Monday, 13 July 2020

When World Champion's walked among us like normal men

I'm currently evaluating software that processes pgn in bulk, doing a quick analysis of games using various chess engines. At this stage I am calibrating the results using older events where engine assistance (in opening prep) isn't part of the equation*
One event I am using is the Montreal 1979 Tournament of Stars. It was won by Tal and Karpov, and included almost all the top players in the world at the time. Tal started off the tournament with a win over Spassky, but the second most interesting thing from the game (after the moves), was the rating of both players. No 2800+ Super GM's here, just a couple run of the mill low 2600 journeymen!


Tal,Mihail (2615) - Spassky,Boris V (2640) [E94]
Montreal Montreal (1), 1979


*The reason being that it is a lot harder to differentiate between engine moves and 'remembered' engine moves when looking for evidence (or non-evidence) of engine assistance.

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Serious skillage

With most chess events still being played online, there is now plenty of opportunity to cast an eye of some new talents on the Australian chess scene. The MCC Allegro (organised by the Melbourne Chess Club) has seen a couple of established tournament winners upset by at least one newcomer,  while the Box Hill Rapids have turned into quite a battle between some rapidly improving female players.
One game that really impressed me was the final round game between Jennifer Morrison and Chloe Fan. Although Morrison had at least a share of first place guaranteed, she still needed half a point for outright first. Under such circumstances there is a chance that the pressure may induce a serious mistake, but she was able to avoid any serious missteps and hold the position.

Morrison, Jennifer (1751) - Fan, Chloe (1733) [D02]
Live Chess Chess.com, 12.07.2020



Friday, 10 July 2020

Who and when?

Who said the following, and when did they say it? "There were even the popular varieties, in which the original positions of the chessmen were decided by throws of the dice"

Thursday, 9 July 2020

An interesting draw

The ongoing ACTCA online events continue to serve up some interesting games. The latest is a draw that was played on the top board of the 45m+15s event that is currently running, although it looks as though White missed a chance for a bit more at the end. I'm posting the bare moves here, but will probably analyse it at greater depth on my twitch stream tomorrow.


mattrad (1609) - DoctorWho64 (1640) [C01]
Live Chess Chess.com, 09.07.2020



Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Over 1000

Following on from my post about librarything.com, I have finished cataloguing my collection of chess books. At this stage I have just cracked the 1000 book total, although there are some books I have more than 1 copy of, and there are other books I haven't been able to add.
In the case of multiple copies, I have tried to remove duplicates if they are the same publisher and edition, but leave them in if they are from different print runs. So I probably have 5 different entries for "Logical Chess: Move by Move" but am treating the 3 copies of BCO 2 as a single entry.
On the other hand I probably have at least 50 books I am yet to add, either because the ISBN number doesn't match what Amazon or Google has, or that they are in a foreign language (usually Russian). As an example I have a Russian language copy of '200 Open Games' by Bronstein, but without an ISBN number, it is very difficult to add it.
If you are interested in seeing what books I do have (or seeing how the website works), you can check it out here https://www.librarything.com/catalog/shaunpress/

Upgrade

I've just noticed that my Chessbase database photo has got an upgrade. In this case I'm no longer the 'fat Elvis' I was around 2000, when the picture was last updated!

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Keep threatening checkmate

When you first start playing chess, it is quite an easy game. All you have to do is checkmate your opponent before they checkmate you. And the best way to do this is to keep threatening checkmate. Eventually they will crack.

Jeff_Memes (2332) - Chessplayersunchao (2340) [C67]
Live Chess Chess.com, 02.07.2020



Saturday, 4 July 2020

Donato Mallari RIP

Donato Mallari, a well known and popular Sydney chess player has passed away. Mallari was a very active player on the weekend circuit, and his death at a relatively young age (early 50's) has come as a real shock to the chess community.
As a player he had an attacking style of player, which made his games very interesting to watch. He was capable of upsetting almost anyone he faced, including GM Zong-Yuan Zhao in the 2013 Australia Day Weekender. Always a happy and courteous opponent, he will be missed by all.

Mallari,Donato - Vogel,Joerg (2069) [C02]
AUS-ch Major Cammeray (6), 07.01.2011


Thursday, 2 July 2020

Well done White Rose

The first 4NCL Online teams event has finished with a win to Chessable White Rose. They defeated Guilford Young Guns in the final to become the inaugural winners. Despite it being a UK event, there were a couple of Australian connections. The White Rose team was founded quite a while back by Rupert Jones, who though living in England, and being born in Papua New Guinea, has travelled on an Australian passport for most of his life. One of the other successful teams (winning Division 4) was the Celtic Tiger Cubs, which I believe is managed by Chris Skulte (formerly of Sydney).

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Why does the Knight move like that?

As mentioned previously on this blog, I am currently working on a book about the history of the Laws of Chess. It is a joint effort, with IA Stewart Reuben and IA Alex McFarlane  also involved.
One question put to me by one of the players at Street Chess the other day was "Why does the Knight move in an L shape?" I actually had no idea, but during an online meeting with Stewart and Alex last night, Alex was able to give a pretty strong explanation.
The movement of the pieces in modern chess are based on their movements in Shatranj However, in Shatranj, the mobility of pieces were a lot more limited. The Fers (the modern day Queen), could only move one square diagonally. The Elephant (the modern day Bishop) could move 2 squares diagonally, jumping over the intervening square. The movements of the Rook and King were the same as they are now. If you placed a piece on the centre of a 5x5 grid, each square was reachable by at least one of these pieces, with the exception of 8 squares, which as it turned out, was an "L" shape away from the centre. Therefore the Knight was the piece that filled in those gaps.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

LibraryThing

Over the years I have tried different pieces of cataloguing software for my chess book collection, even going as far as writing my own. Recently I received a suggestion from a member of the Chess Book Collectors group on Facebook, which seems to have solved a lot of my problems.
LibraryThing is an online site that allows you to catalogue your book collections. It also has an app for android phones and iPhones, which enables you to both add books, and look up your current holdings. The phone app is especially useful as it has a barcode scanner, so you can add new books with your phone camera. As a lot of my books predate barcodes, using ISBN numbers is also supported when adding books.
So far I have added around 270 books in the last few days, on top of the 200 I imported from my previous database. At a guess I am not quite halfway through, but whether I top the 1000 title mark is still not clear.
 

Monday, 29 June 2020

2020 Asian Online Senior

After holding an Online Junior Championship, the Asian Chess Federation is now holding an Online Senior Event. It will be held in 4 sections, Open Over 50 and Over 65, Women's Over 50 and Over 65. For each zone there will be a qualifying event, with the top 3 finishers in each category going through to the finals.
For the Oceania Zone, the qualifiers will be held on the 18th July, on chess.com. However, tournament entries close on July 6th, so you need to organise entries soon. Unlike the Junior event which was restricted to 3 players per Federation, this event is open to all eligible players, and I believe you can enter directly (rather than through the ACF). Further details including a link to the registration form can be found at http://asianchess.com/news/join-asian-seniors-online-chess-championship/

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Australia v Young Russia

A team of very strong Australian Players took on the Russian Under 16 team in an Arena Match on Lichess. After 2 hours of play, the Russian Team won by 98 points to 83. While the Australian team was more consistent, it was the performance of IM Stefan Pogosyan and Murzin Volodar that made the difference. As Arena events rewards wining streaks with double points (after 2 consecutive wins), the 7 game winning streaks both players had in the middle of the event were decisive. In contrast, the best scoring Australian player, GM Temur Kuybokarov, was the only player to earn bonus points (for a 4 game winning streak towards the end of the tournament). Indeed, if the game had been scored as a normal match, the Australian team would have narrowly won 38.5-37.5 (assuming my maths is correct).


Mikhail Kobalia - Junta Ikeda [B51]
Russia - Australian Kangaroos Team Battle, 2020.06.27


Friday, 26 June 2020

Show me your hands

English Arbiter David Sedgwick has a good approach to playing online chess 'in camera'*  He makes sure not just his computer screen is in shot, but also his hands are visible at all times. While it is his move, he keeps his hands away from the keyboard and mouse, and only touches them when he has decided on his move. He considers this action as a kind of touch move, meaning he now has to play the move he intended to play. He uses this method to avoid any suggestion that he is using other devices or programs during the game.
Using cameras to monitor games is at the moment of mixed utility. One idea that I had recently is to simply have both players being able to see each others faces during the game, like in real chess. This of course doesn't show you what your opponent is doing out of shot, but having to look your opponent in the eye while cheating may be a discouragement.

* For legal eagles, I do know that 'in camera' has a different meaning

Thursday, 25 June 2020

h6?

The 4NCL Online Teams Event has almost complete it's first season. In the top section Guildford will play White Rose in the final, which might have been an OTB pairing, if the tournament hadn't been forced to go online.
While White Rose goes into the final with some match practice under its belt, Guildford ended up qualifying with a walkover. There opponents withdrew prior to the final, after a couple of their players were pinged for computer use by the Lichess server. Following the lead of a couple of other 4NCL teams, the Anglian Avengers decided not to play, rather than use replacement players.
In the semi-final that was played, GM Gawain Jones had a nice attacking win against the French. This was probably helped by his opponent playing an early h6, which I fell doesn't achieve much, although I have seen a recent book suggesting it is a playable black system.

Jones,Gawain C B (2670) - Harvey,Marcus R (2440) [C03]
4NCL Online Div 1 Playoff LiChess Online (12.11), 23.06.2020


Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Whitewashing chess history

Often I get asked on Quora the question "Is chess racist because white moves first?". My answer is "No. White moves first because someone has to". This question now seems to have leaked into the real world, as the ABC (in Australia) is doing a story along similar lines.
However, the fact that it is the ABC, and it is part of a wider discussion concerning 'Black Lives Matter' has triggered a response from some members of the chess community. In one camp are people who thinks it is a silly question, while in another (smaller) camp, this is evidence of a wider culture war being waged by the "left" and the ABC.
I am in neither of those camps. As a customer of the so called "free marketplace of ideas" I think discussions like this are both interesting and healthy. Not all cultural norms are obvious to outsiders, and sharing why chess chooses to do things in a certain way is good.
More importantly, the rule that white always moves first has a) only been firmly established since the 1880's and b) still isn't always followed. For example, "The Immortal Game" started with Black moving first, as noted in this post https://chessexpress.blogspot.com/2018/02/did-black-move-first.html
One thing that has been changed since the rule came in, is that game scores have been 'whitewashed'. Rather than being presented with historical accuracy, modern books (and databases) simply show white always moving first, even if this didn't happen. I am guilty of doing this myself btw, not just in this blog, but also in a reprint of the London 1851 tournament book that I produced for ePlus books. http://www.eplusbooks.com/published-books/116-the-chess-tournament-london-1851
As for point B, there have been a few recent online events where Black has moved first. These tournaments are explicitly linked to the #BLM movement, and while I don't see them catching on in the long term, there is nothing wrong with holding them now.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Good news for junior chess

The latest news from the ACT Government is that schools are allowed to open their venues to external hirers. What this means is that the ACT Junior Chess League will hopefully be starting events soon. As the events in question are junior only tournaments (Under 18 years), the social distancing requirements are more relaxed, which makes running events easier.
Having said that the ACTJCL will be implementing a Covid-19 plan, to address issues like food safety, general hygiene and venue cleaning. This is in the process of being developed, but it looks like there will be something organised during the up coming school holidays, in the shape of both tournament play, and holiday coaching.

Sunday, 21 June 2020

Young Max

Looking through one of my coaching books I came across a game between Vassily Smyslov and Max Fuller. It was played at the 1968/69 Hastings International, and unfortunately for Max, he was outplayed. Looking through his other games I also saw a second game against Smyslov (in 1980), one game against Petrosian at an Olympiad, and a game against Tal (although this was in a telex simul).
In a time when overseas travel was much harder for Australian players, this was quite an achievement. Even today, playing multiple World Champions in the course of your chess career would be quite a challenge for an Australian. with the obvious exception of Ian Rogers who has played at least 6 of them.


Smyslov,Vassily - Fuller,Maxwell L [E61]
Hastings 6869 Hastings (5), 1968


Friday, 19 June 2020

Well done, Sun-Herald

I received good news from the Chief Editor of the Sun-Herald. Ian Roger's Sunday chess column will be returning this week, and I assume will run for the foreseeable future. So both well done to the Sun-Herald for this decision, and for everyone who contacted them on this matter.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Just because you're winning a queen ...

One of the big mistakes that we often make is ending our calculations too soon. A common example of this is winning material and then not looking at what happens next move. In the following wild game, both sides fell in to this trap at various points, leading to a Queen for a Rook, Bishop and Pawn middlegame. Watching it live I thought that the winning chances were with White, but it turns out that Black was better for most of the game. In the end a repetition of position occurred, with half a point for both players.
This game was played during the first round of the new ACTCA Online Standard event. The 6 week event is played with a time limit of 45m+15s with one round each Thursday night on chess.com. I normally cover one of the games from each round at twitch.tv/shaunpress and I will be analysing this game tomorrow at 10am.


Graham77 (1626) - mcyang (1407) [C30]
Live Chess Chess.com, 18.06.2020


Something different

Civilization VI players might get the reference


Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Clutch play

Due to the low number of draws in blitz chess, a "skins" type format probably doesn't work. Instead, the "clutch" scoring system seems to be in vogue in it's place. This is where certain games are worth double and triple points. For example, in a 12 game match, games 5 & 6 are worth 2 points each (and 1 for a draw), while games 11 & 12 are worth 3 points for a win.
In the just completed Clutch Chess International the format proved very successful, with the Carlsen Caruana final coming down to the last game. With Caruana winning game 11, Carlsen need to win the final game, which he did. This left the final score 9.5-8.5, with only 3 draws across the entire match.


Magnus Carlsen (2881) - Fabiano Caruana (2773) [A22]
Casual Rapid game https://lichess.org/lrvyne5Z, 14.06.2020


Sunday, 14 June 2020

Some reopenings

For those who are interested in what chess is starting in Canberra here are some face to face activities that are now happening

  • School chess coaching (but only for students from a single school as far as I know)
  • Personal chess coaching (one on one coaching)
  • Small chess events (currently less than 20 players and spread out to provide 8msq per game)
The next phase will allow events with more than 20 players, as long as there is at least 4msq per player. In the case of events I organise, players have enough room to move back from the board after moving, to allow 1.5m of distance.
There is also talk of organising small weekend events (ie 50 players or less), but this will depend on what regulations chess will be covered by (ie is it a non-contact sport, or considered something else entirely).

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Nut Bag Openings

As someone who has played the Traxler all my life, you may think there is no line that can be drawn in terms of my opening choices. However, the Nakhmanson Gambit may just be that opening. There seems to be a renewed interest in the opening, due in part to some videos being posted on youtube, although it seems to have been played a number of years ago. The opening starts with 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.O-O Nxe4 6.Nc3?!?! If Black plays 6. ... dxc3 then 7.Bxf7 is the follow up. White is down two pieces but the idea is that exposed Black king is a target for the White queen.
However, if Black plays the correct move it isn't clear that there is enough compensation for White. Nonetheless, if Black is unprepared White does have a chance at scoring a brilliant win, as this game shows.


Chan,Wei Xuan Timothy (2264) - Sepp,Olav (2448) [C56]
WMSG Blitz Team 1st Beijing (9), 13.10.2008


Thursday, 11 June 2020

Street Chess to restart

Street Chess Canberra is restarting (IRL) this Saturday (13 June 2020). Our regular venue, King O'Malley's has reopened, and is keen to see us back. Due to current social distancing regulations it will be in a modified form, with the number of players restricted to a total of 16. Players must pre-register with me via shaunpress@gmail.com which means no walk-ins will be accepted. In the case of more players trying to register than available slots, preference will be given to players who played the online Street Chess events over the last 9 weeks.
For the first week there will be no entry fee or prizes, while we sort out exactly how it will work in practice. But apart from that, it will be the same Street Chess, with 7 rounds of G/15m chess, starting at 11am on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

A perfect game with an imperfect ending

There are a couple of darkly amusing scenes in the movie Death of Stalin, which start with a father being dragged off by the secret police after his son informs on him. Later on (after the death of Stalin) the father is released, which results in a very surprised looking son when dad comes through the door.
Why I bring this up is that when we all get back to over the board chess (which seems to be sooner than I expected), there may be some awkward conversations between former chess friends. I am aware of a number of situations where a surprise win or loss  result has been followed up by a mumbled accusation of outside assistance, or a passive/aggressive congratulations on the quality of play. In a lot of instances the accusations are coming from quite strong players, usually after they have lost to a lower rated opponent (btw this also occurred when players were meeting face to face).
Now one of the causes of these claims is post-game analysis provided by engines, usually on the playing server itself. Some platforms give you an accuracy score (based on the difference between your moves and the engine moves), and anything over 90% is suddenly treated as 'too good to be true'. The problem with using this as proof is that the system is there to see where you went wrong as a player, not where your opponent went right. I've seen plenty of examples where a move has been flagged as a blunder because the best move was +7 while the move played was only +4, while on the other hand, a player has played a perfect sequence of moves, simply because the alternatives are garbage.
In fact in a game I played this evening I manged to get an accuracy rating of 99.2% (while my opponent score 89.9%). Now the weird thing about this game isn't how it was played, but how it finished. After I played 20. ... Bxh3 my opponent replied 21.Kh2? Before I could complete my next move he resigned, which came as a bit of a surprise to me. I was a pawn up and the c pawn was weak, but he still had some play. It was only when I looked at the game a few hours later that I understood his decision. Having playing Kh2 he realised he had left his rook on f1, where my bishop could take it. The only problem with this line of reasoning, was at the moment of resignation I was in the process of retreating the bishop to e6, having missed the capture entirely!


LSmart (1369) - shaunpress (1813) [C47]
Live Chess Chess.com, 10.06.2020


Task 1. Keep your king safe

Probably the most important defensive task in chess is to keep your king safe. The difficulty in doing this is spotting when your king isn't that safe. Even strong players don't always get it right.


Aronian, Levon - Grischuk, Alexander
Clutch Chess Showdown Int 09.06.2020


Monday, 8 June 2020

95000 Bells for what?

Would you pay 95,000 Bells for a chessboard? If you play Animal Crossing: New Horizons then this is what a chessboard costs. However, as an added bonus, you get a position from this classic game.


Kasparov,Garry (2812) - Topalov,Veselin (2700) [B07]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee (4), 20.01.1999


Sunday, 7 June 2020

Surely now is not the time

I've just received the surprising news that the Sun Herald is dropping GM Ian Roger's weekly chess column. The Sun Herald is a Sunday paper published in Sydney, Australia and has a circulation of around 150,000. The newspaper has had a chess column since 1935, with Gary Koshnitsky as the editor, and Rogers took it over in 1994 when Koshnitsky retired. This means in it's 85 year history it has had only 2 editors, which is quite remarkable.
Dropping the column at this time also seems quite odd. Chess is currently on a significant upswing, with big money online events springing up everywhere. With face to face sport either not being played, or being held in front of empty stadiums, chess is one way that people are staying connected. This should mean that newspapers (who have been looking for ways to increase their circulation) should be embracing chess, not ignoring it.
This is not the first time this has happened to the column btw. In 1988 Gary Koshnitsky was let go, and it was only after a significant number of complaints/ requests was the column restored. Maybe lightning will strike twice so if you want to see the column retained contacting the Editor Cosima Marriner at cmarriner@smh.com.au is a start. You can also give feedback at https://www.smh.com.au/contact-us on this decision.

High praise indeed

You know you are doing well when an IM wonders if you are an engine ....
(btw If you cut and paste the link in the heading you get to see analysis etc)


harrypress1 (2270) - MassterofMayhem (2496) [C97]
Rated Blitz game https://lichess.org/XoLN99Be, 07.06.2020


Saturday, 6 June 2020

When this is over ...

When this is over,do you think your chess will be better, worse, or just the same? And if so, what about the people you are currently playing online?

Friday, 5 June 2020

Why do it the second time?

I witnessed quite a strange set of games on Wednesday, in two online events I ran. The game below was played in a junior tournament, and watching it I thought Black resigned a little early. It looks as though White is winning material after 12 ... bxc3 13.bxc3 Qxf5 14.Bxc6+ but 14. ... Qd7! forced White to give up the piece he had just won. White is still better after the simpler 14.exf5 Kd7 but isn't ahead by that much.
The weird thing was the same two players then met in another tournament a few hours later, and played exactly the same game! And I have no idea why.


Meuwteuw (1102) - kmthorikawa (928) [C41]
Live Chess Chess.com, 03.06.2020


Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Techniques of Neutralisation

This post is a slight left turn from my usual topics, but I think it is something that is still applicable to chess.
In the field of sociology there is a topic called Neutralisation Theory. It is an attempt to classify how people justify deviating from accepted behaviour. According to Sykes and Matza there are 5 type of neutralisation. They are:

  • Denial of Responsibility (I had no choice in the matter)
  • Denial of Harm (No one was really hurt)
  • Denial of Victim (The other guy deserved what happened)
  • Condemnation of the Condemners (Those judging me are the real criminals)
  • Appeal to higher loyalties (I am serving a higher purpose in breaking the rules)
Why is this important? Because in a number of discussions concerning fairplay in chess, I have seen various forms of these arguments being put forward. Some are just hypothetical (eg People use engines on serves to test the detection system), but others are rooted in reality (eg I have to use an engine because everyone else is).

(NB I am not a sociologist, or even studied the subject. The chess players you might want to talk to if you are interested in this topic are Dr Stephen Mugford, or Dr Mary Wilkie)

Monday, 1 June 2020

Asian Juniors and Girls Online Championship - Oceania Qualifier

The Oceania Qualifier for the Asian Junior and Girls Online Championship was held today. Hughston Parle (the only Australian representative) was the winner of the Open section, scoring 6/6. The key game was his win over FM Daniel Gong (NZ), although he had a lucky escape in the final round when Michael Sole (NZ) missed a sequence in the middlegame that would have won him material. Gong and FM Allan Fan (NZ) took the next 2 places, and also qualified for Thursday's final.
In the Girls event it was a New Zealand clean sweep, with Isabelle Ning, Rikita Joseph and Emily Gan taking the top 3 places.

I was the Chief Arbiter for the event, but as the field was quite small, I did not have a too much to do. The major task was making sure everyone had their zoom connections running, their cameras at the correct angle (showing screen, keyboard and player) and that they remained in shot while playing their games. While this wasn't always done to perfection, there were no major issues or complaints during the tournament. One important point to come out of an event like this, is that if you wish to run events with players using Zoom (or Jitsi etc), you do need a lot of extra staff. There were 5 officials involved in holding the event, as well as supervisors from the countires taking part.

The list of qualifiers for the finals can be found here. The Girls final is on Wednesday and the Open Final is Thursday. Links to the final should be available at http://asianchess.com/


Gong, Daniel - Parle, Hughston [A45]
Live Chess Chess.com, 31.05.2020


A Prisoner's Dilemma

I previously posted about a chess themed episode of The Prisoner (post is here), and I was thinking about it again this week.
In the episode "Checkmate", No. 6 worked out a way of detecting who were guards masquerading as prisoners, and who were genuine prisoners. Anyone who treated him as an authority figure was a genuine prisoner, while anyone who did not was obviously a guard. This worked up until he tried to escape, when he was betrayed by a confederate, who applied to same test to No. 6, and decided that as the person leading the group (of 2), he was obviously a guard as well.
Where this applies to chess is in the field of online engine use. As everyone is disguised by anonymity, how can we be sure we are playing a human or a machine? Taking a leaf out of Patrick McGoohan's book, as we know we aren't an engine, then anyone we beat isn't one either. However, anyone that beats us immediately falls under suspicion. This suspicion is magnified if they are a lower rated player, although out opponents may only have high ratings *because* they are machines.
As they say in the classics "Wake up sheeple!"

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Now this is a hack

There is something deeply unsatisfying about falling victim to a basic hack. So much so that I am pretty sure I've already written a blog post about this. So rather than repeat myself, I will just give you another Super GM example to chew on. (BTW Black's last move is very nice)


Ding,Liren (2836) - Dubov,Daniil (2770) [A11]
Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge Final 8 Online (6.4), 29.05.2020


Friday, 29 May 2020

This is silly

For players who thinks 60 seconds is too much time for an entire game of chess. Each player started with 30 seconds.

smithvillavo (1577) - harrypress1 (2316) [B01]
Hourly HyperBullet Arena https://lichess.org/L7618hr0, 29.05.2020


Wednesday, 27 May 2020

The Ultimate Misclick

I do not know if this is a common occurrence, but I have now seen it happen at least twice in the last two weeks. In a drawn position in online games, I have seen players resign for no obvious reason. I can only assume that they meant to offer a draw, but clicked the resign flag instead.
While the obvious response is "they should have been more careful" I wonder if a UI redesign is called for. As Stewart Rueben once said to me "If more than 1 person doesn't understand what a phrase means, then it is worth looking at fixing it up"

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Another strong open source chess engine

If you are looking to understand the inner workings of chess engines (especially the Alpha/Beta kind) then the Ethereal Chess Engine looks like a good resource. Of course you do need to be able to read code (in this case C), but it is well laid out and well commented. It contains some interesting technical information in the comments, including how many elo points a specific search feature is worth (eg Null move proving is worth around 93 rating points in strength when turned on).
You can find the source code at https://github.com/AndyGrant/Ethereal and while I have yet to compile and install it myself, based on the CCRL list is is very very strong.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Faster then slower

A number of years ago GM Yasser Seirawan suggested that best way to make chess a spectator sport was to broadcast blitz events. The idea was to attract viewers who only wanted to watch quick, high intensity games, rather than longer more drawn out contests. However, once this happened, he suggested that spectators might gravitate to watching (and playing) slower games, where the ideas and strategies aren't lost in the flurry of hand movements and clock bashing.
It turns out we are pretty much at the first stage of this now. Almost all of the big online events taking place at the moment are being played with fast time controls. And while this is good for the platforms chess is currently be played on, I hope it isn't going to be the case when face to face chess resumes.
One reason why is the game I am showing below. It is a crushing win by Magnus Carlsen over Wesley So, and involves Carlsen winning a pieces v queen middlegame. But ultimately it was decided by one bad move by So, a move he would not have played with more thinking time available.


Carlsen,Magnus (2881) - So,Wesley (2741) [E21]
Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge Final 8 chess24.com (1.4), 24.05.2020


Saturday, 23 May 2020

One of my favourite poker scenes



This scene from The Sting is one of my favourite poker scenes in any movie. Unfortunately it doesn't include the next scene where Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw) says "What was I supposed to do - call him for cheating better than me, in front of the others?"

Friday, 22 May 2020

Schools chess is starting again

Some good news for chess coaches who may have been missing out on work over the last 2 months. It looks as though schools are restarting their chess coaching programs again. At least in the ACT anyway.
I've been contacted by a couple of schools that the ACT Junior Chess League running coaching programs at, and have been given some start dates for this term. Coaches still have to conform to the social distancing regulations (minimum distances, washing of hands, equipment and contact points), but at least the classes will be up an running again.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

A bad time to get better

Now is possibly the worst time to be improving your chess results. On more than website I have seen posters express "mock surprise" at how well lower rated players have been performing. It clearly is a dangerous time to score upset wins, especially over players rated above 2000! 

Who doesn't enjoy a good hack?

I am still riding the "online chess is fast and loose" horse, and the latest online Super GM event is providing more evidence. In the just started Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge, Lev Aronian goes wrong in a Petroff middlegame and after 22 moves has little choice but to resign. Apparently the culprit was 13... c5, which was played after 15 seconds of thought, although it really goes wrong after 15... c4


Carlsen,Magnus (2881) - Aronian,Levon (2778) [C42]
Lindores Abbey Rapid Challenge Online (2.6), 19.05.2020


Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Knight Tours

I was challenged to find a Knight's Tour of a 5x5 board by my daughter the other day. This didn't have anything to do with her interest in Chess, but was required to make progress in a puzzle game she was playing. I was pleased when I found the solution on my second attempt.
It then got a bit harder, when a few puzzles later, the same task was required on a 6x6 board. I must confess that I gave up after 2 unsuccessful attempts (after trying Warndorff's Rule). However my daughter did solve it shortly after, so there was no harm done. When she reached the 8x8 task (7x7 was skipped), I did the very sensible thing, and told her to look up the answer.
We did think at first that the reason they skipped 7x7 was that there were no possible solutions, but it turns out there are in fact 165,575,218,320 different solutions! What there is no solution for on a 7x7 board, is a closed tour, where the final square is a knights move away from the start square (making the path a closed circuit). 

Monday, 18 May 2020

A bad pawn doing good things

Normally in Bishop endings, you try and put your pawns on the opposite colour squares to your bishop. Of course, with every rule, you should look at the reasons why the rule is followed, and reasons for breaking it.
In the game below, I was already better, in the ending, as I won a pawn by threatening to trap a bishop. But the move I really liked was 34. ... f4. Even though it put my f pawn on the same colour square as my (and my opponents bishop), it completely crippled his 3v2 kingside pawn majority, allowing me to quickly win on the queenside.


Michelino47 (1614) - shaunpress (2392) [C63]
PNG Tournament March 2020 Chess.com, 07.04.2020


Saturday, 16 May 2020

Do not do this at home

One of the features offered by some of the online chess sites is an analysis of games that you have recently played. For a long time I didn't pay much attention to this feature, but I do now use it to look for interesting games (both for this blog and for my chess streams) . It normally compares the move chosen with what the best move chosen by an engine, and then rates the move based on difference in evaluation. (As an aside, I at least learned the source of annoying questions I used to get asked on Quora about "average centi-pawn loss").
Unfortunately, based on my recent observations, is that it often does not correlate with playing strength. In some games one big mistake can wreck your score (as shown below), while in other cases, it has less of an effect. This is often the case when the game has a forcing nature, where the winning plan is quite obvious, and so both players walk a single path.
In the example game White was given a accuracy score of 10.8%, which I think is a little unfair. Sure he blundered into a mate in 2, but the moves before that weren't that terrible.


mattrad (1604) - beare840 (1517) [D00]
Live Chess Chess.com, 16.05.2020


Things I can and cannot do

I definitely cannot play bullet chess. I think my current losing streak is 16 games in a row, including losing all my games in the first ACTCA Smash and Bash bullet event held on Lichess.
On the other hand, I did win a 2 day per move game on chess.com, and am tied for first in the tournament I am playing with. To put it into perspective, my rating at this form of chess is about 950 points higher than my billet rating!

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Someone keeps sending me jazz tracks

As the title says, someone keeps sending me links to Jazz recordings on youtube, when applying to join the online ACTCA chess clubs. The problem is I cannot approve the application unless I know who it is. Smolborta, who are you?

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

How much wood on the fire?

Normally when assessing the soundness of a sacrifice, you are either looking for mate, or eventually winning back material. Sometimes there are occasions when you need to work out how much you are giving up for a more immediate return.
This was the decision I made when playing an online event this evening. While looking at 10.Ne5 I was aware of the sacrifice on f7, but when I reached move 12, it took me a while before deciding to take. What eventually convinced my was the capture on c7 at the end of the sequence, as I felt R+B+N was enough for Q+3P and an exposed king. Nonetheless, it wasn't until there was more tactics a few moves on, that the idea turned out to be a good one.
Slightly annoyingly, one minute into my second game my router decided to restart itself, and I both lost the game through disconnection, and was then booted from the tournament.


shaunpress (1898) - beare840 (1432) [B01]
Live Chess Chess.com, 13.05.2020


Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Huzzah!

I'm pleased to see that Lichess is now supporting swiss events that can be run for team members (NB chess.com has clubs, Lichess has teams). Although the bulk of the ACTCA online chess activity is happening on chess.com, I am also setting up a team on Lichess to test out tournaments there. If you are a Canberra player (present or former) sign up to the ACTCA Fast Chess Club and wait future announcements.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Ng5!

China has won the FIDE Online Nations Cup, not by beating the USA, but by winning one important game. The 4 board final between the two teams finished 2-2, but China went into the match with draw odds, having finished in first place during the preliminary rounds.
With two games drawn, the best performing Chinese player, Yangyi Yu launched a devastating sacrificial attack against Hikaru Nakamura. He sacrificed his knight on move 26, and by move 34 it was all over. As a result the Chinese team reached the 2 points required, and although Fabiano Caruana won the final game to finish for the US, first prize went to the Chinese.


Yu,Yangyi (2738) - So,Wesley (2741) [D38]
FIDE Chess.com Online Nations Cup (11.3), 10.05.2020


Sunday, 10 May 2020

No touch chess

It looks as though restrictions on small gatherings (up to 10 people) are going to be lifted. While this may sound good for chessplayers, there is still a limit on how close you can be together, and for how long. Sitting across from your opponent is probably still not allowed, but based on suggestions I have seen online, there may be a workable solution.
Each player has there own chess set, and sits at their own table. The tables are within sight of each other (eg 2 meteres apart) and the same game is played at each board. Moves are announced, and each player keeps their own time on their own clock.
The two main issues are noise, and keeping track of the time (as the clocks are likely to be out of sync). For the latter, the official time would be the the players own time on their clock, and as for the noise, it is a small price to pay for in person chess.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Online can be a challenge

I'm going to say that if this game was played on an actual chess board, it wouldn't have gone like this.


Anand, Viswanathan - Nepomniachtchi,Ian
FIDE Online Cup 07.05.2020


Thursday, 7 May 2020

A different kind of quarantine

Yesterday I read an interesting suggestion concerning online cheating, from GM Ruslan Ponomariov. Instead of trying to ban players who are using 'outside assistance', instead don't tell them they have been caught, and instead pair them against other players who have previously been flagged.
This way it becomes an engine v engine match, and rating points only circulate within that group.
While it is an inventive idea, it possibly falls down when players try and enter tournaments. If the tournament is large enough it may be possible to isolate such players, but a more practical solution is to generate some 'system error' that prevents them from entering.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

The tyranny of time zones

The plus side of internet chess is that I am saving a heap of money on overseas travel. The downside is that most of the events I am interested in usually start between midnight and 6am local time. Based on my past experiences at playing online poker at 4am, my usual low skill level at online chess would sink even lower if I tried to start such events.
It is also making watching events difficult, especially the ones that start in the evening (in the UK and Europe). I had planned to watch some of the 4NCL Online last night, but buy the time I had walked the dog and grabbed a 7am coffee, it was pretty much finished. However I did get a tip off about one interesting game, which I attach below.


Rogers,Jonathan W (2333) - Adair,James R (2450) [A28]
4NCL Online Division 1 https://lichess.org/SadV7e3o (5.23), 05.05.2020


Two Bishops v Knight

While I'm not sure that this is a question that keeps people awake at night but, "can 2 Bishops win against a Knight", does get asked from time to time. In the first round of the FIDE Online Nations Cup, Fabiano Caruana shows that they can.


Caruana,Fabiano - Vidit,Santosh [C65]
Online Nations Cup Chess.com, 05.05.2020


Tuesday, 5 May 2020

There is (some) truth in numbers

Just as last month everyone was some sort of epidemiologist, this month, everyone (in the chess world) has become an expert at online cheating. At the moment I am seeing a tasty mix of  "why don't they ban obvious cheaters"/"why did they unfairly ban my friend" posts, which I am sure will continue for the next few months.
While I have my own strong opinions the topic, I'd rather share an amusing observation from one of the online tournaments I help organise.
One of the obvious metrics for suspicion (apart from the always popular "he was rated 400 points below me"), is how close a players move match the top engine choice. This is closely followed by "average centi-pawn loss" per move. And if a lowly rated player scores too high, then "there is something afoot at the Circle K". In a first round game (where top seeds meet lower rated players), both players scored on 90% on computer first moves. The winner (or was actually the higher rated opponent) made no errors at all, while the loser only made 1 mistake, and a single blunder. So while you may think that it would be difficult for both players to play an almost perfect 32 move game of chess, it is less surprising when you know that the one really bad move was to drop the queen on move 14! 
In fact one of the things I try and do after each tournament is look through game (including upsets), to see if I can find something for my tournament stream. And so far, while I have found a number of well played games, I have found no evidence that an engine was involved in any of them.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Updating my traps

Inspired by the FIDE Trainers course I sat in on last week, I've been updating some of my opening files. One such file is my collection of opening traps, which up until now has been based on my collection of Reinfeld and Pandolfini books dating back a number of years. While it is slow going I have found a few interesting games, including the following in what is usually an equalising line in the Danish Gambit.


Vospernik,Andrej (2150) - Ladanyi,Gyula (2037) [C21]
Budapest FS05 FM Budapest (2), 2002


Saturday, 2 May 2020

Bored games

Firstly, I apologise for opening with an atrocious pun. Having got that out of the way, I've noticed that it isn't just chess that is moving their activities online. I listened to an interview this morning about online Scrabble, and during the week had a long conversations with Dr Greg Ash, who organises Backgammon in the ACT about online events.
While chess probably leads the way in this regard, most boardgames can be played online, an in some cases are probably easier to do so (eg have you ever succeeded in finding exactly 7 players for Diplomacy?). The issues of fairplay and online behaviour also seem pretty similar, although there are still some games where AI hasn't taken over yet. Curiously, one feature of online backgammon, is met with suspicion by some players. Having the dice rolled by the server (as opposed to the players) seems like a no-brainer, but ever since I've played online Backgammon (over 20 years ago), every bad beat, missed hit, or poor roll is due to a dodgy RNG, rather than due to law of 'stuff happens'.
But this is the environment we are now playing in, and so if you still want to play the games you enjoy, you probably just have to accept that there will be things that don't always go your way.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Congrats to Matt

The first ACTCA long time control event finished this evening, with Matt Radisich winning with a score of 5.5/6, half a point ahead of Victor Braguine on 5.
The final round did demonstrate the perils of server play, with chess.com springing a server reboot on the field with only 40 minutes notice. While most games finished before the shutdown, a couple were still in progress when the games were aborted. As tournament director I had kept a copy of the moves (and the clock times), but in one instance a player resigned in a losing position rather than restart, while in the other, a failure to restart the game resulted in me (or Fritz) adjudicating the position as a win for one player.
Despite the issues with the event, I plan to start the next tournament next week (Thursday). The event will be open to players outside the ACT, so if you are interested in playing, please email me, or contact me (shaunpress) on chess.com


mattrad (1656) - JaykeBJ (1330) [C22]
Live Chess Chess.com, 30.04.2020


Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Why don't World Champions ever play chess like this against me?

Showing that online chess is a different kind of beast to over the board chess, Magnus Carlsen came up with a spectacular self own against Ian Nepomniachtchi in last nights Magnus Carlsen Invitational. He tried a gambit line in the Sicilian (a gambit which MVL had declined a couple of rounds before), but found that the main line just lost him a piece. While Carlsen then played on (possibly inspired by Komodo v David Smerdon), he never looked like getting enough for it and eventually resigned.


Carlsen,Magnus (2881) - Nepomniachtchi,Ian (2778) [B55]
Magnus Carlsen Invitational chess24.com (11.1), 28.04.2020


Monday, 27 April 2020

If Kasparov can do it ...

Here is a very quick win from tonight's ACTCA Online Arena event. While not following the exact moves of Kasparov's disastrous loss against Deep Blue, the idea of Ng5xf7 after h6 is similar. What is different, is that the sacrifice wasn't actually sound, until Black retreated the king to e8, and walked into a mate in two. Putting it on g8 was the correct move, after which White has some work to do.


White - Black [B11]
Live Chess Chess.com, 27.04.2020


Saturday, 25 April 2020

How sound is the Morra?

Over this weekend I have been sitting in on a FIDE Trainers Course being organised by the FIDE Trainers Commission for players in Asia and Oceania. There have been a number of excellent presentations (from some of the world's leading trainers) and I have picked up a number of new ideas for coaching and training.
One of the more surprising ideas is that while most opening gambits have been refuted (or defanged) by  chess engines, there are a couple that are still playable (for White). These are the Scotch Gambit (4.c3), the Evans Gambit, and the Morra Gambit. The last was a bit of a surprise as it never seem to catch on at the top level. But as suggested by the lecturer (GM Oleksiyenko), I looked to see which top GM's play it regularly. GM Emanuel Berg looks to be the highest rated exponent of this gambit, playing it for much of his career. While he hasn't won every game, he has won enough to show it is playable, including the following win.


Berg,Emanuel (2579) - Luch,Michal (2448) [B21]
POR-chT Porto (9.5), 20.08.2016


Friday, 24 April 2020

I don't feel so bad now

Ding,Liren (2836) - Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2860) [D13]
Magnus Carlsen Invitational chess24.com (6.5), 23.04.2020


Restarting the youtube channel

Desperate times call for desperate measures. So I'm restarting my youtube channel, which has been pretty dormant for about 8 years. The main purpose is to post some new coaching content for the ACT Junior Chess League, which I've targeted at the beginner/school chess player. I'm also putting some 'howto' clips up regarding online events, and I may expand on that as well.
The channel is here , or just search for 'Shaun Press' on youtube.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Naka the cracka

There were a  couple of one sided results on last night's round of the Magnus Carlsen Invitational. Carlsen beat Caruana 3-1 (+2=2) while Nakamura crushed Firouzja 3.5-0.5. Clearly Nakamura had Firouzja's number, as the last game in the match went like this.


Nakamura,Hikaru (2829) - Firouzja,Alireza (2703) [B01]
Magnus Carlsen Invitational chess24.com (5.4), 22.04.2020


Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Offline/Online

This is something I should have done a few weeks ago, but now I have put up a short instructional video of how to play an Offline/Online event. For those not familiar with the concept, it is a tournament where the pairings and results are handled away from a chess server, while the games are still played on that server. This is the format we have been using for the ACTCA 60m+30s event (1 game a week), and while most players have managed the technology behind it, it is always helpful to show everyone how it works.
The link to the clip is https://youtu.be/DUoFIrEUwJ4 and can be used if you are thinking of running similar events for your own chess club or association.

The banhammer

I must confess I am surprised at the number of young* players who have been caught (and admitted to) using outside assistance in online events. I know below a certain age the concept of right and wrong is a little fuzzy, but if you are smart enough to know how to 'boost' your chess ability, you should be smart enough to recognise the consequences.
It turns out that there may be a longer lasting effect for the players concerned. While results come and go, damage to reputation tends to last a lot longer. I can certainly remember (and even repeat) stories of players arranging results or getting outside assistance going back almost 40 years. So while players may think the risk of getting banned from an event is possibly worth it, the damage may last longer than that.

*I have also been told of a recent incident from the UK, which involved a 50 year old player, so it isn't just kids.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Late night chess-ivision

While chess hasn't taken over the sporting airwaves yet (unlike combat juggling or dodgeball), there is still plenty of chess that can be watched on your computer/tablet/phone. The big event to tune into is the Magnus Carlsen Invitational, being broadcast on Chess24. The tournament has 8 of the worlds best players playing each other online, using the format of 4 quickplay matches per round. The winner of the match gets 3 MP (match points) if won in regulation, while a match decided in a playoff earns 2MP for the winner and 1MP for the loser.
The top 4 players then play a knockout semi-final and final to determining the overall winner.
Despite the late start of midnight (Canberra time), it is well worth watching. The shorter time controls (15m+10s) provide lots of opportunities for interesting games, while the live commentary is quite entertaining. It runs until May 3, so if you don't mind turning up a little late for work, a lot of late nights may be in order.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

A bonkers computer game

I'm pretty sceptical when it is claimed that a whole opening has been refuted by a single game. I've seen this claim about the Scandinavian, as well as the Traxler. The latest opening that has supposedly been dealt a death blow is the Dutch Defence.
In a recent game between Leela Chess Zero (and open source version of Alpha Zero) and Stockfish, LC0 played a long term piece sacrifice in the Staunton Gambit, eventually trapped Black's Queen, and then ground out a win in a Q v 2R ending. Here is the full game, so feel free to make your own analysis and conclusions.


Lc0 - Stockfish [A83]
CCC13: Finals (15|5) (1), 13.04.2020


Saturday, 18 April 2020

And he rested on Friday

With the addition of some junior events, I am now running 6 online events a week. Friday is the only day of rest for me, although I do produce some online content on that day as well. As the numbers increase, I am also starting to get requests from non-Canberra players who want to register and take part. And following discussions with other committee members it looks like the membership rules will be relaxed (in some circumstances) for specific events.
Here is a summary of the events currently being run on chess.com by the ACTCA/ACTJCL/Street Chess


  • Monday Blitz 7:00pm G/5m Swiss/Arena alternating (ACT players)
  • Tuesday Rapid 7:00pm G10m+2s Swiss (ACT Players)
  • Wednesday Junior Rapid 1:30pm G/10m Swiss (Junior Chess Players Only)
  • Thursday Standard 7:00pm 60m+30s 1 round per week (Currently ACT players, but will be open for next tournament)
  • Street Chess Saturday 11:15am G/15m, 7 round swiss (Interested players!)
  • Sunday Junior Rapid 10:00 am G/15m (Junior Players Only)

The specific chess.com clubs for each events are
- ACTCA Chess Club (for ACT Players)
- Canberra Junior Chess Club (for Junior Players, open to non-ACT players)
- Street Chess 2 (for Street Chess, open to non-ACT players)

For the next standard event, contact me via email (shaunpress@gmail.com) if you wish to take part.

For all events, players must identify themselves (with a real name) when applying to join.


Thursday, 16 April 2020

An escape for one side, or the other

Sometimes when aiming for a specific result, you miss an unexpected chance. This was the case in the online tournament that the ACT Chess Association has been running for the past few weeks. White's position turned out to be better than he thought, but I'm sure a draw was a result he was happy with. But on move 21 ....

slypig123 (1245) - GrillGrandmaster (1569) [C84]
Live Chess Chess.com, 16.04.2020


Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Flash, bang!

One of the challenges of online chess is keeping track of who is who. While I try and do my best in the tournaments I am organising (5 a week at the moment), it isn't always clear the GhostOfFischer really is Bobby Fischer back from the dead.
Compounding this is that players often use different names on different servers. I'm assuming this isn't an attempt to hide their real identities, but instead provides some individual flair to their accounts (although the Chinese GM using the name Covid-20 might want to keep his identity well under wraps).
With the Firouzja v Carlsen match beginning in a few hours on Chess24, I can at least show one recent game played by Carlsen, under the semi-recognisable name of MagzyBogues


MagzyBogues (3462) - Sanan_Sjugirov (3060) [C51]
chess24 online game | blitz chess24.com (1.1), 07.04.2020


Tuesday, 14 April 2020

New FIDE Arbiters Manual

If you are looking for some light reading, or simply want to up your arbiting skills, then the new FIDE Arbiters Manual should be added to your 'lock down entertainment list'. Revised after the last FIDE Congress, it's 200 pages cover all the things you need to know for running FIDE rated and title events.
The document can be downloaded (as a pdf) at https://www.fide.com/docs/regulations/ARB%20Manual%202020.pdf and it is free to read and distribute.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Other Bots

I'm not sure how everyone else is handling the current restrictions on movement and travel, but I've decided to treat this as a dry run for my retirement (which isn't that far off). This involves revisiting a number of long postponed projects, as well as starting some new ones.
One project I had put on hold long long time ago was the writing of boardgame bots. The purpose of these bots was two fold. One, to provide on call opponents for me to play, and two, to see if I could develop and implement winning strategies for multi-player games.
I've already implemented by first game, with some pretty basic bots. The game in question is 'For Sale' which is a nice bidding type game for 3 to 6 players. For now I have implemented two of my 'starter bots', Random_Player and Pass_Player, and the next step is to try and build a learning bot.
Once I've done that I might move on to some other fun games like Hanabi or Perudo!

More online events (this time for juniors)

Having seen the successful launch of online events in Canberra, the next set of events are for junior players. The ACT Junior Chess League had gone online, and will be holding twice weekly events during the school holidays. There will be a 10m tournament on Wednesday afternoons (at 1:30pm), and a Sunday Allegro event (G/15m) starting at 10am.
As these are junior only events, the ACTJCL is taking particular care with the organisation. While players need to identify themselves to the organisers (to make players are who they say they are), the ACTJCL strongly recommends that the players use 'safe mode' when online (this cuts out any messaging or comments). If you are a local ACT junior, and are interested in taking part, create an account on chess.com, and then apply to join the Canberra Junior Chess Club. When you apply to join, make sure you identify yourself, as otherwise the application will not be accepted.

I've also received a number of enquiries from non ACT chess players about taking part in the various tournaments. My current recommendation is to join the Street Chess2 club on chess.com  (as the membership requirements are a lot more relaxed) for Saturday events. I am also looking at running some longer time control events, open to all Australian players, using offline pairings. This may be up and running in a few weeks, so watch this space.

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Arena

I'm not sure if 18,000 players for a single chess event is some sort of record, but I was impressed by the turnout for the Offerspill Charity event, held on lichess.org yesterday. Sponsored by the Offerspill Chess Club of Norway (Magnus Carlsen's club) he event ran for 24 hours, using the Arena format. The winner was IM Platon Galperin, who played 314 games of 3m+2s chess. Interestingly his winning percentage was only around 50%, instead relying on wining streaks to accumulate his points. The other remarkable stat was the total number of games played, which was 176,719!

Smurf v Komodo

chess.com is hosting an interesting match, where GM David Smerdon is playing the Komodo chess engine. White is different about this is that Komodo is giving David knight odds in each game of the 6 game match. In return, David has black in each game.
After the first 3 games Smerdon holds a 2-1 lead. Prior to the match he asked people to predict the likely outcome, and mine was a 4.5-1.5 wind to David. My reasoning for this was that David was likely to lose a game early on, and then change his strategy so it didn't happen again.
It turned out that David actually lost the first game, missing a 'short' tactic, and then getting outplayed in a materially equal position. Bouncing back from that, David then played more cautiously, and simply ground down the engine in the next two games.
The match continues tomorrow, starting at 10am Canberra time. One of the best places to watch the match is at https://www.twitch.tv/mironiusvulgaris which has commentary by GM Evgenij Miroshnichenko  and Canberra's own IM Andras Toth.


PlayKomodo (2960) - smurfo (2528) [C00]
Live Chess - Odds Chess Chess.com, 11.04.2020


Thursday, 9 April 2020

Other games

While chess should be enough to sustain most of us, the urge to try something new (or different) is understandable. The main issue is that the online community for other boardgames isn't as developed (excluding the classics like Bridge, Go and Backgammon).
There are often sites for a specific game (like Dominion) but if you are looking for a more general site, then https://boardgamearena.com/ might be worth a visit. Setting up an account is free, although some games are restricted to Premium account holders (although they can invite you to play). There are a lot of Euro boardgames there, as well as some of my 'casual' favourites like Sushi Go, and For Sale. It even has a ranking system, so you can compare you skills at Puerto Rico in the same way you can do so with Chess. (PS It does have Chess!)

Nine blot

Magnus Carlsen proved that isolation hasn't diminished his blitz skill, beating GM Sana Sjugirov in the final of the Chess24 Banter Blitz. What was most impressive about it (apart from Carlsen's ability to play and commentate at the same time) was the final score of 9-0. You can check out the action (and Carlsen's commentary) on replay at https://chess24.com/en/live/video/banter-blitz-cup---magnus-carlsen-vs--sanan-sjugirov

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Pin for the win

While I normally try my best to not play chess (except at my local club), I do end up playing the odd extra tournament. One event is a small online round robin, designed to give PNG players some extra practice. It is played at a rate of 1 move every 2 days, although the games are running a lot quicker than that.
Despite starting only 2 weeks ago, I've already scored my first win. One of the reasons the game started so quickly was that is was book up until move 16, and why it finished so quickly was my opponent self-pinned the knight on e7. While 21.Bc4 was the winning-est move, I so wanted to play 21.Qd8+, which I figured was also winning, but not in the most direct way.


shaunpress (2318) - Michelino47 (1588) [B22]
PNG Tournament March 2020 Chess.com, 28.03.2020


Sunday, 5 April 2020

The perils of online play

One of the questions I am constantly asked in my new role of online tournament organiser is "How do you deal with cheating?" My quick answer is "I don't" but the real answer is a little more involved than that.
At the moment the events I organise are small-ish events, with no more than 30 players. I also generally know all the players in the events, and those I don't, I ask them to clearly identify who they are in real life. The reasoning for this is that I believe players are less likely to misbehave in smaller social settings if they now everyone else knows who they are. Secondly, the platforms for online chess also have their own ant-cheating systems built in, which provides both a deterrent, and a system for sanctioning players.
As a result there haven't been anything I would describe as obvious cheating in anything I have organised, although I know of at least one player who did get sanctioned by the site these events run on (NB I am not privy to the reasons why this happened).
However it can still go somewhat wrong for other tournament organisers, as discovered by the Melbourne Chess Club. The MCC run a Saturday Allegro Competition (modelled after Street Chess), and have also moved it online. They also decided to "go big" with yesterdays event, attracting a field of 128 players. In the first round, one of the top seeds was beaten by an unrated/unknown player. While this may not have been a huge surprise in real life, in online chess it was enough to reverse the result and exclude the winner from the rest of the tournament. I believe there was a copy of the game that was briefly online, but has also now been removed from the tournament website.
At this time this is all the information I have seen on this matter, but I assume the organisers had more evidence than simply "this result doesn't seem right". There is a line between playing out of your skin and playing with electronic help, but sometimes organisers find it difficult to put a player on the correct side of it. Hopefully, as players and organisers gain more experience with these events, such incidents will diminish.

Nice work if you can get it

Despite the lack of OTB chess at the moment, Magnus Carlsen is keeping himself, and some other GM's, busy, announcing a $250,000 online chess event. The event will consist of Carlsen and 7 other top GM's, playing a round robin of 4 15m+10s games against each other. The top scorers then qualify for a playoff series.
The tournament is being hosted by chess24.com and begins on the 18th April. While the field has not be finalised as yet, there may be some interesting omissions, for commercial reasons. While online chess hasn't attracted the large sums of money that other eSports has, some GM's have signed contracts with specific cites, which may preclude them from playing on chess24.
As an added bonus, you can install the Premium version of the Magnus Trainer app (Android and iOS) from now until the end of the tournament. Details are at the above link.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Tools of the Trade

Having transitioned to providing online coaching (rather than face to face, which I prefer), here are my current tools.

  • A good collection of coaching books (Yusopov coaching series, 365 Chess Master Lessons by Soltis)
  • Lichess (You can share analysis boards and study collaboratively) 
  • Zoom video software (despite the fact it is currently being slammed in technology circles)
  • XSplit Gamecaster (for streaming lessons to multiple students)
At this stage it seems to work well for one on one sessions, and has the added benefit of getting me to prepare instructive positions in advance.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Everyone is doing it

It looks as though chess streaming is becoming a real growth industry. On all the major chess platforms you can now find GM's IM's and even humble FM's playing blitz and streaming the game at the same time. Some use built in software, while other streamers use external channels like twitch.tv. And given how much of it there is, you can probably log in at any time of the night or day to find some interesting games.
One of the many players doing this is GM Elshan Moradiabadi. He is active on lichess.org as 'elshan1985' and on twitch.tv as gmelshan1985 gm_elshan1985. He usually takes on all comers at bullet and blitz, while commentating on the game. His comments are both instructive and entertaining, especially when he realises he has had a lucky escape from a near certain loss.
He is normally active in the early afternoon Canberra time (which is late night in the US, where he lives). I logged in this afternoon to watch some of the action, and was fortunate to come across the following hack.

vicarryus (2020) - elshan1985 (2571) [A41]
Rated Blitz game https://lichess.org/mewrNI62, 02.04.2020


Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Where you can still earn titles

There is still some organised chess where you can still earn titles. The International Correspondence Chess Federation is still running events, taking advantage of the fact that all their chess is server based anyway. As a result you can still earn GM, IM and other CC titles while chilling at home. The Correspondence Chess League of Australia (of which I am the current President) is also organising lots of events, again mainly played on the ICCF server.
So if you want to play some serious chess, with the chance of earning a title or two, then check out the above links.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Arianne Caoili 1986-2020

Very sad news has come out of Armenia, with Arianne Caoili passing away at the age of 33. She had been involved in a serious car accident two week ago, and despite the best efforts of hospital staff, she died of her injuries yesterday.
Born in the Philippines, she represented that country up until 2004, before changing Federations to Australia. She was married to GM Lev Aronian in 2015 2017, moving to Armenia a few years previously to manage her business interests in Yerevan.
Apart from being a WIM, she also studied International Relations at the Australian National University, where she was a member of the ANU Chess Club. Outside of the chess community she was probably best known as a contestant on the television show, Dancing with the Stars, where she finished runner up in 2006.
While her professional career took priority over her chess career over the last decade, she still  performed at a high level when she did play. One event she took part in was the Veterans v Snowdrops match, where she scored the following win over legendary GM Wolfgang Uhlmann.


Caoili,Arianne (2242) - Uhlmann,Wolfgang (2412) [C15]
Marianske Lazne Czech Coal m Marianske Lazne (6), 25.11.2010


It isn't always easier playing online

The rush is now on to get as many online events up and running as possible. As with a lot of things in Australian chess, the ACT led the way ("with remarkable speed" according to GM Ian Rogers), but a number of other organisers are starting regular online events. Some are paid events, some have prize money on offer, while the rest are just being organised to keep the chess community connected.
I must confess I am not a great online player, and tonight proved this in spades. I decided to join in the Monday Blitz Arena, but it did not get off to great start. My first game started with a mouse slip, while my third game was a pre-move disaster where I left my queen en-pris in the opening. I even managed to forget some opening theory I should know, and went from winning to losing in the space of one move. I eventually scored a couple of very lucky wins and stumbled to +1 over 14 games. Once finished I once again had to face the question, "Do I suck because I don't play enough, or do I not play enough because I suck?"

Sunday, 29 March 2020

The Match of the Century

Fifty years ago today, the USSR team played a Rest of the World team in what became known as "The Match of the Century". The match was played over 10 boards, with 4 games on each board. The USSR team scored a narrow 20.5-19.5, in part aided by the result on the lower boards. Paul Keres on board 10 contributed with a 3-1 win over Ivkov, making up for some poor scoring on the top 4 boards. The USSR team was more solid on the lower boards, scoring 2.5-1.5 wins from boards 5-8, and 2-2 draw on board 9.
Bobby Fischer surprised everyone by playing on board 2 (below Larsen), but proved to be a good team player, crushing Petrosian 3-1, including the following hammering in the first game.


Fischer,Robert James - Petrosian,Tigran V [B13]
URS-World Belgrade (1.2), 29.03.1970