Thursday, 21 September 2017

GM Anton Smirnov

By scoring 7/9 (finishing equal first) in the Anogia GM tournament,  16 year old Anton Smirnov has scored his third GM norm, which is enough for him to earn the GM title. Canberra born Smirnov needed to win his last round game against FM Antoine Favarel (FRA) and for a lot of the game it looked very touch and go. Smirnov decided to launch a kingside attack, and while trying to defend Favarel misplayed the position (36. ... Rd3??) allowing Smirnov to secure the point, and the title.
Smirnov now becomes Australia's 7th Grandmaster, and the third in recent years. Already a mainstay of the Australian Olympiad team, he may even be challenging for the number 1 spot in Australia;s 2018 team, which may be an all GM outfit for the first time in history.


Smirnov,Anton (2508) - Favarel,Antoine (2357)
2nd Capablanca Memorial GM Anogia (9.1), 19.09.2017


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Isle of Man 2017

The Isle of Man tournament has really taken off in the last decade, and is now challenging events like Gibraltar and the Iceland Open for the title of 'Best Open' in the world. This years event starts on Saturday, and has boosted it's prestige even further, with the news that World Champion Magnus Carlsen is taking part. In fact the tournament field contains 4 World Champion's, or 5 if you count Ilyumzhinov's bonkers scheme to declare Shirov as a former World Champion. The top 14 seeds are rated above 2700, and its GM's all the way down to seed 59.
The only Australian player in the field is IM John Paul Wallace, although I did note Bill Egan's name in the minor, but it his is English namesake, rather than the Canberra resident.
The tournament begins on Saturday 23rd September, and is a 9 round swiss. Apparently the pairings for the first round are totally random, so it might be worth tuning in to the first round, just to see a surprisingly early Carlsen v Kramnik match up!

Monday, 18 September 2017

Board games ranked

This Deadspin article about the ranking of board games is too good to pass up. Not so much the article actually, but the totally Not Safe For Work comments that follow it. You have been warned.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Tournament features

John Winkelman (previously featured in this blog here), returned from a recent trip to the United States bearing gifts. They were a number of tournament brochures from various large US chess opens, which he thought might be of interest to me. They of course were, not because I planned to enter any of them, but as an insight into how events in the US are structured.
While a lot of the entry fees, conditions and prizes are similar to Australia, there were a few things that caught my eye. In no particular order they were

  • Free entries for GM's and IM's have an equivalent amount deducted from any prizes won.
  • Tournaments are in sections, but there are a lot more sections (I assume a lot more players as well
  • Entry in the top section often costs more for lower rated players
  • The longer the event the more half point byes you can take (up to 4 in 9 round events!)
  • Players bring their own boards and clocks (none supplied by organisers)
  • 2 and 3 day schedules for weekend events (1-2-2 or 3-2 rounds)
  • Online ratings used for unrated players
The tournament information was generally printed on thick card (rather than the fancier brochures we use in Australia) which to me seems easier to distribute.
Some of the ideas might be useful in Australia (eg the use of online ratings to seed unrateds), but I can't see the whole "bring your own set" idea catching on.

2017 World Cup - Who's Next

The 2017 World Cup schedule is pretty tough, especially if your'e one of the players who keeps going to tie-breaks. So far there hasn't been a scheduled rest day, meaning that a win in regulation is the only way you can get a day off.
Tonight sees the start of the quarter finales, is as good a time as any to try and predict a winner. Firstly, with all the previous upsets, the reaming top half is a little stronger than the bottom half, and that is where I think the eventual winner will come from. As I write this, Aronian has already defeated Ivanchuk in that bracket, although he was going to be one of my picks anyway. The other pairing in that half is Vachier-Legrave against Svidler, and while Svidler has the experience of getting to this stage in 5 World Cups, I think MVL will win, and go on to play Aronian.
In the bottom half I think So and Liren Ding will progress, with So winning the semi-final. But I think the eventual winner will come from the top half, with MVL just shading Aronian, and then going on to beat So in the final!

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The world's most famous two-mover?

White to play and checkmate in two moves
Here is a puzzle described by Hubert Phillips as "possibly the world's most famous two-mover". An interesting claim, in part because I'm note sure anyone else has bothered to keep a list of such things. Also, as these words were written in 1932 (and the puzzle was first published in 1905), I am wondering whether more recently published puzzles could now claim that title.
As with most two movers, this only has a passing resemblance to a 'real' chess position, and the composer has left plenty of false trails to catch the over confident.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

It's a trap - part 2

A number of years ago I posted this, concerning a trap in the Scotch Gambit. Tonight at the Belconnen Chess Club, I got to see what happens if both sides realise what is really going on, at least up until a point.
Black avoided the sometimes played 6. ... Resigns, and White knew that retreating the Bishop from h6 is also trouble. But Black failed to spot how strong White's attack was, possibly thinking that 13. ... Bf5 was enough to save the day. Of course it wasn't, and White ended up with the quickest win of the night.


Arps,Jan-Phillip - Luo,Ricky [C50]
Belconnen Club Championship, 12.09.2017


Monday, 11 September 2017

2017 Belconnen Club Championship

The 2017 Belconnen Club Championship begins tomorrow evening (Tuesday 12 September), at the Belconnen Chess Club, on Hayden Drive, University of Canberra. This is Canberra's only FIDE rated club event this year, so provides a good opportunity to either improve your international rating, or get one for the first time.
The tournament runs for 7 weeks, and is playing with a slightly faster time limit of 60m+30s per move. FIDE changed the rules regarding time control for rated events, so players over 2200 are no longer excluded, but at the same time, games involving players above the 2200 mark are not rated.
If you are planning to play, entries will be taken from 7pm, with the first round starting at 7:15

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Carlsen gets hacked

Magnus Carlsen started the World Cup with 4 from 4, befitting his number 1 seeding. However the first game of the third round didn't go according to plan, as he got hacked by Xiangzhi Bu from China. Carlsen played the Bishops Opening, and Bu sensibly played the Black side like a Ruy Lopez. He even went as far as playing a Marshall Gambit type sacrifice, and after Carlsen accepted, went nuts on king side. Carlsen could have taken an immediate draw after the sacrifice on h3, but decided to play for a win instead. However this blew up in his face, not so much because of his position, but that he spent so much time working out what to do. As a result, he got into severe time trouble and played a couple of second best moves. Bu gave him one chance at the end, but after Carlsen missed it, the upset was on the scoreboard.
In other weird news, Anton Kovalyov (CAN) walked out of the tournament after getting into an argument with the organisers over his choice of attire. He had worn shorts for the first two rounds, but was told that this was unacceptable just before the third round was due to start.  He then exchanged words with tournament organiser Zurab Azmaiparashvili, was apparently called a 'gypsy', and then left. Normally he may have decided to appeal to the FIDE appointed appeals committee over Azmai's actions, but FIDE appointed Azmai as the chairman of the appeals committee, so that option seemed pointless. (As an aside, being on a FIDE appeals committee is a sweet gig, and is used as part of the FIDE reward and patronage system, so Azmai's appointment makes sense, but only from that point of view)


Carlsen,Magnus (2822) - Bu,Xiangzhi (2710) [C55]
FIDE World Cup 2017 Tbilisi GEO (3.1), 09.09.2017


Friday, 8 September 2017

Maximum Haulage

The Canberra Lifeline Bookfair is on this weekend, and if you are looking for chess books, there are plenty to be had. I got in nice and early this morning (along with a few other collectors), and I'm pretty sure this year saw the biggest chess collection I can remember. There were a number of familiar titles, but there were also a few surprises. Someone donated quite a large number of Informators, including a No. 1, which I snapped up. Curiously there were a few books on the Laws of Chess, so I grabbed those as well, as they contained snapshots of the Laws for the years they were published.
Even the Board Games section had more than the usual amount of chess stuff, and I saw one shopper snap up every chess set she could fine. I found a Pavilion Talking Electronic Chess Computer for $8, adding to my growing collection of chess computers at home.
When I left there were plenty of books on the table, so you should be able to get something if you drop in over the weekend.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Today's Google Doodle

Today's Google Doodle commemorates Sir John Cornforth, who won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1975. Of course in the chess community he is was also known as a strong player, competing in the 1936 Australian Championship, as well as the first Australian Correspondence Chess Championship. Today is the 100th anniversary of his birth, and he passed away in 2013. Apart from an obituary I posted at the time, there was a very good article about his chess life written by Paul Dun in a recent issue of Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Know the Classics - Pirc Edition

The Pirc/Modern is often a system that aggressive players have some difficulty with. As Black's strategy is to sit back and wait till White over reaches, White can fall into the trap of playing too cautiously. If that happens, Black has already scored a small victory, as White is out of their comfort zone.
My personal preference is to take it head on, aiming for an early Bh6. Over the years there have been a number of crushing wins for White in this line, and they are worth studying. Probably the most famous was Kasparov's win over Topalov at Wijk aan Zee in 1999. Kasparov was not afraid to leave his queen out on h6, even after Topalov castled queenside, as he was busy getting his other pieces across to the queenside. Of course Kasparov's choice of opening in itself was not winning, as he needed to find 24. Rxd4!! but he did get a position where such an attack was possible.


Kasparov,Garry (2812) - Topalov,Veselin (2700) [B07]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee (4), 20.01.1999


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

The Perils of Prediction

At the time I was off to bed last night, I had chalked up a win for GM Alex Fier against higher rated GM Etienne Bacrot in the 2017 World Cup. When I awoke this morning, the win had turned into a draw. It was a lucky escape for Bacrot, and might explain why they drew so quickly in Game 2.
Meanwhile Australian IM Anton Smirnov continues to impress, holding GM Sergey Karjakin to another draw, and sending the match into tie breakers. At this stage there are already a few matches that will continue tomorrow, but like Smirnov, almost all of them are via the draw-draw path. Only Vladimir Fedoseev has bounced back from losing the first game to even the match, but I am sure there will be a few more as the round goes on. Of the tournament favourites, Svider, Giri and Nakamura are already through to the second round, while Number 1 seed Magnus Carlsen is still trying to overcome bottom seed FM Oluwafemi Balogun from Nigeria.


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Draw for Smirnov

The first round of the 2017 FIDE World Cup is underway, and a few of the early results have come in. Significantly for Australia, IM Anton Smirnov has drawn his first game against GM Sergey Karjakin. The opening was a fairly sharp line of the QGD (with Bf4) but eventually simplified into a heavy piece ending that was drawn on move 30. The two players return to the board tomorrow, with Karjakin having the advantage of the white pieces.
Most of the other games to finish have ended in draws, with a few highly rated players (Ivanchuk, Radjubov) taking the peaceful route. So far there has only been one real upset, with Sambuev (CAN) cracking GM Yi Wei, but Alex Fier (BRA) is looking good against Bacrot (FRA) and that may also end in a win for the lower rated player.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Three Puzzles

Here are 3 puzzles to put your mind to, with 2 of them being related to chess, to some degree.


  1. How many distinct ways can 6 knights be placed on a 4 by 4 chess board, so that no knight attacks another knight? (And by distinct, rotations don't count as a separate solution)
  2. How many ways can N Queens be placed on a NxN chess board so that no queen attacks another queen? (NB There has been a flurry of reporting suggesting a solution to this problem will win you $1,000,000. In fact the prize is for solving the P v NP problem, of which this is just one example of an NP problem)
  3. N students are playing a variant of 'Duck, Duck, Goose'. In this variant, Student 1 goes around the ring of players (which now excludes Student 1), announcing Duck N-1 times, and Goose the Nth time. Student 1 then sits out while the 'Goose' repeats the process. Who is the last student to be the Goose?

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Canberra globe-trotters

I can remember a time when it was incredibly difficult for Australian (and New Zealand) players to play overseas events. The cost of international travel, plus overseas living expenses, made it a very expensive proposition. New Zealander Bob Wade simply moved to the UK in the 1950's, while Murray Chandler famously refused to return home after a World Junior in the 1970's, moving himself to London instead. Darryl Johansen apparently lived in a tree house in London in the early 1980's, while both he and Ian Rogers had to take side work (for Murray Chandler no less) to supplement their chess earnings.
These days travel is a lot cheaper (relatively) and there are more events that can be played in a shorter period of time. Chess tourism is now more of a thing, although the balance between the chess and tourism may be a function of age.
At the younger end two Canberra players are currently playing in international events. Siddhant Badrinrayan is one of 4 Australian players taking part in the World Cadet's Championship in Brazil. He is on 3.5/10 going into the final round. Xander Leibert is the best scoring Australian player on 5.5, while Byron Morris is on 4.5. Aiden Wen is playing in the Under 8 tournament, and is currently on 4/10.
Albert Winkelman is part of the Australian contingent at the Malaysian Chess Festival. He is currently on 2.5/6, but is performing around 400 points above his rating. IM Justin Tan is also playing in the Open event, and is among the leaders on 4/5. Tan is looking to complete the requirements for a GM title, and is currently well placed to do so.
Results from the Cadets can be found here, while the Malaysian Chess Festival home page is here.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

2017 World Cup

The 2017 FIDE World Cup begins in a few days in Tbilisi, Georgia. The 128 player knockout will see the top 2 players go forward into the Candidates Section of the World Championship cycle, as well as providing a substantial prize pool for all the participants (eg First round losers still earn $4800 USD)
Oddly, World Champion Magnus Carlsen has decided to take part in the tournament, raising the issue of what happens if he finishes in the top 2. I assume he isn't going to be seeded into the tournament that determines the challenger to his own title (unless we wish to see a Monty Python inspired World Championship match), so a playoff for third might be required.
Also taking part is Australian IM Anton Smirnov, with a seeding of 117. This means he has challenging first round match against faces GM Sergei Karjakin. Also taking part are a couple of players with Australian connections in the shape of Armenian GM's Melkumyan and Aronian. Both are in the top half of the draw and should make it to the second round at least.
The tournament starts on the 2nd of September (play starting on the 3rd). Rounds start at 3pm local time, which translates to 9pm Canberra time. You can find out more information, as well as follow the event at the official website.

Monday, 28 August 2017

More coffee-housing

Just a quick game from Street Chess on Saturday. My opponents final move was a big blunder but I was in a better position even if he found the correct defence.


Press,Shaun - McPherson,Erick [C01]
Street Chess, 26.08.2017


Sunday, 27 August 2017

Karl Galli RIP

Karl Galli, one of Canberra's more colourful chess players, has passed away. He had been unwell for the last few years, but even in poor health, he still made an effort to play at both his local club, and other Canberra events.
In his youth he was also a boxer, and on occasion, he brought the combative nature of the ring to the board. He was particularly well known for developing his own opening systems, building a protective barrier across the third rank with his pawns, hoping his opponent would overreach. As Black this was known locally as the "Galli Defence" and as White, it was termed the "Galli Attack".
Although he could be an irascible character, he loved his chess, and often showed a generosity across the board to younger players. A stalwart  at the Tuggeranong Chess Club (where he had a blitz event named after him) and Street Chess, he will be missed by all who knew him.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Duke of Brunswick wins one

For chess players the Duke of Brunswick is 'that guy who lost to Morphy' in the famous Opera Box game. And like most non-professional players who are famous for losing, that seems to be the extent of his chess notability. But he did play more than 1 game of chess, and while flicking through an old chess book "Chess Brilliants by I.O. Howard Taylor (1869)" I came across a game he actually won. He did have some help as it was played in consultation with German master Daniel Harrwitz against a similarly ennobled team, Viscount Casablanca and Herr Kaulla.
Apart from the novelty of the result, the game (or at least its publication) had a couple of interesting features. Firstly, the opening was reasonably modern (QGD), and Black tried to generate some queenside counterplay. Secondly, on move 30, the book does not show which promotion piece was chosen, and in fact has Blacks reply as "Q takes P" even though the pawn has reached the last rank. This of course would be a breach of the current Laws of Chess.
By this stage White has a huge advantage, and the main interest is seeing how the game finished, with the Black team eventually resigning down material (although White missed a forced mate starting with 35.Rxg7!!)

Harrwitz/Duke of Brunswick - Viscount Casablanca/Kaulla [D35]
Consultation, 1858


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Winning with e4

My father taught me early on that 1.e4 was the best way to open the game. Firstly he said, it allowed both my Bishop and Queen to be developed quickly, and secondly, Bobby Fischer always started that way.
Later on I learned that playing e4 was desirable in closed games (ie opened 1.d4, 1.c4, or 1.Nf3) In fact knowing that in such openings you should aim for an eventual e4 got me to the next level of opening knowledge. And while it isn't always possible to achieve, if you do  it can often turn out well for you.


Rakitskaja,Mariya (2165) - Eliseev,Alexey (2445) [A30]
St Petersburg White Nights op St Petersburg (4), 2004


2022 Olympiad to be held in Zimbabwe

I'm not 100% percent sure this report is accurate, but apparently Zimbabwe is to host the 2021 World Cup, and the 2022 Chess Olympiad. On the one hand they do quote FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in the report, but on the other hand, the FIDE website seems to have nothing on this breaking news (and usually they report on anything Kirsan does), and more importantly, these decisions are made at the FIDE Congress 4 years before the event (ie the 2018 congress).
So it is either a misunderstanding on the part of the news agency, or Kirsan has decided to fully embrace his inner Trump and just say whatever he wishes.

Monday, 21 August 2017

A bit of a brain snap!

It was all going fine until I decided that I was going to deal with 21.Nf5 with 21 . ... Qg6?? Of course once the position appeared on the board I saw the flaw with this move, and as it was a Correspondence game, decided the most sensible thing to do was resign.


Taylor,Kelvin - Press,Shaun [D27]
CCLA, 05.06.2017


Saturday, 19 August 2017

How fast is fast

I've been playing a bit of online chess recently, which is a little surprising, as I am pretty hopeless at it. Part of the difficulty for me is finding the 'sweet spot' of time controls for a player of my age. Bullet Chess (1 min) is way to fast, as I tend to move too slowly. If I'm not mating by move 25 I'm normally doomed. On the other hand 5 minute chess isn't fast enough, as the games tend to drag on (NB in OTB chess, 5 mins is barely enough!).
So at the moment 3 minutes seem to be the mid point, although even this isn't perfect (the first half of the game is fine, its just the last 15 seconds where it all goes wrong). My early experiences at this time control seem promising, but it may take a larger set of games for me to be sure.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Kasparov Comeback

The first part of Gary Kasparov's brief return to competitive chess ended with a heartbreaking loss, a lucky win, and then a loss to Fabiano Caruana. Having started the last day of the Grand Chess Tour St Louis Rapidplay on -1, Kasparov looked to be getting back to 50% until David Navara turned the tables in a rook ending. He was then gifted a rook by Quang Liem Le in a position where Le was perfectly fine. Hist last game against Caruana was another loss, leaving him tied for last place with Anand and Navara.
While all of this was going on, Lev Aronian was winning the event. He finished with 6/9, half a point ahead of Nakamura and Caruana. It was very combative +3 for Aronian, wining 5 games, losing 2 and drawing 2 (including his game against Kasparov).
Tomorrow sees the first day of the blitz event. This is a double round event, so Kasparov at least has 18 games to try and improve on today's result.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Hard Quiz

There is a new-ish quiz show on ABC (Australia) Television, called Hard Quiz. I suspect it's an attempt to do a UL style quiz show, where the banter is as important as the knowledge. It isn't that bad, especially as it doesn't try and copy the UK style, instead taking a more Australian approach to the byplay between host and contestants.
I was watching this evenings episode, which had such subjects as Tomas the Tank Engine, and Queen Victoria (which were nominated by the constestants). The host (Tom Gleeson) also gets to pick a topic, and tonight the topic was Chess. Unlike a past episode of Sale of the Century where they did not know the difference between draw and stalemate, they seemed to have done their homework a bit better. For example, they knew that the first computer program to beat a GM in a tournament game was Deep Thought, which stumped most of the contestants.
However, for the final chess question, they featured 6 statements or actions by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.  Of course they were all quite outrageous (Flown in a spaceship, Aliens invented chess), and the challenge was to pick the one that wasn't said or did not happen. I suspect the question wranglers couldn't quite believe the list themselves, as the only non true choice was "Financed the musical Chess so he could play the lead"  which seemed pretty tame. Only one player got that right (IIRC) and I assume it was a wild guess.
If you want to catch the episode try this link. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/programs/hard-quiz/ It is episode 3 of series 2, and you can watch a reply of it online (not guaranteeing this will work for non-Australian viewers)

Another lucky escape

Sometimes luck in chess runs your way, even when it might have been better if it didn't. Tonight I played quite a tough game at the Belconnen Chess Club, and was very fortunate to escape with a draw. Having mixed up a couple of lines in the Closed Sicilian I made a poor exchange in the opening and ended up with a bad position. My opponent played the obvious moves and soon had an overwhelming advantage. In fact we reached a position where I was losing material (on move 26), and was tossing up whether to resign. But I spotted one last try, based on a back rank check and decided to play a few more moves. Then when my opponent found 30. ... Nd1! I wondered whether it was time to resign now, but unable to see a checkmate for my opponent I played on. I saw he might try for checkmate with 31 ... Qf2+ (31. ... Rf2+ does mate btw) 32. Kh1 Qf1+ but we both thought that 33. Ng1 held. He even analysed 33. ... Nf2+ 34. Kh2 Ng4+ 35. Kh1 but decided there was nothing more than a repetition. What he (and I) missed at this point was that he could have played the brilliant 35. ... Qg2+!! as 36.Kxg2 Rf2 37.Kh1 Rh2# is a lovely forced mate. Instead he took the knight on e2, allowing me to complete the idea I had spotted on move 27, forcing a perpetual with a rook sac.
While I am pleased with my resourcefulness, and we both agreed  it was quite an enjoyable battle, I feel that it would have been a better game (with a fairer result), if it had finished with the queen sacrifice!


Press,Shaun - Arps,Jan-Philipp [B26]
Korda Memorial, 15.08.2017


Sunday, 13 August 2017

Crawling to a goal

A while ago I was told a fantastic story about how one Australian player managed to pick up a FIDE title. The player needed to get his rating above a certain level to claim the title, but was still a number of points shy of the target. While most players would simply try their best in an event and hope to score enough points, this player tried a slightly different track. Rather than risk going backwards with a loss or two, they simply played the first couple or rounds of an event, before withdrawing for 'work related' reasons. While a little slower than performing above the required level in one tournament, this slow but safe method eventually paid off.
Now to be fair, as this story was told to me, the facts may not be accurate (or even true). But the method itself seems sound, and is one that I am currently following, albeit for a different reason. Normally I play the role of the 'filler' or 'house man' in events I direct. So at Street Chess, I'll play if the event starts with an odd number. This happens quite often, but weirdly, there always seems to be a latecomer (or three) who brings the field back to an even number, without me in it. So I normally play rounds 1 and 2, before pulling out for the rest of the day. The side effect of this is that I suspect I'm picking up a few rating points per game, and getting close to the 2000 mark on the ACF Quickplay list. While obviously not as prestigious as a GM title, it is still a landmark rating, especially as I've never been rated that high in the Australian rating system. Of course it also may not come to pass, as I am sure there will come a week when I end up playing the whole event, and being forced to suffer for my sins.

How a tournament should end

The 2017 Sinquefield Cup has ended, in a manner that elite events should end. Three of the 5 last round games ended decisively, including games that ultimately decided first place.
It was Maxime Vachier Lagrave  who scored the most important win, beating Ian Nepomniachtchi to reach 6/9. Viswanthan Anand could have caught him but only drew with Wesley So, while Lev Aronian's chances of equal first were derailed by a loss to Magnus Carlsen. The win for Carlsen moved him into a tie for second with Anand and kept him in first place in the Grand Chess Tour series.
The next part of the tour is the St Louis Rapid and Blitz, starting Monday morning Canberra time, and including former World Champion Gary Kasparov in the field.


Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2789) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2751) [B92]
Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis (9.2), 11.08.2017


Thursday, 10 August 2017

What makes a good opening trap?

Playing for tricks in the opening isn't always the best use of ones resources. For every checkmate that begins with 1.e4 e5 2.Qh5, there are a number of games where such 'direct' play gets punished by more experienced players.  So choosing which opening traps you aim for often depends upon a few different factors.
My first (purely subjective) criteria is: How often will I see this opening? No good finding a particularly clever idea against the Dutch Defence if no one in your chess circle plays it. So traps in the Ruy, or the QGD probably have more value than traps on the black side of the Solkosky.
Secondly: Are the moves leading up to it plausible for my opponent? As any chess coach will tell you, don't reply on your opponent playing bad moves. Sure, some moves may only become bad after the right reply, but moves that seem sensible are more likely to be played than those that are not.
Thirdly: Do I still get a good position if my opponent spots the trap? This is about having it both ways. If the trap is sprung, fantastic, but if not what happens next. I had a situation like this in Gibraltar, where I could play a trappy move, but the right reply would see me in a worse position. I decided against it.
Flicking through one of my books on opening traps, I realised that there were only a few entries that passed all three tests. Some failed the 'length' test (the later in the opening the less likely it is to occur), while others relied on the opponent missing the correct refutation. But there were still a few that were a little new to me (albeit borrowing from traps in other openings). The one I've chosen to show comes from the Two Knights Defence, and is based on presenting White with an unusual variation, increasing the chances of a mistake. 6.d6 is obvious, but the start of the problems, while 7.Nxf7 is the big mistake. In my database there have been 62 games after Nxf7, so it still catches lots of fish.


Victim - Trapper
Anyclub, Australia


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Asian Club Champions League

The Sydney Chess Club has finished third in the Asian Club Champions League, in the just completed event in Sri Lanka. While the event had representatives from across Asia, it turned out to be a small tournament, with only 5 teams taking part. The Sydney team consisted of GM Max Illingworth on board 1, IM Gary Lane on 2, FM Lee Jones on 3, and FM Brian Jones on 4. They won 2 of their matches, narrowly lost against the second place getters from Bangladesh, and lost heavily to the winning Iranian team. Both Illingworth and Lane score 2.5/4 but the team was outclassed on the lower boards.
Results and games from the tournament can be found here.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Anand plays a brilliancy

Refusing to quietly ride off into the sunset, Viswanathan Anand continues to prove he can still compete at the top level, beating Fabiano Caruana in the current Sinquefeld Cup. At first it looked like Caruana was going to crash through with a strong attack, but he missed the strength of Anand's counterplay. Of course Anand needed find a nice queen sacrifice on move 26, but apparently this was quickly spotted, and Caruana lost a few moves later.


Anand,Viswanathan (2783) - Caruana,Fabiano (2807) [A29]
5th Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis USA (5.2), 06.08.2017


Sunday, 6 August 2017

Who owns what?

Protecting intellectual property in chess has always been a tricky issue. Copyright of games has consistently been a legal dead end, and preventing live broadcasts of events by third parties hasn't been a raging success either.
Even the domain of chess coaching is not immune to problem in this area, as this story shows. (NB This is a New York Post article, so be warned) A chess coach in New York is accused if stealing clients from the business he worked for, after resigning and setting up his own business. The parent business did get him to sign some sort of non-compete contract, but it seems not to have had its intended effect. So off to court they all go, with $100,000 is damages being claimed.
For those familiar with the Australian chess scene in the 1990's may remember that this sort of thing was actually quite common. A number of chess coaching businesses seemed to get their starts after the lead coach left their previous employer, leading to some bad blood in the coaching community. There were even 'third generation' businesses, where a break away coach then had their coaches set up competing businesses. This seemed to go on until a kind of market saturation occurred, where the number of businesses and the number of client reached a level. There was even claims that coaching materials were 'borrowed' and rewritten, but I don't believe it went as far as court action.
I think these days everything is a little calmer on the coaching scene, although I suspect their is still competition between coaching organisations. Of course healthy competition is normally a good thing (market forces and all that), so if their is, I hope its all on the up and up.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

It doesn't make coaching easy

"Proper chess players don't do this" is a comment I've often made when coaching juniors. This is normally in response to a player to win a game using just their queen, or developing their rooks via a3 or h3. And for a time I was able to get away with this, but modern players are making it harder and harder.
The rot possibly started with Nakamura playing some very early Qh5's. This caught a fellow coach off guard as he had been telling his students that 'only beginners play this move'. The the Quiet Italian came back into vogue at the top level, meaning it could no longer be dismissed as a 'school chess opening'.
Now Aronian is the one causing problems for me, as the following game shows. The early h4 is surprising enough, but bringing the rook to h4 is an even bigger shock. The tactical point is to 'protect' the bishop on a3, but it takes real imagination to play this move. The rook then hangs about on the h file for most of the game, until Aronian uses it to finish Nepo off.
So it looks like I'll have to amend my advice again, to "proper chess players normally don't do this" or something similar.


Aronian,Levon (2809) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2742) [A34]
5th Sinquefield Cup 2017 Saint Louis USA (1.3), 02.08.2017


Thursday, 3 August 2017

Non tilt

In the good old days, a bad loss in a tournament was necessarily the end of the world. Equilibrium could be restored by the simple trick of taking a quick draw, before focusing on winning the event. Of course this was if you were playing in a 23 round event, a luxury few of us can afford these days.
In a short swiss event, every round counts, meaning that a loss can be far more destabilising. In some cases a player can try a little too hard, and the whole event can go totally pear shaped. In Poker parlance, this is referred to as 'going on tilt', a term that is now also common in chess. On the other hand, if an aggressive response does work, then 'getting back on the horse' is the how it usually gets written up.
IM Andrew Brown had this exact experience at the ANU Open. After a loss to Fred Litchfield in round 5, he bounced back with a couple of good wins. Although it wasn't enough to catch Litchfield, it did provide the spectators with some entertaining chess, including this quick last round win.

Brown,Andrew - Hathiramani,Dillon [B21]
2017 ANU Open Canberra, Australia (7.2), 30.07.2017


Tuesday, 1 August 2017

2017 ANU Open - Organisers wrap up

The 2017 ANU Open was interesting from an organisational point of view. Due to various University policy changes, it wasn't clear whether this years event was even going ahead, but eventually it was decided to organise it anyway.
Last year saw around 60 players take part, as did this years event. Oddly, last year saw a larger than expected turnout for the Open (30+ players), with a smaller than usual field in the Minor. It was almost the opposite this year, with only 17 players in the Open, but 40+ in the Minor. If we could have combined the 2016 Open numbers with the 2017 Minor entries, it would have been a great field!
We tried something different with the prizes this year, awarding rating prizes based on W-We (points scored - points expected). While it kind of worked, it is probably something not worth repeating. The two major issues are the field is a little small to make it work, and handling the role of unrated players is tricky. At least one prize ended up being awarded based on final position, simply because every player in the section actually scored less than they were expected to.
One other change was the creation of a Unrated only prize, to deal with the issue of unrated players entering the Minor. This is often a tricky issue, as in most cases a Minor event is the best tournament for unrated players, but not always. Two years ago an unrated player did win the Minor (and the full first prize), but after that the organisers felt it was better to handle it this way. It turned out that one of the players that tied for first (John Adams) was also unrated, but this years T&C's made it clear he could only win the Unrated prize (which he was happy with).
While it is hoped that there will be a 2018 ANU Open, there is some debate about what format it might take. The 60m+10s time limit is a little limiting, and one suggestion is to try a FIDE rated 60m+30s event. A recent rule change means that all players are eligible to play in this event, although games involving players rated above 2200 don't get rated. As the current event is not FIDE rated this may not be a real loss. Of course the schedule would have to be changed, either to 3+2 rounds, or possibly a 1+3+2 6 round event.
Overall it was an enjoyable event, despite the small turnout. We even got some good publicity in the local media, with the appearance of Michael Pettersson MLA in the Minor being newsworthy. The Canberra Times did a nice story, which can be viewed here.


Sunday, 30 July 2017

2017 ANU Open - Fred Litchfield wins

The 2017 ANU Open has been won by local player Fred Litchfield. Litchfield set up his victory with wins over IM Andrew Brown in round 5 and Oladoyan Fasakin in round 6. Holding a full point lead over Brown and Fasakin going into a final round, a draw with WIM Emma Guo was enough to take outright first, and $1000 in prize money. Brown, who finished first in the previous 4 years, took second place on 5.5 with Guo and Fasakin tied for third.
The Minor (Under 1600) tournament saw a tie for first between John Adams and Ruofan Xu. Adams was making a return to competitive chess after 15 years but showed no signs of rust, winning his first 5 games. A loss by Adams to Xu in round 6 threw the event wide open, but both players then won in the final round to finish on 6/7. Kamal Jane and Athena Hathiramani recovered from slow starts to the tournament to finish tied for 3rd on 5.5.
Full results for this event can be found at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2017/ and you can replay the games and download pgns for the top board from this site.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

2017 ANU Open - Day 1

IM Andrew Brown is well placed to collect another ANU Open trophy, sharing the lead after the first 4 rounds of the tournament. He finished the day with 3.5/4, tied with Fred Litchfield and Oladoyin Fasakin. Brown and Fasakin drew a tough round 2 game, and won the other 3. Litchfield started the tournament with 3 wins, before a round 4 half point bye allowed Brown and Fasakin to catch him.
Canberra Junior Dillon Hathiramani is in 4th place with 3/4. Round 5 will see Brown and Litchfield play on board 1, with Fasakin and Hathiramani playing on board 2.
The Minor tournament sees ACF Treasurer John Adams hold a surprise lead on 4/4. Despite not playing in a tournament for 15 years, Adams has beaten a number of veteran players to lead by half a point over Neil Clark, Lee Forace and Mitchell Jones. The morning round sees Admas play Clark, while Forace and Jones play on board 2.
Coverage of the tournament (including standings and DGT games from the first day) can be found at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2017/


Litchfield,Fred - Ingham,Glenn [D11]
2017 ANU Open Canberra, Australia (1.3), 29.07.2017


Friday, 28 July 2017

Return of the Pawn

The opening event of the 2017 ANU Open was held this evening at King O'Malley's in the centre of Canberra. The 2017 ACT Teams Blitz was won by the aptly named, Return of the Pawn, with 9/10. Board 1 for Return of the Pawn was William Booth, making a bit of a comeback to competition chess, and scoring 5/5. Partnered with Elwyn Teki, they drew with the top seeded Retired Gardeners team in the first round 1-1, and then won their remaining games.
The Retired Gardeners (Roger Farrell and Baldev Bedi) also went through the 5 round event undefeated, but dropped an important point to the 'Fear Itself' team (Miles Patterson and Stephen Priest) in round 4. The 8 team event was quite tough and a number of strong teams fell by the wayside.
Tomorrow sees the first day ANU Open and Minor, a the ANU School of Art. The action kicks off at 10 am, and entries are still open for interested players.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

ACT Teams Blitz and ANU Chess Festival

The ACT Teams Blitz event is taking place on Friday 28th July (ie tomorrow) at King O'Malley's, in Canberra City. The event starts at 6pm and is open to all players. The format is a 5 round swiss for teams of 2, but if you don't have a partner, just turn up anyway, as teams can be formed on the spot.  There is no entry fee, and there will be prizes for the winning team, and the best scoring players.
On the 29th and 30th of June, the ANU Open and ANU Minor will be taking place. Current entries for each of the tournaments can be found at http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2017/  Online registrations are still open at http://vesus.org/festivals/2017-anu-open/ and you can download the tournament brochure from that link. Entries are coming in slowly (only 48 at the moment), with the Minor tournament (Under 1600) looking particularly attractive for anyone rated over 1300 (as most of the field is rated below that).

Tony Salvage RIP

Tony Salvage, a regular member of the Belconnen Chess Club in the 1990's, passed away a few days ago. Originally from the UK, he had came out to Australia in the 1960's to work for the old Department of Supply, before ending up in the Department of Defence. This is where out paths first crossed, but discovering he was a chess player, encouraged him to join the Belconnen Chess Club. A few years later we ended up working in the same section, and while I outrated him in chess, he outranked me at work, being my boss for a few years.
Tony was a jovial player, playing more for enjoyment than glory. While never rising to any great heights, he was a difficult opponent for the younger members of the club (due to years of experience), beating a young Larua Moylan (now a WIM) among others. One evening he played out a tough draw against a newcomer to the club, who turned out to be an overseas player with a rating of around 1800. The player asked how strong his opponent was and was surprised to find out he was significantly lower rated. When Tony found out the strength of his opponent he was also surprised, but for the opposite reason.
In later years Tony retired from chess to take up Bridge, finding it a more social activity. He is survived by a large family, with 8 children, 23 grand children and 16 great-grandchildren.


Salvage,Tony - Wills,Colin [C02]
Belconnen-ch Belconnen, 1993


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

From little things big things grow

A nice chess story hit the national media in Australia this week. A small Western Australian primary school has inspired the local council to fund the carving of some giant chess pieces to celebrate their success in state and national junior chess competitions. However, these pieces aren't your normal large pieces. These are carved out of the trunks of old Jarrah Trees, which the council had originally  planned to remove completely. The Kendenup Council instead decided to leave the trunks in place, and a local wood carver had gone to work with his chainsaw. The pieces, some as large as 4 metres high, will stand in the towns main street, to greet visitors to the town of 1000 people.
The full ABC story (including pictures of some of the pieces) is here.

Monday, 24 July 2017

The toasted cheese sandwich test

I still believe that ChessMaster  10th Edition is one of the better pieces of chess software released. Apart from the chess engine (and graduated levels) it has a plethora of training modules and drills to help you improve your chess.
One of the drills I keep returning to (about once a year) is checkmate with KBN v K. I'm pretty sure I know have it down pat, but it is always a good idea to double check. So make it a little more interesting I had a go at lunchtime today, while making toasted cheese sandwiches.  I'd prepare the sandwich, turn on the toastie maker, and then try and checkmate before I burnt down the house.
I'm pleased to say that the house is still sanding, although this may be due to Chessmaster choosing the same defence each time, rather than trying to confuse me.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

When both players resign

"The game is won by the player whose opponent declares he resigns. This immediately ends the game." This is section 5.1.2 in the FIDE Laws of Chess. At some point in the past it was suggested that two players could scam the system by both resigning simultaneously, thereby earning each player a full point. The FIDE Rules Commission even discussed this (briefly), and IA Franca Dapiran made the sensible suggestion to only accept the resignation of the player who had the move.
Of course such a bizarre situation would not happen in practice now, would it? Well, not exactly.
At Street Chess today something awfully close to this did happen. The sequence of events seemed to go like this. The white player (who I shall call Scully) played a move, putting his opponent (who I shall call Mulder) in check. Now Mulder did not notice, and played a move putting Scully in check. At this point Scully simply stopped the clock but said nothing. Mulder, who thought he was winning, extended his hand, believing Scully was resigning. Scully accepted the offered hand, believing that Mulder realised he'd played an illegal move and was himself resigning. (NB At Street Chess we play second illegal move loses). Now I'm not sure which of the players realised something had gone awry, but at this point I was called over. Further confusion ensued as Scully was worried he'd done something illegal in stopping the clock (no, but he should have told his opponent why), and then decided to resign. Realising what had happened, I gave Scully 2 extra minutes, told him he wasn't to resign yet, and to continue the game. 
Unfortunately I had to return to the same game a few minutes later when another issue arose. By this stage both players were short of time, so after Scully moved, Mulder replied instantly (and before Scully had pressed his clock). Scully then pressed his clock, completing his last move ( which I encourage under these circumstances), and Mulder then pressed the clock (without moving of course), to complete his move. However this confused Scully, who thought that Mulder had not played a move (even though he witnessed it). About half way through me going over this issue with the players (and in the midst of a gathering crowd), Mulder offered Scully a draw, and rather than listen to me lecturing them, shook hands and split the point.

Out into the cold

I'm not sure if it is an age thing, but I'm feeling the Canberra winter a lot more than in previous years. For the last month or so, Street Chess (which begins at 11am) has had a succession of below zero (in Celsius) starts. For anyone familiar with the Canberra climate, this normally means that it will be a fine and sunny day (cloudless nights contribute to the cold), but as we play indoors in the winter months, we even miss out on this benefit.
Anyway, I think it is around -3 right now, although it is expected to get to at least 0 by the time we start this morning. Extra layers will be needed.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Andrew Paulson

Andrew Paulson, founder of Agon, and former ECF President has passed away at the age of 59. He made his first big splash on the chess scene in 2010 when Agon was given the commercial rights to the FIDE World Championship, bringing with it the promise of a new way to promote chess. A few years later he was elected as President of the English Chess Federation, although his time in office was quite short, resigning as part of the fallout concerning the 2014 FIDE elections.
I met Andrew on a couple of occasions, and found him an interesting and charming man. I suspect he had further political ambitions in the chess world (including eyeing the FIDE Presidency) although he probably  didn't have the right political connections to pull it off. And while he had same ambitious goals in publicising top level chess, he didn't quite bring all of it to fruition. Nonetheless he did see the importance of using multi-media platforms for presenting chess events, and was very keen to bring new technology to the game.
Away from chess he had an interest in media and IT, including an interest in the media company that manage LiveJournal, a social media site very popular in Russia.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

150 years of chess

It is a pretty special chess event when you get to celebrate a 150 year anniversary. In 1867 Dundee (Scotland) hosted a significant International event, with German Master Gustav Neumann finishing half a point ahead of Wilhelm Steinitz. This event was historic, in that it was the first major international tournament where a draw counted as half a point (rather than the game being replayed). In 1967 there was a centenary event,  which was won by GM Svetozar Gligoric, ahead of Larsen and Olaffson.
Now to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 1867 tournament, Chess Scotland is hosting both a GM round robin, and the 124th Scottish Championship. The Dundee GM event has a couple of well known names taking part, including former Doeberl Cup winner GM Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant, 'Ginger GM' Simon Williams and Swedish chess legend GM Pia Cramling. The Championship is also a strong event with 4 GM's and a number of other titled players in the field. The tournaments have been running for 3 days, so there is plenty of action to come. You can follow the live games, and get all the results at http://www.150chess.gs/ If you click on the various links you can also find a tournament blog, maintained by the always entertaining Andy Howie.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Caro-damn!

Vladimir Kramnik has a 'Federer' like record at the Dortmund Chess Classic (10 wins). So when he comes unstuck it is usually big news. And it doesn't get any bigger than losing in round 1, against the Caro-Kan of all openings. Playing Vladimir Fedoseev, Kramnik at first went into tranquil waters with 3.exd5, before deciding that the uncastled Black king made a juicy target. The only problem was that it just looked scary, and after a few obvious defensive moves Kramnik had nothing to show for a sacrificed bishop.


Kramnik,V (2812) - Fedoseev,Vl3 (2726) [B13]
45th GM 2017 Dortmund GER (1), 15.07.2017


Chess teaching resources

Chess coaching can be a hit and miss affair, as most coaches are chess players first and teachers second. So organising a teaching curriculum is not always the highest priority, with coaches usually picking a favourite book or two, or teaching from experience. While this technique often works with children who have already mastered the basics of chess (don't drop pieces, can mate with K+RvK, spot mates in 1 and 2), for children yet to reach that level it is sometimes less effective.
As a result I've always been on the lookout for well structured coaching material. A very battered copy of "Comprehensive Chess Course" has been my main resource for the last 25 years, but finding copies can be a bit difficult. A number of coaching companies have developed their own material, but this is usually 'commercial in confidence' and can't be handed around freely. But chess.com is doing us all a favour by providing free teaching materials, which they are happy to share. You can see the details here, and download a preview. The curriculum is connected with their chesskids.com site, which also provides plenty of material for players and coaches. And if you visit the information page, there is even a direct link to an earlier version of the teaching material, if you want to get an idea about what it covers.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Surely this cannot be good

In the early days of my chess career I struggled with working out which gambits were temporary and which were more permanent. The gambits after 1.e4 e5 I was better at handling (eg Kings Gambit or Danish) but the d4 gambit lines were more tricky. If I grabbed a pawn I often came under a lot of pressure to hang on to it, but if I sacrificed a pawn, my compensation often petered out, and I was just down a pawn.
I've once again run into the same problem with a line in the Queens Gambit Accepted, which I suspect is a little dodgy. After 1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Nd5 has been recommended. While the trickiness appeals to me, the results have been less than stellar. 5.e4 is the obvious move for White, and in one awful game my opponent just rolled over the top of me after 5. ... Nb6 6.Bxc4! On the other hand I have picked up a few points at faster time controls, as the shock value of Nd5, followed by the realisation that I am going to make my opponent work hard for the pawn at least gains me some time on the clock.
But ultimately, Nd5 is an idea that seems to break too many rules to be sensible, meaning that I should find something a little more sensible on move 4.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

2017 ANU Open (2 weeks away)

A reminder that the 2017 ANU Open is just over two weeks away. This year is the 25th edition of the tournament, which I guess is worth noting.
The tournament is being held on the weekend of the 29th and 30th of July, at the ANU School of Art, Childers St, Australian National University, Canberra. There are 2 sections, an Open and Under 1600 event, with $3300 prizes on offer. The time limit is G60m+10s, with 7 rounds in both tournaments (4 on Saturday, 3 on Sunday). Further details (including a tournament brochure) can be found at http://vesus.org/festivals/2017-anu-open/
Registering online (at the same link) also secures you the early entry discount (even if you pay on the day).

(** Disclaimer: I have a financial commitment to this event **)

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Gupta wins Commonwealth Championshipp

Indian GM Abhijeet Gupta has won the 2017 Commonwealth Championship for the 4th time, to become the most successful player in the tournaments history. He wrapped his title with a somewhat crushing victory over Australian IM Aleks Wohl. Wohl and Gupta had shared the lead on 6.5/8 going into the last round, but despite his loss, Wohl tied for 4th place, and was the only non Indian player in the top 10. Another good performer for Australia was IM Rishi Sardana, who finished on 6/9.
Although the field mainly came from the host country of India, there were players from 8 other Commonwealth nations, including New Zealand, Malaysia and South Africa.
Here is the crucial final round game between Gupta and Wohl. After a mistake on move 9 Wohl was already in trouble, and Gupta finished the game with ruthless GM precision.

Gupta,Abhijeet - Wohl,Aleksandar [E01]
Commonwealth Championship, 10.07.2017


War stops play

There have probably been a number of reasons why chess tournaments get suspended or cancelled, but the Mannheim event of 1914 probably has the most well known reason. Organised by the German Chess Federation, the tournament attracted a number of the worlds leading players, including Alekhine, Reti, Tarrasch and Marshall. But after 11 rounds, World War I broke out, with Germany declaring war on Russia. The organisers stopped the tournament at this point, and a number of players decided to head for the border. The unlucky players were those of Russian nationality, who were arrested and interned. The delay in France and England entering the war (by a couple of days), probably allowed a few extra players to get away, including Gunnar Gundersen, who had travelled from Australia to take part in the 'B' tournament. Gundersen, whose father had been a Norwegian diplomat, was able to reach Oslo, before returning to Melbourne and winning the Victorian Championship in 1915 (and 7 times after that).
Alekhine was declared the 'winner' of the event, and awarded some prize money. Despite being a Russian national, his stay in Germany was short lived, and he was able to travel to Switzerland after around 6 weeks in captivity. Here is his final game, where he won a game that I still see quoted from time to time when analysing the Alekhine-Chatard Gambit.


Alekhine,Alexander - Fahrni,Hans [C14]
DSB-19.Kongress Mannheim (11), 1914


Saturday, 8 July 2017

Some quick queen sac mates

For a change of pace here are a set of quick mates that involve a queen sacrifice. A few familiar themes here, especially game number 4 (which btw is unsound as played)

Bonnet de Jacquemet,Romain (1390) - Pignatelli,Daniel (1499) [A51]
FRA-ch op-D Aix-les-Bains (7), 21.08.2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e5 3.d5 Bc5 4.Bg5 Ne4 5.Bxd8 Bxf2# 0-1


NN - Du Mont [A02]
Paris Paris, 1802

1.f4 e5 2.fxe5 d6 3.exd6 Bxd6 4.g3 Qg5 5.Nf3 Qxg3+ 6.hxg3 Bxg3# 0-1

Moore,Michael - Plotnikov,Vladimir [B21]
Internet Section 18-B Dos Hermanas (7), 18.03.2003

1.e4 c5 2.f4 g6 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bc4 Bg4 5.Ne5 Bxd1 6.Bxf7# 1-0

Gottas,Mike - Brunke,Christian [C50]
GER-ch U18 NRW 9697 Germany, 1997

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 d6 4.Bc4 Bg4 5.Nxe5 Bxd1 6.Bxf7+ 1-0


(BTW The shortest mate I can find involving a rook sacrifice is 6 moves long, and occurred in a tournament I was chief arbiter for back in 1995)

Friday, 7 July 2017

Kasparov's comeback

Apparently Gary Kasparov is making a comeback to competitive chess, although this isn't the dramatic news some headlines are making it out to be. He has accepted a wildcard slot at the Grand Chess Tour's St Louis leg, albeit the blitz and rapidplay section of the event. This event follows on *after* the Sinquefield Cup, which will be played at classical time controls, and has a slightly stronger field. Unfortunately for chess fans, the one big clash that won't be happening is a Kasparov Carlsen meeting, as Carlsen is skipping the Rapid and Blitz event, and Peter Svidler is the wildcard player in the Sinquefield Cup.
Still, this is news of some significance, even if Kasparov has played a few rapid and blitz exhibition events since his retirement from tournament chess. If you are aftyer more information, the Grand Chess Tour announcement can be found here.

A monster of your own creation

Over the last few years I have often used Joseph Blackburne as an example of a 'model' player for anyone who is looking for a chess 'hero' to study. Another player who falls into that category is Frank Marshall, especially for players more comfortable with 1.d4 as an opening.
His career spanned more than 50 years, and included a 27 year reign as US Champion. Unlike his contemporaries (with the possible exception of Alekhine), Marshall used 1.d4 as an attacking opening, figuring it was easier to build an attack from closed positions, rather than find one after 1.e4 e5. Nonetheless he had a varied opening repertoire, with a number of significant variations carrying his name.
His black defences were equally enterprising, keeping up with change in opening theory. An extreme example of this was shown in the following game, where he played the Nimzo-Indian Defence against its creator. Not only did he outplay Aaron Nimzowitsch, he won the tournament "Best Game Prize" as well.


Nimzowitsch,Aaron - Marshall,Frank James [E34]
British Empire Club Masters London (6), 1927


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The curse of the upside down rook

The 2017 Canadian Championship seems to have ended with some controversy after the final playoff game saw an all to familiar issue involving promotion. IM Nikolay Noritsyn and GM Bator Sambuev had tied for first place, and were even after 5 playoff games. In a 5m+3 blitz game Noritsyn promoted a pawn, but not being able to find a queen went for the old blitz standby of an upside down rook. At this point the chief arbiter stopped the clock and ensured that the piece on the board was a correctly placed rook. Sambuev then promoted (to a queen) and went on to win.
Despite the rules concerning promotion being quite clear for a number of years, players still manage to get this wrong. The key point is that if the piece you wish to promote to is not available you can stop the clock and request the arbiter fetch you a piece. In this case Noritsyn could not find the queen in among the already captured pieces, and there is a suggestion that Sambuev had the piece in his hand. (NB This is not against the rules, and indeed should make the case for stopping the clock even more obvious).
Personally I have little sympathy for players who get this wrong. While it may be argued that it is hard to think straight with seconds left on the clock, this is one of the few situations where you are legally allowed to 'steal' thinking time. If you recognise that promotion is likely to occur and you are short of time, the smarter thing to do is to remind yourself to stop the clock if necessary 30 seconds out, rather than kicking yourself after the game is over.
BTW I must commend the chief arbiter IA Pierre Denommee for handling the situation this way. The alternative would have been to say nothing (assuming Sambuev did not complain) and then default Noritsyn if he moved the rook diagonally.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Danish delight

As much as the Traxler is the one opening that will rule them all, my first love was the Danish Gambit. I can't quite remember where I first read about it (possibly the Penguin Book of Chess Openings), but I played it in my first few chess events, with a degree of success. It was only when people started playing the Schlecter line against me that I moved away from it.
Here is a game from 1909 where it was used to beat a reigning world champion, albeit in a consultation game. 5. ... Nf6 is a rare choice these days (as 5. ... d5 is considered the path to equality), but one that tries to hang on to material. For most of the game Black does keep the 2 gambit pawns, but as you can see, mate (aided by a huge lead in development) is far more important than material.


Janowski/Soldatenkov - Lasker/Taubenhaus [C21]
Consultation, 1909


Sunday, 2 July 2017

GM norm for Junta Ikeda

IM Junta Ikeda is partway through a European summer tour, hoping to earn a GM title, or at least get part of the way towards one. After a slow start he seems to have hit his stride, easily winning the 35th Balaton GM event with an impressive 7/9. He was undefeated in the tournament, and scored enough points for a GM norm.
The summer circuit looks to be a good one to try for Australian players, as IM Justin Tan also looks to be playing a few events (although he is studying in Edinburgh, so it is a bit easier for him). The decision by Ikeda to play in the European summer looks doubly sensible, as currently his home town of Canberra is going through a cold snap, with temperatures dropping to -8c across this weekend!

Friday, 30 June 2017

Is the Bird the Word?

Magnus Carlsen seems to be on a one man mission to make every opening playable again. His latest adventure involved playing 1.f4 against Vladimir Kramnik at the GCT Rapid, and winning with it. There is a theory that he was defending the honour of Bent Larsen after a comment by Kramnik earlier in the year, but going on his post game tweet, it may also be the influence of 'Family Guy' at play.
While this may be a bit of fun at rapidplay, I'd still be astonished if it ever gets played in say a World Championship match. It's just a little committal at this level, with Black having a few paths to easy equality. However if 1.f4 does hit the board, one reply I'd suggest not be tried is 1. ... f5, as the following game shows (Of course some readers will spot that is simply a reversed From Gambit, which has claimed a number of victims).

Sorbun,Cristinel (2075) - Uta,Adeline Ramona [A02]
Mos Craciun op Romania, 2000


Thursday, 29 June 2017

How much is a piece worth?

One of the more attractive, yet frustrating parts about chess is that the most interesting games are the ones where the normal 'rules' are broken. We jealously guard our pieces, up until we decide to sacrifice them, understanding that the side with the stronger army doesn't always win. While knowing when to 'break the rules' is normal for experienced players, it can be very confusing for new players.
But knowing when to take a piece can even be tricky for GM's. The first day of the GCT Rapid in Belgium saw a stark example of this in the Giri - Aronian game. Giri left his knight on the edge of the board as bait for Aronian, who decided to trap it with 8. ... g5. White Giri got in return was not an immediate win, but a lead in development and a strong enough attack that Aronian was only able to avoid mate by eventually returning more material than was initially captured.


Giri,A (2771) - Aronian,L (2793) [A29]
GCT Rapid YourNextMove Leuven BEL (3), 28.06.2017


What has been keeping me busy (and it isn't chess)

My posting has been a little sporadic over the last few months, mainly due to a big work project that is now due for completion. The project was an update/rewrite to a spam reporting and collection database that is used by the Australian Government, both updating the application, and moving the whole thing to the cloud.
We are rolling out the new system over the next month, but for now it is substantially completed (in that it has passed all the user acceptance testing).
For those with a technical interest, the system is written in python using the Django web framework. (There is a chess link here btw, as the late Malcolm Tredinnick was a significant contributor to Django). The backend database is Postgresql, with Elasticsearch for text searching, as well as javascript,css and html for the front end stuff. All of these tools are open source btw
It was developed in house, 37% under budget, exceeded the initial specification, and is designed to handle an average of 300,000 spam filled emails a day.
I hope I have't risked fate by blowing my trumpet too loudly or too early, but if everything goes according to plan, the work/chess balance may be heading back into chess's favour.

Monday, 26 June 2017

The (almost) kiss of death

Having talked up Magnus Carlsen at the Paris Grand Chess Tour event, the wheels came of almost the moment I hit the 'publish' button. He was on 18/22 and looking as if he was running away with the tournament. Then  there were a couple of losses in the blitz and things got a lot more interesting. He only managed to score 6 from 14 in the remaining rounds, allowing Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to lead with 1 round to play, and only catching him with a final round win (MVL drew).
But if Carlsen knows one thing, it is what he needs to do to win an event (a trait he seemingly shares with Karpov).  Having tied with MVL he then won the playoff to take the winners trophy. The fact that Carlsen won the playoff is probably not a surprise, as apparently he is 8 from 8 in playoffs since 2007. MVL at least has the consolation that he split the prize money with Carlsen, earning $31000 for his efforts.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

GCT - Carlsen in beast mode

The 2017 Grand Chess Tour has begun with the Rapid/Blitz event in Paris. Carlsen currently leads the pack, having finished first in the 3 day rapid, and is following it up by starting the blitz with 4 straight wins. This put's him on 18/22 as the Rapid games are worth 2 points a win (1 for a draw), with the blitz games worth half of that. The Blitz runs over 2 days btw, so if you aren't up watching the action as I type this, you can catch it tomorrow night (from 10pm Canberra time)

The team trap

Although I drew a few games when I was younger, I tended to have a win/lose mentality at the board. This all changed when I started playing Olympiad chess for PNG. After my first Olympiad (in 2000) I realised the speculative attacks that may have worked in club chess were no longer good, and I needed to play a lot more solidly. The downside of this was that I began to draw a lot more games, which probably helped the team, but at the same time, carried over into my non-olympiad games.
Of course the dynamic in a team event is different from an individual tournament, as your play and result is important to more than just you. One of the worst things that can happen is if you screw up your opening prep and walk into a trap. It can be quite demoralising to your teammates to see you shake hands after 30 minutes or so, and the post match 'show and tell' can be quite awkward.
I've had a few of these happen to me (and my team) over the last 2 decades. On the other hand I've also managed to pull this off on occasion, and getting opening prep to work in a team event is quite satisfying.
Here is a happier example for me, from the 2004 Olympiad.


Press,Shaun (2070) - Kumar,Manoj (2036) [D03]
Calvia ol (Men) Mallorca (Spain) (12.60), 27.10.2004


Friday, 23 June 2017

VR Chess

There have been a few experiments with Virtual Reality Chess (including in the area of live coverage), but actual VR Chess games are now starting to be developed.
Chess Ultra is a new title where you get to play against the Grim Reaper (an obvious The Seventh Seal reference) for the usual stakes (your soul). It is being released on various VR platforms, and there is also a non-VR version. The developers are also looking at organising VR tournaments, which I think may be quite an interesting development (from a psychological point of view).
I've seen a few online reviews and pre release coverage (some quite funny but NSFW), but I'll leave you with this one if you want to find out more.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

50 moves and counting

A bit of a first for me tonight, as I finally had a 75 move draw ruling to make. In a topsy turvy game, the two players involved took turns at gaining and then losing the advantage until a Rook v Bishop ending was reached. As there were no pawns left, the player with the bishop headed straight to the corner, correctly choosing the one his bishop did not control. This allowed him to block any annoying checks, and set up some stalemate situations. The stronger side kept pushing (as is his right), but to no avail. Once they reached move 50 (around move 140 in the actual game), I wondered if a claim would be made (by the player with the bishop most likely), but none was forthcoming. As the players were moving quite quickly I did not mind, and soon enough move 75 was reached, at which point I stopped the clocks.
I've had longer games, and indeed I once was an arbiter where the players played at least 80 moves after the last pan move or capture, but this was before the 75 move rule was on the books.
 

Maybe I should have said nothing

I had an interesting game on Saturday. The first few moves were 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd 5.e5 Ne4 then after a longish think, my opponent found the novelty 6.dxe5! For a moment I thought I had missed something, but quickly realised what had happened. I pointed out to my opponent that he had moved one of my pawns, and he apologised, laughed, and we corrected the mistake.
But two pawns is two pawns, and if I play 6. ... Nf6 instead of 6. ... Bc5 (which runs into 7.Qd5) I should be OK. Silence maybe golden!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Aronian wins in Norway, while Giri blows a sandshoe

Lev Aronian has won the very tough 2017 Altibox tournament in Norway, with 6/9. 3 wins and 6 draws was enough to leave him a full point ahead of Hikaru Nakamura and Vladimir Kramnik. Nakamura did have a chance to catch Aronian, but got caught by some Caruana preparation in the Poisoned Pawn and lost his first game of the tournament. Kramnik was then able to grab a share of second place after Giri completely miss played his opening an lost on 20 moves.
The other big news was Carlsen's less than stellar performance, finishing on 4/9. To be fair, Carlsen has performed poorly in Norwegian events (at least in recent years), and never seemed to get into gear. This result, combined with Kramnik's strong performance has closed the gap at the top of the rating list to just under 11 points.
It looks as though most of the players in this event are taking a break from 'classical' chess, although there is a couple of GCT rapids coming up. All eyes may be on the Dortmund event in July, as Kramnik is taking part in that event, and usually he does well there.

Kramnik,Vladimir (2808) - Giri,Anish (2771) [D05]
5th Norway Chess 2017 Stavanger NOR (9.4), 16.06.2017


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Big (Street Chess) Data

A few years ago I put up an archive of Street Chess results, dating back to 2009. I have periodically updated this data, and added some new categories of information. Over the last few weeks I've been working on the latest updates, and have now uploaded them to the Street Chess Archive page (www.streetchess.net/archive).
The main addition is now players can see a list of tournaments they played in, as well as their performance against individual opponents. The lists are sortable, so you can find out who has scored the most wins etc, and which players have faced each other the most.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

25th ANU Open - 29th & 30th July 2017

The 25th Australian National University is being held on the weekend of the 29th & 30th of July 2017. Once again the venue is the ANU School of Art, Childers, St, Acton, ACT. The tournament will be held with 2 sections, an Open tournament for all players, and an Under 1600 event. The time limit will be 60m+10s and there will be 7 rounds (4 on Saturday and 3 on Sunday).
If you wish to register early (and save $10 on the entry fee) then go to http://vesus.org/festivals/2017-anu-open/ and choose the tournament you wish to play in.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Sometime Bxh7 does work

Last week I lost a game after I completely miscalculated a Bxh7+ sacrifice. Mixing up two lines, I imagined my opponents king on the wrong square, and consequently gave up two pieces for nothing. The over the weekend I witnessed a game at the NSW Open where a similar issue occurred, although in that case the sacrifice eventually worked after Black missed the correct defence.
However there are still some players who do get it right, although that are operating at a higher level than myself. Lev Aronian pulled off a brilliant win against Magnus Carlsen in the Norway tournament, using Bxh7 as an attacking motif. What made this win even better though, was that had already sacrificed the exchange a few moves earlier, to drag the Black queen out of play, making his king side attack even more effective.


Aronian,Levon (2793) - Carlsen,Magnus (2832) [D45]
5th Norway Chess 2017 Stavanger NOR (4.2), 10.06.2017


Monday, 12 June 2017

2017 NSW Open - 3 way tie for first

The 2017 NSW Open has ended in a 3 way tie for first place, with GM Max Illingworth, IM Andrew Brown and IM Gary Lane all finishing on 6/7. Illingworth and Lane shared the lead on 5.5 going into round 7, but drew their game, allowing Brown to catch them. after defeating FM Jason Hu on board 2. Tied for 4th place were GM Zong Yuan Zhao (who Illingworth defeated in Round 6), IM Anton Smirnov, and FM Brandon Clarke.
The Minor event (Under 1600) was won by Jigando Balin (IND) on 6.5/7. However, as he did not hold a local Australian rating, he was ineligble for the cash prizes, meaning Frank Jia on 6/7 took home first prize. Second prize (and third place) was shared by Mike Canfell, Eva Ge, and Michael Tracey, on 5.5.
The tournament attracted a good field of 142 players, with the new venue proving popular with most of the players. From an arbiters point of view, the tournament itself was easy to manage, although noise from the analysis/lounge area was difficult to control. There were also a number of slightly odd arbiting questions and incidents (nothing that serious), but I will leave the discussion of that for another post.
Final results for the tournament can be found at http://nswopen.nswca.org.au/

2017 NSW Open Day 2

Day 2 of the 2017 NSW Open has ended with the top 4 seeds sharing first place on 4.5/5. The key game from the 5th round was the clash between IM Anton Smirnov and GM Max Illingworth, which ended in a hard fought draw. This allowed GM Zong Yuan Zhao and IM Gary Lane to catch the leading two, setting up an exciting finish tomorrow. Lane recovered from his draw in round two the win all 3 of his games today, while Zhao was held to a draw by IM Andrew Brown in round 4.
Although the winner is likely to come from the current set of leaders, there is still some dangerous players in the group of players on 4.
In the Minor Jigando Balin leads on 5/5. However the fact that Balin does not have an ACF rating (although he does have a FIDE rating below 1600) complicates matters, as he is ineligible for the major prizes. This means that it may be a  battle between Eva Ge (on 4.5) and a group of players on 4/5 to decide where the cash goes.
The 6th round starts at 9:45 tomorrow, with round 7 starting at 2:15. The top board sees GM Illingworth against GM Zhao, while on board 2, IM Lane plays IM Smirnov.


Brown,IM Andrew - Zhao,GM Zong-Yuan [A80]
2017 NSW Open (1.1), 11.06.2017


Saturday, 10 June 2017

2017 NSW Open - Day 1

This years 2017 NSW Open started with a field of 142, roughly the same as last year, and not bade considering a venue move from lats year. This years tournament is being held at the Russian Club is Strathfield, which is very convenient for anyone travelling by public transport. Apart from the usual raft of Sydney players, there was a good contingent from Canberra (including the arbitiing team), and a number of junior players from Singapore.
Top seed is GM Zong Yuan Zhao ahead of GM Max Illingworth, IM Anton Smirnov, and IM Gary Lane. The top 3 seeds all ended the first day on 2/2, but Lane was held to a draw by Jesson Montenegro in the final round 2 game to finish. There are also another 13 players on 2/2, but tomorrows tough 3 round day should quickly winnow the leaders.
The Minor event (Under 1600) has attracted 63 players and there are 14 players who have started this event with 2/2. One interesting first round pairing saw top seed Mike Canfell play Mary Wilkie, as both players had travelled quite a distance from Armidale, only to be paired together.
The tournament itself got off to a smooth start, although there was a slight hiccup with the live coverage. However the technical issues look like they've been sorted out, and so you can watch the top 6 boards in the Open from 9:30 am tomorrow.  Just visit the tournament website at http://nswopen.nswca.org.au/ and click on the live games link. You can also check out the parings and standings from that site as well.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Repe-repe-tition

What happens if agreed draws aren't allowed in chess? The answer to this question is currently being answered at the Altibox Tournament in Norway, but not necessarily in a good way.
The tournament has a "no agreed draws" rule, although this is also expressed as a "no talking between players" regulation. Nonetheless 8 of the first 10 games have been drawn, meaning that the players have found a way to split the point. The most obvious way, and one that has yet to be abolished by FIDE, is by repeating the position. In some cases this has involved a set of checks, but in others it is more of "move there, move back" arrangement. And in one case, it simply involved the two players ignoring the arbiter and walking off.
So what's the take away from this? It isn't a decrease in the number of draws, although that isn't necessarily the aim. It has resulted in longer games, which probably is the aim, so to that end it has worked. But it seems to have annoyed the participants as well, which may not be the most desirable outcome for this years strongest event.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A memory for tactics

Today I came across another website that estimates your chess rating. The Elometer website presents you with a set of problems and asks you to choose the move you would play. When you've finished, it asks you a few more questions and then gives you an estimate of your rating.
The purpose of the site is twofold, in that it both gives you a way of seeing what you know, as well as being part of a research project from the University of Dusseldorf (details on the page). It is the second part that interested me the most, as it helps explain how the test was constructed.
While not revealing my score, I did recognise a number of positions in the test. Out of the 76 positions (from a bigger set), I probably had already seen around 30 of them (and this was asked in the post test questioning). Whether this affected my final rating I know not, but I assume that this is part of the study.
If you are planning to do the test, set aside around an hour to get through it, assuming you take it seriously. Some of the questions are pretty straight forward, but as you progress, more thought is required.