As reported by John Saunders on Chessbase, the over 40 brigade seems to be having quite a good time at the Gibraltar Chess Festival. Going into the final round, Nigel Short is tied for first while Michael Adams, Kiril Georgiev and Vassily Ivanchuk are only half a point behind. Short recovered from a 2nd round loss with 6 straight wins, while Adams and Ivanchuk remain undefeated. Along the way Adams scored a nice quick win over Jan Ehlvest, finding a number of clever tactical ideas.
The final round is in progress as I type this, so if you are quick you can catch all the action at the tournament website.
Just a reminder that the 2013 O2C Doeberl Cup is only 2 months away. Easter is early this year, so if you plan to enter, you probably should do so sooner rather than later. In terms of the field for the Premier, this year may well be the strongest Doeberl on record. At this stage 8 GM's have entered the tournament, headed by Loek Van Wely, who has just finished a tough Tata Steel tournament. Levente Vajda is returning this year, along with last years winner Adam Horvath. If you wish to see the current list of entries, as well as tournament details, just click on the link above.
Magnus Carlsen has convincingly won the Tata Steel Tournament with an impressive 10/13. He finished 1.5 points ahead of Lev Aronian, with Anand and Karjakin tied for 3rd on 8. With Carlsen taking a lead from around the half way point of the tournament, interest soon turned to (a) whether he could break Kasparovs record 10/13 score for the tournament and (b) how high could his rating get to. In the end he tied Kasparov's record, and his rating went up another 11 points (according to Live Ratings). The somewhat modest rating gain is of course a function of how far ahead on the rating list. Despite 7 wins and 6 draws, he picked up less than a point a game, as any drawn game loses rating points for him. This of course happens to every Number 1 player, but the further in front he gets, the less he gains from his wins to make up for this.
The description of a player as a "Super GM" seems to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. There was a time when it was commonly applied to any GM rated above 2600, but that was when there were only about 10 2600+ GM's in the World. I've occasionally seen it applied to 2700+ GM's recently, but even then the expression "member of the 2700 club" is more commonly used.
Obviously the term "Super GM" was intended to differentiate the top GM's from the rest of the GM population, but why not "Super IM" or "Super FM". Given the vast number of FM's and IM's, how would you separate them from their colleagues. For IM's would you consider someone with enough GM norms but not the 2500+ rating better or worse than someone with the 2500+ rating nut not the norms? For FM's would players who received the title for a 2300+ rating always be superior to players who earned the title via the Zonal (or in my case, the Olympiad)?
As always, thoughts and comments welcome.
"I play my best chess standing up, and looking at the board from side on" is a comment I have never heard a Kibitzer say. But Steve Bailey has taken this concept one step further by designing a vertical chess board. Of course most players are already familiar with the concept, via demonstration boards or computer screens, but his is a slightly more involved construction. It uses shelves (and mirrors) but the pieces are fixed by magnets, to stop them from being knocked off. While this may seem to be an unnecessary refinement, his suggested venue for the boards might make you think again. His idea is to put them in bars, in a similar way to dart boards. That way you could have a few beers, get a little exercise, and play a few games of chess, all at the same time. As this news article says, it is early days, but who knows, chess may become a 'pub game' after all.
Unlike most other capital cities, long weekends are usually chess free in Canberra. Of course Street Chess still runs, but with a single exception, Canberra does not take advantage of the extra day off work to hold a big chess event. We did run the ACT Championships on the Canberra Day long weekend for a couple of years, but there were objections from players who wanted to spend those 3 days at the beach etc
Of course the big exception is the O2C Doeberl Cup, which is held on the best long weekend of the year, Easter. In its early years the tournament shifted between Easter and the Queens Birthday weekend, as part of the policy of reserving such weekends for country events, but once the merit of holding the tournament over 4 days become apparent, the date became fixed in stone. Sadly the policy of holding long weekend events outside of the state capitals has long since gone (with a couple of exceptions), so it is off to the big smoke for the travelling chess player. Of course having an event in your own city is quite attractive, so I hope that this weekends events (in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) all get a good local turnout.
While the first round of any big open is usually a one sided affair, it is always the dream of the lower rated player to pull of a sensational upset. As it is pretty rare that a 2200 rated player will get to play a 2700+ opponent, you have to grab these opportunities while you can.
In the 2013 Gibraltar tournament, there were a couple of 'semi' upsets in the first round, in that the top 2 seeds, Vassily Ivanchuk and Gata Kamsky were held to draws by their opponents. This of course had the added benefit (for the lower half of the tournament at least) of keeping them amongst the 2100-2200 pool of players for the second round, although both Ivanchuk and Kamsky did not slip up a second time.
As for the heroes of the first round, Hristos Zygouris (who drew with Ivanchuk) won his second round game, while Andreas Aerni (seen in action below), drew with GM Xue Zhao!
The Correspondence Chess League of Australia's website has a new look. Over the summer the CCLA Webmaster IM Clive Murden and myself upgraded the server software, and created a new layout for the site. It is still at the old address (www.ccla.net.au) but contains a whole lot of new information, including news on the 2014 ICCF Congress, which will be held in Australia for the first time.
So if you are interested in learning more about CC, or just want to check out what Australian CC players are up to, feel free to pay a visit.
From the 2013 Australian Junior Championship comes the following exciting game. It is between Yi Liu (Qld) and Yi Yuan (ACT) and features a middlegame promotion, albeit a very temporary one. But having given up one queen, Liu was then forced to give up a second one, leading to a winning position for Yuan.
Liu,Yi (2182) - Yuan,Yi (2295)
Australian Junior Championships - U/18 University Drive, Varsity Lake (4), 19.01.2013
The 2013 ACT Lightning Championship was held this evening, with a pretty strong field of 30 players in attendance. In what is becoming a familiar script for ACT events, the top two seeds were FM Junta Ikeda and IM Andrew Brown, and the championship was simply a race between the two. This time Ikeda emerged the winner of their individual game, and went on to take the title with 9/9. Brown managed to defeat every other opponent and took second place with 8/9. In third place was former champion Roger Farrell, who scored 7 points, losing only to Brown and Ikeda.
The Under 1700 prize was shared between Milan Ninchich and Bazli Karattiyatill, while Jozo Rosic won the Under 1350 prize.
I quite like the recent joke "Before Facebook, I used to ring 153 people to tell them I'd been for a run". Since Friday my Facebook feed (yes I do have one) has been inundated with friends posting pictures of the snow covered landscape across the UK and Europe. Given it was 41.6 degrees in Canberra on Friday, I did not mind this.
However the side effects of such a heavy snowfall are not so great. The 2013 Gibraltar Chess Festival is starting today, and I suspect there are a number of players hastily rescheduling flights in a effort to get there on time. While the main event, the Masters, does not start until Tuesday, the expected travel chaos, may mean some players may have trouble turning up on time. Already GM Nigel Short has a colourful Facebook post up, describing the difficulties he is facing.
Assuming everyone does make it on time, the 2013 Gibraltar Festival is once again going to be very strong. Vasilly Ivanchuk is the top seed, and there are 8 players rated above 2700. Some preliminary events are starting today, with the first round of the masters starting in 2 days time. The website has a comprehensive coverage of all the tournaments, and can be found here.
Sometimes important tournaments get off to small starts. The Australian Womens Masters, which is currently happening at the Melbourne Chess Club, may turn out to be one such tournament. Organised by Gary Bekker and Jamie Kenmure, the tournament is a 8 player round robin, consisting of some of the more active female players in the country. Top seed is Katherine Jarek, while Alana Chibnall, Megan Setiabudi, Sarah Anton and Leteisha Simmonds would all be familiar names to those who play on the weekend chess circuit.
With 1 round to play Katherine Jarek is in the lead with 5/6, while Leteisha Simmonds may also be on that score (depending on the result of her round 6 game). Alana Chibnall is on 4.5, and plays Simmonds in the final round.
Setiabudi,Megan - Chibnall,Alana [C63]
Australian Womens Masters Melbourne, 19.01.2013
The 2013 Australian Junior Championship starts tomorrow on the at Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland. As of a few days ago there were 210 entries across all the tournaments, and I suspect there will be a few late entries. Top seed in the Under 18's is Yi Yuan from ACT, who is making a comeback after completing his Year 12 exams. FM Gene Nakauchi, who was on the top boards for a lot of the recent Australian Open is second seed, while Pengyu Chen and Yi Liu will also be in contention for the title.
The Under 18's, Under 16's, Under 10's and Under 8's begin tomorrow, while the other age groups (and Girls events) begin later in the week. Full details of the tournament (results and possibly live games) are available at the tournament website.
Here is a fun exercise which may be useful when coaching kids and/or beginners. You start with an empty chess board, and each player has a rook in their hand. The first player places a rook on any empty square, then the second player does the same. Then each player moves their rook as normal, with one important restriction. You cannot move you rook across the path of the other rook. The winner is the first player to run the other player out of moves.
Two questions quickly arise. Is it a guaranteed win for one or the other player? And what is the winning strategy?
Over the last few years Viswanathan Anand has had a middling tournament career at best. This is understandable, as his major focus has been on winning, and then retaining, the World Championship title. As a result, his tournament games seemed to lack the aggression he showed earlier in his career, provoking facetious comments after almost every game that he was 'hiding his opening preparation'.
So when he won his round 3 game in the Tata Steel tournament against Fabiano Caruana, there were online murmurings that the 'real' Anand was back. 'Wait and see' was the response from other commentators, but it looks like they didn't have to wait long. His round 4 win over Lev Aronian was a thing of beauty, and although it is less the 24 hours since the game was played, it is already being labelled a modern masterpiece.
Anand played the currently popular Semi-Slav, and more significantly, used a line that had been prepared for his match against Gelfand. He went onto the attack, seemingly ignoring Aronian's defensive set up, and at one point he had three pieces hanging. Aronian did his best to defend, but a few well calculated moves was all it took for Anand to complete the rout.
Aronian,Levon - Anand,Viswanathan [D47]
75th Tata Steel GpA Wijk aan Zee NED (4.5), 15.01.2013
The traditional Wijk aan Zee tournament is underway in the Netherlands. Under the sponsorship of Tata Steel, the tournament consists of 3 14 player round robins, along with a number of supporting events. The top event is once again very strong, with Magnus Carlsen, Lev Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, Viswanthan Anand and Hikaru Nakamura in the field.
White the first two rounds have been hard fought, there have only been 2 decisive games so far. Round 2 saw all 7 games drawn, although there were a couple of very lucky escapes. Two players who have split the points in both their games are Carlsen and Aronian, although they did play each other in round 2.
The games are scheduled to start at 1:30pm CET, which translates to 11:30pm Canberra time. So I can at least see what openings are being played, before slipping of to the land of Nod.
For results, games and downloads, visit the Tata Steel Tournament website.
Bobby Cheng has won the 2013 Australian Open, finishing on 9.5/11. He drew his final round game against IM Moulthun Ly to finish undefeated with 8 wins, 2 draws and 1 half point bye. Ly finished a point back in a tie for second with GM Zong Yuan Zhao and IM Max Illingworth. Along with first place, Cheng also scored an IM norm. His performance rating was in fact greater then what was required for a GM norm, but he did not play the minimum number of GM's (3) for the norm to be valid.
There were a number of good performances from the large number of Canberra players who took part. The stand out was Junta Ikeda's IM norm (his second), although back to back losses dropped him down the standings. IM Andrew Brown had a good tournament, playing all 3 GM's, and defeating IM Stephen Solomon in a nice round 10 game. Michael Wei scored 6.5 while Joshua Bishop picked up a rating prize for his 6/11. Special mention should also go to Glenn Ingham who started the event with 0.5/6 before winning his last 5 games to reach a respectable 50%!
Final standings from the Open and associated events are here.
I spent today watching the action from the 2013 Australian Open. I spent the morning at the Oceania Chess Confederation Annual Meeting, and the afternoon watching the chess. While walking around the room I realised it was 30 years since I attended my first 'big' chess event.
It was the 1982/83 Australian Open at the Paddington PCYC in Sydney. I had just started to get interested in chess, and as I was in Sydney on holidays I decided to drop in to watch. I would have spent 4 or 5 days there watching Rogers, Johansen (the tournament winner), West (the tournament winner), Solomon, and a host of other players take part. While my memory is a little hazy after all this time, I think I was present to see the following game. At the time it was a sensational upset, as Rogers was considered the favourite to win the tournament. This stopped his run, and allowed Darryl Johansen Guy West to win the event.
(I also covered may attendance at this tournament in an earlier post)
(**Edit: Sloppy research on my part had Guy West winning this event rather than Darryl Johansen. I was looking at the Australian Open trophy yesterday and saw both Darryl's and Guy's name on there, but mixed up the years. Of course Guy West won the next Australian Open in 1985)
Fell,Lloyd Stanley - Rogers,Ian [E43]
AUS op, 1983
Congratulations to FM Junta Ikeda on making his 2nd IM norm. In the 9th round of the Australian Open he was up against fellow Canberra player, and friend, IM Andrew Brown. While a draw would have been enough for the norm (and I result I predicted prior to the game), a very sharp line against the Sicilian meant that a draw was looking like the least likely outcome. Ikeda offered a pawn in the opening, in return for greater board control. A temporary exchange sacrifice increased his advantage, forcing Brown to return material with interest. After that it was a matter of navigating time trouble, before Ikeda found a nice win, with the game finishing with both his queens(!) en pris.
FM Bobby Cheng continues to lead the tournament after beating FM Gene Nakauchi on the top board. The win for Cheng also earned him an IM norm although he has to go through the formality of playing Ikeda tomorrow (even a loss will still give him a norm). IM Moulthun Ly shares second place with Ikeda, after he escaped from a lost position against GM Igor Khenkin. Khenkin built up a crushing attack but missed an important tactic, and let his advantage dissipate, eventually taking a perpetual in a position where he had a small edge.
Ikeda,Junta - Brown,Andrew [B31]
Australian Open Sydney, 11.01.2013
After 8 rounds of the 2012 Australian Open, FM Bobby Cheng has taken the outright lead on 7/8. Cheng took a half point bye in round 1 after a late return from New Zealand, but has scored 6.5/7 to lead by half a point. In today's round he defeated tournament top seed GM Igor Khenkin to not only take first place, but also improve his chances of scoring an IM norm. In second place are IM Moulthun Ly who defeated IM Max Illingworth, and FM Gene Nakauchi he leapfrogged a number of higher seeded players with a win over FM Greg Canfell. Another crucial result was the drawn game between GM Zong Yuan Zhao, and FM Junta Ikeda. This leaves Ikeda needing only a draw in tomorrows game against fellow ACT player IM Andrew Brown to secure a second IM norm.
Tomorrow Chneg is up against Nakauchi, while Khenkin plays Ly. Illingworth and Zhao meet on the third board.
Full coverage of the event, as well as results and games can be found at the tournament website.
Cheng,Bobby - Khenkin,Igor [D30]
Australian Open Sydney, 10.01.2013
One of the money making schemes for online games is to offer "In Game Purchase" for players. By investing a little extra cash (usually small amounts here and there), a player can gain an extra advantage or receive extra resources that are normally impossible or difficult to come by.
While discussing this topic with some gaming (non-chess) friends of mine, we wondered whether such a scheme would work in chess. A couple of obvious suggestions were to buy extra pieces during the game, to pay for a second move in a row, or to simply bid for the result of the game. Of course non of these are in anyway practical, but a more subtle approach may still work.
Rather than have 'in-game' purchases, 'in-tournament' purchases may work instead. Organisers could offer 'Joker' cards, which when played before the start of the game, would earn play double points for that round. Or a 'Veto' card, which allows a player to not have a particular opponent for that round. There might also be the 'Restart' card if a player doesn't like where a game is headed, or even the 'Do-over' card, which is used at the end of a game. But to maximise profit, the organisers would also sell 'Immunity' cards which cancel the effect of any played card :)
Of course this is all just for giggles, but if you could add 'effect' cards to chess tournaments, what would they be?
I've often wondered why we learn tactical motifs (pins, forks etc), plus tactical 'tricks' (eg Philidors legacy), but standard attacking 'templates' are far less common. By that I mean an move sequence that is longer the usual short term tactics, and can be repeated over and over again. The most obvious example of this would be the Greek Gift (Bxh7 sacrifice), which most players learn, even if they don't get to play it.
This thought re-occurred to me today while watching the game between FM Bobby Cheng and WGM Irine Sukandar from the Australian Open. On move 22 Cheng played the aggressive Ng5 and after Bxg2 decided to sacrifice the piece by playing Qh5. He had a number of threats in the position and eventually Sukandar was unable to stop them all. Not only was it a nice attack, but it looked like one that could conceivably occur in a number of middle game positions. However chess is a cruel games at times, and in this case the attack worked because Black missed 26. ... Be8. But even after White retreats the queen, he still has adequate compensation for the piece. So it was an idea that met with practical success (good), and even if the best replies were found, doesn't lose, which is good enough for me.
Cheng,Bobby - Sukandar,Irine [E05]
Australian Open Sydney, 08.01.2013
At the halfway point of the 2013 Australian Open, FM Junta Ikeda and GM Igor Khenkin share the lead with 5.5/6. In round 5 ther drew a marathon 100 move game, and have won all their other games. Trailing by half a point is a group of 4 players, GM Zong Yuan Zhao, IM Max Illingworth, FM Bobby Cheng and WGM Irine Sukandar.
In todays round Ikeda defeated IM George Xie after finding a neat middlegame tactic. Khenkin did the same against IM Andrew Brown, when Brown overlooked a little combination which won a pawn. Zhao and Cheng had some interesting moments, before they agreed to a draw.
Tomorrow sees the all GM clash of Khenkin v Zhao on board 1, while Illingworth and Ikeda play on the second board.
Brown,Andrew (2261) - Ly,Moulthun (2417) [A00]
Australian Open (5.3), 06.01.2013
While chess is a pretty well regulated, there is still a level of trust between the players that makes each game run smoothly. Most of the time we don't even realise this, unless out opponent does something really weird. Over the years I have been queried about such topics as 'eating a full dinner at the board', 'clicking of pens', or 'my opponent is standing behind me', which fall under the heading of irritations, rather than changing the actual outcome of the game.
However I do occasionally hear of behaviour that does cross that line. Most recently I received a second hand report of an incident from the Zimbabwe Open. In a third round game, one player was ahead on time, and after playing his move, went for a stroll around the playing hall. When he returned 3 minutes later, he found that his opponent was claiming a win on time. He was somewhat surprised as he had more than 3 minutes on his clock when he left, and it was his opponent was short of time. Apparently his opponent had replied to his move, and then simply moved the clock to the other side of the board (reversing the displays). Despite protestations, the arbiter upheld the claim, and as a result the aggrieved player withdrew from the tournament.
(NB This somewhat reminiscent of the Reshevsky v Denker game from 1942, where Reshevsky lost on time, but the arbiter picked up the clock from behind, and after turning it around, decided it was a loss for Denker!)
Apart from the Australian Open, there are a number of Australian players in action in overseas events. Alek Safarian is currently playing Hastings, while IM John-Paul Wallace is playing in Groningen. Fedja Zulfic has travelled to Sweden to play in the Rilton Cup, but the performance of WIM Emma Guo in the Basel Chess Festival is probably the best of them all. After 6 rounds she is on 3.5, but she is undefeated so far, scoring 1 win and 5 draws. Now while this may not sound that impressive, the lowest rated opponent she has faced was rated 2252, which is around 250 point above her current rating. Otherwise it has been mainly 2300's and 2400's she has been up against. The only downside to all this is that the tournament she is playing in is only a 7 round event, which means she is unable to score any title norms. However she will at least be leaving Switzerland with a a pile of extra rating points in her backpack.
The top of the field is starting to shrink in the 2013 Australian Open, with only 10 players on 3/3. A couple of the top seeds fell back by half a point yesterday, while George Lester continued his good run, drawing with IM George Xie, after upsetting Tristan Boyd yesterday.
The game that excited the most interest from the online spectators was the Solomon - Chen game. White looked to have a crushing attack, although both players were following previous theory, all the way up to move 24. Predictions of a quick win for Solomon (including my own) were off the mark, as Chen had a perfectly playable position, albeit one that required accurate defence. In fact the result of the game could have been reversed on move 34 if Chen had found 34. ... Qd6+ 35.Bf4 Qe6 trapping the rook on f5. Instead he played a similar, but inferior plan, but it wasn't until a few moves later that Solomon finally broke down his defence to pick up the point.
Full crosstables, as well as games from the first 3 rounds, are available here.
Solomon,Stephen - Chen,Pengyu [C96]
Australian Open Sydney (3), 04.01.2013
Over the last few years I have made blog posts concerning the shortage of Arbiters for Australian events, and possible causes for this. A couple of example posts are here and here. So when FIDE released the list of Licensed FIDE Arbiters, I was somewhat surprised at the length of the Australian section. Under the new National Arbiter classification, there were 40 names listed. As a comparison, England only has 11 NA's, although to be fair, Denmark has about 80.
Of course the most obvious reason for the size of the list is that FIDE rated events require a NA (at a minimum) to be the Chief Arbiter. Also, there is no formal qualification method, so it is pretty simple to become one.
Given the sudden upsurge in the interest in arbiting, I hope to see 2 things. Firstly, everyone on the list goes through a formal training course, both to upgrade their qualifications to FIDE Arbiter, at a minimum, and secondly, every one on that list directs at least one FIDE rated event in 2013.
The Australian Open started today, with 112 players in the main event. The top seeds made it through without too much difficulty, although Greg Canfell and Chris Wallis were upended by lower rated opponents.
I watched the live coverage of the top 4 boards this afternoon, with the Johansen v Deen-Cowell game being of particular interest. After 14 moves Queens and 2 sets of minor pieces had been exchanged, leading to a fairly typical Gruenfeld position, with White having space in the centre, but Black having the queenside pawn majority. I was keen to see how Johansen would play this position, but Black chose the wrong plan of f5 followed by a capture on e4, and his position quickly collapsed. So the lesson I witnessed was not one of positional expertise, but of a lower rated player blowing up his own position.
As an added bonus, the live coverage also has a chat box where people can comment on the games (and other topics). Today's discussions were particularly robust, although somewhat overshadowed by the tendency of posters to pass judgment on other posters. I'm not sure why this happens, especially as it rarely occurs in the live blogs I've run for events (eg Queenstown, Doeberl Cup). But then I have a tendency to let most things go, as I don't feel qualified to control the opinions of others, and maybe other posters pick up on this.
The tournament website has all the results and pairings, while the direct link to the live games is here, if you wish join in the online commentary.
Johansen,Darryl - Deen-Cowell,Nicholas [D85]
Australian Open Sydney, 02.01.2013
Although it is a non-Olympiad year, there is plenty to look forward too in 2013. In the first half of the year the FIDE Candidates Tournament is going to be the stand out event. It takes place in London from mid March, and the winner goes on to play Viswanathan Anand in the World Championship in November.
There is also the FIDE World Cup in August, which is being hosted by Tromso in Norway. The next 4 tournaments in the Agon Grand Prix series are also taking place this year.
On the local scene, the 51st Doeberl Cup is being held in late March. This years event coincides with the Canberra Centenary, which means that there will also be plenty of activities away from the chessboard. The Sydney International Open is on straight after the Doeberl, providing a fortnight of strong chess and title opportunities, Fiji are hosting this years Oceania Zonal, with the winner qualifying for the World Cup.
For Canberra players, the first part of the year is now 'FIDE rating' season, with the ANU Masters, the ACT Championship, and the Doeberl Cup all providing opportunities for players to gain or improve their International ranking. And of course Street Chess is running every Saturday in Canberra City, providing a pleasant but competitive weekly fix of rapidplay.