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

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

If grabbing the b pawn is bad ....

Grabbing the b pawn with your queen is considered one of the cardinal sins in the opening (Bobby Fischer notwithstanding), so how bad is grabbing the a pawn?
Examples of this sin are not that common, but here is a recent game where Black did this and lost horribly. As to whether the blame can solely be attributed to the pawn grab, (or neglecting the centre, not developing, and failing to castle) is an exercise left to the reader.

Dreev,A (2657) - Loiacono,Antonio (2317) [D02]
10th Dolomiti Open 2019 Forni di Sopra ITA (2.2), 16.06.2019

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Double Resignation

One of the stranger incidents in my arbiting career occurred during the NSW Open last weekend. During one game there was a dispute over whether a player had said "adjust" before touching a piece or not. Anyone who has been involved in schools/junior chess knows how hard these cases can be, but in this case it was between to adult players. If the touched pawn was moved then it would be a pretty easy win for the opponent, while if not, then the ending was still difficult.
As there were no witnesses, no action could be taken, apart from warning the player to make it "very" clear when he was adjusting a piece, and to make sure when adjusting it it doesn't first move to another square (this was part of the first players claim).
After a few more moves the claimant approached me and told me he wished to resign the game, as he felt he could not continue playing under the circumstances. While I sympathised with him, I did tell me that resignation was final, which he accepted. Having then walked away, the opponent then approached me, saying that he would be willing to resign the game, as he did not want to upset his opponent. I told him that it was (un)fortunately too late as his opponent had got in first!
Someone did suggest a double loss could be recorded, but I ruled that out, as the game was officially over when the first player informed me of his resignation.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

More big board action

This will not be a permanent feature of this blog (I promise), but here is another game played on the giant chess board in Garema Place, Canberra. The usual caveats about seriousness and soundness apply.

Press,Shaun - Patterson,Miles [C02]
Big Board Civic, 14.06.2019

Thursday, 13 June 2019

I've only just seen this

BTW I did meet Lee Lin Chin while travelling back from the 2008 Chess Olympiad (along with Gary Bekker). Chess was discussed.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Things that never happen (until they do)

A lot of coaching/teaching books have the classic endgame example of 3 pawns v 3 pawns, where the central pawn push is the only move that wins. For this to work of course, both kings have to be on the far side of the board, otherwise the idea doesn't work. And the situation never occurs anyway, as one side or the other pushes a pawn to prevent this exact situation from occurring.
 Or so I thought, at least until this evening.
White had been winning the diagrammed position for quite a while, and the obvious idea was to give up the c pawn to win the kingside pawns. However it appears that while Black was aware of how to force a passed pawn on the kingside, White was not. So Black took his only chance in the position, and crossed his fingers.

1...g4 2.hxg4 f4 3.gxf4 h4 Now even here White is still winning but Black's luck held out, as White did not run for the kingside but instead blindly pushed on 4.c6 h3 5.c7 Kd7 6.g5 h2 7.c8Q+ Kxc8 8.g6 h1Q 9.g7 Qh7 0-1

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Not all checks are good checks

The 2019 NSW Open saw a number of interesting games. On such game from the early rounds was played by IM Junta Ikeda on his way to winning the tournament. He built up a strong attacking position but it wasn't until his opponent played an ill-judged check (in time trouble), that the attack roared into life. Ikeda offered a queen sacrifice, which would have ended the game very quickly if accepted, but declining it did not help White either.

Siva Sankaran,Anup Kumar (1749) - Ikeda,Junta (2424)
2019 NSW Open Sydney, Australia (1.3), 08.06.2019

Monday, 10 June 2019

2019 NSW Open - Ikeda wins

IM Junta Ikeda is the winner of the 2019 NSW Open, scoring an impressive 6.5/7. A quick draw with top seed IM Stanislav Smetankin left him a point in front of Smetankin, IM Igor Bjelobrk and IM Gary Lane.
The Under 1600 event was won by Shane Dibley with 6.5/7, half a point ahead of Lee Forace on 6 points.

2019 NSW Open - Rounds 4&5

IM Junta Ikeda is now the sole leader of the 2019 NSW Open after winning both his round 4 and round 5 games. In the top board clash in round 5, Ikeda beat 2nd seed GM Daniel Fernandez, going into an ending a couple of pawns up. Tied for 2nd place are IM Igor Bjelobrk and IM Stanislav Smetankin.
This morning's round has Ikeda up against Bjelobrk, while Smetankin is playing young Canberran, Willis Lo.
In the Under 1600 tournament, Shane Dibley and Lee Forace lead with 4.5/5. They drew their round 5 game, and now play Tim Singleton and Ruofan Xu respectively.
Today sees the last two rounds of the tournament. You can see the scores for the Open and Minor at, while live coverage is available at

Sunday, 9 June 2019

2019 NSW Open - Round 3

The leading group in the 2019 NSW Open has been reduced to 6 players after round 3. While the top 4 seeds all won their games, IM Gary Lane drew against Fred Litchfield, while FM Donato Malari scored an upset win over IM Andro Wagdy on board 6. The fourth round sees IM Stanislav Smetankin against IM Igor Bjelobrk, WGM Jilin Zhang against GM Daniel Fernandez and IM Junta Ikeda against FM Donato Mallari.
Apart from the upset results, there were a couple of strange finishes on the lower boards. FM Kevin O'Chee allowed his opponent to escape with a draw, after swapping rooks and allowing a bishop and wrong coloured rook pawn ending. In the Minor, there was great amusement when one player left a piece en-pris, only to have his opponent offer a draw (rather than capture it!).
While Round 5 (the evening round) normally sees a large number of requests for half point byes, it looks as though almost all of the leading players will be on deck. You can follow the top 6 boards at, while the tournament results are available at

Saturday, 8 June 2019

2019 NSW Open - Round 2

The 2nd round of the 2019 NSW Open has finished, with most games still going according to rating. The top 15 seeds are still on perfect scores (2/2), along with 1 unrated player, Gia Huy Nguyen. While the lower rated players had some chances to score upsets, a combination of good defence, or even good luck for their stronger opponents meant they fell just short.
There were a couple of interesting round 2 games, with Junta Ikeda's offer of a queen being a particular highlight, while the board 6 game between Plunkett and IM Wagdy started with 1.Nc3 Nf6 2.g4!?!.
Tomorrows first round (starting at 9:30) will see the leading pack chopped in half, but even then it won't until the evening round that the likely winners will emerge.

2019 NSW Open - Round 1

The 2019 NSW Open has begun, with a field of 132 players in attendance. Top seed is Bulgarian IM Stanislav Smetankin, with English GM Daniel Fernandez the second seed. The Open section has 17 players rated over 2000, out of the field of 65 players.
The Minor (under 1600) tournament has 67 players. Defending champion Frank Low has already suffered an upset round 1 loss to Lucas Ni, while a couple of the other top seeds have suffered a similar fate.
Pairings and results from the tournaments can be found here (Open and Minor) while live coverage of the top 6 boards of the can be found at Chess24.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Playing on the big board

If you are in Canberra City during the week, you will find the big chess pieces are now being put out in Garema Place. Most of the time they aren't being used, but for the last couple of Fridays' I, and a few others, have gone down at lunchtime for a couple of games.
However, using the big pieces is a slightly different experience than playing normal chess, as the following game demonstrates. Apart from the difficulty in keeping track of everything, both players were following the 'big piece' playing guide which includes: Move fast, play aggressively, make obvious threats, and don't worry if you lose.

Press,Shaun - Raidisch,Matt [B22]
Canberra Big Board, 07.06.2019

A change in numbers

A number of years ago (at least 20), I was involved in running a high school competition in Canberra, at the Australian National University. The event was well attended, with over 120 players (IIRC). Of those 120 players, there were only 2 female players. At the time this wasn't that unusual, as there was a significant drop in the number of female players once they reached High School.
Move forward 20 years and the 3% participation level has jumped to over 40%. At this years North Canberra Secondary event, almost half the field were female players, as were the top 2 seeds. This was helped by Merici College taking part for the first time, a welcome addition to the ACT Schools chess scene.
As for the tournament itself, Lyneham High School dominated once again, They picked up all the major prizes, and despite the valiant efforts from the top players from other schools, 4 of their players finished with perfect scores (7/7)!

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Both players were lucky to draw!

Black to play
The diagrammed position comes from a club game I was watching last night (NB I have reconstructed it from memory so it may not be 100% accurate). White had sacrificed a piece for an attack that didn't work, and then lost the exchange, to go a full rook down. However Black was short of time, and so White went looking for a way out.
In the position it is Black's move, and worried about the check on c4 played 1 ... Kb7?? White then hit him with 2.Rf6 and in a panic Black played 2...d4?? However while White had been on the receiving end of some good luck, it was now Black's turn the get more than his share. White missed Qe4+! which wins pretty quickly and instead played 3.Qxd4. After 3...Qc8 White should have finished off Black with Qb6+ and Rf7, but the idea that he might win the game hadn't occurred to him. Instead he played 4.Rf7+ Qc7 5.Rxc7+ Kxc7 6.Qc5+  and then checked across the 6th rank until a draw was agreed!

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

More sacrifices on h6

I have never found sacrificing a bishop on h6 (or h3) very subtle. You can usually see it coming a few moves ahead and either prevent it with a move like Kh7, or allow it on the assumption it isn't going to work. At long time controls this is probably easy enough to work out, but at blitz ....

Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2779) - Grischuk,Alexander (2775) [B30]
7th Norway Blitz 2019 Stavanger NOR (3.2), 03.06.2019

Monday, 3 June 2019

Another World Cup

Lots of late nights store, with the Cricket World Cup running for the next month or so. One of the interesting things for this edition is that they have dispensed with the pool system and gone for a singe round robin qualifier. Each of the 10 teams plays each other once, and then the top 4 qualify for the final. While this format is probably the best for getting the best 4 teams into the final, the notorious English weather may have a part to play, with washed out games being the equivalent of a drawn game. But unlike chess, the teams don;t have a say in which games are drawn, so pity the team needing a win in the final round, just as the heavens open ...

Saturday, 1 June 2019

More things that aren't chess

While chess grapples with the issue of drawn games and the best method of deciding a champion/tournament winner/rating prizes, the world of 'competitive spelling' (words I spelled incorrectly in my first draft), dealt with the issue by simply giving up. The US National Spelling Bee ended in an 8 way tie when it became clear that the remaining finalists new every word in the dictionary. As usual I defer to Deadspin for commentary on obscure competitions.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Nepo wins GP

Ian Nepomniachtchi is the winner of the first FIDE GP ebent for 2019. He defeated Alexander Grischuk in the final 2.5-15, winning the second Rapid game after their standard games were both drawn.
Looking through the crosstable, I'm not sure the knockout format helped in terms of generating decisive results. Over 60% of the games were drawn, with only 11 wins in standard games (from a total of 30 games).
Of course in making this suggestion, I am aware that these figures aren't necessarily different from other formats that have been tried. On the other hand, the benefit of a KO is that there is a definite winner, rather than having multiple players tied for first.

Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2773) - Grischuk,Alexander (2772) [C50]
Moscow FIDE Grand Prix Moscow RUS (4.1), 29.05.2019

Thursday, 30 May 2019

The big centre

Having pawns on e4 and d4 is considered advantageous, especially when they aren't being directly challenged. But eventually you do have to do something with them. The following miniature is an example of White using the pawns to gain space, and then material, when Black chooses the wrong move.

Stefansson,Vignir Vatnar (2291) - Leosson,Atli Johann (1790) [D10]
Icelandic Open 2019 Akureyri ISL (1.10), 25.05.2019

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Plus 1, minus 1

Magnus Carlsen has won the Lindores Abbey Stars Rapid event, with a very minimal 3.5/6. He did this by beating Viswanathan Anand, and drawing the rest of his games. The loss by Anand consigned him to last place on 2.5/6, with Sergey Karjakin and Ding Liren tied for 2nd on 3/6. The bottm 3 players all won a single game against each other, but it was the extra loss by Anand that decided the event.

Carlsen,Magnus - Anand,Viswanathan [E48]
Lindores Abbey Stars, 25.05.2019

Sunday, 26 May 2019

No draw blitz

I am looking at putting together a small blitz event, as a way of promoting chess in Canberra. The idea is to have 2 x 4 player round robins, with the winners of each group qualifying for a single game final. To make the whole thing work withing a specific time frame, I'm looking at making the following changes ...

Tie break for the RR pools: In case of a tie fir 1st, the lower rated player qualifies

Rules for the final game: No draw offers, no immediate repetitions (like the Ko rule in Go), stalemate is a loss, and bare king is a loss.

The rules for the final are so the whole thing must be decided in a single game. When mentioning to people at Street Chess on Saturday, the 'bare king' rule evoked the most comment, as a position like K+R v K+R is either to be decided on the clock, or the first player to play RxR will win (even if KxR is the legal response)

Saturday, 25 May 2019

A roll of the dice

Every now and then you can try and pull off an early swindle, by playing an offbeat opening move. Against a highly rated opponent this may not work, but against other players, "rolling the dice" may pay off.
For example, the line 1.e4 e4 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Bxc6 dxc6 5.Nxe5?! Qd4 is known to be fine for Black, but if White wishes to gamble, then 6.Qh5!?! could prove a surprise for White. The most common reply is 6...Qxe4+ and while Black gets an edge in this line, they have to tread carefully after 7.Kd1. The better choice is 6...g6 when White can look at playing 7.Qg5 and after 7...Qxe4+ 8.Qe3 hope that Black is so scared of discovered checks that they avoid Qxg2!
Objectively this whole line is unsound, but if you are looking at mixing it up at faster time controls, then there may be something here for the adventurous.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Pick a player, almost any player

I enjoy reading game collections of great players, especially if the player themselves is the author. I usually pick a new player every couple of months, and play through the games from books that cover their career. Currently I am looking at a couple of books on Bent Larsen, who was one of the leading players of the 1960's and 70's.
Larsen was one of these players with a 'universal' style, in a similar way to Spassky or Keres. He was also a fan of slightly off beat openings, and famously avoided easy draws with 'chancy' moves, figuring that 2 wins and a loss was always better than 3 drawn games.
He was a 'sharp' player, but his attacks were usually built on solid positional foundations. He played many brilliant games in his career (and was on the other side of a few brilliancies as well), but the one I've chosen to feature is his win over Gligoric from the 1967 Capablanca Memorial.

Gligoric,Svetozar - Larsen,Bent [E43]
Capablanca Memorial Havana (12), 1967

Thursday, 23 May 2019


The other day I saw an interesting description of games like chess, in terms of complexity levels. (Apologies as I do not have the link to hand). The author said one of the appealing aspects of chess is that the game starts off at a low complexity level, becomes quite complicated in the middle, but most importantly, returns to low complexity levels by the end.
By this he means that the starting position is well known, as what needs to be done is basically understood by serious players, but the middle game leads to a myriad of differing positions, most of which are unique. By the end though, the goal is to reduce the complexity back to known winning (or drawing positions).
This is a new concept for me, but the author sees this a good thing, not just for chess, but for other board games. Without having vast experience with other board games, I'd guess this may be a goal in designing other games. "Analysis Paralysis" is certainly an issue in some games I have played, which does make them less attractive to me. On the other hand, the attraction of multi-player games is that everyone has a chance of winning (or influencing the result) for far longer than chess (drop a queen and its over!).

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

The big set

Good news for Canberra chess players who are wondering when the giant chess set in Garema Place is ever getting used. The ACT Government has decided to put the pieces out during the week, as part of efforts to 'jazz up' Canberra's centre. They will be out from around 8 till 2 each weekday, so if you work in the city, or are just passing through, lunchtime is a good time to have a go.
I plan to pay a visit over the next couple of days, to both take some pictures, and see how popular it is. If it attracts a decent crowd, Street Chess might even think of expanding to a midweek blitz event, if only every couple of weeks.

Monday, 20 May 2019


The 2019 FIDE Grand Prix series is underway, with the first event currently taking place in Moscow. Borrowing from tennis, each Grand Prix event will now be played as a knockout, with GP points earned by surviving for as long as possible. To avoid one of the defects of chess knock-out events, players who win without going to playoff games earn more points than players who do.
Each of the 4 events has the same field, with the top two finishers qualifying for the Candidates Series. Already there have been a couple of high profile casualties in the first tournament with Lev Aronian, and Anish Giri being knocked out in the first round. 
Live coverage of the event is at the tournament website, with rounds starting at 10pm Canberra time.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Look before you leap

There is a difference between an 'active' sacrifice and a 'passive' one. It is harder to decline and active one, than it is to decline one where a piece is left en-pris. As an example, here is a tap in the Sicilian, which I pulled off today. Leaving my queen en-pris was the best move, but capturing was not. After the sequence of captures I was a piece ahead, as I had hoped. But if my opponent hadn't been so  greedy  (and captured the knight instead), I would have the better game, but not by as much as a piece.

Press, Shaun - Black
Street Chess, 18.05.2019

Thursday, 16 May 2019

That Ed Sheeren moment

Former World Champion Anatoly Karpov has engaged in a bit of 'celebrity cameo' by turning up for one game in the Russian Teams Championship. Representing Sverdlovsk he played GM Matlakov in a game that ended in a somewhat curious draw. Karpov won/ Matlakov sacrificed a piece on move 18, but Matlakov then took the available draw by repetition. What was odd about this was that the position was repeated 5 times, which indicates that the players were avoiding the wrath of the arbiters for agreeing to a draw before move 30.

Karpov,Ana (2616) - Matlakov,M (2697) [E32]
TCh-RUS Premier 2019 Sochi RUS (7.5), 08.05.2019

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

(Another) short shameful confession

I've had a good start to the year in terms of my chess, having been undefeated at long time control in 2019. Trying to work out how long this streak was, I went back through my database to see when I last lost. It was then I discovered I had been doing something naughty for the last few years. Even though I lost more than a few games last year (at the ANU Open for example), these games are missing from my DB. I seem to have fallen into the habit of 'forgetting' to enter my losses, so my record looks a lot better than it really is.
Sifting my way through the games it looks as though my last loss in the DB is from 2017, and I posted about it here.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

The Scotch Game

In one of my early opening books I read that the name of the well know opening 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 was historically incorrect. The opening is of course the Scotch Game, so named because it was played by the Edinburgh Chess Club against the London Chess Club in a Correspondence Chess Match. The author argued that in this case it should really be the Scottish Game, as Scotch referred to the whiskey, and not the country.
Due to an interesting marketing campaign, there may be a chance to repair this historical error. The Lindores Abbey Distillery is hosting a 4 player rapid event towards the end of the month. It will feature Carlsen, Anand,  Ding and a 4th player to be named. It will be held at the distillery, and so, if one of the players actually plays the Scotch Opening (possibly inspired by the local product), it may then rightfully claim the name.
Sadly for me (and many others) the Perth the distillery is near is the one in Scotland (not Australia), and so I will have to follow it online. For the lucky locals, tickets are an incredibly cheap 20 pounds(!), although the space is only limited to 70 spectators.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Mongo only pawn in game of life

I have mentioned "Blazing Saddles" in the context of chess before, but I'd thought I'd throw in another mention, as it was on my TV again yesterday. And as an added Mel Brooks bonus, it was preceded by "Young Frankenstein", which while not having as many chess scenes, is still incredibly funny.

Friday, 10 May 2019

King safety first

Normally when we draw up a list of "things that are important" material is at the top of the list. Then things like pawn structure, open lines, and king safety. But in reality the first item on the list should be king safety.
One reason king safety gets overlooked as it is a little harder to quantify than a count of material. Another is that having an unsafe king isn't always a loss, while being down material (without other compensation) usually is.
However, as your opponents get better, leaving your king open to attack will result in more losses. An example of this is in this recent game from the Capablanca Memorial, where Blacks failure to castle in a timely manner is drastically punished.

Adhiban,Baskaran (2701) - Albornoz Cabrera,Carlos Daniel (2566) [A17]
54th Capablanca Mem Elite Havana CUB (2.2), 04.05.2019

Thursday, 9 May 2019

There are exceptions

Black to play
While rules can get us pretty far in chess, there are always exceptions we need to be aware of. In the diagrammed position White assumed he had an easy win, which resulted in him dropping half a point.
In the position is is Black's move. White's idea was to create a passed pawn on the Queenside after b4-b5 and then clean up the kingside pawns. However the plan unravelled after 1. ... f3+ (exchanging on g3 does lose for Black) 2.Kd2 Kd4 3.b4 Kc4 4.b5 axb At this point White went in to a deep think, as he realised that his original plan goes badly wrong after 5.axb Kxb5 6.Ke3 Kc4 7.Kf4?? Kd3 8.Kxg4 Ke2 and Black will promote well ahead of White. So instead he bailed out with 6.Kd3 Kb4 7.Kd4 Kb3 and a draw was agreed.
There is a slightly trickier line that White might have tried 5.a5 Kc5 6.Kc3 but after 6. ... b4+ 7.Kb3 Kb5 8.a6 Kxa6 9.Kxb4 Black will still be able to get to e2 if White goes after the g4 pawn.
If White wanted to try for a win it turns out he has to break the "push the potential passed pawn" rule that often applies. Instead of 3.b4, 3.a5! is the winning move. White then pushes the Black king far enough back on the queenside so that when the exchange on b5 happens, the king cannot get back to e2 in time.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

2019 4NCL Final Weekend

The incredibly popular 4NCL teams championship has just finished the 2019/19 season, and while the final outcome wasn't a surprise (Guildford win again!), there were still some results of note. The rise of the Isle of Manx team continues, and they finished second, edging out Cheddleton on game points. White Rose finished in 4th place, just edging out the second Guildford team, again on Game points.
In the 'relegation' section Celtic Tigers (managed by Chris Skulte) managed to avoid the drop with a last round victory, keeping them in the top 4 of the section. Understandably pleased with staying in the top flight, Chris even sent me one of his games from the weekend.

Skulte,Christopher (2140) - MacQueen,Calum (2237)
4NCL Division 1d Telford, ENG (10.57), 05.05.2019

Monday, 6 May 2019

Secrets of Opening Shockers

New in Chess have a series of books called Secrets of Opening Surprises. If I remember correctly one of the SOS chapters dealt with 3.Bd3 in the French. It was given as a 'not so bad' variation that could unsettle your opponent.
Whether the player with the white pieces in the following game had read about Bd3 in SOS I cannot say. But if he did, he may have wanted to read a few more pages before wheeling it out.

Bergin,Cian (1512) - Farrelly,Eoin (1644) [C00]
Irish International Open Dublin IRL (7.41), 21.04.2019

Do as I say ...

I ended up in a slightly awkward position at Street Chess yesterday. Apart from providing regular competition to Canberra's serious players it also provides a bit of free coaching and advice to people interested in starting competition chess.
Sometime I am the person providing the coaching, and my coaching method usually involves talking quite a lot. So I was playing a friendly game against a new player, and offering encouraging advice as I went along. I'd picked up a piece early, and was using this to increase my material advantage. I had even got to the point where I had a rook and a bishop, while my opponent only had a few pawns. I was halfway through explaining that more experienced players don't always go for the quick checkmate, but are happy to collect material before finishing the game off, when he quietly said to me "I think you've stalemated me". While I had been happily chatting away, he had moved his king up the board in such a way as it had no retreat, and with his remaining pawns immobilised, he had absolutely no moves at all!

Friday, 3 May 2019

A quick promotion

It is quite possible I have managed to sneak a pawn to the other end of the board quicker than this, but I'm not sure if I have done so in a CC game. Usually I am on the White side of the BDG, but this was a thematic event where I had to play both White and Black. Possibly my opponent was hoping I would play Qb4 instead of Qg4, but after queens came off, the fight seemed to go out of him.

RonBurgundy - Press,Shaun [D00]
BDG Thematic

Thursday, 2 May 2019

I know that you know, but do you know that I know that you know?

I thought I had come across an interesting trap in the Sicilian. Black lets White think he has made a mistake with 10... Ng4, but after the plausible 11.Nd5 Black gives up the queen on b6, but wins  3 pieces in return. Looking at the stats, White 'fell' for this at least 85 times, and while it didn't always  win for Black, a score of 63% for Black showed that is was quite effective.
However it turns out that White can lure Black into this line, but instead of 'winning' the queen, plays 12.Bxg4! Black has no choice but to capture on e3, but then the queens come off and White is perfectly fine. It even looks as though some White players specialise in this variation, as the same names keep turning up o the white side of the board. I suspect the choice is somewhat psychological, in that Black thinks he is doing something clever, only to have it refuted by the opponent.
Nonetheless, White isn't doing so well to render the line unsound. Black can still play it in the hope that White doesn't play the correct line, as in the following game.

Poulsen,Christian - Weil,Wolfgang [B73]
M√ľnchen Schach-Olympia (No FIDE event) Munich (4), 19.08.1936

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

The Chess Tournament (London 1851) - New Release

e+Books has just released a new version of Howard Staunton's book on the London 1851 chess tournament. "The Chess Tournament" was produced at the completion of the event, and contains all the games from the main tournament, as well as every game from the subsidiary events. This new edition is in algebraic notation, but the comments and analysis are the same as in the original edition.
This version is available through the ePlusChess app, which runs on iPad's and iPhone's. The app is free to download, and allows you to read a chess book, and play through the games at the same time. There is also a free copy of "Chess Fundamentals" by Capablanca, which you can download to see how the app works.
In the next few months there will be more books released. This includes Bill Egan's wonderful book "The Doeberl Cup", a updated version of "My Chess Career" by Capablanca, and a collection of classic 19th century games titled "Chess Brilliants". Currently the app has 51 published titles from authors such as Silman, Nimzowitsch, Lasker and Benjamin. There is a mixture of well known classics such as "My System" and "Common Sens in Chess" as well as new titles like "The Perfect Pirc-Modern" by Mosalenko.

*** Disclaimer: I am an employee of e+Books, and typeset "The Chess Tournament". I am also the author/typesetter for a number of books mentioned here ***

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

2019 Grenke - Carlsen dominates

Following up from his decisive win at the 2019 Shamkir event, Magnus Carlsen continued his hot run of form by winning the 2019 Grenke Chess Classic with 7.5/9. He finished 1.5 points ahead of Fabiano Caruana, and pushed his rating up to 2875, which is getting close to his highest ever rating (2882 in 2014). After starting the tournament with 2 wins, he drew the next 3 games before finishing with 4 straight wins. While the game against Svidler is probably the most interesting (Svidler allowed Carlsen to mate him with a pawn!) his final round game is a fantastic example of accurate calculation and moving from one advantage to another.

Carlsen,Magnus (2845) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2773) [A37]
GRENKE Chess Classic 2019 Karlsruhe/Baden Baden GER (9.3), 29.04.2019

Sunday, 28 April 2019

2019 Sydney International Open - Win for Song

FM Raymond Song improved on his second place finish at last weeks O2C Doeberl Cup by finishing equal first in the 2019 Sydney International Open. He finished on 7/9 to tie with WGM Padmini Rout, taking the cup on count back.
He faced GM Daniel Fernandez in the final round and at one point had a winning advantage in a rook and pawn ending. However the choice of the wrong plan allowed Fernandez back into the game, and the game ended in a 68 move draw. Rout then caught Song, beating IM Junta Ikeda in a nice attacking game. GM Abhijit Kunte was outright equal third on 6.5/9 (alongside GM Daniel Fernandez), drawing with GM Darryl Johansen in the final round.
Junior player Jack Keating won the Challengers with a very impressive 8/9. Seeded 46th(!) he won 7 games and drew 2, to finsh a full point ahead of Adrian Chek.
The relaunched Sydney International Open and Challengers, proved a great success. Hosted by Macquarie University as part of the Macquarie University Chess Festival, the 4 festival events (Open, Challengers, Junior Rapidplay and Blitz) attracted 260 players over the 6 days. The organisers (including me) were happy with both the numbers and the tournament finances, and are looking forward to holding it again in 2020.

Johansen,Darryl - O'Chee,Kevin [D37]
Sydney International Open (8), 28.04.2019

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Why would you?

A few years ago this happened at Street Chess ("Stolen laptop halts play"). Sadly a new criminal has struck, stealing a bag of DGT clocks. Once again it was a crime of opportunity, and occurred while other equipment was being transported to the playing area. Fortunately we had a backup system (old analog clocks), so the show did go on, albeit with the tick tick tick of past millenia.
What anyone would do with stolen digital chess clocks (apart from play chess) is a good question. Not the easiest gear in the world to fence, so the belief for now is that they have ended up in a convenient garbage hopper.

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