Thursday, 29 June 2017

What has been keeping me busy (and it isn't chess)

My posting has been a little sporadic over the last few months, mainly due to a big work project that is now due for completion. The project was an update/rewrite to a spam reporting and collection database that is used by the Australian Government, both updating the application, and moving the whole thing to the cloud.
We are rolling out the new system over the next month, but for now it is substantially completed (in that it has passed all the user acceptance testing).
For those with a technical interest, the system is written in python using the Django web framework. (There is a chess link here btw, as the late Malcolm Tredinnick was a significant contributor to Django). The backend database is Postgresql, with Elasticsearch for text searching, as well as javascript,css and html for the front end stuff. All of these tools are open source btw
It was developed in house, 37% under budget, exceeded the initial specification, and is designed to handle an average of 300,000 spam filled emails a day.
I hope I have't risked fate by blowing my trumpet too loudly or too early, but if everything goes according to plan, the work/chess balance may be heading back into chess's favour.

Monday, 26 June 2017

The (almost) kiss of death

Having talked up Magnus Carlsen at the Paris Grand Chess Tour event, the wheels came of almost the moment I hit the 'publish' button. He was on 18/22 and looking as if he was running away with the tournament. Then  there were a couple of losses in the blitz and things got a lot more interesting. He only managed to score 6 from 14 in the remaining rounds, allowing Maxime Vachier-Lagrave to lead with 1 round to play, and only catching him with a final round win (MVL drew).
But if Carlsen knows one thing, it is what he needs to do to win an event (a trait he seemingly shares with Karpov).  Having tied with MVL he then won the playoff to take the winners trophy. The fact that Carlsen won the playoff is probably not a surprise, as apparently he is 8 from 8 in playoffs since 2007. MVL at least has the consolation that he split the prize money with Carlsen, earning $31000 for his efforts.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

GCT - Carlsen in beast mode

The 2017 Grand Chess Tour has begun with the Rapid/Blitz event in Paris. Carlsen currently leads the pack, having finished first in the 3 day rapid, and is following it up by starting the blitz with 4 straight wins. This put's him on 18/22 as the Rapid games are worth 2 points a win (1 for a draw), with the blitz games worth half of that. The Blitz runs over 2 days btw, so if you aren't up watching the action as I type this, you can catch it tomorrow night (from 10pm Canberra time)

The team trap

Although I drew a few games when I was younger, I tended to have a win/lose mentality at the board. This all changed when I started playing Olympiad chess for PNG. After my first Olympiad (in 2000) I realised the speculative attacks that may have worked in club chess were no longer good, and I needed to play a lot more solidly. The downside of this was that I began to draw a lot more games, which probably helped the team, but at the same time, carried over into my non-olympiad games.
Of course the dynamic in a team event is different from an individual tournament, as your play and result is important to more than just you. One of the worst things that can happen is if you screw up your opening prep and walk into a trap. It can be quite demoralising to your teammates to see you shake hands after 30 minutes or so, and the post match 'show and tell' can be quite awkward.
I've had a few of these happen to me (and my team) over the last 2 decades. On the other hand I've also managed to pull this off on occasion, and getting opening prep to work in a team event is quite satisfying.
Here is a happier example for me, from the 2004 Olympiad.


Press,Shaun (2070) - Kumar,Manoj (2036) [D03]
Calvia ol (Men) Mallorca (Spain) (12.60), 27.10.2004


Friday, 23 June 2017

VR Chess

There have been a few experiments with Virtual Reality Chess (including in the area of live coverage), but actual VR Chess games are now starting to be developed.
Chess Ultra is a new title where you get to play against the Grim Reaper (an obvious The Seventh Seal reference) for the usual stakes (your soul). It is being released on various VR platforms, and there is also a non-VR version. The developers are also looking at organising VR tournaments, which I think may be quite an interesting development (from a psychological point of view).
I've seen a few online reviews and pre release coverage (some quite funny but NSFW), but I'll leave you with this one if you want to find out more.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

50 moves and counting

A bit of a first for me tonight, as I finally had a 75 move draw ruling to make. In a topsy turvy game, the two players involved took turns at gaining and then losing the advantage until a Rook v Bishop ending was reached. As there were no pawns left, the player with the bishop headed straight to the corner, correctly choosing the one his bishop did not control. This allowed him to block any annoying checks, and set up some stalemate situations. The stronger side kept pushing (as is his right), but to no avail. Once they reached move 50 (around move 140 in the actual game), I wondered if a claim would be made (by the player with the bishop most likely), but none was forthcoming. As the players were moving quite quickly I did not mind, and soon enough move 75 was reached, at which point I stopped the clocks.
I've had longer games, and indeed I once was an arbiter where the players played at least 80 moves after the last pan move or capture, but this was before the 75 move rule was on the books.
 

Maybe I should have said nothing

I had an interesting game on Saturday. The first few moves were 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4 exd 5.e5 Ne4 then after a longish think, my opponent found the novelty 6.dxe5! For a moment I thought I had missed something, but quickly realised what had happened. I pointed out to my opponent that he had moved one of my pawns, and he apologised, laughed, and we corrected the mistake.
But two pawns is two pawns, and if I play 6. ... Nf6 instead of 6. ... Bc5 (which runs into 7.Qd5) I should be OK. Silence maybe golden!