Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013 Australian Player of the Year

In a non-Olympiad Year, picking one Australian player as a standout is just that little bit more difficult. These days it is the junior players (Under 16) who carry the flag for Australia on overseas events, while older players have the usual worries about study/work/family to keep them tied to these shores. But even on the domestic scene honours seemed shared about, with a few young players (eg Anton Smirnov and Karl Zelesco) moving to the next level, but no one completely dominating the local scene.
But there was one player who had a number of significant performances in 2013, which placed him ahead of the pack. IM (then still FM) Bobby Cheng started the year with a win in the Australian Open, ahead of a strong field. He had solid performances in the Doeberl Cup and the Sydney International Open, before scoring 10/11 in the 2013 Victorian Championship. Later in the year he scored 6.5/9 in the World Under 16 Olympiad, and finished off the year with a 4th placing in the 2013 Australasian Masters. He was awarded his IM title in May, all the while juggling his schooling.
So for 2013, IM Bobby Cheng is the Chessexpress Australian Player of the Year.

Miezis,Normunds (2554) - Cheng,Bobby (2440) [A10]
2013 Australasian Masters GM Melbourne (8.5), 21.12.2013

Monday, 30 December 2013

Next years Xmas gift?

A little late for Santa Clause this year, but I just saw a possible, if expensive, gift for next year. Saccomatto Chess Candles are large (15-30cm) candles in the shape of chess pieces. They are produced by Seletti Botique, which are based in that well known chess locale, Queenstown, New Zealand. However, at $134 a piece, it might be a little pricey, and even if I did get one as a gift, I'd probably refuse to set fire to them.
But they are nice to look at, so if you are interested, you can find out more here.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A photo challenge

From the just completed World Youth Championship in Al-Ain. Who is the well known chess personality in this picture? And for a bonus point, who is the Grandmaster sitting beside him?

Chess Movies - Updated

While the TV series "Endgame" is the latest entry in 'Chess as a plot driver' canon, Chessbase has provided an up to date list of chess movies. Some on the list are both famous and obvious eg 'Chess Fever' or 'The Luzhin Defence' there are a few that I am less familiar with. A few of these are foreign language (ie non-English) movies, but there are some English language movies I have not seen.
The list is here, and includes a couple of films that are yet to reach the cinema.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Stalemate for the win?

Every now and then there is a proposal to award a win to a player who stalemates his opponent. Such proposals do get considered, but always rejected. One of the main reasons is simply that established end game would be upended, while another reason is the weight of history.
But history has changed in this area, as stalemate was once considered the equal of checkmate (as was 'bare king'). The shown position comes from the 9th Century and is given as White to play and win. Assuming that Stalemate wins, can you find a quick victory for White? Is there still a win for White if you had to avoid Stalemate? If you find both, which is more interesting?

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Miniature of the Month - November 2013

A slight change of pace this month. Rather than going for the highest rated players I could find, I've instead aimed for greater experience. This months game comes from the 2013 World Seniors Championship, and the winner is a player whose surname looks nearly the same as mine (just a coincidence I assure you).

Pressl,Harald (1802) - Trtanj,Zoran (1986) [B13]
23rd World Seniors Opatija CRO (7.88), 19.11.2013

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Post Xmas Action

I hope everyone had a nice Christmas, and received suitable presents from Santa. But with that out of the way, it is back to the serious business of chess. The post Xmas period sees a couple of events starting, and a few already in progress.
Confining my list to the big ones, firstly there is the Groningen tournament which kicked off a few days ago. There is an Open event, and a couple of other subsidiary tournaments. Click on the above link for reports.
The traditional Hastings event starts on the 28th. Like Groningen it has an Open Swiss, and a number of other events.
Closer to home the Australian Championship starts on the 2nd January 2014. The championship proper has already attracted a very strong field, including a number of overseas players.
And because people keep asking me, there will be Street Chess this Saturday (28 December) at the usual time of 11am in City Walk, Canberra City,

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

It was the hack before Christmas

and all through the hall, not a creature was stirring, except for the pieces getting chopped of at regular intervals.
Keeping up with my sometime tradition, I've dug up another game played on Xmas Eve. This one comes from 2008, and Caruana does a number on Vallejo Pons. But it takes two players to create a masterpiece, and Vallejo Pons deserve a share of the credit for meeting fire with fire. Enjoy!

Caruana,F (2640) - Vallejo Pons,F (2664) [B90]
Magistral Pamplona ESP (3), 24.12.2008

Monday, 23 December 2013

This years Xmas gifts

I've tried to avoid too much Xmas shopping this year, and as a result I have a very short list of Xmas gifts for the chess player in your family.
For someone just starting out "Playing Chess: Step by Step" by Gary Lane might be a sensible purchase. One reason I am recommending it is that I cam across it bundled up with a glass chess set and board at my local shopping mall, and I suspect it is possibly available at a number of discount book operations that pop up around this time of year.
If you can track them down, a couple of old-ish chess movies might make a nice gift. Both "Searching for Bobby Fischer" and "Luzhin's Defence" come highly recommended, while "Black and White like Day and Night" could establish your 'art house' cred.
As for boards I'm certainly not suggesting the dead mouse chess set. I have seen a 'pop up' chess set in a couple of shops (DIY cardboard I'm guessing) while the old standby of the shot glass set might still appeal.
And finally, if you really want to give someone a surprise, but useful gift, entering them into the Doeberl Cup without their knowledge might just be it. Given how disorganised chess players are, this may be the only way they get to play!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

2013 Australasian Master - Final results

The final round of the 2013 Australasian Masters threw up some surprising results, leaving a couple of players shocked and/or disappointed with the outcome. GM Normund Miezes had been leading the GM event from the start, and  with 3 rounds to go was on 5.5/6. However he managed only half a point after that, drawing with Anton Smirnov, before losing consecutive games to IM Bobby Cheng and IM Max Illingworth. This allowed Vasily Papin to close the gap, and the two players tied for 1st on 6/9.
Having beaten Meizes in round 8, Cheng then ended Anton Smirnov's chance of an IM norm by beating him in round 9. This allowed Cheng to overtake Smirnov, and tie with Illingworth as the best placed Australian players in 4th place.
The IM tournament was a little more straightforward, with Chris Wallis and Karl Zelesco tieing for first place with an impressive 7/9. The score was sufficient for Zelesco to score an IM norm, although apparently Wallis missed out, ironically due to his own high rating (ie While Zelescos ARO includes Wallis, Wallis can't  his own rating meaning his AOR is too low.) Of the other players in this event Bob Smith finished third with 6/7, while IM's Brown and Smirnov tied for 4th on 5.5

Saturday, 21 December 2013

2013 ACT Rapidplay Championship

The last ACT Chess Association event of the year, the 2013 ACT Rapidplay Championship, was held today. Once again it was held outdoors, under the shade of the trees outside King O'Malley's in the centre of Canberra.
The event attracted 31 players, with the containing a mix of rapidplay veterans, up and coming junior players, and a few  old hands making a return after a number of years. As previous winners like GM David Smerdon, IM Andrew Brown and FM Junta Ikeda were out of town, it was a wide open event.
After 7 rounds, Wenlin Yin emerged as the winner on 6.5. In second place was Roger Farrell on 6 (only losing to Yin), with Willis Lo and Harry Press tied for third on 5/7. Aelfric Gardiner-Garden returned from a year away from chess to win the Under 1700 prize, while the Under 1000 prize was shared between Blair Morris, Ryan Harder, Daniel Kent, and William Rumley (just 7 years old!), on 3 points. Special mention should also go to Steven Sengstock, who bounced back from a very serious bike accident a couple of months ago, to finish on 4.5, losing only to the first and second place getters.

Friday, 20 December 2013

How much would you pay to play in a chess tournament?

An interesting new(-ish) tournament idea from the US. GM Maurice Ashley is behind a $1,000,000 tournament title "Millionaire Chess". It is planned for Las Vegas in October next year and offers a total prize fund of a million dollars.
The obvious intention behind the tournament is to try and bring some of the excitement and money of Poker to the chess board. Along with the poker sized prize fund is of course a poker sized entry fee. And this is the kicker, as the entry fee is $1000. So the gamble for the organisers is finding enough chess players with $1000 (plus enough to cover travel expenses) who would find such a tournament worthwhile.
Certainly 20 years ago I would have said that the organisers would have had no hope of attracting enough entries. And while I think the odds are still not in their favour, I do think they have a better chance of succeeding now. While chess players are still quite tight fisted, I sense that more average players  are willing to spend some extra cash to play an event, as long as the event is worth it. In part this is due to the rise in living standards in parts of the world, but it also a function of a growing chess population.
Whether this is enough to make this event go ahead (as the organisers have put some conditions on it taking place), I'm not entirely sure, but as one commentator said ,"either this event will be a huge flop, or it will change chess forever!"

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Dead mouse chess set

I've been trying to avoid this story all week, as it kind of creeps me out. However, the delivery of a dead mouse by my cat in the early hours of the morning must seems to be some sort of sign from the universe.
Rachael Garcia, a Florida based Taxidermist, has made a chess set out of dead mice. It is a complete set, using the stuffed corpses of 32 rodents, and the major pieces are even adorned with crowns and other identifying paraphernalia. The mouse came from a breeding facility that normally provides frozen mice as reptile feed, but I'm not sure that the fact that (a) they were going to be eaten by snakes and (b) they were already dead, makes it any better.
Of course this intention was that it functions as an art piece, and has already been sold for $450. In the above interview Garcia recognises that such a work polarises opinions, so as an artist I guess she has succeeded in producing a successful work. Just don't buy me one for Christmas.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

World Youth 2013

One of the biggest chess tournaments in the world starts this evening in Al Ain, UAE. The 2013 World Youth Championship has attracted 1850 players , competing in Girls and Open events from Under 8 years up until Under 18 years. The Under 18 Open section has attracted field that would put most international opens to shame, with GM Jorge Core as the top seed, and 9 players rated over 2500.
Australia has sent an 11 player squad, while New Zealand, Fiji, Guam and Palau are the other Oceania countries sending  players.
The first round is supposed to start around now, but due to the load on the webserver I have not been able to find the live games link. Hopefully I will be able to update this post when I do.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Sir John Cornforth (1917-2013)

Sir John Conforth, winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, has passed away at the age of 96. He was born in Sydney in 1917, but spent a substantial amount of his life in the UK.
While best known as a research chemist, he was also a fine chess player when he was younger. He played in the 1936 Australian Champion in Perth, scoring at least 6 wins, as well as the inaugural (1937) Australian Correspondence Chess Championship. He did this while completing his studies as an undergraduate at the University of Sydney, and while suffering the final stages of otosclerosis, which resulted in total hearing loss.
He maintained a strong connection with the Correspondence Chess League of Australia, and was a life member of the CCLA.

Goldstein,Maurice Edward - Cornforth,John W [E28]
AUS ch Perth (9.2), 07.01.1937

Monday, 16 December 2013

Chess in Canberra over Christmas

Like most of Australia, club chess in Canberra takes a break over Christmas. A couple of clubs have already finished for the year, but for the keen player there is still enough chess to keep either occupied, or away from the family, for some of the holidays.
Belconnen Chess Club is holding its Xmas Blitz tomorrow night, Tuesday 17 December. The club meets  at the Natsem Building on Hayden Drive, Bruce (across from the University of Canberra) from 7pm. The blitz will either be a round robin or a swiss, depending upon numbers, and is the last evening event in Canberra for the year.
On Saturday, 21st December, the ACTCA will be holding the 2013 ACT Rapidplay Championship. It will be held in City Walk, Canberra City, outside King O'Malley's/Chicken Gourmet (at the usual Street Chess venue). It starts at 11am and has a guaranteed first prize of $100. Entry fee is $10 for adults and $5 for juniors. It is a 7 round swiss with a time limit of G/15m.
Of course Street Chess will be running over the Christmas break, with tournaments every Saturday from 11am in City Walk, Canberra City. And if previous years are anything to go by, the tournament that happens between Christmas and New Year will once again be very popular.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Saved by touch move

Street Chess got off to a tough start yesterday (at least for me) when I found myself in the bottom half of the draw. As a result I needed more than my fair share of luck to try and stay on the plus side of the scoreboard. It turned out I was helped by the touch move rule in not one two games, giving me wins in both cases.
The first case is shown in the diagram to the right. I was playing Black, and in the position played Qg6+. The idea was to play lots of checks, pick up a few white pawns and see whether I could get anything more than a draw. However after the check on g5 my opponent followed through with his intended move, which was Rxh6+. While this is obviously illegal, it also had the unfortunate side effect of requiring him to move the rook to block the check. As this lost a rook on the spot he resigned.
In the second case (not shown), I had captured a piece on a6 (I was white), and my opponent captured with the rook. After I attacked to rook on a6 it retreated to a8. I then built up an attacking position on the kingside, which my opponent decide to avoid with O-O-O. However, as the rook had moved to a6 and back this was illegal, and my opponent had to play another king move. He could have castled kingside (this option was still legal), but fearing my play down the g file, chose Kf8 instead. This did not help and my attack soon brought home the point.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

2013 Australasian Masters

The Australian/Australasian Masters has been held fairly regularly since 1987. Some years has seen it held as a local event, while other years has seen it run as an international event, with title norms on offer.
This years event has taken a step up, running two events, and offering GM norms in the top section. The 2013 Australasian Masters GM event has 4 GM's and 4 IM's in the 10 player field. Top seed is Latvian GM Normunds Miezis, with Russian GM Valery Papin second seed. Vietnamese GM Tu Hoang Thong returns, having won the event in 1995, while inaugural GM Daryl Johansen is the 4th GM in the tournament.
The IM tournament is headed by Russian IM Vladimir Smirnov, while Andrew Brown and Mirko Rujevic are the other two IM's in the field.
The first round of both tournaments was held today, and the event runs until the 22nd of December. Each round starts at 4pm and live coverage of all games, plus tournament results, can be found at the Box Hill Chess Club website.

Miezis,Normunds - Li,Luke [C01]
2013 Australasian Masters Melbourne, 14.12.2013

Friday, 13 December 2013

Running a school chess championship

I spent today helping run the Amaroo School Chess Championship. It was open to students from 4th grade up to Year 10 (it is a K-10 School) and attracted around 90 players. The bulk of players were in the younger age bracket but it was still nice to get 20+ players from the High School students.
While there were enough sets to cope with the number of players, we had to be inventive with the clocks. The system used was to start the round without clocks and after 20 minutes, put clocks on any games still going. The time left to complete the game was 5m each, meaning that each round lasted around 30 minutes. There were no problems with this method, and at most we needed 5 clocks to finish any particular round. Most players were happy to move reasonably quickly, and I only had 1 complaint of a player 'sitting' on their position.
We only had time for 6 rounds, and it was a close run thing to see if we could find a single winner. The number of perfect scores went 40->20->10->5->2 after each round. The loss by one of the players on 4/4 against someone on 3/4 avoided the need for a later playoff. However there was still a huge tie for second place (9 players on 5/6), with the minor awards being distributed by tie-break.
This years winner was Vivian Lam, the second year in a row that the tournament has been won by a female player (Jennifer Ton won last year). This is not that much of a surprise as Amaroo does a lot to encourage girls chess, as well as the fact that around half the field were female.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

New FIDE Arbiters Manual

The FIDE Arbiters Commission have just released their new Arbiters Manual. Essentially it is a collection of the major documents that any qualified arbiter needs to use in running/directing a tournament, interspersed with explanatory comments. While the majority of the documents are simply collected from the FIDE handbook, the commentary is original content supplied by members of the FIDE Arbiters Commission.
As it is the first release of this manual, it does have a few errors it, although these will be fixed in the 2014 edition. It is of course a valuable resource for any practising arbiter, especially as it reduces the need to go hunting through different sources for Rules, Norm Forms, Tie-Break methods etc
Even if you aren't an arbiter I still recommend having a look through it (especially the Laws of Chess section), as it will provide an insight in how arbiters will interpret some of the more contentious rules.
The document is in pdf format and can be download from here.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

2013 London Chess Classic

This years London Chess Classic sees a change in format, with the Super-GM tournament giving way to a larger rapidplay event. The 16 player event sees 4 groups of 4 playing a 6 round double round robin, with the top 2 from each group going through to a knockout final. 14 players were invited to the rapidplay, with the other 2 slots going to the highest placed players after the first 4 rounds of the concurrent FIDE Swiss tournament. Emil Sutovsky and Andrei Istratescu were the qualifiers with 4/4, although the odds were in their favour, as in case of a tie then the highest rated players would qualify (NB in this case Sutovsky and Istratescu were the only players on 4).
Live coverage of the event can be found at the tournament website. The Rapidplay begins tonight/early tomorrow, starting at 1am Canberra time.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

My oldest novelty?

I was somewhat fortunate to win my game of chess tonight. In the spirit of the season my opponent missed a simple pin and gave me a piece quite early on. But what I found interesting about the game was that we had followed some old opening theory for quite a while. This was mainly due to the fact that I tried to play the Dutch against 1.Nf3 and my opponent then wheeled out 2.e4 (the Lisitsin Gambit) to put me on the spot. Despite having never played the Latvian Gambit in a serious game before I decided to meet gambit with gambit and played 2. ... e5. Certainly I was in uncharted waters but my opponent said that the Latvian is an occupational hazard if you play the Lisitsin (as he does).
Despite my unfamiliarity with it all we managed to follow theory for a reasonable number of moves ( 3.Nxe5 Qf6 4.d4 d6 5.Nc4 fxe4 6.Nc3 Bf5 7.Ne3 c6 8.d5 Nd7 9.Be2 ) before I finally stumbled upon a new move. 9. ...Ne7N was what I found, but I suspect it doesn't improve upon previous theory. However it does seem to be the first new move in this line since 1876. Doing a bit of checking, this may be the oldest line that I have played a new move in, although I would probably need to do some more exhaustive research to be sure.
For interest sake the original game went   9...Be7 10.0-0 Nh6 11.f3 exf3 12.Bxf3 Qe5 13.dxc6 bxc6 14.Bxc6 Rd8 15.Qh5+ Bg6 16.Ned5 Nf5 17.Nc7+ Kf8 18.Qf3 Nf6 19.Bd5 Nd4 20.Qf2 Rc8 21.Bf4 Qh5 22.Ne6+ Nxe6 23.Bxe6 Rc5 24.Rad1 Salvioli-D'Aumiller,A/Venetie 1876/1-0 so at least I scored a better result than D'Aumiller.

Monday, 9 December 2013


Pay-TV in Australia has just started showing the Canadian TV series, Endgame. It is about a former World Champion Arkady Balagan, who becomes a detective, after his fiancée is killed. In the tradition of Nero Wolf, he does not leave the hotel (due to Agoraphobia), and so requires others to gather evidence for him.
The first episode was quite interesting, although the ending seemed a little rushed. The creators of the series have resisted the temptation to play Balagan as the 'crazy' Grandmaster (agoraphobia notwithstanding), but they do give him a healthy does of arrogance. As for the chess content, there wasn't a lot, but at least they didn't muck it up.
The series was made in 2011, but only 13 episodes were produced. There was talk of it coming back at a later time, but this has been ruled out by the producers. If you do have Foxtel in Australia, it is being shown at 7:30pm on Monday nights on FX, and I'm sure it will be repeated at various times during the week.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Richard Morton (1939-2013)

Richard Morton, a regular on the Canberra chess scene in the 1990's, passed away last week. He was a member of the Belconnen Chess Club, and was one of the strongest players at the club.
Born in England in 1939, he moved to Canberra in the late 1970's, working with the CSIRO as a researcher in mathematics and statistics. He joined the Belconnen Chess Club in the early 1990's and played there for around a decade. Suffering from poor eyesight since birth, he eventually had to retire from active chess, not due to a decline in ability, but due to difficulty in getting to and from the chess club at night. Nonetheless he still maintained an active interest in the game, often chatting to me about what was happening in the world of chess when our paths crossed.
Away from the chess board he had a successful career as a mathematician, rising to the level of Senior Researcher at the CSIRO. He was also played Bridge in his spare time, and had a great love for music. He is survived by his wife and 4 children.

Morton,Richard - Rout,Ian Clive [B20]
Premier Belconnen Premier (4), 1997

Saturday, 7 December 2013

When to keep thinking

The diagrammed position is from a book I recently acquired. It was used to demonstrate a point about calculation and thinking, and is White to play and ...
Of course if I told you the desired result that would make the problem far easier, but even now I've already given you a big clue. But this kind of illustrates the point I'm trying to make, in that we often don't know when to keep thinking.
If we know the problem to solve, we will try and find a solution. If we don't, we are often happier with a lesser one. And sometimes, just thinking about a problem, without knowing our goal, helps us recognise that a better solution may be obtainable.
It turns out the best line in this position isn't very long, but it might be hard to spot the key idea. Of course if the position just before the key move was required was presented it would be a far easier problem. So the solution does not so much hinge on the key move, but instead knowing one is required!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Hooray for the underdog

From the final round of the World Teams Championship comes the following game. On paper Vladimir Kramnik should have had no trouble beating Egyptian IM Mohamed Ezat, but as the game was not played on paper, it turned out quite different. Ezat, who is well known to Canberra players after playing in the 2000 Australian Open, even tried a speculative queen sacrifice out of the opening. It was a sacrifice in the true sense of the word, as he never recovered the queen, although he eventually ended up with enough material to more than make up for it. After a very long battle the game ended in a draw, which turned out to be significant for tournament standings, as it gave Russia the half point needed to secure outright first place (they beat Egypt 2.5-1.5).
Russia finished with 15 match points, one ahead of China, with Ukraine in third place.

Kramnik,Vladimir (2793) - Ezat,Mohamed (2454) [A14]
World Teams Antalya TUR (9.1), 05.12.2013

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Have tablets killed the computer chess market?

Chess Computers used to be quite the thing. The ability to have your own portable opponent was a big selling point for chess computers, ever since they hit the market in the early 1980's. Such was their popularity, they were usually the profit drivers for many chess businesses, especially as the target market was the casual player, rather than the serious, but parsimonious, regular chess competitor.
However the rise of the PC probably put a dent in the market, with software becoming more important than hardware. However there was still plenty of money to be made in writing a good chess playing program, and they still sold well.
But I suspect the rise of the tablet/smart phone has even wounded this market. All the advantages of a chess computer are now encompassed by portable devices, and the availability of cheap/free programs means that you don't have to look far for a testing opponent. Of course this is great for the consumer, but not so much for the developer. There are still a few dedicated products out there (eg the cheap 'touch chess computers' you can get from Dick Smith, or this piece of kit from Chess Baron), but unless they are competing on price with more general devices, I can't see them grabbing much of a market share.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

A pretty (cheap) trap

I played a game this evening at the ANU Chess Club that was essentially decided by a pretty cheap trap. But having looked at it afterwards, even if White avoids the worst of it, Black still has enough for the pawn.
1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.d3?! c6!? (This is the start of the trap) 4.Nf3 d5 5.exd5 cxd5 6.Nxe5? d4 (This is the idea behind 3. .. c6). In the game White went wrong straight away with 7.Ne2?? Qa5+ 8.Bd2 Qxe5 -+, but even after the best reply 7.Qe2 Be7 Black is still slightly better.
So while the win of the piece might be 'cheap', the line itself may have some merit. The only issue is that the position after White's third move would be so rare, that you might go some time before you get a chance to play it.

Monday, 2 December 2013

The earliest perpetual

Imagine you are looking for a quick draw (as is your opponent), but you are playing under the Sofia/Corsica/No agreed Draws before move X rules. From the starting position, what is quickest way to draw by perpetual check? (NB Both sides have to co-operate to get to the position, and if you did it in a real game, you would run the risk of a double default!)

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Holding Rook v Rook+Bishop (or tl;dr)

Rook v Rook and Bishop is one of those endings which is almost always drawn in theory, but often lost in practice. I only had the ending once, on the defending side, and although I managed to hold out for 50 moves before getting mated, it was when FIDE had extended the '50 move rule' to 75 moves for this specific ending.
So it is often the case that the ending is reached, and the stronger side will play on, in the hope (or expectation) that the defender will slip up. And when they do, the game often appears in a magazine or blog with a comment about how hard it is to hold (or even worse, point out that there was a mate in 22, according to their tablebase).
So to balance the scales, I have picked a very recent game from the World Teams Championship. Lev Aronian captures Mamedov's last pawn on move 77, reaching RB v R. But Mamedov knows what to do and successfully holds out for the next 50 moves, before the draw is claimed. Although it is quite a long game, it might be worth playing through, if you want to pick up the correct defensive ideas.

Aronian,Levon (2801) - Mamedov,Rauf (2647) [E60]
World Teams 2013 Antalya TUR (5.4), 30.11.2013

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Questions I just cannot answer

There was a question about the rules that was raised at today's Street Chess event. "Can I claim two minutes for an illegal move after my opponent has lost on time?"
I'm pretty sure the FIDE Rules and Tournament Regulations Commission will not be addressing this one any time soon.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Shifting Models

I've subscribed to Chess Vibes Openings (CVO) over the years, but the latest issue (No. 256) is also its last. CVO was a weekly newsletter which surveyed the latest in opening theory, mixing deep analysis and statistical observations. It focused on the top players at high level events, with the idea of following the latest opening trends.
However the reason why the issue is the final one has something to do with money, but not in the normal, pessimistic way (ie lack of sales). Instead the parent body of CVO, ChessVibes has been bought out by chess.com. As a result there have been some obvious consolidation of products, with CVO being absorbed by chess.com's own Master Bulletin.
This may in fact be a precursor to the next stage of monetization of online chess products. The bigger players in the market may by up the more successful, but smaller operations, leaving the rest to struggle on. While this has been a growing trend in the computer application market over the last few years, applying the same ideas to content hasn't been that common. I guess a big test will be if someone comes up with something new in the chess market (eg a better way of presenting live games) and then see who scoops it up.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Returning from Chennai

Having spent two days in meetings and conversations I am about to head home from Chennai. Sadly I missed all the World Championship activities, as it looked like it was an incredibly successful event. Certainly the hotel it was held in was very nice, and everyone I spoke to had nothing but praise for the Indian organisers.
One of the more interesting people I met while here was Andrew Paulson, current President of the English Chess Federation. He was also behind the organisation of the last Candidates tournament, and the recently completed FIDE Grand Prix series. He had a number of interesting ideas about how chess should be presented in the digital age, especially on the importance of commentators in selling chess to the non-playing (although still engaged) audience. He is still working on putting some of these ideas into practice and hopefully there will be new developments in the near future.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

When tricks don't work

Of the 6 decisive games from the World Teams Championship (from a total of 20 games), not a single one was won by White. Looking through them, I saw at least two games where White 'thought' they were winning, only to see the line chosen blow up in their faces.
In the game below White must have thought he had found a clever way of winning a pawn with 16.Nxd5 (as 16. ... Qxb5 fails to 17.Nxf6+). But 16. ... Qza2 was a rude awakening, as suddenly the exposed White king is caught in a cross fire of checks, and White is just lost.

Abdel,Razik Khaled - Meier,Georg [D37]
World Teams 2013 Antalya TUR (1.1), 26.11.2013

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

The instant chess book

I've often thought that these were a thing of the past, but there will be an 'instant' chess book on the 2013 Anand-Carlsen World Championship Match. The most famous of these is undoubtedly the book by Svetazor Gligoric on the 1972 Fischer v Spassky Match, where his notes were flown from Iceland to England after each game, for typesetting. Of course in these modern times the moves are easy to come by, so I'm a little surprised we don't see more of it.
(NB I'm not advertising this book, as much as pointing out it will shortly exist)

Monday, 25 November 2013

Off to Chennai

In what is clearly a case of unfortunate timing, I am heading off to Chennai, India this morning, to see, well to see the packing up of the 2013 World Championship. The actual reason for the visit is a meeting of regional (Oceania, Asia etc) chess administrators, to discuss issues concening world chess, and to look at development opportunities in the future (NB This is not being paid for by FIDE. It is being paid for by the Kirsan 2014 election campaign). Of course seeing some of the World Championship was to be part of the visit, but the match didn't last the full 12 games (obviously this cant't be planned for).
As the closing ceremony is taking place today, I may be able to catch the tail end of the festivities, although my very late evening arrival will probably even preclude that.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Some random observations on Transfer

Things I noticed at today's ACT Junior Chess League Transfer tournament (Bughouse to non-Australians)

  • Baker's Attack (1.Nf3 2.Ne5 3.Nxf7) still works like a charm
  • As Black 1.e4 Nf6 (intending Ne4xf2) was met by 2.Nc3 on at least 4 occasions!
  • The use of digital clocks take the fun out of 'sitting'
  • Too many players fail to use the pieces in front of them
  • Young players today are too polite to offer 'helpful' advice to their opponents
  • At least one team asked for a printed copy of the rules for transfer. I got quite an angry response when I said that the rules weren't printed, but passed down from generation to generation
  • If you keep checking, eventually you will find a mate
  • Too many young players play 'real' chess, missing the point of the game
  • But they do understand the 'fun' aspect of the game, and everyone had a good time

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Normal service is now resumed

Understandably the main focus of the chess world in recent weeks has been the 2013 World Championship Match. But now that it is over, other events are ready to pop up. The next big event is the World Teams Championship, which is being held in Antalya, Turkey, starting on the 24th November. This event is a 10 team round robin, consisting of the top finishers from the previous Olympiad, as well as the best teams from each FIDE Continent.
Interestingly, this event comes quite soon after the completion of the European Team Championship, which was won by Azerbaijan. As 7 of the 10 teams in the WTC are from Europe, this event may be a kind on re-run of that event (with USA, China and Egypt thrown in). If it is, one team looking for a bit of payback will be Armenia, who finished just short of first place in the ETCC after drawing 2-2 with Azerbaijan in the final round.
Coverage of the event can be found at http://wctc2013.tsf.org.tr/ and if it is as good as the coverage provided for the 2012 Olympiad, then it should be a pleasure to watch,

Carlsen - World Chmpion

Magnus Carlsen has become the new World Champion after a draw in the 10th game of the 2013 World Championship Match. The 22 year old secured the title by a score of 6.5-3.5, scoring 3 wins, 7 draws and no losses.
Despite the talk around Chennai that this game would be a quick draw, the players fought all the way to the finish, with the game ending with K v K+N (which is an automatic draw under the Laws of Chess). As in previous games in the match, Carlsen obtained a risk free position from the opening, which allowed him to probe for weaknesses, while having the draw in hand. However the match situation meant that Anand was not going to offer a draw, and unlikely to accept one, as a draw would have ended the match in Carlsen's favour. This also accounted for Carlsen's somewhat 'automatic' choice on Move 30, when 30.Nc3 would have given him a bigger advantage.
There was some excitement towards the end of the game as Carlsen decided sacrifice his knight for 3 pawns. On the surface this looked like a risky plan, but it quickly became clear that the position was simply draw.
The match hands the World Championship title to a younger generation, although whether the title belongs to Carlsen exclusively will be decided by the next few matches.

Carlsen,Magnus (2870) - Anand,Viswanathan (2775) [B51]
WCh 2013 Chennai IND (10), 22.11.2013

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Carlsen wins a dramatic Game 9 of the 2013 World Championship Match

Magnus Carlsen is half a point from becoming the new World Champion, after a dramatic ninth game of the 2013 World Championship. Realising this may have been his last chance to stage a comeback, Viswanathan Anand played a very sharp line against the Nimzo-Indian, throwing his kingside pawns up the board. Carlsen played for an advantage on the queenside, and the game turned on whether Anand could mate Carlsen on g7/h7 before Carlsen could queen his b pawn. However Anand miscalculated a crucial variation where he allowed Carlsen a second queen (with check!), and played the wrong blocking move. This allowed Carlsen a simple defensive move to halt Anand's attack, and after he realised how badly he blundered, Anand resigned.
Carlsen now leads the match 6-3, and half a point from any of the remaining games is enough for Carlsen to capture the title.

Anand,Viswanathan - Carlsen,Magnus [E25]
2013 World Championship Chennai, 22.11.2013

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

2013 ACTJCL Transfer tournament - this Sunday

The 2013 ACT Junior Chess League Transfer Tournament is on this Sunday (24th November). Although it is organised by the ACT Junior Chess League, it is open to players of all ages. The very successful event has been running for the past decade and usually attracts a large number of teams. But even if you don't have a team, just turn up anyway, as ad-hoc teams can be formed on the day.

Details are:

When: 25th November 2013 from 1pm to 5pm (register before 12:45pm)
Where: Campbell High School, Trealor Crescent, Campbell (next to the War Memorial)
Who: Teams of 2 players. No restriction on age or strength
Cost: $20 per team which includes a pizza dinner at the end! Individuals can pay $10 and a partner will be found for you.
Prizes: Trophies for best teams, as well as teams rated below 3000, 2000, 1000 etc Special prizes for best family teams, best girls team, oldest team etc etc

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

From opening to ending

Returning home from Belconnen Chess Club, I discovered that game 8 of the Anand - Carlsen World Championship match had already ended in a draw. I'm not sure how much dramatic tension there was in the game, but a quick play through suggested there wasn't much. With a single open file, balanced pawn structures, and the d4-d5 'ram', it was hardly surprising that bits were exchanged at regular intervals. Even the final position seemed to make a statement about how drawn this game really was.
So Carlsen maintains his 2 point lead, and with 4 games to go , his chances of becoming the new World Champion increase. I guess the one thing he needs to guard against is complacency, as any soccer pundit is apt to tell you, two goal leads are often the hardest to defend.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Carlsen moves closer to the title

With a maximum of 5 games left to play, Magnus Carlsen has moved within 2 points of the World Championship title. After winning games 5 and 6, Carlsen drew game 7, to maintain a two point lead. The games was the third Ruy Lopez (Berlin Defence) in the last 4 games, and after neither player was able to gain a clear advantage in the middle game, a repetition of position ended the game on move 32.
However the previous two games were much more dramatic, with Carlsen winning both. After a solid start to the match, Carlsen was able to play the positions he excels at, and converted nominally equal endings into wins. In both cases he kept pushing and probing until some slight inaccuracies from Anand allowed Carlsn to find the winning plan.

Anand,V (2775) - Carlsen,M (2870) [C65]
WCh 2013 Chennai IND (6), 16.11.2013

Sunday, 17 November 2013

2013 Vikings Weekender - Day 2

IM Gary Lane cruised to a fairly comfortable victory in the 2013 Vikings Weekender. He started the day with a win over his father-in-law, FM Brian Jones and then defeated FM Endre Ambrus in round 6. A very quick draw against second seed IM Vladimir Smirnov in the final round was enough the secure outright first on 5.5/7. In second place was FM Anton Smirnov, who beat Wenlin Yin in the final round to reach 5 points. The loss dropped Yin back to 5th place, but he did have the satisfaction of beating IM Andrew Brown in round 6. Brown and Vladimir Smirnov finished in a tie for third on 4.5/7.
Sunny Yoon and Sankeertan Badrinarayan shared first place in the Minor (Under 1600) tournament. Going into the final round there were 7 players tied for first, and there was a possibility of a 9 way(!) tie, if the results went a certain way. As it turned out Yoon and Badrinarayan were the only players in the leading group to win their games, while draws left Mitchell Jones, Tim Pearce and Lachlan Smart sharing third place.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

2013 Vikings Weekender - Day 1

"Suppose they held a chess tournament, and only the good players turned up"
The 15 players who did enter the top section of the 2013 Vikings Weekender could be forgiven for thinking this, as the number of players is around half of what it was last year. Given the tournament still attracted 3 IM's, 2 WIM's and 3 FM's, the players that were missing came from the 1700 to 2000 rating group. Whether it is a general malaise that is effecting Canberra chess at the moment I'm not sure, but the same group of players seem to be missing from other chess activities around town.
The net result is that while the tournament is small, it is now a lot tougher. Four players share the lead on 3/4, IM Gary Lane, IM Andrew Brown, FM Endre Ambrus, and Michael Kethro. FM Anton Smirnov is on 2.5, while IM Vladimir Smirnov, FM Brian Jones, WIM Emma Guo and WIM Nancy Lane are all in the group on 2 points.
On the other hand, the turnout for the Under 1600 indicates that there is greater enthusiasm for tournament chess among the younger set. The 33 player field is larger than last year, and contains a number of dangerous junior players. Nine year old Ryan Lane (son of Gary & Nancy Lane) scored the biggest upset by defeating the top seed in round 1. But while the junior players are causing havoc on the lower boards, wily veteran Sunny Yoon still leads the tournament on 4/4.
The final 3 rounds are being played tomorrow, at the Tuggeranong Vikings Ruby Union Club, Ricardo St Wanniassa. Round 5 starts at 10:30am, and apart from the chess, Australian Chess Enterprises is operating a bookstall.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Vikings Weekender tomorrow

Off to the Vikings Weekender tomorrow. At the moment the entry list is creeping past the 40 player mark, although above 60 players is what the organisers would really be hoping for. The top end of the tournament will be quite strong with a couple of IM's and a couple of FM's looking to pick up the $1000 first prize, but there should be enough minor prizes to keep everyone on there toes.
If you still planning to play, but have not entered as yet, you should get to the venue before 10am. First round is at 10:30am so do the organisers a favour and get your entry in early.
The details for the event are:

2013 Tuggeranong Vikings Weekender
Venue: Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo Street, Waniassa, ACT
Sections: Open, Minor (Under 1600)
No of rounds: 7 (4 on Staurday, 3 on Sunday)
Time limit: G/60m+10s
Entry Fee: $65, $45 concession
Prizes: Open 1st $1000, Minor 1st $500 Other prizes based on entries
Website: http://nickbeare.com/vikings/

(Note: I am a paid official for this event)

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Another exciting draw

Game 4 of the 2013 World Championship ended in another exciting draw, although this time it was Anand who had to hang on. Once again the key moment occurred just before the first time control, when Carlsen had the chance cement an advantage, but only if he spotted all the tactics after 36. ... Rd8. After that Anand was able to generate enough counterplay to win back a pawn, but he still needed to find the best moves to halve the game. Fittingly the game was drawn on move 64.

Anand,Viswanathan (2775) - Carlsen,Magnus (2870) [C67]
WCh 2013 Chennai IND (4), 13.11.2013

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The young Fischer

Once again I am posting before Game 4 of the 2013 World Championship Match has finished. Regardless of the result the talking point is going to be Carlsen's 18th move. Carlsen seemed to be channelling the ghost of Bobby Fischer in deciding to take the a pawn with his bishop (cf Game 1 Spassky Fischer 1972). At first glance it looked like the bishop was trapped after b3, but c4 was enough to save it. As a result Carlsen was a pawn up, although his position is still passive. As I go to print Carlsen is still better (pawn up but defending), but more importantly the momentum seems to be in Carlsens direction. However all three results are on the table, so it is still too early to say if Carlsen's pawn grab is genius or impetuosity.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Some fighting chess

It looks like the 'feeling out' period is over in the 2013 World Championship Match, with Game 3 full of excitement that the first two games lacked. The game is still in progress as I type this, but with an unbalanced pawn structure, both sides have chances to score the full point. Anand looks like he is gaining the upper hand in the middlegame (it is move 30), but Carlsen has an aggressively placed knight on g5 (and a queen on h1!).
I'll try and keep watching the action after I post this, and then show the full game in a morning update.

**Update ** The game ended in a draw, albeit one full of fight. Probably the crucial moment was when Carlsen offered a pawn with 28.e3 but Anand decided against taking it straight away. While he eventually did grab the pawn, Carlsen had enough play to soon win it back. Then just before time control Anand allowed the exchange of the last pair of rooks, leaving the position drawn.

Carlsen,Magnus (2870) - Anand,Viswanathan (2775) [A07]
WCh 2013 Chennai IND (3), 12.11.2013

Monday, 11 November 2013

European Teams 2013

Running in parallel to the World Championship is the 2013 European Teams Championship. This years event has attracted 38 teams in the Open, and 32 teams in the Open. Russia is the top seed in the Open, with The Ukraine topping the Women's seeding.
Although there have only been 3 rounds, a number of upsets have occurred. In the Open both the English and Russian teams lost to lower rated opponents in round 2, and were then fated to meet each other in the third round. In what would be considered another upset, the Russians were held to a draw by the English, and they were lucky to get that. So both teams are on 3/6 (Match point scoring is being used), while the Czech Republic and France are out in front.
You can get all the results, plus games, live coverage etc from the official website
In the following game Gawain Jones is given a pawn in the opening by Morozevich, and then follows the simple plan of just hanging on to it. Morozevich does not seem to get enough play for his sacrifice and reaches a lost ending, before resigning. If only the rest of us could beat GM's that way!

Jones,Gawain - Morozevich,Alexander [E81]
European Teams Championship, 10.11.2013

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Oh noes!

"A quiet day in the office" might be the best description of day 2 of the 2013 World Championship Match. Carlsen's choice of the Caro-Kan was probably a surprise to most, but the line chosen was so main line that Anand could probably rely on his general preparation to avoid any obvious problems. Carlsen (as Black) then headed for an ending where he had a good dark squared bishop, but the specific nature of the position was such that Anand was able to force a repetition of moves by threatening to win a king side pawn. The whole thing was finished in a a little over an hour, although at least it had more moves than game 1. Tomorrow is a rest day, with the action resuming on Tuesday.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

A bit of a squib

The first game of the 2013 World Championship Match came and went in about the same time it took me to watch 'Blazing Saddles' on TV. The opening was interesting (double fianchetto system by Carlsen), and with the Black knights on d5 and c4 it looked like it was about to kick off. The suddenly the black knights and the white queen did a little dance and the game ended in a draw by repetition. It brings to mind a quote (possibly by Spassky) after a similar game 1 draw, "We were testing the equipment".
I'm currently watching the post game press conference and I sense that the gathered journalists see this as a minor victory for Anand. Anand seems happy with the outcome of the game, while Carlsen is being asked to justify his play. However both players have promised to provide a greater level of combativeness in future games.

Carlsen,Magnus - Anand,Viswanathan [D78]
World Championship Chennai, 09.11.2013

Chess and Rubber Ducks

"I wouldn't join a club that would have me as a member" is not quite what Groucho Marx once said, but it is close enough. This was also the thought that crossed my mind when I read that the "Toy Hall of Fame" had just voted to accept the Rubber Duck and Chess for its 2013 intake. While I guess it is nice for Chess to be recognised by such a prestigious institution, it is worth noting that this is the 16th year that toys and games have been recognised. I would have thought that a board game that was the model for just about every other board game ever invented would have been recognised before now, but maybe everyone thought it was such an obvious inclusion that someone else was going to nominate it. Bizarrely Checkers was enshrined in 2003, while possibly the worst game ever invented, "The Game of Life", made it in 2010.

(Note: One of the best reviews of a game I ever saw concerned "The Game of Life": "You spend your time spinning a wheel and doing exactly as you are told. There is only one decision required to be made, 'Do I play this crappy game or not' ")

Thursday, 7 November 2013

2013 World Championship Match - Carlsen to start with White

The opening ceremony for the 2013 World Championship match has just been held in Chennai, India. As part of the ceremony, there was a drawing of lots for the colours, with Carlsen drawing the white pieces for game 1. As the schedule of the match has 2 games followed by a rest day (to a maximum of 12 games), the colours 'flip' in game 7, with Anand having two whites in a row (games 6 & 7). This is to dissipate any advantage that might be gained by having white after a rest day. It does mean that Carlsen starts with white (often an advantage), but then finishes with white (in game 12), which might also be helpful.
The first game is on Saturday (9th November). Each game starts at 3pm local time, which is 8:30pm Canberra time. There will be plenty of places to view the match online, but the official website is probably as a good a place as any to start.
I hope to cover a lot of the match on this blog over the next few weeks. Hopefully it won't be the snooze fest that the Anand-Gelfand match was, otherwise I'll need to find something else to fill in the blank pages!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Bluff or Brilliancy

The following position occurred during a game at Belconnen Chess Club on Tuesday night. White had come up with a provocative plan of Qg4-Qg7 which Black had met by trying to trap the queen with Ne5-g6. At this crucial moment White decided to ignore the threat of Bf8 by playing 11. O-O-O. The game ended quickly with 11. ... a6 12.Nxd6+ Bxd6 13.e5 fxe5 14.Ne4 Ke7 15.Qf6+ 1-0
After the game discussion quickly turned to making 11. ... Bf8 work. Superficially the line is the same, with 12.Nxd6+ Bxd6 being met the same way (and the omission of a6 even helping White as Bb5+ is now an extra option). But it turns out both players missed something here. What do you think it was?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Another plug for the 2013 Vikings Weekender

Only a week and a half until the 2013 Vikings Weekender, hosted by the Tuggeranong Chess Club here in Canberra. The event is run in two sections (Open and Under 1600), with no restrictions on players who wish to play in the open. First prize is $1000, with $500 going to the winner of the Under 1600 tournament.
Advanced entries include a couple of strong interstate players (IM Gray Lane among them), while a strong local contingent is also expected.
This years tournament is on the weekend of the 16th&17th of November, and will be held at the usual venue of the Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St, Wanniassa. It will be a 7 round event, with a time limit of G60m+10s. (NB Half point byes are available on request, maximum of 2)
Entry fees are $65 ($45 junior/concession) ad can be made in advance, or on the day. Nick Beare has set up a website for the tournament, so you find out more details (including round times), or simply enter online at http://nickbeare.com/vikings

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

Monday, 4 November 2013

Short and sweet, and hard to beat

Possibly the shortest recorded game that ends with mate by castling. Black was portable chess computer, but as this game was played in 1982, one can assume it was not a *strong* chess computer (none of them were in those days). Sharp readers will not that White did have some quicker wins (and black missed its fair share of chances), but as we are aiming for mate by castling, these mistakes can be excused.

Steinbach - Chess Champion Super System [C40]

Sunday, 3 November 2013

My last Open and Shut

With 'Australasian Chess' about to be published for the final time, a couple of my regular columns are coming to an end. One that is finishing up is 'Open and Shut' which I have produced ever since the magazine started production. At a rough count there have been 59 columns, featuring games that finished in under 20 moves. The sources for the games were varied, but I did derive particular enjoyment from games where 2600+ players came a cropper.
The final selection of games came from this years European Club Championship, and it turned out I had a surfeit of riches. So much so I can present a game from the event that did not make it into print.

Drzasga,Michael (2019) - Alevizos,Athanasios [C30]
29th ECC Open 2013 Rhodes GRE (2.14), 21.10.2013

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Most popular chess video on youtube - an update

Updating a post I did last year on youtube videos and chess.

I have revisited youtube in the hope of finding out what is the current most popular video on youtube to do with chess. Last year I found this somewhat difficult I was not able to order videos by popularity, but this seems to have now changed. There is an option to sort by number of views, making my job far easier (Of course this might have been there last year and I failed to see it!)
It turns out the winning video has a lot to do with chess, without being a 'chess' video. It is a clip from from the 1980's musical 'Chess', with Murray Head singing 'One night in Bangkok'. In fact second place is also held by the same film clip (posted by a different user) while 'How to make a Chess Cake' comes in at 4. Only after that do 'real' chess videos appear!

Friday, 1 November 2013

The other Ashes

Forget the cricket (especially if you are an Australian), there is another UK v Australia rivalry to focus on. GM David Smerdon (local boy made good) is up against English GM Simon Williams in a chess.com 'deathmatch'.
A 'deathmatch' consists of an hour of G/5m, then and hour of G/3m and then an hour of G/1m. Each time control also has a 1 second increment, just to remind everyone this is internet chess. Based on previous matches there will be about 30 games, with the results of each game weighted equally.
The match starts at 9pm tomorrow (2 November) 3am 3 November! Canberra time (I'm guessing), and can be scene at www.chess.com/tv

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Fast chess is sometime fun chess

Earlier this month I flagged the possibility that the FIDE Standard Rating List would include games played with a minimum time control of 60m. This proposal was rejected by the FIDE Executive Board, and so the current minimum time controls remain.
While I did not support the proposal, it would have opened up some extra possibilities for the Australian chess scene. My local club (Australian National University) plays four tournaments with a time control of 60m+10s, while a number of weekend events in Australia use the same time control.
The main complaint is that the quality of chess drops at the faster rates, and it is an opinion I agree with. But that does not mean you do not get some exciting, and well played games at this time control. As an example here is a game played at the 60m+10s time control. Both players whipped out the first 10 moves pretty quickly, but after White forgot the main line (11.Bxf6) both players were on their own. 16.g6 was pretty strong, but is was 26.Qg4 that was the start move (White needed to see this before playing 25.Rxf6!). After that the Black king was too exposed, and White just needed to find the right order of moves to win the game. (NB The game score was reconstructed from memory so the moves might not be an exact match! ** And I've edited the moves at least once!)

Chibnall,Alana - de Noskowski,Adrian [B99]
Spring Swiss ANU, Canberra, 30.10.2013

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Not giving up the day job

I was a little surprised to receive a letter from google the other day, that wasn't the usual 'please advertise with us' snail mail spam. In fact it was the opposite. It instead said 'here, have some money' and was a my first payoff for the annoying ads I have on this blog. It wasn't a great amount (a little over $100) and the fact it has taken me 6 years of almost daily blogging to earn that small amount shows that this was never going to be a full time career.
But nonetheless, thank you for everyone who has visited this blog and clicked on the annoying adds down the side of the page. The next time I fill the car with petrol (bye bye $100) I will be thinking of you.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Chess gear for Halloween

'Do chess players dress up like cosplayer's do?' was a question I was asked just the other day. 'Of course not' I replied 'What do you think we are, nerds?'.
Turns out I was wrong, and it is possible to get dressed for chess, or at least as a chess piece.
Just in time for Halloween you can get a full size adult Chess King Costume from Amazon. And for the chess playing lady in your life, you can even get the matching Chess Queen Costume. There is even a smaller costume for the kids.

(Disclaimer: I definitely have no commercial relationship with any of this)

Monday, 28 October 2013

India and France lead the chess world

For a long time the country with the largest number of FIDE rated players in the world was Germany. This fact was often greeted with surprise, as a lot of people simply assumed that Russia would easily be number 1. But it isn't just the number of players that contribute to this stat, but the number of organisers. While Russia has lost of players they seem to have less FIDE rated events.
Now it seems that even Germany has been overtaken, by India and France. Currently both countries share the lead (with 35,200 rated players) but based on recent trends India will soon hold the outright lead. It does help to have (a) a billion people and (b) the current World Champion, but it still requires tournaments to be organised to get players into the system.
I'll have to do a bit of digging to find the rest of the rankings, and I suspect there will be other surprises hidden in there. Apart from bragging rights, it may reveal just who are real chess countries and who just think they are!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

It is not the size of the dog in the fight.

It is the size of the fight in the dog.*
Czech team G-Team Novy Bor are the somewhat surprising winners of the 2013 European Club Championship. The secured their victory with a win over Minsk in the final round. However it was their 6th round win over top seeds SOCAR which was the real triumph. Despite being outrated on every board, they won the match 3.5-2.5 including going 3-0 on the top boards. The loss also seemd to knock the wind out of SOCAR's sails as they only drew their final round to fall back to 3rd place, behind Malachite.

Navara,David (2703) - Caruana,Fabiano (2779) [C84]
29th ECC Open Rhodes GRE (6.1), 25.10.2013

* This is a favourite saying of my father, who celebrated his 70th birthday today

Saturday, 26 October 2013

One side is playing chess, the other checkers

A recent peeve of mine is the expression "One side is playing chess, the other checkers". I get what it is trying to say (one side is just smarter than the other), but it still strikes me as weird. Most often I've seen it used in the context of American (US) politics, although I feel it is giving away more about the american mindset than commentators realise. To me it is admitting that the default game in America is Checkers, while only really smart people play Chess.  For a country that argues it is 'exceptional', this is a kind of damning admission. Better would be "One side is just better at chess than the other".

Friday, 25 October 2013

Space, smashe

The Svidler Nakamura game from the current European Club Championships is a good example of the adage "give a man enough rope ... ". Svidler starts off by grabbing a huge amount of space but in doing so gives Nakamura plenty of targets to aim at. Possibly due to sense that he 'must be better' Svidler then overreaches, before his position suddenly collapses. I suspect if Reti had been alive to see this game he would have concluded that Black had been winning all along!

Svidler,Peter (2740) - Nakamura,Hikaru (2783) [E71]
29th ECC Open Rhodes GRE (5.1), 24.10.2013

Thursday, 24 October 2013

2013 Asian Cities

The Asian Cities is a tournament that has had a mixed representation from Australia over the years. Occasionally a team of 'privateers' will take part, but it often depends on timing, travel costs and enthusiasm. This is a bit of a shame as it is the kind of event in which a team of younger players (or olympiad hopefuls) could use to gain some international experience.
The current edition of the event is currently running in the The Philippines, with the Tagatay, the host city, currently leading. Tagatay is fielding an all GM team, and leads two Chinese teams by 2 points (Match points are being used for scoring).
Oddly, the event does not seem to have its own webpage, although the organisers are sending out daily newsletters. However you can at least follow the results, and download the games, via chess-results.com.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

No, this isn't a draw

I'm not sure if I have shown this puzzle before, but if I have, apologies to avid readers.
At first glance there isn't much to see (KvK) but only because we are going to work backwards. Specifically White takes back their last move, then Black takes back their last move. Black then plays a different move, allowing White a mate in 1.
(Hint: Obviously we have undo a capture or two, otherwise we still won't have enough material to mate with)

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Miniature of the Month - September 2013

This whole game looks like an opening trap, but surprisingly it isn't. Sure Black plays some dodgy moves, but the only previous game to reach move 10 ended in a draw (albeit between a couple of 2000 rated players). Black can still hang on if he plays 10 ... Qa5+, but 10. ... Na6 really does lose.
(Once again, thanks to Chesstoday for sourcing the game)

Salgado Lopez,Ivan (2614) - Villasenor Rubio,Emilio Jose (2260) [B22]
78th ch-ESP Linares ESP (5.5), 02.09.2013

Monday, 21 October 2013

Turn your clocks back 5 years

The European Club Championship has just started on the Greek island of Rhodes. At the top end it is incredibly strong, with the strength of the top 4 teams averaging 2700 and above. Obviously these teams (and anyone in the top 10) is here to try and win the tournament, but the bulk of the field is made up teams representing their national leagues. For these teams it is either about mixing it with the big dogs, or aiming for a bit of personal glory.
The first round mainly went to script, although there a couple of mid field upsets. Amazingly not one, but two English players managed to lose their games to the dreaded zero default rule. Even more surprisingly they were on different teams. The problem for at least one player was that he simply forgot to adjust his watch when arriving in Greece, and was still operating on GMT. Apparently he was relaxing in the bath when the round started.
It is worth pointing out that 'zero default' will no longer be in the Laws of Chess from 1 July 2014. The wording has been changed so that the organiser is required to specify a default time for the tournament. This is up to the organisers discretion about what that time will be. Of course I am sure that some organisers will still insist on 0 minutes, but hopefully common sense will prevail in most cases.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

A quick win for Nimzowitsch

Normally the game of Aaron Nimzowitsch were long, drawn out affairs, where the master of positional manoeuvring targeted an almost imperceptible weakness in the opponents position, and slowly ground him down. But on occasion Nimzowitsch  could pull of the tactical brilliancy, especially if his opponent gave him no choice. There is a famous win over Alapin, but the following win over Fluss is just as good. After 13 moves it looks like Black *must* mate, but some clever defence, plus a queen sacrifice, turns the tables with remarkable speed.

Nimzowitsch,Aaron - Fluss [C10]
Zuerich Zuerich, 1906

Saturday, 19 October 2013

2013 World championship Match - Fearless Predictions

The 2013 World Championship Match is still a few weeks away, but I thought I would get my predictions in early. I am going to go with conventional wisdom and predict a win for Magnus Carlsen, but with one caveat. If the match comes down to the final game (ie the players are tied on 5.5) then I think Anand will cope with the pressure and score an unexpected victory. Having said that I think the match will be over by game 11, with Carlsen winning 6.5-4.5.

Friday, 18 October 2013

A very expensive chess set?

The picture shows a large chess set that was part of an exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. Apart from the design of the pieces, there was another interesting aspect of the display. The pieces were all covered in money, specifically US Dollars and Euros (Dollars closest to the camera). I did not get close enough to see if they were real notes (as opposed to an artistic representation), but given the lack of security, I'm assuming they might not be.
When discussing this piece with someone I guessed that it was making a statement about money. "Yes" they replied, "It says that money can be glued to big chess pieces"

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Are the Norwegians best at sport?

One of the books I picked up overseas was a book called 'Soccernomics'. It is about the application of the whole 'Freakonomics' style of analysis to football, although its original title 'Why England Lose' was probably a better choice.
In the chapter 'The Curse of Poverty' the authors attempt to rank the best sporting nations in the world, based on their performance at various 'global' sports. They are fairly generous at including sports (Cricket, Rugby Union and Baseball all get in), and they also include Chess as one of the sports. There ranking criteria for Chess is the number of years the World Championship was held by a player from that country. So for Chess Russia/USSR is ranked first followed by Germany (Lasker), then France (a dubious Alekhine I assume), USA (Fischer) and Cuba (Capablanca).
Overall the USA come in at number 1, followed by Russia/USSR. But the authors then adjusted for population, and it turns out that Norway come out on top (even without Carlsen adding to their total). Sweden is second, with Australia third (they were 8th on the initial list). But it was a close run thing, with Australia finishing 0.01 points ahead of fourth placed New Zealand!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

More on Computer Cheating

I've been quiet on the topic of computer cheating in chess over the last few months. This was due to the fact that I had been appointed to the new FIDE/ACP Anti-Cheating Committee and I felt it best to refrain from comment while the details of our work were still being established.
As the first official meeting of of the committee has now been held, and I'm happy to talk more about what is going on. The 10 member committee held two recent meetings, one in Paris with members of the ACP, and one in Tallinn, with the FIDE committee members. I was appointed secretary of the committee, with Israel Gelfer as Chairman. At the FIDE meeting, Professor Kenneth Regan gave a presentation on the work he has been doing in this area (and it is quite a substitutional amount). It was very well received, with an over capacity audience in attendance. A copy of the talk can be found at http://www.cse.buffalo.edu/~regan/Talks/FIDE84CongressTalk.pdf
A draft of the proposed regulations and recommendations is being put together and will soon be circulated amongst the committee for comment. Then a final paper will be released (in around 3 months). The idea is that the recommendations will then be discussed before the FIDE Congress in Tromso, August 2014.
In the meantime the committee will also be looking at other aspects of cheating as well, including fictitious tournaments (they sometime happen), and rating manipulation. As these things are amenable to statistical analysis (or just straight database searching), the committee felt that they should fall under our umbrella.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Svidler does the biz

Peter Svidler has continued his successful run in Russian Championships, winning his 7th title. He defeated Ian Nepomniachtchi in a playoff match, after the two players were tied on 6.5/9. Nepomniachtchi defeated Kramnik in the final round, while Svidler guaranteed at least 1st place with a draw.
The 7th win for Svidler is a record for the Russian Championship, and assuming that this title is a successor to the USSR Championship, also beats Tal's and Botvinnik's record of 6 wins. Kramnik's last round loss dropped him to the middle of the field, and surprisingly, means he is still to win the national title.

Svidler,Peter (2740) - Motylev,Alexander (2676) [D43]
66th ch-RUS 2013 Nizhny Novgorod RUS (6.3), 11.10.2013

Monday, 14 October 2013

What is it about the Kings Tournament?

A few years I suggested that the 2007 Kings Tournament in Romania was possibly the most boring tournament ever. The organisers invited a number of chess legends to play (Anderssen, Ribli, Mecking Portisch etc), and they played in a kind of legendary way, by agreeing to a large number of short draws. The 11 player round robin saw 80% of the games drawn.
Since then the organisers have attempted to improve on the amount of fighting chess by inviting younger and more dynamic players. This years event includes Caruana and Ponomariov, but the crosstable has a familiar look to it. Caruana is leading the event on 3.5/5, but is the only player above 50%. In fact the only other player to score a win is Nisipeanu, who shares second place with Ponomariov, who has drawn all his games so far!
Now I'm not saying this event compares with the 2007 version, as the games here have been much more hard fought, but I'm wondering if there is anything in the water that keeps the players from inflicting too much damage on each other.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

2013 Vikings Weekender

The Vikings Weekender is the third big weekend tournament in Canberra held each year. Over the last few years it has increased in popularity, with the fields getting into the 70's. As a result the prize fund has also increased, with a $1000 first prize. There is also an Under 1600 events with a $500 first prize, giving up and coming (or slightly past their prime) players a chance to pick up some coin as well.
This years tournament is on the weekend of the 16th&17th of November, and will be held at the usual venue of the Vikings Rugby Union Club, Ricardo St, Wanniassa. It will be a 7 round event (always tough), with a time limit of G60m+10s.
Entry fees are $65 ($45 junior/concession) ad can be made in advance, or on the day. Nick Beare has set up a website for the tournament, so you find out more details (including round times), or simply enter online at http://nickbeare.com/vikings/

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

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Walking into a swinging door

As promised I returned to the London Chess & Bridge Shop, to expand my library. One book I was after seemed to have sold out between visits (serves me right) but I did get a copy of 'Startling Castling!'. Early on in the book it has some examples of opening mistakes/traps that players have fallen into. In fact the traps shown were so good, that there were multiple games from the same positions, after played over a period of 50 years or so.
One example is the following game, first played in 1922. For those with a keen eye for tactics will instantly spot the idea that occurs on move 9, but the question is whether you can make it work all the way to the end. Fortunately for Dr Imbaud the game was played by correspondence, so he had plenty of time to work it out. These days a program like Stockfish can justify the queen sacrifice in around a minute (at least on my slow computer), but it needs to see at least 11 moves (22 ply) before it accepts that it works.

Imbaud - Strumilo [B02]
Cr, 1922

Friday, 11 October 2013

A mans world

The English Chess Federation have decided to send a full strength team to this years European Teams Championship. This has sparked a debate on the always entertaining English Chess Forum about the merits of paying for a coach, and the expenditure on the team itself.
I am not aware of the financial arrangements for the team, although I do believe that it is common practice to fully fund the Olympiad teams, with upgrades to single rooms/better hotels if necessary. I have not seen confirmation that the team will receive a fully funded captain/coach, although the debate seems to be working on the assumption that it is.
The flipside to this is that the ECF has decided against sending a women's team at all. Possibly they felt they did not have enough applicants of sufficient quality to justify sending a team, although sayings involving 'chickens and eggs' come to mind.
The real kicker. At the last European teams championship, the Women's team managed 23rd. The Open team finished 22nd.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Heading home

After a month in Europe I will be heading back home tomorrow. As with my journey here this will result in some disruption to my usual posting schedule, although I will try and at least post something if I have (a) internet, and (b) a charged computer.
It has been an interesting trip, especially my time at the recent FIDE Congress. Some stories will no doubt end up as future posts, but for the really good ones (and even the boring ones), you'll need to catch me at Street Chess in the upcoming weeks!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Chess and Esperanto

I always wondered if anyone had made the effort to include chess terms within the structure of Esperanto. As the language used European languages as the basis of its nouns I thought it was likely, although I had not come across any results. But leafing through a Edward Winter book on Otley library yesterday, I saw an article just on this topic.
Fortunately Winter  has a lot of his content online, as well as in print form, and I was able to track down his webpage covering this. It is at http://www.chesshistory.com/winter/extra/esperanto.html and although it mainly features references to columns and books in the early part of the 20th century, still makes an interesting read,