Sunday, 19 August 2018

The Notorious BDG

Flipping through some old games I came across this quick win in the BDG. While I don't go looking to play the Blackmar-Diemar Gambit, it is something I will play against the Scandinavian. In this game Black went wrong on move 6, as after I castled, the open e file was always going to be a problem for him.

Press,Shaun - Marshall,Justin [D00]
Belconnen Club-ch Belconnen, 1994

Friday, 17 August 2018

One man wrecking crew

The ACT Interschool events use a restricted swiss system for our qualifying events. Players are grouped by schools (or subsets) and aren't paired against players from the same school/set. Team scores are then based on the top 4 scores from a school (and the next 4 for team 2 etc). The intention of this system is to make events a little more competitive, as in a strict team of 4 system, only board 1 players player other board players etc
On the other hand, a different set of issues arrive, when one school is clearly stronger than the rest. In both Secondary Schools events this year, the top three places were taken by single schools (Canberra Grammar and Lyneham High). It also made the event tough on the other players, as the leading players couldn't take points of each other in a lot of cases, and ended up playing finding opponents on lower scores (which isn't normal in swiss pairings).
The other issue is that we award trophies for perfect score (7 wins from 7 games). In yesterdays event, it was looking as though I might have to hand out 10 such trophies, to players from the same school. Fortunately I was saved by Ricky Luo (Radford) who ended up playing all the top players from Lyneham High. Each round he was paired against someone on a prefect score, and each round he saved me one trophy! By the last round he had taken out 6 Lyneham players and as a result only Yizhen Diao and Manjot Melli ended up on 7/7. Despite his hard work Luo missed out on a perfect score himself, falling just short after a hard fought draw with Safron Archer in round 6.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

What was Black thinking?

I observed a pretty wacky game of chess at my local club this evening. Black thought it was a good idea to sacrifice his queen, expecting to be rewarded with at least some compensation. However looking at the game from an elevated (and sideways) observation point I couldn't see exactly what he was expecting. I turns out that there was compensation, in that both players were under 5 minutes after about move 10 (60m+30s was the time limit), and in the ensuing complications, White ran out of time!
Here is the start of the game, as I got sidetracked playing my own game, and was not able to see the rest. White's flag fell around move 30

Aliyev,Kamran - Grcic,Milan [A40]
Korda Classic, 14.08.2018

Give a pawn, take a queen

I can remember at some point Nigel Short annotating a game where he basically said that the Two Knights Defence simply lost a pawn. This was based on the observation that after 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Black cannot recapture on d5, unless they are willing to face the Fried Liver Attack.
And yet people still play the opening, including myself, although I tend to give up more than a pawn in the lines I favour. Looking through some games from the current Abu Dhabi Masters, I came across a nice win for Black where he gave up a couple of pawns, in the Colman Variation. When I was a boy the advice was not to capture the pawn on c6, but White did, and Black demonstrated why it might not be the best idea. Nonetheless, the game was still pretty even until White decided to threaten mate on h7 with Qg6, at which point Black played a few checks and then trapped the White queen by moving his king.

Al-Hajiri,Bader (2120) - Esenbek Uulu,Ilimbek (2159) [C58]
25th Abu Dhabi International Chess Festi Abu Dhabi (5.72), 11.08.2018

Sunday, 12 August 2018

First Saturday

Albert Winkelman is another of Canberra's young players spending the European summer playing chess. At the moment he is taking part in the First Saturday IM tournament in Budapest. These monthly events have been running for over 20 years, and provide an opportunity for players to achieve IM and GM norms (depending on the section).
While Albert looks to be finding this months tournament tough going, he has scored 2 wins, including one against IM Nhat Min To. So even if he doesn't return from Europe with a new title, he will certainly come back a stronger player.

Winkelman,Albert (2134) - To,Nhat Minh (2352) [B33]
First Saturday IM August 2018 1117 Budapest, Hunyadi Janos u (7.2), 10.08.2018

Friday, 10 August 2018

Never bet on anything that talks

Unibet has just been announced as the official betting partner for the upcoming 2018 World Championship Match. Apart from providing you with the opportunity to win or lose money, Unibet is going to offer enhanced digital content throughout the match.
Having never bet on chess before I'm not sure exactly what options will be available. Win, loss and draw for each game seems to be obvious, as well as betting on the match result. More exotic options could be problematic, as offering odds on choices of openings or specific moves could be vulnerable to insider information.
More information will no doubt be released soon, but hopefully the connection of the tournament with a gambling site will not have any unfortunate side effects.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

How's this for a draw

While looking at some recent opening theory I came across the following drawing line in the Closed Sicilian. Clearly both players involved were happy to split the point, but I suspect the tournament rule on when draws could be offered/agreed to dictated the length of the game. Having said that, as the game was played after the FIDE 5 fold repetition rule came into play, then technically the game only lasted 16 moves.

Narciso Dublan,Marc (2521) - Grigoryan,Karen H (2580) [B23]
Barbera del Valles op 38th Barbera del Valles (9), 12.07.2015

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Showing my age

A slightly atypical win for me, played last night at Belconnen Chess Club. Whether I'm getting older, or finally playing the position rather than by instinct, is still unclear, but it was a fairly smooth win, with minimal chaos!

Badrinarayan,Siddhant - Press,Shaun [D27]
Korda Classic, 07.08.2018

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

2018 Chess Olympiad - PNG Team

The 2018 Chess Olympiad is less than 2 months away, and most federations have organised their teams. This years Papua New Guinea team has a few changes, including a return to the board for me. Returning from the 2016 team are FM Stuart Fancy, FM Rupert Jones and CM Helmut Marko. Joining them are myself, and newcomer Tom McCoy. Initially playing his chess in Canberra, work in PNG has allowed Tom to join the team.
This year also sees a new team captain with US/Iranian GM Elshan Moradiabadi taking on the sometimes difficult task. Moradiabadi has some familiarity with the team, and Iran played PNG in the first round of the 2010 Olympiad, crushing me on board 2!
The first round of the Olympiad is on the 24th September, with the tournament running through to the 5th October. Once again it will be an 11 round event, with a single rest day.

McCoy,Tom (1664) - Chibnall,Alana (876) [C34]
Belconnen op Belconnen (1), 08.07.2005

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Secret Sport

ABC Radio in Canberra does a weekly segment on Canberra's "Secret Sports". This week it was Chess's turn to be the 'secret sport' so Alana Chibnall, Stephen Mugford and myself hit the studio to talk up chess, as a sport. The response was generally favourable, although of course there was at least one sceptic. You can hear the 20 minute interview here, starting at the 7:30 minute mark of the recording.
After the interview Stephen Mugford mentioned a quick win he had at his local club. I'm always a fan of the quick finish in chess, so here it is. It is a good example of what happens if you move too many pawns in the opening, although ironically, it was Black who was finished off by a pawn at the end!

Mugford,Stephen - Gibson,Bernard [C00]
Tuggeranong, 30.07.2018

Saturday, 4 August 2018

At least they got the characters names right (sort of)

I caught the movie 'Pawn Sacrifice' on TV this evening, having not seen it in it's entirety before. When I saw the initial trailers for the movie (when it was first released) I thought that the movie had made a reasonable attempt at historical accuracy. It turns out that 'reasonable' significantly oversells the accuracy of the movie.
To be fair, it is a movie, and not a documentary, but almost every dramatic scene in the movie presented an alternative version of history. Venues were changed, opponents were different, tournament results altered, and even well known facts (at least to chess players) were sacrificed for dramatic alternatives. While this often happens in film, a lot of the changes seemed unnecessary, as the truth would have served just as well.
As a movie I'd probably give it 6/10, but as a chess movie I would rate it significantly lower.

Friday, 3 August 2018

Being British

There was a time when 'British' in the British Championship stood for the British Empire. Commonwealth players had the same eligibility to play as UK citizens, with the title occasionally heading off to the colonies. This eventually came to an end when an influx of strong overseas players made it seem like a Commonwealth Championship, rather than a English/Scotland/Wales affair.
This years Championship looks to have done a great job of attracting most of the strong UK players to Hull. Fourteen GM's are in the field, including Michael Adams, Gawain Jones, David Howell and Luke McShane. Interestingly there are a number of non UK players taking part, but instead of being from India,Canada etc they are from various European countries. I assume that this is due to permanent residency/citizenship eligibility, rather than any ironic attachment to European Union work rules.
Australia even has a representative in the tournament with soon to be GM Justin Tan. At the two thirds mark he is on 4/6, winning two games and drawing four. Adams and Jones share the lead on 5/6, and play in round 7. David Howell is half a point back, but has already played the two leaders (both games were drawn). Another player on 4.5 is GM Nick Pert who has had to work very hard, playing 3 of the 4 longest games in the event, winning a 90 move game, while drawing two others in 105 and 133 moves respectively.

Murphy,Conor E (2336) - Tan,Justin Hy (2481)
105th British Championships Hull City Hall, Hull (3.7), 30.07.2018

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Getting blitzed

While I didn't mind my play on the first day of the 2018 ANU Open, the second day was a bit of a shambles. The 60m+10s time limit is a tough one to play, and if you don't have a clear cut advantage going into the last few minutes, bad things can easily happen.
On the other hand the better you are, the less of a problem this seems to be. My first round game, against top seed IM Jame Morris, showed that winning tactics can be spotted, even at 10 seconds a move. Unfortunately for me it was my opponent who did the calculating, finding a nice queen sacrifice to finish me off.

Press,Shaun P - Morris,James
2018 Australian National University Open Canberra, Australia (1.1), 28.07.2018

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

In my life

Finally, my interest in chess and The Beatles collide!
Mark Glickman (inventor of the Glicko chess rating system) is in the news again, but this time for some statistical analysis connected with The Beatles. Glickman and Jason Brown developed a data model for Beatles songs, comprising 149 different features. Then using the model they were able to determine the authorship of each Beatles song, within a certain degree of confidence.
For non Beatles fans, the majority of Beatles songs were credited to Lennon-McCartney even if only one or the other really wrote the song (the rest being cover versions, compositions by George Harrison, or the occasional Ringo Star tune). The rough and ready method in the past was normally who sang lead vocals, but Glickman and Brown have taken this further.
One song they have looked at is 'In My Life' from the Rubber Soul album. In the past McCartney said that he wrote most of the song, while Lennon (before his death) stated that it was based on his childhood memories, and McCartney only contributed a small part of the song. According to Glickman and Brown, the song bears all the hallmarks of a Lennon composition, with very little change of it being a McCartney song.
If you want to read more about this interesting work, you can have a look here or here.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

2018 ANU Open - Brandon Clarke wins

Brandon Clarke has won the 2018 ANU Open, scoring 6/7 and finishing a point ahead of the field. Going into the final day as part of the leading group, he defeated FM Yi Liu in round 5 and IM James Morris in Round 6. Needing only half a point for outright first, he agreed to a quick draw to FM Michael Kethro to take the $1000 first prize. There was a 4 way tie for second, with Morris, Kethro Liu and Bahman Kargosha all on 5/7.
The 60m+10s time limit resulted in some exciting but frantic chess. While a number of players blew up as time ran short (including myself more than once), Clarke was able to handle the time scrambles a bit better than his opponents.
The Minor (Under 1600) was one by Yizhen Diao with 6/7, after beating previous leader Athena Hathiramani in the final round. Tied for second with Hathiramani was veteran Canberra player Joe Marks, proving that it isn't just junior players who clean in these events.
Full crosstables, as well as all the games from the top 4 boards can be found at
For Canberra players the next weekend event is the 2018 Viking Weekender in November, while Sydney players can look forward to the 2018 August Weekender in a fortnight.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

2018 ANU Open Day 1

The 2018 ANU Open has turned out to be a reasonably strong event. 10 of the 29 players in the Open were rated over 2000, with IM James Morris the top seed.
At the end of the first 4 rounds there is a 4 way tie for first, with Morris, FM Yi Liu, Brandon Clarke and CM Clive Ng all on 3.5.
As mentioned in yesterdays post, there have been a number of interesting games on the top boards. I started the tournament on board 1 (as top of the bottom half), and was on the receiving end of an interesting sacrifice from IM James Morris. During the brief post game analysis he thought he was a little lucky to get away with it, but it seems that he always had enough compensation.
Clive NG's win over IM Andrew Brown was another interesting game. Brown was ahead a piece for some of the game, but was overwhelmed by a kingside pawn rush.
In the Minor Mark Scully and Anthena Hathiramani lead with 4/4. As in the Open there have been a number of interesting games, with young Canberra junior Sophia Boyce being the author of a couple of them.
Tomorrows round starts at 9:30 am. You can watch the live games here, as well as replay the top board games from the previous rounds. Full standings from both events can be found at the Street Chess Tournament page.

2018 ANU Open - Tournament Links

The 2018 ANU Open starts on Saturday, and while looking like a strong event, the numbers are still a little short of what the organisers are hoping for. However, this means that most of the likely contenders are going to meet early in the event, and the top boards should contain plenty of action.
You can follow the Open (and the Minor) at The tournament results and pairings can be found here, as well as live coverage of the top 4 boards from the Open.The first round begins at 10 am , with 4 rounds on Saturday, and 3 rounds on Sunday. I will try and provide some updated coverage on this blog, although for once I am actually playing in the event, so I may have my mind on other things.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

2018 ANU Open - Early registration closes on Friday

The 2018 ANU Open and Minor is on this weekend (28th and 29th July). If you register before Friday you get a $10 discount, even if you pay on the day. Go to to register. You can also download all the tournament details there as well.
And don't forget the 2018 Buddy Blitz, starting a at 6pm on Friday 27th, at King O'Malleys, City Walk, Canberra City. This is a 5 round blitz event for teams of 2 players. Entry is free, and you can register at the venue.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Jim's Chess Cafe

For Sydneysiders looking for a new coffee shop to hang out in, try Queenside on New Canterbury Rd, Dulwhich Hill. It is run by local chessplayer Jim Papadakis and is a chess themed coffee shop. Apart from the name, it has a number of items on the menu name after chess players, including "Smurfi's Scandi granola" named after GM David Smerdon. The cafe also has plenty of chess themed decorations, and also holds after hours chess sessions.
If you want to check it out online (before visiting), then have a look here

Monday, 23 July 2018

Pieces against the Queen

The first round of the Biel Chess Festival was played last night, and featured a very instructive game from Magnus Carlsen. Playing David Navara , Carlsen chose to give up his queen for a rook and a piece. He then picked up a central pawn to at least make the number balance (Q=R+B+P) but for a long time the game was still in the balance. After some tricky middlegame tactics, and a QvR+N ending was reached, and this is where Carlsen came out on top. Making sure his pieces had solid anchor points (eg pawns protect pawns which protect pieces) Carlsen was able to create enough threats to force Navara to return the queen for the pieces, leaving Carlsen with a won pawn ending.

Carlsen,Magnus (2842) - Navara,David (2741) [D30]
51st Biel GM 2018 Biel SUI (1.1), 22.07.2018

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Bad officiating - What do you do?

I suspect all chess players have been the victim of bad officiating at one time or another. Whether it's an opponent who stops writing their moves and gets away with it, or a spectator/friend casually suggesting a strong move to your opponent, there are always situations where we can feel that the rules have not protected us.
But that pales in comparison to what happened to the Canberra Raiders in the NRL on Friday night. Not one, but two officials indicated that an infringement by the other side had occurred, so the players waited for the referee to stop play. While waiting, a Cronulla player casually put the ball down for a try, which on review was awarded, on the grounds that no infringement had actually occurred.
After the game the usual apologies and 'we are looking into it' comments were made by the games governing body, although the result will of course not be changed. Apparently action has now been taken against the one of the officials (a two week suspension), with a strong hint that the official concerned won't be appointed to top level games again.
Is anyone aware of a similar occurrence happening in a chess tournament or series? The closest I can think of was an Olympiad arbiter who found himself dropped for the rest of the event after telling a noisy senior FIDE official to be quiet during a top board game. Otherwise nothing springs to mind.

FIDE Fatigue - Not just yet

Most mornings when I wake up, the news stars with 'American President did ....'. After a year and a half of this, it is easy just to hit the off button and wait until the sport comes on. It appears the same is going on with news out of FIDE, although I'm not hitting the off button yet (although a few people I've spoken to are)
After last weeks 'anti-corruption' announcement confirmed that the current FIDE administration has very little money to fund their own campaign, there were further developments.
Current President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov caught a 18 month ban (12 months suspended) from holding political office from the Ethics Commission. Apparently it was for doing or saying something, although what that was, was only described in very general terms.
The Dvorkovich campaign then filed a complaint against the appointment of principles at the Chess Olympiad, arguing that can be considered a payoff for political support for the current FIDE executive. As I was previously on the Pairing Panel at the 2010 and 2012 Olympiads, I can confirm that appointments like this often have 'strings attached' as I was not reappointed in 2014, after refusing a request to make the PNGCF vote for Kirsan in the last FIDE election.
And the Olympiad Travel grants were announced. When the system of awarding grants was first established prior to the 2014 Olympiad, great care was taken that they could not be interfered with by the FIDE management. Eligibility was tied directly to FIDE Development status, and the amount was based on Continent or distance travelled (I know this because Rupert Jones and myself were the authors of the initial regulations). This seems to have been tossed out the window, as a number of strong European countries like Iceland and Poland are now receiving grants, while countries like New Zealand are required to entirely fund themselves.

(** I am working with Paul Spiller on his re-election campaign for Oceania Zone President, and through this, assisting Nigel Short's Clean Hands for FIDE ticket **)

Friday, 20 July 2018

The Anti Fort Knox?

The 'Fort Knox' variation in the Frence Defence involved Black planting a bishop on c6 early in the game. While I've never considered the variation that ambitious (or dangerous for White), it does appeal to French Defence players who stress the second word in the opening's name.
As I was flicking through the games from the last 4NCL season, I came across a nice win for White, in what looked like a mirror image of the Fort Knox. After 3.Bd3 White planted his bishop on f3. It was then Black who went pawn hunting (taking on g2, when a lot of French lines have Qxg7) allowing White to build up a decisive lead in development. Avoiding the loss of a rook only led to Black getting mated instead.

Ivell,Nicholas W (2201) - Lee,Richard W Y (2149) [C00]
4NCL 2017-18 England ENG (9.65), 05.05.2018

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Buddy Blitz

One of the upcoming events as part of the ANU Open, is the Buddy Blitz. This is an event for teams of two, and will be played as a 5 round swiss. There is no restriction on the team members (ie two 2200 players can team up if they wish), and the local chess clubs usually organise at least one official team each.
This years event will be held at King O'Malley's in Canberra City, on Friday 27th July and will start at 6pm. Entry is free and is open to players of all ages. Teams can either enter at the venue, or contact me in advance.

Monday, 16 July 2018

World Senior Teams

The Seniors chess circuit continues to grow in popularity, with a record turn out at the just completed World Senior Teams event in Dresden, Germany. In a dramatic last round, the USA team grabbed first place, beating Canada 3-1, while the English team lost to Germany 1.5-2.5. In the over 65 event, the Russian team proved unbeatable, winning all 9 of their matches.
Both events attracted a number of famous, and indeed legendary players. GM's Nunn and Speelman were part of the England team, while Sveshnikov and Balashov were part of the Russia Over 65 team. Just as interesting was the turnout of players better known as authors or administrators, with Stewart Reuben, Tim Harding and Almog Burstein turning out for their respective teams.
Probably the next big seniors tournament is the World Seniors in Bled later this year. I know of a few players from this part of the world taking part, and if it was closer to the end of the Olympiad I would be tempted to stay for it, but alas it isn't to be.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

With the internet broken, there is always poker

My home internet has broken (thank you NBN co) and so have had to find other things that interest me. One of these things is watching the live coverage of the World Series of Poker on TV. As I type this it has been running for over 9 hours (400+ hands), and show no signs of finishing. Watching this makes me appreciate that chess uses clocks to control the session length. I have a recollection that they were thinking of doing a similar thing for poker, although with the system of increasing 'blinds' it may not be necessary (as eventually all the money ends up in the pot). However a system where a player has to 'buy' extra thinking time (either adding it to the pot, or just giving it to the opponent), may be something worth considering.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

IM Justin Tan wins Paracin 2018

IM Justin Tan has won the Paracin 2018 Open with a very impressive 7.5/9. More importantly for Tan, it looks like he has secured his GM title, scoring a norm in this event (TPR 2688) as well as moving his rating above 2500. The norm comes weeks after he discovered the norm he had scored in the recently completed 4NCL was invalid.
He started the event strongly, but had only played a single GM after 7 rounds. He played the final two GM's required for a valid norm in rounds 8&9 and drew with both of them.
Also playing in this event from Australia were IM Junta Ikeda and Albert Winkelman. Ikeda had started the event strongly as well, but a round 8 loss derailed the tournament for him. Junior player Winkelman found the event tough going but managed to finish on 50% after a last round win.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

What to do when you're down and out in Athens

Previous FIDE elections have seen an enormous amount of 'generosity' from the rival tickets. Invitations to conferences to delegates and Presidents*, plenty of schwag on offer before the GA, and of course, the all important offer of arbiting appointments or spots on FIDE commissions as a reward for voting the right way. And while FIDE drew a line for the behaviour of other campaigns, it wasn't a line that FIDE drew for themselves.
Now, in the post-Kirsan era, FIDE have suddenly decided that the upcoming elections should not be tainted by such practices. In an email to all Federations, FIDE have announced 'anti-corruption measures' designed to protect the integrity of the 2018 vote. Basically it says that no campaign can offer inducements to Federation Presidents, Delegates or other officials, in the form of gifts, subsidies, inducements or hospitality.  To enforce this rule, FIDE have established an Electoral Integrity Committee, and any offers are to be reported to them.
What isn't clear from this document is whether FIDE themselves can disguise their own inducements as legitimate operational requirements ( eg appointing delegates to paid arbiting duties or appeals committees). But based on the specification that any support for Olympiad travel outside what they are providing for developing countries is to be considered, I'm assuming that they will exempt their own payments from scrutiny.
Having already discussed the document with a highly placed FIDE official (who ironically was away sick on the day it was announced), there seems to be two schools of thought. His take is that it is part of the anti-corruption efforts of Malcolm Pein. I on the other see it somewhat differently, instead attributing to the fact that the Makropoulos campaign knows it does not have the same financial support that the Dvorkovich or Short campaigns have, and as a result are simply changing the rules at the last minute to try and cling to power.

(* I scored a free trip to the World Championship match in 2014, for such a conference)

IM Justin Tan on fire

IM Justin Tan looks to be bouncing back from the disappointment of losing a GM norm, with a strong performance at the 2018 Paracin Chess Festival. After 7 rounds he leads the tournament with 6.5, a full point ahead of the chasing pack. While his TPR is a massive 2801, he still needs to play another 2 GM's for the result to count towards his GM title. Fortunately he playing GM Kiril Georgiev in round 8, and a good result, plus a GM in the final round should be enough for his final norm.

Tan,Justin (2481) - Petrov,Martin (2441) [A05]
Sport Summer 2018 Paracin (7.1), 11.07.2018

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Roll your own training site

When I was a lot younger than I am now, most software for my computer was written by myself. Back in the day (1978-1988), most home computers came shipped with a BASIC interpreter, and although you could by software (often on audio tape), a lot of the usefulness cam from writing your own programs.
However once the IBM-PC (and clones) hit the market, this all changed. Most software came pre-supplied on floppy disks, and while you could write your own, why would you. Of course home programming wasn't dead, but writing complete 'systems', rather than code to solve a specific problem, became rarer.
But recently I've got back into some 'home programming' via the 21st Century equivalent of BASIC, Javascript. Javascript contains a lot of the 'features' that made BASIC programming a simple but messy task, although it runs on your web browser rather than your desktop. This is not a problem though, as a typical web browser is very similar to desktops of yesteryear (as a software platform).
One piece of code I am working on is a simple chess training system to help improve calculation and evaluation. The first module is available at and is designed to help you identify forcing moves.  You are given a position, plus some extra moves, and you have to identify all the checks, captures and promotions following the extra moves.
At this stage the project is very much alpha, and there are some things that can be fixed and improved. I'm also working on a module that lets you improve evaluation skills (and combining look ahead with evaluation), plus a few other features.
The whole thing is free to use, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. (NB If you do like it, and live in Canberra, you can thank me by playing Street Chess!)

2019 Oceania Zonal - Guam

Details for the 2019 Oceania Zonal have just been announced by the Guam Chess Federation, who are hosting the 2019 event. It will run from 18th February to 24th February 2019, and is being held at the Pacific Star and Spa Resort. There will be 3 double round days and 3 single round days. Chief Arbiter will be IA Bob Gibbons from New Zealand.
The major issue for Australian and New Zealand players will be travel, although a quick scan of flights for those dates show flights for as little at $1550 return from Canberra. Accommodation at the venue is around $90(US) a night for twin share, breakfast included.
As it is a qualifying event for the FIDE World Cup, there will be titles on offer (as well as one place in the World Cup). This is the first time the Oceania Zonal has been held outside the South Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji), but hopefully there will be a good contingent of players from this part of the world.
If you want to check out all the details (entry fees, prize money etc) then look at the February section of the New Zealand Chess Calendar.

Monday, 9 July 2018

You can only play once

Chess is full of stories where club mates have travelled halfway across the continent to play in a tournament, only to be paired together in round 1. Versions of this story have involved siblings, parents and children, and in one memorable instance, ex-husband and wife (although this wasn't in the first round).
So when the top seed of the 2018 Faroes Island Open, GM Gawain Jones, checked his paring, he saw the very familiar name of his wife, WIM Sue Maroroa. I have no idea how many times they have met in tournaments, although a search of my database did not find a single instance.
In the end the game went according to rating, with Jones taking advantage of an unsound attempt to give up the queen for assorted material. The good news for both is that won't be paired together again, leaving them free to deal with the rest of the field.

Jones,Gawain - Maroroa,Sue [C97]
Faroes Open, 07.07.2018

Sunday, 8 July 2018

England v Sweden

One of the historical anomalies of sport is the existence of separate teams for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island in world football. The anomaly actually extends to a number of other sporting arenas, including the Commonwealth Games and Chess (although Chess does not have Norther Island, but does have Jersey and Guernsey).
I can remember a few years ago Nigel Short wrote on this topic, and drew the ire of Scottish chess players by questioning whether Scotland should be a separate chess entity. A recent conversation has also reminded me that many in Scotland have not forgotten this.
But as I type this one of the other UK regions is currently playing Sweden in the World Cup. While I am tipping a win for Sweden, the game I have chosen to represent this match is actually a draw. Played between Tony Miles and Ulf Andersson, it saw Miles play the 4.Bf4 line against the Queens Indian. At the time this system was both novel and successful, but eventually Black worked out how to meet it and it is a much rarer line these days.

Miles,Anthony J (2565) - Andersson,Ulf (2545) [E12]
IBM Amsterdam (5), 1978

Thursday, 5 July 2018

You be the arbiter

The diagrammed position occurred during an interschool event today. It was Black's move but he only had 10 seconds on the clock. As a result he did not spot the check on the a file and decided to play 1. ... Qh8+ White replied 2.b8=Q+ and Black followed with 2... Qxb8+ At this moment I assumed White was going to capture the Queen, but instead tipped his king over in resignation. The questions is: What was the result of the game? (And yes, I was the arbiter)

(** The diagram has been updated as the initial position was in error. The queen was on e5 (instead of d4) as the previous moves were Qe5+ Ka8 **)

Combined Arms

Normally I do not collect chess sets, or take chess variants too seriously, so of course my wife brought me a present that combined the two. ChessPlus is a new game* developed in Australia, which allows you to combine the power of pieces.
The rules are the same as normal chess with a couple of exceptions. A piece can move onto a square occupied by a piece from the same side, and the two pieces can be joined together, with the power of both pieces. A piece that has been combined can similarly be split by moving one half of the piece away. And finally, a pawn that gets to the end of the board is promoted to a queen, even if it is part of a combined piece.
While I haven't really play tested the game as yet, a couple of things spring to mind. 1.Rja2 (where j stands for 'joins with') might be a useful first move, as would 1.Rjg1 or 1.Rjb1. Secondly, Rook and Pawn endings would be pretty straight forward, although the game may not last that long. And finally, as every piece (except the King) can be combined with another, I'm wondering what the deadliest combination actually is (Q+N is obvious, but is it powerful enough against other combined pieces). If I have the time, a computer simulation may be in order.

(* veterans of the ACT junior chess scene may realise that this came is similar to Cusak chess, invented by Ben Cusak)

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Number 184

Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov has apparently won the 184th tournament of his career, after finishing first in a 4 player rapid/blitz event in Spain. His fellow competitors were veterans Torre, Vassier and Ljubojevic, and the event looked to be half serious, half fun by all reports. Nonetheless Karpov keeps count of these wins, and seemingly doesn't make a distinction between the serious and not so serious tournaments.
But if you think 184 is impressive, then try 865. This was the number of tournaments won by FM John Curdo up until 2011. With a peak career rating of 2305 the events he plays in aren't Linares or Wijk aan Zee (at least not the top section), but a win is a win.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Happy chess

"Are you happy to agree to a draw?" "Ok"
The above conversation was repeated a number if times over the last week, as I sorted out a number of issues during various Canberra school events. Most of the players involved were young primary aged students, and for many it was their first chess event.
Reasons for asking this included

  • Not knowing how to checkmate with K+Q v K (or K+R)
  • Both kings being in check and neither player knowing how this happened
  • Kings being chased around the board by multiple pieces and eventually repeating the position a number of times
  • Both kings being captured!
The other common question was "Do you know how to checkmate with .... ?". A couple of players replied "I think so" or "I'll try to" and so I allowed them to play on, at least for a few moves. In a couple of cases the players did succeed in finding a mate, but in the 2(!) K+B+N v K endings I saw, the players were unsuccessful.

And Kirsan drops out

In what was seen as an inevitable move, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has announced he is not contesting the 2018 FIDE Presidential election. Once Arkady Dvorkovich announced his candidacy it was assumed that Kirsan was finished, and the decision by the Russian Chess Federation to endorse Dvorkovich nailed the coffin shut.
The race is now a three cornered contest, with Short, Makropoulus and Dvorkovich still in the running. July 3 is the date for the tickets to be submitted, but all three campaigns have announced their candidates. From this part of the world Paul Spiller (NZ) is part of the Short ticket, as a potential FIDE Vice-President.
Spiller, who is the Oceania Zone President, is also being challenged for that role by Jamie Kenmure. Kenmure has built up his connections with some of the Oceania federations, and then used their votes to curry favour with the current FIDE administration. It would be shame if such behaviour is rewarded come October, but this is politics FIDE style (even if some FIDE insiders have expressed a vehement dislike for Kenmure).

(** Disclaimer: I am on the current Oceania Chess Confederation Executive and am supporting Paul Spiller in the Zonal election)

Friday, 29 June 2018

Summer Holiday

Australian IM Junta Ikeda is once again enjoying a summer chess holiday in Europe (NB He is not unique in doing this, as fellow Canberra player's Victor Braguine and Albert Winkelman are doing the same thing).
His first event was the Teplice Open in the Czech Republic, and while he did not collect a GM norm, it was still a good start for him. After 7 rounds he was 5.5 points, but losses in the last two rounds left him in a tie for 31st (along with Winkelman). However he did collect the scalps of a number of highly rated opponents, including this win over GM Karen Movsziszian.

Ikeda,J (2420) - Movsziszian,K (2527) [E63]
13th Teplice Open 2018 Teplice CZE (7.10), 22.06.2018

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Even more new rules

I continue to add to my collection of 'house' rules that seem to turn up at interschool events. Some are old chess-nuts like 'promoted pieces go back on their starting square', while a couple were new even to me.
One player complained that his opponent had moved a pawn from a7 to a5, on the grounds that a pawn can only do that 'on the first move', which in this game he interpreted it as 'the first move of the game'. At least this explained his preference for hedgehog type openings.
There was also an attempt to capture a rook en-pas, but it was the 'king/queen switcheroo' that won the award for most creative rule. A player had just got '4 move checkmated' but attempted to escape by 'castling' king and queen (ie Kd8-Qe8 in one move). I really couldn't explain why it wasn't allowed except to say "it isn't allowed".

Monday, 25 June 2018

Look away and you will miss it

I had two odd 'blink and you miss it' moments in the last 24 hours. The first was while channel surfing during the England v Panama World Cup Match last night. Despite England winning 6-1 the only goal I saw was scored by Panama, as England sneakily put it in the net when I had changed to another channel.
The second was at a coaching class today, when one of students asked for a quick game. 1.g3 e5 2.f4? exf4 3.gxf4?? Qh4# (and yes, I had shown my students Fools Mate previously!)

Praggnanandhaa scores final GM norm

It looks like R. Praggnanandhaa from India is about to become the second youngest GM in history. At one stage he looked on track to beat Sergey Karjakin's record, who earned the title at 12 years and 7 months, but he was unable to score the final norm required. However, at 12 years and 10 months he is still the second youngest player to earn the title, 6 months younger than when both Carslen and Negi became GM's.
He earned the title on the way to finishing equal first in the Gerdine Open in Italy, scoring 7.5/9 along with GM Ivan Saric. But while Praggnanandhaa is celebrating his title, another competitor in the event is far less happy with the title process. Australian IM Justin Tan (who scored 6/9 in the event) found out the GM norm he thought he had scored in the 2017-18 4NCL season is invalid on the grounds he did not play the right mix of international players. Previously a national teams championship was exempt from 'foreigner' requirements (in the same way a National Championship is), but a change to FIDE regulations meant this only applied to players from the host Federation.As a result Tan still needs one more norm for his GM title.

Pruijssers,Roeland (2514) - Praggnanandhaa,R (2529) [C78]
4th Int. Chess Festival ad Gredine Open Ortisei - St. Ulrich (9.2), 24.06.2018

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Howard Staunton

While Steinitz is rightly credited with creating a new 'positional' style of chess, the concepts he popularised didn't come from nowhere. Howard Staunton deserves a lot of credit for showing the way to Steinitz, as his style and results were a clear influence. While there has been a reassessment of Staunton's contribution to chess in the last 40 years, he still gets bad press from chessplayers who only know about his non-match with Paul Morphy. I suspect if this contoversy hadn't clouded his actual playing career, his role in developing modern chess principles who have been more appreciated.
Today (22nd June) is the anniversary of his death, and so I've selected possibly the last competitive game he played to show his style. The opening is positively modern, and after Barnes' attempt at a tactical finesse blows up in his face, Staunton keeps control all the way to the end.

Barnes,Thomas Wilson - Staunton,Howard [C42]
London consultation London, 1859

Friday, 22 June 2018

Denmark 1/2 - Australia 1/2

Continuing with the World Cup theme, here is a game between the most famous Danish chess player Bent Larsen, and the (then) Australian IM Walter Browne. And fittingly, the game ended in a draw, as the World Cup match did today. BTW It was at this tournament that Browne earned his GM title (which in those days could be awarded based on a single performance)

Browne,Walter S - Larsen,Bent [C41]
San Juan San Juan (13), 1969

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

26th ANU Open - 28 & 29 July 2018

The 26th Australian National University Open is being held on the weekend of the 28th and 29th of July, at the ANU School of Art, Childers Street ANU.
It will be a 7 round swiss split into an Open and Under 1600 section. There are $3300 in prizes, with $1000 first prize in the open (NB This is a bigger prize pool than similar events in other cities).
The time limit for each event is 60m+10s per move.
Further details can be found at (click on the Regulation link for a brochure). You can also register online there (and still pay on the day). If you have a FIDE rating, just search for your name. If you don't the entry for will ask for a local ID and rating. If you don;t know this, just enter any numbers, and the organisers will sort it out later!

Monday, 18 June 2018

FIDE President's Race - Is it four or two candidates?

A new candidate has thrown his hat into the race for the FIDE Presidency, with Arkady Dvorkovich becoming the fourth candidate for the office. The details of his announcement can be found in this article on, including some discussion about what this means for the other candidates.
One theory is that Ilyumzhinov will now drop out of the race, as the Russian government will shift their support to Dvorkovich. Taking it one step further is the suggestion that the Makro ticket will merge with the Dvorkovich ticket, with Dvorkovich becoming the Presidential Candidate, Makro remaining as Deputy, and Malcolm Pein being let go (or offered a Vice President position as a consolation prize).
However I'm not sure that the second scenario is as likely as the first, as the logical step for both parties would have been to negotiate this behind close doors. By announcing his candidacy in this way Dvorkovich seems more likely to have his own set of office bearers in mind (although defections from the Makro ticket cannot be ruled out)
Nonetheless, a new Russian candidate wouldn't be seen as bad news for FIDE insiders. The real problem that the current FIDE executive have with Kirsan had nothing to do with his management style, or ethical issues, but simply that he is now costing them money. While he was bringing money into FIDE (through personal contributions, or connections with other governments) concerns about his ethical standards were dismissed as pro Kok/Karpov/Kasparov propaganda, but when FIDE had to actually pay for his expenses (and there was less money for pet projects of other board members) then suddenly the other issues that had been ignored for years became critical to how FIDE 'should' be run.
So if Dvorkovich can bring in a new income stream (or just resurrect Kirsan's old network) then it can be business as usual in the Athen's office.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Champion of Kazan

The title of this post does not refer to the Australian Football Team (or indeed the French), but to IM Rashid Nezhmetdinov, who lived in the Russian city which is currently a host city for the 2018 World Cup.
I've waxed lyrical in the past about how good Nezhmetdinov was, and watching the World Cup this evening gives me another excuse to present one of his games. This one is over pretty quickly, as White panics after 10...Bxg2 and avoids capturing the bishop. As a result Black gets in a queen check on h4, and after that  smothered mate.

Samsonov - Nezhmetdinov,Rashid [C29]
Kazan-ch Kazan, 1929

Embracing the cold

On a per capita basis, Iceland has long been considered the strongest chess playing nation in the world. One oft quoted reason has to do with the cold climate, which encourages people to stay, and play, indoors. While this may be true, I suspect that 'success breeds success' is also a factor in the Icelandic chess story.
I bring this up because Canberra is undergoing a cold snap, and it may even snow over the weekend. I'd like to think this should encourage players to spend the weekend playing chess (either at Street Chess on Saturday, or the Primary School Allegro on Sunday), but the cold may discourage people from leaving home. This certainly is a reason that players from warmer climates give when passing on the many excellent events held in the nations capital, and it is to those players I say 'harden up!'
If you are one such player willing to embrace the cold, then I suggest you pencil in the weekend of the 28th and 29th of July for the ANU Open. Once again this event will be held with an Open and Under 1600 section, and will have over $3000 in prizes. Keep your eye on this blog for further details, including entry fees and how to enter.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Once a knight, always a knight. Twice a night and you're doing all right!

Under-promotions can be a thing of beauty, or a sign of madness. I once read about a game involving Chris Depasquale, where he chose a bishop instead of a queen, hoping to confuse his opponent in time trouble (as it was going to be captured anyway).
The following game is probably neither, but is curious as the promoted knight is White's 3rd one on the board (btw this was the game I mentioned in a post from October 2017). The knight gets snapped straight away, but for a brief moment it was almost like having a proper cavalry.

Press,Shaun - Cunningham,Cam [B07]
Swiss Festive Fun, 31.10.2017

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

2018 NSW Open - Song and Ikeda tie for First

The 2018 NSW Open has ended in a tie for first between FM Raymond Song and IM Junta Ikeda. Ikeda lead going into the final day, but Song was able to keep pace after they drew an exciting game in Round 6. In the final round Ikeda was held to a draw by Australian Champion GM Max Illingworth, while Song was able to catch Ikeda by beating IM Gary Lane.
Illingworth's draw was enough to give him a share of 3rd place, alongside FM Kevin O'Chee on 5.5. A number of high profile players ended up in a tie for 5th place including GM Anton Smirnov, IM Gary Lane and WGM Jilin Zhang.
Frank Low won the Minor event, after drawing in the final round with Stepehn Jago. This left Jgo tied for second with Gary Armstrong and Lachlan Lee. There was a big group of players on 5/7, including veteran player Ralph Shaw, the brother of the late Australian IM Terry Shaw.
This years event ran a lot more smoothly than last year, despite similar numbers (136 players). The addition of a third arbiter (NA Nick Kordahi) helped substantially, especially in getting the room ready for each of the rounds (eg I did not have to set a single clock over the whole weekend!). The noise issue from the last year was dealt with by moving the analysis area further away, and this had the overall effect of making the event a pleasant one to direct.

Lane,Gary W (2388) - Song,Raymond (2249)
2018 NSW Open Sydney, Australia (7.2), 11.06.2018

Monday, 11 June 2018

2018 NSW Open - Day 2

IM Junta Ikeda is the outright leader of the 2018 NSW Open, finishing day 2 on a perfect 5/5. Along the way he scored two impressive victories, beating WGM Jilin Zhang in round 4, and GM Anton Smirnov in round 5. His game against Zhang involved R+N v R+P with Zhang walking into a surprise mate when most spectators assumed the game would be drawn.  Against Smirnov he found a line where he exchanged 2 rooks for a quen, but the exposed nature of Smirnov's king allowed his Queen and Knight to carry out a winning attack.
GM Max Illingworth and FM Raymond Song share second on 4.5, after they drew their evening game. As a result Song will face Ikeda in round 6, while Illingworth and Smirnov will meet on board 2.
In the Minor event, Gary Armstrong, Frank Low and Thai Pahn share the lead on 4.5, with Armstrong and Low drawing their round 5 game.
Round 6 will begin at 9:30 am tomorrow, with the final round at 2. If you are in Sydney, feel free to drop into the Russian Club in Strathfield to catch the last day action.

Smirnov, Anton - Ikeda, Junta
2018 NSW Open (5.1) 10.06.2018

Sunday, 10 June 2018

The agony and the agony

While the 2018 NSW Open has been running quite well, the organisers have been bedevilled by a number of technical issues. Laptop tantrums and DGT fragility issues have resulted in less than optimal online coverage. But for now, the DGT boards are broadcasting, for a certain value of 'broadcasting'.
You can find the live broadcasts at and at the moment, the board 1 game between Smirnov and Nakuachi is worth watching.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

2018 NSW Open - Day 1

The 2018 NSW Open has once again attracted good numbers, with a strong set of players at the top of the seedings. GM Anton Smirnov is the top seed, followed by GM Max Illingworth. IM Junta Ikea, FM Brandon Clarke and IM Gary Lane are the next thee seeds, and all are potential winners of the event.
Once again there is a good turn out from Singapore, with some of their junior players making the trip to a wintry and wet Sydney. Also well represented are a number of junior players from Canberra , including Ricky Luo who scored one of the big first round upsets, defeating CM Paul Russell.
The Minor has attracted a field of 56 players, headed by Gary Amstrong and Shane Dibley. Dibley is one player hoping to turn his form around, after suffering a significant rating decline in the months leading up to the Under 1600 event.
Results for the event can be found at Techincal issues have so far prevented the live broadcast from operating as hoped, but it should be fixed and up an running in time for tomorrows third round at 9:30am

Friday, 8 June 2018

Enter at your own risk

Before the World Wide Web really kicked off, you could still exchange information across the internet, just without pictures. One example was the venerable Usenet system, which was a decentralised system of discussion boards, on many many topics. I used to frequent the chess groups quite a lot (as well as a number of other sporting groups). While some groups had moderators, for a lot of others it was a free for all, and the discussions could be quite brutal (I discovered the art of trolling in alt.folklore.urban, back in the day when it meant more than just shouting inflammatory statements).
But once the web became a thing, Usenet kind of died out (I can remember exactly 0 students choosing it as an assignment topic back in 2000 at ANU). So I was a little surprised that there are people who still use it the exchange information (or to just abuse each other). Even if you don't have access to a usenet client (or server) there is still a way to access the chess new groups. Chessbanter seems to be a web interface to the* groups, in all there (past) glory. So if you want to take a trip down memory lane, feel free to click on the link, but be warned, nothing seems to have changed much in 20 years (including a lot of the topics of discussion)

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Seriously, this happened

From the 'there is hope for us all' file, here is a very quick game where a 2150 player falls for a trap I assumed almost every player of the French Defence knows about. The only thing I can add, is it is almost an injustice that the rating points go to a 2400 player, rather than some lucky 1600 opponent.

Diaz,Rid (2435) - Garcia Fuentes,Sergio Miguel (2158) [C10]
Guillermo Garcia Master 1 Santa Clara CUB (9.5), 31.05.2018

Monday, 4 June 2018

2018 NSW Open 9-11 June 2018

The 2018 NSW Open is on this upcoming long weekend, at the Russian Club in Strathfield, NSW. It will be a 7 round FIDE Rated Swiss, run in 2 sections, Open and Under 1600. There is over $8000 in prizes, including $1000 for first in the Under 1600 event.
The tournament starts at Noon of Saturday 9th June (registrations from 11). The schedule is 2 rounds Saturday, 3 on Sunday, and 2 on Monday. Time limit is 90m+30s. Further details, as well as an online entry facility can be found at
There will be a live broadcast of the top boards from the Open for each of the rounds. At the the moment the top seeds include GM's Anton Smirnov and Max Illingworth, plus IM's Junta Ikeda and Gary Lane.

(*Note: I will be a paid official at this event)

Sunday, 3 June 2018

This looks like one of my games

The Altibox tournament from Norway is interesting in more ways than one. There have already been a couple of high profile casualties, including Ding Liren, and the Grunfeld Defence. Liren injured himself in a bike accident, and has had to withdraw (his score has been annulled for the event, although the games still count for ratings).
Last night saw Karjakin lose to Caruana, in a game that reminded me of some of my own efforts. An attempt at hacking the English Opening didn't quite work, but instead of digging in, Karjakin set fire to the board, and only succeeded in burning his own fingers!

Caruana,Fabiano (2822) - Karjakin,Sergey (2782) [A28]
6th Norway Chess 2018 Stavanger NOR (5.2), 02.06.2018

Friday, 1 June 2018

How to do chess

If you are looking for chess related projects (building boards etc) or chess tips, then wonderhowto seems to have a list of things you can try. The link to chess activities is and has a number of tutorials.
(BTW If you go to the parent directory you can find other things to try, including 'charging your cell phone using train tracks')

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Is the tide turning for the Berlin?

In terms of opening re-inventions over the last 25 years, the rise of the Berlin Defence to the Ruy Lopez probably runs second only the Kasparov's use of the Evans Gambit in the mid 1990's. And since Kramnik turned it into a solid system for Black, it has been a regular feature of the Super GM events. However I've recently seen a few games at least which shows that White still has a chance to breach the Berlin Wall.
In the current Norway event, Carlsen scores a reasonably direct win over Lev Aronian, after the later went wrong in a Berlin middlegame. Aronian probably underestimated Whites space advantage (with the pawn on d5), and only made it worse by exchanging dark squared bishops. As a result he had very little counterplay, and after being forced to shuffle his pieces, eventually made a fatal blunder.
As a result Carlsen leads the event with 2 wins and a draw, while everyone else has either drawn, or in the case of Caruana and Aronian, lost to Carlsen.

Carlsen,Magnus (2843) - Aronian,Levon (2764) [C67]
6th Norway Chess 2018 Stavanger NOR (3.1), 30.05.2018

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Bh6, h4 hack

The kingside hack against fianchettoed bishop is a bit of a double edged sword. On the surface it looks appealing, but it can back fire. I had the chance to successfully play it last night, but when looking up the theory on it, the position after White's 9th move only scores around 40%. In my game I was certainly helped by 9... Qa5 but if my opponent had chosen something like 9...Bxh6 instead, then I would have had a lot more work to do.

Press,Shaun - Hosking,Ian [B26]
Autumn Leaves, 29.05.2018

Monday, 28 May 2018

Old chess software

Accessing old chess programs, and indeed any old games, without payment is a bit of a grey area. 'Abandonware' is the term used for software no longer being sold or supported, and there are a number of sites on the net that allow you to download or run these programs. I suspect that the copyright on these programs is still in effect, but on the other hand, how can you pay for such programs if there is no one to pay.
Having got that out of the way, I did come across a site that had a number of old, and historic pieces of chess software. has around 75 chess (or chess type) programs listed, and can either be downloaded, or played inside a browser. Various versions of Battlechess are there, as are early copies of Chessmaster. Of course these games are the MS-DOS versions of everything, so the graphics (and strength) aren't that great. The earliest program listed was MicroChess (1978) which ran on the Apple II (so you'll need an Apple II emulator to play it). The earliest DOS program listed was simply called Chess (1981), but you can play that in a web browser (NB on the easiest level I checkmated on move 5)
If you do a bit of extra searching you can probably find more programs that weren't tagged correctly, as well as non-chess games you probably never thought you'd play again!

And the assist goes to the goalie

When I was very young, I spent a season of soccer playing goalie. I kind of fell into it, as no one else was keen to take on the role, although it took me a while to work out why. As far as I can remember I was pretty good at it, especially when diving at the feet of over eager centre forwards trying to go round me. However in the final game of the Port Moresby Under 10's I did concede the vital goal that gave the title to Korobosea Primary, instead of my team. After that I gave up goalkeeping (mainly due to a move to a new team in Australia), and for the next few seasons scored goals rather than conceding them.
Of course accidents happen, even to seasoned professionals. The Champions League Final between Real Madrid and Liverpool is the current example, with Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius, having a bit of a shocker. But even seasoned GM's can get it wrong at the board, especially if they miscount captures. GM Deep Sengupta did exactly that in the Kolkatta Open, when he assumed that recaptures would only happen one way. Instead he realised at move 10 that his opponent could capture in a different way (11. cxd7+ Nxd7!) and whatever happened next, he was dropping a piece.

Sengupta,Deep - Narayanan,Srinath [D00]
Kolkatta, 05.2018

Saturday, 26 May 2018

In praise of trash

I've never got out of my habit of playing 'coffee house' openings, especially when I'm actually playing in a 'coffee house' type event. And so it was today, where I played a couple of terrible games, interspersed with a few 'coffee house' wins. And in true coffee house style, I was helped by my opponent getting somewhat confused with what I was doing. Here is Exhibit A

Press,Shaun - Dude, A [C21]
Pub Chess, May 2018

Friday, 25 May 2018

And the bottom seed is ... Anand!

I've just had a look at the upcoming Altibox tournament in Norway, and noticed that the *bottom* seed in this 10 player event is Viswanathan Anand. He is in good company though, as the 9th seed is Lev Aronian a mere 4 rating points ahead of him.
At the other end of the event, Carlsen, Caruana, and Mamedyarov are the 2800+ players, with the rest of the field squeezed in between them. The first round of play is on Monday 28th May, although there are other events leading into, including a simul by Wesley So.
Also interesting is the format for the open event running alongside the main event. Although it is a 7 round event, the first 3 rounds are rapidplay games (15m+10s), played on the Friday evening. Saturday and Sunday see four 90m+30s (2 on each day), to round out the event. The entry fees are quite pricey, at what would be $150 Australian, although pretty much everything in Norway is pricey!
With such a strong field lined up, it is very difficult to pick a winner. I generally do well at this by picking Carlsen in whichever event he is playing in, but I'd love to see Anand win, as it isn't every day that the bottom seed wins a high level RR.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Making my life easier

I spent today running a small interschool competition in Canberra. As the field wasn't very large, the rounds tended to finish quite quickly. To make sure we stuck to some sort of sensible schedule, I used the time in between rounds to do a bit of coaching.
The first lesson I gave was on the 'Electric Fence' checkmate (Mate with Q+R or R+R). Fortunately for me the players were quite attentive, as it seemed that the lesson sunk in. Over the next few rounds, this became the 'go to' method of winning the game, especially by players who had never checkmated this way before. As a result, there were very few games that were dragged out by kings being unsuccessfully chased around the board. This meant the rounds finished even quicker(!), giving me more time to do even more coaching.
So if you are running a school event, showing a few basic checkmating ideas (Electric Fence, K+Q v K) might make the event run a little more smoothly.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

The Chess Club

When is a chess club not a chess club? When is it The Chess Club.
The club I am referring to is the Chess Club in London, which is a private members club located in Mayfair. It has a bar, restaurant and lounge areas, and indeed some chess sets, but I assume its main function is as a club, rather than somewhere to play chess. If you want to check out the interiors before visiting, covers it nicely. If you are interested in visiting or joining, the clubs own website has all the details.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Memorising endgames

Chess players learn/memorise openings, but don't really do the same for endings. This kind of makes sense, as there is no guarantee you will ever see a particular ending, but there are some that are common enough that committing them to memory would not hurt.
One classic example is the Rook and Pawn ending from the final game of the Capablanca-Alekhine World Championship Match (1927). It is a good example of how you convert and ending where you have an outside passed pawn on the queenside, while there are equal pawns on the kingside.
The key ideas are to put your rook behind the passer, forcing your opponents rook to blockade. Then bring your king towards the queenside, forcing your opponents king to try and keep your king out. Then shift your king to the kingside to attack the pawns. Finally, break up the pawns on the kingside with a pawn push of your own, before picking them off and winning!
While it takes a little time to complete, the general method is usually enough to collect the point. I've even had the need to use it recently, when playing some casual games at Street Chess.

Alekhine,Alexander - Capablanca,Jose Raul [D51]
World-ch12 Alekhine-Capablanca +6-3=25 Buenos Aires (34), 26.11.1927

Fast start, gentle finish

GM Wenjun Ju is the new Women's World Champion, winning her match against Zhongyi Tan 5.5-4.5. After a pretty violent start to the match (games 2-6 were all decisive), the game finished with 4 draws.
This of course was what Bobby Fischer had predicted was likely to happen in fixed length matches, with on player taking a lead, and then drawing their way to victory. Nonetheless, his proposed solution (first to 10 wins, but the challenger requiring a 2 win margin for the title) was never adopted, except in his 1992 match against Boris Spassky, The other solution, which was the first to 6 wins, was tried after 1972, but fell out of favour after the Karpov v Kasparov match that was aborted after 48 games. Since then World Championship matches have become shorter and shorter, making Fischer's prediction more likely to be correct.

Friday, 18 May 2018

An easy chess engine example

If you are interested in how chess engines work (and can read/understand Javascript). then 'A step-by-step guide to building a simple chess AI' might be worth a read. It is a simple explanation/tutorial about how chess engines are coded.
It  mainly looks at the evaluation and search functions, using the existing chess.js library for move generation and validation. As it is a very basic implementation, it is missing a few things that makes a chess program really strong. There is no quiescence search (a search extension which follows capture sequences beyond the specified search depth), no transposition table, and no move ordering.
However, if you are interested in tinkering with a chess program, the source is free and downloadable from the above links, and if you are feeling energetic, you can probably add those features yourself.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Two Famous Actors

While flicking through 365 Chess Master Lessons by Andrew Soltis, I came across a game between two famous actors, Michael Redgrave and John Steadman. Looking a the date it was played (2007) and the venue (Sydney) I immediately figured something wasn't quite right, as Sir Michael Redgrave had died in 1985, and John Steadman passed away in 1993.
It turned out that the surnames of the players had been transposed, and the two participants were in fact Michael Steadman (NZ) and John Redgrave (AUS) who had met in the first round of the 2007 Sydney International Open. Soltis features the game as part of a lesson on when is the optimal time to play a move. In the game, 9.Nd5 was strong, and made even stronger by 9...Bb7??, although 9.a4 was even stronger, as it sets up some extra tactics for White. After Steadman found the knockout blow with 10.Ne6! there wasn't much left for Black.

Steadman,Michael - Redgrave,John [B94]
SIO, 2007

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

It just went horribly wrong

Trying to bluff your opponent in OTB chess is a risky proposition, doing so in Correspondence Chess is complete foolishness. Here I tried a bluff against my opponent, hoping he wouldn't find 9.Nh7!, or realise it had been played in a similar position previously (9...Qe8 is better). Of course he did find it, and after that, my game just disintegrated (aided in part by other horrible moves from me)

Schreuders,Arjo - Press,Shaun [C57]
Australia v Netherlands, 05.03.2018

Monday, 14 May 2018

The strongest player you've never heard of

While doing some research on the 1876 Steinitz - Blackburne Match, I came across mention of a player I'm not sure I've ever really been aware of, John Wisker. According to the Chessmetrics website, he was the 4th ranked player in the world at that time, with an historical rating of 2623.  This high ranking was probably based on his two victories in the British Championship, in 1870 and 1872 (the last Championship until 1904 btw). However his career was cut short in 1876 when he contracted tuberculosis, which resulted in a move to Australia (and possibly making him Australia's highest ranked OTB player ever!). I'm not sure if he played any chess while living here (I cannot find any games), but he wrote a chess column for the Australasian, before passing away in 1884 in Melbourne.

Wisker,John - Zukertort,Johannes Hermann [C80]
Zukertort 1st game in ENGWestminsterCC London, 22.06.1872

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Not playing doesn't just hurt yourself

A quick comment in the recent selections for the Australian Olympiad team (NB I am not revealing my selections, or who has been selected as there is still a chance of appeals by non selected players)

For the last few Olympiads I've been one of the selectors for the Australian teams. This year I was on the selection panel for the Open and Women's teams. One issue that arose for me was the geographical advantage/disadvantage some players suffered from. For a couple of players, the access to strong players was somewhat limited, making it harder for me to rank them highly. When they did play similar events to other players (ie international FIDE rated events), the results were quite comparable, but it was in their 'home' tournaments where they fell behind.
It wasn't because they scored badly, but simply because there wasn't enough strong players to test themselves against. And as playing in the Olympiad requires you to play against strong players, a 80% score against a field of 1700's isn't as impressive as a 50% score against 2100's.
Sadly, in at least a couple of cases, it isn't because there are no strong players close by, but that there aren't enough 'active' strong players close by. Now there are many reasons for choosing not to play (especially if you are a strong player), but it is becoming clear to me, that this has a knock on effect for other players. And I would hate to think that this would contribute to a cascading effect of discouraging the next level down from playing as well.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Chess and Meditation

Every now and then I get sent free stuff as a result of this blog. Usually it is books to review, but occasionally it is software. My latest review copy is a program called "Zen Chess: Mate in One", which is available on Steam.
At first I wasn't sure what the program was intended to be. It presents you with a succession of mate in 1 problems, and when you solve one, you move to the next one. It doesn't keep score (as far as I can find), and the problems don't seem to get harder the further you go.
But on a second visit I realised that the clue is in the name. It isn't so much a training program as it is a meditation tool. The program comes with a soothing soundtrack which gently plays while you solve the puzzles. The colours are very light, and the slow fade in and out of positions, is quite relaxing.
I've solved the first 60 positions so far, out of the 100 it is supposed to contain. I don't know the punishment for suggesting the wrong answer, as even in a relaxed state, I still have a competitive instinct.
The minimalist approach to the program seems to have carried over to the price, as it listed at 99c (US) on the steam website.
If you are looking for a tactics trainer, then this isn't going to be it. But if you just want to solve easy problems while imaging yourself floating in a tropical lagoon, the the cost won't kill you.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Value for money

Despite the low profile of the current Women's World Championship Match, spectators are certainly getting value for money. After the first game was drawn, the next 4 games were decisive with Wenjun Ju leading Zhongyi Tan 3.5-1.5. Ju won games 2,3 and 5, while Tan picked up the point in game 4.
The players are having a short break while the tournament moves to the second venue (Chongqing), with the match recommencing on the 12th.

Ju,Wenjun (2571) - Tan,Zhongyi (2522) [E04]
WCh Women 2018 Chongqing/Shanghai CHN (3), 06.05.2018

4NCL News

(Disclaimer: I am an occasional sponsor of the White Rose team)

The 4NCL season has finished in the UK, with Guildford once again running away with the trophy. Generally fielding a team of all GM's (or as close to it as possible), they won all their matches comfortably, and score 45.5/56 game points. Second place was shared between Cheddleton and White Rose on 10 points, with Cheddleton having the better tie break. White Rose had a tough final weekend, but managed to score 4 points from 6, to reach the podium.
In good news for Australian chess, IM Justin Tan scored his final GM norm playing for the Oxford team. He now needs to get his rating above 2500 for FIDE to approve the title. Unfortunately this result has come to late to assist his application for the Australian Olympiad team, as according to unofficial sources he was not selected.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Short throws his hat into the ring

GM Nigel Short has become the third candidate for FIDE President, with the official announcement that he is running. At this stage he hasn't revealed the rest of his ticket, although I assume this will take place shortly.
With a three cornered contest in play (assuming no one drops out), the electoral dynamics change. According to the FIDE electoral regulations, if one of the candidates receives 50%+1 on the first ballot, they win there and then. But if no candidate receives a majority, then there is a second vote, and the candidate receiving the most votes is elected (even without a majority).
So one path for victory for Short, or indeed each of the candidates, is to hope that it goes to a second vote, and to pick up enough defectors to get the most votes. In such circumstances it may even be an advantage to run 3rd on the first vote, and hope the ticket that runs second then prefers to vote against the first place finisher!
Of course FIDE politics being what it is, privilege over principle is the rule rather than the exception, so any calculations like this need to take into account the inevitable horse trading that will occur.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Play chess, live longer

A newly released study shows that playing chess may contribute to a longer lifespan. The three study authors (including GM David Smerdon) compared the life span of Grandmasters, with Olympic medallists from the same countries (to account for environmental factors). 
The study found that GM's and athletes had a similar lifespan, and that both groups lived longer than the general population. While physical activity and longevity seems plausible, the extra lifespan for extra thinking is a little more surprising. The paper does not come to a firm conclusion on why this is so, but it does suggest that the higher social status that comes with being a GM is an asset in some countries (eg Eastern Europe).
You can read about the study at and it is open for comment, if you want to add your 2 cents.