Thursday, 30 March 2017

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/