Saturday, 31 May 2008

It's not just the opening

Openings go in and out of fashion, often for no other reason than they are simply regarded as "unfashionable". When Kasparov revived the Scotch Game at the highest level as an alternative to the Ruy Lopez, I remembered a quote by Svetozar Gligoric in his book on the 1972 Fischer v Spassky World Championship Match

By his magic wand he [Fischer] transformed the Sicilian Defence into an endgame of the Scotch Opening! Spassky could not believe his eyes when he realised what trap he had fallen into, applying an opening he never intended, even in a dream.

When I first read this words in the early 80's I thought is was pretty harsh, given that Gligoric never explained why an ending from the Scotch was such a bad idea.
Of course these days Grandmasters are a little more pragmatic, realising that the openings themselves may not be bad, as long as they are in the right hands. For example, when Alexander Morozevich burst on to the international scene with his 9.5/10 at the 1994 Lloyds Bank tournament, his choice of openings caused much debate. Probably the one game that caused commentators to exclaim "Hey, you can't do that!" was his round 5 win over English GM Mark Hebden.

Morozevich,A (2575) - Hebden,M (2520) [C22]
Lloyds Bank op London (6), 1994

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 Nc6 4.Qe3 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Bd2 0-0 7.0-0-0 Re8 8.Qg3 d6 9.f3 Ne5 10.h4 c6 11.h5 d5 12.Nge2 Nc4 13.h6 g6 14.Bg5 Qb6 15.Na4 Qa5 16.Bxf6 Qxa4 17.Nc3 Bxc3 18.Bxc3 Ne3 19.b3 Qxa2 20.Rd2 Qa3+ 21.Bb2 Qe7 22.Be2 dxe4 23.fxe4 Qxe4 24.Qg5 Nd5 (D)
25.Rxd5 Qxd5 26.Qf6 Kf8 27.Bc4 1-0

So clearly it wasn't just the opening that determined the outcome of the game, it was also the player choosing it.

Friday, 30 May 2008

2008 ANU Chess Festival

A heads up for the 2008 ANU Chess Festival. The main event, the 2008 ANU Open, will be on the the 26th & 27th of July at Fenner Hall, Northbourne Ave, Braddon ACT. The structure will be the same as last year (Open and U/1600), with no increase in entry fees either. The prize pool is still a generous $3000+ with $1000 first prize in the Open.
Last years event saw 1 GM, 4 IM's, 2 WIM's, and a couple of FM's in the 26 player Open, and I suspect this year's event will be at least as strong. Indeed given the fabulous time everyone had at this years Doeberl Cup, I suspect a lot of players are planning a return visit to the nations capital.
I will post a link to the brochure an entry forms when they become available.

(Disclaimer: I am an employee of the Australian National University)

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Fun with Google Maps

Looking for another way of publicising your chess club? Google Maps allows you to enter new locations into their map system. So simply locate your chess club premises on the map, then choose the "Add a place to the map option". Fill in the required details (Name etc) and after about 10 minutes is should be searchable by the rest of the world. You can even add extra details in the "Review" section.
Already a number of Australian chess clubs and businesses are doing this. To see which ones, just go to Google Maps and search on "Chess Club". To see stuff that I've added recently, you can even search for "Street Chess".
This way prospective new members can find a local club quickly and easily.

ACT Womens Championship

Congratulations to Emma Guo, the winner of the 2008 ACT Women's and Girls Championship tournament. Emma scored 6.5/7, dropping the half point when she took a bye to play in a soccer game. Second place was last years champion Alana Chibnall (6/7). Jenny Mason was the best scoring non-junior player (4.5/7).
It was pleasing to see that the event attracted a sizable field (approx 30 players). The other thing that pleased me was that the information for this report came straight from the pages of The Canberra Times (and not the chess column either!). Well done to everyone involved in the organisation of the tournament.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The House(man) always Wins

Depending on the size of the event at my local club, I sometimes take on the role of the "houseman". The houseman is a fill in player when there are an odd number of players, meaning that no one misses a game. Of cause it often means I do not know whether I am playing in a round or not, and sometimes I even begin a couple of different games, abandoning them when a latecomer arrives a few minutes after they begin.
I had just such an experience this evening, and it turned into a very fortunate one for me. Having done a head count and draw at 7:45pm I was in the draw, and playing Mark Scully. The game was a Budapest Gambit, and I was very surprised by his 4th move. At first glance it just dropped a piece, but as I began to think about what was wrong with the obvious 5.Qd5 an extra player walked in. The game was stopped (as Mark was aware of the arrangement), but before I got up I asked him what would happen if I played 5.Qd5. "Ah" he said, "this". (I've added some analysis to the proposed line showing that it might not have been so clear cut, although whether I would have found it during the game is an unanswered question)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.dxe5 Ne4 4.a3 b6 (D)
[ RR 5.Nf3 Bb7 6.Nbd2 Qe7 7.Qc2 Nxd2 8.Bxd2 Nc6 9.Bc3 0-0-0 10.0-0-0 Rg8 11.Qxh7 g6 12.Qh4 Qxh4 13.Nxh4 Re8 14.Nf3 Bg7 15.e3 Nxe5 16.Nxe5 Bxe5 17.Bxe5 Rxe5 18.h4 Rh8 19.Rh2 Reh5 Hillarp Persson,T-Romero Holmes,A/Benidorm ESP 2003/The Week in Chess 473/1-0 (55)] 5...Bb7 [ 5...Nc5 6.Qxa8N ( RR 6.e6 fxe6 7.Qxa8 Bb7 8.Bg5 Qc8 9.Qxa7 Nc6 10.Qxb7 Qxb7 11.Nd2 Nd4 12.0-0-0 Ncb3+ 13.Nxb3 Nxb3+ 14.Kc2 Na5 15.Rd4 h6 16.Bd2 c5 17.Rh4 Nc6 18.Nf3 Be7 19.Rg4 0-0 20.Bxh6 Bf6 firefly-Jat/Internet Chess Serve 1993/0-1 (55)) 6...Bb7 7.Qxa7 Nc6] 6.Qxb7 Nc6 7.Qa6 [ RR 7.b4 a6 8.f3 Ra7 9.Qxa7 Nxa7 10.fxe4 Qh4+ 11.Kd1 Qxe4 12.e3 Qxe5 13.Ra2 d5 14.Nf3 Qd6 15.Rd2 Qc6 16.cxd5 Qa4+ 17.Rc2 Bd6 18.Nc3 Qd7 19.e4 b5 20.e5 Be7 21.Rd2 0-0 Pavlovic,M-Trifunovic,D/Belgrade SCG 2005/The Week in Chess 554/1-0 (33);
7.Nc3 Nc5 8.Bg5!] 7...Nc5 8.Qb5 a6-+

"The shortest game I never won" was his final comment.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Nifty Neighbourhood Tool

While looking at one of the blogs I read daily I cam across a nifty site called Walkscore. Based on information from Google Maps, it calculates a "walkability" score for an address or location. This score is based upon walking distance to such services as grocery stores, cinemas, bars etc Simply type in your address and see how good your location is for walking to amenities.
If you live in Canberra (like me), you will quickly see that we are not a walking city (at least in the suburbs). My current home has a walkscore of 11 (out of 100), but at least that is an improvement on where I lived as a kid, which has a score of 6. Even where I work (which is pretty close to the centre of town) only manages a score of 56. Of course when looking at these scores be aware of the GIGO principle (ie Garbage in, Garbage out). The result is only as good as the data used to calculate it.
Although to add some perspective, the area where teams will be staying for the 2008 Chess Olympiad has a score of 54, while Bled, Slovenia scored 0 (although this is clearly due to incomplete information)

Monday, 26 May 2008

A better input method?

By now many of you would have seen the video of the US Women's Championship playoff (if not it is here). For the moment I want to go past the question of how to resign, or the suitability of the tie break method and focus on the mechanics of the game.
Clearly it got down who could play the fastest moves, rather than who could play the best moves. Now while this might be good for those looking for evidence that chess is a physical sport after all, it does move away from the previous position that chess is about ideas.
So two suggestions to bring reduce the reliance on physical dexterity, and return such playoffs to a battle of brains. Firstly, sleeveless tops, so the players aren't worried about cuffs getting the way. Secondly, and more importantly, dispense with the chessboard altogether.
Instead simply have a voice operated input system, where the players announce the moves which are then automatically played on a computer screen. This way it isn't the fastest mover who wins, although it may be the fastest talker. Also a player will have to wait until their opponent has completed a move before playing there's, rather than the 'move anticipation' visible in the video. Of course the players may have to separated so that player A doesn't shout out a blunder for player B, but that is why we have arbiters.
As for the technology to do this, it is pretty simple. Probably no more than a couple of hours of programming to put it into action.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Olympiad Movies

For the 2000 Chess Olympiad in Istanbul it was a common joke to say that watching "Midnight Express" was part of your preparation. For the 2006 Olympiad in Turin, Italy, seeing the original "The Italian Job" was a useful way of familiarising yourself with the sights of the city (including the famous roof top race track which was located next to the playing hall). But try as I might, I haven't been able to find much in the way of cinematic brilliance coming from Dresden, Germany.
Once you exclude various dramatisations of World War II bombings, and German TV Police dramas, the best I can find is a couple of ordinary sequels to better known originals. The only two movies I've vaguely heard of are "Go Trabi Go 2" and "Leningrad Cowboys meet Moses". The first is obviously a sequel to "Go Trabi Go", while the second was a follow up to "Leningrad Cowboys go America". And I'm pretty sure neither movie will be much of a guide to Dresden, just as I'm pretty sure I won't find either of them in my local video store either.
But of course I could be missing the obvious (I once asked on live radio why there were no songs sung about Las Vegas), so if I am, feel free to suggest the definitive Dresden film.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

I had a dream

I had a dream the other night. In it I was paired against Viswanathan Anand in the 3rd round of an important knockout event. (Don't ask me how I made it to round 3 as I didn't dream this bit).
My major problem in the dream was what to play against 1.e4 While I was furiously trying to do some prep, Anand was amusing himself by giving pre-game interviews to the media. In the end I decided he would play the Ruy Lopez and I would try the Marshall. But figuring he knew everything there was to know, I'd try the Steiner Variation. This consists of 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 d5 9.exd5 e4?! (D)

But having decided that I then began to worry that he might choose the Ponziani (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3) just to confuse me.
Unfortunately I can't tell you the result of the game, as in all dreams of this sort I realised I wasn't wearing any trousers and while franticly searching for them my hotel room in the minutes before the start of the game, I woke up.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Things you learn from television

Lycra clad women, swinging from gymnastics rings, high above a cheering audience is, "like a game of chess. You have to be one move ahead of your opponent". At least that's what a commentator on Gladiators told me the other night.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Mind Sports Games 2008

A press release from FIDE landed in my inbox the other day, reminding me of the 2008 Mind Sports Games. This event, to be held in Beijing, is an international games involving Chess, Bridge, Draughts, Go, and Xiangqi (Chinese Chess).
Reading between the lines (and doing a bit of research on the web), it seems some international federations are giving it a big push while others (eg chess), are not quite sure what to do. On the one hand the press release indicates that FIDE regard this as an important event, but the press release reveals that maybe the national chess federations haven't embraced it with similar enthusiasm.
However, it seems that the organisers are making a big effort to make it a success. Apart from free accommodation, they are also providing free air travel 'from' Air China Hubs. Unfortunately they don't say where these hubs are (and it would be a pointless offer if the hub was in say, Beijing), so I've sent an email off to organisers asking for clarification.
Nonetheless, despite my hope that such an event is both succesful and repeated, there seems to be two possible impediments. Firstly the website is big on PR and very very small on detail (ie I can't find a calendar of events, or even the dates of the Games), and secondly, with its proximity to the Dresden Olympiad, a lot of players would be unable to take the time playing in both events, leaving a second string field for Beijing.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The Ultimate Mate

While there are plenty of nice ways to checkmate an opponent, my choice for the ultimate mate is by castling. I'm usually impressed when I can simply castle with check, so to castle with checkmate would cap a pretty memorable game. At this stage of my career I haven't been able to do so, and given the scarcity of examples in my database (10 games out of 2.5 million), I would be surprised if I am able to do it even once.
So I am reduced to enjoying examples of other players performing the feat, as in this game from the 1968 Olympiad.

Prins - Day,L [B40]
Lugano ol (Men) Lugano, 1968

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4 a6 4.Be2 Nc6 5.0-0 Nf6 6.Nc3 Qc7 7.a3 b6 8.d4 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Bb7 10.Be3 Bd6 11.h3 Be5 12.Qd3 h5 13.Rfc1 Bh2+ 14.Kf1 Ne5 15.Qd1 Nxe4 16.Na4 Nc5 17.Nxb6 Qxb6 18.Nf3 Qc6 19.Bxc5 Bf4 20.Be3 Bxe3 21.fxe3 Ng4 22.hxg4 hxg4 23.Ne1 Rh1+ 24.Kf2 g3+ 25.Kxg3 Rxe1 26.Qxe1 Qxg2+ 27.Kf4 g5+ 28.Ke5 Qe4+ 29.Kf6 Qf5+ 30.Kg7 Qg6+ 31.Kh8(D)
31. ... 0-0-0# 0-1

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

I bet Kasparov didn't expect this!

A collection of opposition groups to the Russian Government held its first meeting of an alternative "National Assembly" on Saturday. One of the leading figures in the "Other Russia" group is former World Champion Gary Kasparov. The meeting didn't get of to an auspicious start as it was delayed an hour due to late arrival of Kasparov himself, leading me to wonder if the Russian Government can now claim a forfeit.
But the most outrageous stunt at the meeting came from a pro-government protest group. As reported in the Moscow Times "A couple of pro-Kremlin Young Russia activists added to the commotion at the event by launching plastic phallus on propellers, which were knocked out of the air by security guards."
There is video of this device on the net already, but as this is a family blog, I'll leave it to you to track it down.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Ivanchuk completes dominant victory

After starting with 5/5 Vassily Ivanchuk completed a dominant victory in the Mtel Masters, scoring more 4 draws before winning his final game against Ivan Cheparinov. His final score of 8/10 left him a point and a half ahead of Veselin Topalov, and a tournament performance rating of 2977.
Probably the other surprise tournament performance was by Lev Aronian (spotted recently visiting the Australian National University), who finished in a tie for last place on 3/10 .
Here is the final win for Ivanchuk, holding off a determined, but ultimately unsound attack from Cheparinov.

Cheparinov,Ivan (2695) - Ivanchuk,Vassily (2740) [B48]
4th M-Tel Masters Sofia BUL (10.2), 18.05.2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.Be3 a6 7.Qd2 Nf6 8.0-0-0 Bb4 9.f3 Ne5 10.Nb3 b5 11.Bd4 Be7 12.Qf2 d6 13.g4 0-0 14.g5 Nfd7 15.Rg1 Bb7 16.Kb1 Rfc8 17.Rg3 b4 18.Na4 Bd8 19.Nc1 Bc6 20.b3 Bxa4 21.bxa4 Nc6 22.Be3 Qb8 23.Rh3 Nb6 24.Qh4 h6 25.Qg3 Nxa4 26.Rxd6 hxg5 27.Bd3 Bf6 28.e5 Bxe5 29.Rh8+ Kxh8 30.Qh3+ Kg8 31.Qh7+ Kf8 32.Rd7 Nc3+ 33.Ka1 Nb5+ 0-1

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Congratulations White Rose

Congratulations to the White Rose Team which has won promotion to Division 1 for next years 4 Nations Chess League (in the UK). The Yorkshire based team (hence the name) is managed by my PNG Olympiad team mate Rupert Jones. They lead division 2 from Day 1, and despite a hiccup on the final weekend against Pride & Prejudice, won the division by 2 clear points (Match points were the scoring system).
Here is a game from one of the lower boards which saw a very early Bc4 against the Sicilian, and ended with a very early mate.

Adams,D (2203) - Franklin,S (2001) [B50]
4NCL/Div2/WRO vs. BARY Wokefield Park ENG (5.7), 12.01.2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.e5 dxe5 5.Nxe5 e6 6.Qe2 Bd6 7.f4 0-0 8.b3 Qc7 9.Bb2 Nd5 10.g3 Nc6 11.Nxc6 Qxc6 12.Rf1 b6 13.Nc3 Bb7 14.0-0-0 a6 15.Ne4 Be7 (D)
16.f5 b5 17.f6 bxc4 18.Qg4 Nxf6 19.Nxf6+ Bxf6 20.Bxf6 g6 21.Qg5 1-0

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Speaking of losing

As I was in a post below, this evening (or today UK time) the FA Cup Final is on. Often in previous years the Orange Open Chess Tournament would be held on the same weekend, and it was often a battle between getting rest before the Sunday rounds, or staying awake to watch the action.
As the team I support in English Football (Torquay United) has never progressed beyond the 4th round, I really don't much invested in the result, although I guess I'll go for the underdogs(?) in Cardiff City.
But to return to the heading of this post, I was impressed with Torquay's end to their season. Having been relegated to Conference Football at the end of last season, they looked like bouncing straight back to League Football, as they lead the Conference for much of the season. They fell away at the end but were still in the playoffs for the second promotion spot. Their semi-final opponents were arch rivals Exeter and they started with a 2-1 away win in the first leg. Back at home they were leading 1-0 (3-1 on aggregate) with 70m already played. And then they allowed Exeter to score 4 goals in the last 20 minutes to go down 5-3.
A truly brilliant effort.

Friday, 16 May 2008

The Golden Dozen

When I first was getting serious about chess, I used to hang out at the Woden Library in Canberra, looking through their chess section. One of the titles that stood out was The Golden Dozen by Irving Chernev. Why this stood out wasn't the quality of the book but what I thought was the difficulty/audacity of compiling and publishing such a list.
The book was published in 1976 (although the last game in it was played in 1971), and the top 12 players (according to Chernev) were

  1. Capablanca
  2. Alekhine
  3. Lasker
  4. Fischer
  5. Botvinnik
  6. Petrosian
  7. Tal
  8. Smyslov
  9. Spassky
  10. Bronstein
  11. Rubenstein
  12. Nimzovitch

An interesting list, and one I think that some people have objected to over the years. I recall the suggestion that Chernev's hero worship of Capablanca resulted in his No 1 ranking, and almost as a flow on effect, Alekhine at No. 2.
Of course a modern list would have to include Kasparov in the top 2 or 3, and Fischer's legend has grown since the original publication of the book. In fact most people I've discussed this topic with seem to think a top 4 of Alekhine, Capablanca, Fischer, Kasparov (although not in that order) seems to pick itself, with various choices for player 5. Karpov is often overlooked in this debate, while positional players all seem to plump for Botvinnik. However I'm inclined to give Chernev his due in one regard, and make Lasker my choice for no 5 in the list of "5 Greatest Chess Players".
Without running a full blown poll, feel free to add your own lists in the comment section.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Mingara Open

A big plug for the Mingara Open, which is taking place this weekend (17th&18th May) at the Mingara Recreation Club, at Tumbi Umbi, on the Central Coast of New South Wales.
Having looked at the information sheet I'm impressed by the prizes offered. Due to the sponsorship of the Mingara Recreation Club and Australian Commercial Kitchens (courtesy of Keith Hogan), the tournament is offering a prize pool of $2000, based on only 30 entries. With an entry fee of only $40 ($30 concession) you can see that prizes paid out are going to exceed entries paid in. Hopefully the tournament will attract far more than just 30 players, as the event offers generous divisional prizes ($200,$100,50).
The other interesting idea is a top 4 play-off at the end of the final round. The top 4 players will play a knockout for an additional $500, with winner getting $250. While this is sometimes done in the United States as a way of splitting ties, in this case it is an opportunity for a player who had an unlucky loss (or didn't get to play the winner due to the pairings) to have a chance a picking up some extra coin. And for the spectators/other participants it provides some entertainment while waiting for prize money to be organised etc. If the idea turns out to be succesful it may be worth tryin at other events in the near future.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Mtel Masters

I had hoped to talk about this tournament before now, but I found it difficult for two reasons. Firstly, it seemed to have the longest lead in time of any tournament I can recall (Day 1 Marching Bands, Day 2 Exhibition Match, Day 3 Drawing of lots etc etc), and secondly, the website was hard to find. (It is here btw).
But the big talking point is Ivanchuk's 5/5 start to the event. By beating every other participant he has a performance rating of about 8000, and the big question is whether he can repeat the run in the second half of the tournament. Despite his big lead, Ivanchuck is certainly aware of Topalov's come from behind victories in previous editions of this event, although if he can win like this, then first place is assured.

Topalov,Veselin (2767) - Ivanchuk,Vassily (2740) [C11]
4th M-Tel Masters Sofia BUL (2.1), 09.05.2008

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.a3 cxd4 9.Nxd4 Bc5 10.Be2 0-0 11.Qd2 Qc7 12.Bf3 Nxd4 13.Bxd4 Nb6 14.Ne2 Bxd4 15.Qxd4 Bd7 16.b3 Bb5 17.Nc3 Rfc8 18.Nxb5 axb5 19.Be2 Nd7 20.Ra2 Nb8 21.0-0 Nc6 22.Qd2 Qb6+ 23.Kh1 Qa5 24.Qxa5 Rxa5 25.Raa1 Rca8 26.Rad1 Rxa3 27.Bxb5 Nb4 28.c4 R8a5 29.f5 exf5 30.g4 Rxb3 31.gxf5 Re3 32.Rb1 Nd3 33.e6 d4 34.Be8 Nc5 35.Bxf7+ Kf8 36.f6 gxf6 37.Rxf6 Ke7 38.Rh6 d3 39.Rxh7 d2 40.Rg1 Re1 41.Bh5+ Kxe6 42.Rhg7 Ne4 43.R7g6+ Ke5 0-1

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Was Fischer that good?

The May 2008 issue of Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly should be turning up in your mailbox today or tomorrow (for those that subscribe). Apart from the latest games from the Australian CC scene, there is an interesting letter from one of readers that challenges the accepted wisdom that Fischer was "the greatest chess player that ever lived". The correspondent (Michael Bedelph) ends his letter with the following paragraph
"Perhaps the underlying reason why Fischer chose not to defend his title was because he knew that Karpov would defeat him and there is no denying that, in 1975, Karpov was the stronger player"

I'm not taking a position for or against this claim and instead (like most magazine editors) would be interested in the views of others.

(Disclaimer: I am the editor of the Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly, and while I receive no financial renumeration for this role it would be nice if more people subscribed. I've even placed buttons on the right of the screen to make it easier)

Monday, 12 May 2008

You win because ...

A number of years ago I saw a cartoon in Chess Monthly which basically claimed "Chess is ultimately unsatisfying. My losses confirm my shortcomings as a player, while my wins only occur due to mistakes by my opponent". Now while many would object to such a bleak world view, it does raise the question of what are the causes of your victories.
The diagrammed position is from a game I played recently. At this stage of the game I was pretty pleased, as I was playing White. I decided to follow the plan of mating Black down the h file by utilising Rf3-h3, it was just a question of how to do it. After considering 6 different moves I decided on 19.Qh6 Now while this looks good, the question I should be asking is "Is it really good?". I guess in a practical sense, if it helps me win the game then it is good, but this may rely on my opponent missing the strongest reply. The game continued 19. ... Qb6 20.Rf3 Again I looked at a couple of alternatives but decided that following my plan was the best. The game rapidly concluded with 20. ... c4+ 21.Bf2 Qxb2 22.Rh3 Ng5 23.Qg7#
So a win for me, but on further investigation both myself and my opponent missed a saving line for him, which would have turned a win into an uphill struggle for me. Under those circumstances can such a win be truly satisfying? Or do you happily take the point and use it as a lesson for the next game?

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Spassky in Hay

One of the most interesting places I've visited is Hay-on-Wye, while one of the most interesting people I've met is Boris Spassky.
For those that don't know, Hay-on-Wye is a small town in Wales, famous for its second hand book stores. And on the 25th of May, former World Champion Boris Spassky is playing a 20 board simul at the annual Hay Festival. One participant is Welsh Assembly Member Peter Black, who was a a former Welsh League Champion. The mixture of chess and politics is interesting enough for the BBC to do a small story about the meeting, which you can read here.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

How good is the Two Knights Defence!

The Two Knights Defence is Blacks most combative response to 3.Bc4, although recently Nigel Short suggested that if Black plays 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 he just loses a pawn. Nonetheless in an online Two Knights Thematic I am playing in at the moment, a third of the games have been completed, and Black has won everyone one. There have been a number of different variations investigated, including the Modern, the Bogolyubov, the Fritz-Ulvstead and of course the Wilkes-Barre (which I scored 2/2 as Black).
Here is a quick win from the event involving a line in the Fritz variation.

Chairboy (1872) - internetpawn (2050) [C57] server game , 29.04.2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 b5 6.Bf1 Nd4 7.c3 Nxd5 8.cxd4 Qxg5 9.Bxb5+ Kd8(D)
Turns out to be too ambitious. [ 10.Qf3 Bb7 11.0-0 e4?! an idea of Fischers from 1964 12.Qxe4 Bd6 13.Re1 c6 14.Bc4 ( 14.Bf1) 14...Kc7 15.d3 Qh5 16.h3 Rhe8 17.Qxe8 Rxe8 0-1 was the conclusion of my game against the same opponent another opponent in this event.] 10...Qxg2 11.Rf1 Ba6 12.d3 Bb4+ 13.Nc3 exd4 14.Bxa8 While White is in trouble, this turns out to be the losing move. [ 14.a3 Bb7!! is a fantastic suggestion of Fritz. The idea is to allow the rook to check on e8. 15.Bxb7 dxc3 16.Qa4 Re8+ -+] 14...dxc3 15.Bxd5 c2+ White resigned 0-1

Friday, 9 May 2008

After you've had a few

Is it possible to play decent chess after you've had a few drinks? For me, definitely not, but there are plenty of stories of chess masters still effortlessly winning while a little worse for wear. But I think there are just as many stories of alcohol affected players that have ended badly.
Nonetheless I once had an opponent who was having such a bad weekend that he decided to sink a few over lunch before the final round commenced. While his game started erratically, he sobered up as the game wore on, and finished his tournament with a win.
While reading a copy of The Guardian Weekly on the bus this afternoon, I noticed Leonard Barden made notice of the performance of one the teams in this years Russian Teams Championship. Apparently Tomsk (the defending champions) were fined for a "sports discipline breach". In the old days this was Soviet code for heavy drinking. In his column Barden presented the following game, lost by a Tomsk player, and said "Judge for yourself"

Najer,E - Belozerov,A [C43]
Russian Teams ICCF, 2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.d4 Nxe4 4.Bd3 d5 5.dxe5 Nc6 6.0-0 Be7 7.Nc3 Bf5 8.Re1 0-0 9.Bd2 Nxd2 10.Bxf5 Nxf3+ 11.Qxf3 g6 (D)
12.Rad1 gxf5 13.Nxd5 Qc8 14.Qh5 Qe6 15.Rd3 Nxe5 16.Rh3 h6 17.Nxe7+ Qxe7 18.Qxh6 Nf3+ 19.gxf3 1-0

Thursday, 8 May 2008

A battle against yourself

While the person sitting across the board from you is nominally your opponent, most of the time the person you are really playing against is yourself. This is because when you are trying to calculate a move, you are also trying to find the best moves for your opponent. So when things go horribly wrong it is usually because what you think must happen, turns out not to happen.
Here is an example for the ANU Chess Club last night. Adrian de Noskowski won a pawn on move 21 forcing Mario Palma to try and defend the position a pawn down. By move 43 they reached the diagrammed position, when suddenly de Noskowski came up with a plan to mate the White king. Unfortunately the plan had a major flaw, which can happen with both players short of time and only receiving a 10s increment per move.

Mario Palma - Adrian DeNoskowski
ANU Autumn Swiss (2), 07.05.2008

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Nf3 c5 8.Bc4 0-0 9.0-0 Nc6 10.Bb2 Bg4 11.d5 Ne5 12.Be2 Nxf3+ 13.Bxf3 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 c4 15.Rfe1 Qa5 16.Re3 Rad8 17.Qe2 Qc7 18.h4 b5 19.a3 Qe5 20.Rf1 Bh6 21.Rh3 Rxd5 22.f4 Qe6 23.Bc1 Rdd8 24.f5 Qb6+ 25.Kh1 Bxc1 26.Rxc1 Qd6 27.h5 Qd2 28.Qf1 Qg5 29.h6 Rd2 30.Ra1 Rfd8 31.a4 Qg4 32.fxg6 fxg6 33.Qf3 Rd1+ 34.Rxd1 Rxd1+ 35.Kh2 Qxf3 36.Rxf3 bxa4 37.Rf2 Rc1 38.Ra2 Rxc3 39.Rxa4 Kf7 40.Rxa7 g5 41.e5 Re3 42.Rc7 c3 43.Rc5 Kg6 (D)
44.Rc6+ Kh5 45.Rc7 Kh4 46.Rxe7 g4 47.g3+ Rxg3 48.Rxh7 Rd3 49.Rc7 Rd2+ 50.Kg1 c2 51.h7 Kg3 52.Rc3+ This is the check that saves White. 52. ... Kf4 53.h8Q Rd1+ 54.Kf2 g3+ 55.Ke2 g2 56.Qf6+ Kg4 57.Qf3+ Kh4 58.Rc4+ Kg5 59.Rg4+ 1-0

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

The Smackdown Challenge

The influx of new (and strong) chess players into Canberra has resulted in a number of new (and bold) ideas. One idea is the revival of interstate team matches, either against teams representing states, or teams representing clubs. Two players who are keen to see this happen are IM David Smerdon, and Endre Ambrus. Both of these players have had plenty of experience in playing in teams events overseas, and both think that it would be great to have it in Australia.
One suggested format is a team of 6 match. Each team would be required to have at least 1 male player, 1 female player, and 1 junior player. Teams would play in ratings order, although players could be swapped as long as the difference between the swapped player and the next player on the team wasn't more than 100 rating points. So for example a Canberra/ANU Chess Club team might be 1.IM David Smerdon 2.IM Andras Toth 3. Endre Ambrus 4. Junta Ikeda 5. Gareth Oliver 6.WIM Arianne Caoili
Now for the moment this is still in the discussion/early planning stage, and how the matches would be played is still being thought out. One obvious way is to play the games over the net, but once again do you use real boards and board runners, or does each player have a terminal. But in the discussion on this matter there was a strong opinion that it would be much more enjoyable to play face to face.
Either way, if anyone else from outside Canberra is interested in participating in such a match, I'd be interested in hearing from you.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

3 way tie in Baku

The first FIDE Grand Prix event ended in a 3 way tie for 1st, between Vugar Gashimov, Yue Wang and Magnus Carlsen. Each score 8/13 with local boy Gashimov edging the other 2 players on tie break. Half a point back were Shakriyar Mamadyrov and Alexander Grischuk.
Probably the key game for the tournament was the round 12 clash between Gashimov and Grischuk, which crueled Grischuk's chances for first place and catapulted Gashimov into the lead.

Gashimov,V (2679) - Grischuk,A (2716) [C72]
FIDE GP Baku AZE (12), 04.05.2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 d6 5.0-0 Bg4 6.h3 h5 7.d4 b5 8.Bb3 Nxd4 9.hxg4 Nxb3 10.axb3 hxg4 11.Ng5 Qd7 12.Qd3 Rb8 13.Rxa6 f6 14.Nc3 fxg5 15.Bxg5 Be7 16.f4 gxf3 17.Qxf3 Nf6 18.Nd5 Nxd5 19.Qf7+ Kd8 20.Qxg7 Kc8 21.Qxh8+ Kb7 22.Qh7 Qg4 23.exd5 Qd4+ 24.Kh1 Bxg5 25.Rfa1 Be3 26.Ra7+ Qxa7 27.Rxa7+ Bxa7 28.g4 Rf8 29.g5 Rf2 30.Qe4 Rf1+ 31.Kh2 Rf4 32.Qxf4 exf4 33.c3 1-0

Monday, 5 May 2008

Hack of the Month

"Miniature" is to kind a description for this game, as White just tears into Black's position. The only slight flaw in the game (if it can be called that), is the Black doesn't allow White the pretty pawn mate on move 15.

Kurnosov,I (2577) - Dzhumaev,M (2527) [B07]
2nd Agzamov Memorial Tashkent UZB (8), 27.03.2008

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Bg5 Nbd7 5.Qd2 [ 5.e5 can be tried if you are feeling aggressive. 5...dxe5 ( 5...Nh5±) 6.dxe5 Nxe5 7.Qxd8+ Kxd8 8.Bf4! Nc6 9.0-0-0+ Bd7 10.Bc4 e6 11.Nf3 and threats of Ng5 and Nb5 allow White to regain the pawn with advantage.] 5...a6 6.0-0-0 b5 7.e5 b4 8.exf6 bxc3 9.Qxc3 e6?? [ 9...Nxf6 10.Bxf6 Bh6+ ( 10...exf6? 11.Re1+ Be7 12.Qf3+-) 11.Kb1 exf6 12.Re1+ Kf8±] 10.Re1 Nb6 11.d5! Na4 12.Qc6+ Bd7(D)
13.Rxe6+!! fxe6 14.dxe6 Bg7
[ 14...Bxc6 15.f7#] 15.exd7+ [ 15.exd7+ Qxd7 ( 15...Kf8 16.fxg7+) 16.f7+] 1-0

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Are you old enough?

When you are young you tend to overstate your age (especially approaching 18 years old) while when you are older you tend to understate it ("it's the 12 anniversary of my 39th birthday"). Now news from India reveals that people who are older are also understating the age of those who are younger.
It seems that 5 players in the Indian Under 9 Girls Championship have been found to be overaged, after medical tests conducted by organisers. Despite the fact that the players parents had presented birth certificates showing they were eligible to play, there were sufficient suspicions to have additional tests carried out.
The full story is here in The Hindu.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Correspondence Thematics

For all the sneering that CC receives from some OTB players, a significant amount of opening theory is developed in Correspondence Thematic events. These are events where all the games start with a specific opening, either at an early stage, or in some cases, a theoretically crucial position.
However, the most common thematics usually involve openings that are avoided at the top levels of OTB chess, although these openings may still be popular at the club level. Probably the two openings most closely associated with CC Thematics are the Blackmar-Diemar Gambit (BDG) for White, and the Latvian Gambit for Black.
Now the BDG is one of those openings where the players who use it are so passionate about it that the wins for white tend to be over publicised, at the expense of the games where Black hangs on to the pawn and frustrates White's attacking plans. So just to redress the balance here is a game where Black launches the big attack, and cleans White's clock in pretty short order.

Christensen,J (2069) - Hauser,J (2126)
WSTT/3/07/2 - Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, D ICCF, 15.06.2007

1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.f3 exf3 5.Nxf3 c6 6.Bc4 Bf5 7.Ne5 e6 8.0-0 Bg6 9.Bf4 Nbd7 10.Nxg6N Turns out the open file is worth more than the 2 bishops. [ RR 10.Rf2 Nxe5 11.Bxe5 h5 12.h3 h4 13.Bd3 Bh5 14.Qe1 Nd7 15.Bf4 g5 16.Be5 Rg8 17.Bh7 Nxe5 18.Bxg8 Qxd4 19.Ne4 0-0-0 20.Kh1 Bb4 21.c3 Nd3 22.cxd4 Bxe1 23.Rf1 Rxg8 24.Nf6 Bf2 ETC_Chess-Peze/ 2003/Aftermega Pt.1/0-1 (45)] 10...hxg6 11.Be2 Qb6 12.Bg3 0-0-0 Already Black has a better position, even discounting the extra pawn. 13.Na4 Qa5 14.c3 Ne4 15.b4 Qg5 16.Bf4 Bd6!! 17.Bxd6 [ 17.Bxg5 Bxh2+ 18.Kh1 Ng3#] 17...Qe3+ 18.Kh1 e5 19.Bxe5 Nxe5 20.Bg4+ Kc7 21.Bh3 Nd3 22.Qf3 Ndf2+ 0-1

Friday, 2 May 2008

The 10 second curse

Jonathan Speelman often bemoans the effect that the 30s increment has on the quality of endgames in modern chess, but imagine the damage that 10s increments cause. As an example, won one of the last games to finish at the ANU Chess Club the other night contained the following sequence of missteps and near misses. I'll leave the players unnamed as it isn't my intention to criticise their play, just to highlight the difficulty in finding the right moves when you only have 10 seconds to do so.

1...Kg7 [ 1...e5+ At the time I thought this was the drawing move, but Black explained after the game that he was still looking to win the position! He also felt that moving the pawn stopped him from playing Rf5+ which he used in the game.
As it turns out my instincts were correct as it is the only move that draws (with correct play!). 2.Kg4 e4 3.Kf4 e3 4.Kxe3 Kg7 And Black captures the g and h pawns.] 2.Kg5 Rf8 3.Rh1 Rf5+ 4.Kg4 Rf8 5.Kg3? Now it is White's turn to go wrong, although at 10s a move Black misses the right idea. 5...Kh8? Not only does this miss the draw, it puts the King into a mating net. [ 5...Rh8 draws as the g pawn is indefensible.] 6.Kg4 Re8 7.Kg5 e5 8.Rh5 Re7 9.Kh6 Watching the game I felt that Black seemed surprised to see himself in this position. 9...Re6 10.Rxe5 And once again Black was caught unawares, so much so that he missed the stalemate trick which would have saved half a point, but then again so did White! It seemed only the spectators saw what was up, and to their credit, they managed to keep their 'poker' faces. 10...Rf6 One more square would have done it! [ 10...Rxg6+ 11.Kxg6 ( 11.Kh5 Kxh7 12.Re7+ Rg7) ] 11.Re8+ Rf8 12.Rxf8#

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Zipf's Law

Zipf's Law is one of those wonderful rules of the universe which describe how things are, rather than why things are. Other examples might be Bode's Law (for the distance of planets) or Vizzini's Classic Blunder ("Never get involved in a land war in Asia").
It's major application (these days at least) is in explaining the popularity of competing services. Not the why, but just the fact that twice as many people use Google over Yahoo, or Facebook over Linked-In etc
It may even apply to the shifting sands of the Canberra chess scene. For reasons to do mainly with geography, Canberra has usually had 3 or 4 clubs in operation. Unfortunately, mainly to do with population, these clubs periodically go through periods of boom and bust. In an ideal competitive market, the busts would shake out the under performing clubs, leaving Canberra with one or two constantly successful clubs, rather than 2 successful clubs and 2 struggling clubs.
Anyway, the two clubs that are doing well in Canberra at the moment are the Tuggeranong Chess Club, and the ANU Chess Club. Indeed the ANU Chess Club is doing so well that until we get some bigger space, we are turning players away from our tournaments. Which is a little unfortunate, as obviously getting more players into the chess scene is obviously a good thing.
Now while the ANU Chess Club members obviously turn up to the club for a reason, I suspect it is more a "crowd attracts a crowd" mentality the motivates new players to change clubs. And while Zipf's Law doesn't explain this, it certainly does measure it.