Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Alternative Competition Formats - Episode 1172

I am interested in alternative formats for chess competitions. And to the possible annoyance of the ACTJCL Development Squad, I sometimes try them out. Not all of them are good (some turn out to be quite horrible), and success of the Swiss format does discourage organisers from trying anything new.
One format that is new to me (but not new to millions of players) is the format I saw described in the Japanese Manga "Hikaru No Go". This is a comic concerning a teenager who is becoming a Go professional (the link will tell you more). In qualifying for the "Pro Test" they use the following method.
Players need to score 3 wins to move on to the next stage. Once you score three wins you stop playing for that round, and once you suffer three losses you go home. Players are paired randomly for each game and you can't play the same player twice (unless you must). So everyone gets at least 3 games (and 3 opponents).
Why this interests me is that it may serve as an alternative to a straight knockout, which has never taken off in chess. Played with a fast time limit (rapid 20m+10s) you could have 2 5 game sessions a day, meaning 4 sets of eliminations over a 2 day period. You could then have a final play off between the remaining players to determine the final prizes.
I can see advantages over a seeded knockout (which has too many obvious results), and a purely random one (top two players meet in rd 1), but whether this would be a popular alternative to current formats I'm not sure.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Tournament Withdrawers

In Australia there has always been a strong disapproval of players withdrawing from tournaments. I suspect this attitude can be traced as far back as the influence of CJS Purdy (who believed there was no excuse from withdrawing from an event), and possibly even before that.
But it is a fact of life that players do withdraw from events without completing them. So what is to be done?
One school of thought is 'damage minimisation'. Given you can't force players to stay in an event when they no longer wish to play, simply allow anyone who wishes to withdraw the right to do so. As long as they inform the arbiter before the pairings for the next round are done, then they can leave the tournament without penalty. From an organisers point of view this may be good, as you have already banked the entry fee, and a less than motivated player may effect the final standings through poor play. The other advantage of this approach is that a player is more likely to withdraw gracefully, rather than wrecking someone else's weekend by not turning up for a game.
The other side of the argument involves 'forceful encouragement'. When a player enters a tournament they are in a sense making a commitment to the organisers, and to other players. Part of this commitment is to play all the rounds they have entered for. And this commitment cannot be broken lightly. (eg How good would the AFL look if Carlton just dropped out 6 rounds before the end of the season)
However in this case, there needs to be some kind of penalty or punishment.
Over the years there have been a number of approaches, not all of them successful. The most common one is to ban the player concerned for a specified period of time. Unfortunately the draconian nature of this penalty means that it rarely enforced*. Another approach that was used in the very first chess club I played at (Woden Chess Club) was to get every player to post a forfeit bond ($5) at the start of the event, and refund it upon completion of the event.
A third method is to let the punishment fit the crime. If you withdraw from event X you cannot play in event X next year, or the year after. This has the advantage of avoiding any legal hurdles (due process etc) as the organiser of event X simply refuses to accepts the players entry. Of course this doesn't prevent the serial withdrawer from entering (and withdrawing) from other events.
The final option (and the one used in the last couple of Doeberl Cups) is to levy a forfeit bond on players who have been unapproved withdrawer's in the past. If they wish to enter the tournament they post a bond equivalent to the entry fee, if they complete the event, the bond is refunded. As well as that the slate is wiped clean (we're big believers in redemption).

I'm not advocating any of these methods btw, but am interested in a discussion on the topic, especially anyone advocating the 'damage minimisation' approach.

*The ACF lead on this issue is extremely poor btw. I've been involved with the 1999/2000 Aus Champs, and the 2000/01, 2002/03, 2004/05 and 2006/07 Australian Opens as an arbiter and organiser. As part of the requirements of the ACF by-laws I have submitted reports concerning unapproved withdrawals, and suggestions to the ACF concerning suitable actions. As far as I know only one play has been sanctioned, and that was by their State Association, rather than the ACF. The usual response from the ACF (in the case of a couple of high profile players) is "we haven't banned players in the past, so we can't do it this time. But we'll look into it in the future"

Monday, 29 October 2007

The earliest recorded Traxler

As part of my duties as editor of Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly (link on left, subscription button top right etc etc) I was flipping through the MegaCorr 4 database the other day. To my surprise I came across a Traxler (Wilkes-Barre) from 1873. As many of you no doubt know, the Traxler is the greatest opening ever, and the sole reason why chess was invented. But until now most works dealing with the Traxler start with games played by Karel Traxler in 1896.
Intrigued I looked through the game, and was surprised at how modern it seemed. This provoked me to do some searching on the players involved. Not only had they played a match in 1873, it seems they also played in the 1970's and 1980's. While I may have also discovered the worlds oldest chess players, a more likely explanation is a typo in the game record on MegaCorr4. Most likely the game occurred in 1973 (100 years after the given date).
Here is the game anyway, with the observation that Black must have misplayed it at some point, given that he lost.

Graf,N - Muller [Müller],W [C57]
Germany (match) corr., 1873(sic)

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 5.Bxf7+ Ke7 6.Bd5 Rf8 7.0-0 d6 8.h3 Qe8 9.c3 h6 10.Bxc6 bxc6 11.d4 Bb6 12.Nf3 Qh5 (D)
13.Nbd2 Bxh3 14.gxh3 Qxh3 15.Nh2 exd4 16.Qf3 Qh4 17.Qg2 dxc3 18.Ndf3 Qh5 19.e5 dxe5 20.bxc3 e4 21.Ba3+ Bc5 22.Bxc5+ Qxc5 23.Nh4 Rf7 24.Ng6+ Ke6 25.Nf4+ Ke7 26.Ng6+ Ke6 27.Nf3 Nh5 28.Qg4+ Kf6 29.Nfe5 1-0

Sunday, 28 October 2007

World Cup 2007

FIDE have announced the first round pairings for the 2007 World Cup, to be held in Khanty-Mansiysk (RUS), between 22nd November and 18 December 2007. All the players are ranked rating order and player 1 plays 128, 2 v 127 etc
The big first round match up (from an Australian point of view) is Zong-Yuan Zhao (119 seed) up against Magnus Carlsen (10). Another interseting match is between Alexei Shirov (5) and Robert Gwaze (124).
The full set of pairings can be downloaded (as a spreadsheet) from the FIDE website (just click on the link at the left).

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Mikhalevski wins Calvia Open

GM Viktor Mikhalevski has won the recent Calvia Open with an impressive 8/9. Mikhalevski, who finished =3rd in the 2007 Sydney International Open, and =5th on the 2007 Doeberl Cup, started the event with 7 straight wins. Draws in rounds 8 & 9 allowed him to coast to first place, and a prize of 4,000 euros. There is a big report on the tournament at the Chessbase website.

Mikhalevski,V (2584) - Mamedov,R (2586) [E90]
IV Open Calvia ESP (6), 20.10.2007

1.d4 d6 2.Nf3 g6 3.c4 Bg7 4.Nc3 Nf6 5.e4 Bg4 6.Be2 Nfd7 7.Be3 c5 8.d5 Na6 9.Qd2 Nc7 10.Bh6 0-0 11.h4 Bxf3 12.gxf3 e5 13.dxe6 Nxe6 14.Bxg7 Kxg7 15.Qxd6 Qb6 16.Qd2 Rad8 17.Nd5 Qd6 18.0-0-0 Qe5 19.f4 Qxe4 20.f3 Qf5 21.h5 Nf6(D)
22.Bd3 Rxd5 23.cxd5 Qxd5 24.hxg6 fxg6 25.f5 gxf5 26.Qh6+ Kf7 27.Kb1 c4 28.Bc2 Qc5 29.Rhe1 Rg8 30.Rd7+ 1-0

Friday, 26 October 2007

ICCF President detained by Spanish Police

According to the International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) website, ICCF President Med Samraoui has been detained by Spanish Police during the ICCF Congress in Benalmadena, Spain. At this stage there are no further details on why he has been taken in by the police.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

The Rate of Inflation

Looking through a recent issue of British Chess Magazine, I saw a report on the the 40th Biel International, which was won by Magnus Carlsen and Alexander Onischuk. Biel has always been one of the worlds leading tournaments, and this years field included Judith Polgar, Grischuk and Radjabov, but the fact that this event was a Category 18 (on the old FIDE Category scale) astonished me.
Just for comparison both AVRO (1938) and the 1948 World Championship Tournament were only Category 17, the St Petersburg Final (1914) was a Category 16, and Montreal 1979 (won by Karpov and Tal) was a Category 15.
Clearly the increase in modern tournament "strength" is caused by inflationary pressures in the FIDE Ratings System, but I'm not one to call for current ratings (including my own) to be cut. Instead I would be interested to see if it is possible to run the ratings system backwards to see if the "Category" of these past events could be expressed in todays ratings (like box office receipts for "Gone with the Wind").
An nice summer exercise if the data is readily available.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

How not to sell chess books

When Borders bookshop opened in Canberra, I was impressed by the range of chess books they had on sale. Probably 60 or so titles, and plenty that went beyond the usual "Chess for 5 year olds" that you see in most other book shops. And since the shop opened they seem to have been purchased at a pretty regular rate.
So you think that the person responsible for ordering books would think "We seem to have sold most of our chess books, lets get some more in". At least any intelligent person might think that. Sad to say it appears that the thought process in this case is instead "We seem to have sold most of our chess books, more room on the shelf for extra Sudoku books"
Genius, absolute genius.

The reason why the Internet was invented

http://www.chesschat.org/showthread.php?t=7070

http://www.ozchess.com.au/showthread.php?t=35

No, really.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Target Chess

In the early stages of a chess career, tactical games dominate. Hardly surprising, as tactics are based on clear goals and rewards, and can be tested with a "it works or it doesn't" condition. One of the simplest ways to play these sort of games is to choose a target in the opponents position and zero in on it. Done well, you can even change targets until your opponent can no longer defend them all.
In the following game 8 year old Ethan Derwent targets d6, then f6 in his opponents position, keeping experienced player Peter Murphy on the defensive throughout. Eventually Peter loses material before finally missing one last tactic.

Derwent,E - Murphy,P [A57]
Belconnen CC, 2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.Nc3 bxc4 5.e4 d6 6.Bxc4 Bd7 7.Nf3 Qa5 8.0-0 [ 8.e5 is also good for White 8...dxe5 ( 8...Ne4 9.Qd3 Nxc3 10.bxc3) 9.Nxe5 Ne4 10.d6 Nxc3 11.Bd2 Nxd1 12.Bxf7+ Kd8 13.Bxa5+ Kc8 14.Rxd1+-] 8...g6 9.Bg5 Bg7 10.Qb3 Qc7 11.Nb5 Qc8 12.e5! Ne4 13.Qe3 [ 13.exd6! Nxd6 ( 13...exd6 14.Rae1 wins a piece) 14.Nxd6+ exd6 15.Rfe1+ Kf8 16.Be7+ Kg8 17.Bxd6+-] 13...Nxg5 14.Qxg5 dxe5 (D)
15.d6 Bf6 16.Qh6
[ 16.Nc7+ requires a little calculation, but is also fine 16...Qxc7 17.dxc7 Bxg5 18.Nxg5 Nc6 19.Bxf7+ Kf8 20.Bd5+-] 16...Na6 17.Ng5 e6 18.Nxh7 Qd8 19.Nc3 Another excellent move by White, swinging the Knight across to the Kingside. 19...Nb4 20.Ne4 Rxh7 21.Qxh7 Kf8 22.Qh3 [ 22.f4!! was a quicker win. Opening the f file is decisive 22...exf4 23.Nxf6 Qxf6 24.Rxf4!! and the Rook is immune due to mate on h8] 22...Bg7 23.Qf3 Targeting f7 and a8 23...Nc2 24.Ng5 Bf6 25.Nh7+ Kg7 26.Qxf6+ Qxf6 27.Nxf6 Kxf6 28.Rac1 Nd4 29.Bd3 Bc6 30.Rxc5 Rd8 31.f4 Rxd6?? 32.fxe5+ 1-0

Monday, 22 October 2007

2007 Vikings Weekender

Details of the 2007 Vikings Weekender

Dates: Saturday 1 December, Sunday 2 December 2007
Venue: Tuggeranong Valley Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St, Wanniassa, ACT
Round Times: Saturday 10:30am, 1:30 pm, 3:45 pm Sunday 10:30 am, 1:30 pm, 3:45 pm (6 rounds)

Entry Fees: $50 adults, $35 concessions, $20 juniors
Prize list: 1st $500, 2nd $200, 3rd $100 Under 1800 $100, Under 1600 $100, Under 1400 $100, Under 1000, Unrated, Junior TBA

Time Limit: 60m+10s per move (from start)

Class 1 ACF Grand Prix Event

DOP: Shaun Press

Further details: Michael Whitely (02) 6292 9937

Ha! No program can defeat me!

In Australia, the most commonly used computerised swiss pairing program is Swiss Perfect. It is easy to use, and as it was developed in Australia, it was distributed around the country fairly quickly.
However it was never approved by FIDE as an official Swiss Pairing program, which means that for "high level" events, other programs need to be used.
For the 2008 Sydney International Open (for which I am an arbiter) Swiss Manager is to be used. It is an approved FIDE program, and it is connected with chess-results.com website which carries results from most international events held around the world.
It's major drawback is that it isn't as easy to use as Swiss Perfect, in a user-interface way. A week ago I sat down and had a play with it, to get myself ready for next years event. Although most things could be done fairly easily (although entering players can be a nightmare until you know how), I came across one major problem. If I entered a player into the tournament after the first round (as does happen) I couldn't work out how to either (a) give them half point byes for the missed rounds or (b) set some starting score.
Swiss Manager insisted on starting them on 0 points, which mucked up the pairings. But after reading the user manual (no help) and looking on the net (still no help) I found the solution. And for anyone else having the same difficulties with Swiss Manager, here it is.

If you go to the Tournament Data Dialog Screen (either when you set up the tournament, or by choosing Input->Tournament from the menu) and then click on the "Other" tab, you will see an option "Enter results for excluded players (0 as default)" If you check this option then late entries show up in the pairings from Round 1 (paired against "withdrawn") and you can set the result as 1/2-1/2 or 0-0 etc Do this for all the rounds a player has missed and everything should be hunky-dory.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

GM Coaching Weekend

The ACTJCL (Australian Capital Territory Junior Chess League) held its annual GM coaching weekend yesterday and today. This years titled coaches were GM Ian Rogers, IM Andras Toth, and WFM Cathy Rogers. Also coaching were current Australian Junior Champion Michael Wei, Ian Rout, Mos Ali, Simon Mitchell and Shaun Press.
One of the highlights of the weekend was the water bombing of GM Ian Rogers and the group he was coaching. Deciding to run his session outdoors, they came under attack when a group of local (and bored) youths, climbed onto the roof of the school where the coaching was held, and threw water filled balloons on the unsuspecting group below.
On the Sunday Ian gave a simul against the 40 kids involved in the weekend. Two players defeated Ian (Emma Guo and Yijun Zhang) while he was held to a draw in another 4 games.
The quality of the opposition ranged from near beginner up to national champions, but Ian's reputation didn't stop one players ambitious attempt to mate him in the opening.

Unnamed Junior v GM Rogers
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 g6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Qxd4 Nf6 5.Bc4 Nc6 6.Qc3 Bg7 7.Ng5 0-0 8.Qh3?? d5 and Ian went on to win a piece up.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Thought for the day

How much do you need to know about chess, to know you don't know enough about chess?

Friday, 19 October 2007

Mistakes come in pairs

Final round tension may cause chessplayers not to think straight. At least this is the explanation I'm giving for what happened here.
Prior to this position White had had two pieces for the rook, but Black had just captured a knight on c5 (with check) and the White King had moved into the corner. Nonetheless White is threatening mate on g7, with what both players assumed Qxg7. So I stopped to see what Black would do, and was astonished to see 1 ... R4a7. Certainly this prevents 2.Qxg7# but it isn't the only mate on the board. As players often don't realise they have made a mistake in calculating until the position actually appears on the board, I kept watching to see what Blacks reaction was going to be. However, being a good spectator I tried to keep a straight face, and resisted the urge to pull my camera out of my pocket for the "Oh my god!" shot.
In the meantime White hadn't moved, and I assumed he was just taking his time to straighten his scoresheet, check where to write 1-0 in the result box, and catch his breath before finishing the game. But the seconds ticked by, and still White hadn't made a move. "Surely he's not this sadistic" I thought to my self. Then suddenly Whites hand moved towards the board. Bypassing the Bishop on b2, he picked up the Queen and retreated it along the long White diagonal to safety.
Given that both players were blissfully unaware of the Mate in 1 until after the game was completed (Black won btw), I'm not sure it counts as a lucky escape for either side.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Some other chess blogs I read

Some blogs have a massive blog roll down the side of their page, but I'm quite miserly with mine. At some point I will get around to updating it, but for the moment I'm happy to keep it simple.
That is not to say that they are the only chess blogs I read. There are a couple that I look into from time to time, just to keep up with what other bloggers are doing.
One blog that interests me is Down Under Knight run by Phil Willis. Although it is updated infrequently it is fun to see how Phil is going in his quest to become a chess master. Phil is currently using the 7 circles approach to chess improvement, a method that has mixed reviews in the chess world. Anyway, if you want to find out how he is going, just visit his blog.
The other blog I catch up with from time to time is the The Chess Nut blog, run by Trent Parker. Trent is particularly good at covering tournaments that he plays in. And has a very active player Trent provides good coverage of the NSW (mainly Sydney though) tournament scene.

Title Regulations - Rule 1.43e

For years the big difficulty in earning title norms in Australia was getting overseas players to play in local tournaments. There were some specially organised round robins (eg Mercantile Mutual, ASK Masters, Australian Masters), but it was next to impossible for Open swisses to have enough OS players. And even when a swiss attracted a number of overseas GM/IM's often local players fell foul of the rule requiring themselves to 33% of opponents to come from non-local federations, representing at least 2 other federations.
These days FIDE have made it a little easier for tournament organisers to avoid this problem. Under rule 1.43e of the FIDE Title Regulations if a tournament has 20 FIDE rated players not from the host federation, representing 3 other federations, with at least 10 GM's/IM's/WGM's/WIM's from those federations, then the previous restrictions no longer apply.
For the 2008 Doeberl Cup and 2008 Sydney International Open, what this means is that if both tournaments can attract such a field (and both are working on it), then title norms can be awarded based solely on performance, and the player no longer has to worry about the nationality of his/her opponents. And with the Doeberl Cup moving to 9 rounds, hopefully there will be a number of talented local players who can pick up norms that may have previously been impossible to achieve.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Smerdon, Humphrey, Jule

IM David Smerdon, FM Jonathan Humphrey, and Alexandra Jule are all playing in the Essent Tournament in The Netherlands, and all are doing extremely well. After 5 rounds Jule is equal first in the First Amateur Tounament with an undefeated 4/5.
In the Essent Open Smerdon is equal second, again with 4/5, including draws with GM's Nijboer and Smeets. Jonathan Humphrey is also doing exceptionally well (3/5), with his only two losses being to GM's L'Ami and Smeets.
In round 4 Humphrey scored a big win, defeating Danish FM Allan Rasmussen (2485!) in 41 moves.

Humphrey,J (2284) - Rasmussen,A (2485) [B44]
Open Hoogeveen NED (4), 15.10.2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nb5 d6 6.c4 Nf6 7.N1c3 a6 8.Na3 Be7 9.Be2 0-0 10.0-0 b6 11.Be3 Bb7 12.Qb3 Nd7 13.Rfd1 Nc5 14.Qc2 Bf6 15.f3 Be5 16.Qd2 Qh4 17.g3 Qe7 18.Nc2 f5 19.exf5 Rxf5 20.b4 Qf6 (D)
21.Nd4 Nxd4 22.Bxd4 Nd7 23.f4 Bxf4 24.Bxf6 Bxd2 25.Rxd2 Nxf6 26.Rxd6 a5 27.b5 Bf3 28.Bd3 Re5 29.Na4 Ne4 30.Re1 Nxd6 31.Rxe5 Rd8 32.Re3 Bg4 33.Nxb6 Nf5 34.Bxf5 Rd1+ 35.Kf2 Rd2+ 36.Kf1 Bxf5 37.c5 Rc2 38.c6 Kf7 39.Nd7 a4 40.b6 Rc1+ 41.Kf2 1-0


Some related trivia. In the 2003 Australian Open, Smerdon (2407) and Humphrey (1782) were paired together in the first round. Smerdon won that game, but after the full 11 rounds both players were tied for equal second on 8.5/11, just behind tournament winner, IM John-Paul Wallace.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Doeberl Cup 2008

Planning for the 2008 O2C Doeberl Cup is well underway, and some important changes are in store for next years event.
Major sponsors of the 2007 Doeberl Cup, O2C, remain, and have taken over the management of the event from 2008 through to 2012.

A new and exciting venue has been found for next years event. The venue for 2008 will be the Hellenic Club in the Woden Town Centre, Canberra. The Woden Town Centre is a large shopping/business/office area located 10 minutes drive (15 minutes by bus) from Canberra City. The Hellenic Club was the venue for the 2001 Australian Junior Chess Championships, and is in walking distance of accommodation, restaurants, shops, etc The club itself contains a number of restaurants, sports bars, etc and the tournament itself will have separate analysis and lecture areas for use by the competitors.

Next years event will consist of 5 tournaments. There will be the Premier (open to all players rated above 1800 ACF or FIDE), the Major (for players rated below 2000 ACF and above 1400 ACF), the Minor (for players rated below 1600 ACF). The Seniors event is open to all players born before 21 March 1958 (ie 50 years and above). For the first time there will be an Under 1200 (ACF) event.
The Premier has been extended to 9 rounds, to provide the opportunity for players to earn FIDE title norms. The time limit will be 90m+30s. The Premier will start on Thursday 20th March 2008, with two rounds on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and one round on the Monday. Players playing in the Premier can request half point byes for Rounds 1 or 2.
The Major, Minor and Senior will be the standard 7 round (2,2,2,1 rounds per day) event (90m+30s time limit), starting on Friday 21st March 2008. The Under 1200 event will be a two day event (60m+10s time limit) starting on the Friday, with 3 rounds on Friday and Saturday.

Based on feedback from participants in the 2007 Doeberl Cup, the prize pool has been adjusted to provide greater balance between each of the tournaments. The Premier has a prize pool of $10,800 with a first prize of $4,000. The Major has been increased to $3,250 ($1,500 first), the Minor to $1,750 ($750 first), and the Senior to $1,000 ($500 first).

To maximise the opportunities for players to earn title norms (and to create better tournaments) the organisers have placed a limit of 80 players for each of the Premier, Major, and Minor. Places will be allocated based on order of entry, although players entering after the cutoff will be placed on a waiting list.
The organisers have also abolished late entry penalties. For 2008 all entries need to be received by the organisers before the 19th March 2008.

(Disclaimer: I am being paid as an Arbiter for this event)

Monday, 15 October 2007

Australian Championship 2008 - No Johansen?

One of the other pieces of information in Ian Rogers report on the Nelson Open is the news that GM Darryl Johansen is unlikely to be playing in the 2008 Australian Championship. Apparently a lack of communication between the tournament organisers and himself is to blame.
Nonetheless the organisers of the 2008 Championship have put up a list of players who have entered so far. At this stage it is a list of players playing in the Major (and not the Championship) but I have been informed that GM Antic and IM Lane are almost certain entries.
And if you want to read Rogers Canberra Times chess column (to see the stories yourself), you actually can't get it from the Canberra Times website. But where you can get it from is the Byron Bay Echo, which reprints Ian's column every Tuesday. Just click on the chess link to get the column (and a free horoscope!)

*** Title Edit: Can't even get the name of the tournament right!

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Johansen wins Nelson Open

Congratulations to GM Darryl Johansen winning the 2007 Nelson Open in Nelson, New Zealand. Johansen scored 7.5/9 finishing ahead of a 46 player field which included fellow GM's Murray Chandler and Stuart Conquest, as well as IM's Stephen Solomon and Russell Dive. Full results can be found by clicking on the 2007 Nelson Open link at http://www.chess.org.nz/
GM Ian Rogers has a good write up of the tournament in today's Canberra Times, in which he partly attributes Johansen's return to form to an improved fitness regime.
Here is a game between the equal second place finishers, GM's Chandler and Conquest.

Chandler,M - Conquest,S [B80]
Nelson Open NZ, 2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Qd2 Be7 8.f3 0-0 9.g4 Nd7 10.0-0-0 a6 11.h4 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 b5 13.f4 b4 14.Ne2 Qa5 15.Kb1 e5 16.Be3 Nf6 17.Ng3 Nxg4 18.f5 d5 19.exd5 Bb7 20.Bc4 Bc5 21.Bxc5 Qxc5 22.Qe2 Ne3 23.Ne4 Qb6 (D)
24.f6 Nxd1 25.Rxd1 gxf6 26.Qh5 Kh8 27.Qh6 Rg8 28.Nxf6 Rg7 29.Bd3 Qg1 30.Kc1 Qd4 31.Nh5 Rag8 32.Bxh7 1-0

Saturday, 13 October 2007

2007 World Seniors Championship

The 2007 World Seniors Championship has just been completed in Gmunden, Austria. The event was won by IM Algimantas Butnorius (LIT) with 9/11. The tournament attracted a field of 233 players, with 15 Grandmasters and 14 International Masters.
Australia had two representatives with IM Mirko Rujevic from Melbourne doing particularly well, scoring 7.5/11 and finishing in a tie for 13th. "Fabulous" Phil Viner also showed he can still wield the wood, with a final score of 7/11, placing equal 26th. A full set of results can be found at chess-results.com

Friday, 12 October 2007

Left Brain or Right Brain

In the Melbourne Hun (The Herald Sun for non Victorians) there is an article on Right Brain thinking v Left Brain thinking. Click on the link here and see which category you fall into.
Oddly enough I started off in the Left Brain camp (anti-clockwise movement), but after about 20 seconds the direction of the moving dancer reversed itself, and now I'm stuck in the Right Brain camp.
I'm not sure whether that makes me smarter than everyone else, or just more confused

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Dates for your Calendar

If you are planning to visit Canberra to play some chess, here are some dates for your calendar.
The Vikings Weekender is on the 1st & 2nd of December. I will have more details shortly, but a rumour doing the rounds in the nations capital is that the Federal Election will be on the 1st of December. But that shouldn't put you off playing, especially if you are from interstate. On the Saturday evening you can head over to the National Tally Room to see the Liberal Party go down in flames. A real highlight for any tourist!
Another date worth noting is Easter 2008. It is insanely early next year, with Good Friday falling on the 21st of March! So don't let this muck up your planning for the Doeberl Cup.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The Pain of Reconstruction

While I was visiting the Hong Kong Chess Club a spent a great deal of time watching the top board match in Round 2 of the Hong Kong Open. The game was between Christopher Masters and Cy Chong. It was an interesting game and had quite a nice finish. I should have taken a copy of the game there and then, but I figured I could remember the game and write it down when I got back to my hotel.
Despite my best efforts I couldn't get it quite right (not having a chess board didn't help). It seemed that in some positions White got two moves in a row, and at a later stage Black received the same gift. I realised while doing the reconstruction that this is a common problem with some chess players. 3 time ACT Junior Champion Justin Marshall was forever showing me his games from memory, and seem to have no trouble in with "White moves the bishop here, and then Black moves something I've forgotten, so White has another move" often giving one side 2 or 3 extra tempii in the position. It would simply drive me batty when this happened.
So the fact I've not been able to reconstruct the Masters-Chong game has been driving me nuts for a couple of weeks. So put an end to it, I will just publish what I think happened during the game, getting the major bits right, and hopefully not leaving a position where one side missed a forced mate (until the end that is).
Of course if anyone from the HKCC is reading this, maybe they can forward me the actual score.

Masters,C - Chong,C [B90]
Hong Kong Open, 09.2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.f3 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.Be3 Nbd7 9.Qd2 0-0 10.h4 b5 11.g4 Bb7 [ 11...Re8 might have happened here instead] 12.0-0-0 b4 13.Ne2 a5 14.Ng3 a4 15.Na1 Rb8 [Another move I'm not quite sure about] 16.Nf5 b3 17.a3 d5 18.g5 Nxe4 19.fxe4 d4 20.Nxe7+ Qxe7 21.Bxd4 Bxe4 22.Bc3 Bxh1 23.Qxd7 Qc5 24.cxb3 axb3 25.h5 (D) [My memory of the game had this pawn on h4 but I can't find anything else for White!]
25...Bf3 26.Re1 Rfd8 27.Qf5 Qe3+ 0-1

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Dirty Chess Politics

Doing my regular trawl of the online chess news I cam across a story concerning a multi-million dollar lawsuit filed by chess identity Sam Sloan. Sloan is suing the Susan Polgar, and her husband Paul Truong, citing identity theft and forged postings on the Usenet newsgroup rec.games.chess.misc (and .politics etc). Certainly Sloan has a reputation on the net (and I've even met him in person), and this reputation has coloured how other people feel they can interact with him.
The Independent newspaper covers the story here, and there is also a mention in the New York Times (although you need to sign in to read that one).
I'm not going into the rights and wrongs of this case, but I suspect this is a case of one side being dragged down to the other sides level. For me the lesson from this should be "Don't argue with idiots"

Monday, 8 October 2007

Street Chess Video

I am attaching a video I recorded on Saturday at Street Chess. It is a 1 minute game between myself and current ACT Womens Champion Alana Chibnall. The quality of the video isn't great, but it does match the quality of the game (I drop a piece, then Alana gives me one back). The game ends with me winning on time. Current Australian Under 18 Girls Champion Emma Guo operated the camera.
It is about 4.5MB in size and runs for almost 2 minutes. I reduced it from a 25MB 3gp file to the smaller MP4 file using mencoder under linux. There is no sound, both to reduce the size of the file, but more importantly, because the recording process didn't pick up much.
Many thanks to Malcolm Tredinnick for the tip on what to use to do this. video

Sunday, 7 October 2007

IMSA

While Chess and Bridge are still making noises about becoming Olympic Sports, I'm glad to see they haven't put all their eggs into one basket. In 2005 administrators from the World Organisations representing Chess, Bridge, Go and Draughts got together to form the International Mind Sports Association (IMSA). Until now there had been a lot of talk, but not a lot of action.
But in the last week IMSA announced the first World Mind Sports Games, to be held in Beijing from the 3rd to 18th October, 2008. Along with the four member sports, Chinese Chess will also be part of the games. A news report is here. As the report says "The specific events will be discussed and decided later"
So while it isn't the Olympics yet, it may lead there eventually. One of the problems that non-Olympic sports have in getting to the Olympics is that there is no room for them in an already crowded schedule. Personally I think the IOC should consider having 4 separate Olympics, consisting of Summer, Winter, X-Treme (eg Mountain Bike Bungee Jumping) and Indoor Games. 4 years between each Games, with one being held every year. If the World Mind Sports Games becomes successful, maybe the IOC will become interested in taking it on.

Instant Karma?

Does the loss by New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup balance out the loss by Australia in the Rugby World Cup?

Saturday, 6 October 2007

The things you see at chess

It is school holidays in Canberra, which means an influx of junior players at Street Chess today. For those that don't know, Street Chess is played outdoors (usually), in City Walk, Canberra City. This means you often get to see some odd things while the tournament in progress.
Today saw competition between the local Animal Rights group, trying to convince everyone to become vegans, and a local Christian group, trying to gain followers through some off-key singing. While all this was going on, one of the local Currawongs (a kind of Magpie) went down with a broken wing and flopped around pathetically on the ground. There was some debate about whether the bird should be rescued by the Animal Rights group, or healed through the prayers of the Christian singing group, before rationality won out over superstition. Fittingly the bird was rescued by a man in a chicken suit.

I had hoped to include some video of a bullet match between myself and Alana Chibnall (check out her blog here) but the very dodgy video player/camera I brought in Hong Kong only records in 3gp format, and converting to something useful like AVI generated a 640MB file. So if anyone knows a good (free) 3gp to avi/wmv converter I'd appreciate a tip.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Cheap Chess Computers

In my never ending quest for cheap chess computers I think I have found a new leader. I saw a "Keyring Chess Computer" on sale at a local games shop for $14.95. Although I didn't open it up and have a go it looked legit, as it was an Excalibur brand computer. It seemed to be an even smaller version of the hand held chess computers they already sell.
In the end I decided not to shell out for it, as I find the displays on these kind of computers very difficult to read.
I also download a chess "widget" for Google desktop the other day, to see how they performed. The free widget (which I won't name) proved the adage "You get what you pay for" when my first game with it went 1.e4 Nh6? 2.d4 Ng8? 3.Bc4 b6 4.Qf3 Bb7?? 5.Qxf7# Straight into the bin after that.

**Edit: Language used in comments on this post may offend some readers. It is your decision to read it or not

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Prize Reductions

When deciding a prize pool for a tournament organisers are often caught in a conundrum. Either lowball the prize pool and risk people not playing, or pump up the prizes in the hope it will attract enough entries to make it worth while. Bitter experience has shown me that the latter usually doesn't work, unless you're running a long established tournament with a loyal customer base.
So what happens if you come in short. Usually the organisers deal with this by advertising a prize pool based on X entries. And if X entries aren't received then the prizes can be reduced.
In Australia there are no rules about how the prizes are to be reduced. I'm assuming the prize pool gets shrunk by the amount required not to make a loss (or at least an acceptable deficit). But the USCF has a set of rules that operate for all tournaments.
For events offering more than $500 in prizes, the organisers must guarantee 50% of the prizes. Secondly the prize fund can only be reduced by the percentage of missing entries. Thirdly, no single prize can be reduced by more than this percentage.
As an example the recent Ryde-Eastwood Open advertised a prize pool of $3200 based on 70 entries. Only 50 players entered (ignoring 1 no show). So under the USCF system the organisers can reduce the prize pool to $2286 (approx 71% of the initial prizes). And all the tournament prizes can be reduced by the same amount (eg 1st prize drops from $700 to $500).

Of course this isn't the only way of dealing with this issue. A number of years ago Victorian tournaments often advertised prizes as a percentage of total entries (eg 1st 35% of entries). The problem with this that no one knew in advance what the prize pool was likely to be, and so many players decided not to take the risk ("Just play chess for the fun of it? Never!"). Consequently tournaments using this prize structure struggled to attract numbers.
Another approach (used in the 2000-01 Australian Open) is to advertise a minimum guaranteed prize list, and a larger prize list based on X entries. Even then the tournament fell far short of the X entries required and only paid out the guaranteed prize list. Consequently it hasn't been tried again.
The Doeberl Cup tries for a happy medium of always guaranteeing first place and awarding other prizes dependent upon entries (It is in fine print on all entry forms). However the Doeberl Cup also includes on the entry form the statement that all advertised prizes have always been paid out. So while the organisers have the discretion to reduce prizes they have never done so.
But the real problem for organisers that while reducing an advertised prize list may avoid a financial loss, and keep the tournament running for another year, it is likely to also reduce the number of entries for next year as well.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Ow, my brain hurts

Certainly after this game. Essaying the well known "Monkey's Bum" variation I got into a joyless position after 11.d5. But the real brain strain came on move 14 when after a long think I decided that 14.f4 just had to be played. Of course it was unsound, but it almost worked, especially after my opponent declined the opportunity to win a piece.

Press, Shaun v Lattimore, Tor
ANU Spring Open 2007
1.e4 c6 2.d4 g6 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bc4 Bg7 5.Qf3 e6 6.Nge2 Nf6 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 Nbd7 9.0-0-0 Qe7 10.Rhe1 e5 11.d5 c5 12.h3 a6 13.a4 Qd8 14.Qe3 Qa5 (D)
15.f4 b5 16.axb5 Nb6 17.Ba2 axb5 18.fxe5 dxe5 19.Qxc5 Nbd7 20.Qc6 0-0 21.Bb3 b4 22.Na2 Ba6 23.Bxf6 Nxf6 24.Ng3 Rfc8 25.Qa4 Qxa4 26.Bxa4 Bc4 27.b3 Rxa4 28.bxa4 Bxa2 29.Kb2 Bc4

and my opponent managed convert his advantage, so 0-1 after another 30 moves

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The Federation He Deserves

The Australian Chess Federation produces a regular newsletter as a way of keeping it's membership informed. The latest issue is here. Although the newsletter has attracted criticism (what enterprise hasn't) I think it is one of the few pro-active things the ACF has done in recent years.
But the last couple of issues have seen repeated request for volunteers to fill the roles of
  • Olympiad Appeal Coordinator
  • Ergas Training Squad Coordinator
Now you can add that list, ACF Newsletter Editor (Content). Current editor Denis Jessop is stepping down and at the time of writing a replacement hasn't been found. Denis isn't sticking around until a replacement has been found by the way, the current issue is his last in the position.
Having seen all the ads for these positions repeated over the last 6 weeks I'm guessing the ACF hasn't been flooded with applicants. And I find this hardly surprising.
The ACF has a poor record in engaging the chess playing community in Australia, and under the current ACF President Gary Wastell it isn't going to get any better. This isn't because of the sort of person Gary is (I'll leave those judgments up to those who know him better) but because of the administrative structures the ACF operate under, structures that Gary has mainly been responsible for, over the last 30 years.
To Gary, and some other intransigent State Association officials (CAQ and CAWA in the past, NSWCA in the present), the idea of individual membership of the ACF is an anathema, although for different reasons. In the case of the CAQ and CAWA it was fear of domination by the "socialists down south/east" that drove them to oppose constitutional reform. In Gary's case (based on the numerous conversations I've had with him over the years) he feels that the player->club->association->federation model is the best structure for Australian Chess.
Now I realise that I'm never going to convince him to change his view on this (any more than I can convince Queenslanders that daylight savings doesn't fade their curtains), but hopefully others on the ACF can see the connection between lack of volunteers and lack of real members.
As I said to Denis Jessop early this year when discussing the ACF's difficulties in attracting bidders for various events, and volunteers for various positions.
"Gary has got the ACF he wanted. But he also gets the consequences as well"

Ikeda wins Ryde-Eastwood Open

Canberra Junior Junta Ikeda has finished outright first in the very strong Ryde-Eastwood Open, held in Sydney over the October long weekend. Ikeda scored 6/7, half a point ahead of FM Igor Bjelobrk, IM Andras Toth, Max Illingworth, and GM Dejan Antic. Ikeda's only loss was to GM Antic FM Igor Bjelobrk, and a last round win over previous leader Max Illingworth guaranteed first place.
The tournament was a very successful one for the group of Canberra players who made the trip, with Andras Toth finishing equal second (5.5), Andrew Brown equal 6th (5.0), Sherab Guo-Yuthok equal ninth (4.5) and Tamzin Oliver equal 22nd (3.5)

Monday, 1 October 2007

A trio of completed events

Apart from the World Championship Tournament, 3 other tournaments finished in the last day or 2.
The Asian Individual Championships finished in a tie for first between Chinese GM's Pengxiang Zhang and Hao Wang. Final standings are at chessresults.com. The top 10 finishers all qualify for the next FIDE World Cup knockout. The sole Oceania representative, Stuart Fancy from Papua New Guinea, finished on 1.5/11 just avoiding becoming the "Lanterne Rouge".
The Monarch Assurance Isle of Man Open finished in a 6 way tie for first with GM's Bartel, Yakovich, Efimenko, Golod, Roiz, and Kobalia all scoring 6.5/9. The three Australian competitors finished mid field with IM Smerdon =37th (4.5), Moulthun Ly =49th (4.0), and FM Manuel Weeks =65th (3.5).
And the George Trundle NZ Masters finished with a win for GM Stuart Conquest. Although the website is still a couple of days behind Conquest scored 7/9 with Darryl Johansen and Stephen Solomon on 6.5 and Tim Reilly on 5.5. Reilly needed a draw in the final round against Conquest for an IM norm, but Conquest took the point to finish outright first.

Ly,M (2295) - Speelman,J (2511) [E54]
Monarch Assurance Isle of Man (8.20), 29.09.2007

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 cxd5 4.c4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nf3 Bb4 7.Bd3 dxc4 8.Bxc4 0-0 9.0-0 a6 10.Bg5 b5 11.Bd3 Bb7 12.Rc1 Nbd7 13.a3 Be7 14.Re1 Re8 15.Ne5 Nf8 16.Bb1 Qb6 17.Be3 Rad8 18.Nd3 Qa7 19.Qe2 Qa8 20.f3 Nd5 21.Nxd5 Bxd5 22.Nc5 Nd7 23.Qc2 g6 24.Qf2 a5 25.Bd3 Nxc5 26.dxc5 Bc6 27.Red1 Qb7 28.b3 Rd7 29.Qb2 Bf8 30.Be2 Red8 31.Qf6 Rxd1+ 32.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 33.Bxd1 Be7 ½-½