Thursday, 23 January 2020

The Forace Rule

Early on in his chess career Lee Forace came up with a rule that you are unlikely to find in any chess book. "Swap off when you are behind". This is of course the opposite to the usual "Swap off when you are ahead", but was intended as a humorous take on how to lose a game.
While in general the rule doesn't help much, there are of course situations when swapping off can save a half point. Rook and pawn endings are a good example, where taking rooks from the board can result in a drawn pawn ending.
Having said that, here is an example where the rule definitely does not help. Having lost a pawn in the opening, my opponent obligingly allows me to swap everything off into a pawn ending that was easily winning for me. I didn't speak to him after the game, but I can only assume he thought he could stop my king from breaking through on the kingside.


Press,Shaun - Scully,Mark [C41]
Canberra Cup (7), 23.01.2020


Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Chess is still really hard

No matter what level you play at, or how good you are, it turns out that chess is still really hard. Just ask Viswanathan Anand who played 46 good moves against Fabiano Caruana to get to a winning positing, then 5 ok moves to have a drawn position, and then a sequence of poor moves to get a lost ending. Something I'm sure we have all done, and as such, something we can sympathise with Anand for.


Caruana,F (2822) - Anand,V (2758) [D38]
82nd Tata Steel GpA Wijk aan Zee NED (8), 19.01.2020


Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Gibraltar 2020

One of the years biggest swiss events, Gibraltar Masters 2020 is about to get underway later this evening. This yearly chess festival is incredibly popular, so much so that the entries for the masters is capped at around 250 players. However, they also organise a number of side events for lower rated players, so no one really misses out.
India has the largest representation with 32 players, while Australia has 1 representative, IM Rishi Sardana. There are 85 GM's in the field, and the bottom half starts at 2400!
Some of the side events are already up and running, including the popular morning Amateurs. Checking in the live coverage I have already spotted a quick win by well known arbiter David Sedgwick.


Sedgwick,David (1894) - Dhanwani,Aditya (1565) [C02]
Gibraltar Chess Amateurs A Caleta Hotel, Gibraltar (2.19)


Monday, 20 January 2020

2020 Australian Junior Chess Championship

The 2020 Australian Chess Championship is currently running on the Gold Coast. The tournament is broken up into a number of sections, some being played with a shorter schedule than others. The Under 8's and Under 10's Open have started the tournament off, along with the Under 18's and 16's Open. The girls events will start on Wednesday (after the Under 8's and 10's are finished), as will the Under 14 and Under 12 Open events.
At the close of entries there were over 300 players registered to take part (not counting the blitz, simuls and other activities). You can see the results from the first few days, as well as games from the top boards of the various sections at https://ajccgoldcoast.com.au/

Sunday, 19 January 2020

A late discovery?

White to play and win
In the diagram is a simple(?!) study by Van der Heijden from 2002. As with all good studies, the main line contains some non-obvious choices, and solving it might teach you something about King and Pawn endings.
The thing that surprises me most about this study is in fact the date of composition. 2002 seems quite late for a study like this, as I had assumed that most of the tricky king and pawn positions would have been found by the mid 20th century at the latest. But as this study shows, there may still be more discoveries to be had.

Friday, 17 January 2020

2020 ACT Blitz Championship - Monday 20 January

The first ACT event of the 2020 chess year is the 2020 ACT Blitz Championship. This year it is being hosted by the Tuggeranong Chess Club, Ricardo St, Wanniassa. Registrations are from 6:45pm on Monday the 20th January, with play scheduled to start at 7pm. The tournament is a 9 round swiss, with an entry fee of $10 ($5 for juniors). As this is an official ACT Chess Association event, membership fees for 2020 will be required to be paid as well ($25 adult, $15 concession).
With ACT chess on a bit of an upswing at the moment, I expect a large field. Tuggeranong events always attract a sizeable number of local players, and this event usually attracts players from the other clubs.

(** Disclaimer: I will be the chief arbiter for this event **)

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Ramakrishna

The ACT Chess Association has been informed of the recent passing of Gogulapati Ramakrishna. 'Rama' as he was usually known, was a long time member of the Belconnen Chess Club, and a former organiser of the Doeberl Cup. He was a former Secretary of the ACT Chess Association, and donated both his time and money to various chess activities in the ACT.
As a player he was quite tough to beat and I considered my first win over him (after at least 5 years of trying), as a real achievement. Indeed it was almost a right of passage for young Belconnen players to defeat him, and plenty of players were unable to pass that test.
In the early years of the Belconnen Chess Club he generously donated money for chess clocks, and purchased the club championship trophy, which is still used to this day. Away from the board he was a Statistician, working for the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
While he stopped serious play in recent years he was still proved a challenge to the new generation of ACT players, as shown by this win over future IM Junta Ikeda.


Ramakrishna,Gogulapati (1659) - Ikeda,Junta (1819) [B22]
ACT-ch Canberra (2), 28.07.2004


Wednesday, 15 January 2020

The best game prize

Offering best game prizes is now a thing of the past. It is both a victim of the increased computerisation of chess ('Engine says no!'), and the modesty of most chess players. This wasn't always so.
During the recent Australian Championship I was tasked with a bit of detective work. Steven Hemsley asked me if I could find a game of hist from the early 1990's. It was played in a Correspondence Chess event, and it won a best game prize for Category 4 players. I did a bit of digging in my random boxes of old chess magazines, and discovered it in 1995 edition of Australian Correspondence Chess Quarterly. Also of interest was that it was one of half a dozen games that had been submitted in that category, and that 36 games were submitted across all sections. Unfortunately numbers in subsequent years fell from this level, until the CCLA decided to stop giving Best game prizes a few years ago.


Hemsley,Steven - Sutton,J [B09]
QT C CCLA, 1993


2020 New Zealand Championships

The 2020 New Zealand Championships began yesterday, and the top section has attracted a large field. Unlike the Australian version, the tournament is an open event, and foreign players are free to enter. As a result there are 40 players in the field, with 3 GM's and 6 IM's.
While the bottom half ratings started at a respectable 1932, there were no upsets in the first round, with the top half making a clean sweep of the games. Round 2 will be a little tougher with the top board seeing GM Vasily Papin up against tournament organiser FM Bob Smith.
In the Major Open, Canberra's own Miles Patterson is the top seed. The field is a little smaller than the Championship (30 players), and the first round saw a few more upsets. However that did not include the top board, where Patterson had a quick win using his favourite Benko Gambit.
The tournament is broadcasting the top 10 boards of the Championship, and the top 5 boards of the Major. You can find all the links to results and live games at the official New Zealand Chess Federation website newzealandchess.co.nz


Pakenham,John - Patterson,Miles [A57]
New Zealand Major Open (1.1), 14.01.2020




Tuesday, 14 January 2020

2020 Australian Chess Championship - Day 11

GM Temur Kuybokarov is the winner of the 2020 Australian Chess Championship, after drawing his final round game against FM Kevin O'Chee. Needing only half a point to secure outright first, Kubokarov knocked back a cheeky move 5 draw offer from O'Chess, but as the game progressed, was faced with a number of difficult decisions. He sacrificed an exchange to try and create winning chances, but eventually the game was drawn by repetition.
IM Junta Ikeda won his final round game against Cameron McGowan to finish in second place on 8.5/11. Ikeda started the tournament with 3.5/5 but finished the event with 5 straight wins. IM Igor Bjelobrk took third prize after drawing with FM Jack Puccini. Puccini missed out on an IM norm after a couple of late tournament losses, but still picked up rating points.
Apart from Ikeda, FM Michael Kethro and Willis Lo both had good tournament. Kethro received the bye in the final round but his score of 6/11 was still a good result. Willis Lo had a slow start but a good second half saw him reach 50% with a final round win.
In the Reserves Ross Lam defeated Kevin Sheldrick to create a tie for first. As there is no playoff procedure for this event, both players shared first place, and may both qualify for the 2022 Australian Championships.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

2020 Australian Championships - Day 10

While GM Temur Kuybokarov has one hand firmly on the Australian Championship trophy, there is still a chance it won't be the only one.
In the penultimate round of the Championship, Kuybokarov played it safe, agreeing to a draw with WGM Jillin Zhang in a position where he was slightly worse. On board 2 IM Junta Ikeda defeated FM Jack Puccini in a very sharp struggle, and now only sits a point behind Kuybokarov. This means that Ikeda has to beat Cameron McGowan and hope that FM Kevin O'Chee scores an upset win over Kuybokarov to finish in a tie for first. However, based on results (and form) in this event, this is an unlikely outcome.
IM Igor Bjelobrk is now in outright third after beating McGowan, while IM Brandon Clarke moved into 4th place with a tough game against FM Michael Kethro. There were a total of 5 queens used in this game, with Kethro promoting once, and Clarke twice! The loss means Kehto gets the final bye of the tournament, although this will leave him on 6/11, with an outside chance of a prize.
In the Reserves tournament Kevin Sheldrick scored his 9th win in a row, and only needs a last round draw to win the tournament outright. Even a loss is good enough for first, albeit a shared first with Ross Lam, who he plays tomorrow.
As it is the final day, tomorrows round begins at 1030 local time. The overall tournament results should be known mid afternoon, with the prize giving ceremony at 4pm.

2020 Australian Championship - Day 9

GM Temur Kuybokarov looks to have the 2020 Australian Championship Title all sewn up, after beating IM Stephen Solomon in round 9. In a tricky game, Solomon looked to have Kuybokarov on the back foot for most of it, but a running h pawn was enough for Kuybokarov to win.
He now leads the tournament by 1.5 points, and with only 2 rounds to play, is almost assured of 1st place. IM Junta Ikeda is now outright second on 6.5, after FM Jack Puccini beat IM Brodie McClymont. Ikeda scored a quick win over FM Jason Hu, and he and Puccini meet in round 10.
FM Michael Kethro has quietly moved up the field, and is now on 5/9, after beating fellow ACT player Willis Lo. Also on 5 points is Cameron McGowan, who has recovered from a poor start to win his last 3 games.
In the Reserves event, Kevin Sheldrick won his 8th game in a row to lead the chasing pack by a full point. He still has some tough opponents to face in the last 2 rounds, including Angelito Camer, who he plays in round 10.

Saturday, 11 January 2020

h6 h4!

Pushing pieces off g5 with h6 is quite common. Less so is the joy in meeting h6 with h4!

Teves, Johnny Miranda - Tang, Jonas
2020 Australian Championship , 2020.01.10


Friday, 10 January 2020

2020 Australian Championship - Day 8

Round 8 of the 2020 Australian Chess Championship saw two challengers fall away, and tournament leader GM Temur Kuybokarov extend his lead to 1.5 points. Kuybokarov inflicted the tournaments first defeat on IM Igor Bjelobrk, going into a Rook and Bishop ending a pawn up, and converting that to a win. On board 2 FM Chris Wallis also suffered his first loss of the tournament, losing to IM Junta Ikeda. This propelled Ikeda into second place on 5.5/8, where he was joined by IM Brodie McClymont, who drew a very entertaining game with IM Brandon Clarke.
With Kuybokarov having played the next 6 players below him, his round 9 opponent is IM Stephen Solomon. Indeed most of the players in the leading groups have already played each other, so the final three rounds may see some odd pairings.
In the Australian Reserves Championship joint leaders Kevin Sheldrick and David Spuler face each other in what could be the decisive game of the tournament. Sheldrick has done well to reach 7/8, as he started the event with a loss in round 1. Nathan Hibberd is in third place on 6.5, followed by a large group of players on 6.

2020 Australian Chess Championship - Day 7

GM Temur Kuybokarov recovered from his round 6 loss to defeat FM Jack Puccini in the 7th round of the 2020 Australian Chess Championship. Puccini looked to whipping up a strong attack against Kuybokarov's king, but one missed move was all Kuybokarov needed to escape the worst. With a draw on board 2 between IM Brodie McClymont and FM Chris Wallis, Kuybokarov has extended his lead out to a full point.
A win on board 3 to IM Igor Bjelobrk (against IM Brandon Clarke) moves him into a share of second place, and he is Kyubokarov's opponent in round 8. A win for Bjelobrk throws the tournament wide open with 3 rounds to play, while a loss leaves Kubokarov in the box seat for the title.
Further down the the table, Willis Lo has turned his tournament around, with his third win in succession. After starting with 0/3, he is now on 4/7, and may have a say in the tournaments final placings. Stirling Bayaca scored his first win of the tournament (against Clive Ng), while FM Jason Hu upset IM Stephen Solomon to move above 50%

Thursday, 9 January 2020

2020 O2C Doeberl Cup - Accommodation deals

Although the year has just started, now is the time to start thinking about the 2020 O2C Doeberl Cup. One of the event sponsors is Abode Hotels, and they have put together some great accommodation deals for this years event.
Both the Abode Woden and the Woden Hotel are within walking distance of the tournament venue, and both a proven popular with players over the last few years. Room prices are now listed on the Doeberl Cup Accommodation page, along with terms and conditions.
If you are a GM planning to play, get in touch with the organisers, as we are offering free accommodation (twin share) for the duration of the tournament. And finally, there is an extra $2000 in prizes on offer this year, including a $5000 first prize in the Premier.

(** Note: I am the Chief Organiser of the 2020 O2C Doeberl Cup **)

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

2020 Australian Blitz Championship

The 2020 Australian Blitz Championship attracted a very large field with 117 players entered, although only 111 actually turned out to play. The large entry almost caught the organisers unaware, although we were able to create extra space, and extra boards at the last minute.
Blitz demon and 2018 event winner IM Brandon Clarke was the top seed, but it was FM Jack Puccini who dominated the event. Puccini scored a perfect 11/11 to finish two points ahead of Clarke and FM Gene Nakauchi. There was a big tie for 4th on 8 points, with Arthur Huynh and Ross Lam sharing the Under 2000 prize and Jack Keating the Under 1750(!) prize on this score.
Puccini's win was cemented in rounds 6 to 8 where he beat the IM trio of Gary Lane, Clarke and Brodie McClymont. After beating Nakauchi in round 9, there was little chance anyone could catch him, and he went into the final round 2 points ahead.
Overall the event ran smoothly, if a little slow. With the large field (and a 3m+2s time limit), the arbiting team of myself, Charles Zworestine and Andrew Hardegan were kept busy for most of the rounds, although serious disputes were minimal. The main issue on the day was making sure players could find their tables, and in some instances, play the correct opponents!
Full results of the tournament can be found here. With this event out of the way, the 2020 Austalian Championship resumes tomorrow, with round 7 starting at 2 pm.

The joy of regular expressions

There is a claim that you are not a real programmer unless you can build regular expressions. Occasionally I have need for them in a professional capacity, but doing them on the fly is always a difficult task for me.
My most recent problem was that the pgn files from the 2020 Australian Championship had the clock times included as comments. Normally this isn't a problem as you can strip comments using chessbase, but as I don't have that on my laptop, it required a different solution (that wasn't manual deletion).  \{[\s\S]*?}\s was the magic incantation used in Brackets, which was sufficient to get the file into something I could use more easily. And as proof, here is a nice win by Jack Puccini from yesterdays round.

Puccini, Jack - O`Chee, Kevin
2020 Australian Championship , 2020.01.07


Tuesday, 7 January 2020

2020 Australian Chess Championship - Day 6

Just when it looked like GM Temur Kuybokarov was running away with the 2020 Australian Chess Championship, FM Chris Wallis decided to change the narrative. After an unusual Ruy Lopez, Wallis took advantage of his centralised pieces to gain a clear advantage through a temporary piece offer. When the position had clarified Wallis had a pair of passed pawns, and Kuybokarov's king was looking very unsafe. Taking no chances Wallis slowly improved his position until Kuybokarov resigned on move 48.
The win leaves Wallis sharing second place with IM Brodie McClymont, who beat IM Junta Ikeda today. As McClymont and Wallis have both played Kuybokarov already, they will instead face each other after tomorrows rest day. FM Jack Puccini had a very nice win over FM Kevin O'Chee to move into a share of 4th, alongside IM's Brandon Clarke and Igor Bjelobrk. Further down Willis Lo scored his second win in succession, while Sterling Bayaca and Cameron McGowan played out a hard fought draw.
Tomorrow is a rest day for the main tournaments, but the 2020 Australian Blitz Championship will be running from 2pm. Entries will be accepted up until 1pm if you are in Sydney and looking for an afternoon of chess.


Wallis, Christopher - Kuybokarov, Temur
2020 Australian Championship , 2020.01.07


Monday, 6 January 2020

2020 Australian Championship - Day 5

Even though the 2020 Australian Championship has yet the reach the halfway point, the almost certain winner has become clear. GM Temur Kuybokarov defeated another close rival, dispatching IM Brandon Clarke in 26 moves. Kuybokarov is now a full point and a half ahead of FM Chris Wallis Wallis, IM Junta Ikeda and IM Brodie McClymont. Kuybokarov has already played Ikeda and McClymont, and will meet Wallis in tomorrows round.
Round 5 saw a number of exciting games, no more so than the Solomon v Ikeda clash on board 3. Solomon reached a winning position by move 30, but in mutual time trouble failed to find the correct continuation, allowing Ikeda to collect the point. IM's Igor Bjelobrk and Brodie McClymont drew on board 2, while FM Chris Wallis continued his unbeaten run with a win over FM Gene Nakauchi. 
Willis Lo scored his first win of the tournament by beating Cameron McGowan, while Arthur Huynh played a nice attack against Sterling Bayaca for his second win of the tournament.


Sunday, 5 January 2020

2020 Australian Championship - Day 4

Four rounds, four wins for GM Temur Kuybokarov at the 2020 Australian Championship. Today he played second seed IM Junta Ikeda, in his toughest pairing so far. After an even opening Ikeda began to drift a little in the middlegame before allowing a tactical shot on move 25 which gave Kuybokarov a winning position. Ikeda tried to hang on while short of time, but resigned soon after the first time control.
IM Brandon Clarke and IM Brodie McClymont share second place on 3 points, after both recorded wins today. They are followed by a large group of players on 2.5, including IM Stephen Solomon and FM's Chris Wallis and Michael Kethro.
Kuybokarov plays Clarke tomorrow, while McClymont plays Bjelobrk. Bjelobrk is one of three players who are still undefeated (Wallis being the third) and will provide a challenge to McClymont.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

2020 Australian Chess Championship - Day 3

The third day of the 2020 Australian Chess Championship was both long, and hot. With the last game finishing after 6 hours of play, spectators (and players) certainly got their money's worth.
Board 1 saw GM Temur Kuybakrov outplay IM Brodie McClymont to score his third win in succession. On board 2 IM Junta Ikeda defeated IM Brandon Clarke to move into outright second on 2.5.
The longest game of the day (and the tournament so far), saw FM Jack Puccini hold off a determined IM Stephen Solomon, defending both RB v 2R (and no pawns) for 30 odd moves, and after a pair of rooks came off, B v R for a further 40 moves.
A number of other games saw some dramatic reversals of fortune, with Gene Nakachi going from losing to winning in the space of 1 move against Arthur Huynh, while John-Stuart Plant, overestimated his winning chances in a drawn ending, instead losing to WGM Jillin Zhang.
Tomorrow Kuybokarov meets Ikeda on board 1 in a game which may simply decide first place. A win for Kuybokarov would make him odds on favourite to win the tournament, while a win for Ikeda gives him (and a few others) a shot at the title.

Sac, Sac, Mate

Here is a nice game from the 2nd round of the 2020 Australian Reserves Championships. While sacrifices on h7 are quite common against the French Defence, it is normally with the bishop. In this case White sacrifices a knight, then a bishop, as part of an unstoppable attack.


Thite, Sameer - Raichle, Joerg
2020 Australian Championship Reserves, 2020.01.03


Friday, 3 January 2020

2020 Australian Championship - Day 2

At the end of the 2nd round of the 2020 Australian Championship, 3 players share the lead with 2/2. Top seed GM Temur Kuybokarov overcame Cameron McGowan in a hard fought game, while IM Brandon Clarke beat John-Stuart Plant. IM Brodie McClymont was the third player to get to 2 points, after IM Stephen Solomon decided to sacrifice a piece, rather than defend an inferior position. However there was very little compensation for the material, and McLymont won pretty quickly.
IM Junta Ikeda and IM Igor Bjelobrk drew their game pretty quickly, and were joined on 1.5 by FM Chris Wallis and FM Jack Puccini, who both won their second round games.
Tomorrow Kuybokarov is paired against McClymont, while Clarke plays Ikeda. As a lot of pre-tournament predictions had a likely winner coming from this group of players, a win for any of these players will substantially improve their overall chances of finishing in first place.
It is a different story in the Reserves, where there are still 15 players on 2/2. This only includes 4 players seeded in the top 10, so there will be a few more rounds before the field spreads out.
Starting tomorrow is the 7 round 2020 St George Classic. This will be played in the morning, using the 60m+30s time control. 50 players have registered for this tournament, including a number who are also playing the Reserves in the afternoon!

Thursday, 2 January 2020

2020 Australian Chess Championship - Day 1

The 2020 Australian Chess Championship is under, with the first round throwing up few surprises. Most game went according to seeding, with only the Kargosha - Wallis and Puccini - Ng games ending in a draw. Top seed GM Temur Kuybokarov played a very nice game against FM Jason Hu, with Hu resigning on move 25. Most of the other games went for longer than that, but despite some determined resistance, the top seeds triumphed 9-1.
There was a slightly different story in the Reserves tournament. With a field of 106 players, there was a greater chance of at least 1 upset, and this turned out to be the case. Second seed Kevin Sheldrick lost to Sydney veteran Mark Baterowicz, while 6th seed Angelito Camer lost to Jason Pan. There were another 2 drawn games on the top 10 boards, showing how tough this event is likely to be.
Tomorrows round starts at 2pm, and all the games from the Championship will be broadcast on Chess24 (with a 30 minute delay). With a field of 21 players in the Championship, their are already some important games in round 2, with the Ikeda v Bjelobrk game being a particular highlight.

Go hard, then go home

You never want to be the first game to finish at the start of an important event, unless you win of course. So trying a somewhat dubious opening can be a risk, especially if an unexpected reply catches you off guard. This unfortunately happened to Bevan Clouston in the first round of the 2020 Australian Championship Reserves, where the Englund Gambit went off the rails, and he ended up resigning on move 10.


Raichle, Joerg - Clouston, Bevan
2020 Australian Championship Reserves, 2020.01.02


2020 Australian Chess Championships - Online coverage and results

The 2020 Australian Chess Championship begins in a couple of hours at the St George Leagues Club. There will be live coverage of the Championship at Chess24 (with a 30 minute delay). The Results for the 2020 Championship are at this link, while the results for the Reserves are here.

2019 Chessexpress Player of the Year

Non Olympiad years often make it harder to identify a stand out player, as activity levels seem a lot lower among the top Australian players. This seemed to be the case this year, especially with a number of GM's choosing career over chess, or in at least one case, outright retirement.
But having looked at the results of a few players (including 'Australian' players registered for other countries), I decided that I could not go past GM Anton Smirnov. He started the year with an equal third place in the Australian Open, and another equal third on the 2019 O2C Doeberl Cup. At the end of the year (with Year 12 out of the way) he then headed to Europe where he scored some good results in team events, before finishing equal first in the London Chess Classic Open. A strong followup performance in the Rome Open saw him finish 2019 with his rating over 2600.
So for these achievements, GM Anton Smirnov is the 2019 Chessexpress Player of the Year.