Saturday, 31 January 2009

Too hot to play chess?

Meh. Apart from suffering in the heat, I've got nothing. Today's outdoor tournament in the centre of Canberra was probably played in the hottest conditions ever (prompting suggestions we move indoors next week), but given my son competed in a 5 event athletic meet later in the day (when it was still stinking hot), they (and I) shouldn't complain so much.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Gibraltar 2009

The Gibtelecom Chess Festival (aka Gibraltar 2009) is up an running. There is a smaller Australian contingent this year (last year Zong Yuan Zhao scored his final GM norm there), but the flag is being flown by IA Manuel Weeks, who has taken over from Stewart Reuben as tournament director.
Once again the event has attracted a huge number of GM's and IM's, although it is the untitled English player Gary Quillan who has attracted a large amount of attention. He drew with the top seed Vugar Gashimov in round 1 and defeated GM Milos Pavlovic in round 3.
The event has an excellent website and is carrying live coverage of games, not only from the Masters section, but also from the Challengers event which starts in the morning (early evening Canberra time).

Harikrishna,P (2673) - Arakhamia-Grant,K (2500) [E92]
Gibtelecom Masters Gibraltar (2.4), 28.01.2009

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.Be3 Ng4 8.Bg5 f6 9.Bc1 Nc6 10.d5 Ne7 11.h3 Nh6 12.h4 Nf7 13.h5 f5 14.hxg6 Nxg6 15.Qc2 f4 16.Bd2 a6 17.0-0-0 Bd7 18.Rdg1 b5 19.g3 Qf6 20.Bd3 Nh6 21.gxf4 Nxf4 22.Ng5 b4 23.Ne2 c5 24.Nxf4 exf4 25.Nxh7 Qd4 26.Rxh6 1-0

Thursday, 29 January 2009

A game for the ages

Round 10 of the 2009 Croation Championship saw a game that I am sure will turn up in many game collections from this year onwards. The game starts as a normal Sicilian, and the middlegame is a king-side versus queenside affair. Except that in defending his queenside White wins blacks pawns on that half of the board, while Black does the same to White's kingside pawns. Then both players start pushing their pawns up the board with White being slightly faster getting a second queen. Not to be outdone Black gets his pawns down to g2 and h2, although by this stage White has gained a third queen! But before Black can bring about the previously unplayed 3Qv3Q position, White ends the game with an attack on the Black king.
Play through it and be amazed!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The Problemist

On the way back from the last Olympiad I had a 7 hour wait at Frankfurt airport. For some of that time I tried to solve a number of chess problems that IM Stephen Solomon had in one of his problem magazines. Not only is Stephen an enthusiastic (and strong) chess player, but he is also a strong (and enthusiastic) problem solver.
The problems were of sufficient interest that I spent some time trying to solve them, but of sufficient strength that I failed every one. So when I returned to Australia I spent some time searching for problem solving resources.
One excellent web site is , which is the home page of the British Chess Problem Society. It has a large number of links concerning chess problems, including an excellent section on how you go about solving them. Not only you garden variety mate in two's but longer direct mates, self mates, help mates, studies and retro analysis.
The problem in the right is taken from the page concerning helpmates. If you are not familiar with help mates Black plays first and works with White to achieve a mate on Whites move X. In this case it is a helpmate in 3 (ie White will mate on his third move, with black moving first).
The trick to solving these sorts of problems is to visualise a mate on the board, and see if you can arrange the pieces in the required number of moves.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

A tale of two cities (or more)

There was an interesting set of figures from a few weekend events in Australia that have just finished. There were Australia Day weekenders held in Sydney, Melbourne and Launceston. The event in Sydney (population 4,336,374) attracted 69 players, which I am sure would have pleased the organisers. The event in Launceston (population 104,071) attracted a smaller field of 20 players, but based on a per capita basis, was still a decent turnout. Sadly the event in Melbourne (population 3,806,092) only had a field of 13 players.
I have no insights into the reasons why each tournament attracted the numbers they did, although the level of advertising that I was exposed to for each event seemed about the same. So I am left to wonder whether it is just one of these cyclical things that city chess communities go through. A number of years back it was Sydney that struggled to attract more than 40 players to a lot of their weekend events, now it seems it is Melbourne's turn.
Hopefully the down turn is short lived and Melbourne tournament organisers will be rewarded with an increased number of entrants.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Do chessplayers behave this way?

I spent a couple of hours at the annual Canberra Games Convention yesterday. While there I spectated the Settlers of Catan and Carcassone competitions. O2C Doeberl Cup chief organiser Charles Bishop happened to be the director of play for both events, and I must say, probably had a tougher job than I normally do as a chess arbiter. One of the reasons for this is that these sort of tournaments are far less common than chess tournaments (maybe once or twice a year), so the players are less familiar with tournament rules and etiquette. While chessplayers may argue the toss on occasion, they usually have played in enough events to know when the rule is being applied fairly and correctly.
Charles on the other hand not only had to make rulings and decisions, but then had to explain them in great detail. How the pairings system worked, who qualified for the finals on tie-break and how the tie-break system worked, and most significantly, what happens when you don't turn up on time.
In the final case, one of the qualifiers for the 16 player semi-finals was nowhere to be seen at the 12 noon start time. For those unfamiliar with Settlers of Catan it is a 4 player game, so a late player holds everyone up, and throws the timetable out of whack. After waiting 15 minutes (and searching the rest of the venue for the missing player), lucky finisher number 17 took the place of the missing player and the last game commenced. 5 minutes later the missing player arrives. It is explained to him that they waited 15 minutes but could not wait any longer, and so he was replaced. The player made a muted protest, spent 5 minutes looking at the posted time table (which read 'Semi-final 12 noon') and then .... Walking over to the semi-final he was supposed to be playing in, swept all the pieces off the table and onto the floor. He then refused to leave the playing area despite being asked to, and consequently was escorted away by event security.
Ironically I ran into a chessplaying friend 30 minutes later who said "Look at all these well behaved wargamers. Chessplayers aren't as well behaved as this". "Well" I replied "guess what happened half an hour ago ...."

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Smerdon wins Queenstown

IM David Smerdon picked up the biggest prize of hid career, winning the 2009 Queenstown Classic in New Zealand yesterday. Smerdon went into the final round leading by a point, and despite a loss to GM Gawain Jones, still finished outright first on 8/10 after his closest rivals only drew. The win by Jones enabled him to join a large group in second place on 7.5, along with GM Rozentalis, GM Mikhalevski, GM Bischoff, GM Jones, GM Mastrovasilis and GM Johannessen.
Of the other Canberra players that took part a number did very well. Andrew Brown scored an IM norm and finished on 6.5/10, finishing with a final round draw with IM Guy West. Junta Ikeda finished on the same score (sans an IM norm) drawing with GM Hecht in the last round. On 5.5 was Sherab Guo-Yuthok, while his sister Emma finished on 5. The other Canberran's were Andrew Fitzpatrick (4.5), Bill Egan (4), Shannon Oliver (3.5), and Joe Marks (3.5).
Full results from the tournament website.

Smerdon,D (2463) - Mastrovasilis,D (2580)
Queenstown Classic Queenstown (9.1), 23.01.2009

1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nf3 e6 6.cxd4 d6 7.Bc4 Nb6 8.Bd3 Nc6 9.0-0 Nb4 10.Be2 dxe5 11.Nxe5 Be7 12.Nc3 0-0 13.a3 N4d5 14.Bd3 Bd7 15.Ne4 Rc8 16.Re1 Ba4 17.b3 Be8 18.Qf3 f6 19.Qh3 f5 20.Nc5 Bxc5 21.dxc5 Rxc5 22.Bb2 Qg5 23.Nf3 Qg6 24.Qh4 Rc7 25.Rad1 h6 26.Be5 Rc8 27.Bd6 Rf6 28.Be5 Rf8 29.Nd4 Bd7 30.h3 Qg5 31.Qxg5 hxg5 32.Nf3 g4 33.hxg4 fxg4 34.Ng5 Nf4 (D)
35.Bh7+ Kh8 36.Re4 Nh5 37.Rxg4 1-0

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Providing Opportunity

In some countries, chess events are run for commercial reasons, meeting a large and existing demand. In countries like Australia, this is often not the case and events exist for other reasons. At least for activities I'm involved in the notion of 'opportunity' is an important one. An tournament like Street Chess, which runs every Saturday in Canberra, attracts between 10 and 20 players most weeks. It receives $100 in sponsorship per week from a couple of local businesses (Chicken Gourmet and King O'Malley's), but the money collected in entries, and the money paid out in prizes, wouldn't keep either players or organisers in financial comfort for too long. However it does exists to provide an opportunity for chess players to come along and spend 4 hours a week playing in an enjoyable tournament, with the hope of a small reward at the end of it.
Today's event was a good example of this, with a couple of new junior players entering. 10 year old Stu Mason has played in a number of junior events, and open swisses, but this was his first tournament amongst the wily old hands at Street Chess. In the first round he managed to outplay veteran Gus Korda (being up 3 pieces for a rook), but experience told, and Gus ran Stu out of time, winning despite still being material down. However that was Stu's only loss, as he scored six consecutive wins to finish outright first on 6/7. As well as earning bragging rights in winning the event, he also took home $45 first prize, which is a nice chunk of change for a 10 year old kid.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Norms Galore in Queenstown

There is one round to play in the 2009 Queenstown Classic, but already a number of players have scored title norms. Canberra Junior Andrew Brown recovered from yesterdays loss to Geoff Saw to defeat WGM Anya Corke (HKG) today, and as a result registered a 9 game IM norm. He can even extend it into a 10 game norm, depending on his final round result against IM Guy West.
Good news for Victorian chess as well, with FM Igor Goldenberg and Domagoj Dragicevic both achieveing 9 game IM norms as well. Goldenberg defeated NZ FM Nic Croad to score 6.5/9, while Dragicevic lost to GM Gawain Jones, but by playing Jones, brought his field up to the level that made is prevoius 6 wins good enough for the norm. Victoria has a chance for a 3rd norm, with Sam Chow needing to defeat FM Eddie Levi for a 10 game norm. FM Geoff Saw would have also been in contention for a norm, except that his decision to take 2 half point byes at the start of the tournament leaves him with only 8 games, one short of the minimum number of games required.
And IM David Smerdon easily achieved a GM norm (exceeding it by a point), but as he already has 3, he doesn't need another one. However he has picked up 29.7 points so far, and a win tommorow will leave him just 1 point short of the 2500 rating he needs to be awarded the GM title.
Of course he also leads the tournament by a full point so he already assured of at least equal first. Full results plus links to live covereage tommorow can be found here.

No Penalty for Ivanchuk

FIDE have completed their hearing into Vassily Ivanchuk's missed drug test at the Dresden Olympiad. (Some background here and here). The panel have concluded that due to the deficiencies in the drug testing procedures there was no refusal by Ivanchuk. Consequently the panel have ruled that Ivanchuk should receive no penalty. Full statement here.

The general consensus amongst chess blogs was that this was always going to be the end result. It was just a matter of FIDE finding a plausible explanation for what happened. I must say however that I am surprised that FIDE have admitted that they (or their personnel) were to blame for the failure in the testing procedures. In the normal course of events FIDE would now investigate who was responsible for the failure and take the appropriate action, but I'm sure that the FIDE Medical Commission is probably happier for the whole issue to fade away.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Upside down pairings

A number of years ago I was directing a tournament when a New Zealand player (I cannot remember who) asked me, "In which rounds do you reverse the pairings?" "Reverse pairings? What are those?" I replied. He explained to me that in the swiss pairing rules used in NZ, some rounds played 1vn, 2vn-1 etc in each scoring group, rather than top half v bottom half as is used in most common systems. "Not in Australia" I remarked, and that answered his question.
While reversed pairings aren't in the Lim or Dutch pairings rules approved by FIDE, they are used in the Dubov and Burstein systems (which was the system used in last years Olympiad). The intent of these systems is to try and 'even' the field that players face. In part this counteracts the effect that seeding can have on pairings (ie in a tournament with no upsets players seeded close together can play fields if markedly differing strengths). Of course having pairings always reversed can also have its problems, as the New Zealand team found in Dresden.
However the idea of using reversed pairings does have some merit. For example in a theoretical 32 player tournament where round 1 is paired normally and round 2 is reversed (and the higher seeded player always wins), the total of the seeding numbers of opponents for every player is 33!
Having spent a couple of hours scribbling figures on my notepad I've looked at a couple of different approaches to reverse pairings. On approach I wouldn't recommend is using reverse pairings for every round. This has the same problems that the traditional systems have, just visited upon different players (ie in a normal 32 player swiss, seed 16 has it easy and 17 has it tough, in a reversed system this is also reversed).
However a mixture of normal and reversed pairings (as the New Zealand system uses) isn't bad. Pair round 1 normally, reverse rounds 2&3 (so players don't play white in every reversed round) and the revert to normal pairings for round 4 (and repeat as required), keeps the strength of the fields much closer together. Without boring you with tables of numbers the seeds 1&2 (both on 4/4) played opponents with a seeding total of 45 and 43 respectively. For the players on 2/4 (12 in all) there is only a range of 58-74 in seeding totals (ie the toughest field anyone plays is seeded 14.5 on average, the weakest 18.5). There is a bigger difference in the 1/4 and 3/4 score groups (9.75 to 18 for the 3/4) although this reflects the fact that one player went WWWL to get to 3 points while another went WLWW.
Nonetheless this is more of an academic exercise, rather than a serious proposal to change the current pairing systems. If there is one thing chessplayers crave, it is familiarity, and to offer change is to invite confusion. I'll probably put this idea to a practical test at Street Chess (or a junior coaching day) but it probably won't go much beyond that.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Canberran's on fire in Queenstown

Having talked up David Smerdon's GM chances a couple of days ago, I'm pleased to report I haven't offended the woofing gods. Today at the Queenstown Classic he defeated Lithuanian GM Eduardis Rozentalis and is now in equal first on 6/7. The win also continues his harvest of rating points, and according to my back of the envelope calculations is only 20 points away from the magical 2500 rating barrier.
Also doing brilliantly is Canberra junior Andrew Brown. Proving that his round 1 win over GM Darryl Johansen was an indicator of things to come, he defeated New Zealand IM Paul Garbett today and is currently on 5/7. This gives him a performance rating of 2528, well in excess of the 2450 needed for an IM norm. Of course he needs to play another 2 (or 3) rounds but he is well placed for his first norm. His round 8 opponent is FM Geoff Saw (2257) which keeps the average rating of his opponents at a healthy 2350. Assuming my maths is correct these are the relevant scores and the required last round opponent he needs. If he scores 2/2 in the next 2 rounds his round 9 opponent needs only to show up (due to the 2100 uplift for IM norms). If he score 1.5/2 the same conditions apply. If he scores 1/2 then he needs a round 9 opponent with a rating above 2135. If scores 0.5/2 then he needs a 2540 opponent. So basically a win tomorrow would almost guarantee a norm, either through getting a highly rated opponent, or by only having to draw with a lower rated one in round 9.

Brown,A - Garbett,P [E16]
Queenstown Classic, 2009

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Bb4+ 4.Nbd2 b6 5.g3 Bb7 6.Bg2 0-0 7.0-0 d5 8.Qc2 Nbd7 9.b3 c5 10.e3 cxd4 11.exd4 Rc8 12.Bb2 Rc7 13.Rac1 Qa8 14.Ne5 dxc4 15.Bxb7 Qxb7 16.Nxd7 Nxd7 17.bxc4 Rfc8 18.Rfd1 Qa6 19.d5 exd5 20.Qf5 Bxd2 21.Rxd2 Nf8 22.Qe5 Ne6 23.Rxd5 Qa4 24.Rcd1 Qe8 25.Rd6 Re7 26.f4 f6 27.Qd5 Rc5 28.Qd3 Qg6 29.Qe2 Qf5 30.Re1 h5 31.Rxe6 Rxe6 32.Qxe6+ Qxe6 33.Rxe6 Rxc4 34.Re2 h4 35.Kg2 hxg3 36.hxg3 Kf7 37.Kf3 b5 38.g4 a5 39.a3 g6 40.g5 fxg5 41.fxg5 b4 42.axb4 axb4 43.Bf6 Rc7 44.Re3 Rb7 45.Rb3 Ke6 46.Ke4 Rh7 47.Kd4 Rh4+ 48.Kc5 Rh1 49.Rxb4 Rd1 50.Re4+ Kf5 51.Re5+ Kf4 52.Rd5 Rc1+ 53.Kd6 1-0

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Breathing life into the Moller

The Moller/Greco Attack was one of the earliest 'romantic' openings I discovered. White sacrifices a pawn in the opening, and then offers a rook which Black does well not to take. However in not taking the rook, White still had attacking chances, until Lajos Portisch came along and took the fun out of it with 13. ... h6!
Over the years there has been rumours that a new line has been found for White which makes the opening playable again, although the fact that no one seems to play the line consistently casts some doubt on these claims.
The book where I both discovered the opening (and learned about the refutation) was The Italian Game by Tim Harding and George Botterill. This was published in the mid 70's and in some variations theory has moved on a little. Ironically, one of the attempts to resurrect the Moller Attack was by Harding himself in a correspondence game played in the mid 1990's, which I discovered while cataloguing a set of his excellent Chess Mail magazine I had recently acquired. While the game ended in a draw, it is quite possible that White stood better in the final position, and until I discover anything played later, may make the line playable for White once more.
The key ideas occur from move 21 onwards, where White repositions his knight and aims for a mating attack (which also validates the original intent of the opening!).

Harding,T - Lindblom,P [C54]
Correspondence, 1994

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nxe4 8.0-0 Bxc3 9.d5 Bf6 10.Re1 Ne7 11.Rxe4 d6 12.Bg5 Bxg5 13.Nxg5 h6 14.Bb5+ Bd7 15.Qe2 Bxb5 16.Qxb5+ Qd7 17.Qxb7 0-0 18.Rae1 Ng6 19.Nf3 Rfb8 20.Qa6 Rxb2 (D)
21.Nd4 Ne5 22.h3 Qc8 23.Qa3 Qb7 24.Nf5 Kh7 25.Qg3 Rg8 26.Ne7 Re8 27.Nf5 ½-½

Monday, 19 January 2009

It looks like a club game

Corus, the first super GM event for the year is underway, and already there have been some exciting games. One game that particularly interested me was Wang Yue v Vassily Ivanchuk in the 2nd round of the top section. It looked like Yue launched an attack out of the opening and went desperately close to winning, just falling short due to Ivanchuk's brilliant defence.
However in looking at it again (and seeing Mikhail Golubev's annotations in ChessToday), it actually looked more like a typical club game. Not in the quality of moves, which were still very good, but in the path that the game took. Basically Ivanchuk played a novelty on move 7, which Yue tried to exploit tactically. Yue then tried an unsound idea which simply lost material. He then threw everything into the attack, and it was Ivanchuk's turn to miss the best moves. However just as he got back into the game Yue played one bad move (20.O-O-O with check!), and got wiped out by Ivanchuk's counter attack.
This kind of game is typical in the club chess I witness, mainly because players are happy to plunge into complications, hoping that the end result will be favourable for them. Normally at the highest level 'hope' is replaced by some sort of certainty (otherwise GM's will normally avoid playing the line), so I'm not sure what either player was thinking in this case.

Wang Yue (2739) - Ivanchuk,V (2779) [D30]
Corus A Wijk aan Zee NED (2), 18.01.2009

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Bg5 dxc4 5.Qa4+ Nbd7 6.Nc3 a6 7.g3 b5 8.Nxb5 Rb8 9.Na7 Rb4 10.Bxf6 gxf6 11.Qa5 Bb7 12.Bh3 Qb8 13.Qh5 Ke7 14.d5 Qxa7 15.dxe6 fxe6(D)
16.Bxe6 Kxe6 17.Qe8+ Be7 18.Qxh8 Nf8 19.Qg8+ Kd7 20.0-0-0+ Ke8 21.Qg4 Qc5 22.a3 Rxb2 23.Kxb2 Qxa3+ 24.Kb1 Qb3+ 25.Ka1 c3 0-1

Sunday, 18 January 2009

David Smerdon closing in on GM Title

Canberra's Number 1 player IM David Smerdon is moving closer to his elusive Grandmaster title. David picked up his final GM norm in 2007, but still needs to get his rating above 2500 to be awarded the title. For the past 2 years he has been within 50 points of the target, but as yet hasn't quite bridged the gap.
However in the Queenstown Classic he has got off to an excellent start, lying in equal 3rd with 3.5/4. In todays round he drew with top seed GM Victor Mikhalevski while yesterday he caught Hong Kong No.1 WGM Anya Corke in an opening trap and won in 16 moves. Tomorrow he is paired against another GM, England Olympiad captain Peter Wells, and a win or draw for David will gain him more of the rating points he needs.
Leading the tournament are GM Gawain Jones and GM Eduardis Rozentalis who are the only players with 4 straight wins. However their top board clash will have to wait for another day, as Rozentalis is taking advantage of the generous tournament conditions and receiving a half point bye while he does some sight seeing.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Online Databases (and being organised)

Are online databases worth it? For most of my chess career I've mainly used databases stored on my local machine. I'm pretty sure I had a copy of Chessbase version 1 a long time ago, and also copies of Nicbase and Tascbase. Now I (like almost everyone else) use Chessbase, although I do use Scid on my linux box.
However I recently took out a subscription to It wasn't expensive and in purely money terms is about a quarter of the cost of Chessbase, although that is on a per annum basis. I've also taken free subscriptions to a couple of other services, such as In a sense it's not the data I'm paying for (as with enough searching I can find petty much every important game ever played), but someone elses organisational skills.
And as if this isn't enough even have got in on the act, but in a different way. They are producing a weekly newsletter that covers opening developments of the past week! However they assume that the customer has access to the data, as the newsletter discusses what's new and hot in opening theory, but doesn't present the games themselves. But while it is tempting, I'm still tossing up whether my total expenses on these services is entirely warranted!

Friday, 16 January 2009

European Open 1988

One of the small Canberra second-hand books shops I frequent is closing down. I feel partly responsible as although I was a frequent visitor, I rarely brought anything. It had a small collection of chess books (including copies of books I co-wrote), but I always felt they were over-priced.
But I did buy a book today, as the closing down sale has everything at half price. I would have brought more, except Henrik Mortensen (visiting from Denmark) cleaned out most of the better books just after Christmas!
The book I did get was of the 1988 European Open Chess Tournament. This event was slightly mis-named as although their was a large open swiss, the event was in fact headed by a 10 player Round-Robin. On the cover of the book is GM Ian Rogers, signifying the fact that he was a very convincing winner of this event. In a field that included Joel Lautier, Alexander Khalifman and John Nunn, Ian started with 5.5/6 and finished a full point in front with 6.5/9. Now my Dutch isn't that great (almost non-existent) but I think the book remarks that Ian was a late replacement for Jan Ehlvest, who I'm sure the rest of the field might have been happier playing!

Nunn,J (2620) - Rogers,I (2535) [C19]
Groningen Groningen, 1988

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.Nf3 Qa5 8.Bd2 Nbc6 9.Be2 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qa4 11.Rb1 Nxd4 12.Bd3 Ndc6 13.0-0 Qxa3 14.Rb3 Qc5 15.Rb5 Qa3 16.Qb1 a6 17.Rb3 Qc5 18.Rc3 Qa7 19.Be3 Qb8 20.Qb6 Bd7 21.Rb3 Qd8 22.Qc5 Bc8 23.Qc3 h6 24.Bb6 Qd7 25.Re1 0-0 26.h3 f6 27.exf6 Rxf6 28.Rbb1 Qe8 29.Bc7 b5 30.Ne5 Bd7 31.Ng4 Rf7 32.Qd2 Nf5 33.Ne5 Nxe5 34.Bxe5 a5 35.f4 a4 36.Ba1 Qf8 37.Re5 Rc8 38.Rf1 Nd6 39.Qe2 Nc4 40.Rxe6 Bxe6 41.Qxe6 Qc5+ 42.Kh1 Qc6 43.Bf5 Ne3 0-1

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Queenstown Starts

The 2009 Queenstown Chess Classic started today in the New Zealand holiday resort of the same name. Organiser GM Murray Chandler has put together a fantastic tournament with $50,000(NZ) in prizes and a field that includes 9 Grandmasters.
There are a couple of good places for coverage of the event. The most obvious is the tournament website itself, which is carrying the top 3 boards live, as well as a webcam showing the top boards in action. The other place to go is the Closet Grandmasters blog, where he is once again providing live blogging during the round.
As with all big tournaments, the first round has very few upsets, meaning that when they happen, they tend to stand out more than in later rounds.In fact there were only 3 wins by lower rated opponents, and 2 drawn games. Significantly 2 of the upset wins, and one of the draws were by Canberra juniors. On board 10 Andrew Brown, fresh from his 3rd place in the Australian Junior, defeated GM Darryl Johansen, while further down Sherab Guo-Yuthok beat WGM Karolina Smokina of Moldova. Sherab's younger sister drew with the FM Peter Hohler from Switzerland, a set of results which caused TCG to exclaim "STAND UP ACT...STAND UP ACTJCL....STAND UP CANBERRA!!!" on his blog!

Here is the top board clash between GM Victor Mikhalevski and New Zealand Olympiad Captain Hilton Bennett. In part it demonstrates why DGT boards always come with an extra set of queens.

Mikhalevski,V - Bennett,H [E94]
Queenstown Classic Dortmund, 15.01.2009

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Nf3 e5 7.0-0 Na6 8.Be3 Ng4 9.Bg5 Qe8 10.c5 exd4 11.Nd5 Qxe4 12.Ne7+ Kh8 13.Bc4 d3 14.Bd5 Qe2 15.cxd6 Nc5 16.dxc7 f6 17.Nxc8 fxg5 18.Nd6 Qe7(D)
19.c8Q Raxc8 20.Nxc8 Rxc8 21.b4 Rd8 22.bxc5 Rxd5 23.Rb1 Qc7 24.Qb3 Rd7 25.Qe6 Nf6 26.Rxb7 Qxb7 27.c6 Qb5 28.cxd7 Qxd7 29.Nxg5 Qxe6 30.Nxe6 Bh6 31.f4 Ne4 32.Rf3 d2 33.Rd3 Kg8 34.Rd7 g5 35.fxg5 Nxg5 36.Nxg5 Bxg5 37.Kf2 1-0

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Poker Sharks

The rise in the popularity of Poker over the last decade has no doubt had an effect on the playing habits of some chess players. Indeed, when once Australian chess lost a number of future champions to Bridge, now they are more likely to be found on the felt.
At the Aussie Poker Millions tournament being held in Melbourne at the moment, there are a number of chess players playing for bigger stakes. Probably the most famous (or notorious) of these is James 'Andy McLeod' Obst, who began his career in online poker, although this career suffered a hiccup when it was discovered he was under the legal gambling age. He has since turned 18 and has been doing quite well ever since. Also spotted in action was Gary Benson, one of Australia's top Correspondence Chess players, and Kerry Stead, well known Sydney player and organiser.
However in the Limit Hold-em tournament it was another chess player, Jesse Maguire (a former Canberra junior) who did the best out of them all, scoring a third place finish, and picking up $17,500 in prize money.
But before you go running off to cash in on the big prize money at poker tournaments, I will warn you that along with the big prizes comes the big entry fees. $1100 to be precise. And given the chess communities ability to argue for hours over a $5 increase in club membership fees I'm guessing there won't be a mass exodus from our ranks any time soon.

**update: Kerry Stead has made it to the final (ie money) table of the HORSE event. Well done Kerry.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Cedric Antolis - Australian Junior Champion

Victorian junior Cedric Antolis is the 2009 Australian Junior Champion after defeating Yi Yuan 1.5 - 0.5 in a playoff match. The players had turned the 11 round event into a two man show, finishing tied on 10/11. Yuan's only loss was to Antolis back in round 3, while Antolis conceded 2 draws (to Andrew Brown and Sam Dalton).
Antolis's win brought to an end the run of success that the ACT has had over the last couple of years, with ACT juniors Junta Ikeda and Michael Wei winning the two previous championships.
The Under 18 Girls event was won by Sally Yu, the Under 12 event by Sean Gu, and the Under 12 Girls by Caroline Shan (defeating Joanne Mason in a playoff).

Here is the round 3 game between Antolis and Yuan.

Monday, 12 January 2009

IM Aleks Wohl and IM George Xie share first place in 2009 Australian Open

The 2009 Australian Open has finished in a tie for first place between IM Aleks Wohl and IM George Xie. Both players finished on 9/11 but IM Aleks Wohl was awarded the title of Australian Open Champion on tie-break. Wohl scored 8 wins, 2 draws and a loss (to Xie), while Xie lost 2 games but scored 9 wins, managing to win his last 5 games.
Equal third was shared between IM Mark Chapman, Eugene Schon and Jason Hue. Schon, still a junior, narrowly missed scoring an IM norm, after losing to Chapman in round 10.
The Under 1600 event finished in a tie between Calvin Bennett and Anton Smirnov. Smirnov's performance is very impressive, given that he is only 7 years old! Click on the above link for full results for both tournaments.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Congratulations Closet Grandmaster

Congratulations to the ClosetGrandmaster for winning the 2009 CJS Purdy Medal, awarded by the Australian Chess Federation for Journalist of the Year. I suspect that receiving the award from the ACF will be extra satisfying for TCG, given the recent comments from ACF officials about this post on his blog.
Other awards were Steiner Medal (Player of the Year): GM Zong Yuan Zhao
Koshnitsky Medal (for Chess Administration): Dr Charles Zworestine

(NB: I was on the voting panel for the Purdy Medal)

Saturday, 10 January 2009

2009 O2C Doeberl Cup - 3 months and counting

Only 3 months to go until the 2009 O2C Doeberl Cup begins. Entries for the various tournaments have passed the 40 mark, with the Premier being a quarter full. For anyone planning to play in the Premier this is important as once the entries reach 40 players, the remaining 40 places are often filled in a rush. So the smart thing to do is to reserve your place by registering now, so you know you have a guaranteed spot.
Of the other events the Minor (U/1600) and the Mini (U/1200) already have a number of entries, although the Major (U/2000) has it's typically small number of confirmed entries at this stage (1!). The other event where it is important to enter early is the Seniors event (over 50), not so much because you might miss out, but to ensure the event is actually held. (Last years event wasn't held due to lack of entries).
For anyone wondering about accommodation, the website lists a number of options. If you aren't planning to stay close to the venue then my insiders tip is to stay in Civic, as there is a direct bus link from the City to Woden with a travel time of only 15 minutes. As a point of reference, this was about the same travel time most of the Olympiad teams had between their hotels and the playing hall in Dresden.

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

Friday, 9 January 2009

Anticipating Anand

The story behind Anand's 6 move loss to Alonso Zapata in 1988 is reasonably well known. (The one where Anand repeated an idea from Miles v Christensen 1987 that he saw in an Informater, not realising that Christensen's 5 move was a blunder, or knowing that as Miles and Christensen had agreed to a draw prior to the game, Miles couldn't play the refutation).

Zapata,A (2480) - Anand,V (2555) [C42]
Biel-B Biel (9), 1988

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Bf5?? 6.Qe2 1-0

What is less well known is that Joe Rush from Papua New Guinea had played 5. ... Bf5 5 years earlier, during the 1982 Luzern Olympiad. Unfortunately for him his opponent found the right move, although Rush decided to fight on for another dozen moves.

Saleh,M - Rush,J [C42]
Luzern ol (Men) Luzern (12), 1982

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.Nc3 Bf5 6.Qe2 d5 7.d3 Be7 8.dxe4 dxe4 9.Nxe4 0-0 10.Ng3 Bg6 11.Be3 Qd5 12.Qd2 Qe6 13.Bd3 f5 14.0-0 Nc6 15.Rfe1 Qf6 16.Bg5 Qxb2 17.Bxe7 Nxe7 18.Rab1 Qxa2 19.Qb4 1-0

BTW If anyone who reads this is in contact with Joe Rush, could you please put him in touch with me.

(Thanks for this titbit goes to the Streatham & Brixton Chess Club Blog, where you can read the whole story here)

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The King is Dead!

Not to be outdone by yesterdays dramas at the Australian Open, the Australian Junior Championship had some excitement of their own. When the organising team arrived for the days play there were a couple of things amiss. Firstly, board numbers and names tags had been randomly re-arranged in the hall, but more significantly, all the kings had been stolen from the sets. This forced the organising team to track down over 100 replacement kings from the venue, and from further a field to get the round started. Suffice to say the organisers weren't very happy, especially as the missing equipment has yet to be found.
This is likely to have been a prank gone wrong, especially as the Australian Junior has had similar incidents in the past (such as the 'Bishop Biting' incident), but if it was a prank it wasn't well thought out, or even funny.
However it is worth noting that today also happens to be the anniversary of the birth of Elvis Presley, so it may not be so much of a prank, as a tribute.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Player caught with computer at Oz Open

Exciting times at the Australian Open Championship today when a player was caught using a 'hand held machine' in the toilets. The player, Eduard Naoumov, was taking part in the Under 1600 event and had been doing quite well up until this point starting with 5/5, although he lost in round 6, and today's round 7. Apart from the loss of the game, Naoumov was expelled from the tournament. He appealed this punishment, but the penalty was upheld by the appeals committee 3-0.
Further information on this case, including the score of today's game can be found here at The Closetgrandmaster Blog.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

A New Years Blog Roll

By most standards, my blog roll (the links to other blogs from this one) is pretty small. In fact it is only 3 names long. After almost 2 years of blogging, it is probably time to add some extra links. But rather than just me choosing, I'm inviting suggestions from you, as this blog is as much a resource for you, as it is a project of mine.
So if you are a regular reader of another chess blog, and you think others would enjoy reading it as well, make a suggestion in the comments section. The only restrictions I would place on suggestions are (a) it should be a blog (and not a bulletin board etc), (b) it deals with chess and (c) it is updated regularly (at least once a day is good, but I may consider 4 or 5 times a week acceptable). Oh, and the usual guidelines concerning anonymous posts hold. (ie If you want me to take notice of your suggestion, put a name to your post, even if it is something as simple as 'Steve')

Monday, 5 January 2009

Photos from the 2009 Australian Open

I've put up a gallery of pictures from the 2009 Australian Open. Click here to see a selection of players from the tournament.
At the end of round 6 IM Aleks Wohl (pictured) has the outright lead on 5.5/6 with a group of players close behind on 5. Of the ACT players Ian Rout continues to do well with 4/6, although his joke that he may become "the weakest Australian Open winner ever" (made when the event only had 22 entries and he was seeded 7th) is now unlikely to come true.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A day at the cricket

I spent the day watching the third test between Australia and South Africa. The Australian batting was enjoyable, although the bowling attack once again leaves a lot to be desired. In terms of other excitment, there was only one streaker, and they weren't very good at it, as they seemed to get less than a metre onto the ground before being pounced upon by security.
I dropped inot the Australian Open this evening and took some pictures. I hope to get a few more from the start of tommorows round, and will try and post them later.
And speaking of cricket, at Dresden I bumped into Peter Svidler, Russian Olympiad player and well known cricket fan. Attempting to make small talk I asked him about the 2nd Australia v New Zealand Test that was in progress at the time (and had reached stumps on day 3). Like a true chessplayer he simply replied "This position, it is totally unclear"

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Australian Junior Championship starts as well

Also starting yesterday was the 2009 Australian Junior Championship. Normally when the Junior and Senior Championship/Open events are on at the same time, they are also held in the same city. In this case however the Juniors are being held in Adelaide (with the Open in Sydney). Normally the juniors would be held later in the month of January but they (a) wanted to avoid a clash with Queenstown and (b) as there was no bidders for the Australian Open until the middle of last year, had taken dates which at the time were free.
The event has attracted a Bradmanesque 99 players across the 4 events, with 45 in the Under 18 Open, 15 in the Under 18 Girls, 29 in the Under 12 Boys and 10 in the Under 10 Girls. So far 2 rounds have been played, and full results plus some games and bulletins can be found at the above link.

Friday, 2 January 2009

2009 Australian Open underway

The 2009 Australian Open began this afternoon at the Manly-Warringah Leagues Club, just inland from Sydney's northern beaches. The move back to a major population centre like Sydney (as opposed to smaller places like Mt Buller or Canberra), had a positive effect on the numbers, with the Open attracting 15 more players than in 2006-07 (73 for round 1). The secondary event (the Norths Chess Club Centenary Tournament) attracted 53 players, giving a total turn out of 126 player (exceeding the 112 in Canberra 2 years ago).
IM Mark Chapman is the top seed, with IM George Xie, FM Vladimir Smirnov and IM Aleks Wohl filling out the top 4. All 4 top seeds won there first round games, although there were upsets on the lower boards. Live game coverage can be found at the tournament website (2 games today, hopefully 4 tomorrow) as well as links to all the games played in the 1st round for both events (Good work organisers!).
Probably the most noticeable game from round 1 was top seed Mark Chapman's quick demolition of Dennis Wan.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Alekhine to tour Australia!

According to Graham Clayton, author of 'The Mad Aussie's Chess Trivia' column, Alexander Alekhine contacted the Australian Chess Federation in 1932 proposing to tour Australia in early 1934. Alekhine was heading this way as part of his tour of South East Asia, and was looking for 500 pounds to cover 10 simuls and a blindfold exhibition. The ACF declined the offer.
He then approached the ACF a second time, this time asking for 200 pounds + expenses for 20 simuls over a six week period. He even indicated a willingness to take part in the 1934 Melbourne Centenary Tour, but as history records, the trip did not eventuate.
I'm assuming that minutes of ACF meetings from that time no longer exist (or if they did would be considered confidential), but it would be interesting to see what reasons the ACF gave for rejecting the offer. Just as it would be interesting to see if the ACF would accept a similar offer today.

btw If you wish to read 'The Mad Aussie's Chess Trivia' column, just go the the website and click on the links. You can even subscribe to their free weekly email newsletter while you are there.