Congratulations to CM Helmut Marko who has scored Papua New Guinea's first point of the 2012 Olympiad. He played a very good game on board 2 against South Korea, eventually threatening death along the long dark diagonal. His opponent was not able to deal with the threat and resigned shortly after. Unfortunately the other 3 players went down, but at least PNG is on the score board.
With the move to match points, dropping the odd game at the Chess Olympiad does not hurt as much as it used to. To really blow your chances, the whole team has to misfire against weaker opponents. An obvious example of this is the team from The Netherlands who have had a very shaky start to the tournament.
In the first round the 9th seeds squeaked out a 2.5-1.5 win over Malaysia, which in itself was a surprise. The in the second round they lost 2.5-1.5 to Venezuela, who were seeded 58th. They are now on 2 match points, and 4 game points. Of course they aren't helped by the fact that their top board Anish Giri has been delayed by passport problems, and is yet to make an appearance.
At the other end of the field Fiji caused a bit of a shock, beating Kenya 3-1. While not one of the top African teams, Kenya are still a challenge, an so the win for Fiji was quite an achievement. PNG and Palau suffered 4-0 losses again, although this means they are finding their level as quickly as possible.
Australia drew 2-2 with Norway in a competitive match. David Smerdon played and Evans Gambit on board 1, sacrificed another pawn, and then hacked his opponent. Solomon and Ly drew, while Max Illingworth went down in the final game of the match. The Australian womens team had a tough pairing against India, with Biljana Dekic scoring the only half point.
I'm starting to fill my on galleries with pictures from the 2012 Olympiad. The direct link is here or you can just click on the "My Chess Photos" link at the left of this blog, which will also bring up albums from previous olympiads (going back to 2006).
Apart from the crush at the entrance to the playing hall, the Olympiad got off to a pretty good start, at least inside the venue. The live broadcast system did have some difficulty, with a few misnamed players here and there. In one case GM Gawain Jones played 3 games, drawing for England, but losing for PNG and Wales!
All matches went according to seeding, with the higher ranked teams winning. However a number of lower rated teams did take points of their opponents, with Jamaica scoring 1.5 against Slovenia, and Malaysia scoring the same against Netherlands being the standout results.
Papua New Guinea went down 4-0 to the all GM Bangladesh team, although all the games went into the 3rd hour. Australia discovered that Namibia was a 'bony chicken' with a potential loss on the cards until Moulthun Ly and Stephen Solomon pulled off wins from dubious positions.
There were also a couple of no shows, which also happens on day 1. One team simply turned up late to the venue, but a couple of teams failed to arrive in Istanbul. The hardest case was Bermuda, who had 3 of their team less than 2 kilometres from the venue, but this was because they were still trapped in Immigration at the airport. So they played with just 2 players in round 1. The good news is that they were released late yesterday evening, and so will have a full team available for the 2nd round.
I always enjoy the real start of the Olympiad. This is the hour before and after the scheduled starting time. The highlights are seeing chess friends for the first time in 2 or 4 years, meeting new people, and generally getting caught up in the excitement of the occasion. Of course 'getting caught up' also applies to the crowds trying to get into the venue/playing hall, and today was no different. With about 15 minutes to go, it was clear the round was not going to start on time. With 1 entrance, an x-ray machine and metal detector, it was always going to be slow going. Nonetheless the organisers did well to get the games started within half an hour of the scheduled start.
I took the opportunity provided by the delay to take a few photos, which I will put up on the web shortly. Once the games started I looked at a couple of interesting pairings, including Aus v Namibia, the top board games, and of course PNG versus the all GM Bangladesh team.
Currently sitting in the Technical Administration Panel's office, waiting for the final confirmation about team arrivals. As expected there have been a number of teams who have either been delayed, or have been held up at the airport (yes Bermuda, I'm looking in your direction). The organisers have dispatched search parties to the various hotels to find missing teams and captains, but this means that pairings are slightly delayed.
Today is the day when all the teams arrive at the Olympiad. Of course there were some early arrivals, which in my case required a trip to the airport at 1 o'clock in the morning (to meet one of the PNG team). Surprisingly even at that time getting through customs was a slow process, and it wasn't until 2am that we made it back to the hotel. As I had volunteered for this bit of hand-holding, I was also required to deliver said team member (R. Jones), to his correct hotel this morning. Turns out the traditional method of using a taxi may not always work in Istanbul. The instructions were simple: First to the tournament hall (which was visible from the pick up point), and then on to the Adela Hotel. First sign of trouble was when the driver missed the turn off to the tournament (15 seconds into the trip). Then he stopped in the middle of a freeway to get me to right down the name of the hotel. He then got out of the car and began to ask other stopped drivers where the hotel was. They were no help, but I had my iPad on me and quickly brought up a map of Istanbul. "Here" I said. He looked at the iPad and immediately drove off in the wrong direction. As it was a freeway, opportunities to turn around were somewhat limited. Eventually we convinced him of his mistake and he went in the correct direction. However he still had no idea about the location of the hotel, so we convinced to take us back to the start point by saying "Wow, wow, wow" over and over again. A somewhat surprised concierge greeted us, and when we explained the situation, flagged us a new taxi, sending the old driver away, both bemused and empty handed.
(* Embarrassing postscript - Tried the same journey this afternoon with a driver provided by the organisers. He went the same way as the taxi, but I decided against pointing this out. Turns out the taxi driver possibly knew where he was going, and Google Maps on the iPad had lied to me. The driver duly delivered me to the *only* Adela Hotel in Turkey)
For me I guess most of the hard work is before the Olympiad actually starts. Over the years the entry/registration processes have become more streamlined, but there are always unforeseen problems (visa problems, travel difficulties), and these always have to been taken into account. Most of these issues show up at the last moment, so they either get fixed (happily), or end up unsolved (sadly).
As part this process we had a meeting this morning to thrash out some of the administrative issues. The usual issues of minimum number of team members (3), how late can a team arrive (before 2nd round), and who will get the bye were discussed. There were a couple of other topics which are probably important.
Unrated players will be rated 1000 (the FIDE floor), for the purpose of seeding purposes
Performance ratings (for board prizes) will not use the 400 point rule, and again unrateds will count as 1000
The bye is 1 match point (and 2 game points)
Forfeits are 2 match points (and 4 game points)
With that out of the way, the rest of today and tomorrow is likely to be spent making sure all the submitted information is correct. We wish to avoid a repeat of 2010 when an entire team changed their names before the start of the tournament and played the first 5 rounds as unrateds!
On the ground in Istanbul, and have a lady spent the morning in meetings. Walked up to the venue, which is still in the process of being set up, and the heat really took it out on me. The venue is quite large, which means plenty of space for the players. Come tomorrow I will have a better feel for the entire layout, as most of the work will be completed by then.
Some of the teams have already started to arrive. On my flight were Max Illingworth from the Australian team, and Hilton Bennett and Paul Garbett joined us from Singapore. They Chinese team were already at the WOW Hotel when I got there, and I even spotted the team from Zimbabwe in the lobby.
Internet at the hotel seems really slow, which makes it hard for me to upload videos and pictures. Hopefully I will be able to do this from the venue instead, although we are waiting for the Internet to be turned on.
Given the time difference ( 7 hours) posts may appear at random times, but I'll try and make up for it by blogging 2 or 3 times a day.
A few hours of packing, and then off to Istanbul. As with most of trips to Europe (or even Siberia), transit time seems to be a constant 24 hours, so blogging opportunities are dependent upon stop overs and internet access. Part of the fun is spotting who else turns up at the same airports or on the same flights, although I've already been tipped of about some possible travelling companions.
If all goes according to plan I should arrive in Istanbul around 8am local time. The it is down to work almost straight away, as the first TAP meeting has been scheduled to start 'after breakfast'!
Attempts at getting University Chess in Australia operating on a self-sustaining level have always come up short, at least over the last 30 years. I suspect the problem is that while Uni students have the energy of youth, their enthusiasm is spread far too thinly among many competing interests.
So the latest attempt at getting an Australian University competition up an running has at least attempted to deal with this problem. On the 16th of September there will be a teams competition at Macquarie University in Sydney. The organisers are hoping for teams of 10 players, but to make it easier, teams can consist of current students, as well as alumni (past students), and staff. The increased pool of potential players will hopefully make it easier for Universities to field teams.
The event is being organised by Dr Charles Zworestine, along with David Webster and Sebastien Jurd. I'm still waiting on the full details of the event, and when they appear I will make sure to publish them.
When I regale juniors about stories from the Olympiad, one of the show stoppers is how long the games last. When I tell them that I have played games that have gone for 6 or more hours, they simply don't believe me. I can hardly blame them, as for most school chess players, 15 minutes is the standard time control, and even then it is a rare game when all that time is used.
On the flip side are the games that finish in no time at all. Again this comes as a little surprise to them, as they assume that at that level players don't make as many mistakes, but at least the time used makes sense.
I have used the following game as an example, as it is the shortest decisive game in an Olympiad, although there was a 1 and half move draw in a more recent one. The story that goes with this game was that Combe had played a far,far longer game in the previous round, and was quite tired from the adjournment session.
Combe,Robert Forbes - Hazenfuss,Volfgang R [A43]
Folkestone ol (Men) Folkestone (3.4), 1933
Ever wanted to be an Olympiad Team captain? But didn't have the inside track your Federation? Well now your problems are over with Fantasy Chess Olympiad. Like similar 'Fantasy Football' competitions, you can select 2 teams of players (Open and Womens) for the upcoming Olympiad, aiming to score the highest number of points. Of course their are restrictions on who you can pick (one player per country on each team), as well as a scoring system that isn't just 1 1/2 or 0. I know the competition involving AFL is pretty popular over at www.ozchess.com.au so I would not be surprised if there is a big Australian entry into the comp. (NB For fairly obvious reasons I won't be entering!)
The competition is being organised in association with the Yorkshire Chess Association, who will also have their own blogger on the ground in Istanbul. PNG player Rupert Jones will be doing coverage of the event from the 'inside', and has already published his first article, describing how he got to the Olympiad (1986) in the first place.
The Chessdom website is really getting into the Olympiad spirit, promising an update to their pre-olympiad coverage every 15 minutes(!) until the start of the tournament. While I think they may struggle to keep up the pace, the early updates are quite informative, especially for the players taking part. There is a s photo of the (empty) venue, as well as details concerning the hotels and amenities.
As for myself, my Olympiad countdown consists of finishing the non-chess things I need to do before I depart, as well as finishing some chess things as well (Swiss Pairing Program testing being the top of the list, as well as finding someone to run Street Chess this Saturday). Once I do get there I will try and provide some extra material for the blog (video being the main idea), and hopefully I will team up with PNG player Craig Skehan (who is a journalist by profession) to get some extra stories for other media outlets.
The diagrammed position may be familiar with some readers, especially if you are a chess coach. It is the starting position for a common training exercise, where the players only have kings and pawns. I set it as part of a chess 'decathlon' for the ACT Junior Development Squad today (each round saw the addition of other pieces btw).
I had assumed that this positions would be reasonably easy to draw, assuming that there were no huge mistakes. However the more experienced players (as it was the first round of the tournament) managed to come away with a plus score, possibly due to tempting their opponents into making a poor move. There was only 1 draw (from 6 games), but there was also an upset win as well.
My instinct is that this position is drawn with best play, and feeding it into one of my chess computers seems to back this up. However this is based on a short search (24 ply or so), and there may be tricks hidden further down. Interestingly there has been some research in 'detecting blocked positions in the endgame', so I am assuming some work has been done that relates to this.
A couple of months ago I had a post about pgn readers for the iPad. The reader I mentioned was Chess Viewer from Everyman Chess, but I also noted that you could only access pgn files from the web.
Turns out this isn't the only way. If you use Dropbox, you can save your own pgn files on one computer (your home computer for example), and then open them on your iPad. At first it will complain that there is no application that will read them, but if you choose the 'Open with' option (at the top right of the screen), you can then choose Chess Viewer (or your own installed pgn reader) and the file automatically becomes available to use.
Chessdom is reporting that former world champion Gary Kasparov has been arrested outside the court hearing for Russian punk band Pussy Riot. In a well publicised trial, the three member band has been found guilty of "hooliganism" for their performance inside a Moscow Cathedral, in the lead up to the recent Presidential election.
A statement on his facebook page said: Garry Kasparov has just been arrested outside the Moscow courthouse where the Pussy Riot trial is taking place. He was not there to protest, simply to attend, and the police cornered him and dragged him into the police van.
Keep an eye on the Chessdom as they seem to be updating the report as more information comes to hand.
The Scrabble world has been rocked by a cheating scandal at the US National Championship. An unnamed junior player was expelled from the tournament after he was caught hiding tiles under the table. Apparently he was 'palming' the blank tiles, rather than dropping them into the tile bag before the start of the game. There is a pretty big article about it here, and plenty more if you search the web.
Of course chess has its own recent cheating scandal (involving computer assistance), but it is rare that cheating in chess involves changing the 'state' of the game.
There are a couple of times when I have seen or heard it happen over the last 25 years. I know of at least one player who removed a players piece from the board when they were absent, but this was noticed very quickly and appropriate action was taken. I've also seen an incident where a player was accused of doing this, but it turns out the opponent had forgotten he had blundered a piece 10 moves earlier.
A more subtle attempt of cheating was to adjust the times on the clock. This only worked with the old analog clocks, as you could sneak your hand behind the clock and operate the winder. Again I am aware of at least one incident involving this method, and the player concerned was caught in the act by a spectator.
Of course at blitz chess there are still a number of methods, which in a sense are so common that the term 'cheating' often isn't applied. The 'disappearing queen' is still an old favourite, where in an ending, the queen you wish to promote to has 'fallen' off the board. In this case the few seconds needed to either find it or work out what is going on are often crucial, but as always, your opponent is most apologetic for the 'accident' after you have lost the game.
Svetozar Gligoric, the man who dominated post-war Yugoslav chess, has passed away at the age of 89. He won the Yugoslav Championship a record 12 times, with his wins coming between 1947 and 1971. He was a regular fixture on the international chess circuit, winning a number of strong tournaments. He also competed at the Interzonal level, although he fell short of challenging for the World Championship.
Before becoming a full time chessplayer he was a journalist. His most famous work was his book on the 1972 Fischer v Spassky World Chamionship match, which was the first chess book I ever read. He was an active player up until 2003, and in his (chess) retirement, developed an interest in music.
A full description of his life and achievements can be found in the Chessvibes article.
While looking for a suitable game to show of his, I came across this one from Lone Pine, against sometime Australian player David Parr (brother of Peter). It was all the more interesting as Parr decided to play the Kings Indian Defence, an opening closely associated with Gligoric. Clearly the choice of opening did not ruffle Gligoric, as he scored a nice win, finishing the game off with a piece sacrifice.
Gligoric,Svetozar (2575) - Parr,David (2200) [E82]
Lone Pine op Lone Pine (4), 1975
I really don't have any hard and fast rules about product reviews/endorsements on this blog, so when something turns up in my email I do at least have a look at it (However, there is a certain online chess club which will never get a good word from me).
The latest product to be drawn to my attention is the ZchessClock Lite, for the iPhone/iPad. As the name suggests it is a chess clock, and as with most 'lite' products, a fairly simple one. You simply set the number of minutes for the game (which can be different for White and Black), and then start. The display is the old style analog display, and even has the traditional red flag which rises as the minute hand approaches the hour. Unlike to traditional clock, it also has a second hand, so you know exactly how much time is left. Touching the clock face on your half of the iPad stops your clock and starts your opponent.
The other interesting feature is an index of chess club webpages, arranged by country. Possibly in anticipation of this review, the ANU Chess Club is one of the clubs listed!
The product itself is free, although you do need to have an iPod/iPhone/iPad to run it. If you are interested in the package, just search for ZChessClock at the App store, or just click on this link http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/zchessclock-lite/id543185475?l=es&ls=1&mt=8
Back in 1989 former World Champion Boris Spassky did an exhibition tour of Australia. It was quite a big thing back then, and it generated quite a degree of publicity for the game. When he was in Canberra, he did plenty of radio and TV interviews, and gave a 20 board simul at Belconnen Mall.
Something at the chess club last week reminded me of one his games from the simul, and Paul Dunn was very quick to dig the game up for me. It was a game played against former ACT Champion Michael Mescher, and was one of only two losses for Spassky on his entire tour. After the game Spassky was quite impressed by Mescher's play, and insisted in inviting Mescher to dinner so they could continue to analyse the game together.
The game was a King's Gambit, and Mescher's choice of 3. ... Be7 was pre-simul prep. Looking through recent theory on this line 6. ... Nc6 still seems to be unplayed (apart from this game) and 9. ... Qh6 is very strong.
Spassky,Boris - Mescher,Michael [C35]
Simul Belconnen, 26.05.1989
The 2012 Chess Olympiad is only 2 weeks away, and I'm starting to wonder who the likely winners will be. Russia of course is strong on paper (despite Morozevich dropping out), but have fallen short as a *team* when it matters most. On the other hand Armenia looks like Lev Aronion and 4 2600's, but as we all know, it is as a team that they excel. As it is Match Points scoring again +1=3 for each match is enough for victory. Ukraine fall in between the two (stronger than Armenia but still operate as a team), and are my tip to win again. As for a dark horse Germany are probably the best of the 'smokies', having won the 2012 European teams championship.
At the other end of the table, I predict that PNG will do better than previous Olympiads, for 3 reasons. (A) GM Dejan Bojkov is captain/trainer this year, which hopefully result in improved opening play. (B) It will be a team of 5 (for the first time in 10 years), meaning that players can rest if tired or out of form. (C) I'm not playing.
(NB Any speculation in this post is not connected with or will influence my role on the Olympiad Technical Administration Panel)
I only discovered this cartoon because my new reader throws up anything with chess in the title/body. While the author isn't sure that is is really how Australian's talk while playing chess, I've certainly heard this joke on a number of occasions ("Check, mate", "No it isn't", "Sorry, I was just trying to be friendly").
It is very easy to get sidetracked while travelling the world wide web. Earlier today I noticed a story on the 50 Greatest Movies of All Time (Sight & Sound magazine), and I wondered what the greatest chess movies were. Plugging in my query into the very trusty google, I discovered the top result was a previous post on this very blog! Fortunately the second result turned up something far more interesting.
"The Great Chess Movie". It is a Canadian documentary made in 1982, and covers the chess scene both from an historical and contemporary (1970's) point of view. The film 'stars' Fischer, Korchnoi and Karpov, along with a host of other chess players included in the footage.
I'm a little surprised that I don't seem to remember this film, although this may be case of forgotten discovery, rather than not knowing about it at all. If you wish to view it someone has helpfully put it up on youtube (in three parts). The first part is here, and there are links to the other parts from this page.
I've been working through some Bishop endings with my son, and we both found the position in the diagram quite challenging. It is a study by Gorgiev, and it contains a couple of tactical points. I'm not going to give the game away, but a helpful clue is that it isn't just about promoting the pawn.
(An interesting aside. I fed the position into my engine, and it seems to come up with an alternative first move, giving the same evaluation as the solution. I wonder if this study is cooked, or is Stockfish missing something deeper?)
There was a post on the Susan Polgar blog the other day which contained a list of the top 50 chess blogs. Chessexpress came in at no. 22 which kind of surprised me, as I thought I would be lucky to make the top 50 at all.
It turns out the list was compiled by the blogshares website, which is not a ranking site, but a kind of online trading game. Apparently this blog is valued at $34,000, but as blogshares points out, this is not real money. So for now I am a loss about how the whole thing works, although I really should read the FAQ. But it is kind of nice to be ranked so highly, even if I don't quite know why!
Just thought I'd close the book on the 2012 British Championship. At the end of the 11 rounds GM Gawain Jones and GM Stephen Gordon had tied for first, which meant a playoff the following day. These things can often be a battle of nerves, and this is how it looked from here ("forgot how to play chess" was a comment from Gawain post-playoff).
Gawain managed to win the playoff 2-0 although I suspect it was all decided by the first game. Amazingly he lost his queen for a piece, but with the title on the line continued to play on. As with these "Why doesn't my opponent resign?" positions, the longer the game, the more frustrating it becomes, and Gordon seemed to flounder a bit. Eventually Gawain co-ordinated his remaining pieces and even though material down for most of the game, conjured up a victory. I'm sure it was a demoralising loss for his opponent, and Gawain wrapped up the title with a much more straight forward win in the second game.
If you wish to play through the games they are still up at the tournament website.
Around every Olympics there is a debate about what sports 'belong' and which do not. When I was younger I was passionate about Chess being the equal to some sports that were in, but these days not so much. One of the reasons is that the Olympics are crowded enough as it is, and could probably do with a few sports getting cut (Trampolining, some of the odder cycling events, tug of war). Around the last Olympics I suggested that alongside the Summer and Winter Olympics, they have a Mind Sports and an xTreme Olympics in the intervening years, but no one has taken up (or even stolen as their own) this idea.
But I'm not the only one thinking about this idea. While Chess gets short shrift in the article, I do like his suggestions for other sports.
Once again I stretch the definition of a 'month' to include dates that are close to the month in question. At least the following game was only a day out, which is closer than some previous choices.
It contains some nice tactics towards the end, although Black really is the architect of his own doom.
Once again the game comes courtesy of ChessToday.
Mikhalevski,Victor (2519) - Gardner,Robert (2202) [E04])
7th International Edmonton CAN (6), 30.06.2012
A couple of weeks ago I was explaining to some non chessplayers (Go players in fact), about what makes Magnus Carlsen special. "He simply wins tournaments" was my basic argument, in that he won the games he needed to win, when he needed to win them (usually at the end of the tournament).
It turns out that this didn't happen at the Biel tournament, which finished a few days ago. He needed to win his last round game against Bacrot, but a draw allowed Wang Hao to finish a point in front by beating Giri.
However this also is an artifact of the 3-1-0 scoring system used. In the 'classical' scoring system Carlsen finished on +4, while Wang Hao finished on +3. However Wang Hao won 6 games and lost 3 (including both games against Carlsen), and wins earn 3 points.
Of course Carlsen himself has benefited from the same scoring system in other events, and I haven't heard any real complaints from players over this result of this tournament. But I wonder if anomalies like this occur again, the 'football' scoring systems will fall out of favour, and 50 years from now results from tournaments like these will be regarded as an 'oddity'.
There are two Australian representatives in the 2012 World Junior, which started yesterday in Athens, Greece. IM Andrew Brown is seeded 69th (out of 130 players), while Fedja Zulfic is seeded 97th. Browns seeding meant he was paired against 4th seed GM Richard Rapport, with the GM winning that game. Zulfic fared better, drawing his game against IM Ulvi Bajarani.
The event is over 13 rounds (2 more than the Olympiad btw), and live coverage is available from the tournament website.
GM Gawain Jones currently shares the lead with GM Stephen Gordon at the 2012 British Championship, with two rounds left to play. They are a point ahead of GM's Danny Gormally and David Howell.
In round 8 Jones found a nice way to finish his game against IM Jonathan Hawkins. The combination starts at move 40 and in the space of 5 moves Jones sacrifices all his pieces, with the exception of the queen, which is required to deliver checkmate.
Jones,Gawain C (2655) - Hawkins,Jonathan (2499)
British Championship The Parks, North Shields, ENG (8.1), 31.07.2012
The first important chess tournament I played in was the 1983 Australian Junior Championship. I'd only been playing tournament chess for about 6 months at that stage, but nonetheless, I felt like I was a 'real' chess player (in so much that I had stopped hanging my pieces).
However it turned out my play wasn't that great, and I managed to fight my way into equal last. It was a learning experience for me, and the lessons I learnt then did stick with me.
The following game is a good example. My opening theory was pretty shallow, and so I made it up as I went along. Of course it was mainly short term threats, and at some point I played a very crude Ng5, with the idea of forking on f7. Even when my opponent played Rf8, I took on f7, thinking there was no harm in it (2 pieces = R+P according to what I learnt). Then I got smashed. So badly in fact, that the game was published in the Canberra Times the next day (which did at least allow Paul Dunn to dig it up from their archives earlier this week).
Having been beaten so badly I felt I needed to take something away from the game. The lessons I took were
Two pieces are better than R+P in most situations
Moves like h3 in the opening are just a waste of time
BxN is almost never an equal exchange
Press,Shaun - Austin,David [C50]
AUS jr ch Canberra (7.14), 24.01.1983