Monday, 31 October 2011

FIDE Arbiter Fees

One thing that was passed at the recent FIDE Congress was fees for Arbiters. Not fees that Arbiters receive, but the fees arbiters have to pay to receive their accreditation. The full fee schedule (and associated regulations) are over at my other blog.
I am in two minds on this one. While on the one hand other titles (IM, IO, FIDE Trainer) require a fee to be paid, and this just extends this to IA/FA titles, on the other, FA/IA titles could be considered somewhat different. As IA's and FA's facilitate the holding over events that bring FIDE income (via rating fees), FIDE are in a sense biting a hand that feeds them. Now it may not seem much of a distinction (especially as the same argument can be made for the IO title), but an organisation charging its own officials does seem a little odd to me.
The fees don't come into effect until the 1st January 2013 and there may be a little tweaking before then, but the bottom line is that from that date, only paid up arbiters can direct FIDE rated events.

Sunday, 30 October 2011


Following on from yesterdays post, I realise I must have met IM Herman Grooten, without remembering it. Rupert Jones reminded me that Grooten played board 1 for the Dutch Antilles in the 2008 Olympiad, a team we (PNG) played in the 3rd round. Grooten beat Stuart Fancy on Board 1, while Rupert drew on board 3, and Craig Skehan lost on board 4.
As for me I managed to win against Marvin Dekker, but not before a few moments where I was worried I would go down in history as a player who lost to 1.Nh3!

Dekker,Marvin AHO (2130) - Press,Shaun PNG (2090) [A00]
38th olm final Dresden GER (3), 15.11.2008

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Forced mate with 2 knights?!

I've purchased a couple of books recently, including "Chess Strategy for Club Players" by Herman Grooten. While I have yet to work my way into the book (let alone through it) I did discover an amusing story (which came via Time Krabbe) from the 1953 Candidates Tournament. In the diagrammed position Najdorf decided to end the game with 1. ... Rxf4+ 2.Kxf4 Rxg7 3.Nhxg7+. He apparently thought this was quite amusing, but for some reason Kotov, his opponent, played on. He asked Kotov why he was playing on in a theoretically drawn position. Kotov then informed him someone in Tbilisi had finally found a way to win this difficult position! It was only after the blood had drained from Najdorf's face did Kotov let him in on the joke by offering a draw.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Heard on the bus

Given the scarcity of serious chess players in Australia (3000 to 4000 in a population of 22,000,000) it is always surprising to hear chess being discussed away from the chess environment.
While catching the bus home from work the other day I began to hear fragments of a conversation taking place a couple of seats behind me. "Queen went here", "this one moves diagonally", and "I took this guy and he couldn't take me back". It seems that someone was explaining the rules of chess to his girlfriend, I assume using his iPhone (or similar device). The conversation seemed to be going ok until the topic of pawn moves came up. "So the little guys get to move 2 squares on their first go, but only 1 after that" asked the girlfriend. "Yes" was the reply. "Well that's stupid isn't it" she continued. But the last word went to the boyfriend. "That's 2000 years of chess rules you're bagging out there". And the conversation then drifted on to other topics.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The World against Bobby Fischer

The documentary "Bobby Fischer against the World" was shown as part of the Canberra International Film Festival, and I went along to this evenings screening. As a chess player I guess I would appreciate the subject matter more than most, but as a documentary it was still quite good. I was particularly impressed by the amount of direct footage they had of Fischer, and I thought the use of music throughout was a very good.
In terms of the people they interviewed for the documentary IM Anthony Saidy was the real star (at least in my eyes), while the late GM Larry Evans was also a wealth of information. Chief Arbiter of the 1972 World Championship Match Lothar Schmid was also interviewed, revealing a somewhat physical approach to his arbiting duties.
If I had to have a criticism of the film it was that it didn't cover Fischer's post 1972 life in great depth, although I guess source material for that period would have been difficult to find. However it did manage to include film of him after he moved to Iceland, which I was surprised to see, given his normal hostility to the media.
There is another screening of the film on November 5 at 2:15pm at the National Sound and Film Archives, so if you missed tonights showing, I would recommend getting along to that session.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

On the other hand

In this earlier post I mentioned the Ian Rout theory of 'handedness'. Buried in this report on a couple of studies on what makes someone good at chess is another measure of handedness. The statistic quoted is that 18% of chess players are left handed, as opposed to about 10% found in the general population. Now as a right hander I'm not really sure of the significance of this, but I am sure that left handed chess players will be able to explain it as some sort of evidence for the innate superiority of left handers.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Chessdom is carrying the news that GM Ghaem Maghami (Iran) has been excluded from the Corsica Masters after refusing to play FM Ehud Shachar (Israel) in the 4th round of the tournament. Maghami requested a different opponent, but the organisers refused to change the pairings, and stated that Maghami had entered the tournament in the knowledge that there were 5 players from Israel in the field.
Seems like a pretty straight forward decision to me, although in other events (eg last years Olympiad) organsiers have let the forfeit stand, but have not disqualified the player from the tournament.
This of course may now open the floodgates in terms of scoring extra points off Iranian GM's. A well timed "Shalom" as you go to shake hands may result in a surprisingly quick victory, as well as eliminating a potential rival for the top prizes.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Chess Mastery by Question and Answer

While there is a book with the title of "Chess Mastery by Question and Answer", this is not what I am interested in. What I am thinking about is whether choosing the best move in each position can be achieved by answering a set of questions.
CJS Purdy certainly recommended this approach in a number of articles he wrote, and I have seen variants on his system over the years (including some without attribution). As the definition of 'best' cannot be made without calculation, I think any set of questions would at least give us some candidate moves, which would then be examined.
Some obvious questions include

  • What is my opponent threatening (Purdy)
  • Do I have a mate in one (Babbage)
  • Which move puts my queen en pris (Blumenfeld/Kotov)
and I am sure there are some more obvious (and less obvious) ones.

So to expand my list, feel free to describe questions that you consistently ask when deciding on a move. I would be especially keen to hear from strong players on this topic.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Miniature of the Month for September 2011

Here is the miniature for the month of September 2011. It shows a useful line against 1.b3, although the real mistake for White was 7.d5 (clearly missing 8. ... Qe7+). The game is courtesy of Chess Today, which just celebrated its 4000 edition!

Kalajzic,Ivan (2219) - Dulic,Grgur (2269) [A04]
2nd Zlatni Rat Open Bol CRO (3.7), 11.09.2011

Friday, 21 October 2011

A study for the weekend

The other night I witnessed a 2RvQ ending. I normally assume that the 2 rooks have an advantage over the queen (2 attackers v 1 defender is the equation). However the player with 2 rooks sometimes has to watch out for mate tricks, and this is what happened in the game in the question. A king on the wrong square allowed a mate in 1.
So to balance the scales, a little study to occupy you over the weekend. White to play and win.
A small hint, the obvious Rd7+ is well, just too obvious (Ka8!). So the challenge is to find some other tricks. (Petrov, 1963)

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Bobby Fischer Against the World

While "Bobby Fischer Against the World" has being doing the cinema circuit elsewhere in the world, it is only now coming to Canberra. It is one of the films that makes up the Canberra International Film Festival, which begins next week.
There will be two screenings of "Bobby Fischer Against the World". The first will be on Thursday 27 October at 6:15pm, with the second on Saturday 5th November at 2:15pm. The screenings will be at the National Film and Archive's ARC Theatre. More details (including ticket bookings) are available here.
(Thanks to Shun Ikeda for passing the details on to me)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Democracy in action

When FIDE first released the agenda for the 2011 Congress, there was much consternation about proposals to license chessplayers, as well as increase the rating fees for tournaments. Most of the comments on this issue (not so much here but elsewhere) came from the 'FIDE is stupid and corrupt' point of view, and assumed that just because the proposals had been suggested, they would certainly be accepted. At the time I pointed out that such proposals could be (a) made by anyone and (b) they needed to be voted on (at a number of different levels) before they would be approved. Of course for this to process to work, it did need federations to participate in the discussion of these issues, especially if they did not support them.
As it turns out, this is pretty much what happened. A number of Federations either wrote public letters (eg the Dutch Federation) or private letters (eg the PNG Federation), on the issue. Now I'm not privy to how many Federations raised objections (or supported) the proposals, but word from the FIDE Congress is that they did not even make it to the Events Commission, having been pulled from the agenda.
So what worked in this case was using the system as it was intended, rather than throwing hands in the air and claiming 'nothing could be done'.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Another type of speed chess

From comes a story about another kind of speed chess. Instead of using a clock, pieces moulded in ice (using a special ice tray) are used, with the obvious idea that you can only move pieces that haven't melted. But while it may be a fun party-piece, there is one drawback. Unlike chess clocks, pieces from both sides should melt at the same rate. So it doesn't matter how long one player thinks, as both armies move closer to elimination. In fact it may be an advantage to move as little as possible, to avoid body warmth speeding up the destructive process.
But like chocolate chess pieces and alcoholic chess, the idea isn't to play serious chess with such itms, but to simply have fun. So maybe the best approach is to have your opponent eat every piece of theirs that you capture, and the player that collapses with brain-freeze first, loses.

Monday, 17 October 2011

That did not go well

"It's all above the neck" is a saying sometimes used in sport. Obviously this is totally true in chess, but not just for calculation. Attitude is also a factor, especially when you bring the wrong one to a game.
Sometimes I'm in the mood for a little experimentation, but this only seems to happen when I've already managed to lose a couple of games. Such was the case at Street Chess last week, when I decided to go for an Italian-Latvian hybrid against WIM Emma Guo. As the headline states, it did not go well.

Guo,Emma - Press,Shaun [C50]
Street Chess Canberra, 15.10.2011

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 f5 4.d3 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Nc3 d6 7.Ng5 Rf8 8.Nxh7 Nxh7 9.Qh5+ Kd7 10.Qxh7 f4 11.Qh3+ Ke8 12.Qh5+ Kd7 13.Qg4+ Ke8 14.Qg6+ 1-0

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Who to blame?

I'm at a bit of a loss at the moment. Australia lost the semi final of the Rugby World Cup today, but I'm struggling to identify the specific thing that the referee did wrong that caused Australia to lose. Can anyone help me out?

Saturday, 15 October 2011

This games got everything

I'm sure in that sometime in the future this game will become a staple of various instructional books. What exactly the those books will be teaching, is at this stage not so clear. It certainly has some exciting sacrifices, some stoic defensive moves, a fairly technical ending, and in the end, both players got half a point. For now it is entertaining, so feel free to click through the moves.
(Many thanks to ACTCA President Cam Cunningham for alerting me to it)

Shirov,A (2713) - Morozevich,A (2737) [C11]
Governor's Cup Saratov RUS (6), 13.10.2011

Friday, 14 October 2011

The post-mortem

Do people do the 'post-mortem' any more? While it still happens at weekend chess events, has the club post-mortem fallen victim to the accelerated pace of modern life?
When I first started playing chess, analysing your games with your opponent was a significant part of the learning process. These days the post-mortem happens at home, with the computer, and the exchange of ideas often occur the following week, when players compare analysis. While I can't speak for anyone else, I'm sure this approach hasn't helped my chess an awful lot, and has instead encouraged my natural laziness, resulting in a slow but steady loss of form.
So to reverse this trend I might try and get back into the habit of analysing with my opponent after the game (especially when I lose). Hopefully it will result in an improvement in my results.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Carlsen wins Grand Slam Masters

Magnus Carlsen has win the Grand Slam Masters for the 4th time, after beating Vasilly Ivanchuk in a 2 game blitz playoff. The two had tied for first after drawing their round 10 games. Aronian, Nakamura and Anand tied for third, with Vallejo Pons finishing 6th.
From a spectators point of view it was one of the more watchable tournament in recent times, with a little more than 50% of the games being decisive. There are couple of theories for this, with the 3-1-0 scoring system once again being a popular explanation. However I think there are two other reasons for the high(-ish) number of wins. One is that 9 of the 16 decisive games involved Vallejo Pons (+3=1-6), who as the bottom seed was likely to have a bulls eye painted on him by the other players. The second is that having 40 moves in 90 minutes with no increment as the first time control meant a return to old fashioned time scrambles. And as the Sofia rules on draw offers were in operation, the payers couldn't bail out with a draw offer if they were behind on the clock.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

2011 Vikings Weekender

The 2011 Vikings Weekender is a little over a month away. The third of the Canberra weekend tournaments is once again being held a little earlier this year, in part to avoid the clash with various xmas activities. It is on the weekend of the 19th and 20th of November, at the Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club, Erindale. This year sees a guaranteed first prize of $1000, with the other prizes dependent upon entires. There will be 7 rounds, and the time limit is 60m+10s per move.
Full details of the tournament can be found here, including a link to the online entry form.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Weirdness in Bilbao

The 2011 Grand Slam Masters saw a strange set of results in Round 9. World Champion Viswanathan Anand was snapped in 25 moves by Lev Aronian, Carlsen caught Ivanchuk by scoring his second win over him, while Nakamura found a bizarre way to lose to Vallejo Pons.
Nakamura did not one, but two foolish things in his game, firstly by asking the arbiter if he had reached move 40, and then getting up to get a drink, rather than moving. This might not have mattered if he had actually played 40 moves, but as he had only played 39 he lost on time while getting his refreshments. He claimed, in his post game protest, that the arbiter had indicated he had reached the time control by nodding, but as no one else saw this, his protest was rejected.
The final round is to be played tonight with Carlsen and Ivanchuk sharing first place. Carlsen is black against Nakamura, while Ivanchuk is white against Aronian. If they finished tied for first there will be a blitz playoff for the title.

Monday, 10 October 2011

And speaking of chess videos

Having highlighted the Kasparov v Short video in yesterdays post, I cam across another source of online videos today.
Kerry Stead has his own blog, There are two things that make this different from most chess blogs. Firstly it has a number of videos that Kerry has made himself, and secondly, it covers the other thing that Kerry is quite good at, poker. He has produced a couple of videos of his games from the recent Ryde-Eastwood tournament, as well as a couple of poker videos. He has also promised to produce a video series on the evil 'Broken Arrow' variation of the Modern ( 1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 c5 4.d5 Bxc3+). As I have found this one of the more annoying lines to face as white, I'm certainly looking forward to it.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Thanks Nige and Garry

The chess nostalgia circuit rolls on, with Garry Kasparov and Nigel Short reliving past challenges by playing an 8 game blitz match in Belgium today (which also happens to be my birthday). It is being organised by YourNextMove, which is a Belgium foundation that aims to promote chess in the 6 to 12 years age group. The event website will have video coverage and commentary of the match.
If you can't get out of bed early enough to watch the games, or find that you are reading this on Monday morning at work, you can watch the two players go around some 24 years ago.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

H is for Hack

Lev Aronian continues to impress me with the games he is playing at the Grand Slam Masters. While he hasn't managed to catch Ivanchuk (who holds a big lead), it isn't for want of trying. Against Carlsen he tried an old idea of Botvinnik with 9.h4. This indicated an attack against Carlsen's king, who went for counterplay in the centre. I suspect it then came to who could calculate the furthest, and with neither player making any sort of mistake, and even ending was reached.

Aronian,Levon (2807) - Carlsen,Magnus (2823) [D55]
4th Final Masters Sao Paulo/Bilbao BRA/ESP (7), 07.10.2011

Friday, 7 October 2011

2011 ACT Junior Championship - Yin wins playoff

The 2011 ACT Junior Championship was a tough affair, with the title being decided by a playoff game between Wenlin Yin and Willis Lo. At the end of 9 rounds Yin and Lo were tied on 7.5/9, with their Round 4 game being drawn. Yin won the playoff game to capture his first ACT Junior Championship.
Third place was shared between Alana Chibnall and Casey Baines. Baines was the only player to defeat the new champion, while Chibnall defeated WFM Megan Setabudi in the final game to finish.
The tournament cross table can be found here.

Press,Harry - Yin,Wenlin [D27]
ACT Junior Championship (7), 07.10.2011

Openings in the cloud

Someone could make a degree of money by offering a backup service for players opening databases. If you haven't seen the news, Ivanchuk was robbed just as he was leaving Sao Paulo, on his way to Bilbao for the second half of the Grand Slam Masters. The initial coverage focussed on the act itself, and whether Ivanchuk would be able to play the second half of the tournament, but a few news stories also reported that his laptop was safe! Over the last few years I've seen other stories like this, where the theft of the laptop (or more importantly, the data on the laptop), was the critical act. Radjabov even withdrew from the 2007 Linares event after his laptop was stolen before the start of the first leg in Mexico.
So putting you 'secret' files in the cloud might be the way to go, assuming they can remain secret. Maybe this could even be a successful subscription service to a technical savvy chess entrepreneur.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The online masses

There is a school of thought that online chess has caused a decline in numbers, both in chess clubs and week end events. The other side of the argument is that online chess actually increases the numbers that play chess, by preparing them for the next step.
Without a proper survey I'm not sure whether either point of view is entirely correct, but I am sure that the number of people online far exceed the number of face to face tournament players. On one chess server I play on, there are at least 80,000 players registered from Australia, which far exceeds the number of players on the Australian rating list. Of course some of those players are just casual/fun players, but I wonder how many consider themselves more serious than that. Is it the case that they don't have the opportunity to play club or tournament chess, or simply that they don't want to break out of their comfort zone?

2011 ACT Junior Championship - Day 1 Results

Available here

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

New DGT Software

Having struggled with various versions of TOMA (DGT's game broadcasting software) over the years, I am pleased to see they have released a completely new software package to handle this task. Replacing Toma is DGT Livechess. It is written in Java and has the benefit of being able to run under MacOS X and Linux, as well as Windows. The other important feature is that is is free to download and use.
So far I've only tested it with a single board, which even works via my Serial-to-USB connector, but I would be interested to test the behaviour with multiple boards. It did take a little bit of menu surfing to get everything to work properly, but having done so, it seems easier than under the old software.
DGT Livechess is available from the DGT website at this link. There is also a web page which gives quick getting started instructions, with the promise of a full manual in the near future.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Odd suggestions

I'm quite a keen collector of strange chess rules. Often these rules are just simple misinterpretations, passed on by a more 'knowledgeable' source. An example of this would be 'pawns can't capture on their first moves', which was what I was taught my a school friend at the age of 7.
On the other hand, their are some rule suggestions that are deliberate attempts to change the nature of the game. As a member of the FIDE Rules and Tournament Regulation I get to see these proposals more than most players. Honour bound as we are to consider these suggestions, the issue is often how long we should consider them for!
Two recent suggestions, from the same source, are: Removing the En-Pas capture from the game (or at least that is what was being proposed, although the letter is a little hard to understand), and allowing castling out of check.
Not sure I see the merit of either proposal, but they will of course be discussed at some point.

Improving tournaments

Organisers often have a dilemma when putting on chess tournaments. Do they ration their efforts, based on the assumption that the extra effort won't produce greater returns, or do they work hard at making the tournament more attractive, understanding that this may increase the tournament returns. I'm not just talking about money (and in fact would suggest that organisers not worry about that either) but other features, whether it be venues, conditions or overall tournament feel.'
Generally in Canberra tournament organisers have looked at 'the little things' as a way of making tournaments more attractive, and usually these changes have helped grow the chess scene here.
This years ACT Junior Chess Championship is trying one of these 'little things', by FIDE rating the tournament for the first time. In part this is motivated by having about half a dozen juniors just short of getting a published rating, as well as giving the more established juniors something more to play for. Of course there is an extra cost attached to this move, but it is minimal compared to the overall tournament budget.
For anyone interested in playing in this event, here are some details

Dates: 5-7 October 2011
Rounds: 3 per day
Time: Starts 9:00 am each day
Time Limit: G60m+30s per move
Venue: Campbell High School, Treloar Cres, Campbell
Entry Fee: $40 ($50 for non ACTJCL members)

Further details for this event can be found at the ACT Junior Chess League Website.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Too complicated for me

After a rest day the 2001 Grand Slam Masters continued, with Ivanchuk continuing his winning run. Aronian was his victim in round 4, in a game that looked pretty wild to me. With so many pieces (and pawns) en pris at various stages of the game it wasn't surprising that both sides missed knock out (or saving) moves. The final mistake was by Aronian on move 32, with Ivanchuk winning a piece.
There is one more round to be player, before the players leave Sao Paulo and continue the tournament in Bilbao.

Aronian,Levon (2807) - Ivanchuk,Vassily (2765) [D37]
4th Final Masters Sao Paulo/Bilbao BRA/ESP (4), 30.09.2011