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.