Thursday, 25 April 2019

2019 Sydney International Open - Day 2

FM Raymond Song is continuing his impressive form, leading the 2019 SIO with 4/4. He scored his second win in a week over WGM Padimi Rout, this time with an early piece sacrifice, which while not giving him an immediate reward, gave him enough pawns to win the ending. Half a point behind are GM Abhijit Kunte, IM Junta Ikeda, GM Daniel Fernandez, FM Jack Puccini and FM Daniel Gong. Round 5 sees Song against Kunte and once again, a win for Song (or even a draw) will put him on track for at least an IM norm.
Round 5 starts at Noon, with Round 6 at 6 pm. There will be live commentary at the venue by GM Ian Rogers, while you can follow the games online at

The e pawn then the d pawn

Some opening advice I read when younger was "if you start with e4 then your aim is to play d4. If you start with d4 then your aim is to play e4". A bit simplistic of course, but when it works, it works!

Kunte,Abhijit - Steadman,Michael [E65]
Sydney International Open (2), 24.04.2019

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

2019 Sydney International Open

The 2019 Sydney International Open, which is part of the Macquarie University Chess Festival, has just started. The returning event (which previously ran up until 2014) has attracted over 170 players across the 3 events. The top tournament has 60+ players, while the Peter Parr Memorial Challengers has more than 70 players taking part.
GM Abhijit Kunte is the top seed, followed by English GM Daniel Fernandez. Another player looking to do well is FM Raymod Song, who is hoping for a second IM or GM norm, following on from his outstanding performance at the 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup.
The tournament runs for the next 5 days (until Sunday), with rounds at 12 noon and 6pm. There is also a junior tournament taking place on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and eligible players can still enter that event.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 5

GM Hrant Melkumyan has won the 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup with an impressive 7.5/9. He lead FM Raymond Song by half a point going into the final round, and they were paired together on the top board. After a combative game, which saw Melkumyan sacrifice a couple of pawns, a repetition left the top two standings unchanged. Song finished outright second, and collected a GM norm as well. A quick draw on board 2 between GM Abhijit Kunte and IM Igor Bjelobrk meant Kunte finished in a tie for third, along with GM Anton Smirnov (who beat GM Darryl Johansen) and GM Deep Sengupta (who beat IM Junta Ikeda).
The Major was won by Jaime Frias who scored 6.5/7. A full point behind were Vladimir Chugunov, Zhiyuan Shen and Anthony Fikh. The Minor finished in a tie between Jordan Brown and Jason Pan, with Brown winning the first place trophy on countback.
The tournament attracted 254 players across the 4 sections, as well as another 114 players in the Blitz event. The organisers were happy with both the numbers and the overall event. There were no major disputes and the tournament ran smoothly across the entire 5 days.

Song,Raymond (2329) - Padmini,Rout (2364)
2019 O2C Doeberl Cup Premier Canberra, Australia (7.3), 21.04.2019

Monday, 22 April 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 4

After 8 rounds of the 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup there are now only two players who can take first place. GM Hrant Melkumyan won both his games yesterday to maintain his tournament lead. He is on 7/8, half a point ahead of FM Raymond Song, who also scored two wins.
Song started the day with a very quick win over WGM Padmini Rout, and followed it up by beating IM Trevor Tao. Not only did these wins keep him in contention for first place, but also earned him a GM norm, as even a final round loss would leave his TPR above 2600.
Fittingly, the board 1 pairing for the final round has Melkumyan against Song, and with the pressure off Song in terms of his title norms, an interesting battle is expected. 
GM Abhijit Kunte finished the day in outright third on 6/8, but has already drawn his final round game with IM Igor Bjelobrk. The draw caps a good tournament performance for Bjelobrk, but a first round bye for Igor meant there were no title norm opportunities for him.
The Major is set for a close finish with Jaime Frias and Zhiyaun Shen on 5.5/6. They drew in round 6, and are therefore watching both their own moves, and moves on the other boards in the final round. The Minor is even closer, with 5 players tied for first on 5/6. In this case 4 of the leading players are paired against each other, but a tie for first is the most likely outcome.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 3

GM Hrant Melkumyan is the outright leader of the 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup after 6 rounds. Melkumyan was the only leading player to win both his games on the third day, and he now holds a half point lead over the 5 players who share second place.
Melkumyan started the day with a win over IM George Xie in round 5, and defeated GM Darryl Johansen in round 6. Xie had a shocker of a day on Saturday, losing to Melkumyan, and then being defaulted in round 6 after 15 moves, when it was discovered he was carrying his mobile phone in his pocket. While the phone was switched off (this being checked by the arbiting team), this is still ground for an instant loss. Xie accepted this ruling, but then decided that as the loss left him with little chance of winning a prize, he would withdraw from the event.
Round 7 sees Melkumyan versus GM Anton Smirnov on board 1, with GM Deep Sengupta v IM Igor Bjelobrk on board 2 and FM Raymond Song v WGM Padmini Rout on the third board. Song drew both his games yesterday, but is still on track for a GM norm.
Last night also saw the 2019 Doeberl Cup Blitz event, with 114 players taking part. Tom Maguire won the tournament with 8/9, ahead of Fred Litchfield and Sravan Renjith on 7.5.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 2

The second day of any Doeberl Cup is when the tournament really kicks into gear. All 4 events (Premier, Major, Minor and Mini) are running simultaneously, which means over 250 players all gathered in the one room. In past years this has resulted in some organisational headaches, but this year everything is running much more smoothly.
The Premier is of course the main focus of the weekend, and adter 4 rounds there is a 5 way tie for first. WGM Padami Rout, GM Deep Sengupta, FM Raymond Song, GM Anton Smirnov and GM Darryl Johansen are all on 3.5/4. The standout performance from this group is FM Raymond Song, who is already well placed for both an IM and GM norm. His current TPR is just above 2700 and more importantly, he has already played the right mix of titled and overseas players. He is playing GM Anton Smirnov in the 5th round, and a win or draw would leave him well placed for the rest of the event.
There are a number of strong players still with a chance on 3 points, including top seed Hrant Melkumyan. Melkumyan was held to a draw in round 3 by young FM Jack Puccini, but returned to the winners list in round 4, beating Canberra junior Albert Winkelman. One other player of interest on 3 points is FM Jason Hu, who won his 4th round game against IM Stephen Solomon.
The Major and Minor got of to their predictable starts, with a large number of upsets on the top boards. The top 4 seeds in the Major scored a combined 50% against there lower rated opponents, while the top 10 seeds in the Minor did a little better, scoring 60%.
Tonight is the traditional Doeberl Lightning, which starts at 7pm. This event will be FIDE rated for the first time, and organisers expect around 100 players for the 9 round event.

Friday, 19 April 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Day 1

The 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup is underway, with the first day seeing the players from the Premier in action. The slightly smaller field in the Premier resulted in the first days play being a little tougher for the top seeds than in previous years. While round 1 saw very few upsets, the second round saw draws on 3 of the top 4 boards, and only 1 of the top six seeds finishing the day on 2/2.
In the last game of the night to finish, IM Gary Lane resisted the temptation to grab pawns in the ending to draw with top seed GM Hrant Melkumyan.  FM Raymond Song looked better against GM Deep Sengupta on board 3, but Sengupta found the draw in the always tricky Q v Q and Rook pawn ending. GM Anton Smirnov won a knight v bishop ending against IM Stephen Solomon, while FM Jack Puccini upset IM Junta Ikeda in one of the more interesting games of the evening.
Smirnov is part of the leading group on 2 points, along with IM Brodie McClymont, Puccini, IM Padami Rout, GM Darryl Johansen,  IM George Xie, and IM Trevor Tao.
The day got off to a slightly worrying start, when the organising team arrived at the venue to find no tables. A mix up in communication meant a delayed delivery, and a slightly rushed set up. Nonetheless the tournament was started on time, with all but one player present (an overseas IM failed to arrive). Fortunately we were ale to call on the services of 'super sub' IM Vladimir Smirnov, to avoid a first round forfeit in the affected pairing.
Today sees the start of all the other events.With a few last minute entries, the total size of the event is a little over 250 players, which is a good turnout, considering the drop in number for the Premier. All the tournament results and pairings can be found at There is live coverage of the Premier at or and you can follow the link to there from the tournament website. You can see the top games from the boards via the same link, noting that the round 1 games are incomplete at the moment.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

From Doeberl Cup's past

GM Hrant Melkumyan first played in the Doeberl in 2014, and has gone close to winning it on a couple of occasions. This year he is the top seed and rating favourite to win the tournament. But as past years have shown, it isn't an easy tournament to win, as one misstep can prove fatal.
In 2016 Melkumyan was close to winning, but it turned out to be IM James Morris's year. However he did have the satisfaction in beating fellow GM (and regular Doeberl visitor) SS Ganguly.

Melkumyan,Hrant (2653) - Ganguly,Surya Shekhar (2646) [E21]
Doeberl Cup 54th Canberra (5), 26.03.2016

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Getting ready

The 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup is only a couple of days away, and everything is almost read for a long weekend of chess. With 1 day to go before entries close, there are 245 players registered, a small increase over last year. Numbers are up across all events, except for the Premier, which has only 51 players entered so far.
Armenian GM Hrant Melkumyan is the top seed, with Australian GM Anton Smirnov seeded second. Third seed is GM Deep Sengupta (IND), who has just finished equal first in the 2019 Bangkok Open.
If you wish to watch the action in person, the venue is the Southern Cross Club in Woden, ACT. The venue is quite large so spectators will have the opportunity to see all the action up close. GM Ian Rogers will also be doing live coverage of the tournament at the venue. This normally starts about an hour after the round begins, and runs until the top games for the round have been completed.
The tournament will also be broadcasting the top board games via Chess24. Visit the for all the links to the coverage, as well as results and information about round times etc.

Monday, 15 April 2019

2019 Bangkok Open

GM Jan Gustafsson has won the 2019 Bangkok Open, on tie break over GM Deep Sengupta. Both players finished on 7.5/9, but Gustafsson won the first place trophy by virtue of a slightly better tie break. Australian GM Zong Yuan Zhao finished in a tie for 3rd on 7, while GM Moulthun Ly finished a further half point back.
Sengupta's result augers well for his continued journey to Australia, where he is playing in next weeks O2C Doeberl Cup. He will be joined by GM Abhijit Kunte, who's final round loss to Zhao left him on 6 points. However Kunte is unlikely to face Zhao at the Doeberl as Zhao (and Ly) have not entered their 'home' event at this stage.

Gustafsson,Jan (2633) - Duong,The Anh (2302)
19th Bangkok Chess Club Open 2019 Centara Grand Ladprao Hotel, B (8.1), 13.04.2019

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Scannable Scoresheets

If you are looking for an easier way to do game entry, a solution may be at hand. is providing a test service which allows scoresheets to be scanned, and pgn files produced. It does involve the use of specially formatted scoresheets (and neat handwriting), but unlike other solutions I have seen, the requirements are not that onerous.
The system is web based, but importantly, it is an open source project (with the code on Github), so it can be reconfigured if necessary.  To install your own version requires some technical knowledge (it is written in python and uses the flask framework) but if you are into image and text processing it looks like something worth exploring.

Friday, 12 April 2019

Philidors Legacy

I did not collect many games from the 2019 Dubbo Open, which is a bit of a shame as there were some quite interesting efforts. One game I did get involved one of the classic mating patterns, Philidors Legacy. At the time I had the impression that White was unaware of what was coming, as he would have taken on f2, and probably lost more slowly. Fortunately for 'miniature' fans he did not.

Chippendale,Matthew - Chibnall,Alana [A03]
Dubbo 2019

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Some harsh words

Up until a certain point we have our own 'pet' opening systems. The one true opening that will defeat all that dare challenge us. For me it is the Traxler. For a lot of other players it is the Morra Gambit in the Sicilian. But to quote Mike Tyson "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth".
GM Nigel Short was recently on the black side of a Morra, and took it apart pretty effectively. While the KO was delivered on move 22, the 'punch in the mouth' came a fair bit earlier. Then, after the game Short took to twitter to express his disdain for the whole opening system.

Langreck,John (2203) - Short,Nigel D (2636)
19th Bangkok Chess Club Open 2019 Centara Grand Ladprao Hotel, B (4.8), 09.04.2019

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Playing against type

What do you do when you feel you are no longer improving? One idea is to study something that is the complete opposite of what you have been working on up until now. The reasoning behind this is to find big improvement in new areas, rather than small improvement in something you already know.
Certainly this seems to be working for me at the moment, as I am studying some of the positional classics from the 1920's and 30's. But rather than show one my my imperfect games, I'm choosing a game from someone who seems to be going in the other direction.
In recent years Magnus Carlsen has been content to target small weaknesses in his opponents position, and then grind out a win. However this strategy ran into a brick wall during his World Championship Match against Fabiano Caruana. Possibly as a reaction to this, he has played more dynamic chess at the Gashimov Memorial, and has been reqraded with another strong tournament performance. The stand out game from this event was the following attacking win over Anish Giri. It is worth pointing out that Giri himself also played an atypical game, taking the pawn on e3, and allowing Carlsen to launch a strong, and eventually winning attack.

Carlsen,M (2845) - Giri,A (2797) [A29]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2019 Shamkir AZE (7), 07.04.2019

Sunday, 7 April 2019

2019 Dubbo Open - Day 2

GM Darryl Johansen has won the 2019 Dubbo Open, finishing on 5.5/6. Starting the day on 3/3 Johansen defeated newcomer Blake Lynch in round 4, drew with CM Leon Kempen in round 5, before beating WFM Alana Chibnall in the final round. Leon Kempen had a chance to join Johansen in first place, but drew his final round game, to finish outright second on 5. There was a 5 way tie for third between Trevor Bemrose, Matt Radisich, Paul Russell, Dominic Fox and Andriy Bukreyev.
Local junior Eamonn Fitzgerald picked up the best junior prize, while John Pascoe and Chris Nadolny tied for Best Under 1400. Apart from the prize winners, good performances were recorded by tournament newcomers Blake Lynch, Vladimir Chugurov and Matthew Chippendale, all scoring 4/6.
Overall the tournament was a great success, with a good entry of 42 players. As the arbiter, I did not have any major incidents to deal with, although I did have one amusing situation. Two players had medical conditions preventing them from recording their moves, and as fate would have it, they were paired to play each other during the event. I acted as the scribe for the game, which was played at a significantly faster the usual, contained a couple of interesting illegal moves, and ended with a strange double blunder.
Next year is the 20th Dubbo Open, and the organisers are planning to make it a bigger event, both in terms of numbers, and prize money.

2019 Dubbo Open - Day 1

The 2019 Dubbo Open started with a couple of surprises. The first one was the appearance of GM Darryl Johansen as the tournament top seed. Johansen was enjoying a driving holiday in country NSW and decided to drop in and play.
The second surprise was  the number of first round upsets, with 6 of the 20 games going the 'wrong way'.
This in part was due to a number of unrated player who turned out to be better than normal beginners. In fact two of the players, Blake Lynch and Vladimir Chugunov finished the first day with 3 from 3, and share the lead with Johansen and Leon Kempen.
Half a point behind the leaders are Andriy Bukreyev, Alana Chibnall and Trevor Bemrose. Chibnall was held to a draw by unrated Bukreyev and plays Bemrose in tomorrow mornings round.
The tournament organisers are pleased with the turnout of 42 players, which is a 33% increase over previous years. While Johansen is heavily favoured to win, there is still a battle for the minor places. Full tournament results and standings can be found at

Friday, 5 April 2019

The five hour limit

The 2019 Dubbo Open starts tomorrow, and there is a reasonably large contingent of players from Canberra attending. Taking into account meal breaks and other contingencies, the travel time between the two cities is around 5 hours by car. Based on nothing more than experience, 5 hours travel seems to be at the upper end of how long players are willing to spend traveling to an event.
This not only applies to travel by car, but also via other means. For example, there are a massive number of Indian players taking part in the 2019 Dubai Open, which involves flight time of around 3 to 4 hours. On the other hand, when trying to attract Indian players to events in Australia, the long travel time was often given as a reason for the lack of interest.
Of course some events are too good to pass up (Zonals, Olympiads etc), but for the casual player too much travel time is one obstacle that is hard to overcome.

Too quick on the trigger

One of the things I have noticed about teaching younger players, is that they wish to play the first move they think of. It is a hard habit to get them out of, especially when I am sometimes guilty of the same offence. An example of this is a game I played the other night at Belconnen Chess Club.
After my opponent dropped a pawn due to an hallucination (see move 13), I had a much better position. Choosing to simplify to a better ending, I left the c pawn hanging due to the bishop fork on e4. But, if I had slowed down a bit and looked at *all* checks and captures I would have found a significantly better move.
While it did not make a difference to the final result, it is still something I would rather not miss, as there will come a time when a quick and lazy move may well cost me the game.

Hosking,Ian - Press,Shaun [C45]
Murphy Memorial, 02.04.2019

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Know when to hold 'em

When my chess career started, all I wanted to do was exchange pieces. This had nothing to do with my endgame technique, but simply as away of prolonging the game, and avoiding quick and brutal checkmates. Of course this strategy didn't improve my win ratio, and it took me a number of years to look beyond automatic captures.
At the current Gashimov Memorial event, Magnus Carlsen created a good example of 'exchanging to win'. Against regular opponent Viswanathan Anand he created a target on the queenside, and then exchanged off the pieces that were not needed to exploit it. He was helped by Anand at some crucial points, especially at move 28 and 29, but once the a pawn was captured it was simply a matter of running Black out of moves.

Carlsen,M (2845) - Anand,V (2779) [D37]
Vugar Gashimov Mem 2019 Shamkir AZE (2), 01.04.2019

Monday, 1 April 2019

2019 Sydney International Open -- 24 to 28 April 2019

If you are planning to maximise your chess in April, don't forget to enter the 2019 Sydney International Open. This resurrected event is running from the 24th to the 28th of April, at Macquarie University in Sydney. Eagle eyed readers will realise the the 25th of April is ANZAC Day in Australia, so it is possible to play 7 of the 9 rounds, even if you have to go back to work (for Sydneysiders of course).
Full details of the event are at while you can enter at this link Checking out the last set of entries, the event is very top heavy with titled players, so if you are looking to gain rating points (or upset a few GM's), no is the time to jump on board. (NB There is a late fee so enter early).

(** I am an unpaid member of the organising committee for this tournament **)

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Gashimov Memorial underawy

The 2019 Shamkir Chess (Gashimov Memorial) has just started in Shamkir, Azerbaijan. Top seed is Magnus Carlsen and the field is an interesting mix of generations. Ding Liren and Anish Giri represent the best of the new generation, but Anand, Grischuk and Topalov are hoping to show that it isn't just a young mans game. Mamedyarov, Radjabov, Karjakin and Navara round out the 10 player field.
For Australian players, the games start at a sensible 10pm (Canberra time), and round 1 is already under way. There are a couple of interesting first round match ups, but the Karjakin - Liren game has already finished in a draw after 45 minutes play!

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Actual mate on the physical chessboard

I am currently helping write a book on the history of the Laws of Chess. I am working with Stewart Reuben and Alex McFarlane, and while we plan to go back as far as we can, it will be the modern era (since 1924) which will be the focus.
In the book we hope to put in games that provoked changes, or showed that more work needed to be done. One such game is the Rumens v Mabbs game from 1959, which provoked an enormous amount of discussion at the time. The time limit was 36 moves in 2 hours, and both players were in severe time trouble. Rumens mated Mabbs with his 36th move, but his flag fell before he could press his clock. At the time the rules were a little contradictory, with checkmate ending the game, but the move not being completed until the clock had been pressed. Therefore it wasn't clear if White had won by checkmate, or had lost on time. On appeal the game was awarded to White, and the rules were amended to reflect this.

Rumens,DE - Mabbs,DJ [B84]
London Boys Championship, 30.03.1959

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Things to do on a rainy Sunday

The somewhat bizarre adventures of Timur Gareyev at the US Championship continue. Having given up on his dream of winning two events at the same time, he is instead using the extra time to play some of the more esoteric endings in chess. Against Wesley So he was unsuccessful in trying to defend K+R v K+Q, getting mated on move  86. He then play R v R+B not once but twice in the following rounds. Weirdly he managed to hold the draw the first time he reached the position (against Sevian), but then lost against Caruana when faced with the same situation.
While defending these positions are quite difficult, at least in the case of R+BvR, they are usually theoretically drawn (Note: I lost the only time I tried to defend the position). But like learning to mate with B+N v K, or winning a number of technical rook endings, it does take a lot of study and practice. So the next time rain keeps you indoors on a Sunday, break out the chessboard and see how well you do.

Gareyev,Timur (2557) - Caruana,Fabiano (2828) [D27]
63rd ch-USA 2019 Saint Louis USA (7.3), 27.03.2019

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Hitting the self destruct button

I suspect we've all played games where we've blundered quite early on. Usually this is dropping a pawn (or a piece in a few of my efforts), but it is pretty rare to allow a mating attack starting on move 4. In this game from the current European Championship I suspect Black thought that 3... h6 would prevent 4.Ng5, but he missed the far stronger followup.

Trajkovski,Mile (2105) - Bytyqi,Gzim (1994) [B00]
20th ch-EUR Indiv 2019 Skopje MKD (6.169), 24.03.2019

Double duty

GM Timur Gareyev is one of the chess worlds more flamboyant characters. At the moment he is playing in the US Championship, as well as another tournament, almost simultaneously.
For some reason known only to Timur, he thought he could play in the Mid West Open at the same time, ignoring the fact that some rounds clashed, and that he had to travel between 2 venues. As a result he turned up 25 minutes late for his Round 4 US Championship game, and eventually forfeited his remaining Mid West Open games.
Gareyev is not the first player to try this btw, but it does raise the question of whether it is actually legal. As a junior Michael Adams once entered two different sections of the British Championship, and had to run between rooms to play two games at once. There did not seem to objections to this at the time, and the organisers allowed this.
During my previous time on the FIDE Rules Commission this issue was actually discussed, but in the end it was decided not to add any regulations dealing with this. The main reason was that any sensible organiser would hopefully reject an attempt by a player to enter twice, either in different sections, or even the same section. If the player kicked up a fuss, then the 'organisers decision is final' rule would be enforced. 
The Gareyev case is a little different, as the events were held in different venues, and organised by different bodies, but one outcome of this might be to add an extra clause to players contracts, forbidding them from pulling such a stunt!

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Fortune favours the insane

In the collection of "how to get an early draw by repetition" games, the following game figures prominently. Played before Karpov became a world class player, Igor Zaitsev bravely sacrificed his queen, but had enough to force a draw by repetition on move 15. In fact there was an even earlier draw available,  starting with 6.Kxf7 7.Qh5+
Since then the game has been played multiple times, with all but 2 games ending in a draw (in my database anyway). Curiously, the 2 non drawn games follow an early recommendation of playing 10 ... Ne5+ 11.Rxe5 Be6 which was assessed unclear in the pre-computer era, but is simply better for Black according to Stockfish. However in the actual games it was one win for each colour, with the White winner being David Smerdon in 1999, after IM Stephen Solomon misplayed the attack on White's King.

Zaitsev,Igor A - Karpov,Anatoly [C43]
Leningrad Leningrad (10), 1966

Friday, 22 March 2019

2019 O2C Doeberl Cup - Time to enter

The 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup starts in under 4 weeks, and at this stage around 50% of the tournament places have been field. The Premier has 36 entries so far, with 5 GM's, 6 IM's, 1 WGM and 1 WIM in the tournament. There is a limit of 68 players in the event (to make earning titles easier), so it might be a good idea to get your entry in, if you plan to play in this section. The Major (Under 2000) has 36 entries (from 64 places), the Minor (Under 1600) 42 players (from 100), and the Mini (Under 1200) 29 (from 60).
You can register at as well as looking at who else has entered, tournament regulations, and prizes on offer.
(Disclaimer: I am a paid official for this event)

Thursday, 21 March 2019

2019 US Chess Championship - Lots of draws, lots of wins

The 2019 US Chess Championship started yesterday in St Louis, and there was a somewhat curious set of results. In the Open Championship, all but one of the games were drawn. The Gareyev - Xiong game ended in a win for Xiong, but every other game saw the honours shared. This isn't that surprising for an event like this, and has the added benefit (for the organisers at least), of reducing the number of possible winners of the '$64,000 Fischer Bonus Prize' to one.
On the other hand every game in the Women's Championship wasn't drawn. All 6 games ended in a win for one of the players, and as the Fischer Bonus Prize is also on offer in this event, half the field is still in the running.
If you want to follow this event, then you can do so via the tournament website. As the time zones for the US aren't great for Australia, it is probably better to catch the end of the round (which normally has a few games running at 7am local time), than stay up for the start.

A sense of danger

"Don't worry, he has no idea about king safety". This was a quote from GM Elshan Moradiabadi when preparing the PNG team at the 2018 Olympiad. He was talking about one of our opponents, but he could well have been talking about me. Despite having a number of good results and games recently, I still have a tendency to ignore potential threats against my own king, while pursuing plans of my own.
Of course I'm not the only player guilty of this sin. It is very tempting to treat a game as race, where checkmating your opponent before they checkmate you is a viable strategy. When it works, all is right in the world, but when it goes wrong, it can do so in a big way.

Sukovic,Andrej (2235) - Arutinian,David (2555) [B06]
20th ch-EUR Indiv 2019 Skopje MKD (1.101), 18.03.2019

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

No fun in winning

Sometimes I will win a game of chess, and find that I did not really enjoy it. This usually happens when I know I've played a number of awful moves, and it is only a mistake from my opponent that has given me the point.
This happened this evening at my club, where around 40 moves of plan-less play was redeemed by outplaying my opponent in a R+3P ending, with all the pawns on the same side of the board.
But the game I will show, is from an earlier round of the same tournament. My opponent went for the king side hack, offering a piece I shouldn't take. Instead I decided I  could take the piece, as I thought I saw how I could defend. However after my opponent played 16.Rh6! I realised I was in a bad way. If he had then played either 18.Rh7+!! (forced mate) or 19.Qh4! (covering g5) I would have resigned in short order, but instead he blundered with 19.Qh2? and the tables were truly turned. I converted the winning ending (and even then failed to calculate the best line), but left the club unsatisfied with the point.

Mayen,Gabriel - Press,Shaun [C55]
University Cup, 05.03.2019

Monday, 18 March 2019

Are looks deceiving?

Have a look at the game below, after White has played his 15th move. A similar position to this occurred at Street Chess on Saturday, and at first glance I just assumed White had a big advantage. (NB I cannot recall which White rook was on d1, so White's 14th move may have been Raxd1). With the bishop well posted on f3, and being the first to get to the d file, all I could see was White using the initiative to win the game (and in the game on Saturday, this is what happened).
So I am a little surprised that Black won the game given here. Of course the black pieces were being handled by GM Gawain Jones, and he did out rate his opponent by a significant amount, but White should at least hold this. Playing though the game a few times (with the engine off) I suspect that White was a little eager to swap pieces off (especially the bishops), until it reached a point (on move 31) when the final rook exchange left White with a lost pawn ending.
If there is a lesson to be had here, maybe it is that if you look like you have an advantage, keep the pieces that give you the advantage!

Storey,Charles (2268) - Jones,Gawain C (2549) [B73]
Coulsdon Jessie Gilbert Coulsdon (10), 25.08.2008

Saturday, 16 March 2019

The last writers left?

One of the duties I usually perform when arbiting small events (less than 20 boards), is to produce a game file. Normally there is enough time during the following round to type in the majority of games, and by the end of the event I usually have around 80% of the games ready for download.
But this has become more challenging over the last couple of years. One of the main reasons is that players either submit unreadable scoresheets, or ones that have illegal or ambiguous moves. As frustrating as this is, it occurred to me that as an activity, competition chess requires a skill that is no longer in fashion. That is, chess is one of the few activities where people are actually required to write. Most office jobs now involve typing things, and when something needs to be written down, it is often as a personal note or brief message. In fact the only other place where I come across a lot of handwriting is in the education sector (especially exams and quizzes), and recently marked a number of quiz papers, the quality of submissions is equally mixed.
As an example, here is a scoresheet I took a copy of from the recent ACT Championships. I have cropped the names to protect the guilty, but as yet, I have not been successful in deciphering most of the moves.
(BTW I have put some games from this event up at but there is still a lot of work to do)

Friday, 15 March 2019

A book so nice they named it twice

Taking advantage of an online book sale a couple of weeks ago, I thought I had picked up a bargain when i spotted David Bronstein's "The Chess Struggle in Practice". I'd seen a few people mention it as one of the classics, so buying it for $2 seemed like a great deal.
Alas, when it arrived I realised I had purchased a book I already owned. Bronstein's classic is also known as "Zurich International Chess Tournament 1953" and I already had a copy sitting on my shelf. Nonetheless, I won't be getting rid of my newer copy, as there are a few formatting differences that make it worth keeping. And as a book, it is probably worth reading twice, once in algebraic, and once in descriptive!

Taimanov,Mark E - Petrosian,Tigran V [E58]
Candidates Tournament Zuerich (20), 06.10.1953

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Where would we be without satnav?

I find it interesting going through my own games from the pre-computer age of chess. It certainly shows me that I wasn't very good when I started playing seriously, but it also reveals that I wasn't that great at analysis either.
There are more than a few games where I've kind of remember playing well, but after putting it through a modern engine, I've realised that it was more a question of "who makes the second last mistake" that decides the outcome. 
The game I've chosen to show this was not in fact my first (or second choice). However, those games turned out to be true blunder fests (including missed forced mates from my opponents), leaving me with this relatively tame example. There were a couple of opportunities for me to gain the upper hand (14.fxe6! and 18.Bxd5!) but the real mistake for my opponent was 22...Nf5. This allowed me to capture on d5, and get the tactics working in my favour. Fortunately there were no big mistakes after that (although I did miss a line leading to a quicker checkmate).

Press,Shaun - Cohen,Stan [B23]
Doeberl Cup (7), 04.04.1988

Repeating History

The recently completed Batavia GM tournament in Amsterdam tried a new approach to scoring. Before the main game in each round the layers played a blitz match, which was then used to allocate points in case the main game was drawn. The winner of the main game scored 2 points, but in the case of a draw, the winner of the blitz match scored 1 point, but the loser only received 0.5 of a point. 
Whether it changed how the tournament was played I'm not sure, but from the score table, it looked as though there were a lot of decisive games. The added bonus was that there were a number of entertaining blitz games as well. The most noticeable was John Van Der Wiel getting mated on move 15, in a game that has been played a couple of times previously.

Van Der Wiel,John - Warmerdam,Max [C45]
Batavia Blitz, 03.2019

Monday, 11 March 2019

2019 ACT Championship - Kethro completes Triple Crown

FM Michael Kethro is the 2019 ACT Chess Champion after finishing with a perfect 7 wins from 7 games. In today's final two rounds he started with a win over Victor Braguine, before beating Brian Butler in the final round. He finished a point and  half against Sankeerten Badrinarayan, who had the unsettling experience of playing his younger brother in the final round (the game ended in a draw). Tied for third were Glenn Ingham and unrated player Darryl Chen. The Under 1500 prize was shared between Paul Dunn and Dexuan Kong, while Velsami Karthick and Ken Zhang winning the Unrated prize (Chen taking a share of third place instead).
The win by Kethro also means he now holds all three ACT Championship titles, winning the Rapidplay in December 2018 and the Blitz in January 2019. This is possibly the first time this as happened, although IM Junta Ikeda may have also achieved the feat in a previous year.
Full results from the tournament  and games from the top 4 boards can be found here.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

2019 ACT Chess Championship - Day 3

With two rounds left to play, FM Michael Kethro holds a full point lead in the 2019 ACT Chess Championship. Kethro defeated Sankeertan Badrinrayan in a fairly wild round 4 game, before scoring a quick win over Tim Pearce. Pearce, who only lost this game, shares second place with Badrinarayan and Victor Braguine.
Round 5 saw a number of interesting finishes, including Matt Radisich playing a nice combination that left him a rook up. Unfortunately his opponents next move  left him in a mating net and resigned immediately. This wasn't the only tragic finish, with another game ending in stalemate in a K v KRBP ending.
Round 6 starts at 10am tomorrow, with the final round starting at 2:30pm. Tournament results and live game links can be found at

Kethro, Michael -Badrinarayan, Sankeertan
2019 ACT Chess Championship

2019 ACT Chess Championship - Day 2

Three players are still tied for first place after the third round of the ACT Chess Championship. Tournament favourite FM Michael Kethro is one of those players, after winning a long game against Pertti Sirkka. He is joined by Sankeertan Badrinarayan and Tim Pearce, the latter beating Victor Braguine in a game where Pearce's attack on the kingside proved more effective than Braguine's play on the queenside.
Close behind them on 2.5 is unrated player Darryl Chan. A former junior player from Sydney, Chan scored an upset win over Yizhen Diao in round 1, and followed this up with a draw and a win. In round 4 he plays Pearce, while Kethro and Badrinarayan meet on the top board.
All the action begins at 10am and can be followed at

Saturday, 9 March 2019

2019 ACT Chess Championship - Day 1

The 2019 ACT Chess Championship is underway, attracting a field of 34 players. This seems to be the magic number for this event, as the last few years has seen similarly sized fields.
Top seed in the tournament is FM Michael Kethro, and he was made to work for his point by Erik Jochimsen. Eventually a favourable ending for Kethro was reached and he was able to convert by running Jochimsen out of moves. One of the more exciting games of the tournament was between Victor Braguine and Kamrin Aliyev on board 3. Aliyev had a stronger position, while Braguine had greater attacking chances. In time trouble Aliyev missed Braguines attacking plan and was forced to resign when faced with unstoppable mate.
There were a couple of upsets on the lower boards with Darryl Chan beating Yizhen Diao, and junior player Fahim Vidyattama drawing with veteran Bill Egan.
Tomorrows round begins at 10am and games from the top 4 boards are being broadcast live. All the results, pairings and live links can be found at

Thursday, 7 March 2019

How to ruin chess sets

Despite enjoying Transfer Chess (or Bughouse) when I was younger, I do have an aversion to the game these days. My main complaint is that it makes sorting out chess sets for the next competition/lesson/club night a chore. So I have mixed feelings about sharing the following chess variant with you.
From the 1866 edition of "The Chess Player's Magazine", a multiplayer variant is described, which has some similarities to Transfer Chess. Two players are chosen as Captains for each team. They then take turns picking from the remaining players to form the teams (so each team size is half the number of players). The boards are then laid out in a line, with one tea, having White on all boards, and the other team having Black. Each match is played as normal, but when one side wins a game, the team captain can take all the pieces left on the board from the winning side of that game (except the King), and distribute them to the other games in progress. The only restrictions are that a side cannot be reinforced above it's initial holdings (eg a second queen cannot be given to player who still has hers), and that the pieces must be placed on their starting squares (eg rooks on a1 or h1, pawns on the second rank). Pieces must be placed on empty squares, so if d1 is occupied, then the queen cannot be added to that game. (NB This implies that reinforcements must be placed immediately) Pieces can be given to one player, or across multiple games. As an added bonus, a winning player can also be used as a substitute, replacing another player whose game is still in progress. If the captain of a team loses a game, she is replaced by the player first picked etc
As I've never heard of this variant before, I'm assuming it didn't catch on. However, it could be fun for a club's end of season function or something to keep kids amused. After a certain point I'm also guessing the balance is going to tilt in one sides favour, as the reinforcements will create wins, which will create reinforcements etc

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

World Teams Championship

The 2019 World Teams Championship began last night in Astana. This event brings together the best teams from every continent (Asia, Europe, Americas and Africa) as well as the topped placed teams from the Olympiad. Ten teams are in each section (Open and Women's) and it is a 9 round round robin, scored on match points.
The first round saw a couple of big wins for India and China. They each scored 3.5/4 with Sweden and Azerbaijan being their respective victims. In the Inda-Sweden match, there were a couple of nice attacking wins, including this one by SS Ganguly.

Ganguly,Surya Shekhar (2633) - Smith,Axel (2487) [C77]
12th World Teams 2019 Astana KAZ (1.3), 05.03.2019

Monday, 4 March 2019

Double Exclam

One thing noticeable in looking at very old chess books and publications, is the absence of what is now familiar punctuation. No ! or ? moves, just wordier comments ('good move', or 'shocking mistake'). Even + for check took a long time to come into vogue.
According to William Edward Winter's "Chess Notes", the first sighting of ! (or in this case !!) occurred in 1874 in "The Westminster Papers". It was included in the notes to the following game, although it's use may not have been intentional.
The game itself is not that high quality, and soon Black finds himself up a rook. (As an aside it is actually very similar to the game I published yesterday). But White chooses not to resign, and eventually Black catches the king in a mating net. However at  move 33 Black misses a mate in one. In the comments, Zukertort states "We prefer 33 R to K7 mate !!". Given that !! usually points to a brilliant and hard to find move, I suspect the exclamation marks here are for dramatic effect, rather than a comment on the quality of the move.

Madan,Mr - Keynes,Mr [C50]
Oxford-Cambridge, 1874

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Pin and Win

"Pin and win" is a fairly common piece of advice given to young players. And when it works, the game can be over quite quickly. Here is an example from a junior event I was directing today.

Pinned - Winned [C50]

One pig!

The title of this post refers to a joke that will never be published on this blog! But the gist of it is that for all the good thing you do, it is the one bad thing that will be remembered.
Fabiano Caruana took on Pentala Harikrishna in the St Louis Champions Showdown. Over the 12 rapid and 24 blitz games, Caruana was pretty dominant, winning 35.5-12.5 (rapid counting for double points). But the game everyone remembers is the one given below. It was blitz game number 20, and faced with what looked like inevitable mate, Caruana resigned. Only then was it pointed out that Caruana had missed the winning 62.Qb4+ And long after the score of this match is forgotten, I'm pretty sure this game will be well remembered.

Caruana,F (2828) - Harikrishna,P (2726) [C77]
Champions Showdown Blitz Saint Louis USA (20.1), 24.02.2019

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Fictional Masters

On the flight back from Guam, I watched the 2015 version of "The Man from U.N.C.L.E". A quite enjoyable film, but it was something in the end credits that caught my eye. Fictional biographies of the two main characters, Napolean Solo and Illya Kuryakin, were being given, and one of the facts about Kuryakin was that he was an International Master with a rating of 2405. This was reinforced by one scene in the move where he was analysing a position, although it looked like opening analysis, as not many pieces had been developed.
Avoiding characters in obvious chess movies or books, I had a look at who else might be a highly rated fictional player. GM Tov Kronsteen is one example, appearing in an international tournament in "From Russia with Love" (book and film).  Roy Batty, from Blade Runner, was also pretty good, but the penalty for losing to him was pretty severe. And in looking at this list over at Bill Wall's chess page, it appears the Forrest Gump knew a thing or two about the game, although as I don't recall seeing this in the movie, his prowess was confined to the printed page.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

2019 ACT Championship 8th-11th March 2019

The 2019 ACT Championship is on next weekend (8th-11th March). This FIDE Rated event is open to residents of the ACT and surrounding areas. It will be a 7 round tournament, with the first round played on Friday evening, and then 2 rounds a day on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Canberra Day holiday). The venue is Campbell High School, Trealor Crescent, Ainslie (next to the War Memorial), with the first round starting at 7:30 pm on the Friday evening. Entry fee is $65 ($45 concessions). Entries are being managed by ACTCA President Cam Cunningham, and you can contact him at
I would recommend anyone who has the time over the weekend to give it a go. If my trip to Guam has demonstrated anything, turning up to a tournament can yield some surprising results! It also provides a good opportunity for some serious, internationally rated chess, as well as being a good warm up for the Doeberl Cup.

(Disclaimer: I am a paid official for this event)

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Putting the French to sleep

If there was one opening that stood out at the 2019 Oceania Zonal it was the French Defence. The tournament had 3 or 4 hardcore French players, so it hit the table almost every round. Unfortunately for the French players, almost every French was met with the Exchange Variation.
I played in a couple of games, and should have lost against Tony Dowden in round 2.  But I had a miraculous escape and then noticed other players choosing the same variation (up until a point). As a lot of games ended in a draw, I suspect it was very frustrating for the players with the black pieces, who were often the higher rated player in the pairing.
However a game played by GM Nigel Short shows it could have been a lot worse for them. He chose a slightly delayed exchange variation (after 3.Nc3 Nf6) but whipped up a strong kingside attack and won pretty quickly. Having just played another drawn Exchange French this evening at the club, I may have to look at this refinement for future inspiration.

Short,Nigel D (2648) - Moran,Stephen (2155) [C01]
26th Bunratty Masters Bunratty IRL (1.3), 22.02.2019

Sunday, 24 February 2019

On the (delayed) road again

I'm not sure if this is a common occurrence with professional chess players, but it seems that one typhoon can ruin your whole day. In the case of players heading home from the Oceania Zonal in Guam, Typhoon Wutip has thrown a lot of travel arrangements into chaos. There were a few scheduled flights that were cancelled today (the designated departure date), some justified, and some not justified. Flights heading to Manilla were the most affected, as the flight path crossed the typhoon's path, but the decision to cancel the flight to Taiwan by China Airlines made little sense. Every other airline flying to the same part of the world managed to leave Guam without difficulty, something that was noticed by a few of us who decided to deal with Typhoon Wutip by going swimming in the ocean.
The scramble for re-booking flights and accommodation was easy for some, and somewhat more difficult for others. In my case I made the mistake of booking with Expedia (never again) and it took 4 separate conversations before they were able to reschedule my flights. My favourite agent was the guy who helpfully told me I could fly on the 25th, and then confirmed I was still booked on a connecting flight that left on the 24th. Even then the re-booking now has me flying to Sydney (rather than Melbourne) where I catch a Qantas flight to Melbourne, so I can then fly from Melbourne to Canberra. The obvious change to a single Sydney-Canberra flight was rejected by the agent on the grounds "it wasn't allowed"

Saturday, 23 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal - Wins for Illingworth and Ryjanova

The 2019 Oceania Zonal has finished, with GM Max Illingworth and WGM Julia Ryjanova winning the Open and Women's events respectively. Illingworth was paired against FM Stuart Fancy (PNG), and despite needing only a draw to secure first place, played an aggressive opening system, and eventually won the game.
I finished in 2nd place, due to a run of luck which started on day 1 of the tournament. I was paired against Felix Lacno (GUM) in the final round, and he needed half a point for the FM title. Up until this game he had a phenomenally good run (including the win of Illingworth in round 1), but chose this round to play a very poor opening (see game below). He dropped a pawn early on, and then got into a horrible mess on the queenside. Despite an early queen exchange, he just didn't have enough pieces to protect his king, and I ended up outright 2nd.
Clive Ng and John Duneas agreed a quick draw on board 2, as this secured the FM title for both of them. The only other player to reach 6 points was Enofre Manuel (GUM), who recovered a bad position to beat fellow Guam player Elias Tirador.
In the Women's Zonal Julia Ryjanova completed a clean sweep winning her final round game to score 9 points from 9 games. Rebbeca Stones (AUS) finished in 2nd place with 7.5, and Vyanla Punsalan took third on 7.
As predicted in my last post Typhoon Wutip has caused a number of flights to be cancelled, so a lot of players will now be here for at least one extra day. As compensation, it has been decided to hold the Oceania Blitz Championship tomorrow morning.

Lacno, Felix - Press, Shaun
Zonal Guam, 2019

Friday, 22 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal - Day 5

Day 5 of the 2019 Zonal saw a curious set of results in the afternoon round, with the top 3 boards of the Open being drawn quite quickly. GM Max Illingworth was a point in front, having defeated Clive Ng round 7, and other results left John Duneas and Shaun Press tied for second on 5 points (with Clive). The round 8 pairings saw Illingworth v Duneas and Press v Ng. After a few moves, I received a slightly surprising draw offer from Ng, which I accepted, moving both of us to 5.5. Then a few minutes later Illingworth offered Duneas a draw, which was also accepted. As a result Illingworth on needs a draw in the final round to guarantee outright first. On board 3 Tony Dowden and Enofre Manuel also drew fairly quickly, moving Manuel and Dowden to 5. Joining the players in equal second are Stuart Fancy and Felix Lacno, after they won their round 8 games.
Tomorrows last round sees Illingworth against Fancy, Duneas against Ng, and Press against Lacno. While there are number of possible outcomes (eg Fancy beating Illingworth), a tournament win for Illingworth and a multi-way tie for second on 6 seems to be the most likely outcome.
WGM Julia Ryjanova has already secured first place in the Women's Zonal, maintaining her perfect record of 8 wins from 8 games. Rebecca Stones is second on 6.5/8. while WFM Vyanla Punsalan is third on 6. As the three players have all played each other, the final standings depend upon how well they do against their lower ranked opponents.
The other exciting piece of news is that a typhoon will pass quite close to Guam in the next day. As a result there is a real risk that outgoing flights will be affected, meaning that some players may be forced to spend extra days in the Pacific!

Thursday, 21 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal - Day 4

The 2019 Oceania Zonal is entering the final stages, with round 7 seeing the joint leaders, CM Clive Ng and GM Max Illingworth meet on board 1. Both players are on 5/6 with Illingworth losing one game (his first), while Ng has had two draws. Ng has the White pieces and is hoping to get at least half a point against an opponent who outrates him by 450 points.
Shaun Press and John Duneas share third place on 4.5/6. Their 6th round game ended in a draw although Press was in a position to play on. There is a group of four players tied for 5th on 4/6. With 3 rounds to play, they are all looking at both catching the lead groups, as well as reaching the 6/9 score required for an FM title.
In the Women's event, WGM Julia Ryjanova leads with 6/6. She is playing WFM Vyanla Punsalan in the first of tomorrows 2 rounds, but if she negotiates that game without slipping up, then the tournament should be hers.

2019 Oceania Zonal - Day 3

The 2019 Oceania Zonal is still proving to be a hard fought affair, at least for now. After 5 rounds there are 6 players sharing the lead on 4/5, including tournament favourite GM Max Illingworth. Illingworth has recovered from his first round loss, and is once again the man to beat. Also in the leading group is Felix Lacno, who beat Illingworth in the first round. Lacno is proving very underrated at 1711, as he has a performance rating of over 2200.
With 4 rounds left to play, Illingworth is still favoured to win. The battle for 2nd and third is a little more wide open, especially as a lot of the leading group has yet to face Illingworth.
WGM Julia Ryjanove has maintained her perfect score in the Women's Zonal. She defeated Rebecca Stones in the morning round and Olga Szekely in the afternoon. WFM Vyanla Punsalan is currently in 2nd place on 4/5, but  a loss to Stones in round 5 leaves her with tough task of getting something against Ryjanova if she hopes to finish 2nd.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal - Day 2

After 3 rounds of the 2019 Oceania Zonal, only Clive Ng has maintained a 100%, beating Paul Spiller in today's only round. A number of draws on the top boards sees a pack of 5 players tied for second place on 2.5.
Top seed Max Illingworth scored his second win of the tournament to keep his chances of winning the tournament alive, while I once again had a lucky escape, drawing an ending which started with me two pawns down.
In the Women's Zonal, a draw between Olga Szekely and Rebecca Stones means that GM Julia Ryjanova and WFM Vyanla Punsalan are the only players on 3/3. They meet in round 7, in agame that might very well decide the tournament.

2019 Oceania Zonal Day 1

The 2019 Oceania Zonal got off to a surprising start, with top seed GM Max Illingworth losing his round 1 game. Underestimating a strong kingside attack from Felix Lacno, he went pawn hunting with his queen and walked into a mating attack. While Max bounced back to win his second round game, it is clear that the Zonal is proving more competitive than people may have believed.
At the end of the first day there are 6 players on 2/2. Angelito Camer (Aus), Clive Ng (Aus), Efron Manuel (GUM), Elmer Prudente (GUM), Shaun Press (PNG) and Paul Spiller (NZL) all managed to score 2 wins from 2 games, although in my case, it was a fortunate win in a game I was worse in for almost its entirety.
In the Women's event, top seed WGM Julia Ryjanova  avoid any trouble, winning both her games. She is joined by Rebecca Stones (Aus), Vyanla Pusalan (NZL), and Olga Szekely on 2 points.
Tomorrow is a single round day, so my preparation may involve a bit of swimming and site-seeing. The playing conditions for the tournament are excellent, and the venue provides fantastic views of the Pacific.
While there isn't live coverage of the games, results (and some replayable games) can be found at the New Zealand Chess Federation Website. The link is

Sunday, 17 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal - Day 0

The 2019 Oceania Zonal begins tomorrow in Guam. GM Max Illingowrht and WGM Julia Ryjanova are the strong favorites in the Open and Wonen's events respectively.
Tonight saw the welcoming dinner at the Pacific Start Resort, and those that attended found it very enjoyable. There were traditional dances, nice music and singing, and excellent food. The speeches did not go on for too long, and it proved to be an excellent opening for the tournament.
Tomorrow sees the first two rounds for both events, with FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich making the ceremonial first move. At the moment I don't know where the results will be posted (or even who my opponent is going to be) but when I find out I will post a link.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

On the road again

I'm heading off to the 2019 Oceania Zonal in a couple of hours. The usual comments about blogging schedules, wifi access, and general tournament coverage apply. The 20 hours of travel is a little shorter than Europe/Olympiad etc, so hopefully I will remain in a good mood.

Friday, 15 February 2019

This looks familiar

The post you are about to read wasn't what I had originally intended to write about this evening. (BTW This isn't unusual, as I often cycle through a few ideas before settling on a topic). What I had planned to talk about was the lack of games I could find from the 1982-83 Australian Open. Chessbase only seems to have one or two, but in looking for these games, I came across the one that changed today's topic.
Having featured Valentina Gunina's nice win from the Cairns Cup, I came across a game from 1982 that seemed to share a lot of the same features (and a few differences). Played by Ian Rogers against Pat Halpin (possibly at the Australian Open), is saw an attack on f7, with the idea of catching the Black king in the Open. However, unlike the Gunina game where the attack was winning after the piece sacrifice, the Rogers Halpin game was a lot more turbulent. Halpin actually missed a winning defence on move 17 (17...h6) while two moves later 19.Ba4+ would have brought the game to a swift conclusion. But given how complicated the position was, I wouldn't be surprised if most of the game was played in time trouble (for both players), which would explain some of the missed opportunities.

Rogers,Ian (2355) - Halpin [B94]
AUS Australia, 1982

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Here, take this.

Valentina Gunina scored a nice attacking win over Marie Sebag in the currently running Cairns Cup. It was a fairly typical Sicilian King side attack v Queen side attack game, where the attack on the King side crashed through first.
The key moment was when Gunina left a knight sitting unprotected on b5,offering it to Sebag's queen. This kind of offer is what the late Patrick Connell referred to 'sucker bait'. And in this case it was. Sebag grabbed to knight, and after that, Gunina's attack was unstoppable.
Obviously the temptation to grab material is a strong one, but offers like this usually come with strings attached. Indeed, at this level, such offers should be doubly suspicious, as you don't get here by giving stuff away for free.

Gunina,V (2501) - Sebag,M (2476) [B90]
1st Cairns Cup 2019 Saint Louis USA (5), 10.02.2019

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Decluttering my chess

'Decluttering' seems to be all the rage at the moment, with a whole industry based on the concept of 'throwing things away' developing. Deciding that this is a good band-wagon to jump onto, I've decided to apply the same principles to my chess.
As hinted at last week, I have decided to try 'simple chess', aiming for clear cut positions in the opening, where the aim is to have one or two obvious plans, based on creating and targeting weaknesses in my opponents position.
For the second week in a row, I seemed to get this to work quite well. 2.c3 is a new line for me (I have previously played the Closed Sicilian) but it gave me the position I was looking for. Following the KISS principle, I only need to come up with some short term plans, find a few nice tactics, and by move 30, my opponents position had completely collapsed.

Press,Shaun - Grcic,Milan [B22]
University Cup, 12.02.2019

Monday, 11 February 2019

Unhappy Anniversary

Yesterday was the 23rd anniversary of one of the more momentous occasions in chess history. On the 10th February 1996 Gary Kasparov played the first game in his first match against IBM's Deep Blue chess computer. To the surprise of most observers, Kasparov lost the first game, making a couple of errors in the middlegame and getting hit with an unstoppable attack.
Whether Kasparov took the first game too lightly, or simply walked into a position more to Deep Blue's liking, I'm not sure. But after that Kasparov knuckled down and won 3 of the remaining 5 games to win the match 4-2.
Of course the rematch the next year ended far more unhappily for Kasparov. Against an improved version of Deep Blue he went into the final game tied at 2.5-2.5, but then famously blew up, to lose the match by a single game.

Comp Deep Blue - Kasparov,Garry (2795) [B22]
Philadelphia m Philadelphia (1), 10.02.1996

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Space is the place

"The Game of Chess" by Siegbert Tarrasch is an instructional manual that was first published in 1931 (with an English edition publish in 1935). Written at the end of Tarrasch's career, it is a distillation of his approach to chess, laying out the principles which he thought were necessary to follow in playing good chess.
Looking at reviews on line it seems  highly regarded, but at the same time, less well known than "My System" by his great rival, Nimzowitsch. Possibly this is because "My System" was considered revolutionary at the time, while Tarrasch was seen to be defending the older style of play. Nonetheless, looking at both books, there seems to be an overlap in certain areas (eg Rooks on the open files and the seventh rank).
At the end of the book he gives some example games, including the one below. There are two reasons why I've chosen this game. Firstly, the system Euwe chooses against the English, is one that Tarrasch highly praises, and is still recommended as an anti-English system today. Secondly, it is a good example of how the player with extra space can use this the generate a strong attack. Euwe gets over the 'half way line' first, and as a result soon has the White king in his sights.

Kleefstra,HD - Euwe,Max [A09]
Amsterdam Spielmann Toernooi Amsterdam (3), 29.03.1933

2019 Oceania Zonal

The 2019 Oceania Zonal is running from the 18th of February through to the 23rd in Guam. This 9 round swiss will determine Oceania's representative at the next World Cup event.
At the moment GM Max Illingworth is the top seed in the Open event, and is the clear favourite to win the tournament. Almost all the member countries in the zone are sending their strongest players, with the exception of New Zealand, who while sending a reasonably sized contingent, aren't being represented by the 'upper tier'.
The top seed for the Women's event is WGM Julia Ryjanova (AUS), and she is also a clear favourite in that tournament.
The location of the tournament (and the subsequent makeup of the field) has attracted a large amount of discussion within Australian chess circles. Most of this discussion revolves around how the distances required to travel serve as a disincentive for stronger players to take part. While this is a valid issue, I will point out (based on years as a tournament organiser), that it doesn't take much before strong chessplayers find a reason not to do anything.
On the other hand, as the purpose of the zonal is to bring each federations best players together, it has generally succeeded in doing that. Before swisses became more common, each country would have only sent one or two players to compete in a round robin, and would have seen a similar, but smaller field. And holding the event in different federations is also important, as it helps develop chess in areas outside Melbourne, Australia.

(*Disclaimer: I am a member of the Oceania Chess Confederation Executive who awarded the event to Guam, and am participating in the tournament)

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Lifeline Bookfair 2019

The 2019 Lifeline Bookfair started today, so I made my biannual trip to EPIC in Canbbera. As in past years I arrived before it opened, so as to try and get the pick of the chess books on offer. And as in past years there seemed to be quite a large collection on offer.
However, as my own collection grows, the opportunity to add new books diminishes. While there would have been around 60 books, I seemed to own most of them. However I did at least manage to grab a few, the most interesting being a book of opening traps in 'Fianchetto Openings', while the most useful was David Levy's classic 'Sacrifices in the Sicilian'. Apart from that there were the usual collection of Reinfeld books, the obligatory copy of 'Play Better Chess', and an increasing number of books on Sudoku, Crosswords and other things of lesser interest to chess players.
If you want to get along, the sale runs over the weekend. While they do replenish the stock for most subjects, if past history is anything to go by, all the chess books have already been put out. That doesn't mean there won't be some good ones left, but they might be harder to find.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

The Gambit Killer

Lasker's Defence to the Evan's Gambit is often held up as the model of the 'Gambit Killer'. Instead of trying to hang onto the extra pawn, Black is happy to give it back, in exchange for a better position. Lasker first used it in 1895 against Tchigorin, and the discovery of this line was credited with putting the Evans Gambit out of business.
There are a couple of curious things about this story. Firstly, the opening had been played a number of times before Lasker used it (as early as 1834). Secondly, the line is by no means forced on White, which no doubt contributed to it's revival in the 1990's by Kasparov. Indeed, almost every time I've seen a modern Evans Gambit played (either in print or in person), Lasker's Defence never seems to be used.
But the line is still a good one, if played, as demonstrated by Lasker at the St Petersburg Tournament of 1895-96

Chigorin,Mikhail - Lasker,Emanuel [C52]
St Petersburg Four Masters St Petersburg (1.3), 17.12.1895

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Off to a good start

It is always good to start the year's chess with a nice win. Up against one of my regular opponents (Milan Ninchich), I was able to put the summer's study of Capablanca games to good use. He allowed me to fracture his pawn structure with a capture on f3, and I then spent the rest of the game targeting weaknesses and improving my position. What especially pleased me was a I was able to keep my pieces coordinated, while preventing his from doing the same.

Ninchich,Milan - Press,Shaun [C55]
University Cup, 05.02.2019

Monday, 4 February 2019

Creating your own market

I have absolutely no idea what is being described in this link
I think it is some kind of chess but how close it is to actual chess is difficult to judge (at least to me). What is probably the most interesting thing here, is that the author being profiled (Siafa Neal) offers lessons and exhibitions for paying customers.
An interesting approach to being a coach I guess. Create your own product and hope other people are interested. Almost like modern software!

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Belconnen Chess Club starts for 2019

This coming Tuesday evening (5 February) the University of Canberra-Belconnen Chess Club will resume activities after the silly season break.

The club will get straight into it with Round 1 of the University Cup 2019.

Time control will be 60 minutes with 30 second increment, one round to be played per week for a total of seven rounds, using standard swiss pairing rules. The time control allows for earlier finishes, encouraging more juniors to participate and as many as possible should join in. New players are welcome to join in later rounds and will be granted a maximum of two half-points for missed rounds. Tournament results will be submitted to the Australian Chess Federation for ACF rating purposes.

UC-Belconnen Chess Club annual fees are $25 or $15 for concessionals.

Please come early (from 6:45pm) so we can start play as close as possible to the planned start time of 7:15pm.

Club details, including a location map, are at:

Friday, 1 February 2019

Best game from Gibraltar

Awarding a "Best Game" prize used to be tricky. Usually players needed to submit the games themselves, as no one else had a record of the moves. Often players were either too show to submit their games, or instead, submitted every win they had, even the ones that were complete flukes.
But with the advent of DGT boards (or people typing games in), finding good games is easier. Of course the criteria is still a little subjective, with 'flashy' games standing out, but usually the winning game is worth playing through.
The winner of the best game prize from Gibraltar was an interesting draw between GM Gawain Jones and GM Alejandro Ramirez. It contains a couple of things that make it stand out. There was an unusual opening variation, there was a piece sacrifice, there was an an attack against the king, there were some good defensive moves, and finally the game didn't last too long! Of course there was debate about the final moves (Black could have blocked the check with Bg7, forcing White to play on), but in the heat of battle, Black clearly wanted to play it safe.

Jones,Gawain C B (2691) - Ramirez,Alejandro (2567) [C10]
Gibraltar Masters 2019 Caleta ENG (4.13), 25.01.2019

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Adventures in book buying

During the week I have had to make two trips to Sydney for chess related business. While Sydney is becoming increasingly difficult to get around in (by car at least, public transport is often better) I did make one useful detour.
Sappho Books is a second hand bookshop / cafe on Glebe Point Road, and currently has quite a large collection of second hand books (and by large, their catalogue has over 1000). Due to the sale of a personal collection, the range of books (and pamphlets)  cover almost every facet of the game, and range in age of recent publications to a number of old classics.
Operating on a very limited budget, I looked rather than purchased, as I was likely to walk out with more than I could carry if I unleashed the credit card. Of course I will probably have a more detailed shopping list the next time I return, but for now, I leave it to others to empty the shelves.
Some books are probably priced a higher than they should be (no doubt based on price lookups on the interent), but there are still plenty of cheaper and/or historic books. So if you are in the Glebe area of Sydney (or in the mood for a special trip) I do recommend you drop in, either to build up your chess library, or simply for a coffee and a browse.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

How do you retire from chess?

With news that former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik is retiring from professional chess, I'm wondering what the actual process for doing this is. In Kramnik's case it is a little more clear cut, as he did specify 'professional' chess, and I'm assuming this means he won't be playing any high level events, at least in the near future. He has said he will now be focusing on chess education projects, so it isn't the case that he is quitting chess altogether.
There have been some famous 'retirements' over the years, some which have been reasonably permanent and some that have not. Emmanuel Lasker retired a few times in his career, but kept coming back after a period away from the board. Gary Kasparov's retirement in 2005 has been a more 'proper' retirement, although he has continued to play exhibition style events (and some competitive quickplay tournaments) since. Bobby Fischer also stopped playing after 1972 (until 1992) but he didn't so much retire as simply refuse to play anyone.
As for non-professionals, players don't so much retire, as just give up playing. Everyone now and then you might see an announcement of social media about 'taking a break from the game', although I find players who do this seem to return for the next tournament after all (As an aside I know at least one player who announces they are quitting chess after almost every loss). More commonly players just drift away from actual play, until they convince themselves that it is too hard to get back into the rhythm of club or competition chess. So not quite retired, instead, just not active.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

It's the little things

Here is another interesting game from the 2019 Gibraltar Masters. Lev Aronian beat Nigel Short in a game where Aronian looked to have an increasing advantage throughout. After the game Short commented that he could have resigned around move 25, and he couldn't understand what he did wrong.
I can sympathise with his predicament, as I often get lost positions without realising it until far too late. In Short's case it does become clear that his queenside pawns are the problem, but what he should have done is a more difficult question the answer.

Short,Nigel D (2648) - Aronian,Levon (2767) [B90]
Gibraltar Masters 2019 Caleta ENG (6.2), 27.01.2019

Sunday, 27 January 2019

There is a right way

Finding a refutation to every opening you face is the dream of the average player. Of course it should remain a dream, as such a thing is not possible. However, this does not stop chess books (especially 'repertoire' books) from promising something very close to this.
I must confess I get seduced by such claims, and even if I am aware such a line won't work in every circumstance, Is still think it might still be good enough to beat most players. One example is my anti Pirc/Modern line, which I have been playing for around 10 years. It is a pretty basic cave-man line, based around Be3,Qd2,Bh6 and f4. While I have had some success with it, it has also gone wrong when my kingside hack runs out of steam, and I get wiped out on the queenside.
So I was quite pleased to come across the following game from the 2019 Gibraltar Masters. Sure, White outrates his opponent by more than 200 points, but Black, at 2481, is still a lot stronger than players I usually meet.

Vitiugov,Nikita (2720) - Harsha,Bharathakoti (2481) [B07]
Gibraltar Masters 2019 Caleta ENG (5.6), 26.01.2019