Sunday, 30 September 2007

Anand wins World Championship Title

By ageeing to a last round draw with Peter Leko, Viswanathan Anand has become World Champion for the second time. In the end he finished a full point ahead former champion Vladimir Kramnik and tournament surprise Boris Gelfand. Full results from chessmexico, as well as FIDE's coverage of the event.
In the end both this tournament, and the San Luis championship event have demonstrated that a title tournament consisting of the worlds best players does attract and hold the interest of the chess community, as well as attracting sponsorship. But as a way of determining the World Champion I still think a match between the reigning champion and a Candidates Tournament winner is still the way to go.
And in a strange way so does FIDE. Even though Anand is the World Champion he still must play a match against Kramnik next year. According to FIDE regulations the match is over 12 games and will be held between May-Spetember 2008. There is also mention of a match between Topalov and the winner of the FIDE World Cup knockout, with the winner of this match playing the winner of Anand-Kramnik.
Of course this could all change (if it hasn't already!) as the rules seem to be merely a guideline to how things happen, easily replaced when a new suggestion comes along.
To this end I'd like to make an old suggestion. As if by accident FIDE have almost arranged all the events to return to the old style world championship cycle. My suggestion is a 3 (or 2) year cycle starting with Zonals (and Continental Championships) which qualify players to the FIDE World Cup (the equivalent of the old Inter-Zonals). The top players of this event qualify for the next World Championship Tournament, although this event returns to it's role as the Candidates tournament of old. The winner of this event then plays the World Champion in a match to determine the title.
But most importantly, once this structure is in place, don't change it! This way sponsors and players know in advance whether the event they are playing in counts for something, rather than the uncertainly that often surrounds FIDE events.

Hip-Hop Chess Fights Back

My first real exposure to blogs was via political blogs such as Atrios and Crooks and Liars. These blogs do an excellent job of covering US politics, as well as dispelling any notion that the intelligence of most Americans is only represented by the hosts on Fox News.
And speaking of Fox News hosts, Bill O'Reilly (think Alan Jones with a TV show) is in trouble for indulging in what some call "soft" racism. After a visit to a restaurant in Harlem, New York, O'Reilly commented that he "couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship."
Full coverage of his remarks is available at, but to be fair to O'Reilly he did claim that by publishing his comments in full, mediamatters were "quoting him out of context".

Well the Hip-Hop Chess Federation have joined the debate, sending an open letter to O'Reilly, inviting him to their next chess tournament. You can read the letter here. I would be surprised if O'Reilly takes up the offer but if he does I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

It's all happening at the MCG

The Mexican Chess Games that is. A few days ago it seemed that Anand was the guaranteed winner of the World Championship tournament, holding a 1.5 lead with 3 rounds to go. But Boris Gelfand closed the gap to 1 point after a crushing win over Aronian in Round 12 (Anand drew) and as I write this Anand is trying to hold a Rook and Pawn ending a pawn down against Grischuk. If Anand loses then he only leads by 0.5 over Gelfand with 1 round to play.
After the relative snoozefest in the early part of the tournament the last few rounds have seen a lot more action. Due to a relatively favourable timezone, chess fans in eastern Australia can usually catch an hour or so of the games before having to go to work/school etc.

Aronian,L (2750) - Gelfand,B (2733) [D43]
WCh Mexico City MEX (12), 27.09.2007

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.e3 Nd7 8.Bd3 dxc4 9.Bxc4 g6 10.0-0 Bg7 11.Rc1 0-0 12.Ne4 Qe7 13.Bb3 Rd8 14.Qc2 e5 15.Rfe1 Kh8 16.g4!? A gold star for bravery! Usually the follow up to such a plan is Kh1-Rg1 with a kingside attack. Aronian never gets around to it. 16...Rf8 17.g5 f5 18.gxf6 Bxf6 19.Kg2 Bg7 20.h4 Nb6! 21.dxe5(D)
21. ... Bg4
[ 21...Rxf3! was the move suggested by most computer programs (Rybka, Fritz etc) 22.Kxf3 Bf5 23.Kg2 Qxh4! 24.f4 and if Black can then find 24...Nd7! he has a decisive advantage.] 22.Ned2 Nd7! 23.e6 Ne5 24.Nh2 [ 24.Nxe5 Rxf2+!! 25.Kxf2 Qxh4+ 26.Kg2 Bxe5 wins] 24...Qxh4 25.f4 Bf5 26.Ne4 Qh3+ 27.Kg1 Nf3+ Although he had a choice of wins Gelfand decides to liquidate into a simpler position. 28.Nxf3 Qxf3 29.Ng5 hxg5 30.Qh2+ Qh5 31.Qxh5+ gxh5 32.e7 Rfe8 33.Rc5 Bg4 34.Rxg5 Rxe7 35.Kg2 Bf6 36.Rg6 Rf8 37.e4 Bf5 38.Rh6+ Kg7 39.Rxh5 Bxe4+ 40.Kh2 Bd5 0-1

Friday, 28 September 2007

Chess Prodigy - Evil Genius

I watched the latest James Bond film last night (Casino Royale) and I noted that when providing the background on the bad guy (Le Chiffre) one of his attributes was "Chess Prodigy". Having seen this device used a couple of times ("Knight Moves" and an awful action novel called "Grandmaster") I'm wondering if there are any real life examples?

btw Vesper is the worst Bond girl ever

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Hacking the French

Looking through the games from the Monarch Assurance Isle of Man Open I came across this effort by Moulthun Ly. It seems a sensible method of meeting the French, using the straightforward idea of checkmating Black. Of course if Black had found 20 ... f5 instead of 20. ... Qc3?? then Moulthun had some more work today (eg 21.g4) but in a practical sense, pressure moves do cause your opponents to blunder.

Ly,M (2295) - Fraser-Mitchell,J (2097) [C05]
Monarch Assurance Isle of Man (4.33), 25.09.2007

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ndf3 Qa5 8.a3 Be7 9.Rb1 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 cxd4 11.b4 Qc7 12.cxd4 Nb6 13.Nf3 Bd7 14.Bd3 Ba4 15.Qe2 Rc8 16.0-0 0-0 17.f5 Bc2 18.f6 gxf6 19.Bh6 Bxb1 20.Bxb1 (D)
20. ... Qc3 21.Qf2 Kh8 22.Qh4 Rg8 23.exf6 1-0

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

A little (chess) humour

The website describes it self as "A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language." It also occasionally strays into the area of chess. Here a couple of links to some chess related cartoons.

Chess Enlightenment
Chess Photo

I would have liked to have seen the second cartoon "before" I went to DisneyLand as I would have come back with some real interesting photos.

Note: Although the cartoons are "worksafe" the site does contain the following
Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors).

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Auckland and Port Erin

Two other international events that may interest followers of Australian Chess.
The George Trundle NZ Masters is underway in Auckland with GM Darryl Johansen, IM Stephen Solomon and FM Tim Reilly taking part.
The Monarch Assurance Isle of Man International is also underway with IM David Smerdon, FM Manuel Weeks and Moulthun Ly entered.
Click on the highlighted links above for current standings etc

Asian Championship Round 6

Indonesian GM Susanto Megaranto leads this event with 5/6 (+4=2). As with any big swiss there is a pack of players closely following (4 players on 4.5, 10 on 4.o). Latest standings are at
Further down the field PNG representative Stuart Fancy is on 1.5/6 (equal 65th) along side no less a player the Dinh Duc Trong(VIE), a former Australian Open winner. Stuart states
this is a really strong tournament
heaps of GMs not sure why no Aussies here
it is a good tournament food and board paid

Although seeded 70th (from 72 players) Stuart scored a good win in the third around against a player rated 200 points above him. (Big thanks the The Closet Grandmaster for sending me a copy of this game)

Fancy,S (2152) - Maga,M (2361) [B27]

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nf3 c5 4.dxc5 Na6 5.Bxa6 Qa5+ 6.Bd2 Qxa6 7.Bc3 Nf6 8.Qd3 Qc6 9.b4 b6 10.cxb6 axb6 11.b5 Qe6 12.0-0 Bb7 13.Ng5 Qg4 14.f4 h6(D)
15.h3 Qh5 16.g4 Qh4 17.Be1 hxg5 18.Bxh4 Rxh4 19.Nd2 Ra4 20.fxg5 Nxe4 21.Nxe4 Rxe4 22.c3 Be5 23.Rfe1 Rexg4+ 24.hxg4 Bf4 25.Re4 Rxg4+ 26.Kf1 Rh4 27.Rxf4 Rxf4+ 28.Ke2 Re4+ 29.Kd2 Re5 30.c4 Rxg5 31.Qd4 Rg2+ 32.Kc3 f5 33.Qxb6 Be4 34.Rg1 Rc2+ 35.Kb3 d6 36.Rxg6 1-0

Monday, 24 September 2007

Boring Computer Chess?

This post was going to be all about how boring it is to watch two strong computer programs play each other (viz Rybka v Zappa) but when I went to check the games I see that Rybka is is being taught a lesson by Zappa. After the first games was drawn, Rybka won a long second game where it squeezed out a win in a double bishop ending. But Zappa has struck back winning the next 3 games in a row.
Nonetheless the games themselves have been pretty dry, and long winded.
Here is the conclusion to the round 2 which demonstrates what happens when one side has a clear advantage but the other side is determined to hang on. And unlike humans, neither side is going to get tired, confused or dispirited.

Rybka v Zappa
Mexico 2007
I won't bore you with what lead up to this position as the conclusion takes long enough. (D)
64.f4 Bd2 65.Bg6 Bb3 66.f5 Bb4 67.Bf7 Bc2 68.Bd4 Bd1 69.Bh5 Bb3 70.Ke5 Bc4 71.f6 Ba3 72.Bb6 Bb2+ 73.Kf5 Bd3+ 74.Ke6 Bc4+ 75.Ke7 Ba3+ 76.Kd7 Bb5+ 77.Ke6 Bc4+ 78.Kf5 Bd3+ 79.Ke5 Bb2+ 80.Bd4 Ba3 81.Kd5 Kh7 82.Be3 Bc2 83.Bxg5 Bb3+ 84.Ke5 Bd1 85.Ke6 Bb3+ 86.Kd7 Ba4+ 87.Kd8 Bb4 88.f7 Ba5+ 89.Ke7 Bb4+ 90.Ke6 Bb3+ 91.Kf6 Bc3+ 92.Kf5 Bc2+ 93.Ke6 Bb3+ 94.Kd7 Ba4+ 95.Kc8 Bb4 96.Bd2 Bc5 97.g5 Bc2 98.Kd7 Ba4+ 99.Kd8 Bc2 100.Bf4 Kg7 101.Be5+ Kh7 102.Bf6 Bg6 103.Be7 Bb6+ 104.Kd7 Bxf7 105.Bxf7 Kg7 106.Ke6 Bd4 107.Be8 Bb2 108.Bf6+ Kf8 109.Bxb2 Kxe8 110.g6 1-0

Game 5 had a similar style finish, although the middle game was interesting. The position went from 2 rooks and a queen each down to Q v 2R, down to QvR before finishing with QvK. But it still took 150 moves, which I am sure is more than most spectators could stand.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Hang on to your chess magazines!

Contributor Milan Ninchich has found that old issues of various Australian chess magazines are selling on eBay for a bomb. A bound set of Australasian Chess Review 1932 went for $US 416.34 while the 1931 volume sold at $US 685.36
Even single magazines (eg Australasian Chess Review March 1920) went for as much as $US 73.00
The 1933 volume of Australasian Chess Review is currently selling for the relatively cheap price of $US 51.00 but I'm sure that the price will jump as the auction comes to a close.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

When you don't pay attention

The weather in Canberra has been fabulous over the last week, ideal fro playing chess outdoors. So I dropped in to Street Chess (link on left) and even decided to play for a few rounds. I was a little rusty but that is no excuse for what happened in the following game. Playing perennial winner Shervin Rafizadeh I bashed out a dozen moves of Dragon theory as White and then on move 14 began to think. What I came up with was (a) This looks like a trap from Winning with the Dragon by Chris Ward and (b) What's the worst that can happen? I quickly found out

Press, Shaun v Rafizadeh, Shervin
Street Chess, 2007
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Bc4 Nc6 9.Qd2 Qa5 10.0-0-0 Ne5 11.Bb3 Bd7 12.h4 Rac8 13.Nde2 Be6 14.Bxe6 fxe6(D)
15.h5?? Nc4 16.Qd3 Qb4 0-1

Friday, 21 September 2007

Asian Individual Chess Championship

This important event has just started in Cebu, The Philippines. It looks very strong and there are spots in the FIDE World Cup up for grabs. Coverage of the event (apart from the results) is patchy so the best place to go is to
As the Oceania sub-zone is part of the Asian Confederation, all countries were invited to send a representative (full board provided) to the tournament. The only country that seems to have accepted the offer is Papua New Guinea, with Stuart Fancy in a sense representing the entire zone. Hopefully I will be able to get some games and reports from him in the next couple of days.
Related to this is Alex Wohl's comments on The Closet Grandmaster blog. It does seem pretty poor that no Australian representative could be found to go. While I'm not saying that blame lies with the ACF (as Alex does) I do feel that it indicates that Australian players (all of who could apply) are happier in the smaller Oceania pond then the bigger Asian one. So for those that think the Oceania zone should be abolished, you may have to think again.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

World Championship Tournament

As I missed the start of this event (not much coverage in HK) I haven't really been up to speed with what is happening. Fortunately Chesstoday has been sending me daily updates, and a visit to the official website has furnished me with the results.
One thing I didn't do in advance was to make a prediction on who was going to win. Of course with the tournament almost half way through I'm on safer ground than 2 weeks ago, but I did vote for Anand at the Chessvibes website. So I'll both claim that as proof that I was going to predict Anand, and happily report that he is leading the tournament, along with Boris Gelfand. Both have had 2 wins, but importantly Gelfand has won his last 2 games, over Aronian and Morozevich.
Another good place for coverage of this event is the chessok website, with the added bonus that GM Sergey Shipov is doing live online commentary of the games.
At this stage I'm still convinced that Anand will win but with the current high percentage of draws (66% drawn) it looks likely that the winning score will be low, leaving the door open for a "fast finisher"

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

I am not a number, I am a free man

2089, 1763, 1750, 1662, 1499, 168
Any chess player would recognise the above numbers as ratings. And any chess player would probably rather be at the front of the list than the end.
But what do the numbers actually represent? To most chess players a rating represents how "good" you are at tournament chess. And for that reason most players strongly identify, and are identified, with their rating. An increase in rating is a fair reflection of the development of a players ability, while a decline is merely an short term set back. Of course a steady decline indicates something more serious, although what it often indicates is misunderstood by most players.
A lot of players fail to make the distinction between their chess knowledge and the practical application of that knowledge. They assume that their rating is a reflection of the former, rather than a result of the latter. And more importantly they fail to realise that the measurement of the latter can only be done relative to their opponents. There is no absolute measure of chess knowledge, only a subjective one.
So while we all accumulate chess knowledge throughout our lives, and indeed improve the way we apply it, we do so surrounded by other players doing the same. And if their knowledge and results outstrip ours, it should be hardly surprising when their ratings increase at the expense of ours.

BTW All the above numbers are my various ratings at the current time. In order they are my FIDE, ACF, ACF Rapid, CCLA, FICS, and BCF Rapid ratings. And they are simply a measure of my performance in the respective environments. Not my chess knowledge which should be constant throughout.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Simple Chess

There have been a number of chess books with this title, but for players of my generation "Simple Chess" by Michael Stean is the book of this name. I picked up a newish copy (2002 algebraic reprint) on my holiday for a very reasonable HK$71.00 (a little over Aus$11 at the current exchange rate).
The reprint is by Dover Publications who have reprinted a huge number of chess books over the years. Thinking that this was a bargain price for a book I had a look at their website and to my joy have discovered that most of their reprints are this cheap. Most of the books would be less than $20 and although most of them (but not all) could be termed "historic" it is a cheap way to fill the gaps in your chess library.

But back to Simple Chess. Here is a game from the book played by the author against Jonathan Mestel in the 1974 British Championship playoffs.

Stean,M (2345) - Mestel,A (2270) [C07]
BCF-ch playoff Llanelli (1), 14.12.1974

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.exd5 Qxd5 5.Ngf3 cxd4 6.Bc4 Qd6 7.0-0 Nc6 8.Nb3 Nf6 9.Nbxd4 Nxd4 10.Nxd4 Bd7 11.Bb3 Qc7 12.Bg5 Ne4 13.Bh4 Bd6 14.Qg4 Bxh2+ 15.Kh1 Qf4 (D)
16.Qxg7 Qxh4 17.Qxh8+ Ke7 18.Nf3 Qh6 19.Qxa8 Ng3+ 20.fxg3 Bxg3+ 21.Kg1 Qe3+ 22.Kh1 Qh6+ ½-½

Monday, 17 September 2007

Airline Chess

One of the (minor) criteria I use to judge the quality of an airline is the chess program provided as part of the in-flight entertainment. For the last 7 or so years I've usually seen a totally woeful program the seems to be standard on Lauda/Lufthansa/Air France etc. For my trip to Hong Kong I flew Virgin Atlantic (no freebees for me for this plug btw) and found they had a different chess program. Even better, the first game I played against it (when I was still awake), went for about 50 moves, even though it began 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ne4? I played 3.d4, won an early pawn but still had to work to grind it down. All very promising.
That was until I decided to get in a quick game before the plane landed. The second game took place about 8 hours into the flight and I was feeling quite tired. Still, it was pretty ugly (for the program).

Me v Airline Chess Program
1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Ne4 3.d3 Nc5 4.d4 Ne6 5.Nf3 d6 6.d5 Nc5 7.Nc3 dxe5 8.Nxe5 Nbd7 9.Bb5 h6 10.Qf3 Ne6 11.Qxf7#

Just for good measure I repeated the game on the return flight.

Nonetheless it still stands up better than the program I previously played. In fact during one game (in 2002 or so) I caused the dreaded "Blue Screen of Death" to appear, and knowing the viral nature of Microsoft products I assumed that the aircrafts avionics were the next to go, with the plane plunging 10,000 metres into the ocean below.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Hong Kong Chess Club

I managed to escape the family for a couple of hours and get along to the Hong Kong Chess Club. Basically it is like any other chess club I have visited, but specifically, it is identical to the Belconnen Chess Club in Canberra.
The HKCC meets at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, using the conference rooms on the 1st level. The rooms open up onto a balcony where you can look down onto the indoor basketball/badmiton courts, just like the Belconnen Community Centre.
Last night was Rd 2 of the Hong Kong Open and there were about 30 players playing. I had a quick conversation with Mingo Lam (club treasurer) who told me that the tournament wasn't "strong" enough, so the top HK players weren't playing (just like Canberra!) More than half the field were junior players, but the quality of play was probably higher than what is seen on the lower boards at most Canberra clubs.
I watched a very interesting top board clash which started with an English Attack against the Najdorf and ended with a nice queen sacrifice. I will try and post the game when I return to Australia.
And one more thing that makes it like most other chess clubs. Apart from the quick conversation I had at the start with Mingo (which I initiated), no one else spoke to me for the whole night.

Friday, 7 September 2007

On holidays

Off on a week long holiday to Hong Kong. As I am not taking my laptop etc I probably won't be blogging that much while I'm there, unless I find a cheap internet cafe, and even then I may not bother.
I hope to get along to the Hong Kong Chess Club, much to the annoyance of my family, and will hopefully have some stories when I return.

I thought I'd share my game against Kaarlo Schepel (HKG) from my first Olympiad. Annoyingly I was better for most of the game without realising it, and chose a drawing line when a win presented itself to me. I'll leave the annotations up to the dispassionate eye of Fruit 2.1.

Press,S - Schepel,K (2175) [C66]
Istanbul ol (Men) Istanbul (8), 05.11.2000
[Fruit 2.1 (10s)]

C66: Ruy Lopez: Steinitz Defence
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 d6 last book move 5.c3 Bg4 [ 5...Be7 6.d4=] 6.h3 Bh5 7.d3 Prevents intrusion on e4 [ 7.d4 Be7+=] 7...Qd7 8.Be3 Be7 9.Nbd2 a6 10.Ba4 b5 11.Bc2 h6 Covers g5 12.Re1 g5 [ 12...0-0 13.Qe2=] 13.Nf1 Rg8 Black intends g4 14.Ng3 Bg6 15.d4 g4 16.dxe5 [ 16.hxg4 Nxg4 17.a4 Na5 18.axb5 Nxe3 19.Rxe3 Nc4+-] 16...Nxe4? [ 16...dxe5!? must be considered 17.Qxd7+ Kxd7 18.Rad1+ Ke8 19.hxg4 Nxg4+=] 17.Nxe4 gxf3 [ 17...d5 18.Nd4 Nxd4 19.Qxd4 dxe4 20.Qxd7+ Kxd7 21.hxg4+-] 18.Qxf3 [ 18.exd6!? cxd6 19.Qxf3 0-0-0+-] 18...d5± 19.Nc5 Nxe5 (D) [ 19...Bxc5!? 20.Bxg6 Rxg6 21.Bxc5 0-0-0±] 20.Qg3+- Qd6 [better is20...Qc6 21.Qxe5 Bxc2+-] 21.Bd4?? with this move White loses his initiative [ better is 21.Nb7 White would have gained the upper hand 21...Qe6 22.Bd4+-] 21...Nc6+= 22.Qxd6 cxd6 ½-½

btw Good luck to all those players making the trip to the Blayney Open!

Thursday, 6 September 2007

The 5 Minute Surprise

I've been a life long Grunfeld player, ever since I discovered that I could take the rook on a1 with my g7 bishop. Of course to real chess players this isn't a reason for choosing an opening (pressure against the centre, latent piece activity they say), but for a hacker like me, it is good enough. So in a small lightning tournament at the ANU Chess Club last night I was shocked by a move I had never seen, or considered, before.
Playing Black against Mario Palma I reflexively spat out the standard moves 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 and was taken aback when my opponent played 7.f4 (D) "Hang on" I said, "you cant play that" but in lightning distraction is often death, so I quickly played the thematic 7. ... c5 Now given my befuddled state it was hardly surprising the game went quickly south.
8.Nf3 [ 8.Bb5+ Bd7 9.Bxd7+ Nxd7= was given by Fritz while 8.Be3 Qa5 9.Kf2 0-0 10.Qb3 cxd4 11.cxd4 Nd7 was given by Hartston in The Grunfeld Defence (1971)] 8...0-0 9.e5 Nc6? 10.d5 Nb8 11.c4 and White just has the massive, and well defended centre.
It then got even worse (then better!), as I dropped a piece through an elementary blunder (Nd7-b6xc4 with the bishop still on e2) before I was able to win the d pawn, and push my queenside pawns up the board, and win.
What then surprised me was when I checked my database at home, how little this move has been played (I found about 30 games). While White does score badly I haven't been able to find a clear and outright refutation of 7.f4 (Hartston simply says "with good play for Black")
So if you are looking for a shock weapon against the Grunfeld then Mario's 7.f4 may fit the bill.

The Workplace Chess Club

I assumed the Workplace Chess Club went out with the disappearance of the cloth cap and the 40 hour week (thank you Workchoices). So I was pleasantly surprised when an email came around where I work (College of Engineering and Computer Science at the Australian National University) asking for players for a lunchtime chess group. It would meet once a week on Wednesdays and players were requested to bring their own sets (if possible).
So I trundled along, sandwich in one hand, bag of chess pieces in another to check it out. There were about 8 to 10 players who turned up. Some of the boards were the cheap and cheerful sets you get from Big W for $10 and someone had even brought a chess clock so ancient it appeared to pre-date the invention of the sundial. But the important thing was that it was fun, as people were happy to chat during the games, mistakes were met with an "oh well", and the winners were often more embarrassed than the losers.
I was even able to pull the old "I play a little bit" gambit, at least until a non playing friend of mine insisted I fess up to what I was going to do later in the day (Chess Coaching).
Why the idea seems to work is that rather than assuming that chess is both the common interest and the common activity, the common interest is the fact we work for the same organisation, but chess is an activity we can share.
For me, I've now penciled in Wednesday lunchtimes as a regular slot for an enjoyable hour playing chess.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Chess and Australian Politics

Left wing pundit Phillip Adams has written an article about the upcoming Federal Election, replete with numerous chess metaphors and analogies. Unusually for such an article he seems to get most chess related references right, even mentioning more contemporary GM's rather than the usual "Cold War" references.
My only quibble would be describing the Rudd v Howard match as "Fischer v Topalov" when a more accurate description would be "Kramnik v Topalov" with Howard taking the role of Topalov, acting squeaky clean while his dirty tricks squad (Danilov) complain about Rudd(Kramnik) making too many trips to a Strip Club (Toilet).
But read the article yourself and see how it measures up.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Chessboard cross the Mersey

The Liverpool Open has just started and a couple of Australian players are taking part. IM David Smerdon (soon to become Canberra's strongest chess player) has got off to a good start with 2/2 while FM Manuel Weeks recovered from a first round loss to be on 1/2 after the first day.
A couple of other interesting names popped up in the field including Stewart Rueben, who most chess players would know more as an arbiter, rather than a player. Just to prove he can play a bit, he is on 1.5/2.
The tournament is using accelerated swiss pairings for the first few rounds, which may account for a few odd pairings.
The other result that looked interesting was the first round draw between Mohd Omar Ak Hirawan Pg, and GM Danny Gormally. Ak Hirawan Pg is an Olympiad player for Brunei and that such a result is an indication of the amount of effort that has gone into developing chess in that country over the last 5 years. In 2000 Brunei would have been of the same level as Papua New Guinea (we beat them 2.5-1.5 in Istanbul) but in 2002 they turned up with a completely new team (or an old team with new names), and have since shown steady improvement, including a silver medal for Ak Hirawan Pg in Turin.

Monday, 3 September 2007

What Chess needs ....

If you were to ask the question "What does chess need?" a good bet that the two most popular answers would be (a) Money, and (b) Professional Organisation. Why chess needs those things is pretty much a no-brainer. More money and better organisation result in better outcomes for chess and chess players.
But a more subtle question is "What does chess deserve?" If we get more money, and better organisation, how do we reward the providers of such bounty?

Here is a practical example. The 2008 Doeberl Cup planning is well underway. This years events gained an extra $6,000 in sponsorship, courtesy of O2C. But the total number of entries fell. The ACT Chess Association, realising that in its current make up it is incapable of organising the Doeberl Cup, have handed over the management of the event for the next 5 years to O2C (adding their professional management to their already generous sponsorship). As part of the planning, the participants in this years tournament were surveyed, and a number of improvements were suggested. Two major suggestions were (a) improved venue and (b) 9 round norm tournament.
Of course implementing these suggestions isn't easy (finding an improved venue, plus an extra 25% in the budget for venue hire), but O2C are trying to do both. But as this effects the tournaments bottom line the following questions need to be answered. (And yes, I am looking for answers in the comments section)
(A) Do you believe the improvements to the Doeberl Cup will result in more, or less, people entering?
(B) Will you be one of the more, or less, players entering?

I am especially interested in the opinions of players outside of Canberra and Sydney. (ie If you are from Melbourne will you be motivated to support the additional prize money and professional organisation?)

(Clarification edit: Only the Premier is being considered for the extra 2 rounds. The other events would still run Friday-Monday, and even for the Premier, players would be given the option of taking up to 2 half point byes for the Thursday rounds.)

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Free Fruit

One of the best chess programs over the last 5 years has been the program Fruit. Written by Fabien Letouzy, Fruit finished second in the 2005 World Computer Chess Championship, and had a rating of 2842 on the SSDF Ratings list at the end of 2006.
But the most significant thing about Fruit was that up until version 2.1 is was open source. This meant that other developers could take the source code and build there own engines. This some did, resulting in programs like Toga II and Gambit Fruit.
After version 2.1 Letouzy closed the source, mainly due to the worry that other programmers could pass off versions of Fruit as there own in Computer Chess competitions. While version (and below) remained open source and free, later versions could be purchased from the official site.
Now the good news is that all versions of Fruit are freeware. These are versions 2.2, 2.2.1, and 2.3. As Fruit is stronger than Fritz and possibly Shredder, if you are looking for a powerful engine to run under Chessbase etc then Fruit is an excellent choice.
And one more thing. If you are studying Computer Science (or just interested in becoming a better programmer), download the source code for Fruit 2.1 and have a look at it. As a programmer I regard it as a thing of beauty, and anyone wanting to become a brilliant programmer couldn't go wrong in learning from Fabien Letouzy.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Australia's Newest Grandmaster

Congratulations to Australia's newest Grandmaster, Chris Fenwick. Chris earned the two (Correspondence Chess) GM norms required in the WCCC26CT04(WS) event, and in winning the David Parr Memorial tournament, where he exceeded the norm by a full point.
Chris is the first Australian CC GM in 42 years, although a number of other players are looking good for the title (especially Steve Kerr).
Here is a win by Chris from the David Parr Memorial where he sacrifices material at regular intervals, and by move 27 only has a Queen, Rook and Bishop against Queen, 2 Rooks, 2 Bishops and 2 Knights!

Fenwick,C - Pugh,J [B81]
David Parr Memorial, 2005-2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.g4 e5 8.Nf5 g6 9.g5 gxf5 10.exf5 d5 11.Qf3 d4 12.0-0-0 Nbd7 13.Bd2 Qc7 14.Bg2 dxc3 15.Bxc3 Ng8 16.f6 a5 17.Rhe1 Ra6 18.Qg3 Bd6 19.f4 Bc5 20.Bd5 Rd6 21.Qh4 h5 (D)
22.Bxf7+ Kxf7 23.g6+ Kxg6 24.Qg3+ Kf7 25.Qg7+ Ke6 26.Rxe5+ Nxe5 27.f5+ Kxf5 28.Rf1+ Ke6 29.Qxc7 Rc6 30.Qg7 1-0