Sunday, 22 April 2018

Suppose they threw a tournament and nobody won

On paper, the 2018 Gashimov Memorial looks like it could be a very interesting event. And it kind of is, just not on the leader board. As I type this, 4 players lead on 2/4, with the remaining 6 players on 1.5/3 (as their games are still going). Given that every game so far has ended in a draw, having a 10 way tie for 1st place at the end of the day is quite possible.
To be honest, this does kind of surprise me, as there are a couple of 'fighters' in the event. On the other hand, having a field of players rated so closely together (including 3 players within a single point of each other), does lead to this kind of outcome.
As the time zone is more favourable for live games in this part of the world, I will probably keep an eye on the tournament, but seeing everyone inch forward half a point at a time is not a great inducement.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Not all FM's (or CM's) are created equal

Quite a remarkable result from the 2018 Bangkok Open, with Indonesian FM Novendra Priasmoro winning the tournament with a very impressive 8/9. After starting with a first round draw against a 1927 rated WIM, he ran off 7 straight wins, before drawing with GM Nigel Short in the final round. Along the way he defeated GM's Moulthun Ly, Anton Smirnov and Hrant Melkumyan. earning himself a GM norm.
Almost as impressive was the equal third placed finish by CM D Gukesh, who scored 7/9, and earned an IM norm. Gukesh, who is 12 years old, does have a rating of 2400, but seemingly has not bothered to claim his FM title at this stage.
Of the Australian players, GM Anton Smirnov did the best with 6.5/9. A couple of Canberra players also made the trip across, with WIM Emma Guo and Albert Winkelman both scoring 5/9.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Sometimes you have to play good moves

The US Championships has just started in St Louis, once again attracting a strong field. Caruana, Nakamura and So are the top seeds, and given the gap between themselves and the rest of the field, should take the top 3 spots. But as this is an olympiad year, the rest of the field might be aiming for the sort of performance that gets you on the defending champions team.
One player who has got off to a good start is former Doeberl Cup winner Varuzhan Akobian. He scored a 25 move win over Alexander Onischuk, using the Dutch Defence. Playing through the game it seemed that White was making most of the aggressive moves, but as it turned out, this only forced good replies from Akobian. Around move 18, Akobian suddenly got his d pawn running and after Onischuk failed to find the best defence it was all over.

Onischuk,Alexander (2672) - Akobian,Varuzhan (2647) [A84]
US-ch Men 2018 Saint Louis (1), 18.04.2018

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Champion of the Champions

(The question below was originally directed to me on Quora. As one of the reasons why I'm blogging a little less is because of Quora, I decided to balance the scales by reposting the answer here)

Hypothetically, who would win a tournament featuring all the world chess champions in history at the peak of their form? Who would be an outsider?

It would certainly be a fun tournament, although I suspect their may be some disputes about who would be allowed to play. So for the sake of this answer I’m using the list of players from here List of World Chess Championships - Wikipedia but excluding unofficial champions before Steinitz, as well as Knockout World Champions (sorry Khalifman, Ponomariov and Kasimdzhanov). By my count this means there are 17 players in the tournament.

Now for some rules. To be fair the event will be a 17 player double round robin. The players will obviously know what they already know, but to make it fair for all, each player will be allowed only one second, and no computers will be allowed (either for the player or second). There will be rest day after every 4 rounds. The time limit will be 40 moves in 100 minutes (plus 30 second increment) followed by 20 moves in 50 minutes (plus 30 seconds increment) followed by an additional 30 minutes (plus 30 second increment) for the rest of the game.

Before I get onto my likely winners some comments on the rest of the field

Steintz and Euwe are likely to struggle. While both have had plenty of tournament experience they would be the likely targets for everyone else.

Tal, Alekhine and Topalov would be the real wildcards in the event. While I can’t see them winning, each of them could have a significant impact on the final result.

Capablanca, Smyslov, Karpov and Botvinnik would probably be mid-field players at best. While tough to overcome, I could see each of them content to draw games they found disagreeable. However the ‘tournament within the tournament’ between them would be fascinating.

Spassky, Anand, Lasker and Kramnik would be the tournament pragmatists. Even with a bad start, they would be dangerous throughout, and if they had a good start, then they would be even harder to beat. I would predict Anand and Spassky to finish in the top 6, with Lasker and Kramnik in the top half.

Petrosian kind of sits out on his own. Incredibly difficult to beat (unless you are Fischer) he might come into his own in the second half of the tournament, as the more recent world champions begin to tire (34 rounds is a tough schedule).

That leaves Fischer, Kasparov and Carlsen. These are my top 3. Fischer has the edge over the other 2 in playing longer tournaments, as well as his experience in working on his own (no computers remember). Kasparov has the edge in terms of opening theory, while Carlsen has a will to win that seems only to be matched by Fischer (and would be younger than the other 2 in this event). But if I had to pick a finishing order then it would be (1) Fischer, (2) Carlsen and (3) Kasparov.

If I had to pick a shock winner outside these 3, then it would be Spassky.

Monday, 16 April 2018

And then there's sandbagging

Following on from my last post, some other claims of unethical behaviour is in the chess news. From the US comes a story of a team winning a rating restricted national school championship, after losing a (rated) warm up match 0-28 in the months leading up to the tournament. Other teams were quick to draw attention to these somewhat mixed performances, and the whole thing is now under investigation.
In any sport where players are classified by previous performance, under performing is always an issue. Golf and professional running spring to mind, but I'm sure there are plenty of others. US chess events were plagued by this issue for a number of years, so much so that the USCF eventually introduced a policy on rating 'floors' to deal with it.
It hasn't been that much of an issue in Australia, although there are a couple of well known players who never quite seem to crack the 1600 rating level, despite doing well in Under 1600 events. Of greater trouble in Australia has been how to deal with unrated players, as for most, the lowest section of an event is the correct place to be, but every now and then, there is an exception that causes an issue. The provision of an unrated prize in the bottom section does help, but again this isn't always the perfect solution.
My most recent attempt at dealing with the issue is to take advantage of the prevalence of online chess and at least use a players online rating as a source of information (with sensible modifications for rating inflation). It isn't always perfect, but it is better than outright guessing.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Still not getting it right

Another high profile case involving accusations of cheating has recently blown up, although in this case it was the accuser who ended up in trouble. GM Evgeniy Solozhenkin was suspend for 18 months by the FIDE Ethics Commission, after an investigation concerning the World Girls Under 14 Championship last year.
Solozhenkin's daughter was playing in the tournament, and reported an opponents suspicious behaviour to her father. At this stage Solozhenkin seemed to do the right thing, by making a report to the arbiters, and making a formal complaint to the FIDE Anti-Cheating Commission. And if he had left it at that he would have been fine.
However, he then made this accusation public, and compounded his error by making other accusations against the player in a public forum (and not to the ACC). At this point the mother of the player concerned filed a complaint with the FIDE Ethics Commission. After a hearing the Ethics Commission sanctioned Solozhenkin, not for the initial complaint, but for his other statements.
Unless it can be demonstrated that complains to the ACC are clearly malicious, there is no penalty for making a formal complaint. Even if no evidence of cheating is found, as it was in this case, there is no blow-back to the complainant.  But what you can't do is to go shooting off your mouth to all and sundry, as you can find yourself in trouble. So in this case the process almost worked for Solozhenkin, until he decided to shoot himself in the foot.
For more info on this (plus a number of comments), click on this link.

(NB I was a member of the FIDE ACC when the initial regulations concerning formal reporting were drawn up)

Friday, 13 April 2018

Polishing my crystal ball

There is a thread on one of the Australia chess forums about Australian players who have played World Champions. David Smerdon did it at the last Chess Olympiad (drawing with Magnus Carlsen), although I believe that future/past World Champions count as well.
Based on his devastating win in the 2018 Grenke Open (8/9), I'm peering into my crystal ball and suggesting that German IM Vincent Keymer may one day be part of that list. And if he is, then this is an early entry for an addition to the OZ v WC list.

Keymer,Vincent (2408) - Chibnall,Alana (1906) [A00]
Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2018 Caleta Hotel, Gibraltar (1.124), 23.01.2018

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

FIDE field begins to take shape

The field for the upcoming FIDE elections is beginning to take shape with 2 starters already stepping forward. incumbent President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has declared his intention to run again, while incumbent Deputy President Gergios Makropoulos is also standing, after being 'asked by the majority of the Presidential Board, and many delegates'.
The first shots have already been fired, with members of the Makro team already using the increasingly weaponised FIDE Ethics Commission to take action against members of the Kirsan team (a tactic that was used after the 2014 election against Kasparov and Ignatius Leong).
And in what can be filed under 'coincidence, really?' is a request from FIDE for facebook pages and twitter accounts of Federations, Federation President's and delegates. Apparently FIDE think this is now an important resource to share 'FIDE news and also check and promote chess related news which is published by your federation and officials'. I assume any news that doesn't pass the FIDE check in the lead up to the election will be closely examined by the Ethics Commission.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Last round pressure

The last round of any sporting contest can be a real make or break situation (yes I did see the highlights from the US Masters today!). For some players it is all about controlling nerves, while for others it is an opportunity to step up, and lift their game to the level required for victory.
The last round of the 2018 Doeberl Cup Minor saw an example of this, with Oliver Yang needing to beat Lachlan Lee to grab a share of first place. Not only did Yang do this, he did it in a particularly brilliant way.

Lee,Lachlan - Yang,Oliver [A45]
2018 Doeberl Cup Minor, 02.04.2018

Sunday, 8 April 2018

All your chess questions answered

There is an old joke in computer academia that goes like this. "Professor, what programming language do you use?" "Hmmm, Graduate student I guess". These days the answer might be "Stack Overflow", and not just for university professors. For those not familiar, Stack Overflow is a website where you can ask questions about programming problems and hopefully receive a useful solution (although I do get annoyed when the only response to a question is a request for more information, followed by silence).
What I've just discovered is that Stack Overflow has a number of sister sites (through the Stack Exchange network), including chess. ( You ask a question, answers are given, and if the answer is particularly helpful, users can upvote it (or downvote bad ones). Questions can be tagged (to allow easy grouping and searching), and you can filter questons by votes or open/closed status.
A cursory look at the questions shows a lot of questions concerning the laws of chess (or how they are interpreted). There are also questions on more general topics (best reply to d4 etc), as well as queries about online chess.
I've signed up an account, although I'm not sure how long my own interest will last (Quora takes up a lot of my time in this area). But it is worth checking out, if only because Stack Overflow has proved to be a useful resource in the past, and I'm assuming that this site will be too.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Some Doeberl Observations

I felt that this years Doeberl Cup ran very well, with the main reason being the new venue. Over the years I have always felt that the larger the venue, the easier the event to handle, and this year was a good example. Having everyone play in the same room not only added to the overall atmosphere of the event, but made the job of arbiting the tournament significantly easier. The arbiting team were able to keep an eye on all the tournaments from one central vantage point, freeing up team members to carry out other duties.
I also felt this contributed to a better 'behaved' event, with very few noise issue, or problems with spectator and player behaviour. The extra space also allowed more spectators to watch the top boards, without inconveniencing the players.
The new venue (The Southern Cross Club in Woden) also had better facilities for food and drink than the previous one (University House), which benefited both players and spectators. The shorter time control in the Premier (back to 90m+30s) also meant there was a bigger break between rounds, which was appreciated by almost everyone. We also had the benefit of the club management being incredibly helpful, resulting in a smooth running event.
As for the tournament itself, we did have a few issues with the composition of the field. On the plus side we had an increase in the number of overseas players, with the visiting Grandmasters really adding something to the event. And while GM's Darryl Johansen and Anton Smirnov flew the flag for the local players, the absence of the other Australian GM's (for various reasons), probably affected the chances of players achieving title norms (especially IM James Morris).
Of course there were a couple of strange incidents we had to deal with (including a curling board, a bizarre last round game in the Major, and some amusing/unfortunate pairings) but compared to some years, the event was fairly incident free. Even the constant lectures on mobile phone behaviour seem to be having an effect as we did not default anyone for a ringing phone, and we only had to deal with a couple of very embarrassed spectators.
The club seemed pleased to have us there, so it looks like we will be returning to the same venue in 2019 (and beyond), and if you did not play this year, I highly recommend you pay us a visit in 12 months time.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

The things children say

The ACT Interschool season started today with the North Canberra Primary Girls Zone. While the chess was hard fought but fun, it was some of the comments I overheard (or were directed at me) that were even more interesting

  • One of the team supervisors only had one leg, so a 2nd grade student immediately said "Where is your leg? What happened to it?" After it was patiently explained to her that it was removed as a child due to cancer, she followed with "Do you still have it?"
  • Later on a player was told she couldn't move her king to a square as it was check. She then asked "What is check and why does everyone keep saying it?" (Note: I do coach this player)
  • When one player forcefully told her opponent she couldn't move her king to a square because her bishop was attacking it I suggested she speak a little more softly as we were here to have fun and enjoy ourselves. She looked at me and said "But this is chess"

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Throwing chairs

At first I had planned to feature a game I played last night at Belconnen Chess Club. Spotting an idea in the opening I had forced my opponent to give up castling rights, before calculating a long tactical sequence that involved sacrificing a piece before recovering it with a 2 pawn advantage. As usual I had missed something along the way, and I didn't recover the piece (but did pick up a third pawn), and we agreed to draw when we both realised we had no idea what was happening in the position. Further analysis revealed that I could have played a knockout move even earlier, while my sacrificial combination was far worse than a number of other choices.
So instead I've picked another, far better game from the same event. WFM Alana Chibnall gets a good position against the French using the Kings Indian Attack, with the pawn on e5 dividing the Black forces in two. After looking at invading on d6, she instead finds the f6 square more to her liking, and the queen and knights combine to effect a pretty mating attack.

Chibnall,Alana - Patterson,Miles [C00]
Murphy Memorial, 03.04.2018

Monday, 2 April 2018

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Gareyev and Morris tie for first

The 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup has been won by GM Timur Gareyev on countback over IM James Morris after they both finished on 7.5/9. Going into the final round both had 7/8, and were not only watching their own boards, but the board next to them. It turned out that there was an element of 'double bluff' involved in this strategy, with Morris offering a draw (which was accepted) after he saw Gareyev play into a drawish opening line. However, Garayev and GM Qun Ma then played on for another hour or two before they reached a drawn rook and pawn ending, at which point the game ended peacefully.
IM Igor Bjelobrk took outright third (and a share of the Fighting Fund) with a win over IM Irine Sukandar. On board 4 FM Brandon Clarke need to draw with GM Deep Sengupta to earn an IM norm, which he did after 32 moves. IM Junta Ikeda picked up the other half of the Fighting Fund prize with a nice win over GM Abhijit Kunte, which was also enough to give him a share of 4th place.
Matthew Clarke finished outright first in the Major with 6.5/7. He defeated Alex Mendes Da Costa in the last round to finish half a point ahead of Sterling Bayaca. In equal third place were Sankeerten Badrinarayan and David Lovejoy on 5.5/7.
Oliver Yang scored a brilliant win over Lachlan Lee to snatch first on tiebreak in the Minor. Lee had been leading on 6/6, but the win by Yang allowed him to reach 6 as well, and with a slightly better tie-break, Yang took the first place trophy.
The tournament itself was mostly incident free, although there was one strange happening in the final round. On one of the boards in the minor, water was spilled on the table before the start of the round. Although it was cleaned up, some of it seeped into the hard cardboard boards, causing it to curl up (on Black's side of the board). At first it wasn't an issue, but by the time the Black king looked like it was riding the lip of a wave, the players felt the need to request a replacement board.

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 4

The race for first in the 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup looks like it is down to 2 players. GM Timur Garayev and IM James Morris share the lead with 7/8, although a 5 way tie for first is a remote possibility. Morris closed the gap on Gareyev by beating IM Junta Ikeda and GM Deep Sengupta in rounds 7 and 8, while Gareyev started with a win over IM Igor Bjelobrk before drawing his round 8 game with GM Ahbijit Kunte.
The final round (in progress as I type this) has Gareyev against top seed GM Qun Ma on board 1, with Morris against Ke Mu on board 2. The pairing gods were very unkind to both these players, as both would have had chances for a title norm if Morris had faced another Gm, and Ke Mu had been paired with a non Australian player. As it stands, neither player can now score a GM (for Morris) or IM (more Ke Mu) norm.
In the Major event, the just started Round 7 has seen a 'Hou Yifan' moment with one game beginning 1.Nf3 e5? 2.Nxe5 Qh4 3.Nf3 Qxf2?? 4.Kxf2 Black was checkmated soon after.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 3

Second seed GM Timur Gareyev is the outright leader after six rounds of the 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup. after 5 wins to start the tournament he drew with IM James Morris in yesterdays second round. The draw leaves Morris in 2nd place, along with IM Igor Bjelobrk, both on 5/6.
Apart from leading the tournament, Gareyev also collected first prize in the traditional Blitz event, finishing on 9/9 ahead of 83 other players. Amusingly Gareyev gave his opponents a little head start in each round,  often rushing in a minute after the game had started.
Matthew Clarke leads the Major event with 4/4 ahead of Martin Barakat, Sterling Bayaca, and Angelo Tsagarakis. Dashiell Young, Alex Poyiatzis, and Lachlan Lee share first place in the Minor with 4/4.
The first round today starts at 9:30am and coverage of the top boards can be found at

Saturday, 31 March 2018

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 2

Day 2 of the 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup saw plenty of upsets across all the events. With the Major, Minor and Under 1200 events starting, the spacious venue at the Canberra Southern Cross Club filled up nicely, with around 240 players sitting down to play.
The big surprises in Round 3 were the loss by GM Qun Ma to IM Irine Sukandar, and FM Dusan Stojic's win over GM Anton Smirnov. However round 4 saw both giant killers come back to earth, with Sukandar losing to GM Deep Sengupta, and Stojic losing to IM James Morris.
After 4 rounds the lead is shared by GM Timur Gareyev, GM Deep Sengupta and IM James Morris, all on 4/4. Today sees the shift to the morning/afternoon schedule (never popular with the players), with Gareyev and Sengupta playing on the top board.
The Major has traditionally seen less upsets than either the Premier or Minor, and so it is this year. After 2 rounds most of the top seeds are on 2/2, although this will of course change when the begin to clash in the third round. The Minor on the other hand has seen most of the top 10 seeds drop points to lower rated opponents. Of course with 5 rounds left to play, there is a good chance that they can recover, setting up a challenging finish for all concerned.
Today's rounds start at 9:30 am (Canberra time), and you can see the live coverage (8 board from Premier, plus boards 1 from the Major and Minor) at the tournament website.

Friday, 30 March 2018

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 1

The first day of the 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup saw the first 2 rounds of the Premier. Quite unusually for the tournament, there were very few upsets in the first round, with the top 19 seeds beating their lower rated opponents. Probably the closest player to upsetting the form guide was Fred Litchfield, who lost on time against GM Abhijit Kunte in a position where he was still better. Otherwise it was smooth sailing, at least until round 2 came along.
The first shock was IM Trevor Tao losing to Sean Christian Goh in pretty quick time. This was then topped by FM Pengyu Chen's win over GM Kunte, who now seems a little out of form. The board 4 clash between IM Stephen Solomon and GM Anton Smirnov was a hard fought struggle, with Smirnov unable to break down Solomon's defense. Wins for Stojic over Ikeda and Bennett over Kuan were further evidence that no one is safe in this field.
There are still 11 players on 2/2, including 3 of the 5 GM's. Each of the leading GM's face an IM keen to create further updates. Round 3 starts at 1pm (Canberra time) and you can catch the action from the top boards at

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Gareyev 10 from 10 in simul

GM Timur Gareyev help kick off this years O2C Doeberl Cup by scoring a perfect 10 from 10 in a blindfold simul. It was pretty impressive feat, given that the field had a number of strong club players taking part, as well as a few up and coming juniors.
To keep the simul to a manageable time, clocks were used, with Gareyev having 90 minutes with a 1 minute increment, while his opponents had 55 minutes and no increment. Unlike a normal simul where players move in turns, each player could move at anytime, and push the clock to start Garayev's time running. It turned out that time was a factor in a couple of games, with two players losing on time, although their positions were collapsing at this point.
Probably the best game of the evening was against Leron Kwong, where a mistake in the opening by Kwong saw Gareyev throw all his pieces at the kingside, leaving Kwong unable to defend (If I get a copy I will try and post it)

With the first event out of the way, the next tournament up is the Premier. This starts at 1pm at the Southern Cross Club in Woden. There will be live coverage of the games via Chess24, albeit with a 30 minute delay. If you are in Canberra (and not already playing) you can come to the venue and watch GM Ian Rogers give live commentary. This normally starts about an hour into the round.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Being a smarty-pants

The diagrammed position came from a club game I played recently. I was a little luck that my opponent had given me a piece in time trouble, but there was still a bit of work to be done in the ending. I could have gone down the slow and steady route, but I spotted a couple of nice tricks in the position that lead me to a fancier way of winning.

32.e5+ Kf5 33.Nh4+ Kg5 34.Ke4! Trick number 1. If 34... Kxh4 then 35.Kxf4 imprisons the Black king and allows the e pawn to promote. 34...f3 35.gxf3 Kxh4 36.fxg4 hxg4 Setting up trick number 2. 37.e6 g3 38.Kf3! And here it is. The Black king is forced to an unfavourable square. 38...Kh3 39.e7 g2 40.e8Q Now promoting to anything but a knight allows mate in 1, while promoting to a knight doesn't help. 40...Kh2 41.Qe2 1-0

Monday, 26 March 2018


I just came across the following clip, which is definitely worth watching. I'm not sure how long it took to create, but hats off to those that did.

The actual moves were:
Roesche - Schlage 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. Qe2 b5 6. Bb3 Be7 7. c3 O-O 8. O-O d5 9. exd5 Nxd5 10. Nxe5 Nf4 11. Qe4 Nxe5 12. Qxa8 Qd3 13. Bd1 Bh3 14. Qxa6 Bxg2 15. Re1 Qf3 16. Bxf3 Nxf3#

Sunday, 25 March 2018

And speaking of cheating ...

The Australian Cricket Team is quite fortunate that FIDE isn't running world cricket (in so so many ways I must add). I'm not sure what the exact equivalent for 'ball tampering' in chess is (probably clock tampering), but if that sort of cheating went on at say a Chess Olympiad, I would expect both player and captain (or coach) to no longer be playing for the rest of the event. Of course cricket doesn't have a 'send off' rule (so the players involved can continue in this Test), but players can be suspended from future matches, which is what I expect will happen here.

I woke up this morning ....

I've just woken up to see a couple of results from the Candidates tournament that have thrown the whole thing wide open. Both leaders (Caruana and Mamedyarov) lost overnight, which means that there are now 5 players within half a point of the lead.
The most significant result is Karjakin's win over Caruana, as they are now tied for 1st place, although the most surprising win was Ding Liren over Mamedyarov. This was Liren's first win of the event, after he had drawn his previous 11 games.
With 2 rounds to play I think Caruana still has the best chance of winning, but after last nights results, anything could happen!

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Australian Kangaroos fail to jump final hurdle

The Australian Kangaroos fell just short of qualifying for the Pro Chess League Semi Finals after narrowly losing their final match against Chengdu Pandas. The Kangaroos had qualified 4th in the Pacific Zone before beating top placed San Diego Surfers to set up a match with Chengdu. The Chinese team won 9-7, after trailing for most of the match.
Looking at the makeup of the team (both in the regular season and finals) it seemed that GM Anton Smirnov was carrying the Australian flag. For a lot of the matches, the remaining three players were from other countries (although to be fair, FM Brandon Clarke is living in Australia, while still registered with England). A few other strong Australian players (Zhao, Li, Morris, Ikeda) did make brief appearances, but as the rules allow OS players, it looked like the team relied heavily on that.

Friday, 23 March 2018

That one time I lost to Lloyd Fell

One of the reasons my wife stopped coming to chess tournaments was Lloyd Fell. Not because she had any personal issues with him mind you, but simply because his games were almost always the last ones to finish. And as I always hung around for the prize giving (despite never winning a prize), this meant hanging around until Lloyd finished.
Over the years my wife has conflated her memories of watching Lloyd play, with watching Lloyd play me. "I hope you don't have to play Fell in the last round" would often be the farewell she would give me as I left for a weekend (when Lloyd was still alive). As it turns out, I may have only ever played Lloyd on a single occasion, although it certainly was in the last round. And looking over the score of the game, it seems it wasn't a very long game, as I blundered a pawn early, and lost without too much effort.

Fell,Lloyd - Press,Shaun [C56]
Sydney Uni Open, 10.08.1989

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Some pretty obvious cheating

I'm not sure when I decided I was 'old', but I have no doubt that I am know. One of the warning signs is getting sucked into watching too many detective mysteries such as 'Lewis', 'Midsomer Murders' or 'Murdoch Mysteries'.
And it was the last of these shows that had a very chess heavy episode on last night. The plot revolved around the murder of a Russian chess master before a tournament in Toronto. To investigate the murder, one of the young constables has to go undercover as a competitor in the tournament.
Without giving too much away, there was a large amount of what we would now call cheating involved. To pass himself off as a chess master, the young constable (Crabtree) had the moves relayed to him via an earpiece, which was pretty novel technology for the turn of the 20th century (when the series is set). However, to transmit his opponents moves, he had to say them out loud, so they could be picked up my the microphone. No one seemed to either mind, or notice. And in at least one game, his opponent was also cheating, via the real player tapping signals on his shoulder, which most people could see.
Of course it was all part of the slightly tongue-in-cheek nature of the show, so it could be excused. Especially as  they seemed to get most of the chess right. Openings were called by their correct names (eg Queens Gambit) and even followed the correct moves. The tournament had demonstrations boards hanging up (although not used), and the tables had country flags. One thing that was missing however were chess clocks, allowing the games to be dragged out.
Overall it was a good 'chess' episode, and one worth watching if it pops up on a TV channel near you.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

2018 O2C Doeberl Cup - Blindfold Simul and Lecture

World record holder GM Timur Gareyev is the latest GM entrant to this years O2C Doeberl Cup. He holds the record for the largest documented blindfold simul, with 48 games in 2016.
As part of his trip to Canberra, he will be conducting a 10 board blindfold simul at the Southern Cross Club on Wednesday 28 March (the night before the Doeberl Cup begins). This event is being organised by the ACT Chess Association, and members are invited to take part. You can either contact ACTCA President Cam Cunningham if you are interested (contact details here)  or respond to the email invitation if you are on the ACTCA mailing list.
Gareyev will also be giving a lecture on Friday morning (30 March) to junior players. As space is limited, this will be for ACT junior players with a FIDE rating (or ACF rating above 1000). Invitations will be sent out shortly, or you can reply directly to me at the above link if you wish to attend.
Both these events are free to ACTCA/ACTJCL members

Sunday, 18 March 2018

2018 Dubbo Open - IM Stephen Solomon wins

IM Stephen Solomon completed a clean sweep of the 2018 Dubbo Open scoring another 3 wins on day 2. He started off the day with a win over joint leader WFM Alana Chibnall, followed it up with a win over Trevor Bemrose, before reaching 6/6 by scoring a nice win of Don Keast.
The battle for second place was a little more dramatic, with 4 Canberra players paired together on boards 2&3 in the final round. Matt Radisich reached 4.5 by beating a somewhat flagging Graham Saint, while Glenn Ingham leapfrogged Chibnall in the last game to finish, converting a tricky opposite coloured bishop ending. This left Ingham and Radisich tied for 2nd place.
Milorad Lukic and Stephen Taylor (4/6) finished equal first in the Under 1650 category, Keith Farrell (3.5) had an excellent event to collect the Under 1400 prize, while 10 year old Eamonn Fitzgerald (3.0) was the best unrated player.
Full standings from the event, plus a small selection of games, can be found at

Solomon,Stephen J (2412) - Keast,Don A (1913) [C06]
Dubbo Open 2018 Dubbo AUS (6), 18.03.2018

Saturday, 17 March 2018

2018 Dubbo Open - Day 1

IM Stephen Solomon and WFM Alana Chibnall lead the 32 player Dubbo Open at the end of the first day. The are on 3/3, and will play in the first round on Sunday morning.
Solomon had two fairly straightforward wins in the first two rounds, but had to work a little harder in the third round. Chibnall got to 100% by overcoming former winner Don Keast in the third round after Keast played a piece sacrifice that was almost, but not quite, winning.
Tied for third are Trevor Bemrose and Slavko Kojic on 2.5. They will also meet in the 4th round, with the winner up against the winner of Solomon and Chibnall.
The club also hosted the regular handicap blitz event, which was won by WFM Alana Chibnall for the 4th time in the last years. Going the final round she was tied with Glenn Ingham, but an upset win by Helen Aylwin over Ingham in round 5 saw Chibnall finish outright first.

Kanostrevac,Zeljko (1764) - Solomon,Stephen J (2412) [A45]
Dubbo Open 2018 Dubbo AUS (3), 17.03.2018

Friday, 16 March 2018

2018 Dubbo Open

The 2018 Dubbo Open begins tomorrow at the Dubbo RSL Club. The event has attracted a very strong last minute entry in IM Stephen Solomon, who  is making journey back from Ballarat to Queensland, and has decided to have a chess break along the way.
While Solomon looks to be the clear favourite, I'm sure other players in the event hold out hope of scoring an upset win, especially at the slightly faster time limit of 60m+10s
While there will not be live coverage of the games, you can get all the tournament results at If I get enough time during or between rounds I will try and enter a few games, which can be replayed from the result web page.

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


Way back in 1988, the NSWCA organised an International Swiss at the Hakoah Club in Sydney, to take advantage of the World Junior, which had just finished in Adelaide. Towards the end of the tournament FM Craig Laird was looking good for an IM norm, having beaten one of the overseas GM's (IIRC). But it all came crashing down in the next round, when he lost a game that many thought he was a lock to win. Despite my hazy knowledge of who Laird's opponents were, I can still clearly remember a quote from Patrick Halpin about what happened. "One day a rooster, the next a feather duster"
I suspect Vladmir Kramnik might be feeling that way, having followed up his crushing win over Aronian in the Candidates Tournament, with a disastrous loss to Caruana in the next round. It wasn't that he was expected to win against Caruana that was the issue, but how the game played out. At first Caruana was winning, then it was equal, then Kramnik was winning, then it was equal, before Kramnik blundered in time trouble and lost. So instead of streaking ahead in the tournament, he has fallen back into the pack, and will need to regroup for tonight's game. It will be interesting to see if he bounces back, plays it safe, or goes 'on tilt'

Kramnik,Vladimir (2800) - Caruana,Fabiano (2784) [C42]
FIDE Candidates 2018 Berlin GER (4.4), 14.03.2018

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

2018 Candidates - Aronian (and my tips) get crushed

The third round of the 2018 Candidates Tournament saw one of the biggest hammerings at this level that I can remember. Kramnik uncorked an opening idea against Aronian that he had kept up his sleeve for 2 years, and totally demolished him. 7. ... Rg8 looked on the surface to be a hackers move, but it was actually a good method of exploiting Aronian's setup. Aronian either didn't take the idea seriously, or just missed the key ideas, but within a few moves he was unsuccessfully trying to avoid being overrun on the kingside. The game finished in a complete rout, with Kramnik's pawns ending up on f3 and g2.
Having tipped against Kramnik at the start of the event, he has proved me wrong by leading with 2.5/3. Aronian is on 1/3, only ahead of So (someone else I thought had a chance btw) on 0.5.

Aronian,L (2794) - Kramnik,V (2800) [C65]
FIDE Candidates 2018 Berlin GER (3), 12.03.2018

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

2018 ACT Chess Championship - Lo and Brown share title

The final day of the 2018 ACT Chess Championship could not split the overnight leaders, leaving IM Andrew Brown and Willis Lo sharing the title of 2018 ACT Champion. Lo had the slightly tougher run to the finish, but also had fortune go his way, after a dramatic round 6 win over FM Michael Kethro. Short of time Kethro played an unsound combination which left Lo a piece up, but Kethro still had possible drawing chances. However he lost on time after mishitting his clock, giving Lo the point. In the final round against Brian Butler, Lo gambled on a king and pawn ending which was still drawn after both players queened, but a misstep by Butler allowed Lo to reach another king and pawn ending, but this time a winning won.
IM Andrew Brown played two pretty convincing games against Adrian de Noskowski in round 6 and Joshua Lee in round 7. The game against Lee was probably the best game of the event, with Brown offering a rook for a number of moves while building up a winning attack. These wins left both Lo and Brown on 6.5/7, and joint champions.
Equal third was shared by Sankeertan Badrinarayan and Tim Pearce on 5/7. Ricky Luo and Lachlan Ho shared the Under 1500 prize, with Ho picking up the best performance against rating prize (otherwise known as W-We). Thomas Lin was the best FIDE unrated with 4/7, while Liam Miller won the best newcomer prize.
Full results, plus a selection of games (including the top 4 boards from each round) can be found at

Monday, 12 March 2018

2018 ACT Championship - Brown and Lo share lead after 5 rounds.

IM Andrew Brown and Willis Lo share the lead in the 2018 ACT Championship after 5 rounds. The two players met in round 4, with Brown looking good early in the game, before Lo turned the tables, and reached an almost winning position around move 40. However Brown found enough to keep the game going, and after Lo was not able to find the right lines, the game ended with KvK!
Adrian De Noskowski is outright third on 4 points, after a good 5th round win against Brian Butler. He faces Brown in the mornings round, while Lo is up against FM Michael Kethro. Kethro had a tough day 3, being held to a draw by Sankeerten Badrinarayan, before losing a quick game against Brown in the afternoon round.
With two rounds to play Lo and Brown are in the box seat, but with 7 players tied for 4th on 3.5, the final placings are still a little up in the air. Round 6 starts at 10am (Canberra time). Live coverage of the top 4 boards can be found at

Brown,Andrew (2278) - Lo,Willis (2005) [D19]
2018 ACT Championships Canberra AUS (4), 11.03.2018

Sunday, 11 March 2018

2018 Candidates

The 2018 Candidates tournament is about to start in Berlin (1am Canberra time). The field of 8 players will play each other twice to determine who will challenge Magnus Carlsen for the World Championship. While there are a couple of notable names missing from the field (Nakamura and Anand spring to mind), the fact that only 46 rating points separate the top seed (Mamedyarov) and the bottom seed (Karjakin) means that the tournament will either be incredibly competitive, or super cautious. I'm certainly hoping for the former, but I wouldn't be surprised if Round 12 (out of 14) is reached with 1 point separating the entire field!
As for who is going to win, I honestly don't know. I'm going to discount Ding Liren and Grischuk's chances, and I can't see Kramnik taking first place either (despite his 2800 rating). That leaves 5 players (Aronian, Caruana, So, Mamedyarov and Karjakin) that I think could all take first place. If I had to pick one of form, I'd take Mamedyarov, while one sentiment, I'd like to see Aronian across the board from Carlsen later in the year.
The official tournament website is here, while chess24 is also covering the game at this link.

Friday, 9 March 2018

2018 ACT Championship - Round 1

The first round of the 2018 ACT Championships saw no real upsets, with the top half of the field winning on almost all the boards. The only exception was a draw between unrated James Minogue, and Banner Shafer, where a drawn rook and pan ending was reached after 3 hours of play.
There was quite a gap between the top seeds and the rest of the 37 player field, although the longest games did occur on the top boards. Probably the game of the round was played by FM Michael Kethro against Ricky Luo, with Kethro finding some nice tactics in the middle game. (You can see the top 4 games here)
The first round tomorrow starts at 10:00 am, with live coverage of the top 4 games. You can also late enter the event, taking a half point bye for the first round. Current standings from the tournament (and future draws etc) can be found here.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Time to get your entries in

If you are planning your chess activities over the next month, no is the time to get entries in for each of these.
The 2018 ACT Chess Championship is starting tomorrow night, at Campbell High School, Cambpbell ACT. This is a 7 round FIDE rated event with a time limit of 90m+30s per move. As it is a long weekend in the ACT (Canberra Day!) the tournament has a relativity relaxed schedule of 1 round Friday evening, followed by 2 rounds on each of the following days. There are already 24 player entered, and entries will be taken up until the start of the first round at 7:00pm. Further details can be found here.
If you are in Victoria, or planning to travel there, the 2018 Ballarat Begonia Open is being held this weekend as well. Considered the number 2 weekend event in Australia (after the Doeberl Cup) it looks like a strong event, with 4 Australian GM's at the top of the field. Entry details can be found at the tournament website.
Next weekend is the 2018 Dubbo Open, in western NSW. This event normally attracts a personable mix of players from Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, and the host city, and often provides a good opportunity for players in the 1700 - 2000 rating range to win a weekend event. Event details can be found at this link.
And of course Easter sees the 2018 O2C Doeberl Cup. Entries have sailed past the 120 mark, with the Premier starting to fill up. (NB each section has a maximum number of available places). The Premier already has 4 GM's and 7 IM's officially entered, with at least one more overseas GM close to being confirmed. You can enter online at the tournament website, as well as see who has already entered in each of the sections.

(** I am a paid official at 3 of these events **)

Tuesday, 6 March 2018


Losing a game over the board is bad enough, but to lose it for other reasons can be especially painful. By now most experienced players are familiar with the dreaded mobile phone forfeit, but if you've played chess long enough, you eventually learn there are other ways to hand over a point.
Oversleeping is always a goody, and looking over Bill Egan's book on the Doeberl Cup, I see that a few players have fallen foul of this. IM Aleks Wohl did this on at least two occasions, missing out on playing GM Eduard Gufeld in 1988, while I was even guilty of this offence in my first Doeberl Cup in 1985 (In my defence I had worked a 10pm to 6am shift, and my mother ignored my instructions to wake me at 9am).
Flipping a chess board is a rarity, but I know of at least one incident (at a local club) where a player upended a table, and walked out before being defaulted. (It seems that the player had tangled his bag around the table leg, and in grabbing the bag, upset the table.)
Of course with the various "no draw before x moves" rules in play, it is now easier to be double forfeited. This has happened on occasion, but not in any tournaments I've directed. On the other hand, failure to report a result has resulted in me recording 0-0 in lots of tournament, usually in blitz, but also in at least one Doeberl Cup.
Fortunately the one object that has caused more forfeits during the game (the mobile phone), is probably responsible for less accidental forfeits by sleeping in. Whether it has been a net gain, I'm not totally sure.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Form is temporary

But class is permanent. So goes an old saying, which could be applied to Vishwanathan Anand. After winning the most World Rapid Championship he has backed it up with a win in the 2018 Tal Memorial. While the event isn't quite what it was (previously it was a classical all play all, now it is a rapid and blitz), it did have an incredibly strong field. His 6/9 was a full point ahead of Mamedyarov, Nakamura and Karjakin. He lost to Mamedyarov, but beat Nakamura, Dubov, Grischuk and Nepomniachtchi. Quite an impressive feat for a player many were suggesting was past it towards the end of 2017!

One rule to change?

Of all the rule proposals that I read while I was a member of the FIDE Rules Commission, there was one potential rule change (to how the game was played) that I did not reflexively dismiss.
It was in fact a very very old rule (rather than a new 'I can make chess better' rule), and it used to be part of the game. I am talking about the 'Bare King' rule, where losing all your pieces (except your king) counted as a loss.
Now, while I said I didn't reflexively dismiss it, I don't actually think it should be reintroduced to the game, with a possible exception. One variation on this rule was that a win by 'Bare King' only earned you half the stake for winning the game (when chess was a betting game). Using that idea, it may be possible to use it as a tie-break, or secondary scoring system. Keep the usual result system, but assign a secondary score based on this feature. The diagrammed position is an example, where under the old rules this is white to play and win, under the current rules this should be a draw (with best play), but incorporating secondary results, this is a draw, but White earns more from the game than Black.
Of course proposals like this tend to fall foul of my "Exactly what problem are we trying to fix here" rule, so apart from its possible use in novelty events, I don't see it catching on.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Innovations can come from anywhere

While looking at the latest coverage of the Pro Chess League at, I saw a shout out to GM David Smerdon, from a game played by World Champion Magnus Carlsen. Carlsen had a quick win as Black playing the Scandinavian, and Smerdon's book on the opening was given credit. However I thought the opening idea looked both familiar and older, and a bit of research confirmed this.
Where I remember it from was the 1998 Australian Junior Championship, where Kylie Coventry scored a 19 move win using the same line. I'm pretty sure the FM Manuel Weeks was the source of the idea (as he coached Coventry on the way to winning the Australian Girls Championship that year), although the line was first played (unsuccessfully)  in 1994. But it is no surprise that Smerdon included it in his book, as he played in the Australian Junior that year, and probably saw how powerful it was, as it was being played!

Norris,Shiloh (1348) - Coventry,Kylie (1533) [B01]
AUS jr ch U18 Girls Adelaide (2.33), 13.01.1998

Friday, 2 March 2018

Before I found the Traxler

There was a time when I did not play the Traxler against the Two Knights Defence. Way back in the dim distant past I did play the more normal 4. ... d5 lines, although even this move "simply loses a pawn" according to Nigel Short.
But if the following game is anything to go by, the reason I switched to the Traxler is if I was going to surrender material (as I did in this game), then I should do so for the right reasons (rather than just missing my opponents moves)

Austin,David - Press,Shaun [C59]
Belconnen, 1986

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Did Black move first?

While digging through some information concerning the "Immortal Game", I came across a piece of information I have never seen before. According to the July 1851 edition of "The Chess Player" by Horwitz and Kling, Anderssen actually played with the black pieces during the game. But before you think the result has been misreported for over 150 years, the game is given with Anderssen (as Black) still making the first move. It does not seem to be a typo in the magazine, as the notes attached refer to Black as the winner.
If this were the case Anderssen's play is even more impressive, as playing with white as black can be quite off putting. I've seen it done on occasion (usually after a quick loss at skittles and the players are too lazy to swap the pieces) but even then, the king and queen are often swapped, so that short castling is still to the right for 'Black'.

Monday, 26 February 2018

2018 ACT Chess Championship 9-12 March 2018

The 2018 ACT Chess Championship is being held on the long weekend of the 9th to the 12th of March 2018. It will be a 7 round FIDE rated Swiss with the first round on Friday evening (9th), and 2 rounds on each of the following days. Time limit is 90m+30s
The tournament will be held at Campbell High School, and there will be a cafe/canteen running during the tournament. The tournament is open to all ACTCA members ($25/$15 per year) and for players without an international rating, this provides an ideal opportunity to get one.
Further details (including entry information) can be found at

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

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Neglecting development

One of the big risks in neglecting development in the opening is that you increase the risk of getting hit by a surprise tactic. Here is a short example of this, from a game I played today at Street Chess.

Press,Shaun - Tiwari,Rajiv [D00]
Street Chess, 24.02.2018

It's not always how many moves

For a couple of different reasons, I've been looking over some the work I had previously done in the field of Anti-Cheating in Chess. While doing so, I came across a slightly different take on detecting engine use in online chess.
The simple approach is to compare the moves played with what a strong engine might play. However this generally only catches people who aren't smart enough to cover their tracks, although this is still quite a large number of guilty players. As discussed in this answer on Quora, it is often a shorter run of moves that is the giveaway, rather than the entire game (Note: This method was recognised as a possibility when I was a member of the FIDE Anti-Cheating Committee). Also mentioned in the answer are the conditions for turning on (or off) an engine during the game.
The other issue with move matching is that it returns differing results for different styles of games. The classic example of this were the respective performances of Mikhail Tal and Anatoly Karpov at the Montreal 1979 Super Tournament. In a retrospective examination of the games by Professor Kenneth Regen, Tal has the highest move match with modern chess engines, at a little under 70% (IIRC). Karpov had the lowest match of the players in the event, at least than 50%. Interestingly, they tied for first place with 12/18.
The explanation for this is due to the differing styles of players. Tal's games involved a lot of positions where the second or third best move was significantly worse than the best choice (due to the tactical nature of the positions), while Karpov's positions had a number of moves that were good, and it was a matter of his long term understanding of the position as to which one was chosen.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

In praise of club chess

For some players, the regularity of club chess can be a real chore. Facing the same opponents, not being able to skip a week to go to the movies, or simply becoming too strong are some of the reasons that come into play.
For other players (including myself), playing at a local club is what makes chess, chess. Knowing that a mistake in one game isn't the end of the world, or engaging in multi-year theoretical debates about favourite openings, is something that keeps members playing week in week out. And while the chess isn't perfect, it usually is interesting enough that each player (and spectators) get something out of it.
A few weeks ago I published one of my wins from the current tournament at Belconnen Chess Club. Here is a far more interesting game from round 3 of the same event (This time it isn't mine, as I played like a knuckle-head last night and lost). Milan Ninchich looked like he was gone for all money against Miles Patterson, until he found a clever double rook sacrifice at the death, to salvage a draw by repetition.

Ninchich,Milan - Patterson,Miles [B02]
University Cup Belconnen, 20.02.2018

Resigning with all the pieces still on the board

It is very rare that one player loses a game, while all 32 pieces are still on the board. Of course with rules concerning the use of mobile phones during the game in force, it has probably become a little more common, but even then it is at least noteworthy.
Here is a remarkable example from 2013, with Vasilly Ivanchuk resigning in 19 moves. Lest you think the early resignation was a function of Ivanchuk's eccentricities, Stockfish has him at -2.6 when he threw in the towel.

Ponomariov,Ruslan (2742) - Ivanchuk,Vassily (2755) [C05]
Makedonia Palace GP Thessaloniki GRE (6.1), 28.05.2013

Sunday, 18 February 2018

How did I miss this story?

When I last visited the UK (late 2016, early 2017), I did not get a chance to visit Portmeirion in Wales, which is something I have done on two previous occasions. If I had, I may have walked into the middle of a chess related row, between fans of the TV series "The Prisoner", and local residents.
Each year there is a recreation of the human chess game that was seen in the episode "Checkmate", on a space of open lawn. For years the board had been a temporary one, but it was decided that a permanent one should be built. Local residents objected and an argument ensued.
In the end the Prisoner fans one, and the board has gone in. For more detail, plus a picture of the game, you can click on this link (Warning, it does have some annoying auto play video of other news stories)

Friday, 16 February 2018

In author mode

I'm currently in 'Author Mode', trying to write some new titles for e+ChessBooks (Disclaimer: I am employed by the company as a software developer). It is a mixture of typesetting older books, converting some newer books to electronic format, and putting together some original content.
The work I am trying to get finished first is a reworking of a 19th century collection of brilliancies, which was published without annotations. As a result I've spent the past week going through the games (with computer assistance) trying to find different ways of saying 'Black missed a better defence with ...'. And while the attacking play is quite ingenious, I have to agree with Bent Larsen's contention that he would have easily been World Champion in the 19th Century (if he had the same chess knowledge) as he would have simply defended better.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

FIDE chickens looking for roosts

The fallout from the 2014 FIDE election continues to roll on, with the FIDE bank account in Swistzerland being frozen. (
As the above article says, this is due to  FIDE President Kirsan Ilymzhonov being under US government sanctions for his involvement in financing aspects of the conflict in Syria. Of course this has been an ongoing issue for FIDE for a few years now, but has come to a head at a somewhat unfortunate time.
The article does quote FIDE Treasurer Adrian Siegal placing the blame directly on the FIDE President, but he would do better to look at the actions of some of his other FIDE colleagues. One of the problems that FIDE face is that they have no real mechanism for removing Ilyumzhinov, but this is a problem that the organisation created for itself.
In pushing so hard for Kirsan to win the past two elections (2010 and 2014), the FIDE executive essentially ran roughshod over any idea of executive accountability. This has meant that there are no real mechanisms for holding anyone accountable for their actions (unless you are a former FIDE executive member or unsuccessful candidate), and so Kirsan will remain president until the next election.
That this has occurred is of little surprise to me, based on what I witnessed during the 2014 election in Tromso. There was a definite 'win at all costs' mentality on show there, which I personally thought crossed the line in terms of what should have been an independent process. An obvious example of this was Kirsan's promise of $40,000,000 to support chess, which while being an obvious lie, was praised or excused by members of the FIDE Executive, rather than condemned by the very people who knew it was untrue.
After the election was I was even accused of being depressed because 'my guy lost', to which I replied, "No, I'm upset at the level of behaviour I've seen from people I expected better of". And it is this attitude of privilege over principal that has left FIDE painting itself into a corner.
Of course it is the same people who campaigned so passionately (and in some cases unethically)  for Kirsan's election who are now turning around to claim that they are the only people who can fix it. I have no doubt that they themselves believe it, and that is part of the problem with the current executive. Better for all would see them confess their past sins, take some responsibility for this fiasco, and then consider what they should do in retirement.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Crossing the board

There have been a couple of celebrated games where the Black king gets checkmated on the opposite side of the board. Normally a piece (or greater) sacrifice was involved and the king was frog marched to its doom. Most games I have seen take more than 20 moves before checkmate is achieved, but the following looks like some sort of record, in that Black is mated on e1 in only 15 moves. Unlike some other record setting games, this one does look legitimate, with Black just blundering in the open.

Abdel Aziz,Shehab (2116) - Tawfik,Neamet [C21]
Cairo op-B Cairo (1), 2000

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Order to Chaos

Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura are currently playing a match for the unofficial title of Fischer Random World Champion. After 4 games Carlsen leads 5-3, having won the 4th game.
The match is over 16 games, with the first 8 played at a slower time limit (40 moves in 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes flat) than the last 8 (15m+10s). Scores are also doubled for the first 8, which accounts for the slightly odd score. For the first half players are shown the start position 15 minutes before the start, while for the rapid they will only have 2 minutes to see the position (NB the same position is used for each pair of white/black games).
I've had a quick look at the games, and there seems to be just enough in the initial setups to challenge the players. To my untrained eye, it seems that the positioning of the rooks is a significant factor in what sort of game you will see. If the rooks start off in (or close to) the corners (as they did in games 3-4) you get a 'normal' position, much sooner than if the rooks already occupy the centre files. I also noticed that sound pawn structures seems a little less important than I'm used to, but then I realised that seems to be the trend in normal chess at this level anyway.
I'd like to show you a game, but attempts at getting the pgn view to work have been a little tricky. If I discover the secret tomorrow, I might update this post.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

You snooze, you lose

Today was the first day of the 2018 Lifeline Bookfair in Canberra, so I made the effort to try and get there early. While I'm not mad enough to bring a tent and sleep by the door (in fact, no one is) I do try and make sure I'm at least close to the door when it opens.
The strategy was reasonably successful this year, as almost all the second hand chess books were still on the table, although a few had been picked up by one fleet of foot chess parent!
As I've mentioned in the past, I usually don't buy that many books these days, as I already have copies of most of them. I did get an Informator No. 2, to go with the No. 1 I picked up last time. A couple of problem books, a collection of games by Rubenstein and of course a copy of "Play Better Chess" by Barden were also some of the books I grabbed.
Luckily I was in early, as about 5 minutes after I made my selection, a lot of books went in one sweep of the hand as someone just tipped half of them into an open bag. I'm assuming it was a second hand book seller, as a more discerning collector would have at least checked the prices.
If you do plan to visit tomorrow, I'm not sure if there will be many chess books left. They usually have extra boxes for most categories, but if past years are anything to go by, the whole chess collection goes out at the start and does not get replaced.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

A proto-Traxler

While the Traxler did not make its debut until the late 19th century, there were games played earlier than that, that at least showed some of the ideas that were employed. One example was a game from 1850 where Black allowed a fork on f7 and sacrificed the rook on h8 to gain time for his attack. Unlike the Traxler proper, there was no sacrifice on f2, although the bishop on c5 still played an important role.

Moor - Dubois,Serafino [C50]
Rome Rome, 1850

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Gratuitous Blogging

The Belconnen Chess Club has reopened for the year, which means gratuitous blogging of chess wins from me. For the first round of the 2018 University Cup I was up against Matt Radisich, which is a tougher than usual round 1 pairing.
After I plunked a knight on d5 I felt I was better, although there was a miscalculation by myself on move 27 which Matt did not take advantage of. After that I went into a R v BN ending, which normally favours the two pieces, but fortunately a combination of a better placed king, and a tactical trick missed by Matt (36.Rf1) was enough for me to convert.

Press,Shaun - Radisich,Matt [B26]
University Cup, 06.02.2018

Goodnight Sweetheart

For non serious chess players, the Knight (or the horsey) is the most interesting piece on the board. Its slightly unusual movement, and its ability to jump over other pieces quickly gains it attention above and beyond its station. It is hardly surprising then, that moves involving knights stand out. Knight forks are spoken of far more than Bishop forks or Rook forks, while under promoting to a knight is a pretty big deal. And long sequences of knight moves do get noticed, as the following game demonstrates. From move 22 to 34 Anand (as white) moves nothing but his Knights, forcing the black pieces to duck and weave from square to square.

Anand,Viswanathan (2787) - Topalov,Veselin (2805) [E04]
World-ch Anand-Topalov +3-2=7 Sofia (6), 01.05.2010

Monday, 5 February 2018

Plan, calculate, move

White to play and win
Here is a position from the recent Gibraltar tournament (one of the Amateur events I believe). It is White to play and win.
Given the unbalanced nature of the position, trying to pick an obvious move is a little difficult. Instead a better approach is to try and develop a more general winning plan before choosing a specific move. Once you have a plan, then you can calculate more efficiently, and hopefully come up with the correct move.
(Note: When I first saw it, I did get the right plan, but still manged to choose the wrong first move, so this method isn't fool proof)
Thanks to WFM Alana Chibnall for sending it to me.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

An odd, but important game

If I asked you to name a game where White sacrifices a queen on d8 and mates after a double check from rook and bishop, you wouldn't be wrong if you said 'Reti v Tartakower'. But as with most things, this game wasn't the first example of this idea, just the most popular. Well before, Ernst Falkbeer (of the Falkbeer counter gambits) demonstrated the winning method, in an odds game. Falkbeer started without his queens knight, which in this case may have been more of a help than a hindrance, as he was able to castle one move quicker than normal, and getting his rook ready for the mate.

Falkbeer,Ernst - Simpson,Mr

Friday, 2 February 2018

Aronian wins Gibraltar Masters

Lev Aronian has won the 2018 Gibraltar Masters, after a marathon playoff session that involved the top 4 finishers. In fact the final round results left 7 players tied for the lead on 7.5/10, but the tournament regulations only allowed the top 4 (on tie-break) to go though to the playoff.
In the semi-finals, Vachier-Lagrave defeated Nakamura to end his attempt to claim a 4th successive title, while Aronian defeated Rapport. Then in the final Aronian beat MVL to claim his second title (the first being a multiway tie in 2005, which in fact lead to the introduction of the playoff system).
IM John-Paul Wallace was the best of the Australian players finishing 5/10, although his final round win came at the expense of WIM Heather Richards. A win for Richards would have seen her score a WGM norm (by the narrowest of margins) but it wasn't to be. Alek Safarian finished alongside Richards with 4 points, while WFM Alana Chibnall score 3.5 (matching my score from last year).

Aronian,Lev - Nakamura,Hikaru [B06]
2018 Gibraltar Masters, 01.02.2018

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Four colour chess

Actually this post is not about 4 player chess, or multi coloured chess boards, but more about an historical link between the Four Color Theorem and chess. The Four Color Theorem states that you only need 4 colours to colour a map so that no region with a shared boundary (not corner) has the same colour. It is one of those maths problems which are easy to state, kind of simple to test, but difficult to prove.
One of the earliest (erroneous) proofs was given by Alfred Kempe, who was a mathematician and lawyer. He was also a pretty strong chess player, capable of pulling off some brilliant combinations. I came across a very good example where a slight slip by his opponent allowed a nice queen sacrifice, which led to the black king being caught in a mating net. Both perfectly sound, and delightfully 19th century.

Kempe,Alfred - S,G [C60]

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

2018 ACT Blitz Championship

Willis Lo has continued his recent run of good form, winning the 2018 ACT Blitz Championship this evening. He scored 8.5/9 conceding just one draw, to FM Michael Kethro. Kethro finished in second place on 7.5, just ahead of IM Andrew Brown on 7.
The 18 player field took  little bit of time to get used to the new FIDE Blitz rules, and as tournament director I did have a couple of tricky situations to deal with. Otherwise the tournament ran smoothly, and it also gave me a chance to test the new DGT Live software (you can see the top board game from each round at

Brown,Andrew (2263) - Lo,Willis
2018 ACT Lightning Championship Canberra, Australia (4.1), 30.01.2018

Upcoming Canberra events

The Canberra chess year is getting up and running, and as usual there are plenty of important events to play in over the next two months.
The first ACT Chess Association event of the year is the ACT Blitz Championship which is being held tomorrow night (30th January) at the Belconnen Chess Club from 7pm. This will be a 9 round event, with a time limit of 5m per game. It is open to all players.
The ACT Chess Championship will be running across the Canberra Day Weekend of the 9th-12th of March. It is a 7 round FIDE rated swiss with a time limit of G90m+30s. The venue will be Campbell High School, with a single round on the Friday night, and 2 rounds on each of the following days.
Then of course there is the O2C Doeberl Cup, which beings on the 29th of March. This year the tournament is being held at the Southern Cross Club Woden, which promises a larger venue and better facilities then University House.
And finally, if that isn't enough, there are a few weekend events outside Canberra, including the 2018 Dubbo Open, which is on the weekend of the 17th and 18th of March.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Bashing the Sicilian

I've featured a couple of wins by WIM Heather Richards from Gibraltar, and now it is the turn for WFM Alana Chibnall to take the spotlight. She looks to have won the Under 2000 prize in the Challengers A Event (Harry Press narrowly missed out on this last year), and while she is finding the Masters a little tougher, she did score a good win over a much higher rated opponent in round 2.
Meanwhile Heather Richards outplayed a strong IM in round 3 of the Masters and look to have finished as the best female player in the Challengers. Both players are performing well above their ratings and hopefully this good form will continue into the second week of the festival.

Chibnall,Alana (1906) - Van Zyl-Rudd,Jack (2197) [A00]
Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2018 Caleta Hotel, Gibraltar (2.124), 24.01.2018

Friday, 26 January 2018

A win for Australia but may be a loss for chess

Not one but two Australian personalities background in chess were highlighted in the news today.
2018 Australian of the Year Michelle Simmons attributed her start in science on beating her father in chess. Having achieved what was she thought was an unexpected win, she began to wonder what else she could achieve. These days she is a Professor in Quantum Physics at the University of New South Wales, where one of her projects is the design of a quantum computer. Read her story here.
The other chess player made good is young Australian leg spinner Lloyd Pope. After taking 8/35 against England in the Under 19 World Cup, it was revealed that apart from being a talented cricketer, he also played competitive chess while at high school. If his career develops, as seems likely, it may set up an interesting clash with Indian cricketer Yuzvendra Chahal who plays currently plays T20 and ODI for his country, and previously represented India in chess at the junior level.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Betting on chess

While poking around the internet I came across the latest betting market on a couple of chess events. It seems you can odds on individual games at Gibraltar and Tata Steel, as well as odds on the tournament winner. You can even bet on a player not winning the event, with Carlsen having the shortest odds to win, and the best payout not to.
The current market for the upcoming Candidates Tournament has Aronian the favourite (at 5/1), with Caruana and Mamedyarov close behind at 11/2. Grishuck and Ding are the outsiders here at 13's. I'm not sure who is setting the odds btw but they've given the house about a 20% edge.

(Note: I am not naming the betting site, or endorsing betting on chess as this has both caused difficulties in the past within the chess world, and that  an organisation I have worked for in the past has oversight in this area)

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

First round dangers

If you have enough players sitting down to play chess, there is a good chance that at least some games won't go according to rating. And when most of those players are rated above 2000, then the chances of this happening are obviously increased.
The first round of the Gibraltar Masters saw this in spades where lower rated players proved to be quite a handful for their higher rated opponents. Top seed Lev Aronian was held to a draw by Anita Gara, while a number of GM's ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard against non-GM opponents.
From an Australian point of view the most outstanding result was WIM Heather Richards beating GM Alexandra Kosteniuk. Richards did not seem overawed by her opponent, taking the fight to her right out of the opening, and capitalising on a blunder by Kosteniuk to win the exchange. Then it was a matter of converting this advantage into the full point, which Richards did after 5 hours of play.

Kosteniuk,Alexandra (2561) - Richards,Heather S (2223) [A00]
Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2018 Caleta Hotel, Gibraltar (1.52), 23.01.2018

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Lani and Richo's Great Big Chess Adventure

Two of Australia's leading women players, WIM Heather Richards and WFM Alana Chibnall have made the journey to Gibraltar to play in the 2018 Gibraltar Masters. Unlike the team of Press and Press (Shaun and Harry) in 2017, they are subjecting themselves to a more punishing schedule, playing in the Challengers in the morning, followed by the Masters in the afternoon.
The first round of the Challengers took place yesterday, with the Masters starting today (1am Canberra time).
It was a mixed set of results for the Australian's, with Chibnall losing after failing to spot a flaw in her plan, while Richards took advantage of a tactical mistake from her opponent. While watching the game live I thought Richards was always better, but it turned out that her opponent missed a couple of strong moves that would have won early on, and at least drawn towards the end.

Maric,Boris (2034) - Richards,Heather S (2223)
Gibraltar Challengers A Caleta Hotel, Gibraltar (1.6), 22.01.2018

Monday, 22 January 2018

The openings we love, hurt us the most

GM Gawain Jones is well regarded here in Canberra, having played in a few Doeberl Cups, where he proved a friendly and entertaining  competitor. Despite moving up the chess ladder since then, he has stuck with a lot of the openings that he played back then, which is why he is a popular player elsewhere as well.
In the current Tata Steel event he wheeled out the Sicilian Dragon against World Champion Magnus Carlsen, which apparently surprised Magnus, despite the fact that Jones has even written a book on the opening. Whether through over confidence or carelessness, Carlsen even managed to blunder a piece in the opening, and looked gone for all money. But he did have a little play for it, and he began to pose problems for Jones. The pressure that Carlsen did exert began to tell and after a couple of inaccurate moves from Jones, momentum swung Carlsen's way. A few moves later the position was even, and then in Carlsen's favour. And soon after the first time control Jones had to resign a game that earlier on was headed for a different outcome.

Carlsen,Magnus (2834) - Jones,Gawain C B (2640) [B76]
80th Tata Steel GpA Wijk aan Zee NED (8.1), 21.01.2018

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The new Number 2

Fans of the Patrick McGoohan show "The Prisoner" will remember the importance of "Number 2", the ever changing antagonist of "Number 6". Recently the chess world has seen as similar situation where various players have taken on the role of  Number 2, potentially challenging Number 1 (Carlsen). The current Number 2 is Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, who is currently leading Tata Steel after scoring his 3rd straight win. He is now a full 10 rating points ahead of third place in the live rankings and is only 18 points behind Carlsen. In part he has been aided by the collapse of Caruana, who has dropped 5 places, and 20 rating points, due to his poor results in Wijk aan Zee.

Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2804) - Wei,Yi (2743) [E06]
80th Tata Steel GpA Wijk aan Zee NED (7.5), 20.01.2018