Saturday 20 April 2024

Yeh, nah

 Sometimes a trap is so tempting, so obvious, and so spectacular, that there is no way it could work. And in a lot of cases you would be right. But sometimes you play it anyway, and it turns out that it really doesn't work. The game below is an example, except the trap did work. To preserve the identities of the perpetrator and the victim, I'm leaving the names off. The moves given are what *should have happened* if Black had played 7. ... Qb6. Instead he chose 7. ... Qd6?? and resigned after 8.Ne5+ Kd8 9.Nxf7+ 7. ... Qb6 would have been -3 for White with the correct follow up

FM White - Mr Black
I'm not telling Swiss

Friday 19 April 2024

Down to 4

 After a couple of exciting rounds, the 2024 Candidates is down to 4 players. There is a 3 way tie at the top, with Nepo, Naka, and Gukesh all on 7.5, with Fabi on 7. Nepo and Nakamura have the toughest assignments, playing each other in round 13 and then Caruana and Gukesh respectively in the last round. Gukesh has an out of form Firouzja in round 13, while Caruana is playing a much tougher Prag. At this stage Gukesh seems to have the best run home, but this could all change if Nakamura can pull off the big final round comeback. 

Caruana,Fabiano (2803) - Vidit,Santosh Gujrathi (2727) [C54]
FIDE Candidates 2024 Toronto, Canada (12.4), 18.04.2024

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Of shoes and ships and sealing wax ...

 I was asked by one of my readers about whether I was going to comment on the latest happenings in the Candidates Tournament. My initial inclination was to say no*, but with todays extra spice I've changed my mind.

Yesterdays fun started when Chief Arbiter Aris Marghetis asked Alireza Firouzja to stop making so much noise with his shoes when walking around. Apparently this had disturbed at least one other player, who had complained to Aris. Firouzja was not happy about the request, and after the round complained on social media. 

As an Arbiter, I've also had to deal with this issue from time to time. It usually occurs when the venue has hard wood floors, and more formal shoes (ie not sandshoes) are being worn. Normally such requests are handled in good spirits, although not always.

Having dealt with yesterdays issues, another Firouzja related incident occurred in todays round. Normally no spectators/seconds/family members are allowed on the playing floor after the round starts. However this as relaxed for later rounds, with access for the first 15 minutes for family etc being allowed. However, when Firouzja father was asked to leave he made a bit of a scene, and outside said he was going to call the police on the organisers. Again this looks like a case of a reasonably normal request being treated with outright hostility. Again in my experience as an arbiter, players/parents/spectators who insist on everyone else being potential lawbreakers are the ones that react the worst when regulations to protect the integrity of the event are applied to them!

*By way of explanation. At one point in the lead up to the Candidates I was asked if I was available to be one of the Deputy Arbiters. I did say yes, but it then turned out they rolled the job of Deputy Arbiter and Fairplay officer into one position and I was the odd one out. I've also worked with Aris Marghetis in the past and he is an excellent arbiter, especially in the area of  'crowd control'. So anything I write on this topic is going to support the decisions he made.

Saturday 13 April 2024

Watching rather than writing

 I'm a big fan of reading about chess (and most other things) but I am falling into the trap of watching more chess than reading (or writing). Maybe this is just me catching up with the times, or just part of my continuing descent into laziness. It probably hasn't been helped in the short term by picking up my usual cold after running an interschool event (120 players at the ACT Girls Primary Championships). 

Having said that I will probably stick to writing as (a) I have a good face for radio and (b) it probably takes *more* effort to produce visual content than it does to produce written content.

Monday 8 April 2024

Randomised positions

 While there is a belief that top level chess has a dependence on extensive opening preparation, I'm not convinced it is true. Certainly Carlsen seems to do well with his "make it up as I go along" opening approach, and a number of other players are following his lead. The following game from the Candidates certainly started with a surprise opening, but the evaluation of who was better seemed to swing back and forward throughout the game, indicating the while Prag may have been comfortable with the opening, he wasn't relying on it to deliver a victory.

Vidit,Santosh Gujrathi (2727) - Praggnanandhaa R (2747) [C70]
FIDE Candidates 2024 Toronto, Canada (3.4), 05.04.2024

Sunday 7 April 2024

Candidates Chaos

 The 2024 Candidates Tournament is underway in Toronto, and round 2 of the Open section saw 4 decisive games. Probably the most noteworthy was Vidit beating Nakamura, although Caruana's win over Abasov may be the most consequential. 

Going into the tournament, Caruana was probably the favourite, with Nakamura considered the player most likely to defy the odds. However, considering the rating spread of the field, I think the games between the leaders won't be as important as the games against the back markers (like Candidates events of old). So the win by Caruana was an important won, as was Nepo's win over Firouzja. If at the halfway mark someone is +3 (or more), then it may be all over for the rest of the field.

Caruana,Fabiano (2803) - Abasov,Nijat (2632) [B30]
FIDE Candidates 2024 Toronto, Canada (2.4), 04.04.2024

Friday 5 April 2024

Melbourne International Open

 With the Doeberl Cup run and done for another year, a number of players made their way to Melbourne for the new Melbourne International Open. The brain child of local organiser Walter Wolffs, the event has attracted both a large and strong field. And whether there were some residual effects from the Doeberl schedule, the first couple of rounds were a bit of a bloodbath for the top seeds. 

The top 4 boards saw the higher rated players only manage 1.5 (3 draws and a loss), with GM Darryl Johansen also a victim. After that things settled down a bit, although there are few GM's and IM's playing catch up. 

And while the net effect of this may be to provide lower seeded players a change to challenge titled players, the results aren't always pretty.

Venkatesh,M.R. (2382) - Li,Tedric (1990) [C00]
Round 4: Venkatesh, M.R. - Li, Tedric Melbourne International Open, 04.04.2024