Monday, 19 August 2019

Knowing the tricks

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

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Waking up to this

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

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

Friday, 16 August 2019

Stopping the 4 move checkmate

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

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

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Vale Richard Voon

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

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Maintaining tension

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

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

Sunday, 11 August 2019

Outsourcing from Canberra

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

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

DIY Chess Clock

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

Friday, 9 August 2019

Street Chess with a chance of snow

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

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Two piece or not two piece

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

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

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

The Fifty-Percenter

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

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

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Value your trophies

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

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Bird is not the word

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

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

Friday, 2 August 2019


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

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Cruelty at the chessboard

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

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

One really good trick

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

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

Monday, 29 July 2019

The cleverest move

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

White - Black
ANU Minor Canberra, 28.07.2019

Sunday, 28 July 2019

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

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

Saturday, 27 July 2019

2019 ANU Open - Day 1

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

An old ANU Open Game

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

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

Thursday, 25 July 2019

2019 ANU Open Online Coverage

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

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Knight on rim, prospects are dim

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

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

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Bxf2 (or f7)

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

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

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Adams v Torre

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

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

Friday, 19 July 2019

2019 ANU Open - 1 week to go

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

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Win, draw , loss

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

White -Black
Canberra 2019

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

A pretty poor tie-break

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

Monday, 15 July 2019

Chess is (happily) weird

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

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

Sunday, 14 July 2019

"That really got out of hand fast"

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

Saturday, 13 July 2019

2019 Oceania Seniors

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

Friday, 12 July 2019

The pawn pusher

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

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

Thursday, 11 July 2019

More non chess stuff

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

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Every now and then I see an article like this

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

Monday, 8 July 2019

Hasten slowly!

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

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

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Chess on wheels 2019

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

Friday, 5 July 2019

Just chill baby baby

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

Thursday, 4 July 2019

The pawn wall

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

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

Monday, 1 July 2019

Like wine tasting

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

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

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Dealing with wing attacks

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

White - Black
Street Chess, 30.06.2019

Friday, 28 June 2019

2019 ANU Open - 27th and 28th July 2019

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

Thursday, 27 June 2019

The Steinitz Principle

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

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

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

DIY Chess Sets

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

Monday, 24 June 2019

Getting a little better

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

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Queen for piece

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

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

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Following on

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

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

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Play poorly but win, or play badly and lose

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

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

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