Thursday, 18 July 2019

Win, draw , loss

While I feel that endgames aren't the hardest part of chess, I accept that they can be the most stressful. While your choice of moves becomes narrower, the consequences of getting them wrong is more dramatic.
Here is a snippet of game that demonstrates this point. Prior to this position Black had been winning, but had lost a piece to a tactic. His only hope of saving the game was to distract the bishop long enough and try and force a bishop and wrong coloured rook pawn ending. Probably influenced by being a piece up, White didn't realise there was a second danger in the position. After Black played g4 White need to exchange pawns, and White is still winning. Instead he pushed to h4, and now the position was drawn. At some point Black will play g3 and if the f pawn captures, Black has his desired wrong coloured rook pawn ending.
At this point White made his second fatal choice. Trying to free the bishop, he ran his king towards the b pawn. Black decided there was no harm in delaying g3, and when the king was far enough away, played the winning pawn push!

White -Black
Canberra 2019

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

A pretty poor tie-break

Finding a 'perfect' tie-break is a pretty inexact science in most sports. The better ones at least still have some notion of the game remaining as a contest, rather than just stopping at some point and declaring a winner.
So the tie-breaking method to decide the Cricket World Cup was pretty poor by this standard. The game was tied after 50 overs, and then tied after the "Super Over", which is the equivalent of a penalty shootout. The trophy was then awarded to England on 'most boundaries scored' which sounds like something chosen by a committee who didn't think it would ever be required. In chess terms this would be like deciding a drawn World Championship match on "most number of checks".
The most obvious result would have been to share the trophy, which is a policy that I've also been in favour of in a lot of chess events I've been involved in. But failing that, "head to head", "least wickets lost", or "finishing position" would have all probably made more sense.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Chess is (happily) weird

With so many GM's these days (over 1000 at least), trying to stand out is harder and harder. In the good old days (ie 1980's) you could earn a reputation by playing openings like the Scandinavian or the Scotch. As these openings have now gone mainstream, players need to do more than that.
The recent trend is to eschew what would be considered more 'classical' positional ideas and instead focus on the initiative. In some circumstances it works, and is very entertaining when it does, but it can be just as entertaining when it doesn't.
In the following game Black is very intent on giving up material for an attack. White's position is solid enough that he could have taken the offered piece on move 18, but waited until move 23 before doing so. Despite Black having open lines and plenty of pawns, his attack went nowhere, and it was White, with good old fashioned central control and better developed pieces that won.

Fridman,Daniel (2638) - Kulaots,Kaido (2560) [B22]
47th GM 2019 Dortmund GER (1.1), 13.07.2019

Sunday, 14 July 2019

"That really got out of hand fast"

Two days ago I was reading a complaint about how GM Igor Rausis was using the "400 point rule" to game the FIDE Rating System. The claim was that he was playing lots of weak players to gain around 1 rating point per game, boosting his rating 20 well over 2600. But within 24 hours that went from a complaint about manipulating the rating system to a very credible accusation of using a mobile phone during a tournament game.
Based on subsequent reports and admissions by Rausis, it looks as though he is 'banged to rights'. It seems that Rausis was already under suspicion based on previous tournament games, and so was being monitored at his latest event. This monitoring turned up fairly clear evidence he was using a phone during the game, and as a consequence he is now facing charges from the FIDE Ethics Commission.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

2019 Oceania Seniors

The 2019 Oceania Seniors is taking place in New Zealand, as part of a chess festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Howick-Pakuranga Chess Club. The 23 player field consists mainly of NZ players, but there are 3 Australian players taking part.
The first round saw only one upset (Nigel Cooper beating Nigel Metge), but I expect more upsets to occur over the next few rounds. Unlike most open events the field is quite compact in terms of rating, so a winner from the 7 round event isn't easy to predict.
The tournament crosstable can be found here, while there is live broadcast (and replays) of the top 9 boards at this link.

Friday, 12 July 2019

The pawn pusher

To call someone a "pawn pusher" is usually considered an insult, but not always. I know some chess players who regard "pawn pusher" or "wood pusher" as a completely accurate character description. On the other hand, if you make a habit of pushing too many pawns, then the following may happen

Tal,Mihail - Tringov,Georgi P [B06]
Amsterdam Interzonal Amsterdam (23), 21.06.1964

Thursday, 11 July 2019

More non chess stuff

The more I play chess, the less I seem to blog about it. Instead of coming up with something suitably 'chessy' I'd like to congratulate the New Zealand Cricket team for winning their World Cup semi final against India. But to at least have some chess content, India's attempts to get over the line reminded me of trying to mate your opponent after blundering a piece in the opening. In India's case is was more than one piece, but as in chess, the margin of error was so narrow that once more wickets fell, it was all over.