Friday, 26 May 2017

Capablanca's two part rule

Very early on I learned that you should put your pawns on the opposite coloured square to your bishop (if you have one). Later I learned that this was known as "Capablanca's Rule". However it was only recently that I read that there are in fact two parts two this rule, and I'd probably been throwing away half points by not knowing the second part.
The second part deals with the case where your opponent has a bishop, and you don't. In this case you should put your pawns on the same coloured squares as your opponents bishop, to restrict its activity. Of course there are almost always other factors at play, but if you are faced with a knight v bishop middlegame and are unsure what to do, this may help.
Here is an example game (taken from'Techniques of Positional Play ' by Broznik and Terekhin), where Capablanca applies his own rule on move 20, creating a pawn chain on the dark squares. By the time the players agreed to a draw, all of black's pawns were on dark squares, white's pawns were on light squares, and yet the white bishop still couldn't help white win.

Lasker,Emanuel - Capablanca,Jose Raul [C66]
New York New York (2), 17.03.1924

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Out, back and out again

As I get older (and more forgetful) I have a tendency to screw up my openings more and more. It is both a function of not learning all the lines, and playing careless moves without checking the consequences.
In the following very recent game, I played 7. ... Bf5 without much thought. After 8.Qf3 I was suddenly required to do a lot of thinking, but most of it was deciding whether to go berserk and sacrifice my queenside pawns, or eat crow and retreat the bishop. In the end I decided crow was the tastier meal, and retreated both the bishop and the queen. After that it was a battle not to get run off the board, bring out my pieces again, and try and salvage something from the game. Turns out I managed to find enough play to not lose, but all that post-blunder thinking left me short of time, and so a draw was offered an accepted.

Patterson,Miles - Press,Shaun [A09]
Autumn Leaves, 23.05.2017

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Pick the century

A challenge for readers of this blog. Have a look at the game below and decide which century it was played in (or which century it belongs to). I have of course removed anything that identifies the players, or where it might have been played.

White - Black [C37]
From a galaxy far far away

Saturday, 20 May 2017

The top 10

Where do you go to to get your chess fix (apart from Chessexpress)? According to one list is the most popular chess site, and the 1181 most popular site on the internet overall. Lichess is number 2, while Chess24 comes in third. The FIDE website is only ranked number 7, 2 spots behind
The full list is

So playing sites are the most popular, followed by news sites, and finally some training sites.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Attack of the clones

When I was a member of the FIDE Rules Commission we would occasionally discuss areas where the rules were silent. This wasn't because we felt the issue was too difficult to rule on, but more because we wondered what we would do if someone tried something really bizarre.
One topic was about playing more than 1 game at the same time. It started out as a method of avoiding defaults in team matches (ie could someone play boards 7 and 8 in the same round), and moved on to whether Kasparov could just enter the Olympiad by himself (playing a simul each round). We decided he could not (if the games were to be rated). There was also talk about whether a player could enter two sections of an event and play both at the same time, with a semi-famous case being Michael Adams playing a junior and open event at a British Championship early in his career. Again we thought it wasn't acceptable, in part because there was a risk that a player could 'transfer' information from one game to another, thereby violating the rule about analysing a game on another chessboard.
However the Denver Chess Club has decided to organise a tournament where players can play more than one game at once. The Clone Wars tournament allows a player to enter either as themselves, or to clone themselves once or twice. After that it is a normal event, except clones players are required to play two or three game each round. I assume you can't be paired against your clone, but your (or your clone) could play a different clone of a player you've already met. Whether you could play multiple games against the same opponent in the same round wasn't clear.
The event was run as a 4 round G/60m event, which I would assume gave players enough time to jump between boards (assuming you remembered which boards you were on!). The prize structure was also interesting, where a players total score (including clones) determined the payout (each point was worth a fixed amount). I don't know if the event was USCF rated, but I would assume that such event would not be FIDE rated (even with an eligible time control).
Here is a link to the tournament report, which contains a little more detail on the event than I can give you.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Better math through chess

I've just come across another study attempting to measure whether teaching chess in the classroom results in better learning outcomes for students. In this case the study looked at replacing 1 math lesson a week with a chess lesson (as opposed to adding an extra chess lesson). The study was carried out in Denmark, involving primary aged students.
Overall the study found a slight improvement in test scores (around 0.1 to 0.18 of a standard deviation), which at first might not sound like much. However, as these were replacement lessons, the result is in fact a lot better, especially if you are trying to get chess coaching into an already crowded calendar. Also of interest is that the study looked at the effects on children who were either unhappy or bored and found  that both these groups showed greater improvement than happy or engaged children. In fact most of the improvement in test scores was attributed to students in these groups.
The whole study is available here and is worth reading not just for the conclusions, but also for the description of the studies methodology. In describing quite clearly their approach, the authors not only help the reader understand their work, but also provide an idea of what to look for in similar studies on chess in education.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Quality control

I was doing a little research for one of my correspondence chess games today, and I came across an issue that occasionally bedevils chess writers (and sometimes players). One of the games in a variation I'm playing was between Kaidanov and Kamsky, both very strong GM's, and therefore a game worth studying. The game itself followed theory up until move 14, when Black played the slightly unusual 14. ... Qe7. However it was his 16th move (16 ... Nh7) that was the real surprise, as it allowed the queen to be captured by the bishop on g5. Fortunately for Black it seems Kaindanov was feeling kind as the bishop retreated the d2 instead!
Of course the real story was that Black almost certainly played 14 ... Qc7 (which is theory) and only later moved the queen to e7 (on move 22). Kaidanov eventually won the game as White, and the mistaken move is quite clear, so the game may prove to be useful after all. However it is always worth double checking whether the moves make sense, as the risk is to blindly follow something that never happened in the first place!

Kaidanov,Gregory S (2640) - Kamsky,Gata (2645) [E75]
USA-ch Long Beach (8), 1993

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Stephen Fry explains the Dunning Kruger Effect

The Dunning Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where low-ability individuals overestimate their abilities. It has been known (formally) since 1999, although I am sure this effect was observed well before then, possibly under the heading 'to stupid to know they're stupid'.
For anyone unfamiliar with this effect, there is a short video (narrated by Stephen Fry) which explains it in the context of current American politics.

But what has this to do with chess? In this case not a lot, but it does relate to an observation I've made over the years. The biggest mistakes we make in chess don't happen when we don't have an answer to the problem in front of us, but when we (incorrectly) think we have the best answer to the problem in front of us. Often a game is lost because the move we thought that worked had a fatal flaw in it, and we would have been better off choosing a less flashy move. Usually this is described as over-confidence, which of course is a manifestation of Dunning-Kruger.
By the way, there is a flip side to the Dunning-Kruger effect. Often people who excel at a task don't realise that what they are doing is difficult for the average practitioner, and assume because it is easy for them, it must be easy for everyone. Anyone who has ever coached chess is probably aware of this (although maybe not consciously!)

Friday, 12 May 2017

All the way with CAA

While holidaying in the UK over Christmas I got to work with a number of British Arbiters. One thing they do is take arbiting a little more seriously than they do in Australia, even going so far as having an Arbiters Association. The Chess Arbiters Association (CAA) not only provides information and resources to British Arbiters it runs courses for National Arbiters, and produces a regular newsletter on arbiting matters.
The last couple of issues contained some interesting articles, including commentary on the 2016 Victorian Lightning Championship (I did share my perspective with the magazine editor, IA Alex McFarlane). It also reports on interesting incidents that have occurred in other events, including a "What would you decide?" section.
If you want to have a look at back issues of the 'Arbiting Matters' magazine, or just access some of the other resources, you can get all of this at the Chess Arbiters Association homepage.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

2017 Asian Individual

The 2017 Asian Individual Championship starts tomorrow in Chengdu, China. As a Continental Championship it has attracted a very strong field, with 33 GM's in the 69 player field. The half way point in the field is 2470 and there are even GM's in the bottom half of the draw.
Now normally I would only have a passing interest in this event (unless Papua New Guinea sends a representative) but I will be taking  greater notice as Australia (and even Canberra) is sending a representative. Junior player Albert Winkelman is the Australian representative this year, and although at the tail of the field, is clearly hoping to continue his good form from the Oceania Zonal, where he just missed out on a direct FM title.
In the first round he is playing GM John Paul Gomez from The Philippines. Certainly a tough opponent, but first rounds of any big events have a few upset results and I am sure Albert is hoping he can create one of them.
The only official website I can find is in Chinese, but there is live coverage at chess24 and results can be found at  The games start at 4pm Canberra time.

Another quick way to draw

One of the benefits of being a chess blogger/magazine editor is that every now and then you receive free books and magazines, either to review, or just because some is looking to send them to a good home. Recently I was fortunate to end up with a collection that included bound copies of Chess World (edited by CJS Purdy) and have been happily flicking through them. In doing so I came across a reasonably well known game, that falls under the heading of the 'quick repetition draw'.
The game was played in 1945 Australian Correspondence Championship and ended in a draw after 7 moves. As it was CC the draw offer was backed up by plenty of analysis, which is sound to this day. In fact after this game was played, this exact variation was played at least 27 times in over the board tournaments, although not every game was drawn. The games where White won seemed to be a case of Black missing the correct follow up on move 11, while Black won if White tried to avoid the draw.

Vaughn,Frank - Purdy,CJS [D82]
Australian CC Championship, 1945

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Chess on a sphere

At school I found spherical trigonometry quite difficult, which is why my career as a Napoleonic Era Naval Captain never really took off. Working with flat surfaces was OK, which instead explains my affinity for chess.
So I assume that I would do quite poorly on the chess board highlighted here. It is a spherical chess board, where the pieces are held in place by magnets. It sits in a frame, and I assume has mechanisms to to rotate the globe so as to provide access to all the pieces and squares.
I'm not sure what the rules for playing on it are, but I assume it is akin to Cylinder Chess (where pieces can leave the board on one side and reenter on the other.). I'm also assuming that pieces cannot cross the 'poles' although it might be a more interesting game if they could.
The set seems to be a one off creation, but the designer (Ben Myers) has posted instructions on how he made it, so if you are interested, you may be able to build one yourself.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Sandu controversy - redux

In 2015 concerns were raised about the performance of Mihaela Sandu in the European Women's Championship. Sandu started the event with 5/5, at which point a number of competitors raised questions about the anti-cheating methods in place for the competition, and somewhat unwisely, mentioned Sandu by name. Sandu in return lodged a complaint with the FIDE Ethics Commision, which has finally been decided. (My initial post on the matter is here. I recommend you read the comments as well).
The Ethics Commission has handed downs its judgement, with a variety of punishments being handed out to 15 players named in the complaint. Natalia Zhukova has received a 3 month ban from chess, suspended for a year on the condition she makes no further unfounded accusations against another player. The Ethics Commission regarded her as the chief complainant, and as a result, deserving of the greatest punishment. A further 9 players received a reprimand and warning, while the remaining 5 players received a warning not to repeat the behaviour.
Ultimately this is an important judgement, albeit one that was a little late in delivery. While I was a member of the FIDE Anti-Cheating Committee (ACC), the issue of false public accusations was one that I thought needed to be dealt with, and I pushed hard to have regulations dealing with this included. Of course the work of the ACC was stalled in 2014 as the FIDE Executive lost interest in almost everything that did not directly contribute to re-election of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, but it seems that after a 2 year hiatus, work is now progressing in this area.
Finally, there are some who may think this judgement will discourage players from reporting suspect cheaters. This was taken into account when the regulations were drafted, and there is a distinction between reporting concerns directly and privately to an arbiter (although a formal complaint may still be requested), and making such suspicions public (noting that there is some dispute about whether this occurred in the Sandu case).
For further coverage on this issue, including a link to the judgement, read the Chessbase report.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Winning (and losing) quickly at CC

It is still possible to win (or lose) quickly at correspondence chess. While there is a belief that *all* CC is played with computers, this belief is misplaced in most instances. Having said that, the quality of CC has increased because of computers, or more correctly, computer databases.
These days most players have access to reasonably similar collections of games, meaning that opening choices should be a little sounder. Also, keeping track of your analysis is a lot easier, as you can just enter, save and review variations, before choosing your move.
Nonetheless, even with these advantages, quick losses still occur. The most common cause of the quick loss is CC is the dreaded loss on time. This sometimes occurs when a player 'silently withdraws' from an event, but simply losing track of a game and forgetting to move is another cause (and one of which I have been guilty).
The second cause is the bane of online players everywhere, the mis-click. And while online CC has a 'enter and confirm' system, I have still seen plenty of games decided this way.
And the third is the good old 'miscalculation'. Often our biggest mistakes happen when we think we've found the best move, only to find we've missed something along the way. This happens quite a lot in non-engine assisted CC, especially when one player fails to look that one move further.
The featured game for this article comes from the 2016 Australian Interstate Teams. I'm pretty sure that this falls under section 2(the 'mis-click'), as White's 12th move is difficult to explain otherwise. After that, all Black needed to do was head for the kingside and mate the undefended king.

Hughes,David (1752) - Gray,Garvin (1993)
AUS/2016/IT (AUS) ICCF, 30.06.2016

Saturday, 6 May 2017

4NCL - Guilford win again, White Rose survive

The 4NCL season in the UK has just finished, with Guildford winning the competition again. For their final round game they field 7 GM's and an IM, so it isn't surprising that they scored the maximum 14/14 in match points and 45/56 game points in the Championship section. Cheddleton finished in 2nd place, while the Guildford second team took third.
The White Rose team did not do as well as they have in previous years, but a 5th place finish (with more game points than the teams that finished third and fourth) leaves them in the top division for another year. They also saw one of their players, Matthias Gantner, score an IM norm.
The Second Division was won by Alba (with a strong Scottish representation) with The AD's runners up. They, along with Spirit of Atticus and Cambridge University are promoted to the top section next season. White Rose II (which Harry Press and I played two games for), avoided relegation to Division 3, finishing third in the relegation pool (2 places above the relegation zone).

Thursday, 4 May 2017

2017 Asian Seniors

The 2017 Asian Seniors is being held in Auckland, New Zealand from the 9th to the 15th of October. It is being organised by the New Zealand Chess Federation and the Oceania Chess Confederation on behalf of the Asian Chess Federation.
The tournament is a 9 round swiss and will award titles for Over 50 Open, Over 65 Open and Over 50 Womens. (According to FIDE regulations IM for the winner, FM for second and third). The venue is the Waipuna Conference Centre, which was the venue for the 2017 Oceania Zonal, held earlier this year.
The organisers have already announced their first high profile entrant, GM Eugene Torre from The Philippines. Torre was the first GM from Asia, and last year picked up a bronze medal for his score at the 2016 Olympiad. While entries are likely to mainly come from Australia and New Zealand, I would not be surprised to see more than a few IM's and GM's from other Asian countries make the trip to the shaky isles.
Full details of the tournament, including entry conditions can be found at this link.

Ah, chess parents

Last week a story broke about a 12 year old girl who withdrew from a chess event in Malaysia, after being told her dress was 'inappropriate'. I held off on covering the story, as I have seen this sought of story start with sensationalist coverage, before turning out to be not quite what it seemed to be.
The last few days has seen more information come to light, and it does seem that there is more to the case than initially reported. There appears to be no dispute that the comment was made, but the claim is that the comment came from a teacher from the hosting school. But to confuse matters, the teacher was also a tournament arbiter, so it isn't clear whether it was the teacher speaking or the arbiter.
Nonetheless it is still a pretty poor state of affairs, as I have never heard a complaint of this type levelled against a male player (of any age). Nigel Short once had a complaint made against him for playing in shorts, but I don't recall if this was because the sight of his legs was making it hard for other players to concentrate. On the other hand I know of at least 2 well reported incidents in Australia, where the 'making it difficult to concentrate' complaint has been made against female players.
The Malaysian incident has now turned into a battle of competing versions, and legal action is being tossed around by both sides. It will probably run for a bit, and like most incidents of this type, will be misremembered and misreported for years to come.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Seniors Chess

Now that I am eligible, Seniors Chess (50 years+) is of greater interest to me than previously. I am thinking of heading to New Zealand in October to player the Asian Seniors, and getting a team to a future World Seniors Championship might also be a goal.
Currently the 2017 edition of the World Seniors Teams Championship is underway in Crete, and while not as popular as the Olympiad, it doesn't look to dissimilar. Of the 98 players in the 50+ section, 20 of them gold the GM title, with the England 1 team fielding 4 of them (Short, Nunn, Speelman and Arkell). However they are only third in the tournament with the St Petersburg team (also containing 4 GM's ) well out in front after 7 rounds.
The 65+ section doesn't have quite as many GM's (only 5!), but 35 titles players in that field is still impressive.
While the top seeded England team may once again fall just short of gold (shades of 1986 Olympiad, plus any Football World Cup bar 1966), GM John Nunn did score a nice attacking win, which reminded me of his games from that earlier period.

Nunn,John - Beilfuss,Wilfried [B30]
World Seniors Teams, 2017

Saturday, 29 April 2017

The short of it

Having given you a super long game yesterday, here is a much shorter game. GM John Nunn once remarked to lose a miniature (under 25 moves, you need to make 3 mistakes as White in the opening, or 2 as Black. This was certainly true in this game, where b5 is inadvisable, Bd7 is inappropriate, and cxb5 is indefensible.

Blackburne,Joseph Henry - Fleissig,Maximilian [D11]
Wiener Schachkongress 1st Vienna (3), 1873

Friday, 28 April 2017

A real monster

Tournament games that go over 100 moves are quite rare while 150+ movers are rarer still. As an arbiter I have had to sit through a few games that went past the century mark and a couple that went beyond 150. Normally these games end in draws, with the length of the game being caused by extended attempts to beat a fairly solid defense.
I suspect the spectators (and arbiters) at the following game probably enjoyed their experience more than I did. For one it was played during a time when adjournments still existed, and so probably ran over a few days, allowing both players and spectators a break. Secondly, it was played during one of the great pre World War I tournaments, the San Sebastian event of 1911, which was where Capablanca sensationally announced his arrival at the top level.
The game itself was played in the first round, and at the time, set the world record for the longest master game. Mot of it was endgame manoeuvring, although the final stage would be familiar to most players.

Duras,Oldrich - Janowski,Dawid Markelowicz [C77]
San Sebastian IT 1st San Sebastian (1), 20.02.1911

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Mitrofanov's Deflection

White to play and win
The diagrammed position is one my favourite endgame studies of all time. It was first shown to me by FM Manuel Weeks way back when, and is rightly considered one of the best endgame studies of all times.
Now, I'm not going to torture you by requesting a solution, but I'm not going to hand one out either. The study itself has an interesting history (in part because the initial version was cooked), but this version stands the test of time (and the brutality of computer analysis). So if you want to find out more about the study, and the author, follow this link. But be warned, the answer is given, in all its brilliance.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Any sac you can play I can play better

In round 2 of the Gashimov Memorial, Topalov won against Wojtaszek with a stunning rook sacrifice. Two rounds later, Kramnik showed he can do at least as well, beating Harikrishna with a rook sac of his own. I'll leave it up to you dear reader to decide which is the better sacrifice.

Wojtaszek,R (2745) - Topalov,V (2741) [D12]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017 Shamkir AZE (2), 22.04.2017

Kramnik,V (2811) - Harikrishna,P (2755) [C84]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2017 Shamkir AZE (4), 24.04.2017

When was white winning?

Lev Aronian has won the 2017 Grenke Chess Classic, ahead of a very strong field. His win may have been helped by the fact I did not give him the 'kiss of death' by tipping a win for him, but it was more likely to be due to his strong play.
One of his early tournament victories was against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in a game that on the one hand exemplifies modern chess, but on the other, one I found difficult to get a handle on. Following the 'pawn structure be damned' approach, both players found themselves with rooks and bishops after 14 moves, and one open file to fight over. To my untrained eye this wasn't enough for either side to claim an advantage, but after another 20 moves, Aronian was able to force one of his pawns to f5 and Black's position collapsed. At first I thought Black must have made one big mistake, but going over the game it seems that it was more a succession of little ones that caused his defeat, culminating with him losing control of f5.

Aronian,Levon (2774) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2803) [A04]
GRENKE Chess Classic Karlsruhe (3.2), 17.04.2017

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Playing the back marker

You're cruising along, have a couple of wins under your belt, when you have to play someone at the tail end of the field (note, I'm talking about round robin events). Suddenly you have to make a choice. Do you (a) decide that the point is in the bag no matter what you do, and so play for the brilliancy, (b) play extra cautiously as you don't want to blow a sandshoe, or (c) ignore the scoreboard and play the position on the board?
Most people would say that (c) is the correct choice, but I suspect that in practice, the actual split may well be 40% a, 40% b and 20% c.
An extreme example of some choosing box A was Frank Marshall in the 1903 Monte Carlo tournament. Although he finished slightly below 50%, he decided to have some fun against possibly the most famous 'back marker' in tournament history. This was the event where Charles Paul Narcisse Moreau (known to chess history as Colonel Moreau) scored 0/26, losing all his games to the other 13 competitors. While Marshall was known for his attacking play, this game saw it taken to the extreme, playing a Muzio Gambit, offering two pieces within the first 8 moves. The unlucky Moreau was doing OK until move 16, where Bc6 turned out to be the losing move, as the pin down the d file resulted in material lose.

Marshall,Frank James - Moreau,C [C37]
Monte Carlo Monte Carlo (23), 13.03.1903

Saturday, 22 April 2017

So much late night chess

Spring must be a popular time for chess events in the Northern Hemisphere as three big tournaments are running at the moment. In Germany the Grenke Classic sees Carlsen, Caruana, MVL, and Aronian battling in an 8 player round robin, while the accompanying Open has attracted a massive field. In Reykjavik the Open is underway, with 33 GM's in the 266 player field. And the Gashimov Memorial is just starting, with So, Kramnik, Karjakin and Adams in the 10 player field.
The best bit about all these events is that they are all being broadcast live on Chess24. This makes following the tournaments a little easier, as you can just jump from tournament to tournament, without having to jump from site to site. And if you are pacing yourself, the Gashimov Memorial starts mid evening Canberra time, Grenke at 11:30pm and Reykjavik a couple of hours later.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - An arbiters reflection

As the Tournament Director of the 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup I think the tournament ran very well. In fact one common comment from the arbiting team was how quickly it seemed to finish, which usually indicates there were no major issues (which there weren't).
This was especially noteworthy as the field of 280+ players was the second largest on record, and the venue was a little trickier to handle this year. here were a couple of reasons why the tournament ran well this year, first and foremost due to the growing experience of the organising team. I was able to hand off most of the routine tournament management to my fellow arbiters, while I concentrated on pairings and keeping the DGT boards broadcasting (Note to self: A new laptop next year!).
On the whole the players themselves were much better behaved this year, almost certainly as a result of decisions taken last year concerning serious misbehaviour. We still have to patiently explain the 'no mobile phones' in the playing hall to parents (and no, having them on silent is not an excuse), and some conversations were a bit loud, but the spectators were pretty good this year as well.
There were a couple of interesting incidents in the tournament, including a game in the Premier where a player accidentally captured his own piece (two minute penalty and he had to move the piece first touched). A few players are still confused about the time control, with one game seeing both players surf the 30s increment until move 70, not realising that an extra 30 minutes was added when one clock went to zero. Next year we may shift the Premier back to a straight 90m+30s, in part because of this confusion.
The level of withdrawals was thankfully low, with only a few forfeits (one of which was the organisers fault), and 'silent' withdrawals. Disappointingly the last round of the Premier had one player forfeit his game stating he was unwell, but this seemed to be a short term illness as he hung around to watch the complete round.
I'd like to thank the rest of the team for their work this year. Charles Zworestine (Premier), Alana Chibnall (Major), Lee Forace (Minor) and Miona Ikeda (Under 1200) put in an enormous number of hours to make the tournament a success, and I for one am very grateful for their efforts.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Oh No, another time waster

Blizzard have just released a free version of the original StarCraft, along with the expansion. It has been patched to fix any bugs that have been noticed over the last 8 years(!) and runs under all the Window releases (including 10). You can download it from the Blizzard site.

An arm-brain puzzle

Arm-Brain is a partnership variant where one player names a piece to be moved (eg King or Knight), while their partner decides which piece (if there is more than one) and the move to play. It is a fun game, although I find it very challenging. But not as challenging as the following puzzle.
While not quite 'Arm-Brain' the conditions of the puzzle are as follows: White starts with 1.e4 and can then tell Black the type of piece they can move (again, Knight or pawn etc). Black is free to make any move with the type of piece named (so if White says pawn, any pawn move will do). Can you find a Mate in 5 for White? (NB White can name a different piece for each Black move).
This challenge was set by GM Michal Krasenkow over dinner after the Doeberl Cup had finished. Tournament winner GM Surya Ganguly solved it in around 20 minutes, while I gave up after 10.

Monday, 17 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Ganguly dominates

The 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup has finished with a dominating win for Indian GM Surya Ganguly. Going into the final round he led by a point over GM Michal Krasenkow, and a relatively short draw with GM Bartlomiej Heberla secured him outright first on 8/9. Krasenkow had a tougher game on board 2, but was able to hold off a strong attack by Fedja Zulfic to take outright second. GM Zong Yuan Zhao was the best of the local players, finishing in third place with 7/9.
Ganguly was clearly the dominant player of the tournament, beating Krasenkow in their decisive Round 5 games, and only conceding draws to Zhao and Heberla. Krasenkow also showed his strength, winning 7 games, and drawing with Zhao in round 7. Zhao should also be pleased with his performance, drawing with the top 2 seeds and finishing undefeated.
Further down FM Luis Chan had an excellent tournament, picking up the prize for the best Australian junior. Unrated Longfei Zhao (CHN) also did well, scoring 5/9 in his first international event.
The Major was won by Brendan Zou with 6/7, while the Minor saw Parunithan Ranganathan and Aiden Odenthal  share first prize on 6.5/7, having drawn with each other in round 4 and winning all their other games.

Krasenkow,Michal (2620) - Ganguly,Surya Shekhar (2640) [D47]
2017 O2C Doeberl Cup Canberra Australia (5.1), 15.04.2017

Sunday, 16 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 3

Day 3 of the 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup saw the top seeds continued domination. GM Surya Ganguly went to 5.5/6, with a win over GM Michal Krasenkow in the morning round, before a hard fought draw in round 6 against GM Zong Yuan Zhao. Krasenkow recovered from his round 5 loss to score a convincing win over IM Trevor Tao to finish the day on 5/6. GM Zong Yuan Zhao is also on 5/6 after his draw with Ganguly, and he and Krasenkow are due to play in round 7.
IM Gary Lane, IM James Morris, IM Junta Ikeda and English FM Brandon Clarke are just behind the leading group on 4.5, with Clarke in the frame for an IM norm, while good results for the other players could leave them with GM norm chances.
Last night saw the traditional Doeberl Cup Lightning, which attracted a field of 105 players. IM Junta Ikeda entered at the very last minute, and proceeded to dominate the tournament, starting with 8 straight wins before a final round draw secured an easy first place.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Something from Day 2

While it has been a little hard to keep track of all the action from the Doeberl Cup, this nice game did catch my eye from round 4.

Smirnov,Anton (2511) - Krasenkow,Michal (2620) [D31]
2017 O2C Doeberl Cup Canberra Australia (4.2), 14.04.2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 2

The 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup got into full swing on Day 2, with the Major, Minor and Under 1200 players joining the Premier players. The extra players brought the total field up to 281 players, which is the second largest entry on record (311 in 2014 being hard to top).
After rounds 3 and 4 of the Premier, two players remain undefeated. GM Surya Ganguly (IND) defeated IM Igor Bjelobrk and GM Moulthun Ly, while GM Michal Krasenkow (POL) dispatched young Australian IM's Junta Ikeda and Anton Smirnov. Today's round 5 see them clash on board 1. Just behind the leading 2 are GM Zong Yuan Zhao (AUS) and defending Doeberl Cup champion IM James Morris (AUS). They play on the second board in this mornings round.
The Major started with the usual round 1 upsets. The top 5 seeds managed to score 50% against their lower rated opponents, and there were plenty of upsets further down. The Minor was a little less random, although Athena Hathiramani scored a nice round 1 win over 5th seed Bill Egan.
Today's round starts at 9:30 am (and is already underway as I type this), with this afternoons action starting at 3pm (for Major, Minor and Under 1200), and 3:30pm (for the Premier). The Doeberl Lightning is also on today, starting at 7:30pm this evening, and a capacity entry of 120 players is expected.

Friday, 14 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 1

The first day of the 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup saw the Premier section get off to a relatively smooth.  start. There were a couple of last minute additions and subtractions from the field, but once that was sorted, 64 players began the first of the days 2 rounds.
Top seed is Indian GM Surya Ganguly, with GM Michal Krasenkow and GM Bartlomiej Heberla second 2 and 3. GM Zong Yuan Zhao is the top Australian player in the field, with GM's Moulthun Ly and Darryl Johansen also taking part.
The first round provided few obstacles for the top seeds, but not all of them came away unscathed. Fred Litchfield continued his recent tradition of being a tough first round opponent by holding  Heberla to a draw. Peter Grinyer went one better with a win over WIM Heather Richards, and Sean Goh scored a smashing win over Neil Wright. The other 'highlight' of the round was a fire alarm at the venue, although an evacuation was not required (unlike 2 years ago).
Round 2 saw some tougher pairings, but most top seeds powered on. FM Dusan Stojic held GM Zong Yuan Zhao to a draw (in the last game to finish), as did Gary McNamara against IM Irine Sukandar. There are still 9 players on 2/2, including Ganguly, IM ANton Smirnov, IM James Morris and Johansen.
Day 2 will see rounds 3 and 4 of the Premier, and Round 1 of the Major, Minor and Under 1200. An almost capacity field of 280 players is expected to be on deck today, so if you want to see the order and chaos of a really large chess event, you are most welcome to drop by.

Litchfield,Frederick (2037) - Heberla,Bartlomiej (2580) [E00]
2017 O2C Doeberl Cup Canberra Australia (1.3), 13.04.2017

Thursday, 13 April 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup begins today

The Premier Section of the 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup begins today. The pairings for the first round can be found at the tournament website, with the field reaching a somewhat fitting 64 players. As there is no acceleration in the pairings, there is a bit of a gap between the top half and bottom half, although there are still some interesting pairings. Normally first round upsets occur in the middle boards, so I would keep an eye on boards 10 to 15 if you do turn up to watch.
The first round begins at 1pm at University House, ANU, with live coverage on Like last year there will be a slight delay on the broadcast, although it may not matter if you are watching from home. The evening round begins at 7pm, while the other 3 events (Major, Minor and Under 1200) all start on Friday.
I will be busy being an arbiter at the event, and I can never tell if that gives more more chances to blog, or less. I will try and keep the running coverage going, but it does depend on the workload of looking after 275 players.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

So after the fireworks of the previous FIDE Presidential Board meeting, the latest news to come out of Athens is somewhat underwhelming. Apparently the previous resignation of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as FIDE Presdient was all a misunderstanding, and he is now staying on until the next election in 2018. The powers that he had handed over to FIDE Deputy President Georgios Makropoulos to allow FIDE to dodge US sanctions remain handed over to the FIDE Deputy President, so nothing has changed there either. In fact, to quote John Cleese, 'blessed is just about everyone with a vested interest in the status quo, as far as I can tell'.
For all the name calling, lawyers at 10 paces, and 'he said, she said', FIDE is still in the situation is was 2 weeks ago, with a President who has no power, an executive who does as they please, a lot of people with their eye on the next election. I guess the PB got another trip to Athens out of it, but unless the real goal was to increase the number of hits on the FIDE website, the whole exercise served no purpose.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

I might not have been the best person to ask

I was asked to do a radio interview today on why there are so few female players in the Worlds top 100. Fortunately I was assisted by a couple of Australia's top female players. You can hear the interview here

Sunday, 9 April 2017


Sometimes it takes me a little while to catch up with my TV viewing. So I missed this Saturday Night Live chess skit. Taking on the well know trope of "chess as a metaphor for ..." it obviously takes a slightly different direction. If you've ever watched "Fresh" or "The Wire" you should appreciate the joke.
The link to the skit is here (It currently works, but no guarantees in the future sadly).

How many moves ahead?

One common question that chess players get is "How many moves can you see ahead?" I have listed some answers previously, but I do like the more outrageous claims (eg 20 moves), but only if they are delivered with a wink.
Of course some long combinations start as more of a hunch, before crystallising into a concrete line. It helps if a player has two results up there sleeve, with an escape pod if anything goes dramatically wrong.
Wesley So played a brilliancy in yesterdays round of the US Championship, against Jeffrey Xiong. While So's position looked slightly better, it didn't really kick off until the knight sac on f2. Even then it wasn't clear what the end point was, although So had plenty of threats. At first it seemed that the mating attack was the major goal, but it turned out that the c pawn was the real danger, and after c3, Xiong had no real defence. An impressive game by So, even more so if he was able to calculate the final position 10 moves out.

Xiong,Jeffery (2674) - So,Wesley (2822) [E06]
ch-USA 2017 Saint Louis USA (9.1), 07.04.2017

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Pro Chess Hack

The 2017 Pro Chess League (organised by was by all measures a great success. Overcoming the issue of distance by holding the tournament online, the organisers fulfilled their goal of holding a world wide chess competition. The format, while a little unusual for OTB chess, was also suited to online chess, with 4 rounds of 15m+2s games per match. The final was won by the St Louis Bishop's beating the Norway Gnomes 9-7. Carlsen went 4-0 for the Gnomes, but it wasn't enough to topple the Bishop's, lead by Wesley So.
Flicking through the games from the event I came across the following hack. Possibly (or even probably) due to the fast time limit, both players took some risks in the opening, but it was Romain (playing Black), that made the final mistake (and probably a few before that as well). This allowed Bacrot to find a nice finish with Qxd7, which either mated or lead to massive material gain.

Bacrot,Etienne (2695) - Edouard,Romain (2626) [A40]
PRO League KO Stage 2017 INT (2), 08.03.2017

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

April fooled!

Normally I keep my eyes open for clever April Fools Day jokes, but I was busy with the Dubbo Open this year, and so if any happened in my vicinity, I probably missed them. However I did catch up on a couple later in the day, as well as on the 2nd, although they were pretty tame and/or obvious.
Chessbase had a story about Malcolm Pein planning to take over FIDE, but even with a photo shopped picture, it was pretty obvious. But to give Chessbase their due, they did catch me out with another April Fools Day story, although I've only just realised it.
Last year they had a story about a young problemist having a problem published in the February 1968 edition of Chess Life. While I didn't see the chessbase article, I did see references to it elsewhere on the internet, and assumed it was true. The name of the problemist was Donald Trump, and the problem was a mate in 4. It was only when I decided to catch up with the reaction from this years 'fake news' that I discovered that I had fallen for last years 'fake news'. The article was cooked up by two Chessbase editors, and although they fessed up pretty quick, I wonder if this may end up being like the Pope JP II chess problem, with the fake story believed long after the real one is forgotten.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Informed or spammed?

Spam emails. We get them because they work. There is always someone going to click a link, or buy a product, or take some other action that financially rewards the sender. Otherwise no one would send them.
This motivation keeps occurring to me every time I receive an email from the FIDE Office concerning the on going issues with the Presidency. There has been a steady outflow of emails trying to justify the actions taken by the executive, clearly intended to garner support from a chess community that has previously been bullied, bribed, coerced or simply ignored by FIDE and its office holders. It seems 'persuasion' is the latest flavour of the FIDE sandwich on offer, and so far it doesn't taste particularly nice.
From my personal position, while it would be an improvement if Kirsan was no longer FIDE President, it isn't much of an improvement if the people that fought tooth and nail to keep him in power (as recently as last year) only changed the figurehead. The incidents that occurred during the 2010 and 2014 FIDE Elections  would simply be repeated in 2018, just with a new name at the top of the ticket.
So for now I'm watching from the sidelines, feeling like I'm watching Carlton play Collingwood. I'm not interested in who wins, just who suffers a career ending injury.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

2017 Dubbo Open - Day 2

The 2017 Dubbo Open ended in a tie between two first time winners, Leon Kempen (VIC) and Slavko Kojic (NSW). Kempen held a half point lead going into the final round, but could only draw with WFM Alana Chibnall. This allowed Kojic to catch up, after beating tournament surprise packer, Kerwin Ma. Chibnall's draw was enough to take a share of third place, alongside local players Don Keast and Treveor Bemrose, who drew their final round match up.
Despite his last round loss, Kerwin Ma was the winner of the Under 1300 section, while Daniel Stevenson and Saffron Archer picked up the Under 1600 prize.
Full tournament results can be found at If you click on the 'Games' link you can find a small selection of games from each round.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

2017 Dubbo Open - Day 1

The 2017 Dubbo Open started with a solid field of 30 players, mixing participants from the local region and further afield. Top seed was Dragan Granjas from Bathurst, NSW, with local champion Don Keast 2nd seed, and fellow Dubbo player Trever Bemrose seeded third.
However at at the end of the first 3 rounds, none of these players have a share of the lead. Instead 4th seed WFM Alana Chibnall, is on 3/3, along with CM Leon Kempen from Victoria, and Slavko Kojic (NSW). Chibnall defeated top seed Granjas in the third round, in a game where a dispute over the recording of moves marred an otherwise tough battle. Kempen beat Keast with a nice attack while Kojic beat Rod McPhee.
There were more than a few upsets on the first day, with local junior Kerwin Ma finishing with 2.5/3. He beat two higher rated opponents in rounds one and two before drawing with Bemrose in round 3. Mary Wilkie also had  good result in beating Alexander Aich, her first ever win against Aich in this event.
After round 3 10 players took part in the Time Handicap Blitz, where higher players conceded time on the clock to their lower rated opponents. This did not make enough of a difference as top seed Alana Chibnall won the tournament for the third time in 4 years.
The final three rounds will take place tomorrow, with Kempen playing Kojic, and Chibnall playing Bemrose on the top 2 boards.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Dubbo 2017

The 2017 Dubbo Open is starting tomorrow, with a field of 27 players currently entered. There are a few visitors from Sydney, Canberra and interstate, as well as a good number of locals. At the moment the top seed is Don Keast (Dubbo), with Trevor Bremose (Dubbo) and Alana Chibnall (Canberra) seeded 2 and 3.
You can follow the event at and while there won't be live coverage of the tournament, I will try and have at least some games from each round available. First round starts at 10:30am tommorow, with 3 rounds on Saturday and another 3 on Sunday.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

How to beat the Ruy Lopez

Here is a simple system that seems good enough to beat the Ruy Lopz. The only conditions are that (a) you are playing in a junior event (the younger the better) and (b) your opponent knows just enough to win the e pawn.

Kral,J - Chvojka,M [C64]
CZE-chMa U10 Svetla nad Sazavou (4), 1998

While this is the 'Model' game, it does occur in slightly longer games. Nf6-Nc3 can be inserted at Move 4 or 5, but the key thing to remember is an early Bc5 followed by an "oops I've blundered the e pawn".

Bumper year for Doeberl on the cards

With two weeks to go it is looking like a bumper turnout for this years O2C Doeberl Cup. Both the Premier and the Minor (Under 1600) have already reached their entry limits, and there are only 16 places left in the Under 1200 event, and 26 in the Major (Under 2000). This is well ahead of entries at the same time in previous years, with the exception of the year when Gary Kasparov was a guest of the tournament.
While this state of affairs is pleasing to the organisers, it would be a shame if anyone missed out by leaving it to the last minute to enter! The Major is probably the best tournament to try for now (if you are rated between 1400 and 2000), but if you are rated over 2000, you can still ask to be added to the wait list for the Premier. There are always players who have to pull out at the last minute, so extra spots may become available.
If you have entered, there is also important information about catering at the tournament. Due to a change in staffing arrangements at the venue, Friday night and Saturday lunchtime meals are being sold as a package ($40 covers both meals). This needs to be pre-ordered, as a minimum number of packages need to be sold for it to go ahead (otherwise refunds will be provided).
All the latest details, including the entry lists can be found at

(** I am a paid official for this event **)

Wednesday, 29 March 2017


Either FIDE Executive Director Nigel Freeman has done something deliberately brave, or something accidentally stupid, by publishing the news that FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has resigned. It seems that the basis for this claim was that Kirsan had verbally threatened to resign during the latest FIDE Presidential Board meeting, and at the end of the meeting said 'I resign' three times before leaving.
Kirsan has denied that he did resign (only once I assume), and I suspect this leaves FIDE in a bit of a quandary. The Presidential Board seems to want to be rid of him (and some members were openly speaking of ditching him at the next election), but claiming he has now resigned is a bit of a stretch. Under the FIDE statutes they can try and have him removed, but according to one section requires the approval of the Ethics Commission.
If I was a lawyer, and I am not, I would want to see a written resignation before I tried to appoint a new President (which will be Makropoulos in an acting capacity according to A.03.10 of the FIDE Handbook). Of course they could just ignore him and hopes he goes away, as apparently Kirsan isn't really the President, as FIDE want to keep doing business with the United States.
Or based on recent experiences (both personal and observational), the FIDE PB could just pick a rule that suits them and enforce that one, to the exclusion of all else. It is a policy that worked in the lead up to the 2014 election, so it should work now.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Stop me if you've heard this one before

It seems that the FIDE Executive have found a way of replacing their troubled President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. The front page of has states that he has announced his resignation, and that an extraordinary board meeting will be held in April. While this seems pretty straightforward, according to Kirsan himself, this news is false, and has no intention of standing down.
This has all occurred in the last few hours, so for later updates I suggest you catch the whole story at

Sunday, 26 March 2017

The UAE is the place to be

Sharjah in the UAE is rapidly making a name for itself in the world of chess. Having hosted the FIDE Grand Prix event earlier this year, it is now hosting the Sharjah Masters at the Sharjah Chess and Cultural Centre.
The tournament has attracted a large field of 230 players, including 92 players from India. However the organisers were a bit over enthusiastic in drawing up the entry list, as the first round saw 34 forfeits, mainly from players who indicated an interest, but hadn't actually turned up. This included a number of top seeds, resulting in a few free points to lower rated players.
Having sorted that out, the tournament seems to have settled down a bit.  Currently there are still 13 players on 3/3 but mixed in with some well known GM's like Gawain Jones and Wang Hao are a few lesser known CM'a and FM's. This is because the organisers have accelerated the tournament pairings, but in a somewhat odd way. They looked to have split the field into top half and bottom half, and simply paired the players within those groups for the first 3 rounds. So instead of pairing top half players on 1 with bottom half players on 2, the bottom half players on 2 played other bottom half players on 2. There is no gradual deceleration after round 3 either (as recommended by the Baku System), so round 4 will see pairings that would normally be found in the first round of a non accelerated event.
The website for the event is here, and apart from finding out about the tournament, you can also read about the host club, which is the largest dedicated chess club in the world (by area).

Algorithms now rule us

A few years back I set up an account with so as to create a curated online newspaper dealing with chess. As far as I know I am probably the only person that reads it although if you are interested I think this is the link to it.
Unfortunately I have little control over the source material, apart from specifying that it has to have something related to chess. I suspect thi is more of a key word search, rather than an intelligent collection, as I do get a number of 'chess but not chess' articles.
I don't mind the recipes for 'chess pie' or the occasional articles on "Chess Records", but I am quite sick of the articles on the current president of the united states. For some reason certain sections of the blogspehere portray every blunder, mistake or just outright lie as some kind of move in 4 dimensional chess game that most of us are too dumb to understand. So references to "playing chess while the rest of you are playing checkers" or "smart like a chess grandmaster" seem to trigger the collection algorithm's interest, and it ends up on my screen. This is not good or desirable.
Attempts at tweaking the settings to avoid this have proved unsuccessful at this point, so if you do click the above link be warned, it isn't always pleasant reading.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Between the server and the board

These day I play a lot of server chess over at This is the home of the International Correspondence Chess Federation, with correspondence being almost exclusively being carried out on their chess server.
When I first started playing CC it was still played by post, with moves (and scoresheets) going by mail. I took a break from it for a while, and only got back into it when the internet had really taken off.
Even then my return tournaments were played by mail, but in this case, email. Server based chess was only just starting to become popular (and technically feasible) so my early events involved remembering to send moves. There were some issues with this system (lost emails, stuff going into the wrong folders etc), and it wasn't until server based chess came along that they were resolved.
I did take part in the first Australian Email Championship and I think I finished mid field. There were a few long games, but also a couple of quick ones, like the following. My opponent captured on h2 and offered a draw (which was unavoidable anyway) but the line after Kh1 is slightly more interesting.

Thew,Brian - Press,Shaun [C80]
CCLA Australian Email Championship, 11.2000

Thursday, 23 March 2017

ANU Chess Club

Up until last year there was a chess club that met at the Australian National University. Due to a combination of factors the club ceased operations, although there was hope that it may restart in the new year.
I'm pleased to say that not only has the club been reborn, but it has already picked up a large group of chess players. ANU students Fred Litchfield and Willis Lo have restarted the club on Wednesday evenings, although it is more of a 'Uni Club' than a club that meets at a University (yes, there is a difference).
The activities are a lot more casual than the previous club, and while they host to occasional tournament, the emphasis is more on getting together for the social scene. When I dropped in, there were some chess games going, a little bit of opening analysis, a couple of the players were choosing the music to be played, and an impromptu magic show was taking place. The club was overwhelmingly undergraduate as well, and I certainly felt my age walking through the door.
Also good to see was that the ANU Go Club (which meets in the same building) was also thriving, with their club rooms filled with players as well. 
If you are interested in getting along to either club for some social chess (or go), then keep your Wednesday nights free. Both clubs meet from 6pm at the Bauldesan Precinct Building, Ellery Crescent ANU. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

2017 O2C Doeberl Cup - Entries filling fast

The 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup is just over 3 weeks away and entries are starting to flood in. When I looked this evening there were over 170 players registered across the 4 main events, with spaces beginning to run short in some of them.
If you are keen to play in the Premier, you will need to get your entry in quickly as there are now only 16 places left for the 64 player field. The tournament is picked up another GM (Vishnu Vasanthan from India) and there are now 7 GM's, 6 IM's, 1 WGM and 3 WIM's in the field.
The Minor is also attracting a lot of interest, with 58 players already entered, leaving only 22 spots free. The Under 1200 event is over half full, though players can enter that event on the day (if there is room of course). The only event lagging at the moment is the Major (Under 2000), although that event does still fill up closer to the closing date.
The tournament runs from the 13th to the 17th of April, at University House, ANU. There will be the super popular Saturday night Blitz event (entries capped at 100!), while there may also be a Wednesday night pre tournament blitz organised by the ANU Chess Club (TBC)

(** I am a paid official for this event **)

One day a rooster ...

Playing an important game at the Belconnen Chess Club last week, I trod on a landmine that had been waiting for me for the past 30 years. Ian Hosking was White and after 3.Bc4 we both knew that the Traxler was going to be played. In my mind I have a 6-0 score against Ian in this line, but according to my database it is closer to 2.5-0.5 (although there were a number of scoresheets from the mid 1990's that have long since been lost).
Usually Ian manages to find a new move that I've either not prepared for, or more recently forgotten, but I've still managed to find the right followup, or Ian misses a particularly nasty trick. This time this did not happen as I played into a line I suspected was bad, and then missed a check and fork combination at the end. A quick loss, and a return to the books in preparation for the next time we play.

Hosking,Ian - Press,Shaun [C57]
University Cup, 14.03.2017

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The people you might see on TV

I do not watch a lot of reality TV (except the first series of the Joe Schmo Show), so I came across this by accident.
During the Gibraltar Masters I often took the same bus to the venue with GM's Ganguly and Shankland. As Ganguly is a regular visitor to the O2C Doeberl Cup, we would often chat, including what post tournament activities were happening. While Ganguly will be in Canberra next month, I just assumed Sam Shankland would be off to another tournament somewhere.
Instead he is taking part in a 'Survivor' style show called 'Kicking and Screaming'. I am assuming this was filmed post Gibraltar, although IMDB does not show the actual filming dates. The series is/was filmed in Fiji as well, so possibly the Fiji Chess Federation might have an inkling.
I have no idea when (or if) the show will be shown in Australia, although based on one review I read, Shankland makes sure he stands out. Possibly he stood out a little too much, as *spoilers* he has been voted out in the latest episode. Of course these show do bring people back, so he may pop up in a future episode.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

A plea for neat handwriting

Over the weekend I was the Chief Arbiter for the 2017 ACT Chess Championships. Apart from seeing that the tournament was played fairly and in the right spirit (it was btw), I did have a couple of other duties. I decided to run a canteen at the tournament, and so a lot of my time was spent making coffee and toasted cheese and ham sandwiches. But when I wasn't doing that, I was entering games.
As the tournament only had 30 players, and there were 4 DGT boards in operation, it wasn't that hard a task. If I could, I also got at least 1 player to read the moves out, which makes game entry so much faster. And it all went well until the final round.
I don't know whether the players were tired, or I was, but there was a distinct drop in quality in the final round. I can remember as a child constantly being criticised for the neatness of my handwriting, but clearly things have not improved since then. And before you assume I'm just targeting the younger players, players older than myself had equally bad handwriting. Weirdly, there seemed to be games where queens moved from d1 to b2, and this was confirmed by both scoresheets! At various points one player would miss a move (and white moves would end up in the black column), but no worries, a few moves later they would miss a second move. I'm pretty sure almost every final round game had some sort of issue, so if you do look at the game file, don't assume that what looks like a blunder really happened (although in at least one case it did).
Nonetheless, I am not blameless in this regard. At Gibraltar I twice wrote the wrong result on my own scoresheet, annoyingly in games that I had actually won. It took an eagle eyed neighbour to spot this, otherwise I may well have been subject to the same complaints I am making now.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Adolf Anderssen

While looking at the Wikipeadia front page this morning, I noticed it was the anniversary of the passing of Adolf Anderssen (13th March 1879). Anderssen is both best known for winning the first International Tournament (London 1851) as well as being the strongest player in the world, before and then after Paul Morphy. He was never considered an official 'World Champion' as the title did not really exist until Steinitz claimed it (and Morphy passed away), but he is often on the list of 'Unofficial World Champions'.
He was an attacking player (as were many players of that time), and he won a number of brilliant games. Quite probably his attacks weren't built on the firmest of foundations, as firstly Morphy, and then Steinitz manage to find suitable antidotes. Nonetheless he was an important bridge between the somewhat random play before the 1840's, and the more structured play that Steinitz formulated. His choice of openings was reasonably varied, although the focus on checkmating the king was always there.
Avoiding the obvious, I've grabbed a game from the London 1851 event. It was played in the final, against Marmaduke Wyvill, and was in fact the final (and winning) game of the tournament.

Anderssen,Adolf - Wyvill,Marmaduke [B20]
London knockout London (4.7), 1851

Monday, 13 March 2017

IM Andrew Brown wins 2017 ACT Championship

IM Andrew Brown is the 2017 ACT Chess Champion, winning the tournament with a perfect 7/7. He started the final day on 5/5, but had to navigate a tough round 6 game against Dillon Hathiramani. Despite the players reaching a drawn rook and pawn ending, Brown kept pushing in mutual time trouble, until Hathiramani finally cracked, allowing Brown to keep his full point lead. In the final round he played rising star Saffron Archer, but scored another win, to complete a perfect tournament.
IM Junta Ikeda finished in 2nd place on 6/7, winning both his final day games. His last round game against Willis Lo was a little odd however, with Lo winning a pawn with a nice tactic. Lo then lost the thread in the resulting complications, before resigning in a position that Stockfish thinks is equal.
Final round wins by Hathiramani and Pearce gave them a share of third place. Archer and Siddhant Badrinarayan shared the 1400-1699 prize, while Amol Kiran won the Under 1400 prize. Canberra veteran Joe Marks also picked up a prize, with the best score by a non FIDE rated player.
Final standings plus game files for the tournament are available at

2017 ACT Championship - Day 3

IM Andrew Brown is the outright leader of the ACT Championships, finishing the third day on 5/5. He defeated IM Junta Ikeda in round 4, and finished the day with a very quick win over WFM Alana Chibnall. He is a full point ahead of Ikeda (who won his round 5 game against Adrian de Noskowski) and Dillon Hathiramani. Tomorrow Hathiramani plays Brown on the top board, while Ikeda is playing Thomas Johnston on board 2.
Further down the field are a couple of young players who are performing well above their ratings. Athena Hathiramani and Lachlan Ho have scored a couple of upset wins over higher rated opponents, and should finish the event with big rating gains. Some of the not so young players are doing pretty well, with Erick McPherson and Mark Patterson looking to earn good FIDE ratings from this event.
The final two rounds are being played tomorrow with round 6 at 10:30am The tournament website has results, pairings and live games, plus all the games from earlier rounds. (NB There were technical difficulties in updating the website today,but hopefully it will be sorted tomorrow).

Sunday, 12 March 2017

2017 ACT Championships - Day 2

The 2017 ACT Chess Championships is already following a familiar script, with IM Junta Ikeda and IM Andrew Brown sharing the lead after 3 rounds. They have both scored 3 from 3, and will meet in tomorrow mornings round.
The start of the day saw a number of lower rated players struggle to shake off their sleepiness, as at least 4 games were over within 45 minutes. This included games on the top 2 boards, where lost pieces in the opening cost the game. The afternoon round saw more determined resistance as the top seeds did have to work harder for their points.
With Ikeda and Brown likely to take the top 2 positions, the battle for third place is still of interest. Currently sharing this position are WFM Alana Chibnall, and tournament surprise Lachlan Ho. Ho (seeded 29th) has collected the scalps of two higher rated opponents, along with a draw, to make it all the way to board 2 tomorrow. He does have a tough assignment against Chibnall, but given his current form, an upset win may not be beyond him.
Along with tournament standings and live coverage, the tournament website now has the first 3 round's games available. You can either download them or replay them via the game viewer.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

2017 ACT Championship - Day 1

A slightly larger than expected field turned up for the opening day of the 2017 ACT Championship. Top seed was IM Junta Ikeda, with IM Andrew Brown seeded second. The expected challenge to the top two from the rising generation of Canberra chess players unfortunately failed to materialise with some notable absences in the field. After Ikeda and Brown, the field contains a few solid 1800-200 rated players, but once again it may be a battle between the two IM's.
Most of the first round games went according to rating, but a couple of higher seeded players did go down. Glenn Ingham lost to Amol Kiran in a well played game, while Paul Dunn never recovered from dropping a piece in the opening. Otherwise, it was the usual top half v bottom half beatings, although it did take some players a long time to harvest the point.
The 2017 ACT Championship is a 7 round swiss with rounds 2-7 running over the next three days. Coverage of the event (including live games) can be found at

Badrinarayan,Siddhant (1481) - Ikeda,Junta (2395) [E14]
2017 ACT Championships Canberra AUS (1), 10.03.2017

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Chess Structures

Normally my overseas travels result in me returning with lots of books, but 2 months worth of supplies meant that there wasn't a lot of spare room in the suitcase. I did pick up a few books here and there, but there was one book that was worth its weight in excess baggage charges.
"Chess Structures: A Grandmaster Guide" by Mauricio Flores Rios turned out to be the type of book that I had been searching for for many a year. Over 22 chapters, Rios describes a number of important pawn structures, and the standard middle game plans that go with each of them. He looks at them from both sides of the board, and gives model games for each of the plans. While the structures are usually named after well known openings, he points out that they don't just come from these openings, as pawn structure isn't always a function of moves.
As an example, the Caro-Kann formation is listed under the d4/d5 section, as it arises after Blacks d5 pawn captures on e4, while White has a pawn sitting on d4. This does occur in the main lines of the Caro-Kann, but also the Scandinavian (1.e4 d5 2.exd Qxd5 often leads to the same kinds of position).
Rios focuses on  positions where the pawn structure strongly effects the strategy employed, which means tactical structures like the Dragon, or solid ones like the Closed Ruy Lopez only get a brief mention. On the other hand there are a number of chapters devoted to the Kings Indian and French structures.
And it was the section of the French that gave me some recent inspiration (and success). Having studied (from Whites point of view) the section where White plays exf6 and then targets the backward e pawn, I came to the following game better prepared than I normally am. While I didn't get a clear advantage until right at the end (and my opponent missed a tactical trick after Rxe7), I felt I at least knew what sort of moves I should have been playing throughout. As a result I didn't feel the need to lash out at any stage, and while the finish was nice, it was they play that lead up to it that was just as important.

Press,Shaun - Patterson,Miles [C06]
University Cup, 07.03.2017

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

GM Norm (and tournament victory) for Cheng

IM Bobby Cheng has won the Batavia 1920 event in Amsterdam, and has scored a GM norm to go with it. Cheng had been leading the tournament early on, but a couple of losses brought him back to the field, and left him needing a 2.5/3 finish for the norm. He managed to do this, capturing the norm and first place (on countback) with a final round win over GM Tal Baron. Also scoring a GM norm was IM Lucas van Foreest, while FM Barry Brink scored an IM norm.
This event was the final tournament of Cheng's European tour, where he also played in Hastings and Gibraltar. In both of those tournaments he started well but came undone in later rounds, so this was a good result to finish the trip.

Baron,Tal - Cheng,Bobby [B06]
Batavia 1920, 05.03.2017

Monday, 6 March 2017

Is none better than some?

On the weekend I received a somewhat unusual request, concerning tournament byes. A player was considering entering the ACT Championships this weekend, but was going to miss a round, as he had another commitment. No problems, I replied, you can get a half point bye for that round. He thought for a moment and then asked if he could instead get a zero point bye. His argument was that he was more interested in playing competitive games than his total score, and a half point bye might give him a harder opponent than he would have received.
I thought about it for a while, and in the end said "Maybe". While I am inclined to say yes, I will probably think about it a little more, as there may be some side effects that I should take into account (especially if he gives someone else an easier or harder pairing than they might normally get).
Of course he was the player who was due a naturally occurring bye he would have no choice but to take the point, but the rulings on half point byes are not as clear cut. It is up to the organiser/arbiter to decide if they are available, but whether they must be awarded for every eligible game is not clear.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Big events coming up

The next month and a half sees a number of big events coming up. The 2017 O2C Doeberl Cup is once again being held over Easter and entries are starting to come in. They have already crossed the 100 mark across the 4 main events, with the Premier only having 27 places left.
Before that there is the 2017 ACT Championship in Canberra, from the 10th to the 13th of March (a long weekend in Canberra). This 7 round event is open to all ACT players and will be FIDE rated. IM Junta Ikeda is the top seed for the tournament, but hopefully the field will be rounded out by a number of other strong local players.
On the same weekend is the Ballarat Begonia Open, in Ballarat, Victoria. This is the biggest weekend event in the southern state, and once again will attract a strong and competitive field.
And finally, the 2017 Dubbo Open is on the weekend of the 1st and 2nd of April. While not as illustrious as the Doeberl or Ballarat, it is still an enjoyable event attracting a nice field of players from country NSW (and few interlopers from the big smoke).

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Variation on a theme

Once you reach a certain level in chess, a number of tactical motif's become second nature. Smothered mates with Qg8+ are usually one of the first to be learned, while the Greek Gift (Bxh7+) also becomes part of the arsenal. Normally it is followed up with Ng5+, and usually this is almost all that everyone learns (until you reach 2000).
Occasionally I've seen games where the sacrifice is played, but Ng5 isn't the best follow up. Qd3+ is sometime the best choice, and one that is often preferred by analysis engines (depending upon the exact position of course).
Today's Women's World Championship game was an example of this, although to be completely accurate, Qd3 and Ng5 could have both been played (as long as the other one followed). For students of this sacrifice, it is worth noting it did not lead to an immediate mate (and White actually chose the wrong line), but it is worth studying, to get a feel for the kind of attack you can get against the exposed king. The follow up sacrifice on d5 was nice, and as Black could not afford to capture, her centre fell apart, giving White a good win.

Muzychuk,Anna - Tan,Zhongyi [C11]
FIDE WWCC 2017 Tehran, IRI (6.3), 01.03.2017

Sharjah GP ends in 3 way tie

The first event of the new FIDE GP Tournament has ended in a 3 way tie for first. Grischuk, Vachier-Lagrave and Mamedyarov shared first place (and the GP points) on a less than inspiring 5.5/9. If this was a round robin event this would be a pretty low score, but it was actually an 18 player swiss. The fact that the best anyone could do was +2 indicates either how even the event was, or how cautious the players were.
Based on reports from Chess24 and the consensus was it was the latter. Each round saw plenty of draws, and it seemed most of the fighting chess occurred between players on 50%. Otherwise it was either protecting a lead, or stopping the rot, all the while keeping tabs on the other leaders. Significantly this tournament had no rules concerning draw offers, which is where some players are point the finger at, although I personally am still not a fan of such measures. A slightly more inventive points and prize structure is probably a better solution, with wins scoring bonus GP points on top of normal GP points being one idea.
The next event is in Moscow in May, and the organisers may make some tweaks to the format to encourage more interest.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Batavia 2017

The Batavia 2017 event is underway at the Cafe Batavia 1920 in  Amsterdam, and Australian IM Bobby Cheng currently leads with 4/4. He is a point clear of second place and is looking good for a GM norm. He beat GM Eric Lobron in yesterdays game and only needs 50% over the remaining 5 games for a GM norm. Of course this isn't always an easy task, but having played both Hastings and Gibraltar, Cheng at least had some tough events under his belt.
Round 5 has just begun  (Midnight Canberra time), and is being carried live on Chess24. You can watch the tournament, as well as see online commentary etc at the tournament website

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

It is not always that solid

I spent the weekend writing a couple of articles covering my trip to the UK, and in them I made the observation that UK chess is a lot more solid and positional than Australian chess. While in the UK I also made this observation, remarking that a lot of games sin Australia start with players just throwing pieces out there, and then looking for whatever tactics may arise.
There are of course exceptions in both directions, as I saw at the 4NCL weekender. In the game below I'm not convinced either side was looking for a positional edge, especially after 8.d5 set fire to the position. White then decided to throw more wood onto the fire with 11.Nxg6 with the idea of keeping the kin in the centre. But it wasn't until Black passed on 15. ... Nd3+ that White could begin to breath easier, and a few move later it was a full on king hunt, ending in Black getting mated.

Eagleton,Greg T (2055) - Hand,Freddie (2205)
4NCL Division 2b Northampton, ENG (4.72), 15.01.2017

Saturday, 25 February 2017

It depends upon your background

While listening to Australia spin its way to victory in the 1st Test Match against India, I heard on of the commentators say "Smith is like a chess grandmaster, moving the pieces around the board". It was of course one of the Indian commentators, who said this, while the Australia commentator did not seem to react.
I suspect for an Indian sports fan, or commentator, such a comment was perfectly sensible and understandable, tapping into the cultural awareness of chess in that country. For Australian fans, the comment might be a little bit more confusing or odd, although even then I think that most Australian fans would at least recognise the terms.
Anyway, I thought it was a nice intrusion into the normally dry cricket commentary (at least in Australia), and I hope to hear more of it over the next couple of tests.