Tuesday, 30 September 2008

ACT Junior Championships

The ACT Junior Chess Championships is underway at the ACT Junior Chess League headquarters at Campbell High. A large field of 60 players has entered this 3 day, 9 round event. As with a lot of junior events, the age of the field is weighted towards the younger end, with the older juniors often not playing due to concerns about school, their social lives, or even the strength of the tournament.
In an effort to address this, ACTJCL President Charles Bishop organised an extra event for the middle day of the Championship. He invited 4 of the strongest ACT Juniors for a Round Robin event, intended both to get them together and playing, but also to show the the younger ACT Juniors chess at the "top of the ladder". I snuck over at lunchtime to have a look and was fortunate to catch the end of a couple of very exciting games. Charles had obviously chosen the field well, as at the end of the 2nd round each of the players (Michael Wei, Junta Ikeda, Andrew Brown, and Yi Yuan) had each score 1 win and 1 loss each. In the third round Michael Wei defeated Andrew Brown and Yi Yuan beat Junta Ikeda, leaving Michael Wei the winner on tie-break by virtue of defeating Yi Yuan in the following game.

Monday, 29 September 2008

The Presidential Race

While the stakes might not be as high as the US Presidential race, the Australian Chess Federation is currently calling for nominations for the position of ACF President. The election will take place at the ACF National Conference on the 6th January 2009, and nominations for the post are required by the 7th of October 2008.
Of course there may not be an election, if there is only 1 nomination. In the mid 1980's to the early 1990's this was often the case, with the President being elected unopposed. However in those days it was also common to have the President rolled before the next election by the ACF Council. Normally this took place about a year into their term, although the ACF council once carried a motion of no confidence in the President the day after he had been elected by the National Conference.
I must say I'm somewhat surprised that more people don't stand for the office of ACF President, as the qualification requirements are fairly low. Actually they seem to be non-existent. For starters you don't have to be nominated by anyone except yourself. You don't have to be a member of a state association, or even an Australian citizen or resident. Even being banned from playing chess by the ACF doesn't seem to bar you from running.
And the other attraction of the office is once you are there, you can pretty much do as much (or as little) work as you wish. Previous Presidents have utilised the office to work towards getting the Olympiad in Australia, having chess recognised as a sport, rewriting ACF by-laws, or even working to improve chess in Australia. You can even work hard at just being President of the ACF, if you wish.
So I'm not sure what this years election will throw up, although I know of one potential candidate running on a platform of openness and transparency for the ACF. And there may be other chess players (or non-players as this doesn't seem to be a disqualification for the post) who feel that they have something to contribute or say about chess in this country. So if you do, simply fire off an email to ACF Secretary Jey Hoole at jeydh4@hotmail.com , possibly with the subject line "I'd be a totally awesome President of the ACF!"

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Opening Statistics

What is the most popular chess opening used in competition? The Sicilian Defence would rank highly, as would the Ruy Lopez and the Queens Gambit. But then again, it would depend on where you look.
The Chessworld site keeps statistics on all the games played. To measure the popularity of openings they use a sample method (as opposed to a counting method), sampling from a set of games played when the site "matured" (ie after the first 2,000,000 games played).
Surprisingly the most popular opening is the Philidors Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 d6). Even I, who can usually construct an a priori justification for any result, struggle with a reason for this. Even assuming that most players on the site are casual players, I still cannot see why 2. ... d6 is instinctively better than 2. ... Nc6. In second place is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3, and third is 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6. I'm assuming there is no double counting of games, as otherwise the Kings Knight Opening would be a superset of the Philidors. Fourth place is less of a surprise at least in terms of casual players. It is Vant Kruijs Opening (1.e3). Other weird an wonderful openings included the KP: Patzer Opening (1.e4 e5 2.Qh5) in seventh place, and Damianos Defence (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6?) in 15th.
As for the Sicilian, it checks in at 20th, just ahead of the Alekhines and the Caro Kan.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

A County Class Chessplayer

"Games Playing with Computers" by A.G. Bell has joined my collection of books on computer chess. It isn't just about computer chess though, and contains other games of strategy and skill. It is somewhat limited in its scope although this is mainly because it was published way back in 1972. 
It does contain coverage of a fairly early version of the famous Northwestern University Chess program which dominated computer chess throughout the 1970's. In the book there is the full score of an exhibition game played between the Chess program (running on a CDC 6600) and Stewart Reuben. In the book Reuben is described as a "County Class Chessplayer". Of course these days Reuebn is more well known as an arbiter and event organiser although he is still a semi-regular tournament player.
In the game Reuben gets a clear advantage from the opening, but misses a small tactic and although Chess makes heavy going towards the end, the program wins out. 

Friday, 26 September 2008

FIDE Laws of Chess 2009

As I remarked earlier, the draft proposals for the 2009 FIDE Laws of Chess are being circulated. While most of the changes have been in tidying up some of the wording of previous rules, a couple of interesting proposals have been made.
In terms of changing the wording the clause "even with the most unskilled counterplay" has been dropped from section 6.10 (and wherever else it is used). The removal of this phrase indicates that games ending on time with K+N v K+N (as in this years Womens World Championship) or K+N v K+B must be declared wins (rather than draws) by arbiters. The Rules Committee is basically saying "we have looked at this rule, we've dropped some superfluous wording, and we like what is left".
The most significant new rule is to allow organisers to forbid draws by agreement before a set number of rules, or even at all. The first proposal states

The rules of the competition may specify that players cannot agree a draw in less than a specified number of moves or at all, without the agreement of the arbiter or his representative.

The second proposal says

Players are not allowed to propose a draw. They can claim a draw in positions mentioned in 9.2 and 9.3. In all other positions players cannot agree a draw without the agreement of the arbiter or his representative.

Now I believe the first proposal is more likely to be accepted, if only for the reason that you can make the second proposal operate under the first one by making the specified number of moves 8,000 or some such large number. But I suspect the real debate will be whether players can claim under 9.2 and 9.3 at any stage of the game. At the Rules and Tournament Regulations Committee meeting where this will be discussed in November I will certainly raise the issue, not because I have a strong position on this, but simply to make sure that the rules clarify the situation about players agreeing to short draws by playing trivial repetitions.

As for the rest of it there is some stuff about mobiles phones, some clarification about what spectators can do if they see a breach of the laws (tell an arbiter but not the players), and as mentioned before, a proposed set of rules for Chess 960. However there is one interesting, and helpful, piece of wording in the sections on Quickplay and Blitz. There is finally an attempt to define "adequate supervision". For Quickplay it is 1 arbiter for at most 3 games, and for Blitz, 1 arbiter for each game. And if adequate supervision for these games exists, then the normal rules of chess apply.

Thursday, 25 September 2008


High on the list of "must read" chess books is "My System" by Aron Nimzowitsch. But when discussing it with some fellow chess coaches on the weekend, I had to confess that I'd never read it. I had it at home, and had looked at it a couple of times, but never made the effort, or so I thought. It turned out that not only had I not read it, I didn't even own a copy. I did have a copy of the follow up "Chess Praxis" but at some point in the past I had confused the two, and thought I had the former.
However the chess gods were clearly smiling on me as I walked through the doors of the annual Lifeline Bookfair here in Canberra. Heading straight for the "Board Games" section I not only spotted a large selection of chess books, but sitting right in the middle, calling out to me with its bright red cover, was a copy of My System, with $3 written on the inside cover. Into the bag it went, along with about half a dozen other books, and a glaring hole in my chess knowledge is about to be filled!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Chess 960

The draft proposals for changes to the FIDE Rules of Chess have been circulated, and these will be voted on during the Olympiad in November. While I will look at some of the proposals later, there is a significant section on the rules for Chess 960 (or Fischer Random).
Now there are 2 schools of thought on this. They are: Given that FIDE hasn't codified the rules for other chess variants (Suicide, Transfer etc) why should FIDE be dealing with the rules to this? or Chess 960 is both close enough the standard chess and becoming increasingly 'mainstream' so FIDE should be the body to set the rules.
I am in favour of the second school of thought, but only in the framework of FIDE setting up a sub-committee to codify a number of chess variants. However for the moment there is a draft set of rules for Chess 960 and a proposal that they become an appendix to the Official Laws of Chess.
Attached to the proposal was a petition from a large number of players supporting the move. The name at the top of the petition was Viswanathan Anand, followed by a number of other Grandmasters, so it has some strong support. (As an aside, the name towards the bottom of the petition, and on the covering letter, was Albert Vasse from DGT, so there is corporate interest as well).

There is no doubt that Chess 960 is becoming more popular, and may even be seen at the 2009 Doeberl Cup. Under serious consideration is holding a Chess 960 event on the Saturday evening, in place of the Lightning. The same prize pool will be on offer (ie over $1000 like this year), and the intention is to alternate Chess 960 and Lightning from year to year. Hopefully the 'resistence to change' trait that afflicts many chess players will be overcome by the 'lets try something different' fever this time.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

The Iron Cage of Tamerlane

While solving puzzles should improve your chess ability, sometimes it is more fun just to look directly at the answer. An example of this is the position on the right. It is clearly a win for White (1.Ng5# would do) but where is the charm in that? Instead the composer proposes a longer, but far more satisfying solution. Rather than leave it as an unsolved exercise, I gladly present the answer, with the suggestion that you play through it on a real chessboard.

1.f3+ gxf3 2.exd3+ cxd3 3.Bf5+ exf5 4.Re6+ dxe6 5.Nf6+ gxf6 6.Rd4+ cxd4 7.a8B+ Qd5 8.Bxd5+ exd5 9.Qe5+ fxe5 10.Ng5#

Of course anyone who has read "Play Like a Grandmaster" by Alexander Kotov may already be familiar with the denouement, but problems like these are always worth revisiting.

Monday, 22 September 2008

A nice Olympiad touch

In a nice move, the organisers of the 2008 Chess Olympiad in Dresden have paired up the competing countries with various schools from around Germany. The Papua New Guinea team is paired with Grundschule am Heidekampgraben from Berlin. Not only will the school partner PNG at the opening ceremony, they will then play in the German Schools Chess Finals which will be held in Dresden along side the Olympiad. It may be an interesting exercise to see which team scores more points in their respective competitions!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Simul Master

Over the weekend the ACT Junior Chess League ran its annual Masters Coaching Weekend. This year 3 groups of leading Canberra Juniors were coached by IM David Smerdon, IM Andras Toth, and Endre Ambrus. They were joined for the Sunday sessions by the regular ACT Junior Chess Development Squad members.
As is tradition at these weekends, the players got to play a simul against one of the coaches. This year it was IM David Smerdon. While it was a chance for the juniors to take on Australia's No. 2 player it was also a chance for David to get some practice in for an attempt on the world record for the most number of chess games played in a session by one player. David put the session to good use, playing a total of 38 games, scoring 37 wins and 1 draw (against Ethan Derwent). Given the quality of opposition, this was an outstanding effort, but in terms of result and speed (a little under 2 hours for the whole simul).

Saturday, 20 September 2008

2009 O2C Doeberl Cup

Although this event is still more than 6 months away, it might be worth thinking about entering, especially if you plan to play in the Premier section. The website for next years tournament will be going live fairly soon (1st of October is the planned date), and as with this years event, entries for each tournament are limited, and will be allocated on a 'first come, first serve' basis.
The top end of the field is already looking good, with a couple of overseas GM's already committed to playing, and negotiations under way with several more.
This years fabulous venue (The Hellenic Club in Woden, Canberra, Australia) will be used again next year, so simply mark the 9th to the 13th of April 2009 into your diary, and watch this space for further details.

(Disclaimer: I am a paid official at this event)

Friday, 19 September 2008

We are all socialists now

With the nationalisation of the worlds financial systems filling our television screens, it is almost as though being an economist is as noteworthy as winning Big Brother or Australian Idol.
And one face that keeps popping up on my TV is Ken Rogoff, who is a Professor of Economics at Harvard University. However prior to 1980 Ken Rogoff was also a very strong chessplayer, becoming a Grandmaster in 1978. Interestingly enough his career as a chess player ran parallel to his student career, in that he retired from chess in the same year he received his Phd in Economics (ie he seemed not to sacrifice one for the other).
Now it is probably a good thing for Rogoff that he become both a Grandmaster and one of the worlds leading economists, otherwise he might just be remembered for his part in the following notorious game in the World Students Teams Championship in 1972. Apparently he and Robert Huebner agreed a very short draw, but were ordered to replay the game by the organisers. The following were the moves they came up with, and no, this is not a misprint.

Huebner,R (2590) - Rogoff,K (2430) [A15]
WchT U26 17th Graz (8), 1972

1.c4 Nf6 2.Nf3 g6 3.Ng1 Bg7 4.Qa4 0-0 5.Qxd7 Qxd7 6.g4 Qxd2+ 7.Kxd2 Nxg4 8.b4 a5 9.a4 Bxa1 10.Bb2 Nc6 11.Bh8 Bg7 12.h4 axb4 ½-½

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Turning Draws into Wins

It is unusual to say that someone turned a draw into a win. The most common expression is "turning a draw into a loss", but just as that requires someone to play a move bad enough to turn a drawn position into a lost position, it also requires the opponent to play a move good enough to make it a win.
The two diagrams shown are from games I saw yesterday (the first during a coaching session, the second at my club). Both of them are winning positions, although in both cases there are some lines that lead to draws. Indeed in the first position White may be able to bluff an unwary Black player by quickly moving the king between h1 and g2 and then offering a draw on the grounds that any attempts to involve the king (by moving it to h3 or f3/f2/f1) result in a stalemate. Of course the winning plan is to promote the h pawn followed by moving the king to f3 or h3. Here is an example
1.Kh1 Kd5 2.Kg2 Ke4 3.Kh1 Ke3 [ 3...Kf3??=] 4.Kg2 h1Q+ 5.Kxh1 Kf3 [ 5...Kf2??=] 6.Kg1 g2 7.Kh2 Kf2-+

The second position is a little more clear cut, in that White has a number of ways to win. Interestingly White passed on the more obvious paths to victory and went for a more prosaic line, one which almost looked like it allowed Black to escape with a draw. However White was happy to allow Black to queen with check, knowing full well that his reply left Black without a defence. The game continuation was 1.c8Q h3 2.Qc2+ [ 2.Qg4+ Kh2 3.Ke4 Kh1 4.Qxh3+ +-] 2...Kg1 3.Ke4 h2 4.Kf3 [ 4.Ke3 h1N ( 4...h1Q 5.Qf2#) 5.Kf3 Nf2 6.Qxf2+ Kh1 7.Qg2#] 4...h1Q+ 5.Kg3+-

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Criss Cross

As the ClosetGrandmaster blog and this blog often cover the same territory (Australian Chess) it is hardly surprising that we occasionally produce posts on identical subjects. It happened a couple of weeks ago, and it happened again yesterday. Usually if I see a post at TCGM I will avoid doing the same story here (although I sometimes say 'have a look at TCGM') but occasionaly things get by the filter.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Chess as a Sport

This is a topic I've touched on before (Chess in the Olympics) but the Australian Chess Federation newsletter carries a report on a petition being circulated asking the Australian Parliament to recognise chess as a sport. (Warning: The petition is in word format) While this is a laudable aim there is a comment at the end of the report that I find slightly odd

The aim of the petition from "Chessplayers of Australia" is to add weight to a submission which will be presented to the Commonwealth Minister for Sport. Once a change in "Sport" definition is achieved, thoughtful applications for financial government assistance are more likely to succeed.

In the ACT, although chess isn't officially a sport, there has been no problem in receiving financial assistance from the government (at least in the years when applications have been submitted). I wonder how many applications have been submitted by other state chess associations (and the Australian Chess Federation) and what was the success rate?

Monday, 15 September 2008


Although I still see the occasional chess scorebook, like analogue clocks and (dare I say it), Grandmaster draws, the scorebook seems to be on the way out. When I started playing seriously 25 years ago the scorebook was a standard piece of chess equipment, like the analysis board and the spare clock for blitz. I still have my own scorebooks from the start of my career, but after filling up 3 of them (around 150 games) I stopped using them. And I began to notice that other players stopped as well.
I guess part of the reason was the rise of the chess database. Instead of keeping your games together in a book, you used the scoresheet supplied by the organisers and then typed it in to your computer at home. Retrieving old games simply happened at the push of a button, rather than half an hour of searching the study.
The other reason was to do with the rules. Over the years I've had a couple of incidents where players were accused of looking at old games in their scorebooks. While in the two cases I can clearly remember I was certain that their was nothing untoward in what happened (one was just idle flicking, the other was getting the name of the opening right), I began to announce that players use the scoresheets provided, and enter the games into the scorebook at the completion of the game. This way any potential disputes were avoided before they arose.
Nonetheless it is a shame that handwritten collections of games are disappearing. It is always much more interesting (and personal) to flick through an old scorebook, as opposed to hotting the 'search' button on your computer.
Here is one such game from my first scorebook. It was played against IM Zoran Ilic, who came to Canberra in 1984 and gave a simul at the Belconnen Churches Centre. I was quite pleased to hang on for as long as I did, and even went as far as to offer a draw (A simul breach of etiquette, which I wasn't aware of at the time). Although he declined the offer I then pulled the 'I have a bus to catch' gambit, resulting in him offering his hand. Of course he was winning in the position, but it is in my book as my first draw against a titled player!

Ilic,Z - Press,S [D23]
IM Simul, 25.05.1984

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Qa4+ Bd7 5.Qxc4 e6 6.g3 Bd6 7.Bg2 Nc6 8.0-0 h6 9.Nc3 Nb4 10.Qb3 Bc6 11.a3 Nbd5 12.Qc2 Nxc3 13.bxc3 Be4 14.Qb3 b6 15.a4 a5 16.Rd1 0-0 17.Ba3 Bxa3 18.Qxa3 Qd5 19.Ne1 Bxg2 20.Nxg2 Qc4 21.Qa2 Qxa2 22.Rxa2 Rad8 23.e3 Rd6 24.f3 Rfd8 25.Kf2 c5 26.Rb1 Nd5 27.Rc2 cxd4 28.cxd4 Rb8 29.Ne1 Nb4 30.Rc7 Rc6 31.Rxc6 Nxc6 32.Nd3 Kf8 (D) ½-½

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Topalov Wins (and Anand does not)

The Bilbao Grand Slam event has finished with a typical surging finish from Veselin Topalov. His final round win over Ivanchuk put him 1.5 points ahead of second (or 4 points using the 3/1/0 scoring system). Carlsen and Aronian finished in equal second on 13 (5/10) with Ivanchuk on 12 (but also 5/10).
The other performance of note (but for the wrong reasons) was Anand's last place finish on 4/10 (8). In terms of his upcoming match with Kramnik this is especially worrying, as his he failed to win a single game, scoring 8 draws and 2 losses. In a match with someone like Kramnik, who seems to be able to draw almost at will, Anand will need to win a couple of early games, so as to control the course of the match.
As late as yesterday I was tipping a win for Anand, and I'm still sticking by this, but if Kramnik does win, the psychological effect his Anand's result in this event may be a major cause.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Board Vision

Not "board vision" in terms of seeing things while analysing the position in your head, but real, how well you see the board with your own two eyes, vision.
This who played in Blayney on the weekend (or Dubbo, Taree previously) would be familiar with Alex Momot. For those who aren't, Alex is a regular weekend chess player, who also happens to be blind. When he plays he uses an extra board where he can feel the location of pieces with his fingers, and announces his moves to his opponent. Seeing him play made me wonder what affect vision has on playing strength, and today I received a partial answer.
Gus Korda has been playing Street Chess in Canberra ever since it started (about 18 years ago), although he has been struggling with eyesight problems for the last couple of years. This has coincided with a drop in strength, although age might have been a factor. Nonetheless he had some treatment for this problem over the last couple of weeks, and clearly something has worked. Returning after a weeks break he started the event with 5/6 (losing only to perennial winner Endre Ambrus) before Emma Guo joined him second place after defeating him in the final round. He confessed that not being able to see much of the board has affected his results, but having 2 working eyes does make a difference.

Friday, 12 September 2008

2008 - A watershed year?

When the future history of chess is written, I believe that 2008 will be seen as a watershed year for the game. Not only in terms of the development of future world champions (ie Carlsen), but also in terms of format and structure of the tournament scene.
The birth of the Grand Prix series and the Grand Slam final sees a professional circuit that can be relied upon to keep the top 15 or 20 players in the world making a comfortable living from tournament chess. Combined with that is the relisation that the actual format of tournaments need to be changed to make it more attractive to spectators and sponsors. This has resulted in the wider acceptance of rules concerning agreed draws (eg Sophia rules) as well as further experimentation on scoring systems (ie 3/1/0). Even the conditions for the Olympiad is changing for the first time since 1976 (shorter event, change in scoring system) although I'm not in favour of this.
I'm optimistic enough to believe that these changes will be more or less permanent (and not collapse like the GMA World Cup) and that the next 20 years of chess will follow the lead of 2008.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Going the hack

I guess that different people have different motivations for playing chess. While the challenge of doing well may be what draws us in in the beginning, the fact we can't all be world champion means that there must be other factors that keep us involved.
For me it was the joy of launching a mating attack against my opponents king. In the early days my tournament successes were not so much measured in points, but in the number of sacrifices I played. In one Sydney Uni weekender I think I sacrificed at least a piece in every game, although I probably finished on 3.5/6 or some such score.
While I don't have any games from that event to show you, I do have a game played by Nick Beare on the chessworld.net server. Not only was it a slashing win, it also moved Nick's rating to 2000 for the first time.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Training with Studies

With the Chess Olympiad only 2 months away, I'm ramping up my training regime. For the moment it is tactics and positional assessments, but I hope to do a bit of bike riding and fitness work as well.
In the area of positional assessment, I'm (re) working my way through Khmelnitsky's Chess Exam and Training Guide. Part of this work requires you to assess the position, as well as trying to find the best move(s). The study shown in the diagram is taken from the book (White to move btw). Before you try and solve it, what result do you expect. A win for white, a win for Black or a draw? And now, with White to move, what is the best continuation?

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Those were the days

While pottering around in my chess library this evening, I cam across a pamphlet containing the 100 best games from the 1978 Australian Championship. While I will probably look at the games later, it was the field and format that I found more interesting.
In those days the event ran for 15 rounds, and this went for the Reserves as well. While the tournament attracted all the big names of Australian Chess, the top seeds (Robert Jamieson and Max Fuller) were only rated 2325. Terry Shaw, who finished in a tie for first with Jamieson and Fuller was only rated 2235! Future GM's Rogers and Johansen were rated 2180 and 1980 respectively.
The Reserves was won by Roger Farrell who scored a massive 13.5/15, finishing 1.5 points ahead of Joe Rush, who was playing under the flag of Papua New Guinea!

Monday, 8 September 2008

I'm never trusting my brain again

Not only was the 2008 Blayney Open a good tournament to play in, for me it started off with the potential for me to achieve one of my best results ever. Through a combination luck and opening preparation I finished the first day on 3/3. The good opening preparation was in the second round when I played a tricky line against the Caro-Kan and my opponent went down the wrong line. The luck came in round 3 when I played another tricky line, this time in the Four Knights. It turns out that I was simply lost at one point but by opponent (David Castor) chose another plausible, but inferior move and I grabbed the advantage and held on to it for the rest of the game.
As a reward for this I received a fairly 'safe' 4th round pairing and although my opponent had some threats after his opening gambit, swapping off queens put paid to his ambitions and technique did the rest.
So round 5 sees me in the lead alongside top seed Endre Ambrus and although I am aware of the 500+ rating point difference, I figured that I will at least make him work for the point, based on my results so far. Unfortunately for me (and in a sense him) the following occurred. The comments to this game are basically the thoughts going through my head when deciding on my moves.

Press,S - Ambrus,E [B00]
Blayney Open , 07.09.2008

1.e4 Nc6 Not a surprise, but I'd rather player a double king pawn opening, so I'll try what Emma Guo played earlier in the tournament against him. 2.Nf3 d6 Ok. He didn't play e5, so I'll take my share of the centre. 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bg4 5.Be2 e5 Ah, now he plays e5. The obvious move is d5, but after Ne7 followed by Ng6 he starts to build up a kingside attack. Hang on, I might be able to meet this by playing Bg5, followed by d5. The I can look at castling queenside, as well as playing Bxf6 if he moves his knight to e7. 6.Bg5? Bxf3 Damn, I shouldn't have missed this. Now I'm dropping a pawn after Bxf3 Nxd4. What can I do to stop this happening? Ah. If I take on f6 instead he might play Qxf6 when dxe5 saves the pawn. Of course he can simply play gxf6 and he still wins a pawn after Bxf3 Nxd4 but he does have a damaged pawn structure. 7.Bxf6?? Bxe2 (D) Uh oh. I forgot to count the captures. Looks like I'm dropping a piece. No point in trying to fill up the scoresheet with pointless moves so I'll resign here. 0-1

Due to other results I still went into the last round tied for 2nd and my final pairing was against Peter Abbott, who was rated only 2 points more than me. After the 1 move draw on board 1, the winner of our game would take outright second. Having lost miserably in round 5 I at least made more than 7 moves, but I was simply outplayed by Peter and he took 2nd while I had to settle for a share of 7th (and no prize).
In fact my tournament collapse meant I was the only one in the car ride back home without a prize as Endre Ambrus took home 1st prize, while Nick Beare came equal first in the Under 1000 section.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

And back from Blayney tonight

A quick summary of results from the 2008 Blayney Open. The tournament attracted 40 players (up from 34 last year) and would have more except for a number of last minute emergency drop outs.
Top seed Endre Ambrus won the event with 5.5/6. He started with 5 wins and finished the event with a game against David Castor that went 1.b3 Draw? which was then accepted by Castor. Second place went to Peter Abbott on 5/6 with a 4 way tie for third on 4.5. David Dick won the title of NSW Country Champion (repeating his win from 1985!), while most of the other prizes were collected by players from Canberra.
How I managed to go from 4/4 to 4/6 will be the subject of tomorrows post. It won't be pretty.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Off to Blayney today

Heading off to Blayney this morning to play in the 2008 Blayney Open. If I get net access at the motel I'm staying at I'll try and post some results, otherwise I'll have to wait until I return to Canberra on Sunday evening.

Friday, 5 September 2008

An odd collision

While reading The Closet Grandmaster's blog (which I do almost everyday) I decided to check out his story on Eric Schiller. The story itself wasn't that interesting, just a run of the mill cheque forwarding scam (which btw is usually the intent behind the 'Earn money from home by processing payments' spam that most people get), but there was a nugget of interest buried at the bottom. Schiller also writes a blog on the DailyKos website.
The DailyKos is one of the most popular political blogs and one I read every day (if not more often), along with Atrios and Crooks and Liars. Schiller posts under the name of makechessnotwar , which is a noble sentiment, and his most recent posts are in support of regime change in the USA.
I'm not sure Schiller's diary will be added to my list of everyday reads, especially given the mixed quality of his chess writings, but I'll probably check it out every now and then.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Smerdon - The King of Chess

IM David Smerdon had a productive trip to the Gold COast last weekend, winning the 2008 Surfers Paradise Open. Organised by the modestly named Kings of Chess club, this event was attempted to combine the weekend chess format, with a FIDE rated event. 
The 6 round tournament attracted a strong field, with GM Darryl Johansen, IM's Stephen Solomon and Peter Froelich and WIM's Arianne Caoili, Alexandra Jule and Narelle Szuveges also taking part.
 Smerdon scored a perfect 5.5/6, with the half point coming from a first round bye. On his way to outright first Smerdon defeated  both Froelich and Caoili and finished a full point ahead of Froelich and Solomon.
One innovative idea for the tournament was a brilliancy prize, which is to be judged by GM Alexi Shirov. Quite possibly Smerdon will win this prize as well, for this game against Nik Stawski.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008


I've hopped on the bandwagon and installed chrome on my computer. At this stage I can say (a) this blog seems to work ok with it and (b) it even lets me edit my posts that have replayable chess games on it (which firefox is a bit contrary about doing).

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Zhao wins in Brazil!

After taking an early lead in the 2nd Euwe Stimulans Tournament in Brazil, Australian GM Zong Yuan Zhao ended the event tied for first with Brazilian GM Gilberto Milos, on 6.5/9. Zhao scored 5 wins, 3 draws and a single loss, the Dutch GM John van der Wiel.
Zhao's score of 6.5 was good enough for a performance rating above 2600 and indicates that he is in good form going into this years Olympiad.

Monday, 1 September 2008

but, rules are rules.

A controversial end to the first round of the Women's World Championship Knockout, with the result of the sudden death game between Monika Socko and Sabina-Francesca Foisor being decided by the appeals committee. This was an "Armageddon" playoff, with Black (Foisor) advancing to the next round if the game was drawn. The game reached a K+NvK+N ending (with no pawns) and Foisor claimed a draw (although she didn't stop the clock). After she lost on time the arbiter declared the game drawn. Socko then appealed the result, and the game was awarded to her by this committee.
The appeal was upheld on Article 9.6 which reads "The game is drawn when a position is reached from which a checkmate cannot occur by any possible series of legal moves, even with the most unskilled play. This immediately ends the game, provided that the move producing this position is legal."
As it is possible to construct a mate with K+N v K+N (see diagram) the appeals committee that the result be a win for White. The full judgement can be read here.
Now I've always thought that this was a terribly worded rule, precisely because of situations like this. When I have been confronted in situations like this when directing tournaments (eg player with K+NvK+Q+3P claims a win and argues that the player may underpromote and build a self mate), I usually roll my eyes, declare it a draw, but suggest to the player they can appeal the result "if they want to win that badly".
Obviously Socko did want to win the game "that badly", although given the absurdity of just moving knights back and forth while waiting for a win on time is not a win I'd be proud of.
But was the decision of the appeals committee wrong? Clearly not according to the rules. Should the rule be rewritten? Certainly yes, but almost certainly not at the upcoming FIDE Congress, as their are no proposed changes to this rule.
And one final question. What would have happened if the arbiter had declared the game drawn before either flag had fallen?
(Thanks to Andrey Bliznyuk for the links on this)