Saturday, 21 July 2018

Bad officiating - What do you do?

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

FIDE Fatigue - Not just yet

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

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

Friday, 20 July 2018

The Anti Fort Knox?

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

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

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Buddy Blitz

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

Monday, 16 July 2018

World Senior Teams

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

Sunday, 15 July 2018

With the internet broken, there is always poker

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

Saturday, 14 July 2018

IM Justin Tan wins Paracin 2018

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

Thursday, 12 July 2018

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

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

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

IM Justin Tan on fire

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

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

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Roll your own training site

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

2019 Oceania Zonal - Guam

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

Monday, 9 July 2018

You can only play once

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

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

Sunday, 8 July 2018

England v Sweden

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

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

Thursday, 5 July 2018

You be the arbiter

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

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

Combined Arms

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

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

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Number 184

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

Sunday, 1 July 2018

Happy chess

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

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

And Kirsan drops out

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

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