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 chess24.com 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 http://www.abc.net.au/radio/canberra/programs/drive/chess/8431978

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Youngblood

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 chess.com) 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 chess.com 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 http://tournaments.streetchess.net/dubbo2017/wwwDubboOpen2017/ 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 http://tournaments.streetchess.net/dubbo2017/wwwDubboOpen2017/ 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 www.doeberlcup.com.au

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

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Omnishambles

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 fide.com 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 chess.com.

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 paper.li 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 www.iccf.com 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 http://tournaments.streetchess.net/actchamp2017

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 http://tournaments.streetchess.net/actchamp2017/


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 chess.com 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 http://batavia1920.nl/chess/

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.

Friday, 24 February 2017

I'd thought I'd seen this disaster before

Flicking through the games from the FIDE GP in Sharjah, I was surprised by the number of draws. I know at the top level it is pretty easy to make a draw if you want to, especially with White, but I had expected the change in format to an 18 player swiss (rather than a round robin) would have at least encouraged more decisive games. As it stands around 75% of the games have been drawn, although this number seems to be coming down.
There was one real disaster in round 5, although it wasn't the one I first thought it was. Playing through the game at firt I thought Black was in big trouble after Qc6+. I've seen a number of games where the king gets kicked around the board after going to e7 and I assumed this was one of those. It turns out the Black is fine, and it was White who quickly found himself in trouble. 17.O-O could bes be described as 'brave' but 19.Rd1 was the real lemon, and after Black found Qh3, White did the sensible thing and resigned (as f4 drops the rook to Qg4+)


Riazantsev,Alexander (2671) - Jakovenko,Dmitry (2709) [A30]
Sharjah Grand Prix 2017 Sharjah UAE (5.7), 22.02.2017


Thursday, 23 February 2017

Things I've never been asked to do

A few people have asked me about the dress code that was put in place for the 2017 Womens World Championship being held in Iran. Instead of debating whether it is appropriate, or whether the event hosts have the right to set such conditions, I simply point out that despite playing chess in a number of countries, I have never been told what I must wear at the board (although I have been asked to wear a suit on occasion while working as an arbiter). I'm not saying that those who played or chose not to were right/wrong, just that this rule seems to be only applied to 50% of the worlds population.
I've also never been asked not to play an opponent for political reasons. The issue of refusing to play against players from a certain country has come up again, with news that Iranian player Borna Derakhshani has been suspended by his federation for playing against Alex Huzman from Israel at the Gibraltar Masters. This has been an issue at other events, including the Chess Olympiad, although my suggestion that such boycotts are only legally acceptable if supported by a directive from the players country hasn't gained much traction within FIDE. Instead FIDE publicly pretend they have no policy on this matter, although privately they do (eg at Olympiads). However I do find this case slightly surprising, as there was at least one instance in the tournament where and Iranian v Israeli pairing was changed. So I'm not sure why this one went through.


Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I might have to start watching the Simpsons again

A long time ago I was an avid watcher of The Simpsons. But as I got older I kind of lost interest, mainly due to the fact that most 'new' episodes recycled ideas and characters from previous episodes. So eventually I moved on the Futurama, Family Guy, and more recently Rick & Morty, and Archer. (PS Bring back Duckman).
However there is still a little life left in the Simpsons, at least for chess fans. World Champion Magnus Carlsen appeared in the latest episode (shown in the US), and it wasn't just a drive by. The whole episode revolved around Homer's previous chess career(!), with Carlsen encouraging Homer to continue playing. At least one review I read not only said Carlsen's performance was good (and self deprecating), but the writers seem to get the chess stuff right (including some pretty accurate name drops).
I'm not sure what the lag is between US showings and Australia but hopefully I'll be alert enough to catch it when it turns up.

Monday, 20 February 2017

No not really

Following up from yesterdays post ....
In the end I decided I wasn't going to gamble on my opponent forgetting his own analysis from a few years back, and so decided to play it safe with 6.O-O, which was recommended by theory. It turned out to be at least 50% correct, as the game eventually ended in a draw.


Press,Shaun (1970) - Osuna Vega,Enrique (2181) [B07]
Gibraltar Masters, 27.01.2017


Sunday, 19 February 2017

Is this a coin flip?

During some downtime at Hastings, a question was asked about methods of choosing a move. The question was "If you cannot decide between two moves, are you allowed to toss a coin to make a choice?"
The question was asked of a number of very experienced international arbiters (and myself), and we all pretty much said it would not be allowed as you were relying on external assistance. But being experienced arbiters we also suggested alternative methods of making such choices, including using the second hand on your watch to simulate a coin toss.
A couple of weeks later I found myself mentally tossing such a coin at the Gibraltar Masters. I knew my opponent played a specific line against 1.e4 and was pretty sure I was going to reach the diagrammed position. The choice was either to castle, or sacrifice on f7. Having looked at it further it turns out that the sacrifice is not quite sound, but there was still a wrinkle. On two occasions previous opponents had sacrificed on f7 with a 1-1 result. The odd thing was that where he chose the correct line, he eventually lost, but when he chose the losing line, he actually won. So the sacrifice may have worked, if for the wrong reasons.
So when I reached this position at the board, I spent 5 minutes deciding what to do. To sac or not to sac. Eventually I ....

Friday, 17 February 2017

Another human activity taken down

While I was overseas I kept up with events outside the chess world, including the Human v AI Poker Match. The Libratus Poker bot, developed at Carnegie-Mellon played 4 poker pros in heads up no limit holdem, and beat all 4 of them. As with most AI v Human matches, this was a rematch after an earlier version of the program lost to human players a few years back.
Reading about the match, and the approach the bot used, there was one significant factor which I recognised from earlier Chess/Checkers/Go matches. While there was plenty of smarts built into each of these engines, it was the lack of emotional attachment to decisions that seems to be a big difference. Humans may decide that a certain move or choice is the 'smart play', but then decide not to play it due to other factors (tiredness, intuition, emotion). Bot's on the other hand will make a decision and then execute it. In chess this is often manifested by a change of plan depending on the previous move, which humans are slower to try. According to the authors of Libratus, in certain situations Libratus was 'fearless', which gave it an advantage.
While the win for the bot is significant I'll withhold judgement on whether it will change poker in the same way that engines changed chess. There may be a reassessment of how certain hands should be played, but overall I think the 'game space' is small enough that humans already have most of it covered.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

2017 ACT Championship

The ACT Chess Championship is taking place over the weekend of the 10th,11th,12th and 13th of March (Canberra Day Long Weekend). It will be a 7 round FIDE rated swiss with a time limit of 90m+30s.  There will be one round on Friday evening (10th) and then 2 rounds for each of the other days.
The tournament is open to all residents of the ACT and surrounding regions. Entry fee is $65 ($45 for concessions). Players must be a member of the ACT Chess Association to play.
This event has been quite strong over the last few years with IM Junta Ikeda and IM Andrew Brown regularly taking part. There are a number of improving players closing the gap between the IM's and the rest of the field, so it might be quite competitive this year.
You can find the flyer for the event at http://vesus.org/tournaments/2017-act-championship/ Entries will be accepted on the day (no late fee), but you can also email Cam Cunningham (ACTCA President) if you wish to pre enter. Contact details are on the flyer.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

When Steinitz went the hack

While Wilhelm Steinitz is well known as the "Father of Positional Chess", he started his career as a bit of a care free hacker. Adolf Anderssen christened him the "Austrian Morphy" and his style was described as "brilliant but not safe". This all changed towards the end of the 1860's when he began to formulate his theories on positional play, changing his style to "safe but not brilliant".
While this style began to bring him success at the top level, he still had an eye for a sharp combination. Against the top players he may have been solid, but weaker players still gave him chances to show his brilliance. One such game occurred during his tour of Great Britain in 1873. As it was a simul the quality of the opposition was probably not that great, but nonetheless the finishing position is one of the nicer ones I have seen.


Steinitz,William - NN [C30]
GBR tour sim Great Britain, 1873


Sunday, 12 February 2017

The comeback

The next round of the UK 4NCL competition is currently being played, and having played the last weekend, I'd thought I'd look in.
Both White Rose teams have bounced back it seems, with the top team winning 7.5-0.5 against the Barbican 2 team, while in the 2nd division scored a narrow 4.5-3.5 win over the KJCA Kings. The Division 1 team is now lying second in its division and looks good to qualify for the next stage of the competition. The win for the 2nd's was its first for the season, but is probably too late for the team to catch the leaders.
It is interesting to observe the difference in strength between the various teams, with powerhouses like Guildford able to wheel out GM's as required. Last month Gawain Jones was busy winning the Wijk aan Zee B event, but this month returned to Board 2 for Guildford. On the other hand many teams have a few titled players, bolstered by highly rated local players. While some thinks this disparity detracts from the competitiveness, it is probably no different from the EPL (ignoring Leicester last season), and adds a distinctive character to the competition.


Palliser,Richard J D (2414) - Buchicchio,Giampaolo (2250)
4NCL Division 1b Northampton, ENG (5.63), 11.02.2017


Friday, 10 February 2017

A successful sortie

As flagged yesterday, today involved a trip to the Lifeline Bookfair in Canberra. In some years there are very slim pickings but this year wasn't bad. I was able to grab about 6 decent books, while a couple of other collectors picked up a similar amount.
There were a number of 'historical' books, including Botvinnik's book on the 1941 Absolute Championship of the USSR, and the tournament book from the 1972 San Antonio Tournament (Karpov's first big overseas success). And I also located a copy of The Batsford Guide to Chess Openings by Barden and Harding, which was the first real opening book I owned. My original copy (which was autographed by young IM's Rogers and Johansen in 1983) disappeared a number of years back, so it was good to finally track down a replacement.
Flipping through the San Antonio book I saw the late Ken Smith was one of the participants. He was well known for his advocacy of the Morra Gambit (or Smith-Morra as he called it), and he played it whenever he could. However his results with it were poor, leading Larsen to annotate "1.e4 e6(?) Stronger is 1. ... c5, which wins a pawn (Smith always plays the Morra Gambit, in this tournament with disastrous results)". Probably the best (or worst) example of this, was his game against Mecking late in the tournament. Having sat at the bottom of the tournament throughout, he decided to throw everything into the attack, but just ended up resigning.


Smith,Kenneth R (2395) - Mecking,Henrique (2570) [B21]
San Antonio San Antonio, 1972


Thursday, 9 February 2017

Books

I had to curtail my usual over expenditure on books while travelling, as the excess weight charges on my luggage may have killed me. However there a no such restrictions on what I can take on the bus, which is good news, as the Canberra Lifeline Bookfair is on tomorrow.
While I did not deliberately time my return from overseas to make sure I could attend, it is indeed fortuitous scheduling. So I'll be up early in the morning, hopefully to snap up whatever chess books are on offer. If not, the fall back is always IT and maths, and failing that, whatever randomness peaks my interest.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Back to base

After 2 moths away, Harry and I are finally back in Australia (although our luggage may not be). We seem to have missed the absolute worst of the summer, although it is forecast to be 38 degrees in Canberra, just in time for my return to Street Chess.
The trip back was quite good, aided by some good luck. For the Abu Dhabi leg, Harry and I ended up being upgraded to Business Class, which was a practice that I had assumed was almost extinct (as airlines often offer business class upgrades on an auction basis). This made what is normally the toughest part of the trip quite pleasant, as we were able to sleep for a lot of the trip.
Now that I'm back there is a lot of catching up to do. A couple of big events are coming up in the near future (ACT Championships, Dubbo and O2C Doeberl Cup), as well as some other chess activities (ACCQ, ACTJCL). And of course now the holiday is over, work starts again on Monday. But for now, some sleep, some writing and a lot of recovering.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Last day away

Today is my last day in the UK. Flying out of London this evening, and will be back in Australia in around 40 hours. Its been an interesting two months away, with a lot of chess, a lot of travelling, and a lot of full English breakfast's. I made a number of new friends, while catching up with a lot of old ones.
Of course regular readers of this blog have had an idea of how the last two months went (from a chess point of view). I did get to a number of events I've always wanted to attend, and while my results weren't great, I did enjoy being there.
Speaking of results I think I ended up with 4 wins, 10 draws and 8 losses in my long time control games. I dropped around 60 rating points as a result, which I've decided to blame on turning 50! I did a little better at blitz, scoring 4/5 in the one tournament I played in to come 2nd.
I also directed (or helped direct) a few events. Being an assistant arbiter at Hastings was a highlight, while being part of the team at the LCC Rapid (450 players) was informative. I also picked up a different perspective on how events can be organised, and may try and bring some ideas back to Australia.
Overall it was a worthwhile trip and one I can recommend to other players. Based on the results of my son Harry, for young Australian players, try it before you turn 18 (to pick up the 40 k factor for your rating), while for older players, remember, it is still a holiday.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

2017 Gibraltar - Best Game

One tradition that still continues in some the UK events I visited or played at was the awarding of a "Best Game" prize. This was done at Hastings, and was also done at Gibraltar. In Australia it used to happen on occasion, but fell by the wayside as there were often not enough nominations, and not enough qualified judges.
In such a big event as Gibraltar I'm not sure how they found the time to check all the games, as there were a number of brilliant games played. Having on site commentators probably helped, as Simon Williams and Jovanka Houska featured the best games from each round, often bringing the winner in for an interview. Even then I saw 2 or 3 games a round that could easily have won such a prize in a smaller event, so making a final decision seemed difficult.
In the end the winner was Veselin Topalov's win over Bogdan-Daniel Deac (if I heard the announcement correctly that is). At the time I first saw it it looked spectacular, and the judge(s) obviously agreed. Topalov allowed Deac to get a black pawn all the way to c2 (forking rooks) but it was all to late as Toplaov had calculated a massive win of material due to the threat of mate on the bank rank. And all in 25 moves.


Topalov,Veselin (2739) - Deac,Bogdan-Daniel (2572) [E04]
Tradewise Masters 2017 Caleta Hotel, Gibraltar (5.12), 28.01.2017


Friday, 3 February 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 10

The 2017 Gibraltar Masters had two dramatic finishes on the final day, one almost at the start of the round, and one at the end. Women's World Champion Hou Yifan (CHN) decided to protest her pairings in an unusual way, by losing against GM Lalith (IND) in 5 movers. 1.g4, 2.f3 were her starting moves, and the game was all over soon after. She was unhappy about being paired with so many female opponents in the tournament (7 from 10 games) and felt that their was something not right about how the pairings were determined. The general consensus at the event was that it was a silly protest, her claims were easily disprovable (and have been by independent sources), and that now this is what the 2017 event will be remembered for (NB The Gibraltar Masters has the largest prize pool for female players in any open in the world)
With that out of the way, interest turned to who would survive the final round. GM Michael Adams (ENG) drew with GM David Anton (ESP) to leave Anton on 8/10. Wins by Nakamura and Yangyi Yu also left them on 8, while Gelfand, Vachier Lagrave and Cheperinov fell short after drawing their games. This meant there was to be a playoff, with Yi and Nakamura playing first with the winner then playing Anton (who had the best tie-break). Nakamura and Yi drew the first 2 rapid games, before Nakamura won the blitz tie break 2-0. Then in the final Nakamura and Anton drew the first rapid games, before Nakamura claimed first prize by winning the second.
This is Nakamura's 4th win of this event, including wins last year and this. The tournament concluded with a well attended prize giving dinner, and lots of supportive speeches from the tournament sponsors, and the Gibraltar government. So for those thinking about playing this wonderful event, it will be on next year, but if you want to play in the Masters, you need to get your entry in early.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 9

All the way through the tournament I've kind of thought that GM David Anton Guijarro (ESP) was a bit of a 'surprise packet', whose time at the top was soon to end. But with 1 round left to play, Anton Guijarro is actually the outright leader of the tournament.
Today he dispatched Veselin Topalov (BUL) while his closes rivals drew. He is up against Michael Adams tomorrow, and a draw is at least a guaranteed share of first place. His current TPR is 2878 and is picking up a bag load of rating points. Hoping that Adams gets something from the game is the group of players on 7/9. With 8/10 being the minimum winning score (it could be 8.5), Gelfand, Vachier-Lagrave, Nakamura, Romain, Yu, Ju and Cheparinov are hoping both to win and for Anton Guijarro not to.
There were a couple of disappointed Australian players in this round, with IM Bobby Cheng losing to GM Andrei Istratescu and FM Zachary Loh drawing with Peter Korning. Cheng's loss puts paid to his chances of a GM norm, while even Loh's opponent thought that the fact he escaped proves there is 'no justice' in chess.
I scored my second win of the tournament after my opponent gave me too many good squares for my pieces. This puts me on 3.5/9 which was my target score at the start of my trip. While the game wasn't perfect, it was at least an improvement on my previous couple of rounds.
Tomorrow sees an early start for the last round 11am local time, 9pm Canberra time. If you haven't been able to watch any of the tournament coverage up until now, take advantage of this to catch the online commentary. It is well worth it.


Koes,Richard - Press,Shaun [C55]
2017 Gibraltar Masters (9), 01.02.2017


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 8

Normally the leading pack in chess events gets smaller after each round, but round 8 of the Gibraltar Masters saw it increase by one. All 4 of the overnight leaders drew with each other, and so were joined by Veselin Topalov, who beat Emil Sutovsky to reach 6.5. There were also quite a lot of other drawn games today. so the next group down also seemed to get bigger. The all England pairing of Adams and Short was short (and drawn), as was the Cheparinov Stefanova pairing, but the all Chinese pairing of Ju and Hou ended in a win for Ju. Fabiano Caruna also played himself back into contention with a win over GN Gopal, whole IM Bobby Cheng kept his GM norm chances afloat with a win over WGM Petra Papp. A win over GM Istratescu in round 9 will probably do it, or a draw followed by a round 10 win (depending on his opponent).
Down at the far end of the field, I'm stumbling towards the finish line with a mixtures of draws and losses. Yesterdays game was one of those late tournament efforts where I saw very little and lost miserably, while today I chose the wrong plan and had to really dig in to save half a point. While I'm still looking for 3/3.5 points (which was my target score), I may do it an a fairly ugly manner.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 7

With 3 rounds to play, 4 players now share the lead in the 2017 Gibraltar Masters. Two of yesterdays leaders, Hikaru Nakamura and David Anton Guijarro played a quick draw (by repetition of course) to move to 6/7. On Board 2 Maxime Vachier Lagrave ended Michael Adams unbeaten run to also reach 6. And Yangyi Yu demolished Valentin Dragnev to become the 4th member of the leading group.
However the group on 5.5 still has hopes of winning the event, especially as it includes players like Adams, Short, Gelfand and Topalov. Also in the group is Antoaneta Stefanova, who is currently the leading female player.
IM Bobby Cheng had another tough game today, against World Problem Solving Champion Kacper Piorun. The  opening was slightly bizarre (as explained by Piorun in the commentary room) before the game become highly tactical. Unfortunately for Cheng, the tactics were in Piorun's favour, leaving Cheng on 4/7. However the strength of the event is still working in Cheng's favour as hist TPR is still over 2500, and a good finish may still result in a GM norm. FM Zachary Loh also won today to get back to 50%. He plays GM Mathias Womacka tomorrow, and a win may put him in the frame for an IM norm.


Dragnev,Valentin - Yu,Yangyi [B46]
2017 Gibraltar Masters (7), 30.01.2017


Monday, 30 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 6

The 6th round of the 2017 Gibraltar Masters was particularly blood thirsty, with the majority of top board games ending in victory or heartbreak. Probably the highlight of the round was Nigel Short's win over Fabiano Caruana in a Caro-Kan Two Knights. Short won a pawn in the middle game, then won the exchange to head to a winning ending, but even then Caruana made him fight all the way.
IM Valentin Dragnev (AUT) also scored a momentous win, beating  Vassily Ivanchuk, and is now on 5/6 with a 2700+ PR.
Michael Adams continued his good run, beating Wenjun Ju to score 5.5/6. Hikaru Nakamura is also on the score, as is another tournament surprise packet, David Anton Guijarro. Guijarro is up against Nakamura in round 7, while Adams has to contend with Vachier-Lagrave.
IM Bobby Cheng had a good win against GM SS Ganguly. At one point Ganguly could have accepted a repetition offer from Cheng, but in refusing to do so, just left himself with a worse position. FM Zachary Loh drew with Kim Yew Chan (MAS), looking slightly worse when I had a quick look at the game. I got lucky in my game against Alistair Compton (NZL), when I grabbed a 'free' pawn, only to miss the refutation. However we both then missed a stronger version of the tactic, and as a result I ended up with 3 pawns for a piece (rather than 2), and I was able to set up a position where a draw was the logical result.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 5

At the halfway point off the 2017 Gibraltar Masters, 6 players share the lead on 4.5. The top board saw a quick draw by repetition between Emil Sutovsky and Wenjun Ju, but most of the other leading games were more dynamic. (NB There is a no draw offers before move 30 rule in operation, but unavoidable repetitions are exempt from this).
Michael Adams is also in the leading group, winning yet another marathon game, this time against Yifan Hou. Hikaru Nakamura made short work of Eduardo Iturrizaga, while Lagrade and Anton Guijarro are also on 4.5
After yesterdays slashing win Nigel Short was unable to overcome former Doeberl Cup winner Varuzhan Akobian, with the game ending in a draw. David Howell and Maxime Vachier Lagrave also drew, leaving them on 4 points. Further down IM Bobby Cheng won the all Australian clash against FM Zachary Loh, moving him back up the standings.
Given the compressed leader board, picking a tournament winner at this point is very difficult. Michael Adams is one player who seems to be in good form, as is Hikaru Nakamura, but one slip is all it takes to drop out of contention. It may also depend who gets to play players like Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave in the run home.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 4

At the end of day 4 there are only 2 players left on 100%. GM Emil Sutovsky and GM Wenjun Ju have won all their games, and will meet on Board 1 in tomorrows round. The group on 3.5 contains 14 players, including a number of the higher rated players, including Michael Adams, Hikaru Nakamura and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Not in that group are a couple of other big names (Caruana and Topalov), who have had a couple of draws to go with their 2 wins.
One player recovering from an early loss is Vassily Ivanchuk who won his game today. Unfortunately for Australian fans is was at the expense of IM Bobby Cheng. Cheng played a little loose in the Pirc but it took a nice exchange sacrifice by Ivanchuk to create real winning chances. Annoyingly for Cheng the swiss pairing gods have seen fit to pair him with fellow Australian FM Zachary Loh in round 5.
I've been a little quiet reporting on my own games after my round 2 loss, but I've actually recovered to 1.5/4. I won a pretty straightforward game yesterday (win a pawn, exchange pieces, win another pawn, keep exchanging), while today I had to defend a slightly worse position until a pawn grab in a heavy piece ending encouraged my opponent to force a repetition.


Ivanchuk,Vassily - Cheng,Bobby [B08]
2017 Gibraltar Masters (4), 27.01.2017


Friday, 27 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 3

The third round of the 2017 Gibraltar Masters saw the leading group thinning, with more top seeds being forced to concede draws to lower rated opponents. Nakamura drew with GN Gopal in a game where the only pawn exchange occurred on move 3/4 with the position being almost totally blocked by move 40. Yangyi Yu drew with Antipov, although this game saw all but one pair of pawns exchanged before a drawn rook ending was reached.
Michael Adams is not the highest seeded player on 100% after winning a double rook ending against Deac Bogdan-Daniel. Vitiugov is the only 2700+ player on 3, along with another 7 players.
Slightly further down Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave moved up to 2.5/3, although Peter Svidler scored his second draw after surviving a ferocious attack by Nitzan Steinberg (Click on this link and look for the game!) IM Bobby Cheng moved to 2/3 with a win over FM Angelo Damia, while FM Zachary Loh scored a big upset, beating GM Victor Mikhalevski and is now also on 2/3.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 2

Day 2 of the 2017 Gibraltar Masters saw two different blackouts, one at the venue and the other at the board. During the morning session (Challengers and Amateur) the power went out across Gibraltar, leaving the players at the venue relying on natural light to illuminate their games. The blackout also affected the DGT boards, as some boards did not restart correctly, leaving some games un broadcast. The power outage lasted an hour, although the games continued as scheduled.
The blackout at the board involved Vassily Ivanchuk, who lost on time in a winning position, against IM Ori Kobo. With one move to make the time control, Ivanchuk let his clock run down, and was surprised when his opponent claimed the win. At first it seemed his was arguing that his clock still showed time (as it moved to the next time control), and then he claimed to made played 40 moves. It turns out that he left move 24 blank on his scoresheet (writing it as move 25) and therefore only played 39 moves, even though he had written move "40" down.
The other top boards had a tough time of it as well, with Caruana and Vachier-Lagrave both drawing with IM's and the top 10 boards only "winning" 7-3 against the lower rated players.
IM Bobby Cheng had a tough opponent in the form of GM Vadim Zvjaginsev and went down. FM Zachary Loh had a nice win on the board next to mine, while I played a lot better than yesterday, until I dropped a rook in a time trouble blunder.
Despite the upsets, there are still 19 players on 2/2,but only 3 of the original top 10 seeds are in this group. Hikaru Nakamura is one of these players, and a win on top board tomorrow will put him in a good position for the next third of the tournament.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 1

Day 1 of the 2017 Gibraltar Masters got underway with very few surprises. A couple of higher rated players were held to draws (Gelfand, Short, Ganguly among them) and there were a couple of GM's dropping the full point. Having said that, the very top players won in a way that showed the difference between 2700+ GM's and 2300+ players. Fabiano Caruana had a very nice win, and the commentators praised Nakamrua's play. There were a couple of quick wins on the top boards, including a 16 move win by Topalov.
I started on Board 91, and to show how strong this event is, I still ended up with a 2420 rated GM. Doing a bit of pre-grame prep, I settled on a line where I was a pawn up, but with an exposed king in the centre. Turns out my idea wasn't that great as GM Sundararajan just ripped open my position and I resigned on move 25. My next round's opponent is hardly any easier, as I get a 2260+ FM to try my best against. Nonetheless I'm finding the tournament very enjoyable, and if you are able to stay up for the start I highly recommend following the online coverage.


Topalov,Veselin - Paehtz,Thomas [A80]
2017 Gibraltar Masters (1), 19.01.2017


Tuesday, 24 January 2017

2017 Gibraltar Masters - Day 0

Quite a busy day yesterday, which is the reason for the missing blog post. Most of it was taken up with settling in to the hotel, a bit of sightseeing, and working out the various ways of getting to the venue. It turns out we didn't do the last bit quite as well as we could, as this mornings round (for the challengers) necessitated a shift to taxi's so Harry didn't forfeit his first round.
Gibraltar is nice, and obviously small. For Canberran's it is about the same size as Amaroo and Ngunawal combined, although we don't have a huge rock in the middle. The rock does present a bit of a problem, as our hotel is quite close to the venue, but only if there was a tunnel drilled through it. Otherwise it is about a 55 minute walk (although a lot quicker by bus).
The Masters begins tomorrow at 3pm (1am Wednesday Canberra time), and runs over 10 rounds. Already the top seeds are arriving, as I spotted Caruana, Adams and Svidler at the Calata Hotel. There will be a lecture by GM Ray Keene at the venue this evening, followed by the opening ceremony. Indeed, every night has a different social activity for the players, including master classes, novelty blitz events, and simuls.
I'm not sure how the round times (and time zone shifts) will affect my blogging, but hopefully I will be able to report sometime after the round is finished (which is likely to be late morning Canberra time)