Thursday, 31 January 2008

Zhao scores final GM Norm

With a win in Round 9 of the Gibraltar Masters, Zong Yuan Zhao has scored his third (and final GM Norm). This means he will be awarded the Grandmaster title by FIDE at some point later this year (when the FIDE Executive Board meets). Zhao defeated French player Gildas Goldsztein to move to 6/9 and a tournament performance rating of 2648 (well above the 2600 required for a norm).
Zhao now becomes Australia's third FIDE Grandmaster (after Ian Rogers and Darryl Johansen), and the title caps of a remarkable 13 months where he won the Australian Open, the Oceania Zonal, and then scored 3 GM Norms is quick succession.

Zhao,Z (2487) - Goldsztejn,G (2380) [C96]
Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar (9.24), 30.01.2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Na5 10.Bc2 d5 A new idea in an old position (although there is one game dating back to 1995 in my database). 11.d4 dxe4 12.Nxe5 c5 13.Be3 This looks new. 13.Bg5 has been played here. 13...Bb7 14.Nd2 Nd5 15.Nxe4 Nxe3 16.fxe3 Qd5 17.Nf3 cxd4 18.exd4 f5 Black is hoping that the 2 bishops and open board compensate for the (extra) passed d pawn White has. 19.Ned2 Bd6 20.Qe2 Bg3 A good piece of advice I received years ago was "Use the 2 bishops to keep your opponents rooks off open files". Black is clearly trying to do this. 21.Qe6+ Qxe6 22.Rxe6 Bd5 23.Re2 Rae8 24.Ne5 Nc6 25.Bb3 [ 25.Ndf3 seemed safer. Now Black wins back the pawn. ] 25...Bxb3 26.axb3 Nxe5 27.dxe5 Bxe5 28.Nf3 Bh2+ An unnecessary trick that causes Black's defeat. 29.Kf1 Rxe2 30.Kxe2 Rf6(D) Thinking only of the a pawn, Black forgets about his bishop. 1-0

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The Value of Pieces

The traditional scale for piece values in chess is P=1, N=B=3, R=5, Q=9. The King doesn't have a material value, although a number of juniors I coach always say "King equals the game", which for some reason irritates me. Some people also quibble about the value of the Bishop, suggestion 3 and a quarter (or a half), as Bishops are often better than Knights.
Of course there are alternatives. One system I used in one of my computer chess programs was P=1, B=N=4, R=6 and Q=12. The aim of this system was to discourage swapping 2 pieces for a Rook and Pawn or sacing a piece for 2 pawns and a check (also known as "Coffee House compensation").
But the weirdest system I've seen recently came from a book titled "An Easy Introduction to the Game of Chess" by Benjamin Franklin, William Jones, and Francois Philidor. In this book (published in 1820) the suggested piece values are N=9.25, B=9.75, R=15 and Q=23.75. The real question of course is "What is the value of a pawn?" and the author (who I think for this section is Philidor) values the pawn as 3.75 (due to the chance of promotion), and this rises as it gets closer to the "adversery's royal line".
If you want to read this book you can do so online at Google Books. The direct link is here , and the book also contains the oft talked about (but rarely seen) "The Morals of Chess" by Dr Benjamin Franklin (Page 223)

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Is Carlsen the "Chosen One"?

This is the question some people have been asking after his tie for 1st (with Lev Aronian) at the Corus tournament this week. Of course young prodigies abound these days (and draw the inevitable comparisons to Fischer), but the fact that he finished ahead of Anand, Kramnik and Topalov (amongst others), indicates to me that he should become the dominant player of the new generation. What impressed me most was not that he finished first, but that he did so in a straight 14 player Round Robin. None of this 7 or 8 player Double RR stuff, where players simply draw with Black so that they can then draw with White during the rematch. Big Round Robins (like in the old days) are a much better test (and gauge) of a players strength.
And on the subject of Corus, former Canberran Anthony Peck managed to get across for the final two rounds of the tournament. Anthony used to teach at Radford College in Canberra, and was instrumental in setting up a lot of chess activities at the school, activities that continue to this day. These days he is teaching in England and was able to sneak over to Wijk An Zee for the weekend. His report is here, including video from the tournament.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Zhao rolls on

Australian IM Zong Yuan Zhao has had a pretty remarkable 3 months since traveling to the FIDE World Cup Knockout as the Oceania Champion. After being knocked out in Rd 1 by Magnus Carlsen (who just tied for first at Corus btw), he went on to win the December 1st Saturday Tournament in Hungary (GM Norm No.1), then win the Cerrado GM Event in Spain (GM Norm No.2) and is now on 4.5/6 at the Gibraltar Masters and is looking good for his third and final GM Norm. He has played 4 GM's so far (scoring 2.5/4) and is paired against GM Mikhail Gurevich in Round 7. Zhao's two big games of the tournament was his Round 5 win over GM Hikaru Nakamura (2670) and his Round 6 draw with GM Alexander Beliavsky (2638). Currently he has a performance rating of over 2700 (shades of the 2006/07 Australian Open!), and if he maintains his form, should easily score another GM norm.

Zhao,Z (2487) - Beliavsky,A (2638) [C93]
Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar (6.7), 27.01.2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.c3 d6 9.h3 Re8 10.d4 Bb7 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.a3 h6 13.Bc2 Nb8 14.b3 Nbd7 15.Bb2 g6 16.a4 Bg7 17.Bd3 c6 18.Qc2 Qc7 19.c4 bxa4 20.c5 d5 21.bxa4 dxe4 22.Bxe4 exd4 23.Bxd4 a5 24.Bd3 Ba6 25.Bxa6 Rxa6 26.Rxe8+ Nxe8 27.Re1 Ra8 28.Ne4 Bxd4 29.Nxd4 Ndf6 30.Nd6 Nxd6 31.cxd6 Qxd6 32.Qxc6 Qxc6 33.Nxc6 Ra6 34.Rc1 Nd7 35.Nb8 Nxb8 36.Rc8+ Kg7 37.Rxb8 Rf6 38.Rb5 Rf5 39.Rxf5 gxf5 40.Kh2 f4 41.g3 Kf6 42.gxf4 Ke6 43.Kg3 f5 44.Kh4 Kf6 45.Kh5 Kg7 46.f3 Kh7 47.h4 (D) ½-½

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Problems at Corus

No I'm not talking about problems with handshakes etc, but the Problem Competition that was held as part of the Corus Tournament. Most of the top places were taken by specialist composers but Jan Timman (1st Commendation) and John Nunn (5th Commendation) also took part.
Now I'm not much of a problem solver, but I do like looking at the solutions. The great joy of problems (especially studies) is seeing how one side escapes from an seemingly impossible position.
A quick glance through the prize winners had a number of wonderful problems, but the one tht looked closest to a game position was the one shown on the right (Vlasenko, 1st Honorable Mention). Although White is down a rook and a piece, the pawn on b7 is a threat, if only White can drive away the Black rook.

1st HM Corus, 2008

1.Rc1+! [ 1.Rc8? thematic try 1...Ne5! 2.Rxb8 Nc4! 3.Rg8 Rxg8 4.Ka7 Na5 5.b8Q Nc6+;
1.Ka7? Rgg8] 1...Kg2 2.Rc2+! Kg3 [ 2...Nd2 3.Rxd2+ Kf3 4.Ka7 Rgg8 5.Rb2] 3.Rc8! Ne5 [ 3...Rg8 4.Rxg8+ Rxg8 5.Ka7;
3...Nd4 4.Ka7! Nc6+ 5.Rxc6 Rgg8 ( 5...Rh8 6.b8Q+ Rxb8 7.Kxb8) 6.Rb6] 4.Rxb8 [ 4.Kb6? Nd7+ 5.Kc7 ( 5.Ka7 Ra5#) 5...Rc5+ 6.Kxd7 Rxb7+] 4...Nc4! 5.Rg8 Rxg8 6.Ka7 Na5 7.b8Q+ ½-½

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Why are some tournaments succesful?

Actually I have no idea. It is actually a source of frustration with me that a well organised tournament with good prizes and conditions struggles to attract a reasonable size field, while an event that doesn't do anything special gets flooded with entries.
An example is three tournaments being held this long weekend. There is a tournament in Sydney ($75 entry fee), one in Melbourne ($55 entry fee) and one in Brisbane ($40 entry fee). Now I haven't seen the standings from the Sydney event, but based on the list of top seeds (Antic, Bjelobrk etc) and the fact that some Canberran's were making the trip to play, I'm assuming that it will be a well attended event. On the other hand the Melbourne event had a field of 22, and the Brisbane event a field of 20.
Now I don't think the difference is the "chess culture" in each city (as each has held far more successful events both recently and regularly), or even the publicity is to blame (as I have seen all three advertised on the net, and both Melbourne and Brisbane seemed to "push" their events more).
This leaves me to think that this may be an example of "targeted networks" being encouraged to play. By "targeted networks" I mean players who have a social network, and will often play as a group. This could be members of the same club who feel like some weekend chess together, chess players who also hang out together off the board, or even sets of people who use the tournaments to meet up.
The advantage in identifying these groups is you don't just get 1 player per advertising "hit" but 4 or 5. A further refinement to this strategy is to locate "opinion leaders" and get them interested in the event. This will then get their direct group to play, and even sweep up indirect contacts as well.
Of course the challenge is to either find these groups or leaders, or even to create them. How to do that is of course the big question. And one that I'll keep thinking about for now.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Australian Junior Champion 2008 - Junta Ikeda

Canberra Junior Junta Ikeda is the new Australian Junior Champion, after a comprehensive victory in the Under 18 Open Section which finished this afternoon in Sydney. With 1 round to go Ikeda was 2 points clear of the field, and couldn't be caught, no matter what happened in todays game. Ikeda succeeds last years champion Michael Wei (also from Canberra), meaning that the ACT has taken this prestigious title 2 years running.
In the Under 12 Championship Laurence Matheson (VIC) has at least a share of first place, leading by a full point after 10 rounds. Deborah Ng is in a similar position in the Under 18 Girls Championship, while the Under 12 Championship still has a couple of players in contention for the title.

(Actually I had hoped to bring you the full results for all the events, but the tournament website hasn't been updated yet. So some gentle criticism for the organisers. While the event has been excellent in updating the scores at the end of the day, and the end of the tournament is often busy with prize giving, packing up etc, it is still fair to say that the final standings are the most important. Indeed, when I was the webmaster for the 2006-07 Australian Open, I even updated the last round result table in real time (ie when each game finished) so online spectators knew the exact state of the event at that time. )

*** Update - Complete scores are now available here
Junta Ikeda finished on 10.5/11(!) 2 points ahead of Fedja Zulfic and Gene Nakauci.
Deborah Ng won the U.18 Girls (11.5/13), Laurence Matheson the Under 12's (9.5/11), and Leteisha Simmonds the Girls U/12 (10/11)

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Where are they now?

The only Australian Junior I played in was the one held in Canberra in 1983. It was a much smaller affair the the version they have now, with 31 players in one tournament, and the Girls Championship held at a different venue. Of the players that took part some stuck with chess (eg IM Javier Gil and Paul Broekhyuse), while others dropped out. Of course those that "dropped" out went on to success in other areas (eg Andrew Tridgell).
Recently another name from that tournament popped up in the news. Tony Ayres, who I think finished mid field in 1983, is now more well known as a film director. His most recent film "Home Song Stories" earned him 2 AFI awards (Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay) and he has also won awards for previous films like "Walking on Water".
And while his chess career is long behind him, he still remembers it fondly, as shown in this quick interview in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

The IM that never was

When I first started playing chess in the early 80's, Max Fuller was still one of Australia's leading players. However a few of my contemporaries referred to him as "the IM that never was". When I asked them what they meant they said that Max had been very unlucky, missing a norm by half a point, or not getting the required norms inside the then time frame etc
But I suspect the biggest difficulty faced by Max was being able to play strong fields consistently. In those days Australian players usually had to travel to Europe and this took both time and money.
When Max did get to play overseas he often scored quite well. In one of my old British Chess Magazine's from 1974 there is a report from the Athenaum Chess Club '101' Tournament, which was a 10 player Round Robin to celebrate 101 years of the chess club. The field was a strong one (in those days) with Robert Bellin and Bob Wade finishing 2nd and 3rd, and the bottom 4 places being filled by Colin Crouch, Michael Basman, Tim Harding and Kevin O'Connell. While the later 2 players became more famous as authors (although Harding is a strong CC player as well), the other 4 players all became (or were) IM's.
Fuller won the tournament by a full point (+5=4-0), and scored the following win over Michael Basman.

Basman,M (2400) - Fuller,M (2365) [A00]
Athenaeum Jubilee London (3), 06.07.1974

1.e3 g6 2.c4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c5 4.Be2 e5 5.Nf3 f5 6.d4 e4 7.Nd2 cxd4 8.exd4 Nc6 9.Nb3 Nh6 10.0-0 0-0 11.f3 exf3 12.Bxf3 d6 13.Be3 Ng4 14.Bxg4 fxg4 15.Qd2 Bf5 16.Bf4 a5 17.Bg5 Qd7 18.a4 Nb4 19.Nb5 b6 20.d5 Bd3 21.Rxf8+ Rxf8 22.N3d4 Qf7 23.g3 Bxc4 24.Ne6(D)
24. ... Bxd5 25.Nf4 Ba8 26.Nxd6 Qd7 27.Re1 Qc6 28.Ne4 Nc2 29.Re2 Nd4 30.Re3 Nf3+ 31.Rxf3 Qxe4 32.Rd3 Qh1+ 33.Kf2 Qxh2+ 34.Kf1 Qh1+ 35.Kf2 Qg2+ 36.Ke1 Qg1+ 37.Ke2 Re8+ 38.Re3 Bf3+ 39.Kd3 Rxe3+ 40.Qxe3 Qd1+ 41.Kc4 Qxa4+ 42.Kd3 Qb3+ 0-1

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

A longer win for Short

After all the drama yesterday, the Short-Cheparinov game actually took place, after the appeals committee reversed the arbiters decision to award the point to Short. As part of the decision, Cheparinov was required to submit a written apology to both Short and the organisers. Even then there was some doubt about whether Short would play the re-arranged game.
However Short did turn up, the players did shake hands, and Short won convincingly. While Short was in control from the start, the ending was particularly instructive. From the diagrammed position Short played the forcing 70.Bxf6 Kxf6 71.g5+ Kf7 72.Rxe7+ 1-0 as 72. ... Kxe7 73.Ke5 Kf7 74.Kd6 wins the g pawn and the game.
So what do we make of all this? Was it an attempt by Danilov and Topoalov test the waters before the Kramnik-Topalov game in the GM A tournament (Maybe). Was Short just looking for an easy point? (I think not). Or did Short cleverly blacken the eye of two groups who don't like him, by making FIDE look stupid for having such a rule in the first place, and Danilov et al looking like bad sports (and weak to boot)? (This seems the most plausible).
So ultimately Short scored two victories (3 if you count yesterdays game!). One over the board, and one off the board.

Monday, 21 January 2008

A short win for Short

In the GM B group at Corus Nigel Short had one of the quickest wins of his career. 1.e4 c5 1-0
His opponent, Bulgarian Ivan Cheparinov arrived at the board after the start of the game , and after Short had moved, and played 1. ... c5. Short, who had left the board between moving and Cheparinov's arrival, returned to the board and offered his hand to Cheparinov for the traditional pre-game handshake. Cheparinov declined the offer. Short then presented his hand a second time, Cheparinov declined a second time, and Short appealed to the arbiter under a new FIDE Rule

Any player who does not shake hands with the opponent (or greets the opponent in a normal social manner in accordance with the conventional rules of their society) before the game starts in a FIDE tournament or during a FIDE match (and does not do it after being asked to do so by the arbiter) or deliberately insults his/her opponent or the officials of the event, will immediately and finally lose the relevant game.

After a discussion between the players and the arbiter, the game was awarded to Short. Full (and better coverage) can be found at Chessvibes.

Now for my 2 cents.
For starters it is a silly rule. To try and regulate the players behaviour like this is only asking for the kind of trouble we see here. Also I'm not sure it does, or should, cover a tournament like Corus. FIDE may have a case for enforcing this rule in events they directly control (like Candidates Tournaments or World Championship Matches), but not for events organised by others. If the organisers have a problem with the behavior of players in their event, they have the right to either exclude them from the tournament or (more likely) not invite them back next year.
On to the players themselves. If Cheparinov had a problem with Short (via Topalov and Danilov it seems) then he could have just refused to play him, and chalk up the loss to principle. In fact I was reminded just the other day by a player at Street Chess (no names) of how he dealt with an opponent who cheated him (and it was cheating even if uncaught) one too many times. He just simply refused to play him when paired and drank coffee for 15 minutes. He felt the point loss was worth avoiding an unpleasant situation. (As a post script the opponent tried similar tricks on a couple of other players and was warned off as a consequence).
And as I drift further away from the issue at hand, I also remember a letter I received when editor of Australian Chess Forum. The author wanted to know what they should do if they saw their opponent not wash their hands after using the "facilities" prior to the game. Would refusal to shakes hands be acceptable?

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Ikeda leads Australian Junior Championship

After 7 rounds top seed Junta Ikeda holds a half point lead in the Australian Junior Championship. Ikeda defeated previous leader Christopher Wallis in round 7 and currently stands on 6.5/7. Wallis is on 6 points along with Andrew Brown, who defeated Yi Yuan in an all ACT clash on board 2. Brown and Ikeda meet on the top board in Round 8.
The Girls Championship has suddenly become a 3 way battle after previous undefeated leader Sally Yu lost her 8th round game against Tamzin Oliver. Yu, Oliver and Deborah Ng now all have 7/8, 1.5 points ahead of the rest of the field.
In the Under 12 events Laurance Matheson (6.5/7) holds a half point lead in the Open over Josuha Lau (6) , while Leteisha Simmonds (6/7) holds first place ahead of Abbie Kangarajah and Clarise Koh (5.5).

Wallis,Christopher - Ikeda,Junta [C41]
Australian Junior Under 18 Open Cranbrook (7.1), 20.01.2008

1.e4 d6 2.d4 e5 3.Nf3 exd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7 6.Be2 0-0 7.0-0 Re8 8.f4 Bf8 9.Bf3 Nbd7 10.Re1 a5 11.Re2 Nc5 12.Nb3 Ncd7 13.Nd4 c6 14.Be3 Qc7 15.Bf2 Rb8 16.Bg3 h6 17.Qd2 Nh7 18.Rd1 g6 19.Kh1 b5 20.e5 Bb7 21.exd6 Qb6 22.Rxe8 Rxe8 23.Qf2 Qa6 24.Nb3 Nhf6 25.Nc5 Nxc5 26.Qxc5 Nd7 27.Qf2 f5 28.Bh4 Re6 29.a4 Bxd6 30.axb5 cxb5 31.Be2 Bc6 32.Qf1 Bb4 33.Bxb5 Bxb5 34.Qxb5 Bxc3 35.Qxa6 Rxa6 36.bxc3 a4 37.Bf2 Nf6 38.Bd4 Ne4 39.Ra1 Kf7 40.Kg1 Ke6 41.c4 Nd2 42.Kf2 Nxc4 43.Ke2 Kd5 44.Kd3 a3 45.Rb1 Ra5 46.Rb8 Nd6 47.c4+ Nxc4 48.Rd8+ Nd6 49.Be5 Ra6 50.Bxd6 Rxd6 51.Ra8 Kc5+ 52.Kc3 Re6 53.Rc8+ Kd5 54.Rd8+ Ke4 55.Ra8 Kxf4 56.Kd2 Rb6 57.Ra4+ Kg5 58.h4+ Kh5 59.Ke3 Rb3+ 60.Kf2 Rb2+ 61.Kg3 a2 62.Kh3 Rb3+ 63.Kh2 f4 64.Rxa2 Kxh4 65.Ra6 Kh5 66.Rf6 g5 67.Kg1 Rb4 68.Rf5 Kg4 69.Rc5 Rb3 70.Kh2 h5 71.Ra5 Rb2 72.Ra3 h4 73.Rc3 Kh5 74.Ra3 Rd2 75.Rb3 g4 76.Rb5+ Kg6 77.Rb4 h3 78.Rxf4 Kg5 79.Rf8 Rxg2+ 80.Kh1 Ra2 81.Rf1 g3 82.Rb1 Ra5 83.Rc1 Rf5 84.Rg1 Kg4 85.Ra1 Rf1+ 86.Rxf1 g2+ 87.Kh2 gxf1B 88.Kg1 Bg2 89.Kh2 Be4 90.Kg1 Kg3 91.Kf1 h2 0-1

Saturday, 19 January 2008

My favourite Fischer game

While the legacy of Bobby Fischer as an individual will be open to question (anti-Israeli rhetoric, mental stability etc) he is still in my opinion the greatest chess player ever. While Kasparov (the player with closest claim on this accolade) certainly has a greater tournament record (over a longer career), Fischer's achievements are the more meritorious, simply because he did much of his work on his own. He didn't utilise the apparatus of the state, as his Soviet rivals did in the 60's, or the assistance of a team of helpers (as Kasparov did throughout his career). Consequently every victory of Fischer's was simply the result of his own abilities as a player.
Over his career (which was basically from 1956 to 1972) he played a number of memorable games. However the one that I have always enjoyed was game 13 from the 1972 World Championship Match. This game demonstrated Fischer's tremendous will to win, with the battle raging for 70+ moves until Spassky makes a fatal blunder. Although this game was played just after the halfway point of the match, it was (to me at least) the game that won the Championship for Fischer.

Spassky,B (2660) - Fischer,R [B04]
Wch28 Reykjavik (13), 1972

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 g6 5.Bc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 Bg7 7.Nbd2 0-0 8.h3 a5 9.a4 dxe5 10.dxe5 Na6 11.0-0 Nc5 12.Qe2 Qe8 13.Ne4 Nbxa4 14.Bxa4 Nxa4 15.Re1 Nb6 16.Bd2 a4 17.Bg5 h6 18.Bh4 Bf5 19.g4 Be6 20.Nd4 Bc4 21.Qd2 Qd7 22.Rad1 Rfe8 23.f4 Bd5 24.Nc5 Qc8 25.Qc3 e6 26.Kh2 Nd7 27.Nd3 c5 28.Nb5 Qc6 29.Nd6 Qxd6 30.exd6 Bxc3 31.bxc3 f6 32.g5 hxg5 33.fxg5 f5 34.Bg3 Kf7 35.Ne5+ Nxe5 36.Bxe5 b5 37.Rf1 Rh8 38.Bf6 a3 39.Rf4 a2 40.c4 Bxc4 41.d7 Bd5 42.Kg3 Ra3+ 43.c3 Rha8 44.Rh4 e5 45.Rh7+ Ke6 46.Re7+ Kd6 47.Rxe5 Rxc3+ 48.Kf2 Rc2+ 49.Ke1 Kxd7 50.Rexd5+ Kc6 51.Rd6+ Kb7 52.Rd7+ Ka6 53.R7d2 Rxd2 54.Kxd2 b4 55.h4 Kb5 56.h5 c4 57.Ra1 gxh5 58.g6 h4 59.g7 h3 60.Be7 Rg8 61.Bf8 h2 62.Kc2 Kc6 63.Rd1 b3+ 64.Kc3 h1Q 65.Rxh1 Kd5 66.Kb2 f4 67.Rd1+ Ke4 68.Rc1 Kd3(D)
69.Rd1+ Ke2 70.Rc1 f3 71.Bc5 Rxg7 72.Rxc4 Rd7 73.Re4+ Kf1 74.Bd4 f2 0-1

Friday, 18 January 2008

Bobby Fischer Passes Away

Icelandic Newspapers are reporting the death of former World Champion Bobby Fischer. He had been ill for some time with a kidney related illness, and he passed away last night. He was 64 years old.
News of his death has just been announced in the press room at Wijk an Zee, and passed on to me by GM Ian Rogers.
Expect further coverage in the English speaking press tomorrow.

**Update: BBC covering Fischer's death here

Online Chess Movies

Via The Closet Grandmasters post on a documentary from the Turin Olympiad, I have discovered a couple of new sources for online chess movies. Apart from Google Video (which I have linked to at the bottom of the page), there is This site (and its Quicktime partner contain videos from tournaments and broadcasts, uploaded by the site members (a la youtube etc). There are a reasonable number of movies available, with a large number submitted by Alexandra Kosteniuk.
The other good place to get "news" videos is At the moment they are producing daily video coverage of the current Corus tournament, including the post game press conferences.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Following Book

Looking through the games from the current Australian Junior Championship I was struck by the game below. Without knowing the full story behind the game, I will still hold it up as a warning against relying too much on "book learning".
The opening is a Sicilian Dragon, and opening much loved by juniors, and one that lends itself to the memorisation of long variations. In this case White played the Yugoslav Attack (9.0-0-0 line) and Black countered with the thematic exchange sacrifice on c3. In Chris Wards "Winning with the Sicilian Dragon2" he even states "On 12.Bh6 it is the same old story: 12. ... Bxh6 13.Qxh6 Rxc3! 14.bxc3 Qa5".
Now I don't know how deep White's preparation went, but I suspect Black was still in his. What does seem clear is that White didn't realise it was time to change plans, and continued his attempt to mate Black. Unfortunately to do this he removed some key defensive pieces from around his King (and didn't retreat others), and was mated instead.

Setiabudi,A - Antolis,C [B75]
Australian Junior Championship, 15.01.2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.f3 Bg7 7.Be3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 Bd7 10.g4 Rc8 11.h4 Ne5 (D)
12.Bh6 Bxh6 13.Qxh6 Rxc3 14.bxc3 Qa5 15.h5 Qxc3 16.Kb1 Rc8 17.hxg6 fxg6 18.g5 Nh5 19.Bh3 Nc4 0-1

So where is the lesson in this? Surely Black actually scored the point due to extra book knowledge? Well, while that is true, it also seems that he understood the resultant position after 13. ... Rxc3 much better. And so the observation (from White's point of view) I would make (and it is an observation made by many players previously) is "Opening lines only give you positions, they don't give you an understanding of positions".

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

ACF By-Laws

Warning: If you aren't fascinated by the nuances of constitutions and by-laws this post could be very boring. If you do not wish to wade through it I recommend you skip to the final paragraph.

As part of my recent posts on the Australian Championship Title, I did some extra research on the ACF Constitution (ie I read it) and the ACF By-Laws (I read those also). Now the Constitution can only be changed at a National Conference or a Special National Conference (which doesn't actually have to be held btw), but changing the By-laws are a different matter. When I was on the ACF Council 15 years back By-Laws could only be changed by a 'Special Motion' that required each State to submit it's votes in writing. Indeed this requirement still remains for motions to change the annual levy, or to make special levies, but the mention of altering By-laws has been removed. Problematically it has been replaced with nothing. It appears that By-Laws can now be altered by a simple vote of council (just like any normal motion). While this is good in theory, it appears that the ACF Council has taken a bigger liberty in that by assuming the power to change By-Laws it has also assumed the right to ignore them.
My objection to this state of affairs is two-fold. The first is simply semantic. The use of the term "By-Law" implies some legalistic force (eg "You can't do that, it is against the By-Laws of the Federation"), when clearly the "By-Law" only represents the majority opinion of the current council and can be changed at will. To this end replacing the term "By-law" by "regulation" or "guideline" is a more accurate way of representing things.
But my bigger objection is that the ACF expect external bodies to follow the By-laws themselves (eg State approval process for the 2007-07 Australian Open, or the Melbourne bid for the 2008 Australian Championships) , while reserving the right to ignore or change the rules as they see fit. Of course the ACF is quite entitled to do this, but my fear is that it does selectively by enforcing the By-Laws with certain parties while letting them slide for others (eg ACF Tournament By-Law 23.C).

Nonetheless for anyone dealing with the ACF as an event bidder, or sponsorship organiser etc the solution is obvious. Simply ignore the By-Laws you don't like and attach the following clause to your proposal. "Where elements of this proposal conflict with current ACF By-Laws, the ACF By-Laws will not apply". At least this it will formalise an already informal (if selective) practice.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

2008 Australian Juniors

The 2008 Australian Junior Championship got underway a couple of days ago, with 168 players across 4 events. Although 2 rounds have been completed I'll still sneak in my predictions (and I promise I won't use current standings to help me).
In the Open I think top seed Junta Ikeda will win this event (and indeed I made this prediction at then of the 2007 Australian Juniors). Interestingly 3 of the top 5 seeds for this tournament are ACT players (Andrew Brown and Yi Yuan being seeds 3 and 5 respectively).
The Under 18 Girls looks as though it is being run as a 13 player Round Robin, and once again I'll go with the top seed, Sally Yu, as the obvious winner. Possible threats come from Tamzin Oliver (2nd seed), and last years Under 12 Girls Champion Megan Setiabudi.
The Under 12 Open is a much harder event to pick and I must confess I'm not familiar with all the names. Alexander Stahnke is the rating favourite, although Oscar Wang and Vincent Horton could easily end up with the title.
In the Under 12 Girls Abbie Kanagarajah should hold off a likely challenge from Clarise Koh, but this tournament may be case of someone not losing the title, rather than someone else winning it.
At the time of this post the Live Game Broadcast system has fallen foul of internet difficulties (always an organisational hazard) but if you click on the live games link you can get games from the previous rounds.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Chess Site Management Tools

My enthusiasm for maintaining my various chess related websites is often dependent upon the tools at my disposal. This blog is easy as Google provide all the tools I need, and they are easy to use. Managing my online photo directories is also simple (although the fact my camera disappeared at Ocean Park in Hong Kong has slowed down that aspect of blogging). On the other hand too much html coding, or mucking about with ftp is a disincentive to keep things up to date.
Nonetheless I do get motivated to repair the situation and so I am making an attempt to bring the Street Chess pages up to date. What it really needs is a relatively frequent update of recent results, and to do this I am using SP2HTML, a result generation tool developed by Dr Jonathan Paxman. It takes Swiss Perfect files and generates a set of result and pairing tables for the event. It is pretty simple to use, although with tools of this type you will end up with 20+ html files at the end of the process. However I've just added a 'drag and drop' ftp client to my software environment simplifying that process as well.
Any if you want to have a look at the outcome (and suggest a better colour scheme!) just click on the Street Chess link and look for the recent results link on the right hand side.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Benchmark Chess Problems

The problem shown on the right is a reasonably famous one in the area of computer chess programs. It was used in the 70's as an example of how 'directed search' programs could solve deep mates (In this case White to move and mate in 10). It is also included in Fred Reinfelds 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate and it is the first problem in this test set that my program fails to solve as 1 second a move (It is problem 31 btw).
If I switch my program to do a fixed depth search of 8 ply (ie 8 half moves or 4 moves) it will find the solution in about 45 seconds (NB While starting with an 8 ply search various search extensions based on checks and captures push the depth to 19 ply). Frustratingly Fritz 8 finds the answer in about 12 seconds, and I am sure Rybka, Fruit etc are just as fast.
While that is pretty fast I believe that good human players would find the right move just as quickly, but with one catch. They may choose the right move in under 10 seconds, but take far longer to confirm it works. And more importantly, if they had something riding on the answer, like the result of a real game, if they couldn't confirm it 100% they very well may choose not to play it.
How fast does it take you to find the right move?

Saturday, 12 January 2008

When widgets go bad

While the Slideshow Widget on the right hand side of this page was a little bit of fun, it had the side effect of slowing down the page. Basically, a preview for each picture in the photo album was loaded in you computers web cache, slowing the load time of the page significantly. As most visitors to this blog come to read something new everyday, rather than look at 2 month old photos, I've decided to axe the widget. I may resurrect it for special occasions (Doeberl Cup photos etc), but for know it's gone.
But for those who do like looking at old photos, don't panic. You can still see them by choosing the Photo link on the left hand side of the page.
(Tip to Malcolm T for pointing out the page loading problems).

Friday, 11 January 2008

Australian Championship - Antic wins tournament, Solomon wins title

The final round of the Australian Championship was played today, and a number of exciting games decided the final standings. Former tournament leader Herman Van Reimsdijk picked the worst round to record his first loss, getting run over by the resurgent George Xie. This left Van Reimsdijk stuck on 8 points, while Dejan Antic score a win over Igor Goldenberg to jump to 8.5. He could have been joined by Stephen Solomon, but Solomon was lucky to escape with half a point after Tomek Rej launched a strong attack, but was unable to find the killer punch. The draw moved Solomon up to 8 points, and first place amongst the Australian players. This should also give Solomon his first Australian Championship title, assuming that Antic is ineligible as a non-permanent resident.
Xie's last round win moved him into outright 4th on 7.5, which is pretty remarkable given he started with 1/3. Also encouraging was the fact that =5th was shared between 2 junior players Moulthun Ly and Max Illingworth on 7/11.
Gareth Oliver and Junta Ikeda (both ACT) had good last round wins and finished on 6.0 (+1) in =11th. Current Australian Junior Champion Michael Wei would be disappointed with his 3.5, although this may be explained by a year spent studying hard at University rather than playing chess.

Rej,T - Solomon,S [E29]
Australian Championship , 11.01.2008

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 0-0 6.e3 c5 7.Bd3 Nc6 8.Ne2 b6 9.0-0 Ba6 10.e4 Ne8 11.f4 f5 12.d5 Na5 13.e5 d6 14.dxe6 Qe7 15.g4 fxg4 16.Ng3 dxe5 17.fxe5 Rxf1+ 18.Qxf1 Qxe6 19.Ne4 h6 20.Ra2 Bxc4 21.Rf2 Nc7(D)
22.Nf6+ Kh8 23.Bxh6 Rd8 24.Bxg7+ Kxg7 25.Nh5+ Kg8 26.Rf6
[ 26.Qc1+-] 26...Rxd3 27.Rf8+ Kh7 28.Rh8+ Kxh8 29.Qf8+ Qg8 30.Qh6+ Qh7 31.Qf8+ Qg8 ½-½

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Australian Championship 2008 - Solomons Year?

With 1 round to play IM Stephen Solomon appears to be in the box seat to win the 2008 Austalian Championship. Solomon is on 7.5/10 and is a full point ahead of the players who don't have 'OS' next to their names. Indeed Brazilian IM Herman Van Riemsdijk leads the tournament on 8/10, but he clearly isn't eligible for the title.
What is less clear (at least to me) is the case of GM Dejan Antic. He is tied for second with Solomon on 7.5, and ordinarily he also would be ineligible for the title. But the ACF By-Laws for ACF Tournaments have a clause which states
3. Persons who are Australian citizens or who, in the opinion of the Council, are permanent residents of Australia shall be eligible to hold titles.

So unless the ACF has already made a determination at the time of accepting entries (and I have no idea if they have), Antic may submit a claim to the ACF for the title on the grounds he is a permanent resident at the time the tournament was played. Certainly Antic has applied for permanent residency in Australia (although his last application was knocked back), and if it is subsequently accepted, can he back date his claim?
For those who may claim it is an open and shut case (based on the ACF by-laws) I believe the ACF is fairly flexible in its interpretation of its own laws eg both Felix Klein and Herman Van Riemsdijk are playing in the championship despite the By-Laws for the Championship allowing either the ACF to invite only 1 otherwise ineligible player (Van Reimsdijk has the rating (>2250) but not 20 ACF rated games, Klein may have the 20 ACF rated games, but not the rating (<2250)).

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The Perils of Technology

Apparently there is uproar in Namibian chess circles after the Swiss Perfect Pairing Program "appointed Werner Tjipueja as winner over national champion Charles Eichab" in the Dr Kehat Beukes Memorial Tournament in Windhoek. The full story describing the "shock announcement" can be found here.
Now while I am an ocean away from the events described, I suspect that the two players tied for first, the organisers then declared Tjipueja winner on tie-break, and the journalist writing the story had no idea what really happened.
Of course this will probably go into the ether as another "Swiss Perfect gets it wrong" data point.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Hastings winner to play Doeberl

The 2007-08 Hastings International Chess Congress ended with 3 players sharing first place in the Masters Tournament. One of those players was Vadim Malakhatko, who recovered from a first round loss to finish on 7.5/10. Malakhatko, whose rating topped 2600 on the most recent list, is also the top seed for the 2008 O2C Doeberl Cup.
The entry for the Doeberl Premier has passed the 50% mark, and I wouldn't be suprised if it is full by the end of this month. While players rated below 2000 (ACF) have the option of playing in the major, anyone rated above 2000 runs the risk of missing out if they leave it to late to enter. This is because entries for each of the tournament is prioritised on time of entry (and not on rating).

Malakhatko,V (2603) - Pavlovic,M (2536) [A58]
Premier Hastings ENG (9), 05.01.2008

1.c4 Nf6 2.d4 c5 3.d5 b5 4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.g3 d6 8.Bg2 Bg7 9.Nf3 Nbd7 10.Rb1 0-0 11.0-0 Qa5 12.Bd2 Rfb8 13.Qc2 Qc7 14.b3 Nb6 15.Nh4 Bb7 16.e4 Ba6 17.Rfe1 Ng4 18.h3 Ne5 19.Re3 Nbd7 20.a4 Bd3 (D)
21.Rxd3 Nxd3 22.Nb5 Qc8 23.Qxd3 c4 24.Qxc4 Qxc4 25.bxc4 Rxa4 26.Bf1 Nc5 27.Re1 Ra1 28.Rxa1 Bxa1 29.f3 Ra8 30.Be3 Ra2 31.Bxc5 dxc5 32.f4 Bb2 33.e5 f6 34.exf6 exf6 35.Be2 Kf8 36.Nf3 Ke7 37.Kf2 Kd7 38.Ne1 1-0

(BTW Doeberl Cup T-Shirts can now be ordered from the tournament website)

Monday, 7 January 2008

Spirit of the Game

The 2nd Cricket Test between Australia and India came to an exciting, but fractious, end yesterday. The Australian team won after India lost 3 wickets in the final over (less than 10 minutes from the scheduled end), but the battle continued afterwards, with some pointed comments about the 'spirit of the game'. (Indian fan reactions here). This debate centres on whether players should 'walk' if they know they are out, rather than leaving it up to the umpire. As a cricket fan (as opposed to an Australian one) I would prefer that players do walk. But I can also see the point of view that players also get bad decisions from the Umpires, and walking removes the opportunity for these things to 'even out'.
While Golf is held up as an example of a self policing game, it does happen in chess as well, as the following game demonstrates.

Gluzman,M (2435) - Johansen,D (2490) [B22]
Doeberl Cup Canberra (4), 1998

1.e4 c5 2.c3 d5 3.exd5 Qxd5 4.d4 Nf6 5.Nf3 e6 6.Na3 Qd8 7.Bg5 cxd4 8.Nb5 a6 9.Nbxd4 Nbd7 10.Be2 Qc7 11.0-0 Bd6 12.Re1 0-0 13.Bf1 Ng4 (D)
After playing this move Johansen got up from the board. Before he returned Gluzman touched the h pawn, with the intention of kicking the knight with h3. He then realised this allowed a mate in 2 after 14. ... Bh2+ 15.Kh1 Nxf2# Now I don't know if anyone witnessed him touching the pawn, but I (as the arbiter) certainly didn't. Gluzman then waited for Johansen to return, moved the touched pawn and resigned. 14.h3 0-1

At the time the game was played both players were sharing first place (3/3). However Gluzman then won his remaining 3 games, while Johansen conceded draws in rounds 6&7, allowing Gluzman to share first place with Johansen, and take the trophy on tie-break!

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Toilet Breaks in Chess

The ClosetGrandmaster is providing excellent on the spot coverage of the Australian Championship. In his post on Round 6 he reported a bizarre incident from the Major tournament, where a player requested the clocks be stopped so he could go to the toilet. At the time he had 60 seconds left, while his opponent had about 25 minutes. The arbiter agreed with this request.
If it had been me as the arbiter I would have been mean and refused it out of hand, as it is up to the player to manage his time (and bodily functions). Indeed once FIDE had introduced the faster time controls to the Olympiad (90m+30s a move, the same as being used in the Australian Major), GM Michael Adams would not drink water (or any other liquids) before or during the game, so he wouldn't have to use the toilet, and eat into his time.

Lucky 2008

The year is less than a week old and already I have been visited by good fortune. At least 3 acquaintances of mine (in London, Ghana, and Sierra Leone) have died suddenly and left me at least $10 million dollars. Of course it may be a case of mistaken identity, as I've never heard of any of them, but I'm not telling them that. If my run of luck (in the shape of deceased people I've never met) continues at this pace I should have about half a billion dollars in bank by 31 December 2008.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Australian Championship - Almost Halfway

The 2008 Australian Championship has almost reached the halfway point, after only 3 days. Fortunately for the players (and the gravitas of the tournament), the schedule now slows down to one round a day for the final 6 rounds.
After 5 rounds IM Stephen Solomon is the sole leader with 4.5/5, starting with 4 wins and a fifth round draw with GM Dejan Antic. Antic shares second place with FM Jesse Sales, on 4 points.
Interestingly enough both players are registered with overseas federations, although under the current ACF by-laws they are eligible to play in the championship (IIRC). Whether they are eligible to hold the title depends upon whether the ACF Council considers them a "permanent resident of Australia"
Of the ACT players, Gareth Oliver's good start (win over IM Xie followed by draw with IM Riemsdijk) was slowed by a couple of losses and he is on 2/5. Junta Ikeda is also on 2/5 ( defeating IM Xie as well!), while current Australian Junior Champion Michael Wei is on 1.5.
In the Major visiting South Korean player Sanghoon Lee shares first place with Tim Hare and James Watson (4.5/5). Shannon Oliver is the best of the Canberran's with 3.5/5.
The minor consists of a whole lot of NSW players, a whole lot of South Korean juniors, and a lone Queenslander . Anthony Villanueva (NSW) leads with 5/5.

Zong Yuan Zhao - Second GM Norm!

Although the tournament website hasn't been updated yet, WFM Cathy Rogers reports that IM Zong Yuan Zhao has scored his second GM norm after finishing on 6.5/9 at the Cerrado GM Tournament in Spain. Zhao had to play 2 games overnight, but drew both of them to wrap up the norm, and hopefully 1st place.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Zhao closes in on GM Norm

Australian IM Zong Yuan Zhao is closing in on his second GM norm in a month as he continues to lead the Cerrado International Chess Festival. With 2 rounds to play Zhao is on 5.5/7 and needs 1/2 for the norm. However there is a complicating factor in that Zhao will be playing his final 2 games this today (Spanish time), and will play his round 9 game before he plays his Round 8 game. This is due to the fact he is starting another tournament tomorrow in Seville, as are a couple of other players from the event.
With any luck both Zhao and David Smerdon will return from their European tours with GM titles in their travel bags.

Zhao,Z (2491) - Larino Nieto,D (2428)
CERRADO GM Mondariz-Balneario (4.5), 29.12.2007

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bd7 5.Nf3 Bc6 6.Bd3 Nd7 7.0-0 Ngf6 8.Ng3 Bd6 9.Re1 Bxf3 10.Qxf3 c6 11.Nf5 Bf8 12.Bf4 Nd5 13.Nd6+ Bxd6 14.Bxd6 N7f6 15.Qg3 Nh5 16.Qe5 Nhf6 17.c4 Nb6 18.d5 Nbd7 19.Qg5 Nf8 20.Ba3 Rg8 21.dxc6 bxc6 22.Qc5 (D)
22. ... Qc7 23.Bc2 0-0-0 24.Ba4 Kb7 25.Bd1 Qb6 26.Bf3 Ng6 27.g3 Rd3 28.Bg2 Rgd8 29.Qb5 Kc7 30.Qa4 R8d4 31.Rac1 Rd2 32.Rf1 a5 33.b4 Ne4 34.bxa5 Qa6 35.Qb4 Nd6 36.Rb1 Nb7 37.Bb2 Rd6 38.c5 Rd8 39.Qb6+ Qxb6 40.cxb6+ Kb8 41.a6 Nc5 42.a7+ Kb7 43.Rfc1 Nd3 44.Rxc6 Rxb2 45.Rxb2 Nxb2 46.Rd6+ 1-0

Thursday, 3 January 2008

High School Musical - Bad for Chess

One of the more popular Christmas presents in my household was "High School Musical 1,2 and Concert". Consequently in the week between Christmas and New Year I saw each movie at least twice, and the songs from the movies were rammed into my brain.
I then attempted to play chess, during this time, with disastrous consequences. Whether there is a connection between a bunch of teenagers singing about basketball, and chessplayers dropping pieces left right and centre may not be scientifically provable, but that is what happened to me.
Thankfully by Tuesday night I had driven the demons from my mind, and my chess results significantly improved.
As a further sacrifice to scientific investigation, my children are dragging me off to "Alvin and the Chipmunks", and I will endeavour to report the effects this has on my play (if my brain is still functioning that is).

(BTW There is one Victorian player who thinks that having musical theatre at chess tournaments would help increase the number of entries. Personally I think the risks are too great)

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Australian Championship Underway

The 2008 Australian Championship is underway, with a good turnout for all the tournaments. Although the results for round 1 aren't up yet (Day 1 is always harder than the rest for organisers), the live broadcast of the top 4 boards did show one big upset.
Gareth Oliver took advantage of IM George Xie's surrounded Queen, to pick up material, and a better position out of the opening. Such was the size of his advantage that Gareth could afford to be a little generous in not finishing off George directly, without endangering his eventual win.

Oliver,G - Xie,G [E53]
Australian Open , 02.01.2008

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 dxc4 8.Bxc4 c5 9.Nf3 Qa5 10.Bd2 b6 11.Ne5 Ba6 (D)
12.Bxe6! Bb7 [ 12...fxe6 13.c4+-] 13.Bc4 Ne4 14.Qf3 cxd4 15.Bxf7+ Kh8 16.Qh5 Rxf7 17.Nxf7+ Kg8 18.Nh6+ gxh6 19.Qe8+ Kg7 20.Qe7+ Kg6 21.Qxb7 Nxd2 22.Rc1 dxc3 23.Qxa8 Qxa3 24.Rd1 Qd6 25.Ke2 a5 26.Rc1 Qe5 27.f4 Qb5+ 28.Kf2 Qb2 29.Qxb8 Nb3+ 30.Kg3 Nxc1 31.Qg8+ Kf5 32.Rd1 c2 33.Rd5+ Kf6 34.Qh8+ Ke6 35.Qxb2 Ne2+ 36.Kf3 c1Q 37.Qe5+ 1-0

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Things to look forward to in 2008

There are a number of chess events to look forward to this year.
The Australian Championship starts tomorrow with live coverage available from the link.
Of greater significance for Australian chess though will be the O2C Doeberl Cup, followed by the Sydney International Open , in lateMarch/early April. Already these events are are attracting strong fields with multiple GM entrants, and provide an opportunity for local players to earn IM/GM norms. More importantly, the continued success of these events means that Australian players don't have to look wistfully at overseas events and wonder we don't have such tournaments in Australia.
On the international calendar the Anand - Kramnik match will be the number one event of the year. However 2008 is an Olympiad year, so the Dresden Olympiad in November will also generate a lot of interest.
On the local scene there are a number of weekend tournament to play in, with the GP calendar showing 44 tournaments. One thing I hope to see is increased numbers for all events, and I hope that every chess player that reads this blog commits to playing in at least 3 weekenders this year, including 1 they've never played before.
But whether you play for fun, play for blood, or just like to sit back and watch, I'm sure there will be plenty of chess to keep you occupied for the next 12 months.