Monday, 14 October 2019

2019 New Caledonia Open - Day 2

IM Russell Dive is the sole leader of the 2019 New Caledonia Open, with 4 wins from 4 games. He defeated IM Anthony Ker in round 4, while the all GM pairing of Sammy Shoker v Adrien Demuth ended in a draw. In tomorrows round, Dive is paired with Shoker, while Demuth is up against FM John Duneas on board 2. Duneas was fortunate to escape with a draw against WFM Camille De Seroux, after De Seroux had been better for most of the game. Canberra player Miles Patterson us in a group of players on 3 points, winning from what was drawn position in round 4, after his opponent miscalculated in a rook and pawn ending. He also had the pleasure of witnessing the following round 3 game, which was decided by a trap in his favorite opening.

Demuth,Adrien - Giraud,Sylvain
New Caledonia Open (3) 2019

Sunday, 13 October 2019

2019 New Caledonia Open - Day 1

The 2019 New Caledonia Open started today, with 40 players in the top section, and another 42 players in the junior events. Top seed is Egyptian GM Sammy Shoker, who is currently working in New Caledonia as a secondary school teacher. Second seed is GM Adrian Demuth, with New Zealanders Anthony Kerr and Russell Dive rounding out the top 4.
The first day started with 2 rounds, and while the top 4 finished with 2/2, there were a couple of upsets in the second round. FM Michael Steadman blundered in the opening against Michel Veu and had to scramble for a draw. FM Bob Smith sacrificed a large amount of material against local player Nicolas Douyere and found to his horror that there was no win, and no draw either. Otherwise most of the other games went according to seeding, although there were a number of relieved players handing in scoresheets at the completion of their games.
Tomorrow is another double round day, with the top seeds getting closer to playing. Full results from the tournament (and pairings for the next round) can be found at


Saturday, 12 October 2019

2019 New Caledonia Open

Today saw the opening ceremony for the 2019 New Caledonia Open. It was well attended and saw an unusual method of drawing for colours. The top 2 seeds GM Sammy Shoker and GM Adrian Demuth played a rapid game, with the winner being white in the first round. In a tense game, watched by an attentive crowd, Demuth won on time, in a position that was better, but still hard to win.
After that excitement, there was a drinks and nibbles function for the players, before everyone retired for study/sleep etc.
The first 2 rounds take place tomorrow, starting at 9am local time. At the close of entries there were 36 players in the top section, including 2 GM's and 2 IM's (Russell Dive and Anthony Ker). There is also a B tournament (for junior players) and a girls event as well.

Friday, 11 October 2019

IOM Masters

Despite my attempts to stay up for it, I will probably just miss the start of the Isle of Man Masters. It begins in around half an hour my time, which is 1am Canberra time (for anyone keeping score). The tournament is a 154 player swiss, with the winner qualifying for the Candidates tournament (except if that winner is Magnus Carlsen). Unlike previous years, the pairings seem to be back to top half v bottom half, so Carlsen is playing Kuzubov in the first round, rather than someone like Caruana.
While there are no Australian players in the field, IM Brandon Clarke who lived here for a number of years is. He is seeded towards the tail, but with his rating now well over 2400 a decent set of results could put him in GM norm territory.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

You always need a backup plan

Just a random observation from the ACT Junior Chess Championship. Less experienced players are still able to form and execute a good plan, but when it doesn't succeed, they often replace it with no plan.
In more than one game, I saw players fall to pieces after their opponents found a defence their attacking idea. Instead of starting over (in terms of assessment and planning), they simply played for tricks, and soon went down.

Monday, 7 October 2019

2019 CJS Purdy Memorial (Ryde-Eastwood) Open - Day 3

IM Igor Bjelobrk has won the 2019 CJS Purdy Memorial (Ryde Eastwood) Open with a comprehensive 6.5/7. Starting the day on 5/5 he defeated Jack Rodgers in the morning round, before a quick draw with Fred Litchfield in round 7 wrapped up first place. WGM Jilin Zhang took outright second on 6 pints, after defeating IM George Xie in the final round. Third place was shared by Litchfield and Rodgers, on 5.5.
The three rating sections were all closely contested, with each group seeing a 3 ways tie for 1st. There was a mixture of senior and junior players collecting prize money, with veterans like Tony Baldwin and Vic Tanev sharing in the spoils.
Full results for this event can be found at

Sunday, 6 October 2019

2019 Ryde Eastwood (CJS Purdy Memoral) Open - Day 2

Day 2 of the 2019 Ryde Eastwood (CJS Purdy Memorial) Open sees IM Igor Bjelobrk in outright first on 5/5. He defeated second seed IM George Xie in the crucial 5th round, after Xie had also started with 4 wins. He is closely followed by Jack Rodgers on 4.5, who won 4 of his games and drew with WGM Jilin Zhang in round 4. On 4 points is a group of 6 players, including Xie and Zhang.
Rodgers and Bjelobrk meet in round 6 tomorrow morning, while Xie, Zang and Fred Litchfield all hoping to win their opening games of the day to have a chance of cacthing the top 2.
Current results can be found at

Jiang,Jack - Huynh, Arthur [C55]
Ryde Eastwood Open (5) 2019

2918 Ryde Eastwood (CJS Purdy Memorial) Open - Day 1

The first day of the 2019 Ryde Eastwood (CJS Purdy Memorial) saw 5 players start with 3 wins from the 3 games played.
Normally a 3 round day would see players collapsing from exhaustion (or taking half point byes for the final round), but the easier 60m+30s time limit meant most players survived the ordeal. The top two seeds IM Igor Bjelobrk and IM George Xie were joined by Bengt Largo, Fred Litchfield and Jack Rodgers at the top of the table. WGM Jilin Zhang leads a large pack on 2.5, after Daniel Malamed held her to a draw in the third round.
The event saw a good field of 79 players enter, some being attracted by the $5200 prize pool, while others by the single tournament format. Tomorrow sees rounds 4 and 5 before the field enjoys watching the Raiders win the NRL Grand Final. Results from the tournament can be found at

Friday, 4 October 2019

2019 Ryde Eastwood Open

The 2019 Ryde Eastwood Open is running from the 5th to the 7th of October, at the Ryde-Eastwood Leagues Club in Sydney. At this stage the tournament has attracted a strong field, and a rush of last minute entries is expected.
While the tournament isn't FIDE rated, it is being run using a time control that may prove popular for future FIDE rated events. The 7 round event is being played with a time control of 60m+30s per move. This is due to the tournament schedule being arranged around the timing of the Rugby League Grand Final (Go Raiders!), meaning the usual Sunday evening round is not held in this case.
So the tournament sees 3 rounds on Saturday, with 2 rounds on the other days.
As an experiment, I (in my role as Chief Arbiter) will be using the new Vega results service. You can see the list of entries, as well as results at 
Hopefully it will all work ok, but if not head over the and I will update them there.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

2019 New Caledonia Open

New Caledonia is hosting an international open event between the 13th and 19th of October 2019. At this stage a strong field of players has entered, with 2 GM's and 3 IM's heading the field. While the majority of player are local, there is a large group of NZ players, and a smaller group of Australian players.
I had originally intended to play, but have been called in to be the Chief Arbiter instead. I have always wanted to visit New Caledonia, so I am looking forward to the tournament.
The current list of entries is at and I hope to update them as new entries come in.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

No fun on the wrong side of the board

Liren Ding has taken the lead in the final of the 2019 World Cup, with a nice win over Teimour Radjobov in game 2. It was a pretty dominant win for Ding, especially as he sacrificed a pawn in the opening, and did not regain it until the position was overwhelmingly in his favour. From Radjabov's point of view I suspect this wasn't an enjoyable experience, as for most of the game he had to defend, while watching Ding target Black's weaknesses and improve his position.
Of all the moves played by Ding, I particularly liked 36.Ka2. It didn't actually threaten anything immediate, but it allowed Ding to create a couple more threats, while avoiding any counterplay based on checks on the back rank. And in the end Radjabov couldn't defend everything, and with his king in a mating net, he resigned on move 40.

Ding,Liren (2811) - Radjabov,Teimour (2758) [A19]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (7.2), 04.10.2019

Monday, 30 September 2019

Another World Cup best of

Another good game from the 2019 World Cup involved Jeffrey Xiong and Jan Duda. It was all the more significant because this was a 'must win' game from Xiong, as he had lost the first game in round 4. After move 26 White has a clear advantage, but if you wonder why Duda didn't capture on d5 on move 28, then you're in the same boat as me. It turns out that Xiong simply moves the rook to d1, pushes the f pawn to f4, and at the right moment plays f5+, checks on e1, captures on d5, and wins with Re7!

Xiong,Jeffery (2707) - Duda,Jan-Krzysztof (2730) [C24]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (4.2), 21.09.2019

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Another lesson in king safety

While the following game was played at my local chess club (and not in somewhere like Khanty-Mansiysk) it does have a passing resemblance to the game I presented from yesterday. White gets a nice position out of the opening, but it is only when Black neglects his king safety (in this case by capturing on f5), that the position falls apart. Despite attempts to find a way out, Black cannot cover every entry point of White's heavy pieces, and the combination of a passed pawn and threats against the Black king soon prove decisive.

Patterson,Miles - Grcic,Milan [A04]
Belconnen CC (3), 25.09.2019

Down to 3

The World Cup is now down to 3 players. Teimour Radjabov defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the second game of their semi final, while Liren Ding and Yangyi Yu finished their semi final at 1-1. This means Ding and Yu will go to tie break games to see who plays Radjabov.

Radjabov,Teimour (2758) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2774) [A34]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (6.2), 27.09.2019

Friday, 27 September 2019

Best World Cup game of rounds 1 and 2

With so many games being played at the 2019 World Cup it is hard to decide which one is the best played game. The organisers are offering a special prize in this category, and have opened it up to the public to vote on. A panel of experts is making up a shortlist and then the most popular game wins.
For the first 2 rounds the game between Firouzja and Dubov got the nod. The voting for the best game in rounds 3&4 is still open at this time, and if you wish to vote, follow the links from here.

Firouzja,Alireza (2702) - Dubov,Daniil (2699) [B31]
FIDE World Cup 2019 Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (2.2), 14.09.2019

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

The Collywobbles

"Collywobbles" is a term that both means an upset stomach, and the semi-regular choke by the Collingwood AFL team. It turns out that the second definition was in play on Saturday night, as Collingwood lost their preliminary final, despite being the overwhelming favourite against Greater Western Sydney.
Chess players can always sympathise, as it is very easy to turn a winning position into something less than that. Tonight's Belconnen Club Championship round saw a number of endings where players went from simply winning, to either drawing or losing.
The most tragic example came from the position below. White has an easily winning bishop ending, which quickly became a winning pawn ending. However he forgot about Black's a pawn and went from winning on move 5 (6.b4! is simple enough)  to drawing on move 6 (after 6... a4!). 
In fact White was lucky not to go from hero to zero, as he was just able to get his king across to c2 in time to corner the black king.

White (Collingwood Fan!) - Black
Belconnen CC, 24.9.2019

Protect not punish

One of the concepts that new (or young) players have is that the laws of chess are as much about protecting them as it is about punishing their opponents. During a school coaching session yesterday there was a player who wanted to change their move on the grounds that their initial move was 'bad'. When I pointed out that they had taken their hand off the piece and that meant the move stood, they argued that it was a silly rule. My counter argument was that if she was allowed to ignore the rules, so was her opponent, and that her opponent could now checkmate her by simply playing two moves in a row. I'm not sure how convincing that argument was, as she then simply resigned and started a new game.
The concept of rules being a protection applies in other ways. One of the most common causes of disputes is 'touch move' where one player claims their opponent touches a piece, and the other denies it. In the absence of witnesses the normal practice is to accept the denial, unless the player concerned has 'form' in this area.  While some may argue that this is unfair to disbelieve a players claim, it does protect players from false or mistaken claims made by an opponent.
Of course this did not help in one case I read about recently. During an international junior event a player moved while the opponent was away from the board. Then before the opponent returned, they played a move for the opponent (with a rook), but returned the piece to the start square. When the opponent returned and played a different move, they claimed the opponent had touched the rook and had to move that instead, which lost in all cases. Normally this would be rejected by the arbiter, but as the games were being played on DGT boards, the 'fact' that the rook had been moved was registered, and the claim was upheld!

Sunday, 22 September 2019

2019 ACT Teams Rapid

The 2019 ACT Teams Rapid was the first non junior teams event in Canberra for many a year. The idea for reviving teams in chess in Canberra came from WFM and IA Alana Chibnall, who put in a large amount of work to make it happen.
As this format is unfamiliar to local players, the turnout of 10 teams was actually quite pleasing. The 3 chess clubs in Canberra all fielded official teams while Street Chess, ANU and a couple of high schools also had entries.
The format was a 7 round swiss, 4 board matches, and game points counting for final standings. The other rule was that teams could not have a average rating above 18501650, and it was this rule that made the day both enjoyable and successful.
The winning team was the ANU Chess Society team, who finished on 18/28. Second was Belconnen Chess Club on 17, followed by the Canberra Chess Club team on 16.5. As the next 3 teams finished on 16.5, 16 and 16, it showed what a close event it was.
The prizes for the best scores on each board went to CM Lalit Prasad Bd 1 6.5/7, Mark Hummell Bd 2, 6.5/7, Yizhen Diao Bd 3 6.5/7, Donghoon Shin Bd 4 6/7. Belconnen Chess Club also won the Larko Cup for the best score by an ACTCA club.
Feedback from the players was overwhelmingly positive, and this tournament looks like being an annual event. With a solid start in terms of teams, it is likely that it will grow in future years to become a significant part of the Canberra chess scene.

Website redesign

Not mine, but the FIDE website. The front page has been redesigned to have the more important information (news, events) front and centre, with the links to other pages placed elsewhere. As it only launched two days ago there are still some broken links, but visit to check it out.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Chess Lesson

Sitting on my desk is the March 1985 edition of Chess in Australia. The front page shows the results of the first Karpov v Kasparov World Championship Match, which was abandoned after 48 games. The decision was controversial as Kasparov had just won 2 games in a row, although Karpov still led 5 wins to 3 (6 wins needed to win the match).
Kasparov won the follow up match (which was limited to 24 games), with Karpov famously suggesting that the first match essentially trained Kasparov in how to beat him. If so, the first 9 games were a hard lesson for Kasparov as he lost 4 games (and drew 5), including this one in the third game of the match.

Karpov,Anatoly (2705) - Kasparov,Garry (2715) [B44]
World-ch30-KK1 Karpov-Kasparov +5-3=40 Moscow (3), 17.09.1984

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Happy 25th Twic

The Week in Chess has turned 25 years old this week. Run by Mark Crowther in that time, it quickly established itself as the 'goto' news source for chess. Back in the late 1990's when Paul Dunn and myself presented The Chess Show on 2SSS TWIC was the main source of overseas chess news for the show. It also provided the first reliable source of pgn files from current events, which proved invaluable for the travelling chess professional.
Starting as a side project, it quickly developed into a full time job for Crowther, and made him a real celebrity in the chess world. The fact that has continued to run for 25 years shows how highly regarded it is in the chess world, and a real appreciation for for Mark Crowther's efforts.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

A missed opportunity

One of the big things I missed while overseas was the Lifeline Bookfair. I did kind of participate, as my son kindly rang me while I was in Khanty, and asked me if there was anything I wanted him to buy for me. As it was a voice call I had him read out a few titles, and picked up a couple of books (including one I discovered I already had).
Based on early reports it seemed I hadn't really missed out (only about a dozen books I was told), but later summaries described a large pile of books available on Friday morning, including a number of very good titles. This seems to be more accurate, as a visit to at least one second hand bookshop in Canberra showed they had acquired quite a large number of chess titles, and were now selling them at a bit of a mark up.

Monday, 16 September 2019

While I was travelling

While I was traveling back from Russia, I did try and keep up with what was happening in the World Cup. With 32 round 2 games in progress there was still plenty of action. While there were a lot of games to choose from I've decided to highlight the comeback win for Safarli. He got absolutely destroyed in the first Round 2 game by young Indian GM Nihail Sarin, in a game which drew praise from everyone, including World Champion Magnus Carlsen. So faced with a must win game to stay in the match, Safarli chose to play an Evan's Gambit! This strategy worked in two ways, with Sarin spending a lot of time in the opening, and keeping the game unbalanced. The game had a dramatic finish as well, with Sarin dropping a piece in time trouble.
With momentum running his way, Safarli then won the first playoff game, before winning the match with a draw in the second.

Safarli, Eltaj - Nihal, Sarin [C52]
FIDE World Cup 2019, 2019.09.14

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Last day in Khanty

Today was my last full day in Khanty-Mansiysk, as I am heading home early tomorrow. While I wasn't entirely happy with how I played (especially in Game 2), it was certainly an experience I never imagined I would have.
I only made it here though an extraordinary amount of luck, and while I think that luck could have gone to someone far more deserving than myself, it did come about through me playing in the right event. In my case, entering the 2019 Oceania Zonal wasn't about qualifying for the World Cup, or even earning titles, but simply to support the organisers in Guam, who made a huge effort to hold the tournament in a pretty remote location.
While playing Olympiad chess for the last 20 years is something I find constantly amazing, playing here was on another level entirely. Even now that I have finished I still feel like a fish out of water, especially as I know this will never happen again. So my journey back home starts with a 4:30am wake up call tomorrow, followed by 40+ hours in transit. And when I get back to Canberra it will shower, sleep and a return to where I belong, at my local chess club, and running Street Chess on Saturdays.

Friday, 13 September 2019

An outrageous bluff

After the disappointment of yesterdays game, I decided to cheer myself up with a little site seeing around Khanty, before heading back to the venue to watch the playoff games. As much I don't like matches being decided by faster and faster games, I do admit they are exciting to watch.
I suspect one of the reasons is that there are more inaccuracies, which makes the games more accessible to average players. Even more entertaining is when everyone except the two players can see what is going on, as happened in at least one game I saw.
Sam Shankland needed to beat Eltaj Safarli to stay in the tournament, having lost the previous 10m+10s game. This was looking very unlikely at move 27, as Shankland blundered with 27.a4?? But Safarli began to think, and it became clear to the commentators, that Safarli was only looking at 27...Ra6, instead of 27...Rxd6, which wins a piece. After a couple of minutes thinking, Safarli played 27...Ra6, letting Shankland of the hook, for one move at least. However Shankland still had a problem, in that moving the rook from a1 dropped the a pawn. So based on the fact that Safarli had already missed Rxd6, he made the incredibly practical decision to play 28.a5. This paid off in the short term when Safarli missed the tactic a second time, playing 28...Rc6.
However the story did not have a happy ending as Shankland wasn't able to turn the resulting position into a win, and went out 3.5-2.5 in the tiebreaks.

Shankland, Sam - Safarli, Eltaj [D94]
FIDE World Cup 2019, 2019.09.12

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Shaun blows a sandshoe

While my second game in the 2019 World Cup had the expected result, I am disappointed with how I played at the end. One of my usual plans against the English Opening is to play a reversed Closed Sicilian, but after what happened in the first game, I decided playing the same line a tempo down wasn't a good idea.
What I chose instead wasn't that great either, but it did make Ding think for a good 15 minutes on move 5. My first real mistake was putting the knight onto b6 instead of playing an immediate c5, and after that the pawn on e5 cramped my position. The other issue was that every time I wanted to castle, Bxh7 was devastating. The I got to a position where I though I could castle, as he couldn't take my hanging bishop on d7 (Rd8 wins the Queen), but I'd stupidly overlooked b5 first, when my trick no longer works.
So out in 2 games as expected. I am staying on for a couple of days to be a spectator, before heading back to Australia on Saturday.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

No upset but not upset

Game 1 of the first round in the 2019 World Cup is done and dusted. At least in my pairing the result went according to rating, with Liren Ding beating me in 34 moves.
Based on his most recent games I had prepared lines in the Ruy Lopez, but it turned out he had been looking at my not so recent games, and had prepared some lines against the Closed Sicilian. I did not mind this as I figured I could play enough sensible moves to reach some kind of middlegame, but once I got there I started to play less sensible moves.
In his post match comments Ding thought that 21.Nb2 was better than 21.Re1, although GM Ian Rogers thought 14.Rb1 was unnecessary, and 18.b3 was where my troubles really started. For me both 17...Be6 and 19...Nd4 caused me a lot of trouble. I also did not expect 22...Ne3, but decided I had little choice but to take the offered pawn, knowing the open lines were bad for me.
Nonetheless I found it quite an enjoyable experience. I was incredibly nervous leading up to the game, but once the game started, it was about playing moves, even if they weren't the best ones.
Now I have to go back and do this again tomorrow, with the Black pieces. While this does not make it any easier, having played one World Cup game, I know what to expect for my second.

Press, Shaun - Ding, Liren [B26]
FIDE World Cup 2019, 2019.09.10

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

White in the first game

The 2019 FIDE World Cup was officially opened last night with an entertaining opening ceremony, which contained the usual assortment of welcoming speeches, singing and dancing, and human chess pieces. As part of the ceremony, there was the drawing of colours, in which the top seed (Liren Ding), chose the black pieces for the first game.
After the ceremony there was a players meeting where the rules were covered. While it was a mixture of seriousness and good humour, there were a couple of interesting points that came out of it. Firstly, this looks to be the first World Cup without any female players. Secondly, no one admitted to being a smoker when the topic of the smoking area came up. Nonetheless I'm sure there are still a few smokers in the field, which might be confirmed if smoke is seen escaping from the ladies bathroom.
I'm spending the last few hours before the first game doing my prep. Ding may pull a surprise for this game (and to be honest he could pretty much play anything against me), but in recent games he has stuck to the same opening choices. All I need to do is not overload my brain with too many lines, keep my nerves in check, and I should be able to play at least a few moves before the holes in my opening repertoire become obvious.

Monday, 9 September 2019

The Russian commute

I've realised than when I travel to overseas chess events, I'm more of a commuter than a tourist. This was certainly the case in getting to Khanty-Mansiysk, which took around 2 days of planes, trains and airports.
The trip itself was largely uneventful, except for a bit of a detour on the Moscow Metro system where I confused north and south and started by heading away from Sheremetyevo Airport, before realising what I had done!
The 1am flight from Moscow to Khanty was full of sleeping chess players, including Ian and Cathy Rogers, who are here to cover the first week of the World Cup. For anyone who played at the 2010 Olympiad, the Olympic Hotel (where most teams stayed) is still the same as it was, including the downstairs bar that was popular with a lot of us.
The opening ceremony for the World Cup is this evening, with the first round starting tomorrow. According to the schedule the rounds are at 3pm, which is 8pm Canberra time. I face top seed Ding Liren in the first round, although the drawing of colors has not taken place yet, so I do not know if I am white or black. With the usual security restrictions in place, I won't be taking my phone to the venue, so any updates from me will have to wait until I get back from the venue.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Time to move on

Today is my last day in the Solomon Islands. I've had an enjoyable 5 days , running a FIDE Arbiters course, but now it is time to move on.
I am off to the World Cup, which involves travel for the next 2 days. First stop is Brisbane, then Dubai, Moscow and finally Khanty. My plan is to do a lot of sleeping on the plane, although I'm not convinced I will be successful. Depending on my results in the first round, I will probably be heading back by the end of next week, just in time to run a few local school events in Canberra!

Friday, 6 September 2019

2019 ACT Rapid Teams Event

The first local (ACT) teams event for a number of years is being organised by the ACT Chess Association with the help of the ACT Junior Chess League. It is open to everyone, regardless of age, and is being held on Saturday the 22nd September 2019. The venue is Campbell High School (next to the War Memorial) and will be a 7 round event played with a time limit of 15m+5s increment.
Teams will consist of 4 players, with an average rating of no more than 1600. This will hopefully make the tournament more competitive, with no "superstar" teams dominating the competition. Of course the rating limit may require a bit of strategic thinking, as it may be the case that a team of 1550's across 4 boards might do better than a team of 2x2000+2x1200.
The local ACT Clubs will also be competing for the Larko Cup, which will be awarded to the best team from a single club. The tournament starts at 10am (registration from 9:30), and even if you don't have a full team, you can still organise one on the day. It will be FIDE rated, and surplus funds will support the Australian Schools Teams Championship being held in Canberra later this year.
Full details can be found on the tournament brochure here.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Really long castling

I've been trying to keep an eye on the Chess960 from St Louis while running an Arbiters Seminar in the Solomon Islands. While I'm not a big fan of the format (at least in serious competitions) it does have its moments. In one of the early games, the start position had the kings on c1/c8 with rooks on either side. The games looked pretty normal, until most of the back rank had been cleared, when suddenly the kings moved from the c file to the g file, dragging the d rook with them. While legal in Chess960, it still came as a bit of a surprise.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

How to be a millionaire

Chess has hit the finance pages with news that Magnus Carlsen has bought the chess training site Chessable for 1 million pounds. Carlsen, who already has the successful 'Play Magnus' app, looks to be branching out into other areas of chess business. For developers this is also a good sign as it does demonstrate that a well designed and popular website or app is worth investing in. It may also spark the growth of new innovation in this area, as people search for the next big (and profitable) thing.

Ten years later

The first leg of my latest overseas journey is underway. After a gap of 10 years I am heading back to the Solomon Islands, to run a FIDE Arbiters seminar. Last time I was there (in September 2009) I was playing in the Solomon Islands International, which I was fortunate enough to win.
With the Solomon Islands hosting the 2020 Oceania Under 20's Championship, the Oceania Chess Confederation and the Solomon Islands Chess Federation have organised a 3 day seminar in Honiara to help train up more local arbiters. It's been a few years since I last helped run an arbiters seminar, but apart from significant changes to the FIDE Fair Play guidelines (AKA Anti-Cheating) most of the rules and regulations are pretty much the same.
Checking on my old posts from 2009 I noted that I was able to send regular updates from Honiara, so I expect to be able to do the same this time.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Surprising little rules

I'm off to run an Arbiters Seminar in the Solomon Islands this week, and have been going through old exam papers and lectures notes. While double checking the recent changes to the Laws of Chess, I was reminded of an old, but possibly overlooked rule. In the case of a capture, your move has not been 'made' until you release the captured piece from your hand. As a result, pressing your clock with a captured piece is actually illegal.

(** Update: As has been pointed out in the comments section my reading skills need some work, in that I read 'capturing' as 'captured'. So please ignore everything in this post)

Friday, 30 August 2019

A new toy

I've recently updated my version of Chessbase, and have been playing around with the Analysis function. Previously I used to us Fritz to 'auto annotate' my games, but this is now built into Chessbase as well. Looking at a very old game of mine, it threw up an older game, which I had been accidentally following up until move 10. As the ending of both games was reasonably similar I thought I share it.

Heilpern - Pick [C44]
Wien Vienna, 1910

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Lots of travel for a bit of chess

Starting early next week I will be off on one of the stranger chess adventures I have ever had. My first port of call is Honiara, in the Solomon Islands, to run a FIDE Arbiters training course. The day after that finishes I am off to Khanty-Mansiysk for the 2019 World Cup, going via Brisbane, Dubai and Moscow. While the first part of the trip was planned months ago, the second half of the trip only came about in somewhat strange circumstances.
GM Max Illingworth was the original representative from the Oceania Zone, by virtue of winning the 2019 Oceania Zonal. However, due to personal circumstances he was unable to attend the World Cup, which meant the runner up could go in his place. I was the runner up! So with very short notice I had to organise visa's and travel, which fortunately I was able to do.
Given the way the seeding system works, my first round opponent  is Ding Liren. This is obviously a tough pairing for me (not so much for him), but hopefully I can put up a fight. I would joke that I am heartened by the number of draws he had at the just completed Sinqufeld Cup, but the fact he has just finished equal first has convinced me not to.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Pal Benko

Pal Benko has passed away at the age of 91. One of the last links between the pre and post Fischer era's, he was not only a Grandmaster, but a prolific problem composer and writer. Born in France, he grew up in Hungary, before defecting in 1957. Settling in the United States he was a regular on the tournament circuit, winning the US Open 8 times and qualifying for Candidates tournament twice. However it was one tournament he did not play in, the 1970 Interzonal, that may have been the most significant, as he gave up his spot to Bobby Fischer, who went on to win the World Championship in that cycle.
He visited Australia to play in the 1985/86 Australian Open, and then visited a number of other cities and events (including a simul in Canberra IIRC). While he did not win the Australian Open (Guy West finished first), he did play a nice attacking game against Kevin Harrison.

Benko,Pal - Harrison,Kevin [B53]
Australian Open 1984-85

Monday, 26 August 2019

The draw offer

One reason why I've missed a couple of days of blogging (apart from laziness!) is that I've been watching the 3rd Ashes Test. An amazing finish, with England winning by 1 wicket. And while it isn't within the rules of cricket, I was left pondering the following question "If draw offers were allowed, when should Australia have offered one, and would England have accepted?"

Friday, 23 August 2019


If you are looking for a 'causal' alternative to chess, then try the 'Chesses' suite of games at There are a number of variants here including 'Gravity Chess' which was featured on a number of recent tech sites. There is no AI for any of the games, so to try them out, you need to play yourself. As part of the fun is discovering the rules yourself, I won't spoil it too much for you, but I will admit to winning/losing a game of 'Chance' in one move! (Hint: 1.e4 is a dangerous move for white)

Thursday, 22 August 2019

The playing arbiter

I do my best to avoid playing and arbiting the same tournament. The main reason is that being an arbiter distracts me from being a player, and my chess results suffer. The other problem is that if you have an issue on your own game, making a ruling can be difficult.
Such was the case in a game I played yesterday. I am running events at the Canberra Chess Club while their usual arbiter is taking a holiday. As there was an odd number of players I stepped in as the 'house player' After sorting everyone else out I sat down to my game. My opponent asked me to check the clock as he wasn't sure it had been set correctly, but it *looked* fine to me (The clocks at the club are usually left with the setting from the previous round). The game proceeded normally until we reached move 31. At this point I noticed my opponent had forgotten to press his clock and with 5 seconds left, I did not wish to win this way. So I pointed this out, and when he did not react, I pressed his side and played my final move. I then realised he had not received his extra 30s and deduced that this clock had been set incorrectly (ie 90m but no increment). So I stopped the clock, and explained to him what had happened. As it was my responsibility (as arbiter) to ensure the clock had the correct setting, I felt that one option was to offer him a draw. As the other choices included adding on the missing time, but leaving him in a lost position, he chose to take the half point.

Press,Shaun - Jones,Mitchell [B22]
Memorial Cup, 21.08.2019

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Leonard Barden turns 90

Happy birthday to Leonard Barden, who turns 90 years old today. While remembered mainly for his longevity as a chess columnist, he was one of England's top players in the 1950's and 60's, playing in 4 Olympiads. Significantly he has a 'Morphy Number' of 3, having played Jacques Mieses in 1948, with Mieses playing Henry Bird in 1899, and Bird playing Morphy in the 1858.
The following game was played early in Barden's career, and was considered by himself as one of his favourites. It also contributed to the theory of the Two Knights Defence, with 10.Qe4 now considered the refutation of 5. ... Nxd5 line.

Barden,Leonhard William - Adams,Weaver Warren [C57]
Hastings 5051 Hastings (3), 1950

Monday, 19 August 2019

Knowing the tricks

White to move
One of the differences between new chess players (especially in competition) and experienced players, is that the experienced player knows more 'tricks'. These can be simple tactical tricks like 'capture then fork' or Philidor's Legacy (Queen and Knight smothered mate), or more subtle ideas in the ending.
One example occurred recently in a quickplay game I was watching. Black had come back from a piece down to reach this ending, but was unaware of the winning idea when you have pawns one file apart. After 1.Ke2 he started off correctly by pushing the b pawn with 1. ... b4. After 2.Kd2 the winning idea is keep the pawns a knight move apart eg 2 ... d4 3.Kc2 Kf6 (Black has enough time to catch the h pawn) 4.Kb3 d3! If White takes the b pawn the d pawn queens. So 5.Kb2 Kg4 6.Kc1 b3! 7.Kd2 b2 and the b pawn promotes.
Unfortunately Black was probably unaware of this trick and thought his only winning chance was to promote the d pawn with the help of the king. As a result the h pawn was able to queen before this could happen, and White then won quite easily.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Waking up to this

The 2019 Sinquefeld Cup is starting shortly, and with the time zone difference between St Louis and Canberra, the games will be underway when I awake in the morning. I've already had a bit of a warm up, with the St Louis Rapid and Blitz running over the last few days. Unfortunately for me, one of the first games I saw was the following win by Liren Ding over Fabiano Caruana!

Ding,Liren (2805) - Caruana,Fabiano (2818) [A25]
Saint Louis Blitz 2019 Saint Louis USA (9.5), 13.08.2019

Friday, 16 August 2019

Stopping the 4 move checkmate

I, like so many new players, suffered the indignity of losing to the 4 move checkmate early in my career. It happened in a school chess competition, and I was so shocked and annoyed, that I spent the next class drawing a chess board in the back of an exercise book, and then moving the pieces using pencil and eraser until I worked out what had happened.
Fortunately technology is now sufficiently advanced that we have computers that do this for us. And the theory of the 4 move checkmate has moved forward as well, with a strong GM demonstrating the correct defence when confronted with the opening.

Carlsen,Magnus (2882) - Dominguez Perez,Leinier (2763) [C20]
Saint Louis Blitz 2019 Saint Louis USA (7.3), 13.08.2019

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Vale Richard Voon

Richard (Dick) Voon, one of Australian Chess's more colourful characters has passed away in Melbourne. He had been a constant figure on the chess scene throughout my time at the board, being a regular competitor in the Doeberl Cup, and often turning up unexpectedly at other far flung chess event. When I first started playing he was a good 2000+ rated player, and his strength did not fall much below that for most of his career. He was a keen blitz player, and often he was the last player out of the tournament hall, protesting as the organisers packed up for the night.
His blitz skills did prove useful on occasion, especially in the days of no-increment chess. In a 40 moves in 90 minute event back in the 80's, he had only reached move 15 with his flag hanging, and needed to play the next 25 moves in around 60 seconds. As his opponent still had over an hour on the clock, Voon was trapped at the board for that time, having the reply instantly to whatever move was made. Apparently he did manage to make it to move 40 with seconds to spare, and went on to draw the game!
Dick Voon will be missed by the Australian chess community, who will be poorer for his passing.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Maintaining tension

IM Bill Hartston once commented that the the player who has the choice between pushing a pawn or exchanging it usually has the initiative in the centre. Implied in this comment is doing one or the other then dissipates this initiative.
This game from the 2019 NSWCA August Weekender is an example of this. On Move 12 White played c4, which actually helped Black a bit (12.Ne3 was more testing). Black could have maintained the tension with moves like Ne7 and Bb7, but instead pushed the d pawn immediately. With the centre now locked up, White had a free hand to start attacking on the king side, which she did with h4. Manoeuvring the knight to f6 was the next part of the plan, and after Blacked erred by not immediately exchanging it off, a piece sacrifice was enough to decide the result.

Chibnall,Alana - Clarke,Matthew [A08]
2019 NSWCA August Weekender (5.4), 11.08.2019

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Outsourcing from Canberra

It is a popular election promise to 'take jobs from Canberra' by getting staff to move from the nations capital, to rural areas (ignoring the fact that more federal public servants live in Sydney than anywhere else). But while there are a number of good reasons why a centralised public sector works better than a distributed one (concentration of talent, the ability to exchange staff and ideas, better recruitment pool, dispatching people from Canberra has other effects.
Fred Litchfield journeyed from the cold cold winter of Canberra, to the warmth of Queensland, and played in the 2019 Bundaberg Open. Seeded 6th behind 4 IM's and a WIM, he won the event with a very impressive 5.5/6. After starting with 2 wins, he played the 4 IM's over the final 4 rounds, scoring 3.5/4. He drew with IM Stephen Solomon (in round 5), and beat IM Alex Wohl, IM Brodie McClymont and IM Peter Froelich. Solomon and McClymont  tied for 2nd on 5/6, in a field of 42 players.
Litchfield's win over Wohl started his charge to the finish. Wohl offered a pawn in the opening, and then dropped one in the middlegame. This looked to unsettle him as a bigger blunder occurred soon after, and faced with ruinous material loss, he resigned.

Litchfield,Fred - Wohl,Alex [D32]
Bundaberg Open, 10.08.2019

DIY Chess Clock

One of the many unfinished (or unstarted) projects on my to do list, was building my own digital chess clock. I'd first thought about this in the early 1980's, but it never got beyond the concept stage, as I have no talent for basic electronics.
As components have become cheaper and more accessible, it has in fact become easier to pull this off. And rather than it being a heavy duty construction activity, a trip to the local electronics store should allow to by all the parts you need.
As for the actual building of a chess clock, this article "How to make a Chess clock with Arduino" provides you with the details. As the Arduino is programmable, you can extend the features of the clock if you wish, adding other time controls and playing modes if needed.

Friday, 9 August 2019

Street Chess with a chance of snow

Snowfalls are quite rare in Canberra, especially for a city where winter mornings often start below zero. However, tomorrow may see snowfalls in the morning, especially as there have been brief falls this evening. If so, I hope to get some good pictures of Street Chess being played out in the snow, as this has been something I've hoped to do for the last 20 years or so.
But even if it doesn't, dress warm and come along anyway!

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Two piece or not two piece

It is fairly rare that giving up for two pieces for a rook and pawn is the right idea. I learnt this lesson a long time ago, but for some reason such an exchange still tempts me. During a recent club game I entered a variation where I had to decide between retreating a bishop, or giving up knight and bishop for rook and pawn. Ordinarily this would be a clear cut decision in favour of retreat, but it still took me quite a while to make this choice.  Fortunately this turned out to be the correct move, and taking advantage of the location of my opponents rook, I was able to find a winning tactic a few moves later.

Patterson,Miles - Press,Shaun [A29]
Korda Classic, 06.08.2019

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

The Fifty-Percenter

This recent miniature from the Belt and Road tournament in China, is an example of what is known as the 'Fifty-Percenter'. Black tries a sharp attacking idea which only leaves him with a totally lost position. At this point normal moves do not work, so he tries one last trick, with 15... Qg1+ Now if chess was a game where moves were chosen randomly, then there is a 50% chance that 16.Rxg1?? would be played. As it isn't (well for most of us anyway), White chose 16.Kxg1 and Black resigned.

Ganguly,Surya Shekhar (2638) - Wei,Yi (2737) [A33]
Belt and Road Hunan Op A Changsha CHN (5.2), 02.08.2019

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Value your trophies

The ACT Chess Association and the ACT Junior Chess League are organising a teams rapid event in Canberra on Sunday 22nd September. Part of the planning is deciding on trophies, medals and other prizes. Fortunately the traditional trophy for teams events in Canberra, the Larko Cup, has been sitting in my study for the past decade, waiting for this tournament to be revived.
I suspect that a number of chess trophies are in a similar situation, sitting in someones garage, study or lock up, half forgotten, and waiting for a chance to be re presented. Indeed some neglected trophies  may turn out to have more than just sentimental value.
Recently a friend of mine recovered some trophies for a teams event that went back over 100 years. They were taken to be tidied up and valued, and in true "Antique Roadshow" style, were appraised at around 80,000 pounds. In part this because of their historical value, but more likely, because they had both a high silver content, and were made by silversmiths of great renown. Now that their true value is know, I suspect they have been moved from the boot of my fiends car, and have been placed somewhere far more secure.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Bird is not the word

The 2019 British Championship finishes this evening (Canberra time), and GM Michael Adams currently leads on 6.5/8. There are 3 players half a point behind him, including IM Richard Palliser. While Palliser is probably better known as an author and opening analyst, he is a more than capable player as well. In round 8 he faced GM Daniel Fernandez (currently residing in Sydney, Australia) and played an aggressive line against the Bird's. 4.g3 seems to be the start of White's problems, and by move 7 Black was winning.
Other players with an Australian connection in this event are GM Justin Tan and IM Gary Lane. Tan has had a good tournament (including draws with Adams and Howell) and is on 5/8. A loss in round 8 derailed IM Gary Lane's hoped for a good finish, and he is currently on 4/8.

Fernandez,Daniel Howard (2466) - Palliser,Richard J D (2399) [A02]
106th ch-GBR 2019 Torquay ENG (8.4), 03.08.2019

Friday, 2 August 2019


While I discover this more by accident than by design, Eurosport TV is carrying more an more chess as part of its regular programming. This evening saw coverage of the recent Grand Prix event from Riga, and they will also cover the upcoming Hamburg and Tel Aviv events. As these shows are often repeated (for a while), you might be able to catch them over the next couple of weeks.
Even if you don't you can get their other chess coverage at

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Cruelty at the chessboard

Black to play
The shown position occurred during the final round of a local interschool event yesterday. Black was playing someone from the same school, and was on a perfect score (6/6). With a large group of spectators gathered around, he decided to play to the crowd with 1. ... e3 After White played 2.hxg6 he even let out a little 'Oh!' as though he misplayed the ending. Of course he hadn't, and he quickly played what he had planned to all along, 2. ... e2 3.g7 e1=R 4.g8=Q Rf1+ 5.Kg3 Rg1+ winning the queen on g8.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

One really good trick

The first round of the 2019 ANU Open saw a couple of upsets on the lower boards. One was a win by Bevan Clouston, who was able to play his favourite Morra Gambit against WIM Biljana Dekic. Once he played 9.Nd5 is was pretty much all one way traffic, with Closton finding some nice moves along the way.

Clouston,Bevan - Dekic,Biljana [B21]
2019 ANU Open, 27.07.2019

Monday, 29 July 2019

The cleverest move

One of the things that makes chess interesting is how (and why) we choose our moves. After assessing the position and coming up with a plan, we select the best move that fits our plan. And in a perfect world this would mean we never make a mistake, and every game of chess would end in a draw.
In practice we often choose a move that we think is pretty clever, and usually it is. But sometimes it is a move that we think is clever, that gets undone by a move that is cleverer. One such example occurred in the following brevity from the 2019 ANU Open. White thought they were winning a pawn or even a piece, only to walk into a checkmate!

White - Black
ANU Minor Canberra, 28.07.2019

Sunday, 28 July 2019

2019 ANU Open - FM Luis Sanchez wins with 6/7

FM Luis Sanchez has won a very combative 2019 ANU Open, finishing with 6/7. He started the day with a win over joint leader FM Michael Kethro and then held off IM Junta Ikeda to draw round 6. He then faced Fred Litchfield in the final round, with Litchfield needing a win to overtake Sanchez. After 62 moves a draw was finally agreed, leaving Sanchez half a point ahead of Litchfield and Ikeda. FM Michael Kethro ginished 4th on 5/7, winning the best ANU player prize. CM Lalit Prasad on the Under 2000 prizes, Jayden Ooi was best Under 1800 and Lachlan Ho was the best Junior.
Bazli Karattyatil lead the Under 1600 event from start to finish, scoring 6.5/7. Athena Hithiramani finished in second place for the 2nd year in a row on 6 points, with Ken Zhang and Ramon Luo tied for third.
Games from the top boards of the Open are available at (along with the results). There were also a number of interesting games that didn't feature on the DGT boards, but I hope to put a few of them on this blog in the next few weeks.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

2019 ANU Open - Day 1

Day 1 of the 2019 ANU Open produced some very exciting chess, with a number of upsets and narrow escapes.
Top seed Junta Ikeda was in trouble in round 3 after some inventive play by Wenlin Yin, but collected the point when Yin lost on time. However Ikeda's luck ran out in round 4 in a tough game against FM Michael Kethro. Kethro had to give up a piece for a passed pawn, but was able to use his remaining pawns to win the game.
This puts Kethro on 4 points, along with FM Luis Sanchez. Sanchez defeated fellow FM Donato Mallari in the 4th round , in a bishop v knight ending. In third place are Ikeda, Mallari and 2017 winner Fred Litchfield. There is a large group of players on 2.5, and while they are in a position to influence the final places, it is unlikely that a winner would emerge from that group.
The Minor (Under 1600) tournament also has two players tied for first. Bazli Karattiyatil and Athena Hathiramani have both won all 4 of their games, and will play in round 5. With another 7 players on 3, the final winner of this tournament is a little harder to predict, although the winner of the top board clash would be a clear favourite with 2 rounds to play.
You can get the results of the tournament, as well as replay the games from the top 4 boards at The 5th round begins at 9:30 am tomorrow with the remaining rounds starting at 12 and 2:30

An old ANU Open Game

With the 2019 ANU Open beginning shortly, I thought I'd find a game from when I regularly played this event. I did find a nice win over Andrew Brown (before he became an IM), where I was able to march my kingside pawns up the board, before finding the decisive breakthrough. If I had to point the finger at any particular White move, 11.c5 seems to be too committal, although Stockfish thinks it is pretty equal until 20.Kh1

Brown,Andrew - Press,Shaun [D56]
ANU Open Canberra (4), 23.07.2005

Thursday, 25 July 2019

2019 ANU Open Online Coverage

The 2019 ANU Open will have live coverage of the top 4 boards. You can find the links to the live coverage as well as pairing and results at
The first round starts at 10 am on Saturday, and there will be 4 rounds on the Saturday and 3 on the Sunday.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Knight on rim, prospects are dim

Apparently the following the game was the result of some deep preparation by Mamedyarov against MVL's Grunfeld Defence. It also demonstrates the maxim about having a knight sitting on the edge of the board. And while the resignation may look a little surprising, Black is out of useful moves, and White is at least +4 according to Stockfish.

Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2765) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2775) [D85]
Riga FIDE Grand Prix 2019 Riga LAT (4.1), 22.07.2019

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Bxf2 (or f7)

Win or lose, I always like to take something away from any game of chess I play. It can be a good move, or new idea, or just something seemingly unique. While looking for an interesting game to post this evening, I came across an old game I played against Stephen Mugford. It was the very definition of a 'casual' game, as it was played with a glass of red in our hands, under non tournament conditions. What made this game stand out was that we both got a chance to to play BxKB7+ (in the old language). As for the rest of it however, the quality of the moves were far exceeded by the quality of the wine.

Mugford,Stephen - Press,Shaun [C23]
Casual, 18.09.2003

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Adams v Torre

The Adams v Torre game is a well known chess classic that turns up in a lot of "Greatest Game" collections. But while looking for it during a coaching session, I cam across a more modern version of the same pairing, from 2002. It of course saw Michael Adams play Eugene Torre, and while it isn't as well known as the original, it still has a very nice finish.

Adams,Michael (2745) - Torre,Eugenio (2523) [C97]
Bled ol (Men) Bled (3.1), 28.10.2002

Friday, 19 July 2019

2019 ANU Open - 1 week to go

The 2019 ANU Open is only a week away. IM Junta Ikeda is the current top seed in the Open, with FM Luis Sanchez seeded second. The Under 1600 event is also looking pretty competitive, with 22 entries so far, although this event normally attracts 50 plus players.
You can register online at Registration is pretty straightforward, but if you hit a field that insists on an ID number or rating, just enter 1. The organisers will sort it out.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Win, draw , loss

While I feel that endgames aren't the hardest part of chess, I accept that they can be the most stressful. While your choice of moves becomes narrower, the consequences of getting them wrong is more dramatic.
Here is a snippet of game that demonstrates this point. Prior to this position Black had been winning, but had lost a piece to a tactic. His only hope of saving the game was to distract the bishop long enough and try and force a bishop and wrong coloured rook pawn ending. Probably influenced by being a piece up, White didn't realise there was a second danger in the position. After Black played g4 White need to exchange pawns, and White is still winning. Instead he pushed to h4, and now the position was drawn. At some point Black will play g3 and if the f pawn captures, Black has his desired wrong coloured rook pawn ending.
At this point White made his second fatal choice. Trying to free the bishop, he ran his king towards the b pawn. Black decided there was no harm in delaying g3, and when the king was far enough away, played the winning pawn push!

White -Black
Canberra 2019

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

A pretty poor tie-break

Finding a 'perfect' tie-break is a pretty inexact science in most sports. The better ones at least still have some notion of the game remaining as a contest, rather than just stopping at some point and declaring a winner.
So the tie-breaking method to decide the Cricket World Cup was pretty poor by this standard. The game was tied after 50 overs, and then tied after the "Super Over", which is the equivalent of a penalty shootout. The trophy was then awarded to England on 'most boundaries scored' which sounds like something chosen by a committee who didn't think it would ever be required. In chess terms this would be like deciding a drawn World Championship match on "most number of checks".
The most obvious result would have been to share the trophy, which is a policy that I've also been in favour of in a lot of chess events I've been involved in. But failing that, "head to head", "least wickets lost", or "finishing position" would have all probably made more sense.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Chess is (happily) weird

With so many GM's these days (over 1000 at least), trying to stand out is harder and harder. In the good old days (ie 1980's) you could earn a reputation by playing openings like the Scandinavian or the Scotch. As these openings have now gone mainstream, players need to do more than that.
The recent trend is to eschew what would be considered more 'classical' positional ideas and instead focus on the initiative. In some circumstances it works, and is very entertaining when it does, but it can be just as entertaining when it doesn't.
In the following game Black is very intent on giving up material for an attack. White's position is solid enough that he could have taken the offered piece on move 18, but waited until move 23 before doing so. Despite Black having open lines and plenty of pawns, his attack went nowhere, and it was White, with good old fashioned central control and better developed pieces that won.

Fridman,Daniel (2638) - Kulaots,Kaido (2560) [B22]
47th GM 2019 Dortmund GER (1.1), 13.07.2019

Sunday, 14 July 2019

"That really got out of hand fast"

Two days ago I was reading a complaint about how GM Igor Rausis was using the "400 point rule" to game the FIDE Rating System. The claim was that he was playing lots of weak players to gain around 1 rating point per game, boosting his rating 20 well over 2600. But within 24 hours that went from a complaint about manipulating the rating system to a very credible accusation of using a mobile phone during a tournament game.
Based on subsequent reports and admissions by Rausis, it looks as though he is 'banged to rights'. It seems that Rausis was already under suspicion based on previous tournament games, and so was being monitored at his latest event. This monitoring turned up fairly clear evidence he was using a phone during the game, and as a consequence he is now facing charges from the FIDE Ethics Commission.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

2019 Oceania Seniors

The 2019 Oceania Seniors is taking place in New Zealand, as part of a chess festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Howick-Pakuranga Chess Club. The 23 player field consists mainly of NZ players, but there are 3 Australian players taking part.
The first round saw only one upset (Nigel Cooper beating Nigel Metge), but I expect more upsets to occur over the next few rounds. Unlike most open events the field is quite compact in terms of rating, so a winner from the 7 round event isn't easy to predict.
The tournament crosstable can be found here, while there is live broadcast (and replays) of the top 9 boards at this link.

Friday, 12 July 2019

The pawn pusher

To call someone a "pawn pusher" is usually considered an insult, but not always. I know some chess players who regard "pawn pusher" or "wood pusher" as a completely accurate character description. On the other hand, if you make a habit of pushing too many pawns, then the following may happen

Tal,Mihail - Tringov,Georgi P [B06]
Amsterdam Interzonal Amsterdam (23), 21.06.1964

Thursday, 11 July 2019

More non chess stuff

The more I play chess, the less I seem to blog about it. Instead of coming up with something suitably 'chessy' I'd like to congratulate the New Zealand Cricket team for winning their World Cup semi final against India. But to at least have some chess content, India's attempts to get over the line reminded me of trying to mate your opponent after blundering a piece in the opening. In India's case is was more than one piece, but as in chess, the margin of error was so narrow that once more wickets fell, it was all over.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Every now and then I see an article like this

While not endorsing what is clearly a marketing pitch I feel I do have to share this.
"Getting a home loan is like mastering a game of chess"
I'm not sure that I agree with the headline, but as someone who has had a few home loans in my time, it does take a little skill to organise one. What I did notice though, is that it is easier to get them after you have already had one, which I guess is the same as chess, in that it is easier to play after you've already played lots of games.
(**Disclaimer: Don't ever take financial advice from me **)

Monday, 8 July 2019

Hasten slowly!

"Hasten slowly" is a favourite saying of my father, and one that could apply to my chess. I travelled up to Sydney to play in the 2019 NSW Rapidplay and a combination of good luck and a favourable draw saw me finish on 5.5/7 ( a share of third place).
The strategy I decided to employ for this event was to head for simpler positions than I usually aim for in the opening, as at the faster time control (20m+10s) meant that time for calculating complicated variations was limited. Ultimately this strategy paid off, although in a few games a draw might have been a fairer result.
One game that demonstrates how this work was my round 5 game against Ralph Shaw. While seeded a fair way below me, Ralph was having a good tournament (we were both on 3/4 at this stage), so I decided to be a little cautious in how I went.

Shaw,Ralph - Press,Shaun [C63]
NSW Rapid 2019, 07.07.2019

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Chess on wheels 2019

The 2019 Tour de France has snuck up on me, but I did catch part of the first stage. Apart from the beautiful French scenery, there will of course be the obligatory "chess on wheels" comments from the media. If you can't get (or don't want) the television coverage, I always find The Guardian's live blog entertaining and informative. 

Friday, 5 July 2019

Just chill baby baby

While the end of a chess game usually involves a polite handshake, this is not the case in other games. Apparently getting into your opponents face is a thing in some e-sports, and this then can escalate into something worse. describes this issue at a recent event. But what surprises me is the article suggests that one cause is the fact that the players are close to each other, as opposed to being separated like in other events. If this were so, then there would be a lot more punching at chess tournament, which there isn't. Instead, have a look in the (NSFW) comments section for more accurate reasons!

Thursday, 4 July 2019

The pawn wall

For some children chess starts of as a bit of a mystery, and often remains that way. One of their early instincts is to simply move pawns forward, setting up a kind of zig zag pattern (a4,b3,c4,d3,e4,f3,g4,h3). Annoying as this is to see as a chess coach, breaking through such a setup is often beyond their opponents. I usually suggest developing pieces and occupying the empty squares, but for a group of kids whose main attacking idea is Bc4+Qh5, the payoff isn't always obvious.
So dipping into the well of  "who really played this?" games, I have found an example that might be useful. Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen go for a similar zig-zag pawn structure on the kingside, and the unprotected squares provide a nice home  for the knights. But instead of sitting on the position, Carlsen eventually tries to open the position with f5. If Nepo had captured with the e pawn it would have been fine for him, but he took with the g pawn, and after g4 he was suddenly lost!

Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2775) - Carlsen,Magnus (2875) [B30]
Croatia GCT 2019 Zagreb CRO (7.1), 03.07.2019

Monday, 1 July 2019

Like wine tasting

The recent game between Carlsen and Mamedyarov from the Grand Chess Tour event has left me a little conflicted. I cannot decide whether it is some high level brilliance well above my level of understanding, or a club hack played by two GM's. I am leaning towards the latter, and wonder what someone unaware of the identity of the players would make of the game. It might be worth conducting such an experiment in the future, if such games become a feature of top level chess.
Here it is in all its glory. Comment are welcome.

Carlsen,Magnus (2875) - Mamedyarov,Shakhriyar (2774) [A15]
Croatia GCT 2019 Zagreb CRO (4.2), 29.06.2019

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Dealing with wing attacks

I had a chance to follow up my post about the Steinitz Principle with a practical example from a game I played today. My opponent launched a kingside pawn storm but did so before his centre was secure. As a result I was able to push back in the centre, stalling his attack, and eventually winning a pawn. Although I did not play the subsequent rook ending as well as I should, I still manged to score a win, ironically with one of my own kingside pawns promoting.

White - Black
Street Chess, 30.06.2019

Friday, 28 June 2019

2019 ANU Open - 27th and 28th July 2019

The 2019 ANU Open is being held across the weekend of the 27th and 28th July 2019, at the ANU Schools of Art and Design, Childers St, Canberra. Now in it's 27th year, the event offers over $3000 in prizes, including a top prize of $1000.
Online entries can be made at and a tournament brochure containing all the event details can be downloaded from there.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

The Steinitz Principle

One of Steinitz's revolutionary ideas (for his time), was that a successful kingside attack required a solid centre as a precondition. As with most general rules this doesn't always hold, but it is a piece of advice that club players would do well to pay more attention to.
I'm guessing that this game from the first round of the GCT even in Croatia owes something to this idea, but I'm not actually sure how much. The early g5 thrust idea by Nepomniatchi has become much more common in recent top level games, although Anand then turned the tables by keeping his king in the centre, and launching his own kingisde attack instead. Fortunately for Black, White couldn't do much with the open h file, and in the end the weak central squares were occupied by Black, leading to victory.
While the classicist's of the 20th century may not have approved of play by either side, I'm sure Steinitz would have found this game quite logical from his point of view.

Anand,Viswanathan (2767) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2775) [C55]
Croatia GCT 2019 Zagreb CRO (1.5), 26.06.2019

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

DIY Chess Sets

I was having a discussion about giant sets sets (like the ones used in Hyde Park Sydney, or Garema Place Canberra) and the topic of replacement pieces came up. Single pieces are often hard to source, and a full replacement set is a little expensive. One suggestion was to simply use traffic cones with a picture of the piece taped to it as a temporary fix. While a practical solution, it probably lacks the aesthetic charm required for such a set.
One solution is to use a 3D printer to make a replacement. For example, someone has used such a device to print a giant rook. This could be used to replace one that has gone missing, and if you click on the link, you will find that inside the rook, is in fact an entire chess set that could be used to play a smaller game!

Monday, 24 June 2019

Getting a little better

Despite attempts to make at least one blog post per day, I am once again falling short. Surprisingly the cause of this is that I am quite busy with of all things, chess! It is the middle of the Canberra Interschool season, and some of my days are taken up running events.
One thing I'm pleased to report on is that the understanding of the game has improved among Canberra school students in recent years. Previously I have more than my share of bizarre rule interpretations, but they seemed to have disappeared recently.
One example was in a game today when a player said his opponents fingers bumped his king, but he then moved another piece. When I explained 'touch move' applied when a player touched a piece 'intending to move it' he was happy to tell me that his opponent didn't touch his piece on purpose. Of course there were a few illegal moves played, but even then they were corrected without much stress. Probably the greatest surprise for the 60 odd players who took part was that in competition chess, you don't have to say "check"!

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Queen for piece

There has been a lot of recent excitement about Queen sacrifices, especially where a player gives up the queen for long term attacking chances, rather than for a more direct mate. The recent game between Alireza Firouzja and Murali Karthikeyan saw Karthikeyan sac his queen for two pieces on move 9, but go onto win in 53 moves. Comparisons were made to Nezhmetdinovs classic queen sacrifice from 1962, but there have been other similar examples.
Here is a game from 1975 where Kavalek (as Black) gives up his queen for a single piece. He was certainly under pressure when he did so, and even after the sacrifice Portisch was still winning. But Kavalek kept pushing and pushing, and eventually found enough in the position to escape with a draw.

Portisch,Lajos (2635) - Kavalek,Lubomir (2555) [E80]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee (11), 27.01.1975

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Following on

Following on from yesterdays post, here is a recent example of playing poorly, and yet winning. My opening play was so dodgy that at least one later opponent in the tournament repeated the line, hoping I would play just as badly. I was struggling until  I played 21...c5, which turned the tide so completely that my opponent collapsed in the space of a few moves.

Camer,Angelito - Press,Shaun [D24]
2019 Oceania Zonal (5.4), 20.02.2019

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Play poorly but win, or play badly and lose

When luck is running with you, you can get away with poor play. For the first half of 2019 I've been quite fortunate in that I've escaped from some poor positions to either draw or even win games I probably shouldn't have. This run of luck came to and end last night when my poor play met with suitable punishment. While the game finished with a blunder (I actually missed why 20...Bg6 needed to be played before 20...Nxe5) I was still worse if I had played it in the correct order.

Grcic,Milan - Press,Shaun [D11]
Autumn Leaves, 18.06.2019