian-Carlsen match was once again the centre of attention with the first 4 playoff games ending 2-2. It took another 2 blitz games the separate the players with Aronian winning both to go through to a next round match with Shirov.
So the match ups for Round 2 are - Aronian v Shirov, Leko v Bareev, Rublevsky v Grischuk, and Gelfand v Kamsky.
Having picked 6 of the 8 players to advance this far (Adams and Ponomariov let me down), I'm still going with Aronian, Leko, Grischuk and Gelfand to go through to the World Championship tournament.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

The Biggest Collection of Stalemates in the World

I've just got back from the ACT Junior Chess League Primary Allegro Tournament. This tournament was open to all kids in Grades K-6 in the ACT and surrounding regions. This has always been a popular tournament in the ACT Junior Chess calendar but this years event set a new record with over 130 players. Such was the crowd they had to divide it into 2 sections, with a K-3 tournament, and a 4-6 tournament.
The other interesting thing about this event is the prize structure. Instead of trophies/medals for 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc there is a prize for best Grade 6 Boy, Grade 6 Girl, Grade 5 Boy etc So even if you have the best score but are only in Grade 5, you would win the Grade 5 medal, rather than the Grade 6 one.
My duties mainly involved answering the "Is this checkmate?" questions that are usual at all junior events, and explaining the meaning of "Stalemate" to some bewildered children. Between this event and a couple of ACT Schools events in the last couple of weeks I've probably added another 50 or so stalemate positions to my already large collection.
One non-stalemate game that did interest me occurred in the first round of the K-3 tournament. Both sides played pretty sensible chess until White popped a queen, and Black was just clearly winning. Having wandered off to deal with some other games I looked back to see the players shaking hands. I assumed that White had resigned (in itself unusual at a primary school tournament), and was astonished to see the following (as far I as could remember) position on the board!

Saturday, 2 June 2007

2007 Candidates Matches- 3 players through

After 5 games of the 2007 Candidates Matches, 3 players have made it through to Round 2. Peter Leko and Gata Kamsky had convincing 3.5-0.5 victories,over Mikhail Gurevich and Etienne Bacrot respectively, while Alexander Grischuk won 3.5-1.5 over Vladimir Malakhov.
In the remaining matches Rublevsky leads 3-2 over Ponomariov, Bareev is 3-2 against Polgar, as is Adams over Shirov. Kasimdzhanov is tied 2.5-2.5 with Gelfand (all games drawn), and in probably the most exciting match Aronian and Carlsen have had 2 wins each and are also tied 2.5-2.5.
Of my pre-tournament predictions, Ponomariov looks to be in the biggest trouble, while Aronian and Gelfand have 1 game in which to do something. Of course being behind doesn't rule out the remaining players, especially if you are Judith Polgar. Her round 5 demolition of Bareev has kept her alive, although she needs to do it again in round 6 just to force tie-breaks.

Polgar,J - Bareev,E
Candidates Matches Elista,Russia, 2007

1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 Bg4 4.h3 Bxf3 5.Qxf3 e6 6.Be2 Nd7 7.d3 g6 8.0-0 Bg7 9.Bf4 Qb6 10.Nd1 Ngf6 11.a4 a5 12.g4 e5 13.Bd2 Nc5 14.g5 dxe4 15.dxe4 Nfd7 16.Bc4 0-0 17.h4 Ne6 18.Bxe6 fxe6 19.Qh3 Qd4 20.Nc3 Qxd2 21.Rad1 Qxc2 22.Rxd7 Qxb2 23.h5 gxh5 24.Qxe6+ Kh8 25.Rxg7 Kxg7 26.Qh6+ Kg8 27.g6 hxg6 28.Qxg6+ Kh8 29.Kh1 Rf4 30.Qxh5+ Kg8 31.Rg1+ Kf8 32.Qh8+ Kf7 33.Qg7+ 1-0

Friday, 1 June 2007

The Art of Adjournments

I, for one, miss adjournments. Not because I enjoy playing games that stretch over a couple of days, but because it allows players to practice the neglected art of Analysis. Of course if you still want both the multi-day game, and being forced to analyse positions you can play Correspondence Chess, but OTB players can still benefit from some enforced hard work.
Here in Canberra adjournment sessions began to die out with the introduction of the digital chess clock. Probably the last tournament that still used adjournments was the ACT Chess Championship, before it moved to a 90m+30s per move time control. While adjournments were allowed there were a number of bizarre incidents related to them, often involving the same players.
In one instance their was a match between two players who absolutely despised each other (no names, people in Canberra know who they are). The game was adjourned with Player T sealing a move. Player B had a slight advantage but there wasn't a clear win. So player B contacts me and asks me to help him analyse. However he wasn't so much interested in my analysis ability, as that of the chess program I had on my computer. So on and off during the rest of the week I generated various lines to play in response to possible sealed moves. Having prepped player B with all that he needed to know I waited to hear the result.
"Did you win?" I asked. "No, I lost" came the reply. "What happened?" I continued. "I played the wrong move and got mated 3 moves after the resumption".
So a few years later the same two players were paired again in the ACT Championship. This time the game got off to a later start as the two players spent over an hour arguing about which board they were going to play at (one had a special chess set they brought to play with, the other had a special table they sat at). After much yelling the arbiter finally got them to sit down at the same board, with the same set and play. Due to the late start the game needed to be adjourned, which then started another argument. This time it was over where the adjournment was to be played. A suggestion from one player was met with outright refusal by the other. Eventually the Arbiter specified a time and date and ordered both players to show up. Player T appeared, Player B did not, and Player T won. Of course neither player really cared about the actual result, and Player B tried to get the last word by claiming the final position was drawn. Player T then filled up a couple of pages of the tournament bulletin with analysis proving otherwise.
After that the rules for adjournments were once again tightened, until finally adjournments were dispensed with forever.