Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Engaging Pieces

Ever wanted to know the story behind Mig Greengard? Whatever happened to Michael de la Maza (Rapid Chess Improvement)? Or the reasoning behind Glicko & Glicko-2?
Then you need to grab a copy of Engaging Pieces, a new book by chess writer and journalist Howard Goldowsky.
Goldowsky has put together a collection of interviews, opinion pieces, and chess fiction into an attractive and easy to read 240 page volume. In it he interviews such chess personalities as Hikaru Nakamura, Mark Glickman (developer of Glicko & Glicko-2), and Jennifer Shahade (author of Chess Bitch), as well as some "behind the scenes" people. The interviews range from the reasonably short to the long and involved. While some of the interviews cover familiar ground ("future of chess", "making the game more professional") the responses are still interesting, not because of what was said, as much as in who said them.
Of all the pieces in the book probably to most informative (and relevant) was the interview with Dr Mark Glickman concerning chess ratings. The adoption of the Glicko system by the Australian Chess Federation gets a mention, with Glickman stating

I was delighted to learn recently that the Australian Chess Federation adopted Glicko-2 for rating over-the-board tournaments. As I understand, the system has been quite successful, and quickly improving players in Australia are tracked well using Glicko-2.

He also discusses the concept of the rating estimate (the number next to your name) and your "true" rating, which he terms the rating parameter. In addressing this idea he reveals the underlying concept of the Glicko system as a way of measuring chess performance.

If you enjoy reading about chess, rather than just chess games (as I do), then I highly recommend this book. It is newly released and is retailing at Australian Chess Enterprises for $29.99

(My review copy of the book was supplied to me by the author)

Monday, 30 July 2007

ANU Open 2007 - Photos

I've added a collection of photos from this years ANU Open. Either click on the photos link on the left or click here to go directly to the ANU Open album.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

ANU Open 2007 - Final Results

IM Zong Yuan Zhao was the winner of the 2007 ANU Open, after defeating Junta Ikeda in the final round. FM Igor Bjelobrk defeated IM Andras Toth to take second place, with Dejan Antic outright third after a win over Canberra junior Andrew Brown.
Zhao's score of 6/7 was especially impressive given that he played WIM Caoili, IM Toth, GM Antic, FM Bjelobrk, IM Lane and Ikeda in rounds 2-7. Other players who did well were Ian Rout (best U/2000) and Yi Yuan (best U/1800). WIM Arianne Caoili was the winner of the best performing ANU player.
In the Minor, Sunny Yoon was the outright winner on 6/7. He finished ahead of 5 players tied for 2nd place. Full crosstables for both events are in the comments section.

Zhao,Z - Ikeda,J [B80]
ANU Open Canberra (7), 29.07.2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.g4 h6 7.Be3 a6 8.f3 Qc7 9.Qd2 Nbd7 10.0-0-0 b5 11.h4 Nb6 12.Bd3 Nc4 13.Bxc4 Qxc4 14.b3 Qc7 15.g5 Ng8 16.Kb2 Bd7 17.f4 Qb7 18.Qd3 Rc8 19.g6 fxg6 20.e5 Ne7 21.exd6 Nf5 22.Nxf5 gxf5 23.Bd4 Kf7 24.Rhg1 Rg8 25.h5 b4 26.Na4 Bxa4 27.Qg3 Ke8 28.bxa4 Bxd6 29.Bxg7 Rd8 30.Rde1 Qe7 31.Qg6+ Kd7 32.Qxh6 Rde8 33.Rg6 Qf7 34.Qg5 Be7 35.Qg2 Rc8 36.Qb7+ Rc7 37.Rd1+ Bd6 38.Rxd6+ 1-0

Caoili,A - Lane,G [A87]
ANU Open Canberra (7), 29.07.2007

1.c4 f5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d4 0-0 6.Nf3 d6 7.0-0 Qe8 8.d5 Bd7 9.Nd4 Na6 10.Re1 c6 11.e4 fxe4 12.Nxe4 Nxe4 13.Rxe4 cxd5 14.cxd5 Nc5 15.Re1 Qf7 16.Be3 Bf5 17.Nxf5 gxf5 18.Bxc5 dxc5 19.d6 Bd4 20.Rxe7 Qg6 21.Qb3+ Kh8 22.Qxb7 Rab8 23.Qc7 Rfc8 24.Qxa7 Qxd6 25.Rxh7+ 1-0

ANU Open 2007 - Round 5

A draw on Board 1 between IM Zong Yuan Zhao and FM Igor Bjelobrk left Zhao holding a half point lead after round 5. IM Gary Lane moved into equal 2nd (with Bjelobrk) after defeating Sydney junior Max Illingworth.
In the Minor tournament leaders Sunny Yoon and Jey Hoole held onto equal first after a top board draw, although Yoon was unwise to accept the draw as the move Hoole played in offering it was a losing one.

Oliver,G - Bjelobrk,I [A40]
ANU Open Canberra (4), 28.07.2007

1.d4 e6 2.c4 b6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 Bb7 5.e3 f5 6.Bd3 Nf6 7.0-0 0-0 8.Ne2 Bd6 9.Ng3 Qe8 10.Bd2 Nc6 11.a3 a5 12.Rb1 a4 13.Bc2 Na5 14.Bxa5 Rxa5 15.Bxa4 Ng4 16.Re1 Rf6 17.h3 (D)
17. ... Nxe3 18.Rxe3 f4 19.Ne4 fxe3 20.Nxf6+ gxf6 21.Bc2 exf2+ 22.Kxf2 Qh5 23.Kg1 Kh8 24.Nh2 Qg5 25.Qf1 Qe3+ 26.Kh1 Qxd4 27.b4 Rxa3 28.Rd1 Qf4 0-1

Lane,G - Illingworth,M [B23]
ANU Open Canberra (5), 29.07.2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nd4 4.Bc4 e6 5.Nge2 Nf6 6.0-0 a6 7.d3 b5 8.Bb3 Nxb3 9.axb3 Bb7 10.f4 d6 11.Qe1 Qc7 12.Qg3 Nd7 13.f5 Ne5 14.fxe6 fxe6 15.Nf4 Kd7 16.Qh3 Re8 17.Ncd5 Qd8 18.Bd2 b4 19.d4 Nc6 20.Nxe6 Rxe6 21.Rf7+ Kc8 22.Qxe6+ Kb8 23.dxc5 Bc8 24.Rxf8 Rxf8 25.Qxd6+ Qxd6 26.cxd6 a5 27.Ne7 1-0

Saturday, 28 July 2007

ANU Open 2007 - Day 1

At the end of Day 1 IM Zong Yuan Zhao is outright first in the ANU Open on 4/4. He defeated GM Dejan Antic in the days final round to leave him half a point ahead of FM Igor Bjelobrk. On 3 points are IM Gary Lane, Max Illingworth, and Adrian Chek. Lane had a draw in Rd 4 with IM Andras Toth while Bjelobrk had a win over Gareth Oliver.
In the Minor event Sunny Yoon and Jey Hoole share first place on 4/4. They play tomorrow and both hope they can stay ahead of Tamzin Oliver, Erik Jochimsen, Donald Pandich and Alana Chibnal who are currently on 3 points.
Full crosstables for both events can be found in the comments section.

ANU Open 2007 - Round 3

Boards 1&2 saw the first big clashes with IM Zong Yuan Zhao and IM Andras Toth playing on Board 1, and IM Gary Lane playing GM Dejan Antic on Board 2. 3rd Seed Igor Bjelobrk was playing Junta Ikeda on Board 3 after drawing with FM Brian Jones in Round 2.
Once all the clocks had stopped, Zhao had taken the outright lead on 3 after defeating Toth. Lane and Antic drew allowing Bjelobrk and Gareth Oliver (win over Brian Jones) to join them on 2.5 points.
In the Under 1600 event 3 ACT players lead the field with perfect scores. They are Sunny Yoon, Jey Hoole, and Erik Jochimsen.
There is one round to play this evening (Antic v Zhao, Toth v Lane, Bjelobrk v Oliver) followed by 3 rounds tomorrow.

Zhao,Z - Toth,A [A65]
ANU Open Canberra (3), 28.07.2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.f3 0-0 6.Bg5 c5 7.d5 e6 8.Qd2 exd5 9.cxd5 h6 10.Be3 h5 11.a4 Re8 12.Bb5 Bd7 13.Nh3 a6 14.Bxd7 Nbxd7 15.0-0 Rb8 16.Rfb1 Qc7 17.a5 b5 18.axb6 Rxb6 19.Nf2 Ne5 20.Qe2 Qb7 21.h3 Rb4 22.Qxa6 Qxa6 23.Rxa6 Nc4 24.Bc1 Nd7 25.Ncd1 Reb8 26.Rba1 Bd4 27.Kf1 Rb3 28.R1a4 R8b4 29.Ke2 Bxf2 30.Rxb4 cxb4 31.Nxf2 Nc5 32.Rc6 Nxb2 33.e5 Nba4 34.exd6 Rc3 35.Ne4 Nxe4 36.d7 1-0

ANU Open 2007 - Round 1 Games

No huge upsets on the top boards in Round 1, although a couple of higher seeds were held to draws by their lower rated opponents, and one lower rated opponent cleaned up his opponent with a nice sacrifice.

Here are a couple of games from the first Round.

Rout,I - Antic,D [E70]

ANU Open Canberra (1), 28.07.2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Bd3 0-0 6.Nge2 a6 7.0-0 c6 8.a4 e5 9.d5 a5 10.Bg5 h6 11.Bh4 Na6 12.Qd2 Nc5 13.Bc2 (d)
Nfxe4 14.Bxe4 Qxh4 15.Bc2 Qxc4 16.dxc6 bxc6 17.Qxd6 Bg4 18.f3 Be6 19.Qxc6 Rfc8 20.Qb5 Rcb8 21.Qxc4 Bxc4 22.Rab1 Rb4 23.Rfd1 Rab8 24.Be4 Rxb2 25.Rd8+ Rxd8 26.Rxb2 f5 27.Bc6 e4 28.Rb6 Rd2 29.Bb5 Bxe2 30.Nxe2 Nd3 31.Rb8+ Kh7 32.Bxd3 exd3 33.Nf4 Bd4+ 34.Kf1 Rd1# 0-1

Yuan,Y - Ikeda,J [B14]
ANU Open Canberra (1), 28.07.2007

1.e4 c5 2.c3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.cxd4 d5 5.exd5 Nf6 6.Bb5+ Nbd7 7.Nc3 Bg7 8.Nge2 0-0 9.Bxd7 Qxd7 10.Nf4 b6 11.Be3 Bb7 12.0-0 Nxd5 13.Ncxd5 Bxd5 14.b3 Rfd8 15.Qd2 Bb7 16.Rfd1 Qf5 17.f3 Rac8 18.Rac1 e5 19.Ne2 Ba6 20.Ng3 Qe6 21.d5 Rxc1 22.Qxc1 Rxd5 23.Ne4 f5 24.Ng5 Qd7 25.Rxd5 Qxd5 26.Qc7 f4 27.Bd2 Qd4+ 28.Kh1 Qd5 29.Qb8+ Bf8 30.Qc7 Bg7 31.Qb8+ Bf8 32.Qc7 ½-½

ANU Open 2007 - Round 0

The 2007 ANU Open has started with a field of 64 players (down from 78 players last year). The Open itself has a field of 26, with the Under 1600 tournament attracting 38.
The Open field is pretty heavy at the top with IM Zong Yuan Zhao, GM Dejan Antic, FM Igor Bjelobrk, IM Andras Toth, and IM Gary Lane on the top 5 boards for round 1. Also playing are FM Brian Jones, WIM Arianne Caoili, WIM Narelle Szuveges, and WFM Shannon Oliver. With 9 titled players (plus players like Junta Ikeda (Japan Open winner) and Gareth Oliver (IM norm in SIO)) in the field, I figure the event has at least passed the "cool kids" test.
Reports, standings and games as they come to hand.

Friday, 27 July 2007

ANU Open 2007 - GM Rogers Simul

The first event of the 2007 ANU Chess Festival got underway with GM Ian Rogers giving both a blindfold and then a normal simul. He had a perfect score in both events, although his final game ended with his opponent resigning in a drawn position.
Unfortunately the event attracted a smaller than expected turnout, with the Canberra chess community deciding it wasn't an important enough event to turn up to. Or as one (semi-retired) player who came especially to play Ian on hearing the news of his retirement described it, "an insult".

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Income v Prizes

Whenever I'm involved in organising a chess tournament (as in this weeks ANU Open), my mind turns to the topic of prize structures. eg What makes a good prize list? (And as chance would have it, I was asked about this yesterday on another forum)
But having thought a little bit more, I'm not sure that answering the question is the right starting point. Instead I think there is a "prior" question that needs to be answered. What is a good size prize pool?
In Australia most weekenders have the same prize structure. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, followed by a couple of ratings prizes and a junior prize. Normally 6 to 10 prizes are on offer, with a prize pool between $1000-$2000. Now the interesting thing about this is not only is the structure traditional, but the prize pools have roughly remained the same for almost 20 years. ie tournaments that offered a first prize of $500 in 1991, probably offer the same first prize today. Of course some tournaments have increased their prize funds over the years, but overall I'd be surprised if prizes have kept pace with inflation.
Doing some checking I found that the current average weekly wage in Australia is $850 ($1100 for full time workers). Using the lower figure as a starting point, I think that an argument could be made that a minimum "decent" first prize matches that figure ie $850. Following on from there (2nd $425, 3rd $210, U/2000 $150, U/16000 $150, Junior $100) I get a prize pool of $1885.
The problem with this is that it only provides 1 player with an average weekly pay packet. Assuming that Australian chess wishes to provide support to more than 1 player, the prize pool needs to increase. Assume we make second prize $850, and increase first prize to $1700 (making 3rd $425 and a new 4th prize of $210). Then the prize pool grows to $3585. Suddenly we are talking decent money.
But there is a problem. Does Australian chess have enough players to support this tournament income level on a regular basis? Unlike Europe, where you simply need to put a chess board on a table and 30 players magically appear, in Australia we literally have to beg players to enter chess tournaments. Is any tournament organiser able to generate $4000 (and I'm being cheap on expenses) in entries simply by meeting an unfilled demand for chess tournaments in Australia. Not as far as I can see.
(Just to show you how hard this is, imagine a field of 50 players, half concessions (at 50%) and half adults. To get $4000 in income entry fees would be $106.66/$53.33, which I'm guessing would cause the field to drop below 50!)
So to come to my point. As I get older and more cynical, the argument over prize structures is to my mind an irrelevant one. Until we have a situation where tournaments can be guaranteed a large (and foreseeable) income of at least $4000 it probably doesn't matter how the prizes are awarded, because no matter how we slice and dice the income stream, we aren't providing a meaningful financial incentive to the players.

ANU Open - Ian Rogers Simul

Press Release from the ANU Media Office

The 15th ANU Chess Festival will host a top Australian chess player in one of his last demonstrations before retiring from competitive chess. Grand Master Ian Rogers will demonstrate the skills that have seen him ranked as one of Australia’s top players for more than 20 years with an exhibition of “Blindfold and Simul Chess”. Up to four players will be given the opportunity to challenge GM Rogers simultaneously as he plays blindfolded, followed by a second demonstration during which he will take on up to 30 opponents at once without his blindfold.
The demonstration will take place from 12pm – 3pm on Friday 27 July outside King O’Malley’s in Garema Place, Civic.
The Chess Festival will also host the 15th ANU Open on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 July at Fenner Hall, 210 Northbourne Avenue, Braddon, featuring International Master Zong Yuan Zho of Sydney and Grand Master Dejan Antic of Serbia.
Other festival events include the ANU Primary and High Schools Championships, the 2007 National Computer Chess Championship and the ACT “Go” Championship.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

All African Games - Chess Results

I had hoped to publish some up to date scores from this event earlier, but the web coverage of the Games (not just the chess) has been woeful. Nonetheless word did get out from Algeria about the tournament and Egypt has won the Gold!
Silver went to South Africa, narrowly ahead of Zambia.
Full match results and crosstable are here, courtesy of the Chess Drum. There is also a discussion about the event on their blog.
From looking at the results it seemed that the Ugandan chess team didn't make it after all, which probably accounts for the bye. Also the strategy of the Kenyan team to put their strongest players on the bottom boards seems neither to have helped the team, nor their players medal chances. As yet I haven't seen reports of any medals going to Kenya from the chess, although the individual medal results are still incomplete.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Happy Birthday FIDE

FIDE turns 83 years old today. On the 24th July 1924 the organisation was founded in Paris, France, with Alexander Rueb as it's first president.
(btw there is no truth to the rumor that it's first item of business was to set up Absinthe testing for all players)

Monday, 23 July 2007


The Canberra Times had a big story on Dr Andrew Tridgell today (I'd link to it but the Canberra Times website is completely hopeless when it comes to putting print news online)
These days Andrews big claim to fame is the development of the Samba file sharing system, which allows Unix and Windows network file systems to interact, but Andrew is also the author of Knightcap, the current Australian computer chess champion.
Knightcap started off as an exercise in 3D computer graphics, before Andrew decided he needed a chess playing engine behind it. At first Andrew followed the traditional method of building a chess program, until he realised that his chess knowledge may not be enough to create a strong program. He then turned it into a "learning" program, where the evaluation function was constantly re-tuned by the program itself. You can see the idea behind this in a paper that Andrew published with Jon Baxter and Lex Weaver.
Very quickly the program became quite strong and soon overtook a number of other Australian programs, including my own program, Vanilla Chess. Here Knightcap cleans up Vchess with an intuitive Queen sac.

vchess - knightcap [A00]
National Computer Chess Championship, 1999

1.e3 d5 2.Nf3 Bg4 3.Bb5+ c6 4.Be2 Nd7 5.0-0 e5 6.d4 e4 From a typical (non-book) computer opening a sort of reversed French has arisen. 7.Nfd2 Be6 [ A human player might have opened the h file with 7...h5 8.Bxg4 hxg4 9.Qxg4 with the lead in development and attacking chances against the king giving Black plenty of compensation.] 8.f3 Qg5 9.Rf2 f5 [ 9...Qxe3?? 10.Nxe4+-] 10.c4 Ngf6 11.Nc3 Qh6 12.fxe4 fxe4 13.cxd5 cxd5 14.Nb5 Rc8! A surprising pawn sacrifice to speed up development. 15.Nxa7 Bd6 16.g4?! Fatally weakening the kingside [ ¹16.Nf1] 16...Ra8 17.Nb5 Bb8 18.Nb3 0-0 19.Rg2 Qh3 20.g5 Ng4! 21.Bxg4 Bxg4 22.Qe1 [ 22.Qxg4 Bxh2+ 23.Kh1 Rf1+ 24.Rg1 Rxg1+ 25.Qxg1 Bg3+ 26.Qh2 Qxh2#] 22...Rf5 23.Nd2 Rxg5 24.Nf1 (D) 24...Qxg2+!! While fast searchers like Fritz find the mate fairly quickly, knightcap played this sacrifice on positional grounds, not seeing the mate until the next move. 25.Kxg2 Bf3+ 26.Kh3 Ra6 Vindicating the pawn sacrifice on move 15! Faced with various mates (the best being 26.Qh4 Bg2!#) White resigned. 0-1

As Andrew Tridgell is a champion of Open Source Software you can download Knightcap from a number of places. Probably the best place is http://homepages.tesco.net/henry.ablett/jims.html which also contains a number of other winboard compatible chess engines (including a version of Vanilla Chess!)

Sunday, 22 July 2007

2007 Canadian Open

Chinese GM Xiangzhi Bu was the winner of the very strong 2007 Canadian Open with 8.0/10. He finished half a point ahead of a raft of titled players including GM Nigel Short (ENG) , GM Kamil Miton (POL), GM Chanda Sandipan (IND), GM Bator Sambuev (RUS), and IM Tomas Krnan (CAN). Full coverage of this event can be found at canchess.blogspot.com, which btw demonstrates the use of blogs as a way of publicising an event.
One of the interesting things about this tournament was that a number of international players were funded by their countries embassies, as both the tournament, and the embassies, were located in Ottawa. With the centenary of the founding of Canberra coming up in 2013 (and a number of events already being planned), it might be worth looking at this approach for an Australian Open or Canberra Centenary International.
One of the most interesting games from this event was between GM Mark Bluvshtein and GM Victor Mikhalevski, both recent visitors to Australia (and Canberra). The game followed theory for over 20 moves, with the first new move occurring at 28!

Bluvshtein,M (2520) - Mikhalevski,V (2590)
Canadian Open 2007 Ottawa Canada (4), 09.07.2007

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.Nbd2 Nc5 10.c3 d4 11.Ng5 Qxg5 12.Qf3 0-0-0 13.Bxe6+ fxe6 14.Qxc6 Qxe5 15.b4 Qd5 16.Qxd5 exd5 17.bxc5 dxc3 18.Nb3 d4 19.Ba3 g6 20.Bb4 Bg7 21.a4 d3 22.axb5 d2 23.bxa6 c2 24.Nxd2 Bxa1 25.Rxa1 Rhe8 26.Rc1 Re4 27.Bc3 Rc4 (D)
28.Rxc2 N Rd3 29.Rb2 Rcxc3 30.a7 Ra3 31.Rb8+ Kd7 32.a8Q Rxa8 33.Rxa8 Rxd2 34.g3 ½-½

Saturday, 21 July 2007

Chinook solves Checkers

Looks like Checkers has been "solved", the result being a draw with best play for both sides. For this piece of information we can thank Dr Jonathan Schaeffer (University of Alberta) and his program Chinook.
Chinook has been around since 1989 and first came to prominence in the early 90's when it played Dr Marion Tinsley is a match for the World Championship. Tinsley won that match, but resigned his title to Chinook due to ill health, before a second match could be completed.
The "solving" of games has been going on for quite a while (think tic-tac-toe or nim), although the solving of connect-4 in 1989 was one of the first big computer solutions in this area. However, the method of solving a game can be a little different from the method for playing a game. In the case of checkers or reversi, the problem is tackled from opposite ends. Working backwards a table-base is generated from "final" positions (like stalemates, draws or checkmates in chess). At the same time computing power is utilised to generate a search tree from the starting position. Once these two efforts collide with each other (completely), then an assessment for every legal position can be made.
In the case of reversi (which I thought would have been solved before checkers), a program like Zebra can search 24 moves deep and play the final 26 moves perfectly leaving only a gap of 14 moves in the middle of the game.
Still I wouldn't worry about chess being "solved" just yet. One of the things that checkers, connect-4, tic-tac-toe all have in common is that they are "simple" games, in terms of the movement of pieces and board size. This means the search space is quite small compared to chess or go, although still quite huge compared to what humans can do.

(Many thanks to the readers who tipped me off about this story)

Friday, 20 July 2007

The Cats out of the Bag

Over the last couple of weeks there have been plenty of rumors of prospective bids for the 2007-08 Australian Chess Championships. Apart from the publicly announced Box Hill CC bid, there was talk of a bid from the Parramatta CC, as well as the Melbourne CC.
As today is the deadline for bids to be submitted to the ACF, it seems that the various bids (real or imagined) have stuck their heads above the trenches.
It seems that the MCC bid was a non-starter, probably being more talk than action. This will please the current ACF President Gary Wastell, who expressed a worry to me that if the ACF decided not to hold the Australian Championship this year that "the Melbourne chess club would organise some tournament after Xmas and call it the Australian Championship anyway".
The Parramatta CC bid is also short on detail, but this may be because they have chosen not to publicise the details of their bid, instead submitting to the NSWCA/ACF.
But the real surprise is the Chess Discount Sales (Peter Parr) bid, which he has announced here. Peter had proposed a format for the Australian Championship earlier this year, without actually committing to a bid himself. Now he has actually bitten the bullet and put together a complete bid, including all the things a good bid needs (Budget, Prize list, entry fees, format). While the bid is contingent upon venue availability (no longer Bondi Beach or UTS), it seems to meet the requirements for a championship chess tournament.

So does this flood of competing bids mean that the Australian tournament scene is flourishing? In my opinion, not really. I think the major driver for bids was the lowered expectation and requirements expected of this years championship. With 6 months to go, pretty much any bid that involved the provision of chess sets and clocks would be considered. And frankly I would consider this a much more realistic state of affairs. Having been involved in every Australian Open since 2000, there seems to be an expectation that every Open/Championship needs to be held in a 4 or 5 star hotel, with full conference facilities, high class but cheap accommodation, and 24 hour transport to and from the venue. But even when these requirements are met, the number of players who turn up to these events fall way below expectations. Put simply, there are not enough paying chess players to meet these demands.
Instead what I think we are seeing this year is a return to the cheap and cheerful events held prior to the mid 80's. The Australian Open in 82/83 was held in a big hall, and still managed to attract a bigger field than any of the Australian Opens since 2000. In fact most of the Championship events of the 70's seemed to involve trestle tables, sets and clocks, and a whole bunch of players who just wanted to turn up and play chess. As that group of players has got smaller over the year, realistically we have to accept that the financial base of such tournaments will shrink as well.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Australian BB's

After the decline of Usenet (ask your grandparents) but before the rise of blogs, the major outlet for net posters was the Bulletin Board. (Now I know that online bulletin boards have been around since the 70's, and still exist to this day, but I'm framing a reference)
Over the last decade there have been a steady evolution in Australian Chess BB's. The first popular chess BB in Australia was set up by then ACF webmaster and secretary Paul Broekhuyse. It was a bit of a free for all, without registration requirements, and no moderation. It was a simple messaging board without the bells and whistles of more sophisticated BB software. Realising its shortcomings Paul asked me to manage the creation of the Australian Chess Federation BB.
This was closer to what a real bulletin board was, with registration required to post, although non-members could still read messages. Again moderation was almost non-existent, but the BB survived for a while.
Nonetheless the legal ramifications of running a bulletin board were always in the background and it was decided that this was a (potential) problem that the ACF didn't need. So www.chesschat.org was created. This was not legally connected to the ACF, although there is an overlap between Chesschat moderators and ACF office bearers. Moderation on this board was much heavier than the previous boards, resulting in conflicts between the moderators and some posters. The disaffected posters formed their own BB, the Australian Chess Club Forum, ostensibly as a haven of freedom from the chesschat "autocracy".
Finally, a new BB has just been started, www.ozchess.com.au. This BB is an attempt to combine the attitude of the ACCF with the same software platform as www.chesschat.org, giving the "best" of both worlds.
For those who are interested in joining these BB's here is my take on each of them, with an emphasis on the traps to watch out for (NB I am not endorsing any of these BB's)

This is the most popular of the 3 boards, and the longest lasting. Nonetheless with age comes a degree of stagnation and although there are chess related posts, most chess related "debates" are fairly short or suffer from thread-drift. It seems most of the old hands are more interested in debating "non-chess" topics, making the BB more of a social club than an information resource. In terms of moderation you are fine as long as you don't do anything wrong. Unfortunately "right v wrong" is often determined not so much by what was said but who said it. This leads to an undercurrent of nastiness by the "in crowd", who remind me of 6th graders picking on the smaller children. But if you're in with the clique then you're fine. (Disclaimer: I stopped posting to this board after the moderators began editing and deleting my posts without my permission.)

The Australian Chess Club Forum
Formed by dissaffected/banned members of chesschat.org ACCF is attempting to be the things it claims that chesschat is not. However the difficult joining process, and the impression of others that this is just a chesschat bashing forum has kept the membership small. While the signal to noise ratio is better than chesschat, the debates are quite sporadic and the posting volume is low. And while there are claims that the board is a haven for freedom etc etc I sense that it wants to be just like its big brother chesschat, only with different people in charge. Kind of like 5th graders waiting until next year, when they get to flush some heads down the toilet.

The new kid on the block. As it is only just up and running it is too early to say what this board will be like. Nonetheless I am cynical enough to believe it won't be any different from the other two, with social norms established by the behaviour of it's moderators. Probably the real metric of its success will be its membership size in say a month or two.

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

A Veteran for 33 Years

While doing some research on past Australian Championships, I flicked through a copy of "Australian Chess Championship 1974 - 100 Best Games". Inside was a picture of Lloyd Fell, with the caption "Sydney Veteran Lloyd Fell concentrates on his game". Given that Lloyd Fell is still an active player, this means he has been a "veteran" for at least 33 years. In fact this is longer than the length of time between 1974 and the first game of his I have in my database (1944).
As well as being a veteran for more than half his chess career, Lloyd is also unique in being the only player to have played in every Doeberl Cup since its inception (as seen in a picture from this years event).

Here is game by Lloyd from the 1974 Australian Championship. (It is worth noting that although this event was held in Cooma, it still attracted 120 players across 3 tournaments).

Fell,L - Ozols,K [C18] AUS-ch Cooma (5), 01.01.1974

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 f5 7.a4 Qa5 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.Nf3 Nge7 10.Be2 Bd7 11.0-0 0-0 12.Qd3 c4 13.Qd2 b5 14.Ba3 bxa4 15.Bd6 Rfe8 16.h4 Nc8 17.Ba3 Qd8 18.g3 Rb8 19.Ng5 Rb7 20.Bh5 g6 21.Be2 Nb6 22.Nh3 Bc8 23.h5 Rg7 24.Kg2 Qc7 25.hxg6 hxg6 26.Ng5 Nd8 27.Rh1 Nf7 28.Rh2 Qd8 29.Rah1 Nxg5 30.Rh8+ Kf7 31.Rxe8 Qxe8 32.Qxg5 Nd7 33.Rh6 Bb7 34.Bh5 Kg8 35.Bxg6 Nf8 36.Bxf8 Qxf8 37.Qh5 1-0

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Games that are not Chess - Chess

Let me explain the slightly odd title. Apart from chess I play a number of other games, although chess is the game I keep coming back to. When I do play other games (Poker, Bridge, Diplomacy, abstract games, war games, Euro games), it is inevitable that I often think like a chess player (as opposed to a gamer) and I compare these other games to chess.
On the other hand I sometimes come across "gamers" who do the opposite. Approach chess from a gamers perspective, and make comparisons from that direction.
One of the places I go to get info about games is BoardGameGeek. While having a look around I thought I'd see where chess sat in amongst the myriad of other board games. At the moment it is ranked 189, which doesn't surprise me, given the environment it is being ranked in. However it was the comments section towards the bottom of the chess page that I found most interesting. If you want to see what non-chess playing gamers think about chess, especially in terms of its place in society, have a look. There is certainly some back-and-forth between the posters, but overall it is a fairly intelligent debate. Probably the best post is the starting post in the thread "Why you might hate chess", which is actually a post on why chess is considered "above" all other board games.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Scary Robots

More public testing of the Questacon Robot today. What was especially interesting was the reaction that people had to it. Some found it interesting, some found it scary, and to some, it was as though the robot wasn't there.
I was particularly fascinated by those who were wary/scared of the robot. Although the robot doesn't move of its own accord (for safety reasons), it is at the stage where it can carry out a conversation, and maintain eye contact with whoever is interacting with it. While some people wanted to try it out there were a number of people who backed away from it. I guess some it was just the usual "techno-fear" ie afraid of any new technology, but I suspect some people were worried about what it was. A number of young children seemed especially wary when they realised the robot was looking at them, while adults were more put off by having to talk to the robot.
So when robots become more common place over the next 10-20 years, what sort of reaction will you have? Attraction or Rejection?

Sunday, 15 July 2007

ANU Chess Festival - List of Events

The 2007 ANU Chess Festival is only 2 weekends away. There are a number of activities you can take part in (not all of which are chess).

On the 27th July (Friday) GM Ian Rogers will be giving a blindfold simul followed by a normal simul in City Walk, Canberra City. This event is hosted by King O'Malley's Pub and is sponsored by the University Co-op Bookshop, ANU. With Ian Rogers retirement from competitive chess this very well may be the last opportunity to see him play, or even play against him. The blindfold simul starts at 12 noon, with the normal simul starting at the completion of the blindfold simul.

On the 28th & 29th July (Saturday and Sunday) is the ANU Open Chess Tournament. This event is divied into an Open and a Under 1600 section. Both events will be 7 round swiss events with a time limit of G/60+10s (Fischer). Over $3,000 in prizes on offer. This event will be held at Fenner Hall, 210 Northbourne Ave, Braddon. There is plenty of parking at the venue, as well as being on the main bus route from the centre of Canberra.
(NB Due to his retirement GM Ian Rogers will not be playing in this event, but has kindly agreed to present the prizes at the prize giving ceremony).

Also on the 28 & 29 July is the ACT Go Championship. This event is held in 2 divisions, with a championship and handicap section. It will be held at the same venue as the Chess. Further information from Jason Wright; M: 0438 464 535

On 29 July (Sunday), ACT Backgammon will be holding an Open tournament. You can enter on the day, simply by turning up to the venue (Fenner Hall).

Full details of all these events can be found here.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

New Remainders

My favourite Canberra bookstore, Academic Remainders, has just got a new delivery of chess books. Wandering past yesterday afternoon I picked up copies of "English Attack and " by de Firmian and Fedorowicz, "Test you Chess with Daniel King", and "Dynamics of Chess Strategy" by Vlastimil Jansa. They also have "Bobby Fischer: The Wandering King", books on Judit Polgar, the Budapest Opening, and a couple of Gary Lane's, "Find the Winning Move" and "Find the Checkmate".
The best bit, as usual, is the price. Each book is only $9.95 (which is a perfectly sensible price for any chess book!).
So while your on your way to Street Chess this morning, you can pick up some bargain price chess books as well.

(Usual disclaimer: No, I don't get any kick backs from this store)

Friday, 13 July 2007

Instant Membership

One of the difficulties people face in joining a chess association, or subscribing to a magazine, is actually getting around to it. Writing a cheque or getting a money order from the post office, and then having to address a letter, followed by actually posting in it, is often too much like hard work. And I'm just as bad as the next person.
So of course it would be much easier if you could just click a button and transfer the money directly.
That is why I've added a button that allows you to join the Correspondence Chess League of Australia (CCLA). All you need to do is click on the "Subscribe" button in the top right corner and fill in the payment details. Most importantly put your postal address in the "billing address" details so the CCLA know where to send the quarterly magazine. The system (managed through Paypal) accepts both Paypal payments, as well as credit card payments.
Now the point of this isn't to make money (as I get nothing from the transactions) but to see whether ease of payment is a contributing factor in membership rates. One of the objections for a direct membership scheme to the Australian Chess Federation has always been the mechanism for collecting payments. Assuming that people can now pay directly, this objection can probably be dispensed with.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

The most awesome chessplayer ever

Rashid Nezhmetdinov.
Thats my claim and I'm sticking to it. As evidence, simply play through his games. You will find some of the most spectacular attacking chess you will ever see. Especially the games between himself and Mikhail Tal. There 2 attacking masters go at it, with Nezh ending up with a plus score against the Wizard from Latvia.
Of course I'm not his only fan, with Andrew Soltis giving Nezhmetdinov's 1958 game against Lev Polugaevsky his vote for the best game ever. There is even a blog in his memory , mrnezhmetdinov.blogspot.com.
And while the Polugaevsky - Nezhmetdinov game gets GM Soltis's vote, his 1962 game against Chernikov is one of my all time favourites, containing one of the greatest moves ever seen at the chessboard.

Nezhmetdinov,R - Chernikov [B35]
Rostov Rostov, 1962
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 0-0 8.Bb3 Ng4 9.Qxg4 Nxd4 10.Qh4 Qa5 11.0-0 Bf6 (D) Up until this game this variation was considered an easy way to draw with Black. White has some difficulty in finding a good square for the queen, as Qf4/g3 runs into Qxc3 followed by Ne2+, and Qg4/h3 is met by d5. That leaves Qh6 when Bg7 forces a repetition. So Chernikov figured that Nezhmetdinov was looking for a day off with a quick draw. But in this position Nezhmetdinov began to think and think. His confused opponent wandered around the hall for 40 minutes waiting for his opponent to offer the draw. That was until ...
12.Qxf6!! Ne2+ 13.Nxe2 exf6 14.Nc3 Re8 15.Nd5 Re6 16.Bd4 Kg7 17.Rad1 d6 18.Rd3 Bd7 19.Rf3 Bb5 20.Bc3 Qd8 21.Nxf6 Be2 22.Nxh7+ Kg8 23.Rh3 Re5 24.f4 Bxf1 25.Kxf1 Rc8 26.Bd4 b5 27.Ng5 Rc7 28.Bxf7+ Rxf7 29.Rh8+ Kxh8 30.Nxf7+ Kh7 31.Nxd8 Rxe4 32.Nc6 Rxf4+ 33.Ke2 1-0

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

The Centaur

In the world of chess the term "Centaur" is becoming quite popular. It is the term used to describe a hybrid human/computer player ie A human who is assisted by a computer program or a computer program that is assisted by a human.
While the concept had been around since computer programs had been developed (although it was more humans helping computers in those days) probably the first "serious" match was between Kasparov and Topalov in Leon, 1998.
These days it is more common to see such events on chess servers (eg Playchess) although less common to see GM's taking part. Indeed the concept is more about who has the best program, as some of the leading Centaurs only use the human part to turn on the computer and start the software.
It is possibly in the area of Correspondence Chess that the idea would work better. Unlike OTB (over the board) chess with its fast time limits, it is not enough to rely on the tactical power of the machine to bring home the point. The subtle positional understanding that computers lack becomes more important as tactics become less so. Of course in International CC the use of computers is allowed, although I know at least one CC official who disputes this.
However in Australia the use of computers are forbidden in CCLA events. Nonetheless at the CCLA Council meeting last weekend I did suggest that the CCLA look at running "Centaur" type events, and the idea is being considered. I would be interested in seeing how many players would take part in such events, and more importantly, whether that thought the experience was better, or worse, than their current CC tournaments.

White: Kasparov, Gary
Black: Topalov, Veselin
Place: Leon, ESP Round: 2 Date: 1998
(Annotations: Shaun Press and The King computer program)
1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 g6 3. c4 Bg7 4. g3 0-0 5. Bg2 c6 6. Nc3 d5 7. cxd5 cxd5 8. Ne5 e6 9. 0-0 Nfd7 10. f4 Nc6 11. Be3 f6 12. Nf3 f5?!
Not only does this move allow White to reoccupy e5 it also rules out the possibility of pawn breaks on e5 or f5. Consequently Black is left with an inflexible position, making it harder for him to generate counterplay.
13. Ne5 Nb6 14. b3 Bd7 15. Qd3 Nc8 16. Bc1 Nxe5 17. dxe5
The King preferred to capture with the f pawn, opening the diagonal for the bishop. Kasparov instead decides his advantage lies on the queenside and the g1-a7 diagonal is more important than the c1-h6
17. ... Rf7 18. Be3 Bc6 19. Rfc1 Qa5 20. a3
Whites advantage begins to grow with the king assessing the position as 0.67 of a pawn in favour of White.
20. ... a6 21. Bd4 Bf8 22. e3 Be8 23. Qd2 Qd8
The passive nature of Black's pieces demonstrates the problems with f5
24. Bf1 Rc7 25. Qb2 Rc6 26. Na4 Rxc1 27. Rxc1
There are a number of celebrated games where one player retreats his pieces to the back of the board before exploding to life, sweeping all before him. This isn't one of them.
27. ... Bc6 28. Nc5 Qe8 29. a4 a5 30. Qc3 Qf7 31. Bb5
A move that The King disapproved of. With the Black bishop serving as a large pawn, it believed that White should hang onto his "good" bishop. However, Kasparov realises that to win the game he needs to open the c file and the Black bishop is in the road.
31. ... Bxb5 32. axb5 h6 33. Na4 Ba3??
While looking good at first, this move loses on the spot. The King took 5 seconds to realise it's shortcomings.
34. Qxc8+!! Rxc8 35. Rxc8+ Kh7 36. b6 1-0
Black cannot save the Queen.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

The champion of democracy?

Gary Kasparov has been in the news a lot lately. Just do a search on Google News for chess and half the stories are about Kasparov's heroic battles with the Russian government. But I, for one, remain skeptical.
Not because I believe that Kasparov isn't trying to change the government in Russia, but because I'm not convinced what Kasparov understands by democracy is what the rest of us understand by democracy. He certainly had difficulties with the concept when he was involved with both the Grandmasters Association (GMA) and the Professional Chess Association (PCA), quitting both organisations when he didn't get his way. And his reconciliation with FIDE in 2002 had more to do with financial rewards than any idealogical compromises.
The biggest problem that Kasparov will face if his campaign is successful is realising his personal interests aren't the same as the countries interests. Certainly he was unable to do so at the 1992 Chess Olympiad, when he was a judge on the panel to decide the "Best Game Prize". He felt there was no conflict between his role as a judge and the fact that he had submitted 3 of his own games for judging. Of course he won the prize for "Best Game" (played against Nikolic), while relegating the following game to 2nd place.

Rogers,I - Milos,G [A41]
Manila Olympiad Manila Olympiad (10), 1992

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nc3 Bg4 4.e4 e6 5.h3 Bh5 6.Qe2 c6 7.g4 Bg6 8.Bg5 Be7 9.Bxf6 Bxf6 10.h4 h6 11.0-0-0 Nd7 12.Kb1 Qc7 13.Rg1 h5 14.g5 Be7 15.d5 e5 16.Bh3 0-0-0 17.Nd2 Kb8 18.Nc4 Nb6 19.Nxb6 Qxb6 20.Rd3 Ka8 21.a3 Rdf8 22.Bf5 Bh7 23.Rgd1 g6 24.dxc6 bxc6 25.Bd7 Qc7 (D)
26.Bxc6+ Qxc6 27.Nd5 Bd8 28.Rc3 Qb7 29.Rb3 Qc6 30.Rdd3 Ba5 31.Rdc3 Bxc3 32.Qa6 1-0

So while "Sic semper tyrannis" and all that, I'm not convinced that Kasparov is looking to replace the system, rather than just the man.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Thinking about thinking about chess

While there are a huge number of books that tell you how to play chess, there are very few books on how to think about chess. "Think like a Grandmaster" by Kotov is certainly the most known, while Silman's "Reassess your Chess" is a more modern example.
To this list I can certainly recommend the addition of "Teach yourself Better Chess" by William Hartston. While the book appears to be a standard "Improve your chess" kind of book, it is in fact filled with a a huge amount of advice to improve your thinking. In fact most of the advice is designed to challenge "lazy thinking" and "accepted wisdom", which is hardly surprising, given Hartston's background as a psychologist.
The book is divided into 3 categories (Basic, Advanced, Mastery) with 25 short chapters for each. Each chapter has a heading describing the problem, and then a fuller explanation. For example the chapter titled "Playing with Blinkers" contains the following observation. "Good ideas interfere with better ones". And to demonstrate the truth of this he provides the following example.
In the diagrammed position it is White to play and mate in how many?
Without giving the to much away I'll suggest that the obvious answer is probably incorrect.

So if you seem to have hit a brick wall in attempting to improve your chess, you might want to try working through "Teach yourself better chess".

Sunday, 8 July 2007

GM Ian Rogers retires a winner

GM Ian Rogers, Australia's number 1 player for over 20 years has won the Lidums Checkmate Open that has just been completed in Adelaide. Ian finished on 6/7 after defeating IM Andras Toth in the final round, with his two closest competitors GM Dejan Antic and Sam Chow drawing their final game.
At the closing ceremony he then announced his retirement from competitive chess, due to health reasons. Unfortunately Ian has a medical condition that is exacerbated by the stress of tournament play and therefore cannot compete at the highest level.
He played in the Adelaide tournament to fulfill a commitment he made to the organisers, knowing in advance that this would be his last tournament.
Having known Ian for many years, and organised a number of tournaments he has played in, it is fitting that his final tournament, and final victory, was in an Australian weekend event. Ian has for a long time been the biggest drawcard in Australian chess, and merely by playing in the many weekend events he helped build up the chess culture in this country, even if the tournament conditions may not have matched a player of his stature.
Of course Ian will still be involved in chess, both through his writing and his coaching. And I'm sure his services will be in great demand as a team captain/coach for chess teams in the various European leagues or countries at the Olympiad.

Australian Open 82/83

Visiting Hyde Park yesterday also reminded me of the first big chess event I attended as a spectator. The 1982/83 Australian Open was held in Sydney, at the Paddington PCYC. No high class venues in those days, with the playing hall being just that, a hall, and a tiny analysis area at the back.
For myself, who was just getting into chess, this was a big thing, and I attended on as many days as I good. I even took along one of my chess books and asked both Ian Rogers and Darryl Johansen if they could autograph it. While both seemed bemused by my request they did sign, for which I have always been grateful.
Unfortunately the only game that seems to available from this event was Lloyd Fell's sensational win over Ian Rogers. While this game may appear at some point in the future it would be unkind to Ian to publish it in the context of this article. So instead I did some searching and found a nice game from earlier in Ian's career.
The following game was played in the 1978 Victorian Junior Championship. Ian's opponent is well known Melbourne chess identity, Angelo Tsagarakis. The opening was the Henning-Schara Gambit, an opening that Ian took with him when he began his international career.

Tsagarakis,A - Rogers,I [D32]
VIC Junior ch, 1978
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 c5 4.cxd5 cxd4 5.Qxd4 Nc6 6.Qd1 exd5 7.Qxd5 Bd7 8.Nf3 Nf6 9.Qb3 Bc5 10.Bg5 Qa5 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.0-0-0 0-0-0 13.Qxf7 Bxf2 14.g3 Be3+ 15.Kb1 Bf5+ 16.Ka1 (D)
16. ... Qxc3 17.Rxd8+ Rxd8 18.bxc3 Rd1+ 19.Kb2 Rb1+ 20.Ka3 Bc5+ 0-1

Chessbase 8, Fritz 8 Problem (Solved)

Last year sometime I got a copy of Chessbase 8. The a couple of weeks later I purchased a copy of Fritz 8 from a computer game store for around $20 (I'm pretty sure they weren't aware of its usual retail price!). Unfortunately I couldn't get Chessbase 8 to use Fritz 8 as an analysis engine. Every time I tried it would ask me to insert the Engine CD and when I did it would then tell me it wasn't the engine CD.
Finally today I found the answer. Although it is a simple (and obvious) answer, attempts to search the web to find help were unsuccessful, and so I'll post it hear to help other poor souls like me.
The simple solution is to click on the "update" option in Chessbase 8 and download the update. Looking at the upgrade file it appears that the upgrade is required to allow ChessBase 8 to talk to some of the newer engines including Fritz 7&8, plus Shredder 7 and Tiger 15.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Hyde Park Chess

A CCLA (Correspondence Chess League of Australia) meeting meant a lightning visit to Sydney today. The venue for the meeting wasn't far from Hyde Park, so I paid a quick visit to the giant chess board located outside the entrance to St James Station. I first visited this Sydney chess icon way back in 1983 and it seems nothing has changed. The usual collection of elderly gentlemen, either playing, or more usually, offering "helpful" advice. A number of games being played on the tables or benches surrounding the large board. And a number of curious onlookers taking photos or trying to work out why these people were here.
In fact my first visit to the Hyde Park chess board was also my first encounter with an IM, although I didn't realise it straight away. Having hung around for a while watching the games, I was invited to play a game on a spare board (not the big pieces) by someone looking for an opponent. We played a few games when a noticed that we had attracted an interested spectator. Attempting to explain my poor play I said "I'm just learning the game", to which he replied "That's OK, I'm just learning too". A few days later I was observing the 1982-83 Australian Open when the same "learning" spectator turned up. As he was being greeted warmly by a number of the tournament top seeds I began to wonder who it was. I must have asked one of the officials who replied "Oh, that's International Master Terry Shaw".
Having met Terry on a number of occasions following that first meeting it was clear that his comments to me were a combination of his sense of humor, as well as his natural modesty.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Games that are not Chess - Shogi

Recently my son convinced (or tricked) my wife into buying him a Nintendo DS. Just so I wouldn't be forced to fight endless Poekemon battles I brought a game cartridge that had a number of board and card games on it. Of course my main interest was the chess program it had, but I also discovered it had a Shogi program as well.
For those that don't know Shogi is Japanese Chess, although historically it may pre-date Chess (at least in its current form). While the games have plenty of similarities, it is the differences that make Shogi interesting. Probably the biggest difference is that capturing a piece in Shogi means exactly that. Any piece captured joins your army, and can be dropped onto the board (in place of a move) in the same way as Bughouse. The often creates wild swings in the game where one player sacrifices material for a mating attack, and finding it unsuccessful, gets buried under an avalanche of pieces coming the other way.
Probably the hardest adjustment for me when playing was the lack of long-range pieces. You start with a single rook and bishop and losing those (as I often did) was catastrophic. Also it does take time to get used to the symbols on the pieces, as they are in Japanese.
There is a chess/shogi crossover as the strongest player in Shogi history is considered to be Yoshiharu Habu, the only player to win the 7 Crowns (the 7 leading Shogi tournaments) in the same year. He is also one of Japan's leading chess players with a rating of 2400. This is what he did to English GM Peter Wells in the Essent Open 2005

Wells,P (2513) - Habu,Y (2341) [D47]
Hoogeveen Essent open (2), 22.10.2005
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Be2 b4 9.Na4 Bd6 10.e4 Nxe4 11.Qc2 f5 12.Ng5 Nxg5 13.Qxc6 Ne4 14.Qxa8 0-0 15.Qc6 Ndf6 16.f3 Bd7 17.Qa6 Bxa4 18.Qxa4 Bxh2 19.Rxh2 Qxd4 20.fxe4 Nxe4 21.Rh1 Qf2+ 22.Kd1 Rd8+ 23.Kc2 Qxe2+ 24.Kb1 Nc3+ 25.bxc3 bxc3 26.Ba3 Rb8+ 27.Qb3 Qd3+ 28.Kc1 Qd2+ 0-1

Thursday, 5 July 2007

All Africa Games

The 9th All Africa Games is about to start, and like the recent All Asian Games, chess is one of the medal sports. I've spotted a couple of interesting stories in the lead up to the Games, and hopefully there will be some coverage of the chess in international news.
One early story covered the difficulty that the Ugandan Chess Team has had in getting to Algeria (the host country). The problem is that the Ugandan Olympiad Committee hadn't budgeted the funds for the chess team, and they are desperately trying to raise money to cover the travel costs.
The other story involved a plan by the Kenyan Chess team to reverse their board order (weakest top, strongest bottom) to improve their chances. As someone who has been involved with such a strategy (PNG team at the 2000 Olympiad), my advice is "Don't do it". While it may benefit a couple of the top players (at most), it has a negative impact on the team overall. Better to do your best, with your best, than to try and "game" the system.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Ivanchuk's Brilliant Combination

As reported below, Vassily Ivanchuk was the winner of the Aerosvit Tournament, much to the delight of the local Ukrainian fans. On the way to first place he score a win over Alexi Shirov, with a brilliant combination that no doubt will turn up in puzzle books and coaching manuals for years to come.

Shirov,A (2699) - Ivanchuk,V (2729) [C91]
Aerosvit-2007 Foros (10), 28.06.2007

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 b5 6.Bb3 Be7 7.d4 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.Re1 Bg4 10.Be3 exd4 11.cxd4 d5 12.e5 Ne4 13.Nc3 Nxc3 14.bxc3 Qd7 15.h3 Bh5 16.g4 Bg6 17.Nd2 a5 18.f4 a4 19.Bc2 Bxc2 20.Qxc2 f5 21.exf6 Bxf6 22.Nf3 Rae8 23.Bf2 h5 24.Qg6 Re4 25.Rxe4 dxe4 26.Nh2 (D) Now here is where the action really starts. Spotting that d4 is the focal square in the position, Ivanchuk sacrifices his knight to take control of it. 26...Nxd4! 27.cxd4 Bxd4 28.Rb1 [Obviously not 28.Bxd4 Qxd4+-+] 28...e3 29.Bg3 [29.Be1 Qd5 30.Rd1 e2+ 31.Rxd4 Qxd4+ 32.Kg2 Qd5+-+] 29...h4!! This is the real star move in the combination. By forcing the bishop away from protecting f4, Black gets all his pieces into the attack. 30.Bxh4 Rxf4 31.Qd3 Qd5 32.Nf1 Rf2! 33.Nxe3 Rg2+ 34.Kh1 Qf3 Mating on h3, or winning the Queen on d3 (after Nxg2) 0-1

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

"I'd like the 5 minute argument please"

A number of years ago I was driving to a weekender in country NSW, and IM Ben Martin was a passenger in my car. We were discussing the topics of arguments/feuds in chess (apparently they do occur from time to time) and he made a comment that I found most insightful.
"The problem with arguing with idiots" he said, "is that the spectators cannot tell who is who".
And I feel it is an excellent piece of advice. Consequently I've tried not to fall into the trap of having to seen to be right. If I am involved in an online discussion where there is a disagreement I usually make one attempt to state my case. Normally I do this by posing a question with the intention of finding out how much the other person knows. If however I find that the other person either dodges the question or answers it in a way that indicates they aren't arguing from a factual basis, I normally leave it at that. No point in wasting time with someone who will not/cannot listen.
But to each their own. Where would chess be without the arguments? Probably better off I would guess, but for some people the attraction of chess probably is the arguments, whether they are engaged in them, or just watching them.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Dortmund and Aerosvit - Finito

Both Super GM tournaments have finished, with Kramnik and Ivanchuk emerging as winners.
The Dortmund event was probably to more disappointing of the 2, with a return to what some would consider the bad old days of "don't lose" chess. Kramnik finished with an impressive 5/7 (+3=4-0), but his 3 wins accounted for almost half the decisive games in the event. 75% of the 28 games were drawn, with Alekseev, Leko, Anand and Mamedyarov scoring one win each.
Aerosvit did a little better with 33% of the games ending in a result, although Svidler might have been sending a message to the Dortmund organisers with a +1=10-0 performance. Ivanchuk finished on 7.5/11 (+4=7-0), with Karjakin on 7 (+3=8).

Sunday, 1 July 2007

ACT Schools Teams Championships

The ACT Schools Teams Championship wrapped up this week. The Finals of the Primary and Secondary School sections were held at the ACTJCL Chess Centre at Campbell High School.
In the Secondary section, the Hawker Hurricanes, representing Hawker College were convincing winners, scoring 23/28 finishing 3 points ahead of the Radford College Team. In third place was Telopea High School on 19.5. For full standings click here.
In the Primary section it was another win for Hawker, in this case Hawker Primary. In equal second place was Garran Primary, and the Curtin Johansen's (in reality the Curtin Primary Girls chess team). Primary standings here.
I helped out at the Primary final and was very impressed by the quality of play from all teams. The ever popular "Scholars Mate" didn't get much of a run during the finals, as almost all players new what to do. As I explained to the Amaroo Primary team (playing for the first time), the difference was that "threats only work if your opponent can't stop them, not because they don't see them".