Tuesday, 19 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal Day 1

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

Sunday, 17 February 2019

2019 Oceania Zonal - Day 0

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

Saturday, 16 February 2019

On the road again

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

Friday, 15 February 2019

This looks familiar

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

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

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Here, take this.

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

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

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Decluttering my chess

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

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

Monday, 11 February 2019

Unhappy Anniversary

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

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

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Space is the place

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

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

2019 Oceania Zonal

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

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

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Lifeline Bookfair 2019

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

Thursday, 7 February 2019

The Gambit Killer

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

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

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Off to a good start

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

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

Monday, 4 February 2019

Creating your own market

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

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Belconnen Chess Club starts for 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Club details, including a location map, are at:


Friday, 1 February 2019

Best game from Gibraltar

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

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