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

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Highest, Fastest, not quite the strongest

Having look through my database for some interesting games, I began to wonder who was the highest rated player to get mated in 5 moves, in a proper game. Finding the answer was not quite as simple as it looked, as there were a few examples where strong players clearly threw the game in a very obvious manner (An example of this was 1.f3 e5 2.h3 Qh4+ 3.g3 Qxg3#)
So the game I have chosen may not be the absolute record holder, but it at least looks plausible (if a bit weird).

Gardijan,Milan (2153) - Sulc,Gordana (2020) [B20]
Bizovac Metalis op 11th Bizovac (5), 28.02.2004

BTW, if you are looking for games that end Mate in 6, then take you pick from vast number of people who walked into 1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.Qe2 Ngf6 6.Nd6#

Friday, 19 January 2018

ACT - Punching a little above its weight

While arbiting at the recent Australian Championship, I kept a special eye on the players from Canberra who took part in the various events. The ACT has always punched well above it's weight in Australian chess, and this year was no exception. Three ACT players took part in the Championship itself (IM Andrew Brown, FM Michael Kethro and Albert Winkelman) which is not a bad number considering the ACT makes up 1.6% of the Australian population. Andrew Brown finished in a tie for 8th place, while Michael Kethro (5/11) and Albert Winkelman (4.5/11) did not do so badly.
In the Reserves event Willis Lo finished in 2nd place, after going down in the final round. He started the event seeded 22nd, and had a particularly impressive second half of the event.
In the Classic event Matt Radisich surprised even himself by finishing in third place, going through the tournament undefeated to finish on 5.5/7.
And finally, Fred Litchfield  had a strong Blitz championship beating IM Stephen Solomon, FM Jack Puccini, and IM Leonid Sandler to score an impressive 7/11.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Viva Anand

After a less than stellar 2017 (except for the last bit), Viswanathan Anand continues his resurgence at the Tata Steel event in The Netherlands. He won his first round game against Maxim Matlakov and then drew with Karjakin in round 2. In round 3 he was up against Fabiano Caruana, and defying the age gap, beat the young American in a complicated game. He now leads the event on 2.5/3, along with Anish Giri, who seemingly surprised everyone by winning his first two games.
As I type this Giri is up against World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a sharp line of the French, where Black has thematically sacrificed the g and h pawns for activity in the centre. Anand is facing countryman Adhiban, and might be outright first by the time I wake in the morning.

Anand,V (2767) - Caruana,F (2811) [C42]
80th Tata Steel GpA Wijk aan Zee NED (3), 15.01.2018

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

2018 Australian Junior

The 2018 Australian Junior Chess Championship is up an running in Melbourne, and it looks like there is a record field on hand. The main event is the Under 18 championship which has attracted a pretty solid field of 22 players, although typically missing the very top Australian juniors.
The older age groups (open) run the entire length of the tournament, while the majority of events start on Wednesday. The ACT is represented by 8 players this year, with Sulia Van Sebille probably the best hope of taking home a title, in the Under 14 girls.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Tata Steel 2018

After two weeks of watching chess during the day, now it is back to two weeks of watching chess late at night. The 2018 Tata Steel event has just begun (15 minutes ago!), with the heavyweight clash of Carlsen v Caruana first up. The 14 player round robin also has Kramnik, Giri, So, Anand in the field, so there should be plenty of good games each round.
This tournament should also provide something of a preview for the upcoming Candidates tournament with a few of Carlsen's likely challengers in the field. It may be an opportunity for them to both test Carlsen, as well as try and get a physiological edge over each other. Of course Carlsen could use the tournament to repeat Capablanca's dominant win in the 1927 New York tournament ( 2.5 points ahead of Alekhine), although if he does, he should hope that history does not repeat itself further, as Alekhine then defeated Capablanca for the World Championship title later that year.

2018 Australian Championships - Illingworth wins

GM Max Illingworth finished his dominate run in the 2018 Australian Chess Championship with a final round win over FM Gene Nakauchi. Nakauchi chose a line against the French Defence that was known to be bad from one of his previous tournament games and Illingworth was already better by move 10. The game ended with a sacrificial attack followed by a smothered mate combination. The win moved him to 10 points from 11 rounds, a full point ahead of GM Anton Smirnov.
Smirnov had a quick final round game after WGM Pauline Guichard miscalculated a pawn grab and dropped a piece. GM Moulthun Ly secured third fourth place with a short final day draw with IM James Morris.
The other game of significance was between IM Ari Dale and IM Gary Lane. A win for Dale would have given him a 9 game GM norm, as he was able to drop two winning games over lower rated opponent earlier in the event, to raise the average rating of his opponents to the required level. Lane chose an aggressive attacking line against Dale's Caro-Kan, but once the attack petered out, Lane's lack of development proved fatal. The win gave Dale a TPR of just over 2600 which was enough for the norm.
The Reserves event also had a dramatic finish with WCM Nguyen Phan beating round 10 leader Willis Lo, to capture first place on 9/11. Phan, who lost her first round game, recovered from a slow start to finish the tournament with a run of 6.5/7. Despite the loss, Lo still finished outright second on 8.5/11.

Lane,Gary W (2401) - Dale,Ari (2356) [B18]
2018 Australian Championship Sydney (11.4), 12.01.2018

Friday, 12 January 2018

2018 Australian Championship - Day 10

GM Max Illingworth is on the verge of winning the 2018 Australian Championship, after another strong win in round 10. The Only player who can now possibly catch him is GM Anton Smirnov, who kept the gap between the two players to a single point, after also winning his round 10 game.
Illingworth is playing FM Gene Nakauchi in today's last round, while Smirnov faces WGM Pauline Guichard. A loss to Illingworth, and a win to Smirnov would see the title decided by a future playoff match.
GM Moulthun Ly's chances of being part of the last round dramataics took a hit when he drew with IM Kanan Izzat in round 10. He now sits on 7.5/10, along with IM Ari Dale who beat IM Stepehen Solomon in a tricky Bishop v Pawns ending. Despite the win, Dale has fallen just short  (by half a point) of scoring a GM norm, as the tournament does not have enough GM's for a 10 game norm, and his TPR for a 9 game norm is just below 2600. (*** Correction ***) If Dale beats Lane he does get a 9 game GM norm as he an drop wins over his two lowest rated opponents, and just exceed the 2600 TPR required.
In the Reserves tournament, Willis Lo has kept the lead with a round 10 win over Pieter Bierkins. He faces WCM Phan Nguyen in the final round, with the tournament being decided by the result of this game.
The final round for both tournaments commences at 1015 this morning, with all the winners likely to be known by mid afternoon.

Illingworth,Max (2494) - Lane,Gary W (2401) [D20]
2018 Australian Championship Sydney (10.1), 11.01.2018

Thursday, 11 January 2018

2018 Australian Championships - Day 9

The 9th round of the 2018 Australian Championship saw wins for the tournament leaders, leaving the places at the top unchanged. GM Max Illingworth seemed to catch IM Kanan Izzat by surprise in the opening, with Izzat thinking for 15 minutes over his third move (and leading GM Ian Rogers to ask me if the DGT broadcast had frozen). As Izzat fell further behind on the clock, his position deteriorated and he went down to a quick defeat.  GM Anton Smirnov beat veteran IM Stephen Solomon in a game which had a long tactical sequence that ended in a winning knight ending for Smirnov. GM Moutlhun Ly had to work a lot harder against FM Brandon Clarke, and was rewarded when Clarke made a fatal mistake in a ending that may have been hold-able.
With 2 rounds to go, Illingworth leads with an impressive 8/9. Smirnov and Ly are a point behind, with IM Ari Dale in 4th place on 6.5/9.
In the Reserves tournament, Willis Lo has taken the outright lead after beating George Lester. Lo, who had applied to play in the championship (along with a few other Reserves players), goes into the last to rounds on 7.5/9, ahead of 5 players on 7.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

2018 Australian Championship - Day 8

The 2018 Australian Championship is now down to a race among 3 players, after some crucial round 8 games. On the top board GM Max Illingworth defeated IM Bobby Cheng, playing a very aggressive system against the Pirc. He held the initiative throughout the game, and Cheng resigned on move 34. IM Kanan Izzat had to fend off a strong attack from GM Anton Smirnov before drawing soon after the first time control. On board 3 GM Moulthun Ly put a dent in the chances of IM Ari Dale after beating him in 32 moves. Spotting a tactical chance, Ly got both of his rooks on the 7th rank, after which Dale's king was unable to be saved.
With 3 rounds to play, Illingworth leads with 7/8. Ly and Smirnov are a full point behind on 6/8. There is a group of players back on 5.5, but even if Illingworth does stumble in the final straight, I cannot see anyone from this group outpacing all the leaders.
The 2018 Reserves Championship continues to be a wide open event, with previous leader George Lester being brought back to the pack by CM Vishal Baht. They were joined on 6.5/8 by WCM Nugyen Phan, and Willis Lo, who both won their round 8 games. The top 4 are paired in round 9, so both this round and the next may decide who gets to play in the 2020 Championship.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

2018 Australian Championship - Day 7

Back from the rest day, the 7th round of the 2018 Australian Championship saw the players engage in some very hard fought games. GM Max Illingworth maintained his half point lead, drawing with GM Moulthun Ly on the board 1 clash. On board 2 GM Anton Smirnov and IM Bobby Cheng played a very exciting game, where at one point Cheng looked to have overpressed, before reaching a position where Smirnov had to very careful in his choice of moves. A draw just after the first time control was the eventual outcome.
IM Ari Dale moved into outright third with a win over IM Andrew Brown. Dale, who had a poor run of form befoe Christmas, has bounced back in this event, and is edging closer to a possible GM level result (2600 performance rating). He is playing GM Moulthun Ly in round 8 and a win (or possibly a draw) would keep these chances alive.
Today's eighth round sees Illingworth against Cheng, Smirnov against IM Kanan Izzat, and Dale against Ly. The action begins at 1pm Sydney time (on site), with the delayed broadcast starting at 1:30pm

Brown,Andrew (2293) - Dale,Ari (2356) [E97]
2018 Australian Championship Sydney (7.3), 08.01.2018

Monday, 8 January 2018

2018 Australian Championship - Day 6

Day 6 of the 2018 Australian Championship was a rest day for the main events, which might have been a good thing given the extremely high temperatures in Sydney (over 40 Celsius for most of the day). Instead of slow chess, 102 players turned up to play the 2018 Australian Blitz Championship instead.
The tournament was an 11 round swiss, played with a 3m+2s time control. For the first time, the new FIDE Blitz rules were in effect, with the most significant change being that the first illegal move no longer loses the game (an additional minute being given to the opponent instead).
English FM Brandon Clarke was almost unstoppable in winning the event, scoring 10.5/11, dropping only half a point to IM James Morris. He played 1 GM and 5 IM's and had a performance rating over 2700. GM Moulthun Ly finished 2nd on 9.5/11, with IM Kanan Izzat third on 9/11. Ly's second place was enough to earn the title of Australian Blitz Champion though, as Clarke was ineligible for the title.
Despite the new rule changes, the tournament ran very smoothly. The two 'floor' arbiters (myself and Nick Cooper) were able to handle the various illegal move claims quite quickly (usually 2 or 3 a round), while Bob Keast did a great job of collecting results. A lot of the credit for the smooth running of the tournament should go to the players themselves, as there no disputes, and no reasons to trouble the appeals committee.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

2018 Australian Championship - Day 5

The final round before the rest day saw players on the top 2 boards taking a pre-rest rest. Both games were drawn pretty quickly leaving GM Max Illingworth (5.5) in the lead over GM Anton Smirnov (5.0) by half a point. GM Moulthun Ly and IM Bobby Cheng (both 4.5) were joined in third place by IM Ari Dale, who beat Bahman Kargosha on board 3.
With 5 rounds the play the eventual winner will almost certainly come from this group of 5 players. Illingworth has a slight edge over Smirnov at this stage, both by virtue of his half point lead, and the energy required to win his games. On the other hand Illingworth has yet to play Cheng and Ly, while Smirnov only has Cheng to face in the leading group.
In the Reseves, Pieter Bierkens and George Lester share the lead with 5.5/6. There Round 7 clash will be keenly watched by the large chasing group, with 12 players within a point of the lead.
David Lovejoy finished outright first in the 7 round Classic, after beating John Redgrave in the final round. However most interest was in the board 2 game between Daniel Melamed and Peter Wilson, where Wilson (as Black) marched his king to a5 just out of the opening,  leaving the rest of his army behind. A very tough game ensued, with Melamed eventually winning a tricky RNvQ ending to secure second place.
Today (7th January) is a rest day for the Championships and Reserves. The Australian Chess Federation is holding their national conference, with the Australian Blitz Championship starting at 2 pm.

Friday, 5 January 2018

2018 Australian Championship - Day 4

GM Max Illingworth continues to lead the 2018 Australian Championship after beating IM Ari Dale, scoring his 5th consecutive win. Under pressure from Illingworth, Dale risked everything with a speculative rook sacrifice which was ultimately unsuccessful. Close behind Illingworth is GM Anton Smirov who found IM James Morris' king a juicy target. Tomorrow the two leaders face off in a game that will have a significant say in the final outcome of the tournament.
Further down there were a few tragedies, with FM Tim Reilly unable to avoid a stalemate trick from Sam Asaka, despite being a piece up in the ending, while IM Gary Lane found almost the only move that gave GM Moulthun Ly a forced mate in an otherwise drawn ending.
The Resrves sees 4 players now sharing the lead, with Vishal Baht, Tom Slater Jones, George Lester and Pieter Berkins all on 4.5/5. Bhat and Berkins meet on the top board, with Lester and Slater-Jones playing on board 2.
The final round of the Classic is being played tomorrow, with David Lovejoy leading on 5.5/6. He plays John Redgrave who is 5 points, while Daniel Malamed and Peter Wilson (also on 5) play on the second board. Obviously a win for Lovejoy makes him outright first, while any other result could lead to a tie at the top.

Russell,Paul - Shi,Eric [B01]
2018 Australian reserves (5), 05.01.2018

Thursday, 4 January 2018

2018 Australian Championship - Day 3

GM Max Illingworth is the outright leader in the 2018 Australian Championship, after 4 rounds of play. Today he beat IM George Xie in a tactical game to move half a point of closest rivals, GM Anton Smirnov and IM Ari Dale, who drew their top board clash.
There were a number of tough games further down, with wins to GM Moulthun Ly, IM James Morris, IM Bobby Cheng and GM Gene Nakauchi moving them to a share of 4th place with 3/4. Round 5 will see Dale play Illingworth on board 1, with Morris against Smirnov on board 2.
CM Tom Slater-Jones and CM  Vishal Baht share the lead in the Reserves tournament with 4/4. They play on the top board in round 5. Just behind on 3.5 is a group of 4 players, including Tom's brother Henry.
With 2 rounds to play in the Classic, David Lovejoy and Kevin Shen share the lead with 4.5/5. They play in tomorrows 6th round, with the winner looking good to take out first place. A draw would even throw the event wide open, as there are a further 6 players tied for third on 4/5.
The start time for all events tomorrow is 1pm. The top 8 boards of the championship are being broadcast via Chess24, while the top 2 boards of the Reserves can be seen at

Illingworth,Max (2494) - Xie,George Wendi (2369) [A45]
2018 Australian Championship Sydney (4.2), 04.01.2018

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

2018 Australian Chess Championship - Day 2

Today saw the first, and only double round day of the 2018 Australian Chess Championship. Double round days can be quite difficult to manage for players, as the temptation to 'conserve' energy can lead to some missed opportunities. It turned out not to be the case in most games however, as both the morning and afternoon rounds saw tough battles across all the boards.
At the end of three round three players share the lead on 3/3. GM Anton Smirnov beat IM Andrew Brown in the morning round, and followed it up by beating GM Moulthun Ly in a hard fought game in round 3. GM Max Illingworth had a good win over IM James Morris to also reach 3, while IM Ari Dale bounced back to form with wins over IM Bobby Cheng and IM Kanan Izzat.
Tomorrows round sees Smirnov play Dale on board 1, while Illingworth is up against the returning IM George Xie.
The Reserves event is still proving to be a very tough event, with the top 9 seeds all dropping at least half a point over their first 3 games. Tom Slater-Jones is the highest seeded player on 3, joined by another 5 players on the same score.
The 7 round Classic tournament also has a multiple tie for first, with 5 players on 3/3. Tomorrow is another double round day for this tournament, so the potential winners of this tournament should be a little more apparent after another 2 games. Unlike the Reserves, the top seeds are doing a lot better, although I would not rule out a surprise winner.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

2018 Australian Championships - Day 1

The 2018 Australian Championship began today, with most of the top seeds surviving a testing first round. The 34 player event saw a couple of upsets, with Arthur Huyhn beating IM Stephen Solomon, and FM Kevin O'Chee scoring a nice win over IM Gary Lane. On the other hand top seed GM Anton Smirnov had a fairly straight forward win over FM Michael Kethro, and IM Bobby Cheng rebuffed an ambitious attack by FM Zachary Loh.
The Reserves tournament attracted a field of 98 players, and the top seeds found it especially tough. Kevin Sheldrick drew on board 1 to Nicholas Johnson, while seeds 3 (WCM Phan Nguyen) and 4 (Nathan Hibberd) both went down.
The Classic saw a field of 65 players, with the top half scoring heavily. One exception was Sophie Davis defeating Patrick Beahan, a rating difference of 848 points.
Tomorrow is a double round day for all 3 events. Round two starts at 10:15am, with round 3 at 3:30 pm. The top 8 boards are being broadcast at Chess24, with the non broadcast games being available after the round is finished.

Huynh,Arthur (2042) - Solomon,Stephen J (2365) [D67]
2018 Australian Championship Sydney AUS (1.9), 02.01.2018

A quick update from Sydney

The start of the 2018 Australian Chess Championships is only a few hours away. The tournament set up is complete, and all that is needed is for the players to turn up!
The top 8 boards of the Championship are being broadcast on Chess24. The direct link is
There will also be embedded pages from the tournament website, although this will be set up later.