Monday, 30 June 2008

Experience v Enthusiasm

Here is another game that was played during the ANU Chess Club's Winter Rapid. It was a match up between the experienced tournament player Ian Rout, and the enthusiastic (and improving) junior player Allen Setiabudi. In this case it was experience that won out, with Ian playing a nice combination that is often seen in books on chess tactics, but not often seen at the board.

Rout,I - Setiabudi,A [B80]
ANU Winter Rapid 25.06.2008

1.e4 c5 2.g3 e6 3.Bg2 Nc6 4.Nf3 Qc7 5.0-0 Nf6 6.Re1 d6 7.d4 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bd7 9.Nc3 a6 10.Nxc6 Bxc6 11.Nd5 Bxd5 12.exd5 e5 13.c3 Be7 14.a4 0-0 15.a5 Nd7 16.Be3 b6 17.axb6 Nxb6 18.Qg4 f5 19.Qb4 Nc4 20.Bf1 Nxe3 21.Rxe3 Rfb8 22.Qa3 a5 23.b4 Qb7 24.bxa5 Qxd5 25.Qa4 Qf7 26.a6 Ra7 27.Rxe5 Rc8 28.Re3 Bf6 29.Rae1 Raa8 (D)
30.Bc4 Qxc4 31.Re8+ Kf7 32.Qxc4+ Rxc4 33.Rxa8 Bxc3 34.Rc1 d5 35.a7 1-0

Sunday, 29 June 2008

ACT Schools Championship

The Finals of the Australian Capital Territory Schools Chess Championships were held last week, and both events saw high quality and exciting chess.
In the High School/College section Hawker College were the convincing winners, score 22/28 and finishing 3 points ahead of Alfred Deakin High, and Radford College. The Hawker team consisted of Junta Ikeda (Australian Junior Champion), Sherab Guo-Yuthok, Michael Reading and Rohan Verma. The second placing for Alfred Deakin was also outstanding as school commitments prevented two regular players from taking part. Nonetheless the replacements were more than adequate, with the team edging out Radford College on tie-break.
The Primary Schools Championship saw a dramatic finish, with the final round starting with the top 7 teams within 2 points of each other. Turner Primary emerged victorious winning their final round 3-1 which was just enough to hold off Curtin Primary who fell half a point short despite winning their final round 3.5-0.5. Radford Primary finished in third place, a further half point back.
Overall the event attracted almost 1000 players, which is pretty good from a city the size of Canberra (and surrounding regions). In fact the event would have had more players but their were physical limitations on number of teams that could take part in each zone.
Congratulations to Rebekah Gupte and her team of helpers for running the competition, and well done to all those who took part.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Two Knights Triumphant

I've just finished playing in my first tournament, which luckily for me was a Two Knights Defence thematic event. It was a 6 player double round robin, meaning that I played 2 games against each opponent, with white and black. All games started with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 which is my usual choice as Black against Bc4 anyway.
For fans of the Two Knights it is good news as the results favoured Black who scored 16 wins against 10 losses, with 4 games ending in draws. In terms of specific variations some scored better than others (scores given as White wins, draws and Black wins)
  • Morphy (4.Ng5 d5 5.exd Na5) +1=0-7
  • Fritz - Ulvstead (4.Ng5 d5 5.exd b5) +1=1-4
  • Traxler (4.Ng5 Bc5) +0=0-2
  • Modern (4.d4 exd 5.e5) +4=1-1
  • Quiet (4.d3) +2=2-2
  • Bogolyubov (4.Ng5 d5 5.exd Na5 6.Bb5+ c6 7.dxc bxc 8.Qf3) +1=0-0
  • (4.d4 exd 5.O-O d6) +1=0-0
So in this case Black has the upper hand against 4.Ng5 ("A duffers move" according to Tarrasch) while White did better in moving the d pawn on move 4.
Here is one of my games from the event, where I followed an idea from John Emms book "Play the Open Games as Black"

internetpawn - shaunpress Tournament number #10 , 25.06.2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd4 5.e5 Ne4!? [ The game move was chosen as an alternative to the well worn 5...d5 6.Bb5 Ne4 7.Nxd4] 6.Qe2 Nc5 The idea is to make White work at regaining the pawn. 7.0-0 Ne6 8.Rd1 d5 9.Bb5 Bc5 10.c3 Bd7 [ 10...dxc3? 11.Nxc3 won't do for Black as White takes control of the centre.] 11.Bxc6 Bxc6 12.cxd4 Bb6 13.Nc3 0-0 14.a4 This turns out to be a good idea. Emms only suggested 14.b4 in this position, although that arrives soon enough. 14...a6 Probably one square short. I wanted to keep control of b5 but a5 would have squelched the queenside counterplay. 15.a5 Ba7 16.b4 Be8 The idea behind this move is to begin play on the kingside with f5 and Bh5. 17.Ba3 [ 17.b5 put me under more pressure.] 17...f5 18.exf6 [ Again 18.b5 caused me more problems forcing me to tangle my pieces with 18...Rf7] 18...Rxf6 Now my pieces are ready to attack the White king. 19.b5 axb5 [ 19...Bh5 looks obvious put I was terrified of walking into 20.Be7 Qxe7 21.Nxd5 As it turns out I needn't have worried, but Bh5 can always wait.] 20.Nxb5 (D)
20. ... Bb8!
This was the move I really liked in the game. Not only does it prevent me losing time by allowing the capture on a7, it aims another piece at White's king. 21.Bb4 c6 22.Nc3 Bh5 Finally! 23.Qe3 Bxf3 24.gxf3 Bf4 White resigned. Certainly a "correspondence resignation" but White's King can't survive such a position for too long. 0-1

Friday, 27 June 2008

Computer Shogi

In a previous blog entry I talked about the Japanese game of Shogi. Today I came across an interesting article about computer Shogi. Like a lot of non-chess board games, the research put into computer programs that play well has lagged behind chess. This in part is a function of the popularity of games with researchers (chess being an obvious target for Soviet and western computer scientists) as well as the complexity of the game (eg Go).
In Shogi's case the added complexity is derived from the fact that you can add captured pieces to your army by dropping them on to board (just like transfer). This means the number of legal moves in a position can easily exceed 300, causing a spectacular blow out in the search tree. So for the moment the best Shogi programs are still at the level of the amateur players.
Of course in a number of Japanese games, 'Amateur' takes the literal meaning, ie a player who does not make a living from the game. Professional players are very regulated, with players having to pass exams and qualifying competitions to be admitted into the professional ranks. This control extends to what activities a player can partake in, and as the article states, "In 2005, the Japan Shogi Association banned exhibition games between professional players and shogi software." I'm assuming that the punishment for a player breaking that ban would be anything up to having their professional status revoked.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Pawn Sacrifices - Part II

The following game is a companion to the previous game, in part because it was played immediately after the first one. (The current ANU Club tournament is a 2 round a night rapid using 20m+10s per move time limit). Indeed the previous game influenced this one, in that playing the pawn sacrifice in game 1 encouraged me to repeat the recipe in game 2.
In this case the pawn sacrifice was both earlier, and more "traditional", giving up material in return for a quick lead in development, and an open e file against the uncastled King.

Press,S - Rout,I [B01]
ANU Winter Rapid Canberra, 25.06.2008

1.e4 d5 2.Nc3 dxe4 3.Nxe4 Nd7 4.d4 Ngf6 5.Bd3 e5 6.Qe2 Qe7 7.Bg5 exd4 8.0-0-0 Qe6 9.Nf3 Nxe4 10.Bxe4 c5 11.Rhe1 Nf6(D)
12.Qb5+ Kd8 13.Bxb7 Qxe1 14.Rxe1 Rb8 15.Re8+ Kc7 16.Qc6# 1-0

(NB Being on the end of a number of beatings by Ian Rout over the years, I think both of us realised this was a bit of 'hit and giggle' where his extravagant idea (5. ... e5) got whacked by my slightly less extravagant idea, 'Here, have the pawn on d4')

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Pawn Sacrifices - Part I

When you sacrifice a pawn, you do so for a couple of reasons. One is to gain the initiative ie while your opponent is taking your pawn, you are making threats elsewhere. Another is to free up a square or open lines for your pieces.
In the following game (played this evening at my local chess club) I decided to make a dynamic pawn sacrifice that met all the conditions. In giving up my e pawn I freed the e5 square for my knight, opened the d file for my rook, and threatened to wreck my opponents king side pawn structure. It also had the effect of throwing my opponent on to the defensive, and allowed me the reach clearly winning position. Unfortunately I reached this position with 20 seconds left on my clock, and unable to see a clear cut win (although it was always there) I took a draw by perpetual.

Russell,L - Press,S [C55]
ANU Winter Rapid Canberra, 25.06.2008

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 Be7 5.c3 0-0 6.0-0 d5 7.exd5 Nxd5 8.Re1 Bf6 9.Nbd2 Bg4 10.h3 Bh5 11.Ne4 Re8 12.Nxf6+ Nxf6 13.Bg5 h6 14.Bh4 (D)
14. ... e4 15.Bxf6 Qxf6 16.dxe4 Ne5 17.Be2 Rad8 18.Qb3 Nxf3+ 19.Bxf3 Bxf3 20.gxf3 Qxf3 21.Re3 Qf4 22.Qxb7 Rd2 23.Rf1 Rxf2 24.Rxf2 Qxe3 25.Qb3 Re6 26.Qb8+ Kh7 27.Qb5 Rg6+ 28.Kf1 Qc1+ 29.Ke2 Qc2+ 30.Ke3 Qc1+ [ 30...Rg3+ 31.Rf3 Qc1+ lead to a win] 31.Ke2 Qc2+ 32.Ke3 Qc1+ ½-½

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Getting Rolled at Bullet

The latest issue of New in Chess has an odd little article by GM Danny Gormally on online chess addiction. Now these days I don't play a lot of online 'real time' chess, but I decided to revisit the Free Internet Chess Server. As an aside, I joined FICS so long ago that I was able to use my own first name as my handle (and not shaun64 or shaunroolz etc).
Because I'm a sucker for punishment I tend to play bullet against computers, figuring that I'll get better at it if it isn't a mutual blunderfest. Unfortunately this means I just get snapped, and my last visit was no exception. Playing against Gizmo (2000+) I lost 0-3. The first game I was up a piece, and lost on time. The second game I left a mate in 1 on, and in game 3 I moved my attacked queen along the line of attack, losing it and the game. This left my Bullet rating at a very impressive 1320.
Contrast this with my rating at, which is about 1000 points higher. Of course there the time limits are in days rather than in seconds, and this leads me to the following formula.
For every extra second of thinking time I am 0.0023 rating points stronger.

Of course this is a back of the envelope calculation, and may not stand up to further testing.

Monday, 23 June 2008

The Summer Circuit

The European Summer Chess Circuit is starting up, judging by the number of invites in my inbox. Sadly I have neither the time nor the finances to take part in what I'm sure are a number of excellent events, but a number of notable names are.
The July First Saturday GM Tournament has just finished in Budapest, Hungary and was won by Canadian GM Mark Bluvshtein. Mark is well known to the Canberra chess community, as he played in the 2006-07 Australian Open that was held here. Also notable was the third place finish by New Zealand IM Puchen Wang (who played in the recent O2C Doeberl Cup). His final score was just short of the requirement for a GM norm, but tournaments such as this will surely help him on the road to becoming New Zealand's 2nd Grandmaster.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Transpo Tricks

Transposing from one opening to another can be a useful trick. If you suspect your opponent has prepared for line A, and you manage to sucker them into Line B can be unsettling, both because they haven't prepared for Line B, and the fact they know you've put one over them.
Normally such transpositions happen 'inside' the opening, where you simply shift variations via a different move order. However I've seen some weirder examples (Where a game starting with 1.Nc3 ended up as a Schliemann Ruy Lopez via a Lativian Gambit and where the move Bb5 came at the very end of the transposition).
In the following casual game, it started off as an Alekhines Defence, which was met with 2.Nc3, and ended up as a Blackmar-Diemer, after my opponent avoided a transposition into a Vienna.

1.e4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 dxe4 4.f3 exf3 5.Qxf3 c6 6.Be3 Bg4 7.Qf2 e6 8.Bc4 Bb4 9.Nge2 Bxe2 10.Qxe2 Ne4 11.0-0 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Bxc3 (D)
13.Rxf7!! Bxd4 [ 13...Kxf7 14.Rf1+ Ke8 15.Qh5+ g6 16.Qe5+-;
13...Bxa1 14.Bxe6 leads to a winning attack.] 14.Raf1 Bxe3+ 15.Qxe3 Qb6 16.Qxb6 axb6 17.Bxe6 Ra5 18.Rxb7 Na6 19.Rff7 Nc5 20.Rb8# 1-0

Saturday, 21 June 2008

A surprise ACT Championship

Often a tournament will have a surprise winner, but it is quite unusual to have a surprise tournament. However this is what seems to happening with this years ACT Championship. The tournament received no pre-publicity and the first most ACT Chess Association members knew about it was when the first round results were sent out via email. In fact one participant in the tournament said they had just turned up at the Tuggeranong Chess Club expecting to enter the new club tournament and was most surprised to find they were playing in the ACT Championship.
Another email I received on the matter stated "By the nominal start time of 7.30pm, some 16 odd senior players turned out for the ACT comp. No top rated ACT players appeared." Apparently in an effort to boost numbers a group of junior players was added to the event, although this necessitated the time controls for game involving those players being reduced to 60m+10s per move, rather than the 90m+30s that is standard for a championship event. "A final draw was called about 8.25pm"
A number of further questions are being asked of the ACTCA concerning this and other matters, although at this point no answers have been forthcoming. Probably the most important one concerns the legality of the current ACTCA committee itself as they may be in breach of both the ACTCA constitution and more importantly the ACT Associations Incorporation Act, by not holding an Annual General Meeting within the time specified under the act.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Upcoming Chess PR

Residents of Canberra and surrounding areas will be able to catch some on air chess PR this Sunday morning. If you tune into 666 on the AM dial after 10:30am you will be able to here Alana Chibnall talk about junior chess in the ACT. Apparently there will also be an on air game of chess, but I'm not sure how that will come across to the listeners.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

The Worst Opening Ever?

According to The Complete Chess Addict, this would have to be the Irish Gambit. For those not familiar with the line, it goes 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nxe5
Now it is hardly surprising that the theoreticians have passed this variation by, but a number of years ago I did write an article on it for Australian Chess Forum. It was intended to be an April Fools edition 'special', and I was going to attribute it to the well know opening author "Lary Gane", but at the last moment I bottled it, and left it under my own name instead.
Here is a game from the article where the player with the white pieces was Patrick Connell, who at the time was putting in a serious bid to be considered the worlds leading expert in the line. It just so happened that I had the task of deflating that balloon.

Connell,P - Press,S [C44]
Belconnen Spring Cup Belconnen, 1994

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nxe5 (D)
3. ... Nxe5!N
This obvious move was apparently a novelty. Searches of various databases have not been able to find an earlier example. 4.d4 Black now has to decide where to put the Knight. 4...Ng6 5.f4 d6 6.Bd3 f5 Black decides to fight White's broad pawn centre with this dynamic thrust. 7.0-0 [ White could try the tempting 7.exf5 N6e7 8.Qh5+ Kd7 9.0-0 Nf6 10.Qe2 c6 but Blacks king will be safe on c7.] 7...Nf6 8.exf5 Ne7 9.Re1 [ An aggressive move like 9.g4 only plays into Black's hands. With no pawn cover White's king is likely to come under attack. ] 9...Kf7! 10.Nc3 Nxf5 11.Ne4 Nxe4 12.Bxe4 d5 13.Bf3 c6 Black must be happy with his position. Although White controls the e file, the Black knight on f5 more than compensates. 14.Qe2 Bd6 [ 14...Nxd4 is the move to play if you ever get this position. It brings the pawn count back into balance, but more importantly, Black gains a queenside pawn majority.] 15.Bd2 Nxd4 16.Qd3 Nxf3+ 17.Qxf3 Bf5 18.Bc3 Qb6+ 19.Kh1 Rhe8 Black has completed his development and challenged White along the e-file. The rest of the game is simply a matter of technique. 20.Qh5+ Bg6 21.Qg4 Re4 22.Rxe4 Bxe4 23.Qxg7+ Ke8 24.Re1 Qc7 25.Qg8+ Bf8 26.Be5 Qf7 27.Qg3 Qg6 28.Qh3 b6 29.a3 Bc5 30.b4 Be7 31.Rf1 Bf5 32.Qf3 Kf7 33.c4 Rg8 34.cxd5 Be4 35.f5 Qxg2+ 36.Qxg2 Bxg2+ 37.Kg1 Bxf1+ 38.Kxf1 cxd5 0-1

Good News Everyone!

No, not the tepid Futurama episode on TV earlier this evening. Instead, the answer to the following question.
Can you run Swiss Perfect under Linux?
A: Yes.
Having put the latest Ubuntu distribution (8.04) on my laptop last month, and installing 'wine', simply clicking on the sp98.exe file on my Windows partition brought it up without a hitch. The only thing to watch for is that wine doesn't use the normal Windows Registry, instead using its own. This means you will have to re-enter the username and serial key that you received when you purchased your copy. Otherwise another nail in the coffin of Microsoft.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

A job well done

Good news for the organisers of the 2007 Oceania Zonal held in Fiji. Due to the hard work of the Papua New Guinea Chess Federation President Stuart Fancy, the Asian Confederation has agreed to provide $5000USD to help cover the costs of that event. While this is obviously a help to the 2007 Zonal, it is hoped that this will now become standard policy for Zonal's organised within the Asian Confederation (including the 2009 Zonal).
Also thanks should go to the Asian Confederation and its President Sheik Sultan Bin Khalifa Al-Nehyan for agreeing to the request of the PNGCF.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

First Fischer, then Kasparov, now ...

Every generation sees a player who breaks the mould. Before Fischer there tournament strategy was to win with white, draw with black*. Fischer of course strived to win with white, then win with black. Kasparov then began to dominate events through his extensive opening preparation. His aim was to get out of the opening with a clear advantage, whether he was white or black.
It now seems the current generation of players has taken these lessons to heart and decided that winning isn't enough. Winning big seems to be the plan, whether it was Topalov in the WCC, Ivanchuk at Mtel, or Carlsen in the current Aerosvit tournament. And while Kasparov deserves credit for pointing the way in regards opening research, I think the example being followed is more Fischer's will to win.
Of course one tournament's "dominator" may be relegated to a supporting role in the next event. In the case of the Aerosvit tournament Ivanchuk is lying in equal 2nd, but at this stage I'm not sure anyone is noticing. Except for this blog.

Shirov,A (2740) - Ivanchuk,V (2740) [D85]
Aerosvit Foros UKR (8), 16.06.2008

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bd2 Bg7 6.e4 Nb6 7.Be3 0-0 8.Bb5 Qd6 9.Nge2 c6 10.Bd3 e5 11.dxe5 Qxe5 12.Bd4 Qe7 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.Bc2 Rd8 15.Qc1 Na6 16.0-0 Be6 17.Nf4 Bc4 18.Re1 Nb4 19.a3 Nxc2 20.Qxc2 Qf6 21.Nce2 Rd7 22.b3 Ba6 23.Rad1 Rad8 24.g3 Qe5 25.f3 Kg8 26.a4 h5 27.Kf2 Rd6 28.Qc3 Nd7 29.Rxd6 Qxd6 30.Rc1 Ne5 31.h4 Qf6 32.b4 (D)
32. ... Rd3 33.Nxd3 Qxf3+ 34.Kg1 Bxd3 35.Qxe5 Qe3+ 36.Kh2 Qxe2+ 0-1

*Of course Alekhine also crushed his opponents before World War II, although he did pick and choose his fields.

Monday, 16 June 2008

2009 Oceania Zonal Announced

The 2009 Oceania Zonal is going to be held between the 20th and 26th of June 2009, at the Outrigger Twin Towns Resort in Coolangatta/Tweed Heads , Australia. Further details here.

Single game knockout format

I'm sure that this has been around for quite a while, but I've only just discovered it.

In a Knockout tournament where only 1 game is played, the higher rated player is always White, but in the case of a draw, Black advances.

Has anyone had experience with this before? Is it totally fair?

Sunday, 15 June 2008

(Other) New Olympiad Rules

Apart from the changes to the format of this years Olympiad (which FIDE have spun as the "Reform" Olympiad), there are also some changes to the playing conditions as well.
The forfeit time for non-arrival at the board has been reduced to 0 minutes, ie if you arrive after the start time you lose the game. Personally I think there will be some difficulty in implementing this rule as the logistics in getting over 800 people into a venue and starting on time may defeat even the most efficient of organisers. And of course for those who believe in "black letter" FIDE laws, the current published rule on the matter is still 60 minutes before losing the game.
The other change is the "No draws before Move 30" rule. Again I will be interested in seeing how this works, although having some practical experience in this area, I may be better off than most.
At least such a rule will prevent a repeat of the Russia-Israel match from the 2002 Olympiad. In under 30 minutes Kasparov - Gelfand had got up to move 17. Kasparov had just played his 17th move and as Gelfand returned to the board, Kasparov said "Draw". Not as an offer, but as a statement of fact. Gelfand replied "Draw?". Kasparov then swept his arm in the direction of the other boards and said "All draws". And the match ended 2-2 at that point.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Chess and Hip-Hop - Not just America

The burgeoning link between Chess and Hip-Hop is spreading across the world. Starting with the Wu-Tang Clan, it has even reached the shores of Australia. In this article Kenny Sabir, of the hip hop outfit The Herd, talks about the synergy between hip-hop and chess. He says the mental agility that chess develops is good fro composing rhymes on the fly.
In related news, the Wu-Tang Clan have launched the WUChess site. Details included in the full article.

Friday, 13 June 2008

What are you willing to pay? (World Championship Edition)

A number of years ago GM Raymond Keene was asked whether he had played for the World Championship. "Yes" replied Raymondo, in his Times chess column, "I played in a Zonal in 1976". For this reply he was mocked by many, including (IIRC) the chess magazine King Pin. However this mocking may have been quite unfair.
While having a chat with Oceania Zonal President Gary Bekker, he alerted me to the fact that FIDE charge a $150USD fee per World Championship participant ($100USD for the Women's Championship). I found this quite astonishing, but sure enough, in the FIDE Handbook under A.03.7.1 a list of fees is set out for participation in various FIDE events. This isn't just for the players that reach the final, but for every player who enters the World Championship cycle (starting with the Zonal).
So basically, if you enter the Oceania Zonal (or any Zonal) the first $150USD of your entry fee isn't even going to the organisers (although the host federation gets 20% of this). At first blush this seems terribly unfair on the players (and organisers) but I did some thinking (as I occasionally do).
Maybe it is fair, but only if you treat the Zonal as part of an important component in the path to deciding who the World Champion is. That is, the Zonal isn't just another tournament with prizes and in this case, titles, but is for players who are seriously aiming to at least make the next stage of the cycle (or beyond). Now this may seem elitist, and indeed make it very hard for anyone to organise a non-sponsored Zonal, but maybe this is the rationale behind FIDE's thinking.
Of course the cynical explanation is that FIDE see it as a way of generating extra revenue, and I certainly see that this may also be the case, but I keep coming back to who is being exploited here? The Zonal players by FIDE (by making them pay extra), FIDE by the players (I'm playing in your WC cycle even though I have no serious chance of progressing further), or simply they have both moved to a middle ground where players want a chance to earn titles through Zonals, and FIDE simply make them pay for the privilege.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

The problem of assessment

One of the self-imposed disciplines when playing correspondence chess is that you cannot use computers to analyse the game. While I am (a) fully supportive of the rule and (b) believe not relying on computers makes you a better player, it does expose some bad habits that I (and I guess others) have.
One is in the area of opening analysis. If I play an OTB (over the board) game I'll often run it through the computer, paying special attention to the assessment of the first 'non-book' move. This is especially important if I have lost the game, as I may have made a mistake in the opening and do not wish to repeat it. In correspondence chess, you have to wait until the game is completely over (or at least I do), before putting the silicon brain to work on any position from the game. This may mean weeks (or months) between seeing an interesting opening idea, and checking if it is really sound. And if by the time you've finished the first game you are playing another game that uses the same opening, honour demands you wait until the second game is complete.
The other weakness it exposes is in assessing the position. How many times have you analysed a game with your opponent at the club and said "I might be better here, but I'm not sure. Fritz will tell me when I get home who is winning". I tend to do this a lot, and I'm sure this has made it harder for me to accurately analyse variations. Given enough time (such as in a CC game) I can usually find enough moves, and variations but often I reach the end of a line and am unsure of whether the position is better, equal or worse for me.
For example, in the diagrammed position I (as Black) have just sacrificed a couple of pieces, although I have got one back by capturing the White Knight on f3. When I had envisaged this position a few moves back I figured that I could move the Black Rook to h3 and achieve a winning attack. But once the position arose on the board I saw that White could play f3 in reply, defending the Queen and providing an escape route for the White King. So I looked at whole lot of forcing lines, without being able to decide whether they were playable or not.
15. ... Rh3 16.f3 Rxh2 17.fxg4 Rh1+ 18.Kf2 and now I've have a number of choices to look at. I looked at Rf8+, Qf7+ Rxf1+ and Qh4+. The latter leads to 18. ... Qh4+ 19.Ke3 Qg3+ 20.Qf3 Qxf3 21.Rxf3 Rxc1 By this stage I decided that I was just down a piece, White could eventually develop the b1 knight, and White is just winning. Fritz 8 on the other hand gives White a tiny advantage at best. I on the other hand only counted material and abandoned the line entirely.
Indeed I eventually discarded a number of moves, based on not seeing an advantage for me, and eventually chose the sub-optimal 15. ... h6 (to prevent tricks based on Bg5+). This is actually worse for me but my opponent didn't find the strongest follow up and I won 9 moves later.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Good Club! Good Tournament?

At the ANU Chess Club we still do things in a pretty laid back manner. The club charges no entry fees for tournaments, and membership is also free. If we need money for equipment etc, voluntary donations are all that the members are asked for.
Of course this means we don't offer prize money for events either, but the general consensus is that this is a good thing. We also offer NQA (No Questions Asked) half point byes (but only a maximum of 2). So if work is keeping you away, or there is a football game on TV, you can miss a round, and still get half a point.
In terms of attracting players to the club, this kind of consideration seems to have worked. The last event had 31 players (pretty good when maximum capacity of the venue is only 26!), and due to a rare confluence of chess schedules, attracted the No.2 and No. 8 rated players in Australia, the No. 1 rated female player in Australia, the current Australian Junior Champion, and a former Australian Girls Champion. And there is no doubt that the attraction for the top seeds was the presence of the other top seeds. Unfortunately the pressures of modern day life, work and study took their toll on the event. So a number of players missed rounds due to various commitments, and while the club format is designed to deal with exactly these circumstances, it did leave the event with a curiously incomplete feel. A couple of 'marquee' match ups didn't happen, and a superficial look at the final standings would even elicit a 'he finished where?' kind of comments.
So it leaves me wondering where the balance should lie? To be honest I am happy to leave the format the way it is, as I think it suits the bulk of the members, but I am also vexed by the thought that it is making it harder for stronger players to find an acceptable event.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

NSW Open 2008 - 6 Way Tie

Congratulations to ACT player Andrew Brown, who was one of 6 players to share first place in the 2008 NSW Open. With a number of upsets (and final round draws), 5.5/7 was enough for a share of the top prizes, with GM Antic, IM Solomon, FM Sales, Rej and Hu finishing alongside Andrew. On his way to first place Andrew defeated IM George Xie in round 6 and drew with Tomek Rej in Round 7.
Another notable result was John Redgrave (formerly of Canberra but now in Sydney) who scored 5/7, and oddly enough was the only player to do so.

Monday, 9 June 2008

A book I might write

If I have the time, I am inclined to write a book called "The Club Players Guide to Gambits". The idea behind the book is to fill in the gap between when you sacrifice a pawn and when your game goes down the tubes when you opponent hangs on to it, and then swaps everything off for a boring endgame win.
I'm not really talking about proper gambits however (eg Kings Gambit) as the plan for White is pretty much mapped out already (hack away at f7). Instead it is the kind of mainline opening where one side can capture a pawn, and make it difficult for the other to get it back. In these circumstances the player who is material down should end up getting something for the pawn, otherwise the whole line is just bad. The book would try and address what that "something" is.
Here is game from the first round of the Aerosvit Tournament, where Van Wely does indeed take an offered pawn in the Gruenfeld, tries to hang on to it, but still gets beaten by Shirov.

Van Wely,L (2676) - Shirov,A (2740) [D87]
3rd Aerosvit Foros (1), 08.06.2008

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 Na5 11.Bd3 b6 12.Rc1 e5 13.dxc5 White takes the extra pawn here 13. ... Be6 14.c4 bxc5 15.Bxc5 Bh6 16.Rc3 Re8 17.Ba3 Qc7 Black gangs up on it here 18.Qc2 Rab8 19.c5 Red8 20.c6 Rb6 21.Rb1 Rxc6 22.Rxc6 Nxc6 (D) And wins it back here.
23.Bc1 Bxc1 24.Rxc1 Qd6 25.Qxc6 Qxc6 26.Rxc6 Rxd3 27.f4 Bg4 28.Nc3 exf4 29.Nd5 Rd1+ 30.Kf2 Rd2+ 31.Kf1 Be2+ 32.Ke1 Rxa2 33.Nxf4 Bb5 34.Rc8+ Kg7 35.Rc7 Ra4 36.Ne6+ Kf6 37.Nc5 Ra2 38.g4 Re2+ 39.Kd1 Rxh2 40.g5+ Ke5 41.Rxf7 a5 0-1

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Papua New Guinea Olympiad Team 2008

The 2008 Papua New Guinea Olympiad Team has been selected. The team is
  • Stuart Fancy
  • Shaun Press
  • FM Rupert Jones
  • Allan Luga
  • Craig Skehan
The team captain is FM Brian Jones. Helmut Marko is the first emergency reserve, if any of the selected team are unable to attend.
Once again we will be battling away at the tail of the field (against traditional opponents such as Fiji, Bermuda, Jersey and Guernsey) although I am not sure how the format changes to the Olympiad will affect us.
In previous years the first half of the tournament saw us trying to pick up points against stronger opponents, while the second half saw us try and win a few matches. With the shift to 11 rounds, the second half is shorter (by 1 or 2 rounds), although the accelerated draw may get us to our level sooner. The change to match points (over game points) may have a bigger effect on us, as we tend to have a higher percentage score based on game points than we do on match points.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank WFM Cathy Rogers who has served as the PNG Team captain at the previous 4 Olympiads. She is both a thorough and professional captain, and was a great assistance to the team, and me personally (especially in 2004), in those Olympiads.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

John Alps 1910-2008

John Alps, one of the longest serving members of the ACT chess community passed away on Tuesday, 3rd June, at the age of 98 years. He remained an active player into his 90's, until failing eyesight forced him into retirement.
His name appeared in numerous club trophies in Canberra, including a win of the Belconnen Club Championship when he was well into his 70's. (It is worth noting that the winner of the following years championship was David Austin, who was 60 years his junior.) He was also an active member of the Woden and Canberra Chess Clubs. He was very encouraging of the junior players (including myself) and didn't seem to mind when a number of us cottoned onto the tactic of dragging the game out, in the hope of him making a mistake while tired. What we discovered that we couldn't get that far, as he usually beat us in rather short order.

Here is a game from 1995, when even as an 85 year old he still had a few tricks up his sleeve.

Forace,L - Alps,J (1555) [E30]
ACT Reserves ACT Reserves (3), 1995

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 0-0 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 c5 7.e3 d5 8.a3 Bxc3+ 9.bxc3 Nbd7 10.cxd5 exd5 11.c4 Qa5+ 12.Qd2 Qxd2+ 13.Nxd2 cxd4 14.exd4 Re8+ 15.Be2 Ne4 16.Nxe4 Rxe4 17.Bg3 Rxd4 18.Rc1 dxc4 19.Rxc4 Rxc4 20.Bxc4 Nb6 21.Bd3 Be6 22.0-0 Rc8 23.Be4 Nd5 24.Bxd5 Bxd5 25.Rd1 b5 26.h3 Be6 27.Rb1 a6 28.Rb4 Rc1+ 29.Kh2 Bc4 30.Bd6 Rc2 31.f4 Bd5 32.Kg3 Rxg2+ 33.Kh4 Bc4 34.Rb1 f6 35.Re1 Bf7 36.Rc1(D)
36. ... g5+ 37.fxg5 hxg5# 0-1

Friday, 6 June 2008

The Glicko Bounce

When we lose rating points, the search for a culprit is often the most important thing. Sometimes we might accept that we have just played badly, but often it is due to under rated juniors, or illness, or the ratings system itself. Of course when we gain ratings points it is mainly due to our improved knowledge of the game, or finally playing to our real strength. But rarely the ratings system itself.
Now realising that the plural of anecdote is NOT data, I have one example where the rating system is responsible for some rating shifts, and not just in a bad way.
A chess playing friend of mine who I'll call M (he reads this blog BTW), made a comeback to long time control chess towards the end of last year. He had a rating in the mid 1400's but his first tournament (6 games) was a bit of a shocker (2/6) and his rating dropped over 500 points, to the low 900's. Now given the comments I've seen posted by others elsewhere this is grounds for (a) never playing chess again and (b) having the ratings officer charged with crimes against humanity. Of course player M did neither, but simply kept playing chess. And in the latest rating period he played another 5 games, performed a lot better, and saw his rating jump up 500 points, so that he is only 40 points short of where he was before his first tournament back.
Of course he is still on the list with a ? (unreliable rating) next to his name, and his rating may bounce around a bit more, but at least in this case it demonstrates something important.
If you want your rating to reflect the level at which you play chess, you actually have to play chess.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Karpov v Korchnoi on tape

The organisers of the Pivdenny Bank tournament not only scored a coup by having both Karpov and Korchnoi participate, they have videotaped their individual game and uploaded it to Youtube. The video is two parts, with so follow the links to Part 1 and Part 2. However looking at the video the real star isn't the two GM's, but the young kid in the front row who looks like he is bored out of his mind. You can almost hear him say "Why did you make me come to THIS mum?"

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Draw offers in other sports

The idea of the "agreed draw" is something that many believe belongs to chess, and doesn't exist in other sports. However it seems that in cricket there is something approaching this concept, as demonstrated at the conclusion of the 2nd Cricket Test between Australia and the West Indies.

When Dwayne Bravo (1) quickly followed, Australia felt it had a chance of victory but Denesh Ramdin joined Chanderpaul to see the innings through until five overs from the scheduled close when Ponting signalled he would settle for the draw.

Report from the ABC News Website

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Tipped off by Facebook

Vassily Ivanchuk has won yet another event, this time the Magistral Rapid tournament. He defeated Vishy Anand in the 4 game final 2.5-1.5, after Anand blundered and lost the final game in 16 moves.
However I found out about it in a rather circuitous way, after seeing a comment by GM Stuart Conquest on Facebook, of all places. It turns out that the Ivanchuk-Anand game was anticipated by the game Conquest-Zaichik, 1988 with both games taking the same course up until move 15. On move 15 Ivanchuk found a stronger move than Conquest (as Stuart himself pointed out on Facebook), so strong in fact that Anand only played one more move before resigning.

Ivanchuk,V (2740) - Anand,V (2803) [E55]
XXI Magistral Rapid Final Leon ESP (4), 01.06.2008

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5 7.0-0 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Nbd7 9.Qe2 cxd4 10.exd4 b6 11.d5 Nc5 12.Rd1 Qe8 13.Nb5 exd5 14.Nc7 Qe4 (D)
Here is the improvement found by Ivanchuk. [ RR 15.Nxd5 Qxe2 16.Nxf6+ gxf6 17.Bxe2 Ba6 18.Bxa6 Nxa6 19.Bh6 Rfd8 20.Nd4 Bf8 21.Bxf8 Kxf8 22.Nf5 Nc5 23.g3 Na4 24.b3 Nc3 25.Rxd8+ Rxd8 26.Kg2 b5 27.a3 Rd3 28.Re1 Nd5 29.a4 Nc3 Conquest,S-Zaichik,G/Tbilisi 1988/TD/½-½ (42)] 15...Qg6 16.Nh4 1-0

Monday, 2 June 2008

Instructional Chess Videos

I'm spending far to much time worrying about my games at This means I'm spending less time on useful things like blogging and writing magazine articles. So I figure that being I should get something back from the site.
After a quick bit of poking around I found some instructional chess videos. The one below is one of the classic games by Rashid Nehzmetdinov, and contains my favourite move of all time (Try and guess which one). Whether you learn anything from the video (given the depth of Nehzmetdinov's idea) I'm not sure, but it is still a great game to look at.

Chess video mentioned on
[ Chess video forum]

Instructive game: Positional Queen Sac

I've just cut and pasted the suggested html code from, so hopefully it will work in whatever browsers you use.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Miniature of the Month - May 2008

It's hard to go past the following game, between two strong GM's at this years US Championship. Defending champion Alexander Shabalov set up a tactic that turns up quite a lot in the Sicilian, unfortunately he set it up for his opponent Alex Yermolinsky. Shabolov resigned when he realised what he'd done.
This game very may well have been the only highlight of the tournament for both players as Shabalov finished on 4.5/9 and Yermolinsky fared even worse on 4/9.

Yermolinsky,A (2518) - Shabalov,A (2633) [B23]
Frank K Berry ch-USA Tulsa USA (1), 13.05.2008

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nge2 d5 4.exd5 exd5 5.d4 Nc6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.dxc5 Be7 8.Nd4 0-0 9.Be2 Ne5 10.0-0 Bxc5 11.Ne6 fxe6 12.Bxc5 Rf7 13.f4 Nc6 14.Bf3 Qa5 15.Bf2 Bd7 16.Qd2 Rd8 17.Rad1 Rff8 18.a3 Ne7(D)
[ 18...Ne7 19.Nxd5 Qxd2 20.Nxe7+ Kf7 21.Rxd2 Kxe7 22.Bc5+] 1-0