Monday 31 December 2007

2007 Australian Player of the Year

Not that this award carries any significance outside the readers of this blog, but I though it a nice way to end my first year of blogging.

There were a couple of outstanding candidates in Australian chess this year, in Zhong Yuan Zhao and David Smerdon.
Smerdon fulfilled the norm requirements for the GM title this year, although he still needs to pick up a few rating points to break the 2500 barrier. He had a successful chess tour of Europe, flying the Australian flag in England, Netherlands, etc
Zhao started the year in spectacular fashion, dominating the Australian Open and finishing with a GM performance (but not a norm). He then won the Oceania Zonal, to qualify for the FIDE World Cup. After being knocked out in the first round (by Magnus Carlsen) he scored a GM norm in the First Saturday Tournament in Budapest. He is currently playing in a GM event in Spain, and is leading with 4.5/5
But having lauded the performance of these two future GM's, it is to a third player I turn.
2007 saw Ian Rogers retire from competitive play. It was somehow fitting that in the year of his retirement he won the Doeberl Cup, a tournament he has won a record number of times, and finished his last tournament in Adelaide in first place. His retirement, while a loss for Australian chess, brought into focus the massive contribution he has made to the chess culture in this country, and for this reason he gets my nod for 2007 Australian Player of the Year.

Sunday 30 December 2007

Australian Open Report

One of the requirements for organising an event on behalf of the Australian Chess Federation is to provide a report to the ACF Council at the end of the event. The ACF by-laws specify what is to be included in the report, eg financial statement, results, and any disciplinary recommendations. The organisers of the 2006-07 Australian Open dutifully submitted the report to the ACF (recommendations and all) but up until now we haven't had a response. No follow up questions, no queries, and most sadly, no apparent actions on the things we highlighted in the report. I can only assume that the ACF decided the detail we provided them was perfect, while the observations we made required no action. And given 6 months has past since the report submission, I'm also assuming that it is safe to release it in the public domain (after all, Stephen and I did write it). So if you click on the link you can read the report yourself. (NB This is the first time I've published something in Google Docs, so fingers crossed).
To be honest there isn't anything dramatic in the report. Just the usual run of the mill reporting, although Stephen's observation on the number of players entering the event should be read by any prospective tournament organiser.

Saturday 29 December 2007

PNG Team in action at Street Chess

Due to a coincidence of holidays and geography, three quarters of the Papua New Guinea Olympiad team played in Street Chess today. Stuart Fancy (pictured) , Shaun Press and Craig Skehan were part of the 22 players who took part in the end of year edition of Canberra's weekly outdoor chess tournament. Also playing was Vladimir Smirnov (visiting from Sydney) and the "unofficial" World Under 6 Chess Champion, Anton Smirnov. Overall there were 5 players with 2000+ ratings.
In the end Vladimir outclassed the field with 6/7 (5 wins, 1 draw and a half point bye), half a point ahead of the second place getters. The PNG team finished mid field (4/7 by Press and Fancy), although Stuart Fancy did confirm the board order for next years Olympiad in Dresden by defeating Press in their individual game.
Street Chess runs every Saturday in Canberra City, and to bring in the new year, the three PNG players will be playing next Saturday as well.

Friday 28 December 2007

A lucky escape

As promised, my game from the chess exhibition in Commonwealth Park just before Christmas. As with any public demonstration it is hard to judge the ability of the player in front of you, and although I suspected my opponent had a fair idea of what he was doing, I still played an unsound sacrifice. Of course I didn't know it was unsound, even going so far as to say "This should work" as I played Nxf3. Of course it didn't and I was just down a piece. Fortunately for me my opponent missed my plan of f6 and g5, trapping the bishop on h6. I then offered a draw by repetition with Kg6-f7-g6, but my opponent played on for a win. Unfortunately it didn't quite work for him.

Gifford,Toby - Press,Shaun [C45]
Sunsets 07 , 22.12.2007

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Nf3 Nc6 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.f3 Bc5 6.Be3 Bb6 7.Bc4 0-0 8.Nc3 d6 9.Qd2 Ne5 10.b3 Re8 11.Nd5 Nxd5 12.exd5 Nxf3+ 13.gxf3 Qh4+ 14.Kd1 Re5 15.Bf4 Re8 16.c3 Bd7 17.Rg1 Bxd4 18.Qxd4 g6 19.Kd2 Qh3 20.Rgf1 Bf5 21.Rae1 a5 22.Rxe8+ Rxe8 23.Re1 Rxe1 24.Kxe1 Qxf3 25.Bh6 Qe4+ 26.Qxe4 Bxe4 27.b4 axb4 28.cxb4 f6 (D)
29.Kf2 g5 30.Kg3 Kf7 31.a4 Kg6 32.Bf8 Kf7 33.Bxd6 cxd6 34.a5 Ke7 35.b5 Kd8 36.a6 bxa6 37.bxa6 Kc7 38.Kg4 Bg6 39.Bb5 Kb6 40.Kf3 h5 41.h3 f5 42.Ke3 f4+ 43.Kf3
and I went on to win 0-1

Thursday 27 December 2007

Poor writing on chess

In my journeys to west of Canberra I often pass through the town of Harden. A few years ago an excellent second hand bookshop opened up, and I always drop in (to the annoyance of my wife and kids). There aren't many chess books there, although if you are a bridge player you will have more luck.
What I usually buy there are a couple of volumes of Patrick O'Briens "Captain Jack Aubery" series. For those that don't don't read, it is the source of the film "Master and Commander" with Russell Crowe.
In the fourth book "The Mauritius Command" chess gets a mention. Unfortunately the excellent research skills O'Brien brings to his books didn't extend as far as the royal game with the following line getting past his editors.

I can and do dislike him intensely when he pins my king and rook with his lurking knight

An interesting concept, and one I've not witnessed myself.

Wednesday 26 December 2007

Hastings 07-08

One of my chess ambitions is to one day play in the Hastings International Chess Congress. This may have to wait until I retire (or win Lotto) and for now all I can do is follow the event from afar. Sadly the reality of chess finances means that there is no longer a separate GM Round Robin, with the Hastings Masters a large, although still strong, swiss. The most recent list of entries had 17 GM's in the field of 102 players. Alongside the masters is a number of subsidiary events which have attracted good fields.
The home page for the event is if you, like me, want to follow the event on line.

Tuesday 25 December 2007

Cheery Mismus

Thank you to all the kids from Saturday Morning Chess who gave me Xmas presents. It will take me a month to get through all the chocolates! I hope everyone else got the presents they hoped for (or at least deserved), and the presents they gave were greatly appreciated.
And it wouldn't be Christmas without a Christmas puzzle. So here is a famous puzzle by TR. Dawson. White to play and Mate in 2 (and yes, it is an upside down Christmas Tree).

Monday 24 December 2007

The Night Before Xmas

When I first started getting serious about chess, one of my earliest book purchases was "Exploring the Chess Openings" by Hugh E Myers. Myers is well known as a practitioner of offbeat openings, and the book was a collection of his games. Included in the book was a wonderful piece of advice on the Sicilian "This only works for Black if White misplays his kingside attack".
Also included was the following game, apparently played the "night before Xmas", and involved both players having a few drinks beforehand.

Myers - Alvarez [A00]
"The night before Xmas"

1.Nh3 d5 2.g3 e5 3.f4 Bxh3 4.Bxh3 exf4 5.0-0 fxg3 6.e4 gxh2+ 7.Kh1 dxe4 8.Nc3 Nf6 9.d3 exd3 10.Bg5 dxc2 11.Qf3 Be7 12.Qxb7 Nbd7 13.Bxd7+ Nxd7 14.Bxe7 Kxe7 15.Nd5+ Kf8 16.Nxc7 Nc5 17.Ne6+ Nxe6 18.Qxf7# 1-0

Myers was particularly proud of the fact that he gambitted 6 pawns in the first 10 moves.
BTW If you go looking for this game in Chessbase it lists it as having been played by correspondence in 1988. This is wrong, as I certainly saw it in print in late 1982.

Sunday 23 December 2007

5 pieces of advice for the non-chessplayer

If you ever get asked to do a chess display/simul/challenge against the general public, chances are you will be playing people who may know the rules (although not all of them*) of chess, but not much more. Therefore you will often be asked to give some general advice or tips on how they should play. What I have found is that even simple advice to the aspiring chessplayer (occupy the centre, checks and captures etc) tends to be a little complex and even simpler advice is needed.

  1. After you move, your opponent gets to move. What this means is you shouldn't try moves/ideas that only work if you opponent doesn't move at all all. An obvious example is if a black pawn pushes to h2, in an attempt to Queen. White should stop it by playing a rook to the h file, not by playing a rook to the second rank. Sure, if Black didn't move the pawn again then Rxh2 would be good, but given that Black has played h5-h4-h3-h2, h1(Q) is probably on the cards.
  2. Pieces that do more are worth more. I've seen novice players decide that capturing 2 pieces/pawns for 1 is always a good trade, even if the sequence goes NxP, PxN, BxP. Rather than getting players to remember 1,3,3,5,9 as the value of pieces, it is often simple to start with "Queens best, Rooks next, Bishops and Knights the same, then pawns last"
  3. If you can't think of a move, choose a piece you haven't moved yet. Clearly this is a piece of opening advice, but it also helps players realise that moving the same piece over and over is just a waste of time. You can even upgrade this to "Move the piece doing the least" with little pain.
  4. Threaten two pieces at once. This exploits the fact that most non-players are so pleased that they can spot one threat that they don't even look for another. Of course it doesn't normally work against good players but against players of a similar ability it is often enough to start collecting enemy pieces.
  5. Threats come from everywhere, and pieces can change direction It is almost like watching traffic. Novice players watch you piece sweep across the board, and then assume the piece will move like that next turn. You can see their eyes trace out the path. And it comes as a big shock when the piece changes direction next move, capturing a stray Queen/Rook etc
*I'll always point out checks when a player fails to spot that his/her King is attacked. I'm also happy to explain castling. However if I player leaves an en-passant capture for me, I'll almost always ignore it as this is the one rule guaranteed to cause confusion (if not accusations of cheating!), and it just isn't worth spending 5 minutes explaining it.

Saturday 22 December 2007

I almost drowned playing chess

The Sunset 07 Festival was held today, but got off to a very wet start. While Canberra has been pretty dry for the last 7 or so years, today appeared to be the start of monsoon season. The festival was supposed to start at noon, but the rain started late yesterday evening, and reached its peak at about 11:45am. (See picture!)
However if life serves you lemons etc so I took the opportunity to give the ACT governments giant chess pieces a good scrub. In the meantime the festival organisers made the sensible decision to delay the start until 6pm.
Returning at 6pm there was a steady stream of punters ready to play some chess. The quality of play was mixed, but I almost came undone against a former Canberra junior (game to follow in a later post). Overall everyone enjoyed the experience, and it was just a shame that the weather cut the playing time from 8 hours to 2 hours.

Friday 21 December 2007

Round Robins and Ratings

(Disclaimer: The following post may contain assertions that are very weak mathematically)

One reason I'm in favour of "banded" Round Robins (and RR's in general), is that I believe they result in more accurate ratings, and ratings changes. Unlike swiss tournaments, the field you play is fixed in advance and rating performances depend more on results and less on the field you play.
But lets have an example
Imagine you are an "improving" player. By "improving" I mean you've reached the stage where you can beat everyone lower rated than you (even 1 point lower), score about 50/50 with players up to 100 points above you, but still can't beat players above that.
Now you play a typical 7 round swiss, where you happen to be seeded about 10th out of 35 players. This means you win the first round , lose the second , wins the third, lose the 4th etc (a typical Swiss bounce tournament) . Now it turns out that you finish on 4/7, but it also turns out that the average difference between you and higher rated opponents is 150 points. On the other hand the tournament has a long tail, and the average difference between you and your lower rated opponents is 300 points. So the average rating of your field is 107 points below your rating. Under the ELO system your expected score is 65%, but in this case it is only 57%, resulting in a drop in your rating. Now sure, it can be argued to maintain your rating you should have scored 30% (almost 1 point) against your higher rated opponents, but this is far more difficult than say dropping a point against a weaker opponent.
Now imagine the same tournament as a RR where your are in the second group, with only 1 opponent rated above you (and probably close to your rating), and the rest below you. Under these circumstances you score 6/7 and up goes your rating.
So why the difference? Basically in a swiss you will always play someone N/2 places away from you in a score group of size N. If N stays large you often play someone either too easy or too hard (from a ratings point of view), and only rarely will you play someone close to your rating. In a banded RR you get to play players close to your rating and therefore your rating change depends mainly on your score, not your (unpredictable) field.

Sunsets 07

Just a reminder that Sunsets 07 Music and Arts Festival is on tomorrow in Commonwealth Park, Canberra. Along with the music and art displays, the Chess Pit will be in operation, with yours truly wielding the giant pieces. I hope to make it back with photos etc

Thursday 20 December 2007

Queensland Australia Day Weekender

Normally I plug tournaments closer to home, but I'd like to make mention of the 2008 Queensland Australia Day Weekender. It is running over the Australia Day Weekend (26-28 January 2008), and is trying a multiple Round Robin format for the first time. Not just the first time for this event, but possibly the first time for any Australian weekend event.
The format has the 10 highest entries in RR 1, then next in RR 2 etc The advantage of this format is that for most RR's you will be playing players of your own strength for prizes, so no lucky/unlucky pairings to trip you up. The only exception might be the top section with the higher rated players being 200+ points ahead of the middle of the field, but event then the opportunity to play a RR event with such good opponents shouldn't be sneezed at.
I hope the tournament is successful, and the format is well received. Too often chess players complain about how unfair the existing swiss system is on them (tournament 'bouncing' or tough last round opponents), but at the same time shy away from trying anything that addresses those problems. If this event does work, hopefully other organisers will be encouraged to try it themselves.
Details of the event can be found here, including a discussion about the merit of the format and time controls.

Happy Birthday Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg turns 50 today. Just thought you'd like to know.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Chandler, Rogers finish ahead of Kasparov

Imagine a tournament involving Kasparov, Rogers, Chandler, Petursson, van der Wiel, Nikolic amongst others. You would expect Kasparov to easily win such an event. But not as a 13 year old.
Leafing through my copy of "Fighting Chess: Games and Career" by Kasparov and Bob Wade, I saw the crosstable from the 1976 World Cadet (Under 16) Cup. Kasparov played as the USSR Junior Champion but only tied for 3rd (5th on tie break), equal with Ian Rogers (3rd on tie break). Both scored 6/9 behind the winner N.Grinberg (ISL) and Murray Chandler (NZD). Kasparov did defeat Rogers in their individual game but lost the following game to Chandler.

Chandler,M - Kasparov,G [B22]
Wch U16 Wattignies, 1976

1.e4 c5 2.c3 Nf6 3.e5 Nd5 4.d4 Nc6 5.Nf3 cxd4 6.cxd4 e6 7.a3 d6 8.Bd3 Qa5+ 9.Bd2 Qb6 10.Nc3 Nxc3 11.Bxc3 dxe5 12.dxe5 Be7 13.0-0 Bd7 14.Nd2 Qc7 15.Qg4 0-0-0 16.Rfc1 Kb8 17.Qc4 Rc8 18.b4 f6 19.Nf3 Qb6 20.Qe4 f5 21.Qe1 a6 22.Rab1 g5 23.Nd2 Nd4 24.Qe3 Rxc3 25.Rxc3 f4 26.Qe1 g4 27.Ne4 Bc6 28.Nc5 Ka7 29.a4 Bf3 30.a5 Qd8 31.Bc4 Bxc5 32.bxc5 Qh4 33.gxf3 gxf3 34.Kh1 Rg8 35.Qe4 Rg7 36.Qxd4 Qg5 37.c6+ Kb8 38.c7+ Rxc7 39.Rg1 Qh5 40.Rg8+ Rc8 41.Qd6+ Ka7 1-0

Another future GM, Julian Hodgson finished down the list on 3.5.

Tuesday 18 December 2007

A simple self-mate

Here is an easy puzzle for people who think esoteric concepts such as self-mates are beyond them. White to play and force Black to checkmate in 5 moves. (Schiegl 1970)

Monday 17 December 2007

How much knowledge do you need?

Every couple of years or so I try and write a new computer chess program. Previous programs include Vchess (featured here in the past) and Fencer. Currently I am working on a program called Pangu, which combines the ideas I've developed in with my previous programs, with better programming ideas I've seen in Fruit etc
One thing most chess programmers do is to test their programs against a test suite of positions. Some of these suites are tactical positions (eg 1001 Brilliant Ways to Checkmate), while some are a combination of tactics and positional play. The most famous of these is the Bratko-Kopec Test, which was developed in the early 80's and was designed to measure the strength of human and computer players.
The Bratko-Kopec test contains 24 positions half of which are tactical, and half of which are based around understanding pawn levers. Two such positions are shown on the right.
Now at the time I ran the first test my program was pretty good at searching. but had very little chess knowledge. In fact all it knew was the value of pieces, and that certain squares were good for certain pieces. It new nothing about pawn structures, open files, king safety etc
Even with this lack of knowledge it did surprisingly well. It scored 16/24 (at 2 seconds per position), solving 9 of the tactical positions and 7 of the "lever" positions. Of the the diagrammed positions it failed to solve the first one (1.d5!) but it found 1. ... f5 in the second.
So I wonder about the following. Can the ability to calculate 5 or 6 moves deep (perfectly) replace the need for any deep knowledge of the game? And are there human players who already do this?

Sunday 16 December 2007

Two strange tournament incidents

As pointed out in the comments section on Zong Yuan Zhao's GM norm, there was a strange incident at the World Junior. A dispute over an incorrect repetition claim led to a game being restarted at 11 pm, the night before the final round. One version of the events can be found at chessvibes, while the alternate position can be found by following the links from the chessvibes story.
Without going into the detail of the dispute (as it is third or fourth hand by the time you hear it from me), to me there is an issue of sportsmanship involved. IF (with capitals) I refused to accept an arbiters decision, and it turned out that my refusal was based on my ignorance of the rules, I wouldn't then search for any other technical deficiencies in the ruling, but simply accept that my protest was without foundation and withdraw it. If the arbiter erred in other areas I would still inform the organisers of this, but Iwouldn't use this as justification to change the result of the game.

The other strange incident was from the Commonwealth Championships in India. Apparently the organisers only had enough clocks for 80 boards, and rather than locate more, simply placed the clocks on the top 80 boards, and started EVERYONE (all 110 boards or so) playing. Once a game was finished on the top boards the clock would then be transported to the lower boards and the players would be given an equal distribution of time. Clearly this system relied upon the goodwill of the players without clocks, as it would be a simple case of not moving at the start of the game, knowing full well you aren't losing any time from your (eventual) clock.
Of course I wonder how a situation came about in the first place, given that the bulk of entries should have been received in advance.

Saturday 15 December 2007

The Yin and Yang of Chess

Does winning from the second diagram make up for losing from the first diagram?
Both games were played by me today at Street Chess , with the standard time limit of 15 minutes per game. The position in the first diagram came after the following moves
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4 d5 4.Bxd5 Nf6 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.Nf3 0-0 7.0-0 c6 8.Bb3 Bg4 9.d3 Qc7 10.h3 Bh5 11.Ne2 Bd6 12.Nh4 g5 13.Nf5 Bc5+ 14.d4 Bb6 15.Qe1 c5 16.Nxf4 gxf4 17.Bxf4 Qd8 18.Bd6 Re8 19.dxc5 Ba5 20.Qh4 Bg6 (D1)
Now I figured that 21.Qh6 should win, but then over thought in the position, and decided that 21. ... Nh5 22.g4 was too messy, and that there must be a "cleaner" win in the position. I then chose 21.Ne7+ Rxe7 22.Qxf6 Rd7, miscounted the pieces and swapped on d8, to lose the game.

In the second position (D2), my opponent realised he was worse, but (verbally) dared me to find a way of breaking into his position. As I currently control all the entry points along the d file for the rook (and king) I was able to play Ra1, Ra8, Kc4, Kb5, Ka6 and Kb7 while my opponent helplessly pushed his king side pawns.

For me the two games don't balance out in the short run. Having lost the first position I then proceeded to lose my next game as well, still kicking myself about the previous round. So one loss contributes to the next. Winning the second game was nice, but doesn't necessarily help me win the following game.
Nonetheless in the long term I am more likely to remember the second game, as winning manoeuvres leave a bigger impression than losing blunders.

Friday 14 December 2007

New Olympiad Rules

At it's most recent meeting FIDE approved a number of changes to the rules for the 2008 Olympiad. Indeed there had already been some changes passed at the 2006 Congress, and most of the recent changes were already well known to most players officials.
The 2008 Olympiad will only be 11 rounds. There has been an on going push to shorten the duration of the Olympiad, either by introducing 2 rounds a day, or by reducing the number of rounds. One of the big movers in this area is FIDE Secretary Ignateous Leong. Personally I'm not in favour of either proposal, and when FIDE asked the Federations about shortening the 2006 Olympiad to 13 rounds (from 14), the PNGCF voted no (as did the ACF). The move to shorter Olympiads is favoured by FIDE because it makes the tournament more attractive to potential organisers. However it should be noted that the winning bidders for the 2010 Olympiad promised as part of their bid to restore the number of rounds to 14. Whether this promise is remembered closer to the time is another question.
Consequently the pairings for the 2008 Olympiad will be accelerated for the first 2 rounds. I'm actually in favour of this, and not just because it helps the PNG team avoid it's ritual 4-0 beating in Round 1. Normally the Olympiad splits up into 4 groups after 3/4 rounds, with the big boys fighting it out at the top, and the minnows playing for pride at the bottom. Accelerated pairings should sort out the groups a little quicker.
Team sizes have changed with both Womens and Open teams consisting of 5 players, with 4 players per match and 1 reserve. Again I feel this is to benefit the organisers, as there will be about 100 less players in the Open to house and feed, while there may only be an extra 70 players in the Womens. And while the PNG team has only fielded the minimum 4 players over the last 2 olympiads it does make selections harder as we have a couple of players keen to play this time. While I'm in favour of increasing the size of the Womens teams, I'm not in favour of cutting the Open Teams.
The final change (and probably the most radical) is the change from gamour e points to match point scoring. This means that you get 2 points if you win your match, whether you win 4-0 or 2.5-1.5. Again I don't like this change, for a number of reasons. Firstly I think it will disadvantage the really good teams, as often the winning team got there by crushing a close rival 4-0. Instead you'll get to see a lot more grinding chess with one team winning on one board, and then trying to draw on the others. Also the spectre of "match fixing" will raise its head, as a team only needs to fix 1 game to benefit a rival rather than 3 or 4.
So I'm not in favour of most of the changes, although there is nothing that can be done about that now. Only after the next Olympiad will it be clear whether the changes were good or bad for the tournament, and its players.

Thursday 13 December 2007

O2C Doeberl Cup 2008 keeps getting stronger

The 2008 O2C Doeberl Cup is pleased to announce the entry of another 2 GM's. Indian GM's Abhijit Kunte (who last visted for the 2000-01 Australian Open) and SS Ganguly (who finished equal 1st in the 2007 Commonwealth Championship) have both confirmed their participation in the event. This brings the field up to 5 GM's, 4 IM's, 1 WGM and 2 FM's.
For players intending to enter the Premier, note that there is a limit of 80 places for this tournament and entries have already passed the 25% mark. Also important to note is that entries are on a first come first served basis, so enter early to guarantee to place. A full list of entries (for all events) can be found here.

Miniature of the Month - November

A game from the Ukrainian Championship where White treats the French Defence with the contempt it deserves. The Knight sac on f7 destroys Black's position.

Onischuk,V (2469) - Jakimov,V (2434) [C10]
Ukrainian Chess Championship (Final) Kharkov UKR (7), 23.11.2007

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bg5 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Nbd7 6.Nxf6+ Nxf6 7.Nf3 Be7 8.Bd3 c5 9.Qe2 cxd4 10.0-0-0 Bd7 11.Bc4 Qa5 12.Rxd4 Bc6 13.Ne5 Nd7 14.Nxf7!! Bxg5+ 15.f4 Qc5 Instead of this Fritz suggested the bizarre (but legal) 15. ... O-O 16.Qxe6+ Be7 17.Nd6+ Kd8 18.Nxb7+ 1-0

Wednesday 12 December 2007

2007 Commonwealth Championship - Final

The Commonwealth Championships finished in a predictable triumph for India (the host nation), although the Australian contingent would be pleased with their performances. The tournament was won by former British Champion GM R.B. Ramesh (8.5/10), on tie-break over GM S.S. Ganguly. The best placed Australian players were IM Aleks Wohl, and IM David Smerdon. Wohl finished on an undefeated 7/10, including 4 draws against his GM opponents. Smerdons 7 points came from only 9 games, as he missed his 3rd round game due to illness.
Gareth Oliver finished on 6 (including a win over IM DP Singh), Shannon Oliver 5.5, Ben Harris 5.0 (draw with IM Deep Sengupta), Alexandra Jule 4.0, Rebecca Harris 4.0, Harry Hughes 2.5

During the event I managed to watch some of the games on the net, including this exciting Rd 4 game between Aleks Wohl and Shashikant Kutwal. It looked like Kutwal's attack must break through but Wohl defended accurately and emerged with the advantage of 2 bishops v rook.

Kutwal,S (2321) - Wohl,A H (2415) [B04]
Parsvnath Commonwealth Chess Championsh New Delhi India (4), 05.12.2007

1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 g6 5.Bc4 c6 6.0-0 Bg7 7.exd6 Qxd6 8.h3 0-0 9.Re1 Nd7 10.Bb3 b5 11.Bg5 e6 12.Nbd2 Bb7 13.Ne4 Qc7 14.c4 bxc4 15.Bxc4 N5f6 16.Nxf6+ Nxf6 17.Rc1 c5 18.Bb3 Ne4 19.dxc5 Nxg5 20.Nxg5 Bxb2 21.Rc2 Rad8 22.Qg4 Bg7 (D)
23.Nxf7 Rxf7 24.Qxe6 Bc6 25.Rce2 Bf8 26.Re5 Kg7 27.Qxf7+ Qxf7 28.Bxf7 Kxf7 29.R1e3 Rd1+ 30.Re1 Rd4 31.Rc1 Rd2 32.a3 Ra2 33.Rce1 Rxa3 34.Re6 Bd7 35.R6e4 Bxc5 36.Rf4+ Kg7 37.Rc4 Ra5 38.Rxc5 Rxc5 39.Re7+ Kg8 40.Rxd7 a5 41.Ra7 h5 42.h4 Kf8 0-1

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Zong Yuan Zhao - First GM Norm!

Via Ian and Cathy Rogers comes news of Zong Yuan Zhao scoring a GM Norm in the First Saturday GM Tournament in Hungary. Zhao needed to win his last 2 games for the norm, and defeated IM's Arnaud Payen and Vinh Bui to finish on 7/9. He also finished equal first with GM Zlatko Illincic.
Although the tournament website is a couple of rounds behind, hopefully this link will eventually provide more information.

Monday 10 December 2007

Alfed Deakin High win "National" Interschool Chess Championships

More success for ACT junior chess with Alfred Deakin High winning the Junior Secondary ChessKids National Interschool Chess Championships. The team score 22/28 to finish 2 points clear of Brighton Grammar School.
Canberra schools were also represented in the Primary Section with Radford and Curtin Primary finishing 8th and 9th respectively. Full results here.

** Before I get bombarded with "clarification" comments I'll explain the quotes around "National". The ChessKids National Interschools Chess Championship is organised by the ChessKids business, and is in no way connected with the Australian Chess Federation's Interschools Championship. The ACF is very strong in making this distinction (including objecting to the use of the word "National"), while ChessKids is not so strident in making the distinction clear.

Sunday 9 December 2007

Australian Championship 2008

I was having a discussion with a visiting chess player to Canberra yesterday and he asked me "How do you think the Australian Championship will go next year?" Having been through the experience of organising the 2006-07 Australian Open I answered that the Championship itself would do well, but they supporting events would struggle.
Well this evening I had a look at the entries, and to my pleasant surprise it looks as though I was wrong, with the event has almost hit the 100 mark (Championship 27, Major 40, Minor 32, 99 in total). Included in the entries for the minor is a big contingent of players from South Korea, which may make tipping a winner in that event difficult.
As for the championship, the recent return to form of Darryl Johansen means that I feel confident in tipping him for a 6th Australian Championship, with Stephen Solomon my backup selection.

Saturday 8 December 2007

World Cup Rolls On

Despite the loss of the sole Australian entrant in Round 1, the 2007 World Cup is still running in sunny Siberia. The Quarter Finals are almost complete with Carlsen, Shirov and Kamsky all making through in 2 regular games. The other semi finalist will come from the Alekseev - Karjakin match which has gone into overtime.
Shirov won through with 2 wins over Jokovenko, including this win with black in games 2. What impressed me about this game, is that after Shirov won 2 pieces for the rook, he simply readjusted his goals so as to kill any of his opponents counterplay. This strategy (as opposed to trying to knock his opponent out) forced his opponents quick resignation.

Jakovenko,D (2710) - Shirov,A (2739) [A29]
World Cup Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (5.2), 07.12.2007

1.c4 e5 2.g3 Nf6 3.Bg2 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Nc3 Nb6 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.b3 0-0 9.Bb2 Bg4 10.h3 Bh5 11.d3 Re8 12.Rc1 Bf8 13.Ne4 Nd7 14.g4 Bg6 15.Ng3 a5 16.d4 e4 17.Ne5 Ndxe5 18.dxe5 Qh4 19.e3 Rad8 20.Qc2 Nb4 21.Qe2 c6 22.Nxe4 Nd3 23.Rc4 Nxe5 24.Bxe5 Rxe5 25.Rd1 Rxd1+ 26.Qxd1 b5 27.Rd4 c5 28.Rd5 Rxe4 29.Bxe4 Bxe4 30.Rd8 Qe7 31.Rb8 b4 32.Qe2 Qd6 0-1

** Quick update: Karjakin beat Alekseev 2.5-1.5 in the Rapid playoff.

Friday 7 December 2007

Kick out the Jams!

Hip Hop and Chess. This natural marriage of the rhythmic and the cerebral is making it's way to Canberra as part of the Sunsets 07 Music and Arts Festival. The festival is on the 22nd of December in Commonwealth Park Canberra, and apart from 15 hours of DJ's and Dance, it also includes Art Exhibitions, Food, Drink, and most importantly "Chess Master in the Chess Pit".
At the moment the "Master" may well be me, although I'm looking for (a) someone who is a real master and (b) can wear a baseball cap backwards without looking like a dork.
Full details for interested readers can be found at

GM Rogers Simul - Blayney

For those readers in the Central West of NSW (Orange,Bathurst etc) the Blayney Chess Club is hosting a simultaneous exhibition by GM Ian Rogers. The event is on Sunday 16th December and will start with a blindfold simul against 3 invited players before a normal simul against all participants. Full details on the Blayney Chess Club website.

Thursday 6 December 2007

2007 Commonwealth Championship - Rd 5

This event is almost to the half way point, with Aleks Wohl the best of the Australian's with 4/5 (+3=2). David Smerdon is on 3.5, despite missing one round, apparently due to illness. Finding the current standings on the tournament website seems impossible (to me at least), but fortunately the results are also being hosted at (I should have looked there first).
One of the interesting things about this tournament is that it is being held as one big swiss. When the requests for entries were sent to all the federations it stated that each federation could send representatives for the Open/Womens plus representatives for U/20, U/18 ... U/8. I'd simply assumed that they were holding separate tournaments for each section. But no. The winner of the Under 8's Commonwealth Championship doesn't get to play just other Under 8's. They may have to play big scary IM's and GM's instead.
The other interesting thing is that at least 3 GM's playing in this event are likely to make the trip to Canberra to play in the Doeberl Cup. Hopefully an official announcement can be made shortly.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

The most boring game ever

During the third round game between Yi Yuan and Endre Ambrus at the Vikings weekender I noticed they had reached a RB v RB ending, but surprisingly Endre still had all of his 8 pawns on the board. I thought this was highly unusual and did some searching in Chessbase to try and find other examples. I discovered it was more common than I thought, and there are even plenty of examples where it is K+8p v K+8p. It was one of these examples which gets my vote as the "Most Boring Game Ever Played".

Fiori de Azevedo,P - Trois,F [C49]
BRA-ch Salvador (8), 1973

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nc3 Nc6 4.Bb5 Bb4 5.0-0 0-0 6.d3 d6 7.Bg5 Bxc3 8.bxc3 Qe7 9.Bxc6 bxc6 10.Nd2 h6 11.Bxf6 Qxf6 12.Qf3 Qxf3 13.Nxf3 Rb8 14.Rfb1 Be6 15.c4 c5 16.Rb3 Rb6 17.Rab1 Rfb8 18.Kf1 Bd7 19.Nd2 Ba4 20.Rxb6 Rxb6 21.Rxb6 cxb6 22.Nb3 Bxb3 23.cxb3 Kf8 24.Ke2 (D) ½-½

Tuesday 4 December 2007


For those that couldn't make it to day 1 of the Vikings Weekender, here is a shot of me with what I must say is a very impressive mustache. What you see is exactly 1 months worth of facial hair, grown from the 1st of November to the 1st of December.
However, it was only a temporary thing, and by the 2nd of December it was gone. But the big question for November 2008 is "What style should I choose?". I'm leaning towards a "Fu-Manchu", but suggestions are welcome. (NB The Olympiad is scheduled for late November so anything too stupid may get me in trouble with German immigration officials)

Monday 3 December 2007

Vikings Games

Here are a couple of games from the 2007 Vikings Weekender. The first is the last round clash between Max Illingworth and George Xie.

Illingworth,M - Xie,G [E55]
Vikings Weekender 02.12.2007

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5 7.0-0 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Nbd7 9.Qe2 cxd4 10.exd4 b6 11.Rd1 Bb7 12.Bf4 Nh5 13.Bg5 Bxf3 (D)
14.Qe3 Qc8 15.Qxf3 Qxc4 16.Qxh5 Bxc3 17.bxc3 Qxc3 18.Rac1 Qa5 19.d5 exd5 20.Rc7 Rae8 21.h3 Re1+ 22.Kh2 Rxd1 23.Qxd1 Nc5 24.Be7 Ne6 25.Rd7 Re8 26.Qg4 Qxa2 27.Rd8 Rxd8 28.Bxd8 Qxf2 29.Bc7 Qd4 30.Qf3 Nxc7 0-1

The second game was played on the lower boards between Mark Scully, and Doeberl Cup organiser Charles Bishop. The game has a real 19th century feel about it, as Scully takes advantage of a lead in development to sacrifice material for a mating attack.

Scully,M - Bishop,C [C25]
Vikings Weekender, 02.12.2007

1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 Bb4 4.Nf3 d6 5.f5 a6 6.Bc4 Nf6 7.d3 Bxc3+ 8.bxc3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Ng5 h6 11.Nxf7 Kxf7 12.Qh5+ Kf8 13.Ba3+ Nce7 14.0-0 Qe8 15.Qf3 Nf6 16.Rae1 c6 17.Rxe5 Nfd5 18.Bxe7+ Nxe7 19.f6 Qd7 20.fxe7+ Ke8 21.Qf8+ 1-0

I've also changed the photo gallery on the right of the page to show pictures from the weekend.

Australian Schools Teams Championship 2007

Also held over the weekend was the 2007 Australian Schools Teams Championship. While most of Canberra's best players were battling out in salubrious Tuggeranong, 4 school chess teams travelled up to Brisbane to take on the best school teams from the other Australian states.
And it turned out to be a very succesful trip for the ACT representatives with Hawker Primary winning the Primary Open, and Curtin Primary winning the Primary Girls tournament. Hawker College finished 5th (out of 6) in the Secondary Open, while Daramalan College finished =3rd (4th 3rd on tie break) in the Secondary Girls.
Congratulations to all teams and parents involved. Full results can be found here.

Sunday 2 December 2007

2007 Vikings Weekender - Day 2

IM George Xie was the convincing winner of the 2007 Vikings Weekender, completing a second perfect day with another 3 wins, and finishing outright first on 6/6. Xie had a tough schedule, playing seeds 3,2 and 4 (Ikeda, Ambrus and Illingworth) but picked up the win in each game.
Second place was shared between Endre Ambrus (beating Ian Rout in Rd 6), and Andrew Brown (who won his last round game against Junta Ikeda). Both players scored 5/6, with both losing only to Xie.
The Under 1800 prize was won by Victorian junior, Justin Tan (4.5). There was a 3 way tie in the Under 1600 group between Stephen Mugford, Emma Guo, and Justin Chow (4/6), while Megan Setiabudi won the U/1400 section with 3.5 points.
The final crosstable is in the comments section.

Saturday 1 December 2007

2007 Vikings Weekender - Day 1

The 2007 Vikings Weekender has attracted a good field of 48 players, both good in numbers, and good in strength and temperament.
Top seed for the event is Sydney IM George Xie, although the second seed, Endre Ambrus (pictured playing Carl Nater, Endre on the left), is the player most other competitors are watching. A recent arrival to Canberra (from Rumania), Endre had a FIDE rating of 2400, although for some reason he is currently on the FIDE list as an unrated player (investigations into this are continuing).
Other strong players in the tournament include juniors Junta Ikeda and Max Illingworth, as well as Sydney journeyman, Johnny Bolens.
After the first 3 rounds 4 of the top 5 seeds are on perfect scores, with Illingworth the only player in that group to drop half a point (to Milan Grcic). Alongside Grcic and Illingworth on 2.5, are Megan Setiabudi and Justin Tan.
Round 4 will see a lot of close matchups as players have almost all found their level, although separating 48 players in a 6 round swiss is always a difficult task.
Crosstable after Round 3 can be found in the comments section.

Friday 30 November 2007

2007 Commonwealth Championship

The 2007 Commonwealth Championship begins on 2nd December. After languishing for a number of years the tournament has taken on a new lease of life in the hands of the Indian Chess Federation. This years event includes junior and womens tournaments and at last count had attracted 280 players.
Australia is well represented with IM Aleks Wohl and IM David Smerdon in the Open and WFM Shannon Oliver playing in the Womens Championship. Other Australian players are Gareth Oliver (U20), Jamie Kenmure (U20), Alexandra Jule (U20G), Rebecca Harris (U18G), Benjamin Harris (U16), Harry Hughes (U8).
The website for the event is

Thursday 29 November 2007

The Power of Checks and Captures

I was doing some group coaching last night at my chess club, and the first position up for discussion was the one shown on the right. It is Black to move and win.
This position comes from the game Fish-Abrahams, 1929, although my source was The Power Chess Program by GM Nigel Davies.
Now a problem like this is normally pretty easy to solve, but a position like this may not be. So let me explain.
If you are shown a position like this the act of it being shown to you is a big clue that some cleverness is afoot. And often knowing there is a solution is half the battle in problem solving. So armed with the knowledge that this is a "problem" trying anything and everything until you find the right move isn't a huge strain.
Now there are a couple of other interesting things about the solving process. My intention with this problem (and the others that followed) wasn't to see who could come up with the quickest or cleverest solution, but to aim for a systematic approach. In this case I impressed the need to look at all checks and captures. While most players know the importance of this rule, due to mental laziness we often look at "some" checks and captures. This is because we either dismiss some moves as "stupid" and don't even try them, or more commonly, we look at the first couple of checks or captures and then decide that the third capture (out of 6 or 7) "must" be the right move and proceed to ignore everything else.
Interestingly enough it was the more experienced players who fell into this trap, and it was a newer player who said "lets try 1... Qxf3", which turns out to be the correct move. Nonetheless this was also an exercise in calculation and while they found that 2.gxf3 Bh3+ 3.Kg1 was forced, they hit a wall at this point, mainly because they weren't allowed to move the pieces. After that restriction was lifted, they quickly found 3... Nxd4 4.Qd1, although it then took a little time to spot 4. ... Re1+ 5.Qxe1 Nf3#
As an exercise in Checks and Captures it was great, as every Black move is either a check or a capture. As an exercise in disciplined thinking it was also good, as the key move was a move that the casual observer may discard (although the experienced chess player might find simply because it is a chess problem).
But there is a small sting in the tail. While trying to impress on the players that Black won by choosing a "less obvious" move, we gave White no such leeway during the solving process. The trap that the group (including myself) fell into was assuming that 2.gxf3 was forced for White, when the non-capturing 2.Ne2 leaves 2 Black pieces still under attack. Of course Black can emerge with an advantage with 2... Nxd4 3.Nxd4 Q runs away, but it isn't the forced mate/win that the combination seems to be.

Wednesday 28 November 2007

The Social Network

Until now I've avoided the whole social network phenomena, although this is more to do with my laziness than any other reason. But I got pinged today with an invite to join, which is a kind of social network, but aimed at the professional/job hunting market. So I accepted the invitation and filled in all the various details.
Now the whole idea of these networks is to put you in touch with people of similar skills/interests or in touch with people who are in touch with people etc etc etc This got me thinking about how such a network might help chess.
Lots of chessplayers have a social network of other chessplayers. And some chessplayers have a network of people who aren't chessplayers. But often these networks are quite distinct (and are kept disticnt), meaning that chess doesn't draw on the resources that the non chess community might bring in. But via a mechanism like linkedin or facebook there might be an opportunity for these groups to come into contact with each other, to the benefit of both.
So what I am interested in doing is building up a network of chessplayers, both as a conduit for the sharing of chess related ideas (especially in the areas of tournament organisation and marketing), and as a way of increasing the visibility of the chess community through the professional world. To do this I invite you to have a look at and decide if it is a worthwhile endeavour. I will be interested in seeing what contacts the chess community actually has with the outside world, and what help that can bring to the game.

Sox problems and solutions

If you are doing any audio processing work under Linux, then Sox is a very useful tool to have. The Sox homepage refers to it as "the swiss army knife of sound processing programs".
Unfortunately the new release (14.0.0) has a problem under certain Linux distros.
The problem appears when processing .wav files (and maybe others) and shows up with an error message "Could not find data chunk". This is caused by the use of the "fseek0" function call instead of the previous "fseek" function call.
The solution is a simple one. In the src/misc.c file change the fseek0 function call to fseek ,then recompile and run make install. Worked a treat for me.

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Australians at the World Youth Championships

The World Youth Championships has 2 rounds to go and most Australian eyes are focused on the Under 12 Championship. Queensland FM Gene Nakauchi is in =2nd place with 7.5/9, half a point behind Ivan Bukashin of Russia.
Of the Canberra based players, Ethan Derwent is on 3.5 in the Under 8's while Emma Guo has scored 5 points in the Girls Under 12's.

Moussard,J (2261) - Nakauchi,G (2040) [D02]
WORLD YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIP 2007 (12) Limra Hotel - Kemer/Antalya (6.10), 22.11.2007

1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 c5 3.Bg2 Nc6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 e5 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.c4 Nf6 8.Nc3 e4 9.Bg5 Bb4 10.0-0 0-0 11.Bxf6 gxf6 12.Qa4 Bxc3 13.bxc3 Qc7 14.f3 f5 15.fxe4 fxe4 16.Rf6 Be6 17.Raf1 Qe5 18.Qc2 Rab8 19.Qd2 e3 20.Qc2 Rfd8 21.Bxd5 cxd5 22.Qa4 d4 23.cxd4 Rxd4 24.Qxa7 Rbd8 25.R1f3 R8d7 26.Qa8+ Kg7 27.Qe8 Qc5 28.h4 Rd2 29.h5 Qxh5 30.Rxe3 Qc5 0-1

Another well placed Australian is Sean Gu, whose current 6/9 in the Under 8's could turn into a top 10 finish if results go his way.

Monday 26 November 2007

Zhao exits World Cup early

Oceania representative IM Zong Yuan Zhao was an early casualty from the 2007 FIDE World Cup. Zhao had the tough assignment of defeating Magnus Carlsen in the first round, and despite some solid resistance on both games was beaten 2-0.

Carlsen,M (2714) - Zhao Zong Yuan (2491) [E11]
World Cup Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (1.2), 25.11.2007

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.d4 Bb4+ 4.Bd2 Qe7 5.g3 Nc6 6.Nc3 Bxc3 7.Bxc3 Ne4 8.Qc2 Nxc3 9.Qxc3 0-0 10.Bg2 d6 11.d5 Nb8 12.0-0 e5 13.c5 Bg4 14.Rac1 a5 15.Rfe1 Na6 16.cxd6 cxd6 17.Nd2 b6 18.Qe3 Nc5 19.b3 Bd7 20.a3 Bb5 21.b4 axb4 22.axb4 Nd7 23.Ne4 Rfb8 24.Rc7 Qd8 (D) 25.Rc6 Bxc6 26.dxc6 d5 27.cxd7 dxe4 28.Bxe4 Ra4 29.Bc6 Rxb4 30.Qxe5 Qf8 31.Rd1 Rd8 32.Rd3 Rg4 33.Re3 Rg6 34.Qe7 Re6 35.Rxe6 fxe6 36.Qxe6+ 1-0

Another player making the early trip home was IM Robert Gwaze, who was defeated 2-0 by Alexi Shirov. Full coverage of the event is here.

Sunday 25 November 2007

Porridge for Kasparov

While the Australian voting public successfully changed the government yesterday, those opposed to Putin's rule in Russia are having a much harder time of it. Opposition figurehead Gary Kasparov was arrested at a protest march and has been sentenced to 5 days in jail. Apparently Kasparov's group had been given permission to hold a 'rally', but not a 'march' and this was the reason he was given time in jail.
This story is getting plenty of coverage in the print media (eg The New York Times) and SBS (Australia) News was even covering it this evening.
In other news concerning former World Champions, Chesstoday is reporting that Bobby Fischer has been hospitalised in Reykjavik, suffering from 'serious physical problems'.

Saturday 24 November 2007

A nice warm up

Next weekend the Australian Schools Teams Chess Championship is on in Queensland. One of the teams representing the ACT is the Curtin Primary Girls Team, playing in the Primary Girls Section. As a warm up for the event they have been playing at Street Chess on Saturday mornings. The intention of this is to prepare themselves for the rigour of the event by pitting them against some wily old chessplayers, who have seen (or executed) just about every swindle in the book. As much as coaching you teaches you so much, there is nothing like the pain of an unlucky defeat to really ram home a lesson.
But not only are the girls enjoying the experience, the Street Chess regulars have enjoyed having new faces at the tables. And the last couple of weeks have seen fields of 20+ players battling it our for the $100 prize money.
This post also gives me a chance to show off a new blog gadget, with a slideshow of pictures from today's tournament located about halfway down the right hand side of the page. With the various extra real estate stealer's on the page (ads, video links, photos, pay pal buttons etc) it is getting hard to find space for everything. And if you find this page annoyingly slow to load, please tell me and I'll see what I can get rid of.

Friday 23 November 2007

Castle early, castle often!

"Vote early, vote often" is a piece of advice that often pops up around election time. And with the (Australian) Federal Election on tomorrow, it may be the only thing that will save the Liberal Party from defeat. (Attempts at "False Flag" operations having blown up in their faces).
Years ago I appropriated the saying and turned it into a piece of advice for junior players. "Castle early, castle often" I'd say, to the confusion of those in front of me. "You can only castle once" would come the challenge from the more learned children. "Not necessarily" I would reply. And as evidence I present the following semi-famous game.

Heidenfeld - Kerins, Dublin 1973

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Be3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Nf3 Qb6 8.Qd2 c4 9.Be2 Na5 10.O-O f5 11.Ng5 Be7 12.g4 Bxg5 13.fxg5 Nf8 14.gxf5 exf5 15.Bf3 Be6 16.Qg2 O-O-O 17.Na3 Ng6 18.Qd2 f4 19.Bf2 Bh3 20.Rfb1 Bf5 21.Nc2 h6 22.gxh6 Rxh6 23.Nb4 Qe6 24.Qe2 Ne7 25.b3 Qg6+ 26.Kf1 Bxb1 27.bxc4 dxc4 28.Qb2 Bd3+ 29.Ke1 Be4 30.Qe2 Bxf3 31.Qxf3 Rxh2 32.d5 Qf5 (D)
At this point Heidenfeld forgot that he had already moved his King (by castling!) and castled again, on the opposite side of the board. Sadly such imaginative play did him no good.
33.O-O-O Rh3 34.Qe2 Rxc3+ 35.Kb2 Rh3 36.d6 Nec6 37.Nxc6 Nxc6 38.e6 Qe5+ 39.Qxe5 Nxe5 40.d7+ Nxd7 0-1

(This game was sourced from Tim Krabbe's Records Page, including the helpful colour tags showing the 3 castling moves)

Thursday 22 November 2007

Shortest Australian Championship Game

Paul Dunn ( sent me a game from the 1965 Australian Championship. The games was won by Dr George Stern in only 7 moves, and Paul remarks that "Dr George takes the record for the shortest game at an Australian Championships up until that time." I'm assuming that this record only applies to decisive (and played) games as I'm sure there would be a few players losing by not turning up, and a couple of very quick draws.

Dreyer - Stern [D23]
AUS ch Hobart (11), 1965

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.c4 dxc4 4.Bg5 c5 5.Qa4+ Nc6 6.Qxc4 Nxd4 7.Nc3 Nc2# 0-1

George passed away a few years ago, and is mainly remembered for his term as chess columnist for the Canberra Times. For the early part of my chess career I had a number of disagreements with George over chess matters, which can be best explained by the arrogance of youth, and the belief I knew better than everyone else. In latter years I apologised to George for my behaviour at the time, but he laughed it off, stating that differences of opinion are to be expected in the chess community. But it did teach me an important lesson about behaviour.
When you decide to call someone a "dog", or a "clown", or even a "tool", and feel you are entitled to do so because of your perception of who the other person is, ask yourself that in 20 years from now, will you regret or be ashamed of the things you said?

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Mighty Max

The organisers of the 2008 Gibraltar Masters organised an online qualifying event with the winner receiving an all expense paid trip to the 2008 tournament. The event started out with 1500+ players, with the final being a 16 player knockout. It was a pretty strong event with the final 16 consisting of 9 GM's, 6 IM's and the lone untitled player, Max Illingworth from Sydney. Max (playing under the handle of "MightyMax") had the misfortune to run into the tournament winner Tigran L. Petrosian in the first round. Despite his best efforts, Max went out 3-0.

TIGRANO (3371) - mightymax (2713) [B23]
ICC tourney 792 (3 0) Internet Chess Club (2), 18.11.2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Bb5 Bg7 5.Bxc6 bxc6 6.d3 d6 7.Nf3 Nh6 8.0-0 0-0 9.Qe1 f5 10.e5 Nf7 11.b3 Qc7 12.Bb2 Rb8 13.Na4 Bd7 14.c4 Bc8 15.Kh1 Re8 16.Qh4 dxe5 17.fxe5 Nxe5 18.Qg3 f4 19.Qxf4 Rf8 20.Bxe5 1-0

* As you can see ICC seems to regard ratings as a marketing ploy. I'd guess both players are about 700 points ahead of their respective FIDE ratings.

Tuesday 20 November 2007

ACT Transfer Championships - Results

The ACT Transfer Championship was another successful ACTJCL tournament, with 78 players (39 teams) taking part. At this stage I don't have the full results, but the tournament was won by Justin Chow and Etienne Masle-Farquhar (10/11).
My own team (Press, Shaun & Press, Harry) started off well 4/4 until we got outsmarted by a team of 11 year olds. Noticing that I was using a lot of my time to help my partner, they waited until I was behind on the clock and stalled. This nullified the effect of having a strong player advising a weaker one. The most drastic effect of this tactic was when I needed to drop a piece to block a check and I had none in front of me. As I was behind on the clock, my partners opponent simply "sat", so my partner couldn't capture anything to pass to me. Of course this strategy was assisted by the use of digital clocks (sacrilege!) which took the uncertainty out of such decisions.
We then lost 4 games in a row, before recovering with 3 wins to score 7/11. I'm not sure where that placed us, but we did pick up a trophy for best placed Under 2000 (combined ratings) team.

Monday 19 November 2007

Rapid win against the Grunfeld

The British Rapidplay Championship was held over the last weekend and GM Peter Wells was the deserving winner with a very impressive 9.5/11. In his last round game he faced a Grunfeld, and chose the 9.Rb1 line of the Exchange Variation. Over the years this move is one that has caused players on the Black side of the board quite a deal of trouble. This game was no different as Wells chased the Black Queen around the board before his strong centre lead to a winning King side attack. (I've even chucked in a couple of other games, including a quick win by Colin Davis, a strong Australian junior who retired far too early).

Wells,P - Poobalasingam,P [D85]
British Rapidplay , 18.11.2007

1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.d4 Bg7 6.e4 Nxc3 7.bxc3 0-0 8.Be2 c5 9.Rb1 cxd4 10.cxd4 Qa5+ 11.Bd2 Qxa2 12.0-0 Qe6 13.Ng5 [ RR 13.Qc2 Qd6 14.Bb4 Qd8 15.d5 Bg4 16.Rfc1 Na6 17.Ba3 Bxf3 18.gxf3 Qd7 19.Bxa6 bxa6 20.Qc7 Qh3 21.Qg3 Qxg3+ 22.hxg3 Rfe8 23.Rb7 Bf8 24.Rcc7 Rab8 25.Rxb8 Rxb8 26.Bxe7 Bxe7 27.Rxe7 Ra8 Gelfand,B-Kindermann,S/Dortmund 1990/[Ftacnik]/1-0 (38)] 13...Qd7 [ RR 13...Qd6 14.Be3 h6 15.e5 Qd8 16.Ne4 Nd7 17.Qb3 Nb6 18.Nc5 e6 19.Bf3 Nd5 20.Nxb7 Bxb7 21.Qxb7 Nxe3 22.fxe3 Qg5 23.Qe4 Rab8 24.Qd3 h5 25.Ra1 Bh6 26.Rfe1 Rfc8 27.Rxa7 Rb2 28.Ra3 Mueller,M-Thiel,T/Essen GER 2004/The Week in Chess 493/0-1 (37)] 14.Be3 Nc6N [ RR 14...e6 15.Bb5 Qd8 16.e5 Nd7 17.Qf3 Nb6 18.Qh3 h6 19.Ne4 g5 20.f4 f6 21.exf6 e5 22.fxg7 Bxh3 23.gxf8Q+ Qxf8 24.fxe5 Qa3 25.Bc1 Qa2 26.Rb2 Qa1 27.gxh3 Rc8 28.Nc5 a6 29.Bd3 Kubbenga,M-Son,J/Netherlands 1990/1-0 (30);
RR 14...b6 15.Bb5 Qd8 16.Qf3 Bb7 17.Bc4 e6 18.Qh3 h6 19.Nxf7 Qe7 20.Nxh6+ Bxh6 21.Bxe6+ Rf7 22.Bxh6 1-0 Davis,C-Harrison,K/Gosford 1988/EXT 2002 (22)] 15.d5 Ne5 16.f4 Ng4 17.Bd4 Nf6 18.Bb5 Qd8 19.Qd3 a6 20.Bc4 b5 21.Ba2 Bb7 22.f5 Bc8 23.fxg6 hxg6 (D)
24.e5 Nxd5 25.Qe4 Nf6 26.exf6 exf6 27.Bxf6 Bxf6 28.Qxg6+ 1-0

Sunday 18 November 2007

Chessmaster Grandmaster

Doing a spot of shopping last week and I spied "Chessmaster Grandmaster" on the shelves in one of the computer game shops I frequent. I few months ago I had a bit of a rave about "Chessmaster X", which I regard as excellent value for $20 it currently costs. But at this stage I can't say much about "Chessmaster Grandmaster" as I haven't seen it in operation. (Despite being a widely read blog, no one sends me free chess stuff)
I've seen a couple of reviews, but even they've been a bit sparse. It looks as though it follows the same formula as Chessmaster X, with a whole lot of fancy chess sets and settings, and has the same emphasis on teaching chess, and not just playing.
Probably the big difference from Chessmaster X is the multi-platform support, with both the PC and Nintendo DS versions on the shelves. I believe there will also be X-Box versions available as well, although I haven't seen any for the Australian zone.
At this stage I would suggest it may be a good purchase for the DS, but the extra cost for the PC version (over Chessmaster X) may not be worth it.

Saturday 17 November 2007

2007 World Youth Championship

The 2007 World Youth Championship begins tomorrow in Antayla, Turkey. Australia is well represented with 17 players over 12 divisions, with a couple of Canberra based players (Emma Guo U/12 Girls and Ethan Derwent U/8 Boys). IM David Smerdon is one of the team coaches, and full coverage of the event can be found on the tournament website.

Friday 16 November 2007

2007 Vikings Weekender - Only 2 weeks away

The 2007 Vikings Weekender is only a fortnight away. Full details of the event (including an entry form) can be found on Ian Rout's chess webpage.
Of the 3 weekenders held in Canberra (Doeberl and ANU are the other 2), Vikings is the most "local". That is not to say that interstate players aren't welcome, but that it is the tournament that is aimed at Canberra players. Having said that, first place tends to go interstate more often than not.
So if you are an interstate player wanting to enjoy a chess playing weekend in Canberra, time to organise your travel plans. And if you are a local player, you might want to show those out-of-towners a thing or two. Like this.

Bolens,J - Rout,I [C10]
Viking Weekender Canberra, 2006

1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Qd5 5.Nc3 Bb4 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.bxc3 Nf6 8.Nf3 0-0 9.Bd3 c5 10.c4 Qh5 11.c3 Nc6 12.0-0 b6 13.Rb1 Rd8 14.Re1 Bb7 15.Bg5 Na5 16.d5 exd5 17.Re5 Ng4 18.Rf5 g6 19.Rf4 dxc4 (D)
20.h3 Bxf3 21.Qxf3 Qxg5 22.Rxg4 Qe5 23.Bxc4 Nxc4 24.Rxc4 Re8 25.Rf4 f5 26.Rd1 Rad8 27.Rxd8 Rxd8 28.g3 Qd5 29.Qe3 Qc6 30.Rh4 Rd1+ 0-1

Thursday 15 November 2007

Ratings Arguments - Chapter 0

Occasionally when I get into a discussion with someone about a contentious topic, I realise that the position they have taken isn't supported by what I would regard as "facts". When I point this out they often say "Well, what are the facts?". To stop my head from exploding I usually cut the argument off stating "We can only continue this discussion when you know what you are talking about" (or more bluntly "Do you own homework").
I'm currently seeing this in online discussions about Elo v Glicko as a preferable rating system. This is a particularly heated topic in Australia, although the heat mainly comes from those who would use it as a stick to beat the current ACF Ratings Officer Bill Gletsos over non-related issues.
However for those that don't fall into that category here are a couple of links of interest. Parameter estimation in large dynamic paired comparison experiments is Mark Glickman's original paper on the "Glicko" Rating System. (Note You will need a Postscript reader to look at this file). A summary of the Glicko system can be read here. (This is PDF format).
At some point down the track there will be a "Chapter 1", "Chapter 2" and even a "Chapter 978" of this post, but before I get there I'd like to be sure that people who throw around terms like "inferior mathematically" know what they are talking about.

Wednesday 14 November 2007


I know it is a long way from Australia, but the 4 Nations Chess League (4NCL) is underway for another year. Rupert Jones (Bd 3 PNG) is particularly keen to spread the word about this season as the team he manages, White Rose, currently shares the lead in Division 2, and is already looking good for promotion to the top section next year.
In Division 1 a couple of Australian names have turned up with David Smerdon turning out for The AD's (replacing Ian Rogers?), while Alexandra Jule is playing for the Barbican 2 team. John-Paul Wallace is registered with Guilford-ADC, along with 16 GM's.

Here is a quick win from last weeks round by GM Nigel Davies

Davies,N (2476) - D'Costa,L (2395) [A08]
4NCL Birmingham ENG (3), 10.11.2007

1.Nf3 c5 2.e4 d6 3.c3 Nf6 4.d3 Nc6 5.g3 g6 6.Bg2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Re1 e5 9.Nbd2 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nc4 Re8 12.Ng5 Rf8 13.Qb3 Nde7 14.f4 exf4 15.Bxf4 Nd5 (D)
16.Nxf7 Rxf7 17.Nd6 c4 18.Qxc4 1-0

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Championship Formats

The Victorian Chess Championship is just about to start and already there is a debate about formats. Unlike the poorly performed NSW Championships, the Victorian Championship usually attracts a stronger field, and isn't afraid to try different formats. For this years event they have moved from a multi week event (with 1 or 2 rounds a week) to a more compressed format with all games being played between the 15th and 25th of November.
Of course this change hasn't pleased everyone, just as the longer format didn't please everyone either. To me the obvious conclusion to draw is not that one format works better than the other, but that chess players will always whinge about something.
Following on from that is my question. Why don't State Associations organise their Championships over a long weekend? I've already flagged this before, with the suggestion that the Queens Birthday Weekend be the obvious (common) weekend (OK not all states celebrate it), to hold State Championships.
What would be the pros and cons of having a 3 day 9 round event to decide the State Champion? Sure it would be a grueling schedule (3 90m+30s games in day), but the format may change to 8 player RR's to alleviate this.

Certainly I would be interested in seeing the ACTCA move to this format (8 or 10 player RR's, with multiple sections seeded on rating, and with event winners being promoted next year), but then again I'd like to see the ACTCA do something (anything) in the area of chess.

Monday 12 November 2007

The Case of the Curious Miniature

Paul Dunn (maintainer of the Ozbase games database) sent me the following game between Guy West and Ian Rogers. Rogers was still only an IM when this game was played, while West had yet to earn his title.
The game is remarkable in that West won in only 12 moves. Even more remarkable is the finish, where it seems that both players missed a save for Black (and wins for White).

West,G - Rogers,I [B06]
Winter Interclub Melbourne, 1981

1.e4 g6 2.d4 Bg7 3.Nc3 d6 4.g3 Nc6 5.Be3 e5 6.dxe5 Nxe5 7.f4 Bg4 8.Be2 Nc4 9.Bd4 Nxb2 10.Qd2 Bxe2 11.Qxe2 Nf6 12.Nd5 1-0

The most obvious question is that of the game itself. Is the score accurate?
If so why didn't West play 11.Bxg7 (instead of Qxe2), Rogers 11. ... Bxd4 (instead of Nf6), West 12.Qb5+ (instead of Nd5) and finally Rogers 12. ... O-O! (instead of Resigns??)

(Of course I could just try and ask the players directly, but then I wouldn't have anything to blog about this evening!)

**Follow up: As noted in the comment section (and confirmed by GM Ian Rogers) the real game score (from move 10) was 10.Qd2 Bxd4 11.Qxd4 Nf6 12.Nd5 1-0

Sunday 11 November 2007

Transfer Chess Festival

The ACT Junior Chess League is holding it's annual Transfer Chess Festival this coming Sunday (18th November 2007). The event will be held at Campbell High School, Trealor Cres, Campbell, ACT and starts at 12:45pm

Although the event is organised by the Junior Chess League, it is open to players of all ages. Indeed to encourage this a number of special prizes are awarded including oldest team, best parent and child score, and biggest age difference.

In fact I would encourage any ACT players who came through the junior ranks between 1980 and 1990 to give it a go because the transfer skills exhibited by the current crop of juniors is pretty woeful. They seem too keen to hang on to material, fail to respond to partners requests ("anything for a rook!") and seem to be unaware of the standard tricks any experienced transfer player knows (eg start their clock and then shake hands, bogus flagfall claims, swiping one of your own pieces from the board to drop it in a more favourable position etc etc)
The only difficulty that a returning player might face is getting used to the fact that "no drop for mate" no longer applies, allowing the more vulgar way of ending the game to occur instead.

Saturday 10 November 2007

PDA Assisted Thinking

Just as the Doeberl Cup announced its rules in Mobile Phones/Electronic Devices, news has come in of a player being caught using Pocket Fritz on a PDA during a Dutch League match. The player concerned was rumbled by the arbiter, after going outside for some "fresh air". The player was instantly forfeited and banned from chess playing in or captaining a team in the Dutch League for the next 2 and a half years.
Full coverage of the incident is here at Chessvibes, and Chessbase looks at it as well.

Friday 9 November 2007

I'm such a putz!

Originally this post was going to be about good and bad positions, and a good combination might not be enough to get you out of a bad position. I even had a game as an example from earlier this week when I set up what I thought was a clever combination, but still ended up with an average position (which I then lost).
When I looked over the game concerned I realised it wasn't my position that was at fault it was the fact that I simply miscalculated my combination and simply missed a good win. In my defence I was short of time, but this is a lesson in itself, as the position reached in the game was still good for me, but I had spent so much time calculating my moves I wasn't able to defend it with less than 60 seconds on the clock.

Guo,E - Press,S [D00]
ANU Spring Rapid, 07.11.2007

1.d4 d5 2.e3 Nf6 3.Bd3 Nc6 4.c3 e5 5.f4 exf4 6.exf4 Bg4 7.Nf3 Qe7+ 8.Kf2 0-0-0 9.Re1 Ne4+ 10.Kg1 f5 11.Nbd2 Qd6 12.Qa4 Kb8 13.Ne5 Nxe5 14.fxe5 Qg6 15.c4 Here was where I went for the big think. I spent a great deal of time working out whether capturing on c4 was good, especially after the queen recaptures. I planned to sac the rook on d4 and then either win the queen or force smothered mate. 15...dxc4 16.Qxc4 (D)
16. ... Rxd4 17.Qc2
[ 17.Qxd4 Bc5 was what I'd planned but White can play 18.Rxe4 Bxd4+ 19.Rxd4 with RBNvQ] 17...Rxd3 18.Qxd3 Qb6+?? But here is my mistake [ 18...Bc5+ I simply failed to look at this move closely enough. 19.Kf1 Ng3+!! is the winning move, but I doubt I would have found it with the time I had remaining. 20.hxg3 Qh6 21.Re3 Bxe3 22.Ke1-+] 19.Re3 [ When calculating at move 15 I thought that White would play 19.Qe3 when 19...Bc5 just wins.;
19.Kh1 was the other move I saw, which allows me to end the game with 19...Nf2+ 20.Kg1 Nh3+ 21.Kh1 Qg1+ 22.Rxg1 Nf2#] 19...Bc5 20.Nc4 Bxe3+ 21.Bxe3 Qe6 and although I have a slight edge in the position I only had 50 seconds on the clock (with a 10 second increment per move), and my opponent kept pressuring me until I got mated and lost on time at the same moment! 1-0

Thursday 8 November 2007

2008 O2C Doeberl Cup Website

The website for the 2008 O2C Doeberl Cup is now online. Visit to check out the prize list, venue and tournament structure. You can also enter online, or download an entry form.

(Disclaimer: I am a paid official at this event)

What happens when both players give up the f pawn?

In the grand old days of chess, "pawn and move" odds were quite common. To create a more even game, Black would start without the f pawn. White usually began the game with 1.e4 as the reflexive 1. ... e5 lead to catastrophe after 2.Qh5+
Well in one of my games last night I reached a position where both players gave up their f pawns. I started with a Kings Gambit and my opponent declined the offer with 2. ... Nc6 and 3. ... f6. I decided to swap on e5 (in part hoping for 4. ... Nxe5??) but after 4. ... fxe we reached a normal king pawn position with both players minus the f pawns. So I decided to play it just like a King Pawn opening, wondering what difference the missing f pawns would make.

Press,S - Shields,P [C30]
ANU Spring Rapid, 07.11.2007

1.e4 e5 2.f4 Nc6 3.Nf3 f6 4.fxe5 fxe5 5.Bc4 Nf6N 6.Ng5 d5 7.exd5 Bg4 (D) And this is what Black can play without the f pawns! 8.Nf3 e4 9.dxc6 bxc6 10.Ne5 Bxd1 11.Bf7+ Ke7 12.Nxc6+ Kxf7 13.Nxd8+ Rxd8 14.Kxd1 Bc5 15.Ke2 Rhe8 16.Rf1 Kg8 17.Nc3 c6 18.Rf5 Bd4 19.Nd1 Rd5 20.Ne3 g6 21.Rxd5 cxd5 22.h3 and Black overstepped the time limit 1-0

Although unfeeling computers would evaluate most of this game in White's favour, I pretty much hated my position all the way through. I was quite relieved when my opponent thought for too long in the final position and lost on time.

Wednesday 7 November 2007

Why don't adults get coaching?

A question often asked by adults who like to gripe about all the resources being directed into junior chess. There are probably a number of answers (time, interest etc) but my favourite comes from ex-junior chess organiser Libby Smith. To paraphrase a response I once read she says "If you want coaching, why don't you organise it. Unlike children, adults should have the skills to put something like this on, without getting your mum to help you"
While not connected to the above statement, the adults at the ANU Chess Club have decided to organise some coaching over the summer. When the current competition finishes (in a weeks time), the club will run some small group workshops on various chess topics. At this stage it is going to be pretty free form, with a combination of study/talks/quizzes designed to help club members improve.
So if you are live in the Canberra region and are interested in joining in, feel free to contact me. I will happily pass your interest onto Stephen Mugford who is the chief organiser. It will be held on Wednesday evenings (venue TBA) and there will be no charge.

**Comments on this post contain language that may offend some readers. Whether you choose to read it is up to you **

Tuesday 6 November 2007

Before Benko

In Steiner's book "Kings of the Chess Board" he annotates Szabo v Lundin from the 1948 Saltsjobadan Interzonal. What is interesting about this game is that it is a Benko Gambit, before there was the Benko Gambit. In his notes Steiner refers to it as a "Blumenfeld Gambit" although he does note that the Blumenfeld Gambit starts with 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 e6 4.Nc3 b5. Now while Benko's chess career had started by this stage (and Steiner discusses him in the book) I haven't been able to find any games by Benko that use the "Benko" before this. Of course the variation is also known as the "Volga Gambit" but I have been told that to use this name within earshot of Pal Benko is asking for a ticking off.

Szabo,L - Lundin,E [A58]
Saltsjobaden Interzonal Saltsjobaden (19), 1948

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 c5 3.d5 b5 (D)
4.cxb5 a6 5.bxa6 g6 6.Nc3 Bxa6 7.e4 d6 8.Bxa6 Nxa6 9.Nf3 Bg7 10.0-0 Nd7 11.Bf4 0-0 12.Qe2 Qc7 13.Rfc1 Rfb8 14.Rab1 Bxc3 15.Rxc3 Qa5 16.Nd2 Nc7 17.Ra3 Qb6 18.Rxa8 Rxa8 19.a3 Nb5 20.Be3 Ra4 21.Rc1 Nd4 22.Bxd4 cxd4 23.Nf3 Nf6 24.Qc2 Ra5 25.Nd2 d3 26.Qc7 Qxb2 27.e5 Qxd2 28.exf6 exf6 29.h4 Kg7 30.Qc3 Qxc3 31.Rxc3 Rxd5 32.Rc1 g5 33.Kf1 gxh4 34.Ra1 f5 35.a4 Kf6 36.Ke1 Re5+ 37.Kd2 Re2+ 38.Kxd3 Rxf2 39.a5 Rxg2 40.a6 Rg8 41.Kc4 f4 42.Kd5 Kf5 43.Kc6 f3 44.Kb7 0-1

Monday 5 November 2007

Australian Championsip 2008 - Latest Entries

One of the organisers of the 2008 Australian Championship, Shane Burgess, has been in touch to let me know that GM Darryl Johansen is now a confirmed entry for the event. Updated entries for all events are now available here.
I note that 33% of players in the Championship (3/9) are listed as playing for overseas federations, so I guess the ACF's temporary exemptions for the 2005/06 Championship in Brisbane have now become permanent ones.

Sunday 4 November 2007

Kings of the Chess Board

A couple of years ago I was traveling between Canberra and Oberon (about 235km north of Canberra), when I stopped in the village of Taralga to look at a second hand book store. To my suprise I picked up a first edition copy of "Amongst These Mates" by Chielamangus (really CJS Purdy).
Well I passed through the same village yesterday and dropped into the same bookstore on the off chance of anything new (or old). Amazingly on the shelf was a copy of "Kings of the Chess Board" by Lajos Steiner for $5. Even better, it was a signed copy.
I asked the proprietor whether there was a reclusive chess book collector hidden in the hills, selling of his collection one book at a time, he replied that it just turned up in a box with a whole lot of other (non-chess) books. He didn't realise it was a signed copy as he suggested $50 would have been a fairer price, but he was only joking when he said this.

Saturday 3 November 2007

Miniature of the Month

Here is a quick win from the World Junior Championships held last month.

Negi,P (2514) - Sanikidze,T (2474) [B60]
World U20 Championships Erevan ARM (7), 09.10.2007

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 Qb6 7.Be3 Ng4 8.Nd5 Qa5+ 9.b4 Nxe3 10.fxe3 Qd8 11.Nb5 Rb8 12.Nbc7+ Kd7 13.Bb5 e6 14.0-0 f5 15.Nxe6 Kxe6 16.exf5+ Kf7 17.Qh5+ g6 18.fxg6+ Kg8 19.g7 (D) 1-0

As I will be out of town for the next couple of days, blogging will be light, if at all.

Friday 2 November 2007

GM and IM Titles Confirmed

The International Correspondence Chess Federation have confirmed the GM title for Chris Fenwick and the IM title for Les Rowley at their 2007 Congress. Congratulations to both players.
And in other CC news ICCF President Med Samraoui has been released by Spanish officials, but has not been given permission to travel home to Germany at this stage.

Thursday 1 November 2007

More Video Blogging

I've been playing around with my video record/edit/produce setup and have been able to generate some better results. Attached is some vision I recorded last night at the ANU Chess Club. There is some general shots of the club (highlighting the well lit and spacious facilities!) and then a quick grab of a game between Emma Guo and Jonathon Kocz. I've even been able to add some audio commentary over the top.
The conversion process involved recording in 3GP format (2 clips), converting to avi format, then combining it using some video editing software (and attaching titles and commentary). It took about an hour from conversion to production, the hardest part being the actual commentary (which probably sounds naff anyway).Many thanks to Jonathan Paxman for the tip about "Super" conversion software.

Of course it may seem a little bland, but it is early days (at least for me). To this end, it is worth remembering that the biggest grossing film of 1896 was "Man walking down street".

Wednesday 31 October 2007

Alternative Competition Formats - Episode 1172

I am interested in alternative formats for chess competitions. And to the possible annoyance of the ACTJCL Development Squad, I sometimes try them out. Not all of them are good (some turn out to be quite horrible), and success of the Swiss format does discourage organisers from trying anything new.
One format that is new to me (but not new to millions of players) is the format I saw described in the Japanese Manga "Hikaru No Go". This is a comic concerning a teenager who is becoming a Go professional (the link will tell you more). In qualifying for the "Pro Test" they use the following method.
Players need to score 3 wins to move on to the next stage. Once you score three wins you stop playing for that round, and once you suffer three losses you go home. Players are paired randomly for each game and you can't play the same player twice (unless you must). So everyone gets at least 3 games (and 3 opponents).
Why this interests me is that it may serve as an alternative to a straight knockout, which has never taken off in chess. Played with a fast time limit (rapid 20m+10s) you could have 2 5 game sessions a day, meaning 4 sets of eliminations over a 2 day period. You could then have a final play off between the remaining players to determine the final prizes.
I can see advantages over a seeded knockout (which has too many obvious results), and a purely random one (top two players meet in rd 1), but whether this would be a popular alternative to current formats I'm not sure.

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Tournament Withdrawers

In Australia there has always been a strong disapproval of players withdrawing from tournaments. I suspect this attitude can be traced as far back as the influence of CJS Purdy (who believed there was no excuse from withdrawing from an event), and possibly even before that.
But it is a fact of life that players do withdraw from events without completing them. So what is to be done?
One school of thought is 'damage minimisation'. Given you can't force players to stay in an event when they no longer wish to play, simply allow anyone who wishes to withdraw the right to do so. As long as they inform the arbiter before the pairings for the next round are done, then they can leave the tournament without penalty. From an organisers point of view this may be good, as you have already banked the entry fee, and a less than motivated player may effect the final standings through poor play. The other advantage of this approach is that a player is more likely to withdraw gracefully, rather than wrecking someone else's weekend by not turning up for a game.
The other side of the argument involves 'forceful encouragement'. When a player enters a tournament they are in a sense making a commitment to the organisers, and to other players. Part of this commitment is to play all the rounds they have entered for. And this commitment cannot be broken lightly. (eg How good would the AFL look if Carlton just dropped out 6 rounds before the end of the season)
However in this case, there needs to be some kind of penalty or punishment.
Over the years there have been a number of approaches, not all of them successful. The most common one is to ban the player concerned for a specified period of time. Unfortunately the draconian nature of this penalty means that it rarely enforced*. Another approach that was used in the very first chess club I played at (Woden Chess Club) was to get every player to post a forfeit bond ($5) at the start of the event, and refund it upon completion of the event.
A third method is to let the punishment fit the crime. If you withdraw from event X you cannot play in event X next year, or the year after. This has the advantage of avoiding any legal hurdles (due process etc) as the organiser of event X simply refuses to accepts the players entry. Of course this doesn't prevent the serial withdrawer from entering (and withdrawing) from other events.
The final option (and the one used in the last couple of Doeberl Cups) is to levy a forfeit bond on players who have been unapproved withdrawer's in the past. If they wish to enter the tournament they post a bond equivalent to the entry fee, if they complete the event, the bond is refunded. As well as that the slate is wiped clean (we're big believers in redemption).

I'm not advocating any of these methods btw, but am interested in a discussion on the topic, especially anyone advocating the 'damage minimisation' approach.

*The ACF lead on this issue is extremely poor btw. I've been involved with the 1999/2000 Aus Champs, and the 2000/01, 2002/03, 2004/05 and 2006/07 Australian Opens as an arbiter and organiser. As part of the requirements of the ACF by-laws I have submitted reports concerning unapproved withdrawals, and suggestions to the ACF concerning suitable actions. As far as I know only one play has been sanctioned, and that was by their State Association, rather than the ACF. The usual response from the ACF (in the case of a couple of high profile players) is "we haven't banned players in the past, so we can't do it this time. But we'll look into it in the future"