Friday, 19 October 2018

Dress code / Uniform

Not FM Rupert Jones
For a quite long time FIDE were very keen to have teams (and players) adhere to a dress code in important events (eg Olympiad, World Cup etc). At first it looked as though they were going to be quite heavy handed on the matter, but of late, it seems that they were happy to let federations set their own standards.
In practice, most federations at the Olympiad supplied their teams with some sort of uniform, and the standard of dress was reasonably high. Australia was an exception to this (as in the uniform wasn't paid for by the ACF), while Rupert Jones (PNG) seemed more comfortable playing in t-shirts and stretch pants, rather than the PNGCF polo shirt work by the rest of the team.
The recently completed European Club Championship had a similar dress code, although Magnus Carlsen was a notable refusenik (at least for a few rounds). Early on he, and a few other GM's, played in shorts, despite this not being allowed. Eventually the word was given that the dress code was being enforced, and long pants became the fashion.
Personally I prefer to see dress code 'guidelines' rather than 'regulations', leaving it up to the players to decide what is appropriate. Not every team at the Olympiad had a uniform, but those that did not still managed to play in what I thought was perfectly acceptable outfits. Certainly there did not seem to be any issues at the tournament, and for me, this is probably the best way to go.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Caruana is in form

During the 2018 Olympiad I was only able to catch small glimpses of the action in the main hall, and so I missed one quite significant result. Fabiano Caruana scored an impressive 7/10 on Board 1 for the USA, with a TPR of 2859.
He played a number of the worlds leading GM's along the way, with wins over Anand and Mamedyarov being the standouts. This result is even more impressive, as it is quite possible that he 'held back' on some of his openings, keeping them up his sleeve for his match against Carlsen.
Looking at these results and games, I think the upcoming World Championship match is going to be a lot closer than I originally thought. Caruana has a real chance of taking the title now, and Carlsen may even be a slight underdog.
Carlsen is playing in the European Club Championship, and had a lucky escape in round 6 against Liren Ding. He missed a tactic against Ding, and only some resourceful defensive moves saved half a point. If he makes a similar mistake against Caruana, then he may not be so lucky.


Caruana,Fabiano (2827) - Anand,Viswanathan (2771) [E03]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (4.1), 27.09.2018

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

No more lonely knights

Apparently this is a real thing https://www.chess.com/news/view/world-chess-launches-chess-dating-app
As the above story states (slightly NSFW btw), it is a hookup app designed to bring chess players together (a kind of online Bermuda Party!). There appears to be some connection with the upcoming World Championship match, which makes the logo used for the match less of a surprise (according to Anish Giri)

Monday, 15 October 2018

2018 Vikings Weekender 17th-18th November 2018

The 2018 Vikings Weekender is being held on the weekend of the 17th and 18th November 2018. This is one of the three big weekend events held in Canberra, and is being sponsored by the Tuggeranong Vikings Rugby Union Club.
This year the tournament will be held at the Lanyon Club (Heidelberg St, Condor) located next to Lanyon Shopping Centre. It is a larger venue than last year, allowing more players and a more comfortable setting.
First prize is $1000 for the Open, with a $500 first prize in the Under 1600 section. There will be 7 rounds, with a time limit of G/60M+10s in both sections. Entry is $65 (GM's+IM's free), $45 for concessions and juniors.
Further details can be found at http://vesus.org/festivals/2018-vikings-weekender/ You can register your interest for the event at that page as well (NB Payment isn't required, but early entries do help the organisers). Registering with a FIDE ID is pretty straight forward, but if you don't have one, just enter non-zero values in the mandatory ID and rating fields (The page is picky about value checking for some reason!)

(NB I am the arbiter for this event and will be paid for my services)

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Olympiad highlights - a visual journey

One of the many things done well at this years Chess Olympiad was the production of a number of good videos. Some were played at the closing ceremony, while others are available on the Olympiad Youtube Channel.
One highlight of the closing ceremony was the performance of 'Oh Capablanca' by Juga. You can watch her performance in the clip of the closing ceremony, or just listen to song directly.


2018 ACT Junior Championship

Congratulations to Joshua Lee for winning the 2018 ACT Junior Chess Championship. He scored an impressive 8/9 to win the FIDE rated tournament, a full point ahead of Lachlan Ho, Yizhen Diao and Ruofan Xu. He only looked in difficulty against Ho, and a quick last round draw against Dexuean Kong was enough to capture the title.
Athena Hathiramani was the best placed female player, in an event which had a female entry of a little over 25% Erin Milne tied with Hathiramani and won the Under 12 Girls trophy.
It was interesting to see the difference in results between players with a FIDE rating and those without. The FIDE rated players beat all their non rated opponents (with the exception of a single draw), even if they had worse positions during the game. Clearly the experience at playing at a higher level comes in handy in situations like this, as the 'saves' were often due to their opponents eventually losing concentration and blundering back.
There were 42 players in the tournament which was a healthy number for an event like this. The majority of players were aged under 12, so hopefully this group will provide the next generation of ACT champions.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Elshan Moradiabadi

The PNG performed quite well at this years Olympiad, and a significant amount of credit has to go to the team captain, GM Elshan Moradiabadi. We finished with 20.5 game points, which is the highest total we have ever achieved in an 11 round Olympiad. Apart from an opening 4-0 loss to Belgium, we scored something in every match, and had a few narrow 1.5-2.5 losses which could have gone the other way.
Elshan quickly realised we were all either rusty or inexperienced so was quick to tailor his coaching methods to suit this. His opening preparation was very thorough, and he was able to show us a number of surprise lines in well known openings. In almost all games we achieved playable positions going into the middlegame (which was what he was aiming for), although we (as a team) didn't always do such preparation justice (I threw away a number of good positions for example). He was always upbeat even we were sure we had crushed his will to live, and proved to be an inspiring captain and coach.
As a professional player, coach and author, he went straight from the Olympiad to take part in the St Louis Chess Club Fall Classic. With little rest, and running a bit of fever, he was still able to hold it together to score a very good round 1 win. Playing through the game I was struck at the winning approach he used in the game was very similar to what he was trying to teach us. He achieved a stable pawn structure, with extra space on the kingside. He then found the best squares for his pieces, before launching a winning kingside attack.


Moradiabadi,Elshan (2534) - Boros,Denes (2439) [D02]
St Louis Fall B 2018 Saint Louis USA (1.1), 10.10.2018

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

The Election

tl;dr Dvorkovich ran a better campaign and had a better message than everyone else.

Long version

I found the 2018 FIDE Campaign quite interesting, although I was a little surprised at the outcome.
I was much more involved this time, as I was assisting Paul Spiller in his run for Oceania Zone President, and this turned into more general assistance to Nigel Short in his campaign for FIDE President. In the lead up to the Olympiad I was spending a lot of time ringing Oceania Federations (or at least trying to), and exchanging emails with the campaigns and federations.
From the outset PNG was not going to support the Makro ticket, as a consequence of what had happened regarding the PNG delegate in 2014. ("What do you think we were going to do?" was a comment I made to more than one person). Our position was therefore Short on the first ballot, and Dvorkovich on the second ballot if necessary. And initially I thought that Makro was going to win, based on the techniques used in 2014 (lock federations in early, bully/promise delegates with offers of positions, run the election in a way that favours the incumbent).
However once I arrived in Batumi things began to change. It became clear after the first few days that the Dvorkovich campaign was in this to win. The PNG delegation was invited to meet Dvorkovich after one of the rounds, and arriving at the suggested restaurant, noticed there were probably over 100 people of other federations in attendance.  Nonetheless he spent a good 45 minutes talking to us, taking note of out suggestions. At this point I realised that the election was going to a lot closer than the FIDE ticket had hoped.
In the expo area of the Olympiad both the Makro ticket and Dvorkovich ticket had stands. (There was no stand for the Short ticket as 'insurgents don't do stands!') While the Dvorkovich stand was putting out the positive message, the Makro campaign was running on the other tickets negatives (including producing some awful propaganda cartoons attacking the other candidates). The Makro campaign had also attempted to counter the well financed Dvorkovich ticket by trying to outlaw the giving of gifts etc (which had been a standard campaign technique for Makro etc previously). This was ignored and a number of federations availed themselves of the Dvorkivich goody bag.
Meanwhile the Short campaign was chugging along, mainly working on the other delegates during Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. Short was working on the belief that he had 25 federations supporting him, which while not enough to win, was large enough to have a say in the final outcome.
Makro had also complained to the Ethics commission in the hope of getting Dvorkovich barred from the election. Once this complaint was rejected it became clear that the Makro ticket was in trouble (and they now knew it). The decison to reject the complaint was also an interesting one, as it showed a more independent mindset among some FIDE office holders. One of the issues from 2014 was every disputed case went in Kirsan's favour, which wasn't the case this time.
Closer to the actual vote all campaigns began to push a bit harder. Dvorkovich threw a couple of nice functions (one of which had mermaids), while the organisers threw a party for the Makro ticket (as an aside I and others offered to organise an event for Short at the Oasis Hotel where we were staying. This would have involved 8 bottles of wine and 250 Lari across the bar!) By this stage it was becoming very clear that Dvorkovich was close to winning on the first ballot (and he said as much to us).
I had planned to attend the whole day of the election, but an error in our team submission meant I had to play instead. I did get to attend the morning part of the election, but had to leave just before the vote began. However this was revealing enough, as the FIDE officials at the front of the room didn't appear that popular. Haiti made a complaint for the floor about how they were tricked out of voting, while the Slovenian delegate had to explain why their proxy was given to Makro the day after the board unanimously voted to support Dvorkovich (A stay in hospital was the apparent reason).
Before the vote each candidate gave a speech. Nigel Short Dvorkovich went first, followed by Nigel Short. Short used his platform to criticise the FIDE establishment. However he pulled a rabbit out of the hat at the end, by announcing his withdrawal and asking for a vote for Dvorkovich instead. Apparently this strategy was decided the day before, in the belief that staying in may have muddied the waters ('A GM move' said one person, 'A real d**k move' was another comment). By doing it this way he still had the right to give a speech, essentially making the contest 2 against 1. This seemed to catch Makro flat footed, as he was prepared for 2 rivals, not one.
After the speeches the voting took place, and in the end it resulted in quite a wide victory (by 25 votes to Dvorkovich). The Short team thought the difference was in the people who would have voted for them, although I think a couple of federations switched from Short to Dvorkovich.
With my game finished I returned to the congress to see a happy Dvorkovich team posing for photos, including with some people who had been on the opposite side an hour before!
Overall I thought it was a better election than in 2014, where personal animosity was the main driver. At least this time there were real policies put forward and decisions could be based on that. The Dvorkich campaign tapped in the desire to change things after 23 years, and this was a significant factor. Hopefully this will translate into an improved FIDE, but even if the new admin comes up short, at last the federations now know they are able to effect change at the ballot box, which I think is the most important thing.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

The quickest

As I was bust playing most days of the Olympiad, I didn't really focus on what was going on around me in the tournament hall (especially as the Arbiters disapproved of players leaving the board too often). So I'm just catching up with the other games, and looking for what was quirky or interesting.
There were a number of 1 move games in the tournament, where players did not appear. In some cases this was because teams did not arrive, chose not to turn up (Qatar defaulted to Kuwait in the final round), or players being sidetracked by the FIDE elections. Of the games that were played I have chosen both the shortest win, and the shortest draw. While short wins are common, short draws are now harder to come by, as there are no draw offers allowed before both sides have played 30 moves. But repetitions are still allowable, and this was how that particular game finished.


Arab,Adlane (2482) - Nevska,Gerda (1819) [E71]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (1.3), 24.09.2018


AlHuwar,Jasem (2245) - Linster,Philippe (2273) [A05]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (8.2), 02.10.2018

Last round nerves

Last round nerves can be a coach killer. In the case of PNG we had two players who failed to deal with the pressure, and two players who conquered it. One of these players was Tom McCoy who was playing in his very first Olympiad. After a late night team meeting it was decided that Tom was going to suit up for the last round, giving him an outside change to reach 50% (he was on 3/7 at this stage). The decision paid off for the team as he played an excellent game, including choosing a very sharp continuation on move 18. Possibly nerves were affecting his opponent as well, as in the complications there may have been a missed drawing line. Having gained the advantage, Tom played a very good ending, eventually scoring the win, and helping PNG finish with a 'Desmond' (2-2) against Saudi Arabia.

McCoy,Tom - Al Thebaiti,Ahmed M (1988) [B40]
43rd Olympiad 2018 Batumi GEO (11.4), 05.10.2018


Back in Canberra

A quick update now that I have arrived back home to Canberra. It was a pleasant two day journey from Batumi-Tbilis-Doha-Sydney-Canberra by Train, planes and busses. Now I hope to get some sleep before writing more about the last two weeks.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

2018 Chess Olympiad - Days 11 & 12

For the 2018 PNG Chess Olympiad team the final two rounds were the ecstasy of victory and the agony of ... non-defeat. In round 10 we played the US Virgin Islands, and scored a big 3.5-0.5 win over them (I gave up the only half point). Then in the final round we were paired with Saudi Arabia, a match that looked challenging for us.
Board 1 Stuart Fancy, and Board 4 Tom McCoy then stepped up and collected two points for us. Tom's game was particularly good, deciding on a gutsy tactical continuation that in the end collected him enough pawns to win the game. (As a result he also finished on 50% for the tournament). I let the team down by rapidly throwing away a good position, and needing just a draw for the match win, Rupert Jones missed a one move tactic and went from +0.0 to a lot less than that.
So 2-2 was a better result than we expected, but left us feeling we missed a bigger opportunity. Overall the team performed very well, with our game points score of 20.5 ahead of a large number of teams, while out match points score of 7 equalled or exceeded our more recent efforts.
In the overall event China did the double, winning both Open and Womens. A full report on this (and many other things) will appear when I travel back to Canberra.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

2018 Olympiad - Days 9 & 10

The last couple of days at the 2018 Chess Olympiad have been very hectic, with the FIDE election proving to be a big distraction (but more on that in another post).
In the chess, the PNG team has 'hit the wall', only scoring 1.5 from rounds 8 and 9. FM Rupert Jones won his game against Haiti as the team went down 1-3, while he was the only half point in a bigger 0.5-3.5 loss to Mauritania. In a lot of instances we had good positions out of the opening, but then lost control of the game and went on to lose. This is probably a combination of both tiredness, and a lack of regular chess at this level.
In the Open section Poland are the somewhat surprise leader on 16 points. The 11th seeds have not lost a match as yet, and have played a number of close rivals. The group behind them contains the USA, China, Armenia and England. The Australian team is in slightly positive territory (10/18), with the good news that the two Olympiad debutantes (IM Bobby Cheng and IM James Morris performing ahead of their ratings).
China leads the Women's Olympiad by a point ahead of Ukraine, Armenia and USA. Australia is back in mid field, with a damaging loss to Switzerland in the last round partially the reason.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

2018 Olympiad - Day 8

The 7th round of the 2018 Chess Olympiad saw PNG score it's second 4-0 win of the tournament. Up against Palau we were rating favourites on each board, but such matches can always be a little tricky. In the end we won on each of the boards but we had to work hard to do so. I had a brain snap after winning some pawns in the opening, where I failed to count a sequence of captures correctly and missed the win of a piece, but my position was good enough to win anyway. Tom McCoy scored his second win of the tournament on board 4, while Helmut Marko and Stuart Fancy won after determined resistance from their opponents. The win puts us up to 4 match points, and 13.5 game points. We play Haiti in today's round, and while seeded above them, this is another tricky match for us.
At the top end of the tournament there is now a three way tie between Azerbaijan, Poland, and the USA. The Russian team is struggling back on 10 points, only 1 point ahead of the 33rd placed Australian's. In the Women's Olympiad, Armenia is the outright leader, having inflicted the USA teams first loss in round 7. The Australian team has dropped back to midfield, having faced a number of strong teams as a result of their flying start.

Monday, 1 October 2018

2018 Olympiad - Day 7

Yesterday was the 7th day of the Chess Olympiad, with round 6 being played. PNG continued its run of narrow losses, this time losing 1.5-2.5 to Aruba. We scored a win and a draw on the top 2 boards, but losses on 3 & 4 left us on the wrong side of the result sheet. So we remain on 2 match points, although our game points score (9.5/24) is more than a large number of teams placed ahead of us.
The last few days at he Olympiad have also been filled with meetings and electioneering. The attempt by the Makro campaign to have the rival Dvorkovich ticket disqualified from running was rejected by the Ethics Commission, although Serbia has been barred from voting at the election. There is a sense on the floor that Dvorkovich might just have enough votes to win, but if other elections (from say 2016) show, negative campaigns have a lot of sway. There is also the mechanics of delegates and proxies to take into account, with at least two Oceania Federations guilty of 'phoning in' their vote, rather than seriously engaging in the electoral process.
Today PNG play Palau in an all Oceania match up. With a brief respite from meetings, hopefully we will be a well rested team, and we can score our second win!

Saturday, 29 September 2018

2018 Chess Olympiad - Day 5

The 5th round the 2018 Chess Olympiad saw PNG narrowly lose 2.5-1.5 to Mauritius. We were seeded slightly ahead of them, but their lower board players looked to be in quite good form. In the end we were both luck and unlucky, with Tom McCoy missing a win on board 4, while I came back from the dead to grab a point on board 2.
Despite the loss, we are on 8 game points (but only 2 match points) which is a reasonable score for us. One of the positive side effects of this is that we tend to have slightly easier pairings within our score group, although even at the lower end of the tournament, no pairing is truly easy.
In the Open section there are still 4 teams with 5 wins from 5 games. Azerbaijan had a narrow win over Armenia to keep their lead on tie-break, but they share the spotlight with Czech Republic, Poland, and The Ukraine. Australia had win over Faeroe Islands, and now are tied for 25th place. In the Women's event, the Australian team suffered their first loss of the tournament against the Czech Republic, but their 23rd place is still impressive.
Today is the tournament rest day, allowing people to both recover from last nights Bermuda party, as well as to attend meeting. I am currently sitting in a conference on Governance Standards in Sport, which has attracted a small but interested group.

Friday, 28 September 2018

2018 Olympiad - Day 4

Day 4 of the 2018 Chess Olympiad saw something that rarely happens, a 4-0 to Papua New Guinea. Up against Olympiad newcomers Timor Leste we outrated them on all boards, and managed to convert all our good positions. Helmut Marko played a nice attacking game on board 3, while Tom McCoy scored his first win at a chess Olympiad in only his second game. My opponent mixed up some QGA theory (1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc 3.Qa4+ Nc6 4.Qxc4) but the Olympiad sometimes messes with your head, so briefly I wondered what was theory here (4 .. Nf6?) before realising I could just play 4. ... Qxd4
Up until now I haven't been following the top boards too closely, but the sensation of round 4 was Poland's win over Russia. This once again leaves Russia with a lot of work to do, especially if they want to win the Olympiad for the first time in 16 years. There are still a number of teams at the top, but the most interesting pairing of the day could well be Azerbaijan against Armenia.
The Australian Open team is battling out in he upper half of the standings, drawing 2-2 against one of the Gerogian teams yesterday. The Australian Women's team is doing even better, currently in 7th place after 4 rounds. They have won 3 of their 4 matches, and have drawn the other one. They play the Czech Republic today, and given the closeness in seedings for both team, they could go into the rest day among the leading group.

Thursday, 27 September 2018

2018 Olympiad - Day 3

Day 3 of the 2018 Chess Olympiad saw PNG go down 1-3 to Ghana. We lost games on the top 2 boards and drew 3&4. My game started off well when I managed to win a pawn in the opening, but as usual lost control of the position, and then missed tactics in time trouble. We were slightly better in the remaining two games, but were unable to convert them into full points.
As for the Olympiad itself, it is a bit of a mixed bag. As with recent editions, the security and control of spectators is somewhat heavy handed. Getting into the venue is difficult due to security checks, and even with my media pass, finding the media room took me 2 whole days!
The hotel that we (and a number of lower ranked teams) are staying at is nice and relaxed, but located about 20km's from the venue. This would normally make it difficult for us, but the PNG team has hired a menacing looking black Mercedes, so we tend to travel in style!
Today PNG play Timor Leste towards the back of the tournament hall, and hopefully we can score our first match win of the tournament.

2018 Olympiad Day 2 (and a bit)

The second round of the 2018 Olympiad was actually quite a good one for the Papua New Guinea team. Usually it takes 3 or 4 rounds before we look like picking up a match win, but a narrow 1.5-2.5 loss to Liechtenstein was a pretty good outcome.
The credit for this has to go to team captain GM Elshan Moradiabadi, who provided excellent opening preparation for the team. We all got positions on the board that we expected, and for a couple of us this was translated into a result.
Stuart Fancy won a nice attacking game on Board 1, while Rupert Jones had a 'gentlemens' draw on board 4 (against former FIDE Treasurer Willy Iclicki). I failed to grovel a draw in an ending where I was being squeezed, but a number of people pointed out I probably could have saved it at the end. Helmut Marko had a good position out of the opening, but he dropped a pawn and could not save the game.
In round 3 we are playing Ghana, although my own game is already finished. After winning a pawn in the opening I played the rest of the game poorly and lost. Curiously my opponent who is running a version of Street Chess in Ghana, and he even wore a shirt with 'Street Chess Champ' printed on the front!
At the moment we are down 2 games, but look better in the other 2. The best result is a 2-2, while I don't believe we will do worse the 1-3.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

2018 Olympiad - Day 1

The first day of the 2018 Chess Olympiad is of course, an exercise in controlled chaos. It is a given that the round will start late, so I was impressed that it started at 3:15, only 15 minutes after the published start time. There was the usual scrum at the security checks and some teams were still outside when the clocks started (most notably the USA) but even they did not lose, as the default time is a slightly better 15 minutes (rather than 0).
The PNG team played reasonably well against an IM strength Belgium team, but one by one we went down. I was probably lost earlier than my team mates (having forgotten my prep as early as move 5), but managed to hang on until just before the first time control. Tom McCoy had a good Olympiad debut, taking it up to his opponent, but in the end the rating gap counted for something.
Today PNG play Lichtenstein, which isn't a bad pairing for us. Although we are outrated across the boards, it isn't by a hug amount, and hopefully we can get something from the match.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Belgium first up

Team pairings for the 2018 Chess Olympiad are out, and Papua New Guinea is up against Belgium in the first round. This is a repeat of the 2004 first round pairings for us, although at least this time we will be facing them with 4 players. Back in 2004 a couple PNG players failed to arrive and so we only played 3 games against them, defaulting the bottom board. We also played them in 2016 in the third round, and got 0 points again (even with the 4th player on board!)
Australia starts of against Qatar, while NZ play the Seychelles. In the Womens event Australia begin their campaign against UAE, while NZ is playing India on board 5.
In other Olympiad news, the PNG team ended up in its original accommodation, rather than being upgraded to the Hilton.This may not be a bad thing as where we are staying is quite nice and relaxing, despite being some distance from the venue. Other teams were given hotels a lot closer, but apparently the quality of some of these isn't that great.
Last nights opening ceremony was one of the best I have seen, and the players I spoke to agreed. The musical numbers were very good, with lots of visual affects and fire works. The speeches were generally short and to the point, although a bit of campaigning from the FIDE establishment did creep in.
First round begins at 3pm local tome, which I believe is 9pm Canberra time. The start may be delayed slightly, if only because the first round is also a bit chaotic.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Georgia on my mind

It is early morning in Georgia as I type this, and I'm glad a woke up before sunrise. As with most Olympiads, the days before it starts can best be described as semi-controlled confusion. Having been given a hotel some way out of town, a last minute email indicates the PNG team may be staying in Batumi city instead. This means that someone really likes us (giving us a central location) or wants us away from more impressionable teams (as we can be troublemakers at times). Of course, I will only know for sure when we get to Batumi.
At the moment parts of the PNG and Australian teams are in Tbilisi, and will be heading to Batumi by train this morning. The opening ceremony is this evening (23rd September) with round 1 starting tomorrow. While it is still be confirmed, I may end up taking board 1 for PNG in the first round (with Stuart Fancy resting), which after 6 Olympiads as a players, will be a first for me.

Friday, 21 September 2018

In transit (again)

I am off to the 2018 Chess Olympiad in a few hours. I'll be travelling for about 30 hours before I get to Tbilisi, before heading to Batumi the following days. Updates during this time depend on wifi access at various airports, otherwise I will post in a day or two.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Just not my day

Sometimes when you turn up for a tournament game, nothing seems to go right. This seemed to be a problem for one of my opponents at the 2004 Olympiad in Majorca. I'm not sure if he was a victim of the late nights that usually effect players on the lower boards (including myself), but he did miss one of the oldest tricks in the book with 7.Nxe5 After that his position kept getting worse and worse, and by the time I captured the knight on e5 he seemed almost glad to resign. "Just not my day" he said as he offered his hand.


Press,Shaun (2070) - Fulton,Anthony John (2203) [B30]
Calvia ol (Men) Mallorca (11), 26.10.2004


Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Cricket, chess and exercise

While previous years my trip to the Chess Olympiad often saw me extend my stay overseas by a week or two, this time it is straight there and straight back. Otherwise I would have been tempted to do a bit of walking in the English countryside, visiting the aptly named Chess Valley.
Named after the River Chess, there are plenty of walks to be had. One that I came across starts at The Cricketers in Sarratt and is a circular route of around 8km. From the description it covers a lot of farmland and wooded areas, so based on previous experience of walking in the UK, a sturdy pair of boots is a necessity.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Too many players on the field

There has been a big sporting controversy in Adelaide when one team in the Preliminary Final of the local Australian Rules Football competition started the 4th quarter with an extra player (18 players is the usual number, but they had 19 on the field). During the period they had the extra player, they scored 8 points, and eventually won the game by a margin of 5 points. After a hearing the result was allowed to stand, although they have penalised in other ways.
Interestingly, if they were using the Laws of Chess during the game, they may have been able to resolve it differently. Once the irregularity was observed, the umpires could have simply removed the points scored, reset the clock to the start of the quarter, and began again. Indeed this approach may have been better than what was decided (which I disagree with), or simply awarding the game to the opposition by removing the 8 points in question (which I thought should have been the decision).
Anyway, here is a related puzzle, concerning an extra man on the field. It is White to play and Mate in 1 move.

Just a week away

The 2018 Olympiad is now a little under a week away. I am assuming that the team lists have now been finalised, with the might PNG team just breaking into the top 150. Australia is seeded 41st, New Zealand 78th, while Palau, Guam and Nauru are just below PNG.
Working out likely first round opponents is still a bit tricky, as despite the entry list containing 185 teams, not all of them will make it to the first round (if at all). PNG is likely to play a team seed in the mid 50's (eg Estonia) while Australia could be up against a team seed in the 130's.
The opening ceremony is on Sunday 23rd, with round 1 on the 24th at 3pm local time (which is 9pm Canberra time). The event has one rest day (after round 5) with round 11 on the 5th October.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Choose your mate

If you are a chess problem composer, being able to checkmate in more than one way is an undesirable outcome. But if you are a player, the having multiple mating moves is usually a good thing. In one of my game from Street Chess today I ended up in such a situation, after my opponent allowed his King to be dragged out into the centre of the board. From move 18 almost every move of mine was met with "Oh No!" from my opponent, and at the end I had the choice of checkmating with my Queen, Rook, Knight or Pawn. After a brief discussion with my opponent ("What do you wish to be mated with?") I went for the minimalist approach and mated with the b pawn.

Press,Shaun - Jochimsen,Erik [C10]
Street Chess, 15.09.2018


Friday, 14 September 2018

How dare you campaign against me

The election for a new FIDE President is coming up very soon, and the current FIDE Vice President Georgios Makropoulos is taking no chances in trying to make sure he wins. He has referred one of his rivals, Arkady Dvorkovich to the FIDE Ethics Commission over a sponsorship package to the Serbian Chess Federation. The complaint asks that Dvorkovich be banned from any political activity with FIDE for 8 years.
Using the FIDE ElectoralEthics Commission has been one of Makropoulos's 'goto' moves in recent years. Gary Kasparov and Ignatius Leong copped a ban after the last election in 2014, with Kirsan Ilyumzhinov also receiving a sanction in the past year. The Ethics Commission has pretty wide latitude in deciding which cases are considered 'receivable' but I'm sure this one will be.
One body Makropoulos doesn't looked to have complained to is the FIDE Electoral Integrity Committee. This was announced in a blaze of publicity in July 2018 in a front page announcement in the FIDE website, and an email to all Federations. However soon after, the FIDE Electoral Commission informed FIDE that such a body was essentially worthless, that the duties were already being carried out by other commissions, and that is formation is not in accordance with current FIDE statutes. This piece of news was not shared as widely (I only found out after contacting the head of the Electoral Commission).
In the Oceania region there is also plenty of goings on that the Ethics Commission could be looking at instead. The Solomon Islands Chess Federation have gone public with an explanation about why their delegate is someone who they have never met, lives in Greece, and has connections with the current FIDE administration. It was in return for a 3000 euro payment for chess equipment, although the money has not been spent as yet (I have a copy of the bank transfer). And just as seriously, one of the candidates for Oceania Zone President was using an endorsement letter from a Federation that was composed by himself, with a signature from the federation president that was used without permission (It seems to have been cut and pasted from previous correspondence).
If the Makro campaign was serious about the integrity of the election process they should set a better example by referring one of their own to Ethics instead.

(Disclaimer: I am part of the incumbent management team of the Oceania Chess Confederation and am assisting the CleanHands4FIDE ticket in the upcoming election)

(Edited to correct atrocious spelling mistakes)

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Two pieces for a ....

The other night I saw a game between a newcomer to my local chess club, and a more experienced player. I noted that the newcomer had two fewer minor pieces than his opponent and simply assumed that they had been lost. Returning to view the game a number of moves later I saw that more material was about to be lost, but then noticed something strange. The more experienced player was missing a queen, and I realised that they had probably been missing a queen for a quite a while. My assumption about the loss of two pieces had in fact been wrong, and in fact the two pieces had come off the board in return for the queen. Sadly for the newcomer, his opponent knuckled down to the task, coordinated his remaining pieces and went on to win.
A famous example of my mistake occurred in a game between Fischer and Gligoric in the 1966 Olympiad. Fischer had surprised the world with his revival of the Exchange Lopez, and he used it to beat Gligoric in 25 moves. Gligoric was down two pieces by move 22 but played on just long enough to confuse a few passing GM's who thought that in return for the two pieces, Gligoric had surely pocketed a rook!


Fischer,Robert James - Gligoric,Svetozar [C69]
Havana ol (Men) fin-A Havana (8), 1966


Tuesday, 11 September 2018

2018 Belconnen Club Championship

For Canberra players looking to either boost their FIDE (International) rating, or even get one for  the first time, the Belconnen Chess Club is organising the only FIDE Rated club event in Canberra this year. It starts tonight (11 September) at the Belconnen Chess Club, 170 Hayden Drive, Belconnen.
Entry is free, although club membership is required. Turn up at 7pm for registration, with round 1 starting at 7:15pm
It will be a 7 round swiss (1 round per week), with a time limit of 60 minutes + 30 seconds added per move. Under FIDE rating regulations games between players rated below 2200 can be rated, although games involving at least one player rated above 2200 will not (they will still be rated on the Australian rating list).

Monday, 10 September 2018

Why do we blunder?

Why do we blunder at chess? "Because we can" is one possible answer. "No idea" is probably just as good. But my favourite reason is the streakers defence. "It was a good idea at the time."
Here is a game from a Correspondence event I am currently directing. The reason I picked this game is that it is played between two reasonably strong players, and as a CC game, you would think the chances of an outright mistake are quite low. But on move 25 Black spots what looks like a good move, only to have it all go wrong two moves later. 27.Qd3 looked pretty obvious, so I'm not sure what Black was thinking. Maybe he saw a defence which had a flaw in it, or just decided that winning the exchange was good enough. It turns out it wasn't.

Jones,,Kenneth - Zhakarov,Oleg [C92]
Australian Candidate Masters, 2018


Saturday, 8 September 2018

Guess the Masters

Another of the books I picked up at the Lifeline Bookfair contained brief biographies and selected games of 8 pre-WW2 chess masters. The selected masters all took part in the 1938 AVRO tournament, and each player was also described in terms of the position they liked or were strongest in. So as an exercise, can you match the Master with the Position

Masters

  • Alekhine
  • Botvinnik
  • Capablanca
  • Euwe
  • Fine
  • Flohr
  • Keres
  • Reshevsky
Position
  • Methodical Positions
  • Wild Positions
  • Sharp Positions
  • Boring Positions
  • Difficult Positions
  • Quiet Positions
  • Clear Positions
  • Favourable Positions
For know I'm keeping the title of the book and the author under wraps, lest the answer is too easy to look up

Friday, 7 September 2018

Plenty of bargains

White to play and win
Today saw my biannual pilgrimage to the Canberra Lifeline Bookfair, a trip that involved more walking than normal. For once Miles Patterson and myself seemed to be the first to the chess section, so we had the pick of the collection.
I'm pleased to say that there were plenty of good chess books on offer, and while there were a number I already owned, I still grabbed about half a dozen. One of my more curious finds was a signed copy of "A Guide to Attacking Chess" by IM Gary Lane. However, it wasn't actually signed by Gary, but instead contained the signatures of GM Darryl Johansen and GM Ian Rogers.
One other book a picked up was "Secrets of the Russian Chess Masters". Early in it is a study from 1933 by Mark Liburkin, as shown in the diagram. It is White to play and win. Obviously the first issue is to deal with the threat  of 1 ... c1=Q# or 1 ... Be5, with the threat of discovered mate. Once you have done that, then it becomes a battle between White and the Black bishop. There are a number of subtle touches all the way through, although sadly, there may be a tougher line at the end that the composer may have originally missed. If you find it too hard to solve, feeding it into any strong engine should give you enough of a solution to see what the composer was trying to achieve.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Knowing as little as possible

What is the minimal amount of knowledge needed for a viable opening repertoire? By that I mean, what is the minimal number of openings you need to know to deal with 95% of situations?
Obviously an opening like 1.e4 is out, as Black has too many replies. 1.f4 springs to mind, as Black usually plays 1 ... d5 or 1 ... e5!?, and so learning systems against this are not too difficult. Related to this is even 1.b3 although Black has a little more variety. 1.b4 is another choice, as Black is probably not expecting it, and will react with obvious moves.
With the Black pieces, Pirc/Kings Indian may work against both 1.e4 and 1.d4, but White has a lot of lines against both. Playing 1 ... c6 against anything might also be possible (Slav/Caro Kann). Of course you could take the Basman route and simply play 1. ... a6 and 2 ... h6 against everything and  decide that the middlegame has started on move 3!

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

f5!

This evening I won a fairly good game at my local club, utilising the Schliemann Defence to the Ruy Lopez. To be fair, my opponent played fairly solidly throughout, but played one poor move that saw his position fall to pieces.
Rather than show you that game, I instead have chosen an interesting game between Rashid Nehzmetdinov and David Bronstein. Even though Nehzmetdinov also chose the solid 4.d3 variation, he eventually whipped up a kingside attack by sacrificing his h pawn, and after Bronstein missed the strength of Bxh6 it was all over.


Nezhmetdinov,Rashid - Bronstein,David I [C63]
URS-ch26 Tbilisi (14), 1959



Sunday, 2 September 2018

Should officials help players?

A few days back there was some controversy at the US Open (Tennis, not chess), when the chair umpire came down to give Nick Kyrgios a pep talk during his 2nd round match. Kyrgios picked up his form, and went on to win the match. This sparked a discussion about whether the umpire's actions affected the outcome of the match, and whether it was the correct thing to do.
This question occasionally pops up in chess events as well, when arbiters are called upon to help players. At junior events this can often go as far as calming down upset children when they blunder, but it also happens in open events.
The most common case is making sure players follow the rules. An example from a number of years ago was when a player asked me what the correct procedure was for claiming a draw by repetition. If I refused to answer there was a chance that he would do it wrong and be penalised. If I did answer I could be helping him save a game that he otherwise may lose. So essentially my decision would affect the result one way or another.
I did explain the rules to the player (which the opponent had no problem with) and if I recall correctly, he realised his draw claim would be invalid under the circumstances, and played a move as normal. Since then the Laws of Chess have been updated to deal with this situation, in that players are now entitles to ask the arbiter to explain any rule (and I used this example in helping draft the new rule).
This is probably as far as I would go though. Certainly reminding a player to press their clock is a step to far, but there is still a bit of a grey area. If you saw a player touch one piece but then move another, would you wait until they pressed their clock to intervene, or say something straight away?

Friday, 31 August 2018

One over two

Sacrificing your queen to win a game is always fun. But how about giving your opponent a second queen, and still winning? This was what happened in a 4NCL game played by Chris Skulte earlier this year. In a hard fought game, Skulte managed to get a clear advantage around move 40, but the knockout blow happened on move 51 with Bf4. This allowed his opponent to promote his c pawn a few moves later, but by then, it was all over, as Black had a forced mate.


Kay,Lee - Skulte,Chris [B01]
4NCL, 18.03.2018



Thursday, 30 August 2018

Is this +3

White to move
I was doing some chess study with a friend this morning and he showed me a position from one of his games (A Morra Gambit). He was interested in my assessment, as he felt he was better during the game, but couldn't find the right followup and went on to lose.
We applied some rudimentary positional assessment to the position (king safety, material, pawn structure, space, central control, open lines etc) and came to the conclusion that White was better (despite being a pawn down).
But it is one thing to assess the position, but another to then use that assessment to come up with a plan. In the actual game 15.Bb5+ was played, which isn't a bad move. Black played 15 ... Kf8 (15 ... axb5 16.Nxb5 is crushing) and White is still better. There were two other moves we also looked at, which I categorised as the 'Tal/Nezhmetdinov' move, and the 'Fischer/Capablanca' move. The tactical try was 15.Nb5 with the idea of playing Rc7 after 15 ... axb5 16.Bxb5+ Kf8. The positional try was 15.Ne4, exchanging off a defender, and opening the position further.
And according to the chess engines, it is 15.Ne4 which is the strongest move in the position. The assessment is +3 (and a bit) for White, which indicates that a tactical win isn't that far off. Nonetheless I was still surprised by this. I guess it shows that even if you can recognise the strength of a position, you still still need to find the winning moves.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

The Pownage continues

The 2018 Sinquefeld Cup has ended is a slightly confusing three way tie. Wins by Aronina and Carlsen enabled them to catch Caruana at the top of the leader board, on 5.5/9. There was then supposed to be a playoff between the two players with the best tie-break, but the high proportion of draws meant that they all had equal tie-breaks. Eliminating one player by the drawing of lots didn't appeal to Aronian and Carlsen, so the playoff was dropped.
It then turned out a playoff was needed, but to see whether So or Caruana qualified for the Grand Chess Tour final in London. So these two will be playing overnight to see he is the 4th player in the final.
While Aronian's win over Grischuk was a bit of a bluff that paid off, Carlsen continued to heap misery on Nakamura. Forcing Nakamura to defend a weak pawn for a lot of the game, Carlsen found a clever king march in a rook and pawn ending to force Nakamura's resignation on move 97. This was enough for Carlsen to grab a share of first, while pushing Nakamura into a tie for last place with Karjakin.

Carlsen,M (2842) - Nakamura,Hi (2777) [D37]
6th Sinquefield Cup 2018 Saint Louis USA (9), 27.08.2018




Monday, 27 August 2018

9 rounds, 5 days

Due to a lack of interested parties, the Australian Chess Federation has awarded the hosting rights to the 2019 Australian Open to the Box Hill Chess Club in Melbourne. Oddly the dates for the 2019 Open will be from the 27th to the 31st of December 2018.
Ordinarily the Box Hill Chess Club would be hosting a 7 round swiss from the 27th to the 30th, but have decided to add on 2 extra rounds to make it a title event (albeit a shortened one).
As a previous organiser of the Australian Open I find this decision sad, but at the same time, hardly surprising given the ACF's track record at attracting tournament hosts. Weirdly, the very tournament that has now become the Australian Open, was originally organised in direct competition to the 2006-07 Australian Open in Canberra, on the grounds that Victorian players weren't interested in playing in Canberra at that time of year. I'm guessing the organisers hope that the rest of the country won't have the same attitude towards Melbourne.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

7 rounds, 6 wins

Despite the application of rules designed to discourage draws, the 2018 Sinquefeld Cup has seen plenty of them. After 7 rounds, there have only been 6 decisive games, a win rate of a little over 17%.
The big clash for round 7 was the Carlsen v Caruana match-up, as it was the last time they would meet before their World Championship Match. While the game ended in a draw, both players looked as though they could take something from it. For Carlsen, he gained a clear advantage against an opening that Caruana may use during th World Championship, while for Caruana, he would be happy that he was able to defend a worse position.
Caruana still holds a narrow lead, having won 2 games and drawn 5, while there are 4 players tied for second, all with 1 win each.


Carlsen,Magnus (2842) - Caruana,Fabiano (2822) [C42]
6th Sinquefield Cup 2018 Saint Louis USA (7.1), 25.08.2018




Saturday, 25 August 2018

Olympiad - less than a month away

The 2018 Chess Olympiad starts in a little under a month. Official registrations have closed, and at the time of writing this 183 teams are registered for the Open, and 150 for the Women's section. USA is the top seed for the Open, ahead of Russia and China, with Russia, Ukraine and Georgia heading the Women's event. Australia is seeded 42nd in the Open and 33rd in the Women's. PNG is seeded surprisingly high at 149 in the Open, located among traditional rivals such as San Marino, Guernsey, and Bermuda.
The current list of teams is here, noting that the team lists do not have the players in board order.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Bird is the word!

Before Steintz became Steintz, he was one of the many masters looking to follow in the footsteps of Paul Morphy. But he had plenty of competition, with players like Blackburne and Bird also playing in a similar style. As a result, matches between these players were often exciting affairs, with sacrifices and combinations deciding. The 1866 match between Steinitz and Bird showed this, with Steinitz winning +7=5-5 (9.5-7.5).
Before this match, the two played some casual games (possibly as a warm up), at Simpsons Divan. In one game that survived, Bird must have caught Steinitz on an off day, as he crushed him in 19 moves (less if had spotted  15.exd7+)


Bird,Henry Edward - Steinitz,William [C65]
London Simpson's Divan casual London, 09.1866



Tuesday, 21 August 2018

A draw by reputation

Sometimes you sit down at the board and decide a draw is the right result. This can happen during the game, or in the case of the following game, this decision can be made 20 years ago. For those unfamiliar with the back story, Ian Hosking and I have debated the soundness of the Traxler since 1985, and while the score is strongly in my favour, recent results have not been so kind to me.
So when we reached move 15 Ian offered me a draw, knowing that I could take a perpetual if I wanted to. After about 30 seconds though I accepted the offer, as I didn't spot anything clear cut. But some advice for those who wish to follow the same path that we did. If you are Black, refuse any such offers, as the position is actually winning after Nd4 (a move I did consider BTW). I leave the actual analysis to you and Stockfish if you are interested.

Hosking,Ian - Press,Shaun [C57]
Korda Classic, 21.08.2018



Monday, 20 August 2018

Carlsen wins because ...

The 2018 Sinquefeld Cup is underway, although the early morning viewing start (4 am) is a bit tough for Australian viewers. On the other hand, if the games do run long enough, then there is the chance to catch some action.
For example, when I woke up at 7am the Carlsen Karjakin game was still going, although the position seemed pretty equal. I then ran a few errands, but when I got back, the position was still equal (although Carlsen had saced an exchange for 2 pawns). I then took the dog for a walk, to return to an still equal position, although Carlsen was now pushing hard for a win. And finally, by the time I got back from chess coaching, Carlsen had won the game, because Carlsen is Carlsen.
Whether Carlsen decides to do this to the rest of the field I'm not sure, but if he does, I for one will enjoy watching it over a cup of coffee and the morning crossword.

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 http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2018/
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 http://tournaments.streetchess.net/anu2018/ 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 http://vesus.org/festivals/2018-anu-open/ 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)